Whether you're a beginner or an experienced athlete, young or approaching your senior years, balance exercises are beneficial for everyone, so be sure to include some balance workouts in your fitness sessions and start noticing the difference.
What is Balance Training?
Balance training consists of activities that challenge your ability to maintain posture and stability over a base of support. Balance exercises often involve performing movements on unstable surfaces, such as balance boards, stability balls, or foam pads.
These surfaces create an unstable environment that requires the body to constantly make micro-adjustments to maintain balance. Additionally, exercises like single-leg stances, heel-to-toe walks, or yoga poses challenge the body's balance and coordination.
You can work on two types of balance: static and dynamic. Static balance refers to your body’s ability to hold a specific position, such as standing on one leg or squatting.
This type of balance is often used initially in a training program or for certain populations like older adults or rehab settings. Once you can perform static balance exercises, you can work on dynamic balance, which requires maintaining balance while moving.
This type of balance training can help you perform daily tasks and improve athletic performance. For example, walking, climbing stairs, or athletic activities like starting in a double-leg stance and jumping to land on one foot.
History and Popularity of Balance Training
Infusing balance exercises into a fitness routine is not a new concept. In fact, balance training has its roots in activities and sports like wrestling, martial arts, Tai Chi, yoga, and gymnastics that rely on balance as an essential component.
That said, balance training has become more mainstream as a recognized component of various exercise programs, including functional training, core stability exercises, and sports-specific conditioning.
As the popularity of this training type grows, access to balance equipment like balance boards, stability balls, foam pads, and other tools have been developed to challenge and improve balance.
Today, balance training is widely recognized as a fundamental aspect of fitness, rehabilitation, and sports performance. It is integrated into diverse disciplines such as physical therapy, yoga, Pilates, dance, martial arts, and athletic training programs to enhance stability, coordination, and overall body control.
Difference Between Balance Training and Other Forms of Exercise
The primary goal of balance training is to enhance proprioception, which is the body's sense of its position in space.
While other activities like strength training or cardiovascular exercises primarily target muscle strength, endurance, or cardiovascular fitness, balance training focuses on improving the body's ability to maintain proper posture and stability during various activities.
|Balance Training||Improve stability, coordination, and posture; Reduce the risk of falls and injuries||Single-leg exercises, bodyweight exercises, yoga poses, Tai Chi, Pilates-based moves||BOSU Ball, balance board, balance cushion, stability ball, wobble cushion, rotator disc|
|Resistance Training||Build muscular strength||Weight lifting, circuit training classes, CrossFit, Olympic style lifting||Dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, machines|
|Cardiovascular Training||Improve endurance, burn calories, boost heart health||Walking, running, cycling, swimming, rowing, hiking, dancing||Treadmill, elliptical, bike, rower, track, pool|
|Flexibility and Mobility Training||Enhance the range of motion in joints and muscles||Stretching exercises, mobility exercises||Resistance bands, stretching straps, balance pad, foam roller, smart stick or dowel, stretching stations|
Balance Training vs Resistance Training
Balance training, on the other hand, relies on bodyweight exercises with some advanced moves using props like a balance board, BOSU trainer, stability ball, wobble cushion, and rotator discs. That said, combining the two types of exercise can provide even more benefits. For example, balance training can help to improve your coordination and stability, which can help you to lift heavier weights during resistance training.
Balance Training vs Cardiovascular Training
Cardiovascular training consists of performing aerobic activities that use large muscle groups repetitively and rhythmically while increasing respiration and heart rate. This includes walking, running, cycling, swimming, dancing, and hiking.
The goal of cardio training is to boost overall heart and lung health, burn calories, and improve endurance. While balance training and cardio exercise target different fitness components, you need a solid base to perform many aerobic activities, especially standing exercises.
That’s why adding balance training to your overall program is critical. Being able to stand, walk, and eventually run without the risk of falling allows you to stay safe and perform cardiovascular exercise at its maximum capacity.
Balance Training vs Flexibility and Mobility Training
Flexibility and mobility training focus on enhancing the range of motion in joints and muscles. Some flexibility and mobility exercises use equipment like stretching straps and dowels to enhance the movements, while others rely on body weight.
