Request an Appointment

Sidebar Request an Appointment
Burlington
college station service
Downtown Toronto services
North York Services
Markham Services
Richmond Hill Services

Try a free Consultation

Call Us

College Station Carlton Street (416) 595-5353
Downtown Toronto University Avenue (416) 363-1975
North York Yonge Street (647) 494-4342
Burlington Appleby Line (289) 812-0246
Markham Unionville (905) 209-6830
Richmond Hill Bayview Ave (905) 780-3256

by Joon Nah   BScPT
Registered Physiotherapist
updated Apr 23, 2024


Better Stability Means Better Health

A good sense of balance is fundamental to our overall health and our ability to effectively go about our tasks of daily living. The importance of good balance is usually not appreciated. It can have an impact on simple things such as picking up a fork from the floor, standing still for a long period of time, or getting up from bed; to more complex movements like walking quickly through a busy mall or playing sports.

When your sense of balance is poor, the consequences can reverberate throughout your life. You’ll be less likely to want to participate in activities that you otherwise would have. Social interactions can diminish, contributing to feelings of isolation and depression. You’ll be at a much higher risk of falls and serious injury. These can lead to general overall inactivity which has significant impacts on life span and health span.

The good news is that almost everyone has the ability to significantly improve their balance. It can be accomplished slowly and gradually or with much more intensity to make quick progress. Though having your balance assessed by a vestibular physiotherapist is ideal, you can do so much on your own with very little to no cost. Here are some tips to help you improve your balance.

 

How balance works

Balance is your ability to stay upright or maintain your position while you’re either stationary (static balance) or while you’re in motion (dynamic balance).

Your sense of balance comes from 3 systems in your body:

1)  Visual system
2)  Proprioceptive system (sensors in your joints and muscles)
3)  Vestibular system (sensors in your inner ear)

Good balance means that all three of these systems are functioning well AND that all three are communicating with each other properly in your brain. If even one of these systems is a little weaker, you can develop issues with balance.

 

CAUTION: RISK OF FALLING – the following exercises must be performed in a safe manner. If you have a medical condition that affects your safety, it is highly advised that you see your physician or physiotherapist before attempting these exercises. 

If you have already been diagnosed with a balance-related disorder, these exercises may not be appropriate for you. A vestibular physiotherapist should be consulted.

 

10 Exercises to Improve your Balance

1.  Standing still with eyes open and eyes closed

  • Stand with your feet together in front of a counter or a couch for safety reasons
  • Keep your eyes open and focus on something in front of you at eye level for 10 seconds
  • Close your eyes for 10 seconds without moving
  • Repeat for 2 minutes while opening and closing your eyes for 10 seconds
  • Progress this exercise by folding your arms across your chest or putting one foot slightly ahead of the other

2.  Single leg standing

  • Stand on one leg with your other leg just slightly off the ground
  • Keep both knees slightly bent
  • Try to keep the hip on the non weight-bearing leg from dropping
  • Hold for 30 seconds and switch legs.
  • Repeat for 3 sets

3.  Clock toe touches

  • Stand in the middle of the floor with your feet together.
  • Imagine that you are in the centre of a clock and reach forward with your right foot to touch the 12 o’clock position. Next touch the 3 o’clock position to the side of you. Next the 6 o’clock position behind you.
  • Repeat for the other leg (12, 9, 6 o’clock) and repeat both sides 5 times
  • Progress this by imagining a larger clock so you’ll be reaching further
  • Progress this again by performing with your eyes closed

4.  Walking while turning your head

  • Find a clear, level sidewalk away from traffic or obstacles
  • Walk at a comfortable pace while turning your head (and your eyes) slowly to the right and then slowly to the left.
  • Repeat for 2 minutes

5.  Tandem walking

  • Commonly called heel-toe walking, find a long straight hallway or path
  • Move forward with as much control as you can, by placing one foot directly in front of the other
  • If this is easy, try keeping your eye ahead of you and not looking down. Or try while keeping arms crossed on your chest, instead of out at your sides
  • Perform for 2 minutes

6.  Stability ball plank

  • Purchase a medium sized stability ball (yoga ball)
  • Hold a plank position with the ball under your forearms and your body straight
  • Try to be as still as you can for as long as you can.
  • Work on increasing your time each week.
  • Progress this exercise by lifting one leg off of the ground and holding it up for 5 seconds.

7.  Squats

Squats are an excellent way to work your legs and core muscles through a dynamic and functional movement. The muscles involved in a squat can be highly beneficial for maintaining balance.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Squat down as if you’re sitting in a chair while trying to keep head and upper body upright
  • Try to lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Hold for 1 sec then return the same way you came down
  • Repeat for 15 reps and as you get stronger, try to gradually increase the repetitions.

8.  Heel raises

  • Stand with feet shoulder width apart, in front of a counter with your hands lightly touching the countertop
  • Raise both heels up as high as you can go and hold for 1 sec, then return to the floor
  • Repeat for 20 reps
  • As this gets easier, increase the reps as well as removing your hands from touching the countertop

9.  Add a foam pad

You can practice several of the exercises above on a foam pad to increase the difficulty. e.g. clock toe touches, single leg standing, squats and heel raises.

If you don’t have a foam pad, substitute a couch cushion or a pillow.

10.   Hiking on uneven terrain

If you feel safe to do so, walking or hiking on uneven ground or up and down hills or slopes can be a great and fun way to work on improving your balance. Especially because walking is an excellent functional exercise that is a part of our everyday movements and works the body as a whole. Bring a friend and put some points into your social life at the same time!

 

When to see a vestibular physiotherapist

  • If you feel unsafe or nervous about your balance or have a medical condition where imbalance is a significant issue
  • If these exercises feel easy and you’d like to improve your balance further
  • If you’ve been doing these exercises a number of times but your balance is not improving
  • If you feel other sensations such as vertigo, lightheadedness, issues with coordination or have fallen from your loss of balance

 

CONCLUSION

Everyone can benefit from improving their balance, whether you are a young athlete or an inactive senior looking to get their health back on track. Balance work can very easily be adapted to anyone’s pace whether slow or quick. With a little bit of effort and consistency, better balance can result in more confidence, better health, greater independence and less risk for injuries.

Cornerstone Physiotherapy has experts in the assessment and treatment of balance disorders. Contact us today if you’d like to get us on your team.

About the author

Joon Nah

Co-founder, Physiotherapist Learn More about Joon Nah

Questions? We're happy to help!

 
Try a free Consultation
 

Choosing the right service provider can be a big decision. We’re dedicated to answering any questions you have to help you make the best choice. Contact us today and ask us anything!

Call us at (416) 238-6749

Request More Information

 
Consult
 
Request More Information