Moving through the world with confidence is easy when you practice these “stop & go” exercises to improve your reaction time.
Watch almost any sport on TV, and you’ll see how often athletes stop and start and move quickly from side to side — without falling. That’s “reaction balance.”
Pro tennis, soccer, and football players train purposefully for high-intensity acceleration and deceleration to improve their reaction time and protect themselves against injury in competition.
And while you may not be an elite athlete, you do need to be able to stop and start quickly, too. The ability to quickly react helps you manage unexpected situations in your own environment and protects against falling and injury.
“When we do reaction training as older adults, it’s slower than what an athlete does, but it’s the same principle,” says SilverSneakers master trainer Andi Kwapien.
“We have to be able to accelerate and stop quickly,” she continues. “Because if we can’t manage our center of gravity when we’re traveling forward, then we can’t stop, and we lose our balance and fall.”
Balance training is part of every SilverSneakers group fitness class! Check your eligibility and find participating fitness locations near you here.
How Reaction Balance Training Works
The stop-and-go exercises in this video train your ability to respond quickly to events in your surroundings, which keeps you steady on your feet.
“The tempo manipulation brings about the reaction training, the acceleration and deceleration,” Andi explains.
Practical real-life benefits include helping you get up out of a chair to answer a ringing phone and halting abruptly when you start to cross the road and see a car coming.
The traveling side-to-side movements in this workout build strength along the outside of your legs, including your outer hips, knees, and ankles. That’s important because so much of our lives involves walking forward, meaning that the muscles that power your stride (quadriceps and hamstrings) are stronger than the smaller muscles and tendons along the outside of your legs, Andi explains.
That strength imbalance makes us more susceptible to hip, knee, and ankle injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually sideways.
“Lateral training works the inside and outside of your ankles, knees, and hips,” says Andi. “So that when things push you off to the side, you’re able to recover your balance.”
Plus, reaction balance training prepares your body and your brain for unexpected situations. Andi shares that one woman from one of Andi’s SilverSneakers classes was out walking her dog when a rabbit darted in front of them, and the dog nearly pulled her over.
“Because we’d practiced ‘quick-quick-hold, quick-quick-hold’ in class, she was able to go quickly forward and stop and not fall over,” Andi cheers. “That’s reaction balance!”
How to Use the 10-Minute Reaction Balance Training Workout
“This is a more challenging workout,” Andi says. “The more you do it the easier it will get because you are getting stronger!”
Before you press play, make sure you’re wearing comfortable sneakers and have plenty of open floor space to move. Remember to have water nearby to stay hydrated. If you’d like support during any of the exercises, set up near a wall.
As always, safety is key. The exercises here may be different or more advanced than your regular SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition, an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.
Ready to improve your reaction balance? Just press play and follow Andi’s lead!
Bonus Challenge: Try a Zumba Gold Class With SilverSneakers!
In this beginner-friendly workout, you’ll enjoy easy-to-follow Zumba choreography that focuses on balance, range of motion, and coordination. It’s offered both in-person at participating fitness locations and online with SilverSneakers LIVE.
Take Your Favorite SilverSneakers Classes Online!
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