Building Better Balance – the Foundation of Fitness

Your stability ability pays off in big ways, today and tomorrow. Ballerinas know. So do bicyclists, boxers, and basketball players. Linebackers, too.

“We’ve had athletes train with us who have taken ballet and things like that,” said Chris Washington of EXOS, the performance enhancement company partnering with the University of Miami Sports Medicine Institute.

It’s not because they want to be in Swan Lake. It’s because they understand that balance – and not just the work-life kind – is fundamental for sports performance.

Even actor Zac Efron of the famous washboard abs included balance training in his pre-filming regimen in preparation for his lifeguard duties in Baywatch.

Balance benefits

But balance isn’t just important for pro athletes and beefcake actors. It’s essential for everyone. Every day. When we move, and when we stand still. Whether we work on an assembly line, behind a desk, climbing ladders, or threading our way over the uneven terrain of a construction site. Over your child’s spilled LEGOs. Or the yard.

Our ability to move efficiently relies on our ability to maintain our postural alignment. That takes balance. And the better it gets, the more efficiently, and more effectively, you use your body. With more mobility and fewer injuries.
And the stability we build today may help us prevent stumbles and tumbles later in life.

There are actually two kinds of balance, Washington says, dynamic and static. “Static maintains the body’s center of mass within its base of support,” he says. “If you’re just kind of standing there upright, feet shoulder width apart, that’s kind of like your holding pattern.”

Put that in motion and you have the other kind: dynamic balance.

Exercise tips

So, how do you build better balance?

“If you have a strong core then you’re going in the right direction,” Washington says.

Stability balls and wobble boards help. A lot.

“A lot of people overlook that because they just focus on the weight lifting part of exercise or the cardiovascular part of it,” he says. “But if you build that into your regimen it really does improve.”

Other exercises he recommends:

  • One legged squats
  • Single leg deadlifts
  • One-legged balance
  • Leg swings

And, “walking heel to toe,” he says. Yep, like the sobriety test police give you when you’re pulled over. “That’s a straight balance test.”

If you like doing things in groups, he says, tai chi classes offer great low-impact balance training. Or you could take up ballet.

 

 


Carlos Harrison is a contributing writer for the UMiami Health News Blog. He is a former national and international television correspondent, as well as a newspaper and magazine writer and editor.