Good balance builds confidence and fosters independence. Working on balance can also bolster your abilities in tennis, golf, running, dancing, skiing, or any number of other sports or activities you love. And good balance can prevent falls, which is important for everyone, sports buff or not. Simply walking around the block requires good balance — as do rising from a chair, going up and down stairs, and even turning to look behind you.
The body systems responsible for balance can be affected by gradual changes due to aging or side effects of medications. There is also a host of health problems that can lead to unsteadiness on your feet. Many stability problems, such as those caused by arthritis or mild vision problems, respond well to the exercises designed to improve balance. Milder balance impairments due to stroke, Parkinson’s disease, or multiple sclerosis often respond well, too.
Most likely, you already engage in some activities that help sharpen balance, especially if you’re an active person. For example:
Walking, biking, and climbing stairs strengthen muscles in your lower body. A recumbent bike or stair stepper is a safe way to start if your balance needs a lot of work.
Stretching loosens tight muscles, which affect posture and balance.
Yoga poses strengthen and stretch tight muscles while challenging your static and dynamic balance skills.
Tai chi moves, which involve gradual shifts of weight from one foot to another combined with rotating the trunk and extending the limbs, offer a series of challenges to improve your balance.
What if you’re not at all active? Research shows that the right exercises can help sedentary folks improve strength and balance dramatically at any age.