By Mary Ann Wilson, RN
I would love to share some great balance exercises that we’ve used on the Sit and Be Fit television series. They will challenge several of the important balance systems responsible for stability in your mobility. If you practice these exercises regularly, along with others in the related blogs section below, and you will see improvements in your balance.
Balance Exercise #1 Visual System
This exercise will be most helpful for those who rely heavily on their visual system to maintain their balance. To force the use of the somatosensory system, vision should be reduced during the exercise either by wearing dark glasses or closing the eyes.
1) Sit in a chair with hands touching the sides of the chair, feet hip width apart, flat on a firm surface, close your eyes. Focus the attention on the feeling of pressure under the feet and below the buttocks.
2) With eyes closed, pretend you’re sitting on a large clock and circle your hips on the outside edge of the clock, pressing on each number as you go around. Reverse the circle and notice how the pressure shifts under the buttocks and feet.
3) Progress to the next three levels of the exercise by repeating the same exercise.
Level 1: Resting hands on thighs
Level 2: Hands folded across chest
Level 3: Arms extended out to the sides at shoulder level
Balance Exercise #2 Eye/Head Coordination
The following exercises will combine eye/head coordination, which improves the ability to visually focus on a moving or stationary target.
Begin seated in a chair, with the neck in good alignment.
Level 1: Turn the head slowly at first, looking right, left, up, down and diagonally, focusing on a target in each direction.
Level 2: Progress to faster head movements as performance improves. If the visual target becomes blurred stop increasing the head speed.
Level 3: Vary the speed of the head movements while maintaining a clear focus on the target.
Level 4: Add more challenge to any of the exercises by including a second activity such as marching the feet at the same time or incorporating lower body foot and leg patterns.
Balance Exercise #3 Head Turning Movements
Head turning movements will require the vestibular system to work harder to maintain balance. The faster the head turn, the more the vestibular system will be challenged.
Balance Exercise #4 Standing
Once you’ve mastered the above exercises without experiencing any dizziness you can progress to a standing position and practice them, making sure to start slow and stay within your comfort range. Incorporate standing weight shifts in all directions and at all paces to add dynamic and reactive balance challenges along the way.
Remember all of the exercises presented here are designed to stimulate the various systems that help control balance. While the goal of balance exercises is to increasingly challenge those systems, it must be done safely. If any of the exercises cause dizziness, stop the exercise and revert to a simpler form of the movement.