Balance and flexibility exercises can help keep you fit at any age. If you’ve already committed to living an active lifestyle, that’s awesome. But if you’re concentrating solely on strength exercises or endurance work, you’re shortchanging yourself. Adding balance and flexibility workouts ensures that your exercise program is well-rounded, so you can stay fit from your head to your toes for years to come.
Here’s a look at why flexibility and balance are just as important as strength for older adults as well as everyone else. You’ll also learn a few simple balancing exercises, as well as information on how you might improve flexibility in order to support your range of motion.
Maintain Balance And Flexibility For Long-Term Fitness
You might be incredibly fit now. But how can you maintain that fitness over the long haul? Working on leg strength and building your muscles is always important, but maintaining good balance and staying flexible is also key.
Working on the muscles that support your balance not only helps keep you stable during exercise – it may also reduce the risk of falling elsewhere.1 For older adults, things that are second nature, such as balancing on the toes to take something down from a shelf, may get increasingly difficult.
Performing balancing exercises now might help make those tasks a lot easier for you as the years go by.
One way to ensure proper balance is to work on your core strength or your abdominal muscles. Your core is the key to balance. If it’s strong, that provides stability to the spine and pelvis, and it also helps with leg strength. A healthy core also lessens the burden on your bones, since they won’t have to work as hard to support your body weight.2
Flex For Fitness
The reason flexibility is so important is that it helps reduce the risk of muscle tears and aching muscles. In addition, it helps you maintain a healthy posture.3
Why You Should Always Stretch Before Any Workout Routine
Hopefully, you stretch before a workout now. If you do, you’re already working on your flexibility. Stretching your leg muscles also helps maintain your balance while keeping your hips, especially your hip flexors, working properly. If you’re not stretching thoroughly before you exercise, it’s important to make it a priority.4
While it’s important to stretch, it’s just important to make sure you’re doing it correctly. Follow these tips:
- Try to change up your stretching routine to include all of your muscles (arms, legs, etc.)
- Always stretch gently to avoid an injury.
- Try to hold each stretch for at least 15 seconds.
- Never over-stretch. If a stretch becomes painful, stop immediately.5
Balance And Core Strength Exercises For Any Age Group: Pilates And Yoga
Pilates and yoga are two great exercises for promoting balance and flexibility – for younger and older adults alike. Here’s a quick look at the benefits of each.
Pilates is an exercise program that focuses on supporting coordination, strength, posture, and balance. It emphasizes the hips, back, and abdominal areas, and it promotes proper breathing. It doesn’t matter what your age may be – as long as you are in good health, Pilates can be a solid addition to your current physical activity regimen.6
You can more than likely easily find a beginner’s Pilates class in your area through a simple online search.
Yoga is another great way to increase balance and flexibility. It may also help to boost your energy levels, and it may even support weight loss.7
Like Pilates, you can probably find a yoga class in your area if you’re interested in giving it a try. If not, there are many yoga apps and videos available for beginners.
More Exercises: Rolling Your Shoulders, Chest Stretches, And Leg Flexibility
If you don’t feel like taking on a Pilates or yoga class, don’t worry. There are plenty of other exercises you can do at home to increase balance and flexibility. Just be sure to get your doctor’s approval first. Here are just a few to consider.
Your shoulders need to be flexible so you’ll have maximum range of motion in your arms. You can do this simple exercise pretty much anywhere.
- Stand up tall. Keep your chin slightly tucked.
- Relax your arms. Your shoulders will be doing all the work.
- Raise your shoulders toward your ears, like you’re shrugging. Then move them back down.
- Slowly rotate your shoulders back in a circular motion.
- Repeat this shoulder circle motion 2-4 times.8
This exercise not only stretches the chest, but it also helps support good posture. You can perform it in either a sitting or standing position.
- Keep your right and left foot flat on the floor. Make sure your feet are about the same width apart as your shoulders.
- Hold your arms to your sides. Keep the palms of your hands facing toward the front of your body.
- Move your arms and hands back slowly. Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds if possible. If you feel any discomfort, stop.
- Do this 3-5 times if you can.9
Increasing your leg flexibility may be one of the most important things you can do for flexibility and balance.
- Lie on the floor flat on your back.
- Keep your left knee bent, and keep your left foot flat.
- Raise your right leg slowly. Keep the knee bent at a slight angle.
- Grab your right leg (not your toes or your left or right foot, just your thigh area) with both hands. Remember to keep your knee bent,
and keep your shoulders and head on the floor while performing this leg exercise.
- Slowly pull your leg toward your body. You’ll feel a good stretch.
- Hold the stretch for 10-30 seconds.
- Repeat this stretching exercise 3-5 times on each leg.10
Tips To Help You Safely Start An Exercise Program
No matter what kind of exercise routine you might be starting for the first time, you want to be careful. Again, make sure your doctor says it’s okay, and that you won’t be putting yourself at risk for an injury.
You’ll need high-quality footwear with enough room for you to move your toes. In addition, wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes. Ease into your routine, and try to stretch and exercise on a regular schedule. Make sure you take days off as needed to allow your muscles to recover.11
Flexibility and balance will be key to helping you stay fit and active. Committing to both may help you feel great for years to come.