Improve Your Balance for a Stronger and Fitter You

When I was a teenager, I wiped out on my bicycle, tripped on pavement, and fell while walking down stairs, often. For years, I overlooked exercises to improve my balance. I did not realize that you can train for balance like you do for strength, power and endurance. I now incorporate balance exercises into my Pilates classes. Having good balance, I found, has helped me lift weights with ease, glide through exercise participation and has substantially reduced my risk of falling.

Are you out of balance? To test your stability, stand on your bare feet about a foot from a wall. Keep your eyes open, your chin up, your back straight, and your arms at your sides. Bend one leg up at the knee and see how long you can stand on the other leg. You should be able to stay up for at least 7 seconds before falling. The good news is that everyone can improve their balance, if they work on it.

Balance training works best if you add it to your fitness training you already do (or should be doing). Day-to-day activities such as climbing up stairs and walking are important for balance. Add biking and even walking on the elliptical to help retain your equilibrium. Strength and flexibility training will also help by keeping your legs strong and lower body limber.

If you need more help, consider group exercise classes such as Pilates, Yoga, and even Zumba for a stronger and fitter you in 2012.