While this training type has its own purpose separate from balance training, both flexibility and mobility Flexibility and mobility can also contribute to better balance by improving joint mobility and reducing muscle stiffness. Therefore, a well-rounded fitness routine should include a combination of balance, flexibility, and mobility exercises.
Benefits of Balance Training
While balance training can benefit people of all ages and fitness levels, it’s especially important for older adults, athletes, and people recovering from injuries.
Moreover, incorporating balance exercises into a well-rounded fitness routine can help improve overall physical performance and enhance activities of daily living, which include fundamental skills required to independently care for yourself, such as eating, bathing, and mobility.
Reduce the Risk of Falls
Balance training is crucial for older adults who find their balance capabilities declining with age. By improving balance and proprioception, balance training can help prevent injuries related to falls or unstable movements, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In addition, reducing the risk of falls through specific exercises and routines helps improve balance and mobility, which may increase performance of daily living activities and participation in leisure-time activities.
Improve Athletic Performance
Balance training is an effective tool for improving postural control. The same research found that incorporating balance training into an overall sports-conditioning program may also reduce athletic-related injuries since a lower level of balance is associated with injuries such as muscle, tendon, and ligament sprains and strains.
Better Functional Fitness
As balance is a fundamental aspect of daily activities, balance training improves functional fitness, making it easier to perform tasks such as walking, climbing stairs, or carrying out household chores.
Enhance Body Awareness and Coordination
Balance training helps you better understand your body's position in space, leading to improved coordination and overall body control. By improving coordination, you can also get better at reacting to sudden changes of direction, which can help reduce the risk of an accidental fall,.
Increase Core Strength and Stability
Many balance exercises engage the core muscles, which play a crucial role in providing stability and supporting the spine, according to a review of literature.
Balance training enhances the body's ability to maintain stability during both static (stationary) and dynamic (moving) activities, reducing the risk of falls and injuries.
Examples of Balance Training Exercises and Drills
Balance exercises start with basic activities and progress to more difficult moves. While some people can jump right in with advanced standing exercises, others may need to start with seated balancing activities before adding more challenging tasks.
When adding balance moves into an overall routine, you’ll want to follow a training progression model that structures exercises from basic to more advanced activities.
Here is a sample progression from the American Council on Exercise:
- Seated: Sit upright in a supportive chair and perform leg activities like heel raises, toe raises, or single-leg raises; marching exercise.
- Standing: Perform various leg activities while standing, such as heel raises, toe raises, or single-leg raises; marching exercise.
- In motion: Heel-to-toe walking along a 15-foot line on the floor. You can use a partner-assist when starting out and then progress to doing the exercise on your own. Another in motion activity is dribbling a ball around cones that requires you to change directions.
You can also make the exercises more challenging by changing arm and surface supports or varying visual elements and adding more tasks to the moves.
- Arm progressions: Start with using a surface for support. Then, move to having your hands on your thighs while doing the balance exercises. When you master this, fold your hands across the chest.
- Surface progressions: Start by using a chair for support when balancing. Then, move to using balance disks while performing the exercises. Once you’ve mastered balance disks, try using a foam pad and then a stability ball.
- Visual progressions: Start by performing exercises with both eyes open. Once this feels comfortable, wear a pair of sunglasses or dim the room while practicing balance exercises. More advanced levels can try balancing with their eyes closed.
- Tasking progressions: Another way to vary the challenge is by changing the number of tasks you perform while balancing. For example, start with a single task like balancing on one foot. Then, try some of the progressions listed above. Once you’ve mastered those, consider doing multi-task exercises such as standing on one foot while passing a ball, which is an excellent progression for athletes.
Balance Board and BOSU Ball Exercises
You can use a balance board or wobble board, which is an unstable surface, to perform exercises such as balancing on the board with both feet or progressing to single-leg stances.
The board's instability forces your body to make constant adjustments, improving balance and stability. You can also use the BOSU Ball to do balance exercises. Some top moves to try include Bosu heel taps, around the world, forward lunge, single-leg jump off, chest press-up, and squats.
