How to Improve Your Balance
A little bit of practice can go a long way.
By Karen Asp•
Work-life balance is one thing. But there’s physical balance too, and aside from being important for your fitness endeavors, it can also aid your everyday activities. Here’s why—and how to make that balance even better.
The Importance of Balance
Anybody who’s taken a yoga or stretching class is probably familiar with balance. Think Tree Pose where you’re asked to stand on one leg. That, of course, is the most obvious example of balance, but it actually has a wider definition: “Balance is the ability to maintain an upright and stable standing position, not only on one foot but also in a bipedal (upright walking) position,” says Peloton instructor Becs Gentry. “It’s a total body ‘move’ with dominant muscle groups assisting you in your core and lower body.”
Of course, with better balance, you’ll be able to rock those yoga poses with greater ease, but don’t discount other activities, as balance plays a role in almost every fitness activity you pursue. “When you move forward—think walking, jogging, or running—you move through space by making contact with the ground one leg at a time,” Becs says. “The stronger your balance, the greater your ability to move forward for longer without possible pain or injury.”
For instance, having strong balance in running may mean that you have more single leg power, which may in turn translate into being a stronger runner in speed or duration. Love to cycle? With good balance, you’ll be able to maintain strong upper body posture and position throughout the whole workout sans any slouching, Becs says.
Strength training also calls on balance. “With or without weights, there’s always going to be a transfer of weight to a specific area and you have to find a way not to topple over or take it too far,” says Peloton instructor Mariana Fernández.
Balance can even aid daily activities like carrying dishes from the table to the sink. “Having good balance means you can complete your daily activities without pain,” Mariana says.
How to Improve Your Balance
Balance isn’t something to take for granted, as it can decrease as you age, Becs says. Fortunately, though, you can maintain—or even improve—that balance, no matter how old you are.
For starters, think about incorporating balance drills into everyday activities. You might try, for instance, something similar to what Becs does: standing on one foot whenever she’s waiting for the subway. “Single leg standing poses are great because you can work on getting that trifecta (ball mound of the big toe, pinkie edge, and front of the heel of the foot) and shift your weight between those three points,” she says.
You can also add more balance elements into your workouts. For example, you can do single leg work, or even unilateral work like alternative forward lunges, in your strength training to bolster balance. You can also take a yoga class or even just do poses like Tree Pose or Warrior Three throughout your day, Mariana suggests.
No matter when or how you do it, keep that balance training playful, much like toddlers do when they’re learning to walk. “They’ll fall over and over, and most of the time they’ll laugh, but they’re also not beating themselves up,” Mariana says.
She employs the same attitude when she works her balance. “My balance is rarely perfect, and even if I find balance, the second I celebrate it, I’ll probably topple out of it,” she explains. Yet that doesn’t stop her from trying—again and again. It is, after all, a balancing act, and the more you practice it, the better you’ll get.
Practice your balancing skills during a yoga class on the Peloton App!