Our balance is both dynamic and static. It’s controlled by the vestibular system in our inner ear and is assisted by our vison, postural muscles and reflexes. Movement stimulates our balance, but you also need your balance to stand stable, move, dance and do many things. To tune up your balance try the following activities starting with the first one and moving on to the next one. You can start with your sneakers on and progress towards doing them with bare feet.
1. Stand with your feet together -inside heels, arches and big toes touching each other. Look straight ahead and stare at a stable object, preferably at eye level and count to ten. Then look to the left for 10 seconds turning so your chin is in line with your shoulder and then look to the right for 10 seconds. Then finally look straight ahead and close your eyes and count to 15. If this is easy go on to number 2. If your unstable, practice and master this one first.
2. Stand with your feet lined up in a straight line. First put your left foot in front so your left heel is touching your right toes. Focus on your target or stable object for 15 to 30 seconds. Next try bending your legs until your back knee is tucked into your front knee and hold 15 seconds. Then stand again focus on your target and when steady turn to the left and hold for 15 seconds, then turn to the right for 15 seconds. Your arms can be used to assist your balance a bit by raising them out to your sides. Next do the same sequence but shift your feet so your right foot is in the front with the heel touching your left toes. Do this until your stable during the whole exercise or come back to it and practice a few minutes several times a day.
3. Next stand on your left leg and bend your right knee about 90 degrees. Stare at your target for 15 – 30 seconds without touching your right foot down. Then touch your foot down and turn your head to the right, stare at an object, lift your right foot and count to 15. Touch your right foot down and turn to face the left, stare at object, lift your right foot and count to 15. Repeat this whole sequence standing on your right foot and lifting your left foot 90 degrees off the floor. This one might take some practice to get each of the positions for 15 seconds.
One thing you’ll probably notice is your balance is better on one leg than the other. Though not used as much as a dominant hand, you have a dominant foot too, for kicking a ball for example.
My left foot is much more stable than my right, because it bears my weight when I lift my right foot and kick the ball. The other thing that’s apparent is how your visual system stabilizes you when staring at an stable object. As you turn your head to look left and right you might feel your balance is challenged more. And when you closed your eyes you’ll really notice it. In exercises 2 and 3 at the end try to close your eyes and hold the positions for 15 seconds.
There are many fitness props that help your balance too, like the BOSU Ball, balance cushions and Indo board to name a few. Practice challenging your balance so it improves and serves you when your navigating those slippery side walks!