- Single-leg balance with arm reaches
- Single-leg balance with leg reaches
- Lateral bound to balance
- Forward bound to balance
- Single-leg deadlift
Pilates and yoga-based exercises
Pilates exercises and yoga poses that focus on balance, challenge your stability, and strengthen your core muscles. They also promote flexibility and body awareness.
- Tree Pose
- Bird Dog
- Warrior II
- Warrior III
- Eagle Pose
- Half Moon
- Standing Pigeon Pose
Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art that incorporates slow, controlled movements and shifting body weight. It emphasizes balance, stability, and mindful body control. Practicing Tai Chi can significantly improve balance and coordination.
Incorporating Balance Training Into Your Fitness Routine
Balance training is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. It can help improve your overall balance, reduce your risk of falls, and improve your coordination, strength, and flexibility.
There are many factors to consider when incorporating balance training into your fitness routine, such as your fitness level, progression, frequency, and goals. By taking these factors into account, you can develop a balance training routine that is right for you.
Starting Point for Beginners
If you’re new to balance training, a good starting point for balance training is to perform basic sitting and standing static balance exercises.
As your ability and balance level improves, you can make the moves more difficult by adding external factors such as equipment, increased speed, or cognitive demands. You can also increase the challenge by performing dynamic balancing exercises.
Adjusting Difficulty Based on Abilities
Once you’ve mastered basic sitting and standing balance exercises, it’s time to add more challenges to your training. One way to increase the difficulty level is to vary the position and use of your arms.
For example, instead of using the wall for stability, you can perform balance exercises with your arms spread out and raised to shoulder height.
Another way to adjust the difficulty level is to alter the surface or equipment you’re using to perform the balance exercises.
This may look like progressing from a hard, flat surface to foam pads and balance disks while doing standing balance activities. Consider swapping out a chair for a stability ball when performing seated balance exercises.
Frequency and Duration of Balance Training
Although research has yet to identify the optimal frequency, duration, and type of balance exercises, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends performing balance exercises three days a week for 10 to 15 minutes each session.
Moreover, the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests adults aged 65 and above should do varied multicomponent physical activity that emphasizes functional balance and strength on three or more days a week to prevent falls and enhance functional capacity.
Balance Training Classes and Workout Apps
Many gyms and fitness facilities offer group exercise classes, including workouts focused on balance training. These classes pair bodyweight exercises with balance equipment like stability balls, balance trainers, pads, and suspension devices to enhance coordination, stability, and overall balance.
If your gym does not have balance-specific classes, they may have classes that integrate balance training into the routine, such as circuit training, TRX, athletic skills and drills, and senior fitness programs like Silver Sneakers.
Fitness apps are another platform to consider when looking for balance training programs. Because balance exercises are often incorporated into other workouts, you may need to download a general fitness app that includes balance exercises. Here are some apps to check out.
- Tai Chi at Home
- Becoming Balance
- Bosu Balance Trainer Ball Workouts
- Daily Burn
- Pilates Anytime
- Alo Moves (see our review)
Best for comprehensive training programs
Daily Burn is an app-based workout platform that streams workouts to a mobile device or TV. It’s known for the 365 Program, which offers a different 30-minute workout every day at 9:00 am EST.
Extensive Classes & Workouts
Daily Burn Audio for listening instead of watching
Member Referral Program
Recommended Balance Training Equipment
Balance training equipment is designed to mimic an unstable surface. You can use a balance tool to make exercises more challenging. Because they change the difficulty of the movements, it’s a good idea to work with a certified personal trainer, strength coach, or physical therapist when introducing new equipment to a balance training routine. While not an exhaustive list, here are some of the more popular balance training tools available.
Balance boards or wobble boards are platforms that sit on a fulcrum or have an unstable surface. These tools require you to balance while standing or performing exercises, which helps strengthen your lower body and core muscles while improving balance, coordination, and agility.
Balance and wobble boards are usually circular or rectangular and allow you to perform exercises such as squats, lunges, or single-leg balancing.
A BOSU Ball is a half-ball balance trainer with a flat platform on one side and a rounded dome on the other. You can use it for exercises like squats, lunges, or standing on the rounded side to challenge balance and stability.
