It doesn’t really occur to people how important balance is for basic movements like standing, walking, sitting and running until they suffer an injury or undergo a major operation. In some cases, this realization occurs when they’re forced to run for their lives or perform strenuous physical movements beyond their day-to-day activities.
Balance isn’t just a gauge of how physically fit you are either. Balance problems can happen if your bones, joints, muscles, vision, heart, blood vessels, nerves, inner ears, and other body systems are not functioning properly.
In reality, exercises that improve balance should benefit not only those who are sick or rehabilitating from an injury, but also anyone who wishes to feel stronger, improve performance, or prevent falls and injuries. The following 5 balance training products are designed to do just that:
1) STABILITY DISCS (Also known as wobble discs, balance cushions, balance disks)
It may look like an ordinary Frisbee, but stability discs are as versatile as exercise balls. These disks are lightweight (they’re often made of rubber or plastic) and portable (they’re only around 13 inches in diameter). They’re easy to clean, too!
Stability discs are made with one smooth side and the other side with dimples, small knobs or a rough texture. Both sides can be used during exercises and provide varying levels of challenge for the user.
You can use these inflated cushions sitting down or standing up. For something so small, these discs are built to carry weight limits of 350 to 450 pounds. These vary by stability discs, so make sure to check with the respective manufacturer.
All stability discs come with an air pump out of the box. Inflating the disk increases balance training difficulty level.
These discs are great for adding challenge to crunches, forearm planks, push-ups, lunges, squats, and a variety of arm strengthening exercises. If you’re going to improve balance, you simply have to stand with your left foot on the balance disc for about 20 seconds or more. Switch to your right feet, then repeat. Increase the time as you progress with balance training.
2) Balance balls (also called Pilates ball, Exercise ball, stability ball)
Balance balls are one of the simplest, most traditional workout equipment you can find. Physical therapists recommend these no-fuss balls for patients trying to gain back their stability after an injury or operation, as well as those with various health conditions.
Stability balls are inexpensive. They come in sizes 45cm to 85cm, which you choose based on the user’s height. These balls are made out of plastic, vinyl or foam rubber. You need to inflate it occasionally, which means it may also be punctured by something sharp.
Aside from improving stability and balance, exercise balls can help in learning how to lift weights properly, exercise with proper posture, and develop overall control of core abdominal muscles.
There is an entire library of exercises dedicated to using the balance ball. However, you need to be cautious since some workouts are best for those with lower back pain, while others can be damaging to people who suffer from spine-related problems.
Choose the exercise ball based on your needs. If you’re looking to improve balance, go with the all-time favorite URBNFit Exercise Ball (pictured above). There are also stability balls designed for “active sitting” like the fancy Gaiam Classic Balance Ball Chair, pregnant women (such as the Trideer Birthing Ball), or for gym use (like the UR Superior Fitness Stability Ball).
3) Half-ball balance trainer
This balance training ball looks exactly what it sounds like- a dome-shaped, U.F.O.-like, half-ball.
Like the stability disc and exercise ball above, half-ball balance trainers come in a variety of sizes. Some units are even designed to inflate at a smaller size, or bigger size depending on your needs.
Half-ball balance trainers can be used from its side up or down to create different exercise options. Whichever cardio workout you decide to use this with, you’ll be glad to know that your stability and balance improves without working at it directly.
For example, sitting on the half-ball trainer and criss-crossing your legs while playing with a medicinal ball in your hands directly work your core, but also improves the muscles and ligaments that are responsible for balance.
There’s a learning curve while using the half-ball balance trainer, but both beginners and professional athletes can use this balance trainer and incorporate workouts specific to their activity and performance level.
The most popular half-balance trainer in the market is the BOSU Balance Trainer (featured in the image above), but you can get it at half the price with PEXMOR’s Half-ball Balance Trainer, or with resistance bands built-in like Sagler’s 20-inch Premium Balance Trainer.
4) Foam rollers
It may look like an unassuming exercise equipment (it’s just a roll of foam, after all), but foam rollers can actually challenge your balance and work your muscles from head to toe.
Foam rollers are available as round cylinders or 1/2 cylinders. Beginners will find the half-round foam rollers to be easier to manipulate, but as you improve your balance and progress with your workouts, the full round foam rollers provide advanced training and a step-up in difficulty levels.
Note that the size of the foam roller dictates what the equipment is best used for. Long round rollers are ideal for self-massage, while the shorter round ones are best for specific trigger point release. The long half-round rollers are known to help with balance exercises, while shorter half-round rollers improve ankle stability.
If used right, foam rollers can help prevent muscle injuries. They also help in improving posture, coordination and spinal positioning or stabilization. You can also use the foam roller for specific workouts like yoga and so on. It can also become an integral part of your stretching routine.
The high-quality ones, such as the LuxFit Speckled Roller, is made with molded polypropylene foam technology. If you’re on a budget, go with AmazonBasics high-density foam roller with a ton of design options to choose from. There are also foam rollers that serve as massagers (with special features for deep-tissue massage) like the 321 STRONG Foam Roller.
5) Balance board (also called Wobble board)
If you didn’t come from an injury or surgery and is looking for a fun way to challenge your body’s stability and balance, the wobble or balance board can surely bring some variety to your workout.
Some wobble boards are made completely of wood, while others use heavy-duty plastic. But because the user steps onto the board to balance from one side to the next, all wobble boards are designed with anti-skid surface for better grip.
The concept of these boards are simple; they can effectively stabilize muscles on the ankles, legs, abdominals, and back. As you strengthen these muscles, you’ll indirectly improve posture, strengthen legs and ankles, as well as reduce pain in the back.
You can step onto the balance board and play around which drills work for you, either from front-to-back, round-and-round, side-to-side and so on. You can also incorporate traditional exercises like squats, push-ups, and lunges (among others) once you feel you’re lacking challenge in your routine.
The Yes4All Wooden Wobble Balance Board is a fan-favorite not just for its impressive 5-year warranty, but also because of its sleek and no-fuss design. For rehab and physical therapy, check out the ProFitness Wooden Balance Board. And if you’re all about style, this all-wood wobble board from URBNFit is definitely an eye-pleaser.
Wrap Up: Don’t Take Your Balance for Granted
Balance is an essential part of life. Without it, you’d have bad posture, high likelihood of injuries, slow recovery time after surgery, and a host of other problems as you age.
When we were kids, balancing on our favorite childhood playgrounds brought us a lot of joy and fulfillment. As we grow older, we shouldn’t take our balance for granted. It should not matter whether you’re 20 or 40 years old with a sedentary or active lifestyle. What should matter is how you improve balance by actively finding ways to bring it into your day-to-day routine.
I hope these 5 balance training products can give you an idea about what’s available on the market and help you decide which one is ideal for your physical activity level, fitness situation, budget, and personal preference.