Everyday Physical Activity Boost: Balance and Stability

July 06, 2012

By Lizzy Parker, HSC communications intern

Lizzy Parker is a rising junior at Colorado College with a passion for health and fitness. In January of 2012, she became a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. As an intern at HSC this summer, she looks forward to sharing her enthusiasm for and knowledge about physical activity—and, that it can be fun!

Stabilization training is an important and often overlooked form of exercise.  Balance is something we need to perform everyday activities such as sitting down, standing up, and walking.  Working on balance is a great way to begin exercising.  Having strong stabilizer muscles will not only benefit you daily, but will preserve your muscles for longevity.  You will then be more likely to be healthy and active as you age. 

Most stability training programs focus specifically on the core. This is the “trunk” of your body. Many mistakenly think of the core as only containing the rectus abdominus (the “six pack”), but these muscles are just a small part of a larger movement system. Muscles that wrap around the back and extend to the hips are infinitely more important to train. These are the muscles that are engaged when you catch your fall, kick a soccer ball, or ride your bike to the beach. 

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Balance and stability exercises strengthen the muscles we use in everyday activities — like kicking a soccer ball!

There are plenty of ways to train the core in formal exercise routines. If you are just starting out, “the plank” is a great foundational exercise. Though simple, the plank is difficult to perfect. Start slowly. Start in a push-up position on your two hands. Pull in your belly button as if pressing it against your spine.  Keep your gaze neutral so there is no straining at the neck. Do three rounds of 15-20 second holds. As you get stronger, hold the pose longer, working up to one-minute intervals. Be sure to notice when you are getting tired. Use a mirror as a reference. If your lower back is swaying, or you feel an uncomfortable pressure, reduce your time. Once you have the strength, intensify the exercise by going to your elbows. This short tutorial is worthwhile watching as you get ready to try this exercise.

There are also plenty of ways to train the core in less formal ways.

Stability training is beneficial for all ages, but formal exercises like the plank may be too advanced (or too boring!) for your child. Instead, incorporating balance training into simple tasks can have equally beneficial results. For example, alternate balancing on one foot while cooking dinner or waiting in line at the supermarket. If this becomes too easy, challenge yourself to lift up on your toes. At home or in another safe setting, close your eyes while balancing on one foot. Notice how lack of sight impacts your stability. 

Stability training is highly beneficial, low impact, and most of all, fun. Most kids enjoy physical activity when there is a playful component. So, encourage your kids to balance along with you, testing each other to see who can balance longest. Challenge one another to jump from one sidewalk square to the next, landing on one foot. With a little creativity, there is no need to take extra time out of your day to work the core.  

Disclaimer: The recommendations on this blog are not meant to be a substitute for recommendations from your physician. Take care to consult with your physician if you have questions or concerns about beginning a new exercise regimen. As always, if something hurts, don’t do it. Know your body’s limits and refrain for pushing yourself too far, too fast.