Balance is key for everything from riding a bike to walking on a slippery sidewalk (not to mention mastering tree pose in yoga class). Joel Harper, personal trainer and owner of Joel Harper Fitness in New York, recommends a series of moves that lower the risk of falls, engage major muscle groups, and help tighten trouble zones. Aim to do these three moves at least four times per week. For best results, go barefoot.
This move "improves your balance because you continually shift your body weight and strengthen your stabilizing muscles," Harper says.
1. Balancing on your left foot, bend your right knee and raise it behind you to hip level.
2. Reach both hands (palms up) straight out in front of you.
3. Bend forward and extend your right leg straight behind you. (As you become more comfortable with this move, work toward getting your torso parallel to the floor.)
4. Hold for 10 seconds.
5. Return to starting position.
6. Do 25 reps.
7. Switch legs and repeat. Keep both arms straight out in front of you.
Standing on your tiptoes during the entire exercise is harder than it sounds, and it forces you to use your core muscles. If the move seems too simple, Harper suggests holding a 2-pound dumbbell in each hand and closing your eyes, which "makes you laser focus, helping improve the communication between your brain and your muscles."
1. With your feet together, lift your heels off the floor and balance on your toes.
2. Reach your hands out to your sides, palms facing forward.
3. With your arms, pulse 1 inch forward and 1 inch back. Do 25 reps.
4. Turn your palms toward the ceiling and do 25 reps.
5. Turn your palms toward the back of the room and do 25 reps.
2. Gently place your hands on your knees, lift your feet off the floor, and lean back 45 degrees.
3. With your hands loosely clasped in front of you, lower your elbow (first the right, then the left) toward the floor. (Keep your legs and spine in the same position -- only your core will twist slightly as you move your arms.)
4. Repeat 25 times on each side.
5. Switch sides (crossing your left foot over your right foot) and repeat 25 times.
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