What is the single best exercise I can do to improve my balance?
December 9, 2019 8:32 PM   Subscribe

I am already doing some various light exercises, but I would also like to add one, and only one, thing focused on balance. I am an uncoordinated and overweight woman in my upper 50s, in case that matters.
posted by NotLost to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
I've found that doing a couple of sets of front and back scales several times a week has been really good for me.
posted by mogget at 8:51 PM on December 9, 2019 [18 favorites]

I would say anything from Pilates that focuses on the glutes and core. Since you said only one exercise, try the first one listed in this blog post. If it’s too challenging to lift your leg and opposite arm at the same time, start with leg only and then arm only. The point is to engage your glutes, core, and back so that your torso stays steady when you lift your limb off the ground. Go slow if you have to, and only lift as far as you can without wobbling. Even if it’s only an inch, your body is learning how to stabilize and you can do more as it gets more secure in that. (I am an uncoordinated and heavy woman in my early 50s with a recent hip replacement.)
posted by matildaben at 9:19 PM on December 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

The one simple trick that worked for me was standing on one foot while brushing my teeth.
posted by sacrifix at 9:55 PM on December 9, 2019 [20 favorites]

Heel-to-toe walking is sometimes recommended for this.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:12 PM on December 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

it depends if your balance problems are from core/quad/ankle/etc weakness or if they are vestibular in nature and the exercises are not really interchangeable.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:28 PM on December 9, 2019 [4 favorites]

The one that was most helpful for me was standing on one leg combined with the short foot exercise (turn your heel a little sideways so you're standing on its outer edge and push out the ball of your big toe against the floor). My physiotherapist also swears by unstable surface exercises, but those need equipment.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 10:45 PM on December 9, 2019

Lunges would be my vote.
posted by pazazygeek at 11:34 PM on December 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Balancing on a Bosu Ball is very helpful.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:32 AM on December 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

I was also here to say the "stand on one foot while brushing your teeth" thing. It's especially good if you have an electric toothbrush that buzzes to tell you to switch zones, because that can be a cue to switch feet. It took me weeks to be able to balance all the way through brushing my teeth, but doing so helped my balance a lot – and helped my Pilates too. (Now I'm woefully out of shape and need to start doing it again.)
posted by rednikki at 3:30 AM on December 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

A coworker of mine is in PT to improve her balance, and some of the exercises are various combinations of standing on a pillow, standing one-footed, and doing either of these with eyes closed.
posted by a huckleberry at 4:27 AM on December 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

This book has a lot of great reviews from people in my life.
posted by Ftsqg at 5:48 AM on December 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Sit on the floor and stand back up again. Work your way up to standing without using your hands, knees, forearms, or sides of legs to brace yourself.
posted by carrioncomfort at 6:22 AM on December 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Single Leg squats
posted by Kwine at 6:37 AM on December 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

Brush your teeth standing on one leg ON a bosu ball!
posted by catspajammies at 7:46 AM on December 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

Nthing the Bosu. My balance improved very quickly just from standing on it, with one foot or two; alternating feet; bouncing gently, etc. I found it really fun also, and you can do other exercises with it as well so it's versatile.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:52 AM on December 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

I stand on a Bosu ball for 5 - 15 minutes while watching TV; it's more difficult during chase scenes. You can start with it right way up, then switch to it upside-down.

I call my latest exercise the "I Dropped My Keys Challenge," where I stand on the Bosu ball and then attempt to reach down and touch the ball and stand back up without collapsing onto the floor / sofa / cat.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:20 AM on December 10, 2019

I have a standing desk at work and stand on a wobble board (like this one) whenever I hop on calls or want a physical cue for focusing. It’s similar in effect to clicking a retractable pen, but it leaves my hands free to write/type as necessary.
posted by saltypup at 8:58 AM on December 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Welcome to the overweight, uncoordinated, and over 50 club. I have had both vestibular therapy and regular physical therapy for balance. By far the most recommended thing was to stand on one leg. To make it more difficult, move your head from side to side or up and down, or stand on a pillow, or close your eyes, or do a combination of some of those things. Keep your standing leg slightly bent so you don't lock it, concentrate on keeping your abs and glutes tight for support. Moving your head is definitely challenging, but closing your eyes is the most difficult. My physical therapist had me stand on these pillows; the thicker the pillow, the harder it is to balance.
posted by ceejaytee at 11:01 AM on December 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

(A video suggestion the 'stand on one leg' exercise mentioned above - as well as several others you can do while brushing your teeth).
posted by rongorongo at 12:58 AM on December 11, 2019

I think as a skill to practice, many of these are great answers.

I would add that squatting would make your "platform" (so to speak) hardier. It doesn't just strengthen your legs, all the little stabilizer muscles get stronger as well.
posted by imabanana at 2:26 AM on December 17, 2019

I think standing on one leg is what's most suitable for my current level of stability. Thanks, all.
posted by NotLost at 6:40 PM on February 21

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