Just like strength, balance declines with age. And with a loss of balance comes an increased risk of injury and loss of mobility. But strength and balance training can improve your ability to stay centered and stable on your feet.
"There's a huge relationship between balance and strength,” says Mary Helen Bowers, founder of New York City–based Ballet Beautiful and a professional ballerina who offers balance, strength and flexibility training.
Bowers recommends four exercises you can do in less than 10 minutes a day. “Do them three to four times a week for a few weeks and you'll notice a difference,” she says.
Stand with one hand on a wall for stability. Keeping both legs straight, lift one leg and stretch it in front of you until it's at a 45-degree angle to your body, toes pointed. Now touch your toes to the ground, hold a moment and return to the starting position. Do 2 sets of 8 reps with each leg.
Knee Bends With Heel Raises
Stand with one hand on a wall for stability, your other arm at your side. Keeping your feet together and torso straight, bend your knees. Next, lift your heels off the floor as you straighten your legs and raise your free arm above your head. Hold for a moment. Perform 2 sets of 8 reps.
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Lie on your back, hands under your hips, and lift your legs straight in the air. Now pull in with your stomach to raise your hips slightly off the mat; point your toes. Hold for 2 counts; then, keeping your legs perpendicular to you, lower your hips back to the mat. Do 2 to 4 sets of 8 reps.
Get on your hands and knees. (Use a pillow under your knees, if you wish.) Pull in your abdomen and lift your right leg straight back, keeping your abdomen tight, with your knee straight and toes pointed. Don't arch your back. Hold for a moment, then lower and repeat with your left leg. Do 2 sets of 8 reps.
Mike Zimmerman has written and edited dozens of books on fitness and nutrition.