Balance discs or wobble cushions are air-filled discs you can place on the floor or use on a chair to create an unstable surface. By standing or sitting on a balance disc, you engage your core muscles and improve balance and stability.
Foam rollers are primarily used for self-massage and releasing muscle tension, but you can also use them for balance training. By performing exercises on a foam roller, such as planks or push-ups, you engage your core muscles to maintain stability.
Balance pads are inflatable cushions that create an unstable surface. You can use them for standing or seated exercises to challenge your balance and improve core strength.
Balance Training for Athletic Performance
Incorporating balance training into a sports performance training program can be highly beneficial for athletes. It can enhance stability, agility, coordination, and overall athletic performance.
That said, improving sports-specific balance requires tailoring balance training exercises to the specific movements and demands of your sport. By mimicking the balance challenges encountered during your sport, you can enhance your ability to maintain stability and control in those specific situations.
Incorporating into a Sports Performance
Before incorporating balance training into a sports performance program, you’ll want to have a certified personal trainer, strength coach, or physical therapist assess the specific balance requirements of the sport or activity in which you participate.
Different sports may demand different types of balance, such as static balance or dynamic balance. Understanding these requirements will help you tailor the balance training program accordingly.
After the assessment, you can set goals that align with your sport and performance objectives, such as improving stability during cutting and pivoting movements, enhancing balance in single-leg positions, or increasing agility and reaction time.
The next step is to select a variety of balance exercises that target different muscle groups and challenge stability in various planes of motion and integrate them into your overall sports performance training program. You can do this by performing balance exercises during warm-ups, as part of the strength and conditioning routine, or during specific skill drills.
Many sports and endurance activities involve dynamic movements, such as running, jumping, and changing directions. Balance training enhances stability and proprioception, which are crucial for maintaining proper form and control during these movements.
Plus, balance training often emphasizes core engagement, as the core muscles play a crucial role in maintaining balance and stability. This is great news for athletes since a strong and stable core is essential for optimal endurance performance. In fact, research found that core training may improve static balance, core endurance, and running economy.
Get our fitness newsletter
Stay on track with your fitness goals and get inspired! Sign up for the GymBird newsletter for twice-monthly expert fitness and nutrition tips.
Balance Training for Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation
Balance training is an essential component of injury prevention and rehabilitation programs since it helps improve stability, coordination, and proprioception, which are crucial for maintaining proper body alignment and reducing the risk of injuries.
Preventing Falls and Injuries
Performing a combination of balance and coordination exercises that challenge the postural control systems in multiple dimensions—including vertical and horizontal changes of the center of mass, standing on unstable surfaces with a reduced base of support, and changing body directions – improve dynamic stability and a number of daily living activities in older adults.
Rehabilitating from Injuries
Balance training can be a valuable component of rehabilitation from injuries as it helps restore stability, proprioception, and coordination, which are crucial for regaining function and preventing future injuries.
Proprioception is the body's ability to sense its position, movement, and force of its limbs. Injuries can disrupt proprioceptive feedback, leading to decreased joint stability and increased risk of re-injury.
Results from one study found that balance exercises improve dynamic stability in the early stages of ACL reconstruction rehabilitation, while balancing exercises such as single-leg calf raises are an essential component to a foot and ankle rehab program.
Many balance exercises require using multiple muscle groups simultaneously, leading to improved joint strength, which can assist with rehabbing an injury.
Additionally, certain balance exercises can also target specific muscle groups, helping to increase their strength and flexibility, which is essential for a successful recovery.
Incorporating into Physical Therapy
A physical therapist will perform an initial assessment to evaluate and identify specific areas of weakness. This data helps them develop a personalized treatment plan based on goals and functional abilities.
Incorporating balance training into a physical therapy program generally starts with progressive exercises to build strength, stability, and neuromuscular control. It also involves strengthening the core muscles and lower body, which help maintain balance. This may include exercises like squats, lunges, step-ups, planks, and bridges to target these muscle groups.
You’ll also focus on exercises that challenge proprioception, such as standing on uneven surfaces (foam pads, balance discs), using wobble boards, or performing single-leg balance activities, and functional activities that simulate real-life situations, such as reaching, bending, turning, or stepping over obstacles while maintaining balance.
