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Better Balance

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Woman in yoga pose in a yoga studio

Tips to improve your stability on and off the court

By Chris Hagman, ACE, USPTA

Balance is often taken for granted, yet when you slip or fall you think otherwise. Usually, falls are not a concern for young people as they just get back up and carry on. However, balance is essential for older adults; falling and breaking a hip can be the beginning of a downward spiral.

I have found working with people to improve their balance can be a real challenge. The reasons for this are as varied as my clients. For example, some have weaker lower extremities, others have insufficient core strength, and other clients even have balance issues because of prescribed medications. Here are some tips for better balance on and off the court.

Start slow and safe. Balance progressions can be from floor exercises, two feet, one leg, Bosu ball to wobble board.

Do functional training. These are exercises for muscle groups and joints for daily activities. Train in the three planes of motion: sagittal (front and back), frontal (side to side) and transverse (rotational).

Take yoga and/or Pilates. Over time, I see more and more benefits from these disciplines for competitive athletes, recreational players, and the general public.

Challenge your vision. When doing a static balance exercise, like tree, focus on a specific spot on the wall. After you can hold your balance for several seconds, try closing your eyes! Go slowly here, and you can tell the marked challenge.

Try a new activity or sport with movements in different planes of motion. Examples could be ballroom dancing or martial arts. Get involved with something you like, so you can stay with it.

Mix up your routine. When exercising over time, it’s important to do cardio, resistance, and flexibility training. Include abductor (exterior) thigh and adductor (interior) thigh training; these muscles assist lateral balance.

Consult with your physician. Some pain medicines and anti-anxiety drugs can hinder balance. Having a skilled doctor and trainer working together (for you) is a winning combination.