Balance is more than what lycra-wearing 20-somethings try to perfect in Bondi or what keeps those with a walking frame upright. It’s much, much more – although, yes, it is one of the biggies to help prevent falls later in life.
As we unknowingly figured out as infants, balance is the even distribution of weight that allows us to stay up and steady without toppling over. Gravity is basically balance’s nemesis: it tries to pull us down, but our ability to balance helps us fight the good fight.
It’s also important for reaction times, agility, power and bone health, which are all key areas to focus on in your 60s and beyond.
If you’re thinking “but how do I improve on this wonderful thing called balance?”, then read on.
Here are five ways you can progressively improve balance, all in the comfort of your own home without any fancy equipment. The best approach is to increasingly challenge yourself in different ways, and to achieve one level before advancing to the next one.
Challenge 1: Single leg pose with a chair
Stand upright with your feet together and a slight bend in the knees, near a chair or wall for support. Keep your abs drawn in, chest up and drop your shoulders down away from your ears. Take your arms out to your sides. Slowly lift one foot off the ground and keep it lifted for as long as you can before swapping sides.
Challenge 2: Single leg pose with your eyes closed
Repeat the single leg pose above, without relying on support from a chair, and closing your eyes. Swap sides.
Challenge 3: Star pose
Stand upright with your feet together and a slight bend in the knees. Keep your abs drawn in, chest up and drop your shoulders down away from your ears. As you inhale, slowly transfer your weight onto one leg and lift both arms out to the sides. Keep transferring your weight until your leg is lifted off the floor out to the side. Start off with your toes only just leaving the ground. As you become more confident and your balance improves, you can make the movement a lot bigger by raising your hands up higher and taking your leg further to the side while you start to ‘tip’ your star further over. Hold for as long as comfortable.
Challenge 4: Tree pose
Stand with your feet facing forwards and a slight bend in the knees, looking straight ahead with your abs drawn in. Place your hands together in front of your chest in ‘prayer position’ or out to the sides for extra balance. Lift one foot and place the sole of your foot on the inside of your standing leg, so your knee is pointing out to the side. Your foot should be near your ankle or calf. Hold for as long as you can.
Challenge 5: Aeroplane balance
Stand up with your feet facing forwards and a slight bend in the knees. Lift your left foot back and bend forward until your left leg and chest are parallel to the floor. Extend arms out to the sides. Hold for for 2-3 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.
Don’t worry if it takes some time to progress through the steps, and make sure you’ve mastered the previous level before moving on to the next one. Try to work on this every day, or at least three times a week.
And once you’re done, how about some dancing to celebrate? Dual tasking, like required in dancing, is an important component of balance: you have to listen to music and dance at same time, and that takes some real control.
What other ways do you work on your balance?