How to Improve Your Balance
Balance doesn’t just look impressive; it’s crucial to physical fitness. Here’s why you should work on yours with small daily challenges.
Everyday Habits to Maintain Balance
Building balance is like learning to play an instrument. “You need to create appropriate neuromuscular connections—that is,
links between your brain and muscles. Then you need to practice to keep those connections from deteriorating,” says Jonathan
Cane, an exercise physiologist and the founder of City Coach Multisport, an endurance-training service in New York City. Older
people often have poor balance because they’re sedentary and therefore rusty. Children, in contrast, have wonderful balance
because they train every day: constantly experimenting with unstable positions—playing hopscotch, riding a scooter—then bolstering
neuromuscular pathways as they grow skilled at those activities, says Metzl.
Fortunately, adults can sneak balance challenges into their all-work-and-no-play schedules. All the ideas here will help to strengthen your core or challenge your reflexes or—even better—do both.
When you’re walking: If you’re on a semiquiet street (no buses whizzing by), try stepping along the curb instead of the sidewalk. You can also practice at home, for instance, by walking where the kitchen floor tiles form a straight line.
When you drop a small object: Pick it up while keeping one leg elevated behind you. As you improve, challenge yourself by lifting the leg higher.
When you’re watching TV: Sit on an exercise ball instead of the sofa. Start with a half-hour sitcom, then gradually build up the time you spend on the ball.
When you’re having a meal: Pull the chair up to the table as close as you can (while still being able to cut your chicken), says Mary Helen Bowers, the founder of Ballet Beautiful, an online-streaming fitness regimen: “This pushes you to sit up straight and pull your center in, actively engaging your core.”
When you’re on a train: Stand with a wide stance, knees slightly bent (as if you were surfing), without holding a railing. Engage your core and leg muscles to help keep from falling over.
When you’re brushing your teeth: Stand on one leg, suggests Metzl. Switch sides every day.
Ready for more challenges? Find balance exercises that you can do at the gym. And if you still can’t steady yourself, it could be your health. Here are five conditions that can cause balance problems.