Here is a great exercise for lower body strength training AND balance practice.
Think about how often you step up and down onto and off of things going about your everyday activities:
- Climbing stairs
- Stepping up and down off the curb
- Climbing in and out of a car or truck
- Maintaining stability and balance
I decided about 15 or so years ago that I was going to become a motorcycle rider. Some friends had motorcycles and rode them all over the place on weekends, and I decided I wanted to join the fun. So, even though I never owned a motorcycle in my life, I took a course, got my license, went out and bought this huge Yamaha cruiser.
My riding career lasted 10 months, and included dropping the bike twice in parking lots, a low-speed crash and a major, high-speed wipeout with my wife riding on the back. We both were taken by helicopter to the nearest hospital. I was not seriously injured at all, but she still has some scars.
That ended my motorcycle riding career.
The reason I tell that story is because riding a motorcycle is easy under normal conditions — when nothing unusual happens. When an emergency occurs, however, you have to be able to react without thinking about it, or disaster can easily happen, like it did to me.
We were coming out of a tight S-curve and the bike got a little wide and we started heading toward the ditch. I did not react correctly in the moment and that ditch is exactly where we wound up.
Now, how in the hell does that have anything to do with what we’re talking about?
Well, in the case of balance … accidental falls is a leading cause of serious injury, and even death, among senior citizens. Normally, balance might not be such a big issue, until you trip over something on the floor or maybe turn a little too quickly, or something. If you do fall off-balance and start to head down, what happens then?
You have to be able to react without thinking about it.
Your body has to be able to react in the moment, or something bad could happen.
You sure don’t want to try and catch yourself and step on poor little Fluffy the dog laying there next to the couch!!!
But enough of that.
So, like I said, here is a fantastic exercise for lower body strength and balance — step-ups.
You only need one piece of equipment for this, and chances are, you have something around the house you can use as a small platform or step stool, as shown in the illustration below.
Start off with something small — maybe two or three inches high. Not as high as shown in the pictures.
Step up onto the platform, sturdy box, or whatever you’re using, with the right foot, then bring the left foot up and stand with both feet flat on the platform. Now, lower the left foot back to the ground first, then the right foot to the ground. Repeat these steps 10 times. Then, lead with the left foot first, followed by the right foot, and repeat 10 more times.
As you gain more strength and confidence, you can add a balance component by raising one leg in the air as you step up and then back down, as the girl is doing below.
Over time, you can increase the height of whatever you’re stepping onto, and you can also add some weight resistance using lightweight dumbbells, a pair of canned good items, water bottles, or old milk jugs filled with water.
Great for lower body strength, and for balance.