Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Fitness & Exercise

Font Size

Balance Your Way to a Stronger Body

Having a hard time with balance? You need to strengthen your "core" muscles, and core training is sweeping the nation.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Having a hard time lugging those groceries up the stairs? Feeling a bit wobbly when you get in and out of the shower? If you're slowly losing your balance and coordination, don't be surprised. It happens to all of us as we get older. But the latest fitness trend sweeping health clubs across the country just may help you keep your feet on the ground -- literally.

Balance, or core training, is not new, says Kevin Steele, PhD, an exercise physiologist and vice president of sports and marketing for 24 Hour Fitness, headquartered in San Ramon, Calif. "Physical therapists and athletic trainers have used these techniques for years." Now, though, gym rats everywhere are bouncing and wobbling their way to a stronger "core" -- as the muscles that surround your trunk are called. Without strong trunk muscles, you're more likely to suffer from chronic back pain, lose your balance and fall, or be more prone to injury when doing other workout routines.

"Your core is the essence of everything you do, from your day-to-day activities, to your athletic pursuits," says Steven Ehasz, MES, CSCS, exercise physiologist and wellness coordinator for the University of Maryland Medical System. "It doesn't matter how strong your arms and legs are if the muscles they're attached to aren't equally as strong."

A strong core is also responsible for your sense of balance. "Balance not only requires equilibrium, but also good stability of the core muscles and the joints, particularly the hip, knee, and ankle," says Leigh Crews, spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise. There are several ways to address balance and stability training, says Crews, including balance boards, stability balls, the Reebok Core Board, Bosu (which stands for "both sides up") balls, as well as yoga, and other forms of mind-body training and martial arts, such as Pilates and tai chi.

Maintaining one's balance (or equilibrium, physical stability, or steadiness), is primarily coordinated by three systems, explains Gerry Green, director of the Fitness Center at Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J. The first is the vestibular or auditory system, located in the inner ear, which acts like a "carpenter's balance" to keep you level. The second balance coordinator is the proprioceptive system, which uses sensory nerves called proprioceptors that are located in the muscles, tendons, and joints. They give signals to the central nervous system, which gives you a kinesthetic sense, or an awareness of your body posture and spatial awareness. And finally, there is the visual system, which sends visual signals from the eyes to the brain about your body's position in relation to its surroundings.

Your balance may be "off," says Green, for a number of reasons, including illness, injury, poor posture, muscle imbalances, or a weak core.

Healthy Living Tools

Ditch Those Inches

Set goals, tally calorie intake, track workouts and more, all via WebMD’s free Food & Fitness Planner.

Get Started

Today on WebMD

Wet feet on shower floor tile
Slideshow
Flat Abs
Slideshow
 
Build a Better Butt Slideshow
Slideshow
woman using ice pack
Quiz
 

man exercising
Article
7 most effective exercises
Interactive
 
Man looking at watch before workout
Slideshow
Overweight man sitting on park bench
Video
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply

pilates instructor
Slideshow
jogger running among flowering plants
Video
 
woman walking
Article
Taylor Lautner
Article