Balance is as important as flexibility, strength and stamina, being an essential part of your fitness. Not only that poor balance is not associated with older adults, but the truth is, it’s important to work on it no matter your life stage. Better balance helps you take on a more challenging exercise to get fitter and it helps you prevent injury. Did you know that walking is one of the best types of exercises that help you practice balance skills?
Ways to Improve Balance When Walking
Use the curb as a balance beam
Becky Behling, a certified personal trainer affirms: “If one is available, use the curb as a balance beam,”. Use the surroundings when you go for a walk and search as many curbs as you can on your road. You’d be surprised how difficult it can be to walk on a curb, one foot in front of the other, for at least 20 steps.
Try different walking styles
Try different types of steps and switching up your direction, instead of just walking as you normally would. Jim Palmer, a physical therapist recommends: “While walking on a safe and obstruction-free sidewalk or path, practice walking sideways, backwards and grapevine style,” “This will challenge your brain’s vestibular, balance and coordination systems.” For safety, “move slowly in each direction for 20 steps while maintaining your balance. Change directions and repeat.”
You can also include basic locomotor skills, like galloping, skipping and hop jumping in order to step things up a notch. Behling explains: “These all involve propulsion, which is more fatiguing and demands finer balance skills,”
Walking heel-to-toe, also known as tandem gait helps you understand where your body is in space, which helps with balance. Alex Tauberg, a chiropractor and certified strength and conditioning specialist says: While doing this you want to keep your head up,” Start out just walking a short distance, and then increase as you go.”
Challenge your vestibular system
Sara Mikulsky, a physical therapist and certified trainer, affirms: “your inner ear is responsible for determining your body’s orientation: up, down, left or right,” “It is largely controlled by the semicircular canals in the ear that house hair-like follicles and crystals. These crystals move around and push the follicles to let your brain know which direction you are headed in. To stimulate them, we make quick head turns up and down.”
Palmer suggests you to practice walking straight while turning your head left and right 10 times each. “Continue walking, then look up and down 10 times each. You may feel some dizziness or inability to walk in a straight line. That’s okay, but means you need some work.”
Walk with your eyes closed
For your safety, do that in an obstruction-free area. Milusky affirms: “Many times, when there is a problem in one of the other balance systems, people rely heavily on their visual system to maintain their balance,” Start small with 20 steps keeping your eyes closed, recommends Palmer.
Do this kind of exercises regularly so you improve your balance from a young age.