Exercise options for improving your balance

A strong core is the key to maintaining balance.

Maintaining balance grows more important as we age, and if you notice yourself a bit wobbly now, it may be time to start strengthening your core. Your midsection plays an important role in staying on your feet, whether during athletics or when you're bringing in groceries. In addition to working out your abdominal muscles, you'll want to make sure that your major joints – the hips and knees, mainly – are steady and stable as well. A joint supplement can help to ensure that these parts of your body are ready for a challenge.

When it comes to the core, many people will turn to yoga or Pilates to gently strengthen their muscles. However, signing up for a class and sticking to a schedule can be tricky when you're busy. Instead, you can try out some of these balancing exercises at home on your own:

Weight shifts
To start things out, try practicing simple weight shifts. These are as easy as standing with your feet hip-width apart, having your weight evenly distributed between both legs. From here, shift your weight to one side, as you lift the other foot off of the ground. Hold this position for 30 seconds, or as long as you can hold good form. Then you should return to the starting position and practice the exercise on the other side. Overtime, you'll notice improvements to your balance, as you are able to complete more repetitions while maintaining perfect form.

Toe raise
Now, to focus more on your core, try completing a set of toe raises. To do so, you'll want to be barefoot. Standing behind a chair, lightly place your fingertips on the back of it. Keep your shoulders back, with your abdomen pulled in. Now, lift your heels off of the ground slowly, redistributing your body weight to the balls of your feet. Pause for a moment before returning to the starting position. You should be able to do this eight to 15 times. Completing this exercise requires your core to keep the body stable, and you will also find that it strengthens the calves.

Heel-to-toe walk
Seniors who are looking to improve their balance can do so with the heel-to-toe walk. With your arms extended out to either side, take a step forward by placing the heel of your left foot directly in front of the toe of your right foot. When doing so, the heel and toe should be touching or almost touching. While performing this walk, you should keep your head straight and your eyes focused on something located directly in front of you. Continue walking heel to toe for 20 steps.

Liftoff
For something a bit more challenging, the liftoff helps to strengthen the abs in addition to the back, shoulders, hamstrings and butt. This is another great option for strengthening the core, which will ultimately improve your balance. To start, stand with your feet together and arms at your sides. Bring your back parallel to the ground by hinging forward at the hips – you'll need to extend your arms down to help maintain your balance. Now, lift one leg from the ground and raise it out behind you. While doing so, bring your arms directly out from your sides. This puts all of your weight on one leg and you will need the muscles in your core to prevent you from falling. Keeping that hinged position, lower your leg and arm back to the starting position, and switch to your other leg.

Depending on your age and fitness level, you may want to start with varying balancing exercises. As you increase strength to the core, you'll find that you are able to complete more difficult routines easily.

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