Balance is essential, yet only a few people practice stability movements. It’s an often overlooked exercise with incredible benefits, including improved performance in sports and overall mobility in our daily lives.
Running is one sport of many that demands balance, an important component of athletic ability. Each stride is a balancing act on one foot to propel the body forward, avoid obstacles, and navigate a path. All levels of runners will experience smoother, faster runs with better stability and increased lower body strength from functional training. In addition, runners with poor stability use more energy, and overcompensation for slight imbalances increases the risk of injury.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a runner, incorporating these five simple balance exercises into your daily routine will improve posture, agility, and flexibility.
1. Single leg balance
- Start with your feet at hip-width. While holding onto a counter, the back of a chair, or touching a wall, lift one foot off the ground slightly.
- Keep your body tall, think of a string pulling you up through the top of your head, and maintain your balance while standing on one leg for 5 seconds.
- Return to the starting position and repeat. Perform this exercise on each leg five times.
Level up: Advance this exercise by transitioning to one-hand support and eventually no-hand support. When you’ve mastered no hands, try balancing with your eyes closed. It’s always good to perform near a sturdy counter to catch your balance quickly.
2. Sit-to-stand exercise
- Sit toward the front edge of a sturdy chair without armrests. Your knees should be bent and your feet should be flat on the floor and shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your back and neck straight and your chest slightly forward. Lean forward and shift your weight to the front of your feet. Inhale to prepare to rise and exhale as you slowly stand up. Use your hands as little as possible, holding them out in front.
- Inhale as you sit down slowly. Tighten your core and abdominal muscles to control your lowering as much as possible. Exhale when you sit. Repeat this exercise ten times.
Level up: if you find this exercise easy, increase the intensity by holding a weighted ball in your hands as you stand and lower.
3. Walking a straight line
- Lift your arms and extend them out to the sides.
- Walk in a straight line while focusing your gaze on a fixed point in the distance.
- Each time you raise your foot, pause with your foot in this raised position for 2 to 3 seconds.
- Take 20 to 30 steps.
Level up: Add light weights and carry one in each hand like a suitcase. Ensure proper form and posture while walking, engaging your core and keeping your shoulders down.
4. Tree pose
- Standing tall near a wall or chair for balance, shift your weight onto your right foot.
- Lift your left foot, and with your heel pointing toward the ceiling, place the sole of your foot against your ankle, shin, or thigh (avoid putting it on your inner knee.)
- Place your hands in any comfortable position – on your hips, in a T position, or prayer formation.
- Hold for five long inhales and exhales. Repeat on the other side.
Level up: Try closing one or both eyes and lifting your arms overhead. Practice near a chair or wall to catch your balance should you wobble.
5. Back leg raises
- Place your hands on a wall or the back of a chair and shift your weight onto your right foot.
- Slowly lift your left leg back, heel moving toward the wall behind you and up as high as possible.
- Hold this position for 5 seconds. Return to the starting position.
- Do ten repetitions on each side.
Level up: Try doing this exercise with one hand, then no hands. If this is still relatively easy, add ankle weights to improve strength.
In addition to these simple exercises, try incorporating weight training, yoga, and tai chi. These are all excellent activities to improve your balance and body awareness. And as with any exercise program, we recommend talking to your doctor to find which exercises work best for you and your current state of health.