I'm not talking about balance as a metaphor, like "life-work balance" or "finding a balance between training and resting". I'm talking about actually balancing with your body. Activities like skiing, in-line skating or ice skating are a few of the sports that come to mind that demand a proven ability to balance your body.
But the truth is the human act of walking is a miracle of balance, and improving your ability to balance increases your fitness and lowers your risk for injury. Often used in rehabilitation, these tools can be fun and challenging while working to strengthen your core and build coordination.
The first three pieces of equipment are under the heading of Balance Boards. Balance boards require practice and you can hurt yourself if you do not take the training seriously.
Click on the links below and you'll be able to checkout a video demonstration of each device.
For the beginner, it essentially is a piece of wood with two spheres underneath it. The benefit here is that is moves in one plane at a time--side to side or front to back.
A wobble board moves up the challenge a notch. The one sphere underneath allows for the board to move in all planes at once. This requires much more coordination and stability.
Moving to the expert level is the Bongo Board. A skateboard platform with a large roller under it. Originally they were just that and you can imagine what can happen when the roller spits out from underneath the deck! Today you can get a more safe version as the above video shows. However, it requires a great amount of coordination, balance, and strength to stay on it for even a short time.
Less demanding and generally more recognized is the Swiss or Fitness Ball. Can be used in place of a chair at your desk, doing various exercises, or during weight lifting. Because they are such a simple piece of equipment, it is easy to take for granted the instability built into the ball. So be careful.
The Rockin' Rody is my favorite kind of swiss ball and it also gets you ready for some serious rodeo!
Where does balance fall in your fitness routine?