Balance is one of the most commonly overlooked aspects of a fitness or exercise program. That is, until an injury, health condition or general aging forces us to pay more attention to it.
In the context of fitness and health, balance is the ability to remain upright, stable, steady, and controlled while standing, walking, jogging, running, or engaging in any dynamic maneuver (like hiking over uneven terrain).
Just like speed, strength, power, endurance and flexibility, balance can be trained and enhanced through proper exercise. In any balance training program, it’s important to consider the type of balance training you’re doing and the surface you’re doing it on.
Balance training can be organized into two types: static and dynamic.
Static balance training involves holding a single position (for example, standing on one leg) for a set amount of time. This type of balance training is usually the starting point in any balance program, as it involves little movement and is generally safer.
As balance exercises progress in intensity, dynamic balance training is implemented. Dynamic balance training involves training balance while moving. Because how we move in life and sport is most often not static, dynamic balance training more accurately simulates the challenges and variability we experience in everyday life.
An example of dynamic balance training would be lunging to pick up a weighted ball off the floor, standing back up on a single leg, and quickly turning to toss the ball to a partner.
Static and/or dynamic balance training can be done on different surfaces to achieve different benefits. The three main categories of surfaces are:
Since even surfaces offer the lowest amount of challenge, this is where most individuals will begin with their balance exercises. Starting here with static, non-weighted exercises such as single leg balance holds and hip hinge single leg balance holds will help build a foundation.
Progressing to dynamic balance exercises like walking and lunging variations on even surfaces will add a greater, more functional challenge. Here, resistance in the form of dumbbells, medicine balls and other weighted tools can be added for increased strength and balance demands.
1Mikulski, Derek. “Blog.” OPTP (Orthopedic Physical Therapy Products), www.optp.com/blog/Balance-Training-How-to-Achieve-the-Greatest-Benefits.