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HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR BALANCE SKILLS IN 8 SIMPLE STEPS!

Boost your balance skillsBalance is an essential for good health, especially as we get older. Quick reaction time, along with your ability to recover from a stumble or to change direction reduces the risk of falling and injury.

Regularly including balance exercises as part of your routine will actively engage your core stabilizer muscles in the abdominal region, legs, ankles and pelvis, and improve body awareness. Start balancing and it's likely you'll quickly become aware that one side of the body is stronger than the other.

To correct any imbalances and boost your balance and coordination skills, checkout these 8 simple exercises, plus instructional workout video below.

Exercise 1SIT ON A SWISSBALL: You can do this one while working or watching TV so ditch that couch and office chair. Once you feel comfortable just sat on it, lift one foot off the floor at a time, then both feet together. Once you've got the hang of that, try something more challenging. Kneel on the ball, starting on all fours, then progress to kneeling upright, keeping a hand on the wall for balance until you gain confidence and strength.

Exercise 2TIPTOE CIRCLES: This is an easy one that you can do anywhere, anytime. Simply raise yourself up onto your tiptoes, balance and slowly circle your arms forwards, then backwards.

Yoga poseExercise 3TAKE UP PILATES OR YOGA: Each of these are great for improving balance and flexibility. Think you have a strong core? Try this: Rest on your hands and knees, with your hands directly under your shoulders.

You'll need to have your knees on a soft, padded surface. Now lift your feet, so you're balancing on your knees with no weight on the lower legs, then lift and stretch out the left arm and right leg. Lower and repeat on the opposite side.

Exercise 4'BALANCE' YOUR DAY: Just because you're not in the gym doesn't mean you can't turn everyday tasks into opportunities to improve your balance. Stuck in a queue? Then stand on one leg. To make it harder still, close you eyes.

Doing this forces your body to rely on proprioception skills (your ability to perceive your body's position in space) which can help with coordination. CAUTION: This can cause you to lose balance quickly so be sure to practice this in a safe, comfortable environment first. The last thing you'll want is to take a tumble into the person standing next to you!

Alternatively, if you're at home, do it standing on a cushion. Standing near a step or curb? Raise yourself up and down on one leg, changing legs when you get tired. Once you've got a bit of practice under your belt, try it with your eyes closed too if you can do so safely.

Checkout the video below for a great beginners balance workout program

 

Exercise 5JUMP & HOLD: Using the general shape of a square as a movement pattern, hop in different directions. from one point to the next on one leg. Pause for a few seconds once you've landed and maintain your balance.

Exercise 6THE RIGHT TOOLS FOR THE JOB: Wobble boards, Bosu balls (see picture, below) and Swissballs are fantastic tools to improve your balance and can be easily substituted in place of conventional flat benches or flat standing surfaces.

Bosu ball exercisesNext time you're in the gym, try and stand on the bosu ball when doing exercises such as, squats, lunges, upright rows, shoulder presses, lateral raises, bent over rows and bicep curls. 

Finally, the wobble board offers a more advanced variation which is a little harder to master than the bosu ball. Start out by just trying to balance the board without the sides touching the ground, then progress to movements such as the squat.

Try this: Standing on the board, feet placed hip width apart, tilt the board until balanced - keep toes spread out as much as possible and distribute your weight evenly throughout your feet. Maintain a strong core and upright posture, squat down only as far as possible while keeping your heels on the board. 

Exercise 7PLAY CATCH: While standing on one leg, throw and catch a ball. This is also great for improving hand-eye coordination. Start out with something light, like a tennis ball, then progress to heavier objects, like a medicine ball to increase the level of difficulty. Just don't try this one with your eyes closed - Ouch!

Squat exerciseExercise 8BALANCE & STRENGTH: Try one legged squats, or do lunges with one foot lightly resting on a step. Another great idea is to work one side of your body alternatively. Take the dumbbell chest press as an example.

Instead, of performing the exercise as you normally would - lifting the two dumbbell's simultaneously, just use one dumbbell instead, without your 'free' arm outstretched to help balance you.

As soon as you do this, you'll send your core stabilizer muscles into overdrive to try and counter the imbalance. For an even greater challenge, raise your feet off the floor and bring them towards your chest. The great thing is that this single-sided exercise strategy can be applied to almost any exercise.