There are numerous benefits to having good balance. Whether you improve yours by paddleboaring, playing games or simply a spot of yoga in the garden, you’ll be future-proofing your health.
When most people take up exercise, it’s usually to reduce fat or build muscle, and yet there’s an often-overlooked element to many workouts – balance. However, forgetting about stability is a big mistake.
‘By improving your balance, you’ll be less likely to injure yourself, as you’ll be able to control your body better if and when you accidentally move awkwardly, which we all do at times, such as stumbling off a curb or unexpectedly stepping on uneven ground,’ says James Dunne, a running and sports rehab coach (kinetic-revolution.com).
‘If you can prevent a situation that might otherwise end with a fall, your body will thank you.’
Life’s easier with good balance
Better balance can make your whole life that much easier. ‘Whether you’re walking around doing daily tasks, in an exercise class or running, you’re constantly shifting weight from one leg to the other.
Improving your balance and stability can therefore help you provide a more stable base from which to move,’ says James.
And it’s not only your body that benefits – balance-based exercises can also help your memory, even if you only do them for an hour or so, according to a study from Florida.
So if you want to stay sharp, lower your injury risk, improve your posture and tone your core all at once, even while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, here are plenty of fun activities to help you do just that!
Wobble boards – discs with one curved side, one flat, that you can stand on – are a handy tool for improving your proprioception (your sense of the position of your body in space), which influences your balance and reduces your chance of injury.
TRY IT! Get a PhysioRoom Wooden Wobble Board (£11.99, physioroom.com) and practise standing on it when watching TV. Try to keep both sides up off the floor as long as possible. Once you’ve mastered this, try small knee bends and squats. Then try again with your eyes closed!
Balance & brush
It sounds basic but balancing on one leg as you brush your teeth or boil the kettle can add up to big changes in your body. ‘Muscles around your hips, such as the gluteals, work hard when you stand on one leg, to provide stability around the hips. And you also work hard through your core, to provide control around the pelvis and lower back,’ says James.
TRY IT! Challenge yourself further by balancing one-legged on a rolled-up towel or another unstable surface. As well as strengthening your core, this will also work the muscles in your feet and ankles, making you less susceptible to sprains.
Walk or jog on the beach for added benefits. Not only does running on sand burn roughly one-and-a-half times more calories than pavement pounding, but the instability of the surface gives your core a tougher workout, helping build your balance.
TRY IT! Beach full of pebbles? Don a pair of minimalist shoes such as the Vivobarefoot Kanna (£100, vivobarefoot.com). The thin, durable soles allow your toes to spread, as nature intended – helping improve balance.
Time to play ball
Heading to the park for a picnic? Pack a frisbee or ball and play catch – not only is it a fun activity for the family, but it can help improve balance and co-ordination, according to a recent study using weighted balls.
TRY IT! Use a heavy beanbag or a basketball for best results.
Jump on board
Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) has been making waves (as it were) for the last few years, thanks to its low impact movements that have a big impact on your core.
‘Abdominal strength is an important part of the technique, which also aids balance. Having a relaxed stance is key – if you freeze up, that’s when you tend to fall in,’ says Robyn Dawson, from Red Paddle Co (redpaddleco.com).
TRY IT! Taken to SUP like a duck to water? The 10’6 Ride MSL (£869, redpaddleco.com) has won multiple awards and comes with a choice of three paddles.
Pick up the slack
If you’re ready for a more difficult balance challenge, try slacklining – balancing on a polyester rope, but one that moves with you (rather than fixed, as in a tightrope). It’s an intense workout using almost every muscle, strengthening your core and improving your posture.