Three Major Benefits of Balance Training and Exercises that Can Help
Posted 5/20/2016 by UHBlog
Life is often a balancing act – especially for athletes. Whether you’re an ice skater, cyclist or soccer player – or a participant in just about every sport – having good balance is one of the keys to preventing painful injuries.
“Being physically strong and muscular doesn’t mean that a body is in balance,” says sports medicine specialist Amanda Weiss Kelly, MD. “Balance training takes work and should be incorporated into regular workouts.”
Although proper balance won’t make a basketball player jump higher, a soccer player score more goals or a football player kick that extra point, “it does mean that athletes who are engaged in fast-moving sports won’t have as many injuries,” she says.
According to Dr. Weiss Kelly, the three major benefits of balance training are:
- Gives athletes the edge. Good balance ups the odds you won’t be sidelined or miss workouts due to sprained ligaments.
“Every athlete is aware that physical injuries can lead to significant loss of playing time or even long-term disability,” she says.
- Reduces chronic ankle pain. When you’re balanced, that can help prevent recurrent ankle sprains, the most common injury in teen athletes.
“As adolescents grow their center of gravity shifts, causing them to lose their ability to sense the position, location and orientation of each body part in relation to other parts (called proprioception),” Dr. Weiss Kelly says. “This instability can lead to loss of balance while actively participating in sports.”
- Improves movement. Older adults need good balance just as much as athletes. Good stability prevents fractures in older adults whose weakened bone density puts them at greater risk of serious injury after a fall.
“Seniors should engage in balance exercises to prevent debilitating hip, leg, shoulder or arm fractures,” she says.
If you want better balance, exercises can be as simple as standing on one foot for five or 10 minutes at a time. Balance boards or a BOSU ball can be used for an added challenge. But beware: Remove objects around you and stand near a wall or stable surface in case you lose your balance.
To turn your workout into a balancing act, try these simple exercises:
- With your feet together, pick up one foot – knee facing forward or to the side. Hold the position with eyes open, then closed. Switch feet and repeat for four reps on each foot.
- Stand on your right leg and raise the left leg three to six inches off the floor. With arms at your sides, swing your left leg forward and backward, touching the floor for balance, while keeping your torso erect. Repeat the moves, but don't allow your foot to touch the ground. And finally, swing the left foot to the left side, holding the right arm out. Switch legs and repeat.
- Stand on the balance or wobble board using both feet. Once you feel comfortable, try to balance on the balance board using just one foot.
“You don’t need to be a world-class athlete or own a lot of equipment to benefit from balance training,” Dr. Weiss Kelly says. “All you need is the determination to invest time in balance exercises, which will pay dividends in preventing injuries.”
Amanda Weiss Kelly, MD is the division chief, Pediatric Sports Medicine at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. You can request an appointment with Dr. Weiss Kelly or any other University Hospitals doctor online.