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Exercises to Improve Postural Stability

written by: lizblackwood • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 4/20/2011

Generally speaking, postural stability is the stability of the core muscles of the trunk. This exercise routine targets these all-important muscles to improve stability. It includes relatively easy exercises for beginners, along with more advanced exercises.

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    Importance of Postural Stability

    Postural stability is very important for individuals of all ages and activity levels. For seniors especially, balance and postural stability help prevent serious falls. For physically active individuals who work out regularly, postural stability preserves good spinal alignment, lessens the chance of injury and increases coordination.

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    Exercise Routine

    Generally speaking, postural stability is the stability of the core muscles of the trunk. The muscles involved in postural stability include the abdominal muscles and muscles of the back, hip, and thigh. This exercise routine targets these all-important muscles to improve stability. It includes relatively easy exercises for beginners, along with more advanced exercises. Keep in mind that although these exercises appear to be quite simple, perfecting them is difficult. Working on the exercises with your eyes closed will bring further improvements in balance and stability.

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    Marching in Place

    Take 50 marching steps in place. Focus on lifting each knee so that the thigh is parallel to the floor. As you lift the right knee, swing the left arm forward, and swing the right arm forward as you lift the left knee. Once you can easily accomplish this task, try it with your eyes closed. If at any time you feel as if you are losing your balance, open your eyes briefly to re-orient yourself.

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    Zip and Hollow

    The Zip and Hollow is the most basic of the Pilates exercises. This exercise establishes the neutral pelvis position, works the transverse abdominis muscles and stabilizes the lower back. Begin by lying on your back with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent. Place your thumbs on either side of your belly button so that they touch. Extend your fingers downwards so that your index fingers touch, with your hands covering the front of your lower abdomen. Imagine sucking the area under your hands so that it touches your spine. Then, imagine that this same area is moving upwards towards your belly button.

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    Standing Posture

    Stand with your back to a wall, your feet hip-distance apart and your buttocks touching the wall. Engage your transverse abdominis by zipping and hollowing. Look down at your feet to make sure that your toes are pointed directly forward. Slightly squeeze your buttocks so that your knees move forward. Your knees should be aligned with your second and third toes. Approximately two-thirds of your weight should be over the balls of your feet. Lengthen your spine slightly forward and upwards. Your back and head should not touch the wall. Open your chest by rolling your shoulders backwards. Hold this position, concentrating on the different sensations in your feet, hips, abdominal area, back and neck. Once this position becomes familiar, try to incorporate it into your everyday life.

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    Balancing on One Foot

    Stand on your right foot, with your left leg lifted off the ground. At first, you will feel more comfortable with the left foot close to the ground. As you progress, you can lift the foot higher. Balance on your right foot for 30 seconds with your eyes open. Then repeat on the left foot. When this balance becomes relatively easy, work on balancing with your eyes closed. In order to hold your balance, feel as if you are pushing into the floor with your standing leg and actively engage your abdominal muscles by using the zip and hollow technique.

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    References

    University of Missouri: Postural Stability Exercises web.missouri.edu/~blowc/pt8690/vest/Spring/ posture-stabil.doc

    Pilates Contrology: Lumbar Stabilization Exercises: The Zip and Hollow www. easyvigour.net.nz/ fitness/H_Zip_And_Hollow.htm

    Pilates Contrology: Standing Posture www.easyvigour.net.nz/ fitness/h_standingposture.htm

    Mark McKean: Postural Stability and Exercise Technique www.markmckean.com/ admin/others/pdf/Trainers_Postural_Stability_&_Exercise_Technique_part_1.pdf