10 Fun Ways to Add Balance Exercises to Your Walks

Spice Up Your Walks and Train Yourself for Better Balance

Balance is an asset at any age and level of physical fitness. By adding extra balance challenges as you walk, you will train yourself to be better able to maintain your balance and agility when you have to make a sudden move, such as in sports. You can also be better able to respond to tripping and slipping hazards, whether hiking a rough trail or in daily life.

Even simple walking is an activity that challenges your balance response. You shift your center of mass with each step. Your body must sense and respond to this to catch yourself and make the next step rather than falling. By adding extra balance exercises, you increase the effect.

Balance exercises are recommended for anyone who is at risk of falling, especially for those over age 65, who should do balance training three or more days per week.

Before You Start: Check Your Posture

Good walking posture is essential for enhancing your balance. Stand up straight, shoulders back and relaxed, chin parallel to the ground, eyes forward, suck in your stomach, tuck in your behind and rotate your hips slightly forward. You shouldn't have any lean, forward or backward, and your back should not be arched.

1
Heel to Toe Walk

Walking a Line Heel to Toe
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Krystal M. Garrett

This classic balance training exercise is one you can do indoors or outdoors. It is recommended for all levels. You can repeat it often:

  • Stretch your arms out from your sides to help maintain balance.
  • Keep your chin up and parallel to the ground, looking forward.
  • As you take a step, place the heel of your foot just in front of the toe of your other foot.
  • Walk a straight line in this heel-to-toe fashion. It will feel as if your body is swaying from side to side.
  • Take 10 to 20 steps heel-to-toe.

2
Walk on Your Heels, Then on Your Toes

Walking on Tiptoes
Westend61/Getty Images

Doing short drills of walking on your heels only and then your toes only will help train your muscles:

  • These drills should only be done after you have warmed up by walking for at least five minutes.
  • Walk for 10 steps on your heels only, with your toes raised from the ground. 
  • Walk normally for 10 steps.
  • Now switch to walking on your toes only for 10 steps, with you heels raised off the ground.
  • Repeat for a couple of minutes.

If you feel any strain in your calves or the sole of your foot at first, take it easy with this exercise. If you tolerate it well, you can increase the number of steps you take to 15 or 20 at a time before switching.

3
Balance Walk

Balance Walk With Pause
Michael Heim/EyeEm/Getty Images

This balance exercise adds another challenge as there is a pause while on one foot throughout the walk.

  • Start with your arms stretched out from your sides, at about shoulder height.
  • Focus on a spot several feet ahead of you, with your chin up and not looking at the ground.
  • Begin to walk. As you lift your rear leg and bring it forward, pause with your knee up for one second before placing your foot on the ground, stepping forward.
  • Now do the same with the other leg. As you bring it forward, pause for one second with your knee up before placing that foot ahead of you.
  • Repeat for 20 steps.

4
Sidesteps and Grapevines

Grapevining
kali9/E+/Getty Images

Sidesteps can help you develop your balance while moving sideways. These moves can be jazzed up as a little bit of a dance.

  • Start with simple sidesteps while you are waiting for a crossing signal, stepping sideways with the outer foot and bringing the other foot to meet it. Take three steps left and then three steps back to the right, repeating as needed, keeping your eyes forward.
  • While walking, turn sideways and keep your head facing your direction of movement. Sidestep to continue moving in your original direction, leading with the forward foot and bringing the rear foot to meet it. Continue for five to 10 steps. Then turn to switch sides and continue for five to 10 steps leading with the other foot.
  • If you are feeling confident, add some grapevines. These are crossover sidesteps. As you sidestep, cross one foot other the other, alternating.

5
Stand on One Foot

Balancing on Stump
Frank and Helena/Cultura/Getty Images

This single leg stance exercise is a basic one for all fitness levels. When you have to stop during your walk, such as when you are waiting for the pedestrian signal to cross the street, use the opportunity to stand on one foot for several seconds, then switch to standing on the other foot.

  • You may want to be close to a wall or pole you can place a hand on for stability, as needed.
  • Once you can balance for 60 seconds, try doing it with your eyes closed.
  • If you are agile enough, you can balance on objects such as tree stumps, bollards, or other objects for fun.

6
Backward Walking

Walking Feet
© blasbike / Depositphotos.com

Walking backward is a balance challenge. It's best to do this with a friend as your spotter, warning you of any tripping hazards.

  • Select a place where it will be safe, away from street crossings, traffic, and other pedestrians.
  • Turn around and continue to walk in the same direction as before. Take five to 10 steps, then return to a forward position. Repeat when you are in a safe area.
  • You can also try backward walking on a treadmill, starting at slow speed.

7
Head Turning Walk

Looking to Side
PeopleImages/E+/Getty Images

This walk is a little more advanced and you'll want to do it on a path where you know there are no obstacles. You will be turning your head left, right, up, down, and side to side, shifting your focus while walking.

  • Begin walking. Every other step, turn your head to the left, then to the right. Continue this for 10 repetitions.
  • As you continue to walk, now move your head up and down every other step. Continue this for 10 repetitions.
  • As you continue to walk, now tip your head towards your shoulder on the left, then right, every other step. Continue for 10 repetitions.

8
Balance While Walking on a Log or Curb

Balance Walking
Westend/Getty Images

Look for opportunities on your walk to balance as you walk on a log, railroad tie, raised curb, or a similar surface.  This takes the heel-to-toe walk up a notch, as you will have to keep your stride in a perfect line. You may want a friend to act as your spotter and lend a shoulder or hand if you need a point of balance.

  • As you are building your balance, you might select a surface that is raised only an inch or two off the ground. You can choose taller logs, beams, or curbs once you are more confident.
  • Try your normal speed of stride as your body will often compensate better at your usual pace than when going slow.
  • Try it at slower and faster paces to see how it feels and for a different level of challenge.

9
Serpentine or Zig Zag Walk

Figure Eight Walk
fandijki/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images

Your body will need to adjust its balance every time you shift directions. You can do this by walking a figure eight around two points that are five or more feet apart, or by zig zagging back and forth as if walking around cones in a slalom run.

  • On a sidewalk, walk three steps angling to one side of the walk and then switch to angling for three steps towards the other side. Repeat several times.
  • This technique is a good one to use when going downhill, making your own short switchbacks.

10
Ball Toss, Catch, or Dribble

Tossing Ball During Walk
Jens Koenig/Stock4B/Getty Images

Bring along a ball to play with as you walk. This will enhance your balance and coordination.

  • Toss the ball up and catch it as you move forward.
  • Dribble a basketball as you walk.
  • Toss a ball back and forth with your walking partner.

A Word From Verywell

By adding balance exercises to your daily walks, you can ensure you are getting two components of healthy fitness activities: cardio exercise and balance exercise. If you want additional activities to improve your balance, try yoga or tai chi.

Sources:

Balance Exercises. National Health Service. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/balance-exercises-for-older-people.aspx.

Improve Your Balance by Walking. Harvard Medical School. http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/improve-your-balance-by-walking.

Sample Exercises - Balance. National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/exercise-physical-activity/sample-exercises-balance.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (ODPHP Publication No. U0036). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Vanswearingen JM, Perera S, Brach JS, Cham R, Rosano C, Studenski SA. A Randomized Trial of Two Forms of Therapeutic Activity to Improve Walking: Effect on the Energy Cost of Walking. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences . 2009;64A(11):1190-1198. doi:10.1093/gerona/glp098.

Continue Reading