Other areas a physical therapist may focus on include gait work to improve dynamic stability during walking and dual-task activities that require you to perform a balance exercise while simultaneously engaging in a cognitive or motor task.
Safety Precautions for Balance Training
Before incorporating balance training into your workouts, ensure proper safety precautions are in place, including starting with exercises appropriate for your fitness level and gradually progressing to more challenging ones.
While not an exhaustive list, the following tips can help you get off on the right foot with your balance training.
Choose a Safe Surface
If you’re new to balance training or have concerns about stability, it's best to start with exercises on a stable surface, such as a flat floor.
Then, as you gain confidence and improve your balance, you can gradually progress to more challenging exercises on unstable surfaces like balance boards or foam pads.
You’ll also want to clear the floor of any obstacles that may interfere with your activities. It’s also a good idea to perform balance exercises near a stable surface like a chair, table, wall, or bench.
Warm up Properly
Before doing any balance routine, you’ll want to spend five to 10 minutes warming up your body, which helps increase your heart rate and blood flow. A warm-up can consist of light aerobic exercise such as walking, jogging in place, or using cardio equipment. You can also perform gentle joint mobilization exercises to increase mobility and range of motion in your ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders.
Rotate your joints in circular motions, perform controlled movements like arm swings, or do gentle leg swings. Dynamic stretches, such as leg swings, walking lunges, or arm circles, are another warm up activity that can help your body get ready to do balance exercises.
Use Spotters or Assistants
When starting a balance training program, having a chair, wall, or other stable object nearby can be helpful for support. This can provide assistance if you feel unsteady or need extra support during exercises.
Avoid Overtraining and Overuse
Start with exercises that match your current fitness level and gradually progress as your balance improves. Gradual progression allows your body to adapt and reduces the risk of overexertion or injury.
Pay attention to your body's signals during balance training and if you experience pain, dizziness, or excessive fatigue, stop the exercise and consult a healthcare professional. It's essential to work within your comfort level and avoid pushing yourself beyond what feels safe and manageable.
Partner with a Qualified Professional
Before starting a balance training program, consult your doctor or another healthcare professional, especially if you have a chronic condition or injury.
And, if you’re new to balance exercises, have any questions about how to perform the moves, or dealing with an injury, consider working with a certified personal trainer, strength coach, or physical therapist.
They can perform balance and stability assessments to determine your skills and abilities and design a program that fits your needs.
Best Gyms for Balance Training
Many gyms and fitness studios offer balance training as part of their group exercise programming and personal training services.
But you may need to do some investigative work, such as calling different studios or looking online, to find out if the gyms in your area offers balance-specific classes or incorporate it into other fitness programs. Here are four types of facilities to consider when looking for the best gyms for balance training.
Many national gym chains l offer balance training equipment and classes. These gyms typically have stability balls, balance boards, and other tools to help with balance training. A few gyms that offer balance training, depending on location, include the following:
- Planet Fitness
- Anytime Fitness
- Life Time Fitness
- Gold’s Gym
- Crunch Fitness
- 24-hour Fitness
- LA Fitness
Yoga is an excellent way to improve balance and flexibility. If you’re new to yoga, look for a studio with foundational classes that will teach you the basic poses.
You can then move to more advanced routines like power yoga. Some of the top poses to add to your balance training program include Mountain Pose, Forward Fold, Warrior 1, Warrior 2, Warrior 3, Triangle Pose, Crescent Lunge, Tree Pose, Figure-4 Chair Pose, and Chair Pose.
Best for Balance Training
YogaSix is a yoga studio that offers a variety of classes, including hot yoga, flow yoga, and meditation, to help people of all levels find balance and harmony in their lives, emphasizing yoga-focused offerings.
On demand classes
Some national yoga studios may offer balance training at a location near you:
Barre, which incorporates elements of ballet, pilates, and yoga, can greatly enhance your stability. Generally, barre is low-impact, making it a wonderful choice for people who want to take it easy on their joints.
Best for Balance Training
Pure Barre is a fitness studio that offers a low-impact, high-intensity workout that focuses on sculpting the body through a series of isometric movements, emphasizing a specialized and low-impact workout.
