Balance is the basic skill needed for walking, running and virtually all sports. From tennis to golf to rock climbing, the ability to change our center of gravity to match our moves is essential for successful performance.
The technical term is agility. It enables our joints to handle a
full range of motion smoothly and confidently. Agility is what
allows us to move gracefully, and greatly reduces our risk of
When we think of losing our balance, we most often think of
falling. The consequences, especially for adults 65 and over, are
alarming — 13,700 deaths, 1.8 million visits to the emergency
room and $19 billion in medical costs annually result from hip
fractures, head trauma and more.
But many of us, particularly under the age of 65, don’t
necessarily fall when we lose our balance. Instead, we end up with
a host of sprains and strains that put a damper on everything from
walking to playing sports. Fortunately, balance and agility can be
learned, challenged and improved through training.
On land, where gravity provides us with stability, we need to
employ training aids such as foam rollers and stability balls to
challenge our balance and train effectively. These products are
designed to do one thing: create an unstable working
In the water, we can challenge our balance without fancy
equipment because water, by its nature, provides an unstable
working environment. The water’s unique physical properties
(buoyancy and 360-degree resistance) create instability and
resistance to movement, both of which can be used to challenge and
improve balance. We all have experience with this. It is more
difficult to stand still in the water than it is to stand still on
land. It’s much harder to move in any direction in water and,
once moving, it’s more difficult to stop.
The three exercises illustrated below use a progression of
single-leg balance tasks designed to challenge agility and
proprioception. Try adding one or more of these exercises to your
shallow-water routines to help your students achieve better