They may seem like simple precursors to regular workouts, but stretching and balancing exercises play a far more significant role during exercise than one might think. Stretches increase flexibility and improve muscle tone, which filters in to all sorts of different activities that you might include in your fitness regime. Similarly, balancing exercises enhances form which can help you workout more safely and efficiently.
Flexibility exercises can improve overall ease of movement, decrease stress on the joints, and reduce risk of injury. They also help improve blood flow to the muscles; stretching an injured muscle will speed up your recovery. There are many resources which have guidelines on stretches for all muscle groups, which you can do after aerobic exercise. Mindful movement exercises, such as yoga and tai chi, are also excellent for developing flexibility, and pilates can improve flexibility, as well as core stability. Where good balance comes in, is its ability to help prevent falls, which can be particularly helpful for older age groups looking to stay active. Balance training helps improve your equilibrium and your ability to withstand and quickly recover from situations in which you lose stability. In addition, balance is essential for various sports and fitness activities. To improve balance, you must improve your core strength so you can have a good support base, enabling you to control your movements better. Core strength can be improved through Tai Chi, Pilates, and core specific floor exercises. Yoga is also excellent for developing core strength and balance. Older adults at risk of falls should do balance training three or more days a week. Some examples of balance training include backwards walking, sideways walking, heel walking, toe walking and standing from a sitting position. The fluid movements of Tai Chi, as outlined in a previous blog, can also help prevent falls. To conclude, here are our top 3 exercises to help improve balance:
Standing on the balls of your feet with your arms straight out to the sides, then slowly lowering your arms to your sides
Standing on one foot with your eyes closed
Walking very slowly, focusing on lifting and placing each foot
Although you might not have considered incorporating stretching and balancing into your regime before, hopefully this information will compel you to do so now!