It’s hard to believe, but starting as early as your twenties, your sense of balance begins to decrease. That’s not to say you can’t slow down the process. “How rapidly the sense of balance diminishes depends on our genes, on the natural process of aging and, to a large extent, on how physically active we are and the types of activities we do,” explains health and science writer Scott McCredie in his book Balance: In Search of the Lost Sense.
The best exercises challenge your sense of balance by incorporating BOSU balls, wobble boards and Xerdiscs into your leg workout. Incorporating this equipment not only makes for a more challenging routine but also builds up your agility.
“Balance exercises speed up your reaction time and improve the brain-to-muscle connection,” explains celebrity trainer and Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute trainer Ramona Braganza. “They prepare you for walking on slippery ice in the winter or stepping out of a shower onto a wet floor.”
As we age, Braganza says, being able to stay balanced and on your feet becomes ever more important. The majority of injuries to seniors stem from losing your balance (a.k.a. falling). More than a third of adults age 65 and older in the U.S. fall each year, according to research cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, falls are the predominant cause of traumatic brain injury among members of this age group.
Here are four moves that Braganza recommends to help you stay grounded.
HAMSTRING CURL WITH A STABILITY BALL
Begin lying on your back with ankles and heels placed on top of a stability ball, toes pointing up. Raise your hips, contract your glutes, and keep your hands by your side to stabilize yourself. Roll the ball in toward your hips by rolling from your heels onto the balls of your feet. Pause momentarily and then roll the ball back out, keeping your hips elevated.
To increase the level of difficulty, try rolling one leg at a time, or raising your arms in the air while rolling.
Strengthens: Glutes and hamstrings
ROMANIAN DEAD LIFT ON AN XERDISC
Place your left foot on one Xerdisc and your right foot on another. Hold a five-pound weight in each hand. Slowly lower from the waist down until your hands are almost to the floor. Then slowly rise back up.
Strengthens: Glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and inner thigh
SQUATS ON A BOSU DOME
10 to 15 reps
Begin standing on the BOSU ball, dome side up, with your feet spread as wide as possible and your arms extended forward for balance. Descend slowly into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Pause, then raise back up to stand. To increase the level of difficulty, attempt the same squat with the dome side down.
Strengthens: Glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps
SINGLE LEG LUNGE ON A WOBBLE BOARD
10 reps on each side
Stand facing the smaller side of a wobble board. Place one foot on the board, shifting your weight to the heel. You will now be in somewhat of a lunge position. Lower and raise your body on the ball of the back foot and the heel of the front foot. Keep the wobble board parallel to the floor. Do 10 reps on one leg, then switch to the other. With your foot on the board, make sure your knee isn’t tracking over the ankle.
Strengthens: Glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves