SilverSneakers LIVE trainer Katy Moline helps you work on your stability while you’re walking, twisting, and moving in other ways.
Katy Moline is a big proponent of mixing things up, and her students are too. Moline has been training older adults for her entire 23-year fitness career and teaching SilverSneakers LIVE classes since 2021.
She’s noticed a shift in confidence since exercisers have been able to take SilverSneakers classes online.
“I’ve had people try different classes at home because they know no one is watching,” Katy says. “If they need to take a break, there’s no shame in that. They can try things out. They can sit and watch the entire workout before they even take part.”
That attitude is important, because taking on new physical and mental challenges, including improving balance, helps us thrive. “To keep our brains healthy, we need to try new experiences and challenge ourselves differently so we’re learning new things,” Katy says.
Building balance is essential for healthy aging too. Having static balance, which means you are stable while you’re standing still, is not enough to prevent falls, Katy says. The key is to build your dynamic balance — or balance while you are moving.
We usually think of balance as something that’s needed when we walk forward, Moline explains. “But we also move from side-to-side. We rotate. And that’s where most of the falls will occur — like when someone moves to turn.”
The key to improving dynamic balance is gradually increasing the level of difficulty and practicing every day. This will help prevent falls, improve reaction times, and allow you to recover quickly in case you do lose your footing.
Here, Moline helps walk you through five ways to improve your balance while you’re in motion.
As always, safety is key. Be sure to get your doctor’s OK before beginning any new exercise program. If you have a chronic condition, balance issues, or are recovering from an injury or surgery, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.
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1. Practice Both Static and Dynamic Moves
Improving both types of balance is the best way to keep you stable on your feet.
- Static balance comes into play when you stand on one leg and don’t move.
- Dynamic balance is when we walk, transfer weight from one leg to the other, and propel ourselves forward.
Try it at home: Take a slow, exaggerated walk, or walk in place. (Stand near a wall for support, if needed.) Lift your knees high with each step. Stop mid-motion with your knee up, hold the position and balance for a few seconds. It’s both dynamic and static, because at any one point there’s just one foot on the floor.
As you become more comfortable with the movement, try doing the same thing at a faster pace. Moving more quickly is another way to challenge your balance, she adds.
Good to know: Balance training is part of every SilverSneakers fitness class. Find your new favorite workout here.
2. Change up the Way You Stand
People are most stable when they stand with their feet hip width apart. Standing with your feet positioned differently is another way to practice balance and strengthen different muscles that improve your stability.
Try it at home: Practice standing in these less-stable stances throughout the day. For example, stand with your feet touching while brushing your teeth or with one foot in front of the other in line at the store.
Stance variations to try:
- Feet placed side by side so they’re touching
- A split stance — when one foot is in front of the other like you’re getting ready to do a lunge
- Heel-to-toe, like you’re on a balance beam
Work out with Katy Moline! She teaches the following LIVE online classes (click to view the schedule and RSVP): SilverSneakers Yoga, Yoga Flow, Core Conditioning (Express), Strength Training (Express), Cardio Interval (Express), and Walk Strong (Express).
3. Exercise in All Three Planes of Motion
Our bodies move in three different planes of motion:
- Sagittal plane, when we move forward and back
- Frontal plane, when we move side to side
- Transverse plane, when we rotate
It’s important to feel strong and confident in all of those directions.
“People will be walking somewhere, and they’ll think, ‘Shoot — I forgot something,’ and they’ll quickly go to turn,” Katy says. “That’s where we need to train in the transverse plane — so you’ll be able to rotate and stay balanced.”
Try it at home:
Forward and back: Imagine you’re stepping over a mud puddle. Step forward with your right foot and then try to hold the left leg up behind you while you’re standing on your right foot.
If you need to, balance yourself with your left toes. Then put your weight on your left foot, shifting back to the first side of the puddle and try to keep your right foot in the air for a few moments. This move helps you shift your weight forward and back as you balance.
Side to side: Do the same basic move as above, but step from side to side rather than from front to back. Let your feet hover above ground in between steps as you transfer your weight from one foot to the other.
As your balance skills increase, hover your foot for longer periods as you move from side to side.
Rotation: Walk the length of the dining room table or couch and then make a tight turn as close as you can to the table. Or if you’re talking on the phone, you can walk tight circles around a chair at the same time.
Recommended reading: Take the 7-Day Better Balance Challenge!
4. Use Your Senses
You can add difficulty to the following moves by switching up what you see, hear, or think while you do them. This challenges your balance.
Try it at home:
Visual component: Stand on one leg and close one eye or both. If you’re shaky with this at first, hold on to a counter or a sturdy chair.
Hearing component: Stand like you’re on a tightrope or a balance beam (one foot directly in front of the other) and then turn your head to the side, as though someone called your name, or you hear birds chirping outside your window.
Mental component: Stand on one leg and hold a ball in one hand. Tap the ball to your right ear, to your left shoulder, to your right hip. Or think of all the kinds of fruits you can and say them out loud.
5. Conquer Common Tripping Hazards
One of the more common reasons why people fall is because their legs are tangled up. We often cross our legs when we sit, which can make it tricky to stand back up. Another reason is tripping over your own feet. If you drag your feet and don’t pick up your entire foot when you walk, you can catch your toes on the floor and take a tumble.
Try it at home:
Untangling legs: Step to your left and then cross your right leg behind it. When you move your right foot back, you want to step wide. If you place your right foot too close to your left one, you’re not as stable and there’s a greater risk of falling, says Katy. Do this slowly at first. Then practice at different speeds.
Lifting your toes: Sit down or stand with your feet on the ground and pull your toes up to the sky. This works the muscles that help the foot clear the ground and flex when you land.
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