When Marilyn and I started working out together, it didn’t take long for her to realize that many of the exercises I was giving her challenged her balance.
“Why?” she wanted to know. Why do a simple bicep curl, for example, on one leg at a time? It doesn’t make your arms any stronger?
Good question. Balancing on one leg at a time – or using a piece of equipment that forces you to balance – requires engaging your core muscles in a way that doing the same exercise without the balancing element does not. It also engages small muscles (for example, in the lower leg) that are harder to get to than the big muscles.
Strengthening non-dominant muscles in this way not only supports overall fitness, but it is absolutely critical to maintaining functional movement as we age. Having good balance then, can improve your quality of life for decades to come.
To get you started, I’ve put together three exercises to demonstrate how easy it is to integrate simple balancing moves into your existing workout.
Switch from double-leg exercises to single leg:
Instead of traditional squats –> do single-leg stand-ups, alternating legs.
Stand on one foot while doing upper body exercises:
Instead of regular bicep curls –> do them standing on one leg, alternating halfway through.
Bicep curls taken to the next level when you balance on one leg! #ItMatters A video posted by Eat Like It Matters (@eatlikeitmatters) on
If you need more motivation to add balance to your routine, consider this: according to the CDC, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries in older adults. Whether you’re in that “older adult” category yet or not, why wait to start improving your balance? In the meantime, you’ll enjoy other benefits including improved athletic performance, coordination, and confidence which can translate into more fun with your kids, better agility on that weekend hike you take with your friends, or better balance in your favorite heels!