You may be able to find a barre studio near you:
Martial Arts Studios
Martial arts training, such as tai chi, karate, taekwondo, aikido, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, focus on mobility, balance, and coordination drills as a fundamental part of their practice.
Senior Fitness Centers
Facilities designed for older adults offer balance training programs focused on maintaining mobility, building strength, and preventing falls. Some balance-specific programs to look for include tai chi, chair aerobics, Silver Sneakers, and Zumba Gold.
If you're looking to improve your overall physical performance, reduce the risk of falls, prevent injuries, and enhance the quality of your movement in various daily living activities, then incorporating balance training into your fitness routine could be a game-changer.
Plus, it doesn't matter if you’re new to working out or a seasoned athlete. Balance exercises can benefit anyone. While there are many different types of balance exercises and training programs available, it's important to find one that works for you and that you can stick with over time.
Just remember to be patient, keep at it, and get the right guidance. With some effort, you'll enjoy some fantastic benefits from improving your balance.
If you’re interested in trying balance training at home, check out one of these resources:
FAQs About Balance Training
Are there any balance training exercises that are particularly good for older adults?
One of the best foundational exercises for older adults to boost balance is the sit-to-stand, which helps build leg strength and improves body mechanics. All you need is a sturdy chair and table or countertop.
The goal is to stand up from a seated position, pause, and then return to a seated position without using your hands. If needed, you can reach for the table for support if you feel unsteady when standing.
Another method for improving balance in older adults is with a progressive exercise series. The routine below takes you through four balance exercises, beginning with the easiest and progressing to advanced as you master each move.
To do: Stand facing a table or sturdy chair and place your hands at your side. You can use the surface for support if needed.
Complete the following sequence in order. Once you can complete each balance exercise for 30 seconds, you can move on to the next move.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart for 10 seconds. Work your way up to 30 seconds without holding onto the table.
- Stand with your feet together for 10 seconds. Work your way up to 30 seconds without holding onto the table.
- Stand on one foot for 10 seconds. Work your way up to 30 seconds without holding onto the table.
- Once you can do the first three exercises safely, try closing your eyes and perform each one again, holding the pose for 10 seconds and working your way up to 30 seconds.
Some people may find that the first two exercises are enough to improve balance and will not need to progress to the more advanced moves, especially if standing on one foot or performing the exercises with eyes closed is too difficult.
Are there any balance training exercises that can be done while at work or in the office?
Sneaking in balance training at work each day is a great way to build strength and maintain a consistent routine.
Plus, many of these moves are doable while on the clock! Here are some balance exercises you can try during your workday.
- Single-leg stands: Stand facing your desk, chair, or a wall and lift one foot off the ground while balancing on the other leg. Try to hold this position for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then switch to the other leg.
- Calf Raises: Stand behind your chair or desk, and rise up onto your tiptoes, then slowly lower your heels back down. Repeat 10-15 times.
- Tightrope: Stand with your arms out to your sides and begin walking heel to toe. Walk for 10 steps, then turn around and repeat.
- Tree pose: Start in a standing position with your hands on your hips. Lift one leg and bend the knee to the side while placing that foot against the inside shin of your straight leg. Hold the pose for 10+ seconds. Repeat on the other leg.
What are some common mistakes people make when starting balance training?
It’s not uncommon to have a steep learning curve (and quite a few mistakes!) when trying a new activity.
From starting with advanced moves and progressing too quickly to performing exercises with poor form and ignoring safety precautions, simple and complex mistakes can hinder your progress and lead to injury.
Here are some tips to help you avoid the mishaps many people make when starting balance training.
- Warm-up and cool down before balance exercises.
- Start with the basics and go slow.
- Maintain proper posture and form.
- Wear shoes with minimal cushioning or soles.
- Monitor your progress.
- Include a variety of exercises that challenge different aspects of balance.
- Always perform these exercises in a safe environment, ideally with a spotter or near a stable object you can hold onto if needed.
- Pay attention to your body's signals, and don't force movements that feel too difficult or painful.
- Make it a regular practice.
- Consult a certified personal trainer or physical therapist if you need additional support.