Why you should practise standing on one leg

From walking to leaning down to tie your shoes and trying to prevent yourself from falling over – good balance is important. Strong muscles and the ability to keep steady will help you stay balanced. Balance training helps with this.

Balance training involves exercises which aim to strengthen the muscles you use to stay upright, including your core and legs.Balance exercises can be intense like some kinds of yoga, or as simple as standing on one leg for a few seconds.

It may include:

  • Standing up and sitting down while in a chair without using your hands.
  • Putting a heel in front of your toes like walking a tightrope.
  • Tai chi.
  • Using balance equipment.

The benefits of these exercises include:

Coordination

Balance training makes use of your entire body and teaches you not to fall or trip.

Body awareness 

This is how your brain’s ability to know how your limbs are oriented in space. It may seem like a strange skill, but it can help by preventing you bumping your toes on furniture, and even falling down flights of stairs.

Stability in the joints

This kind of exercise helps prevent injuries like sprained ankles and knees as it promotes stable knees, hips, shoulders and ankles.

Long-term health

Adding balance training to your workouts can help maintain and improve balance, which helps prevent fractures that come from falling.

A balanced mind

Besides improving physical health, research has found that balance training can improve brain function too. A study by the University of Washington showed that when balance training was added to a group of elderly women’s exercise routines, their cognitive functions and particularly the part of their brains involved with memory (amygdala, hippocampus, cerebellum, and prefrontal cortex), significantly improved.

According to Dave Heidloff, a trainer at Athletico, this research suggests that balance training challenges certain sectors of the brain that usually decline as we age, like the parts involved with memory. So, balance training gives these regions a workout, which helps slow down their decline and improve their functioning.

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Another study found that balance training improves memory and spatial recognition (the ability to be aware of yourself in space and other objects in three dimensions). The study used 40 healthy, random participants aged 19-65 who did either balance or relaxation training for 12 weeks. The balance training group considerably improved in memory and spatial recognition.

Balancing exercises to help you stay steady

Leg swings

Start by standing on your right leg and raise your left leg a few centimetres off the floor. Place your arms at your sides and swing your left leg forward and backwards while touching the floor for balance. Keep your torso erect. Repeat these moves and don’t allow your floor to touch the ground. Now, swing the left foot to the left side while holding out your right arm. Switch to your right foot and repeat.

Sideways walking

Stand with your feet together and your knees slightly bent. Step sideways slowly, moving one foot to the side first. Now, move your other foot and join it with the other one. Don’t drop your hips as you step. Do 10 steps each way, or step from one side of the room to the other.

One-legged balance

Keep a stable chair or wall within arm’s reach. With your feet together, pick up one foot with your knee facing forward or to the side. Hold the position with your eyes open, and then closed. Switch your feet and repeat four times on each foot.

Good to know

If you experience discomfort with any balancing exercise, talk to a trainer or your doctor immediately as some exercises may not be appropriate for you.

References