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There are many different ways to improve your current exercise routine. What about exercises with balance boards, what benefits can you expect?
A balance board is an unstable surface to stand on with the goal of improving balance and other benefits this article will talk about. This piece of balance equipment comes in different shapes and sizes. Some balance boards only allow you to move side to side, others can move in the full 360 degrees.
Some people question how useful sessions with this equipment can be but balance board exercises can offer you some of the following amazing benefits.
Keep in mind that the goal of balance boards is challenging your balance. This can also be a potential downside. Be careful when using a balance board and consider seeking help from an expert.
1. Improves coordination and balance
This first benefit of balance boards is straightforward. Balance boards are made with the goal of challenging your balance and coordination skills. By doing this frequently you get better at it like with most skills (1). Many people forget to implement balance training into their workout routine but it is a helpful fitness component.
One small study with 23 elderly individuals divided into a training group and a control group observed that balance board exercises twice a week for 9 weeks improved their standing balance compared to the control group (2).
The benefits of improved coordination and balance don’t just show up in other technical sports. Daily activities as simple as walking the stairs require coordination and balance.
2. Helps prevent injury
The first thing to keep in mind when talking about this benefit of balance boards is that you need to use them in a way that does not get you injured in the first place.
Once that is checked off doing balance board exercises may help you reduce your injury risk. Especially in places like your ankles (3, 4, 5, 6). This reduced injury risk is the consequence of a few different reasons.
First of all balance boards can simply strengthen body parts like your ankles which makes them more robust and better able to deal with strains without breaking down.
Secondly, balance board exercises can benefit something called proprioception which is accurately sensing where your body parts are (7). This in turn can help you avoid misplacing body parts like your feet which can result in injury.
Falling is also just an easy way to get injured. By improving your balance and coordination you reduce your risk of falling and in turn your risk of injury.
In short balance board exercises can help people reduce their injury risk. This benefit applies to everyone ranging from college athletes to inactive elderly individuals.
3. Helps you build or preserve muscle
Some types of balance board exercises will help more with this but generally exercise will help you build and preserve muscle better than sitting still. Extra muscle is not only beneficial for your health in many ways but it is also considered to be visually appealing.
The exact muscles you will work out with balance boards vary from exercise to exercise. The balance board-specific movements engage your lower leg and core muscles.
If you are serious about building muscle you do generally want to choose strength training exercises over more balance-focused exercises. The muscle-engaging effects of balance board exercises are more like a nice side-effect than replacing a whole type of exercise.
4. Can improve posture
When using a balance board you engage your core muscles which are muscles that are helpful for a good posture. A good posture can in turn offer you a few benefits.
Improving your posture will help you avoid injuries related to bad posture. One small study even suggests that open non-verbal displays, which a good posture helps with, are attractive (8).
5. Relatively budget-friendly
Another potential hurdle for many workouts and pieces of fitness equipment is the budget required.
Some exercises require inexpensive equipment starting at a jumping rope to at-home workout machines of hundreds or thousands of dollars. Even the investment required for gym subscriptions adds up after a while.
Money put into improving your health is generally a great investment but sometimes you can get the same effects with less. There are definitely some more expensive balance boards out there but at the same time, you can also easily find budget options that do the job. This can be a great benefit depending on your personal situation.
6. Can improve cognitive performance
One study divided 40 participants into either a balance or relaxation training control group. Each group exercised twice a week for 12 weeks. They observed that the balance training improved memory and spatial cognition without improving cardiorespiratory fitness (11).
This lack of improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness is interesting because more cardio-focused exercise generally improves cognitive performance as well (12, 13, 14). However, these different types of exercise may benefit cognitive performance in different ways. In turn, it may be possible to get extra cognitive benefits by adding balance exercises on top of an existing workout routine.
In any case, this means that adding balance board exercises to your routine can benefit you by improving areas like your academic performance, job performance, and much more.
7. Can improve athletic performance
This next benefit of balance boards does not mean that you should ferociously do balance board exercises right before your next sports match or competitive race. Instead implementing balance exercises into your preparation training routine can help you improve performance in these moments when it really matters.
Getting better at a certain sport or exercise isn’t necessarily done by doing these activities more. Cross-training which is training in a different sport can be useful.
Most physical competitions involve balance, coordination, not falling, and cognitive performance in one way or another. Balance board exercise can help with these things and thus in turn benefit athletic performance.
8. May slightly benefit weight loss
Losing weight is about using up body fat, which is basically energy stored. To do this you want to make sure that you require more energy throughout the day than there is coming in from food.
One way to try to make this happen is by doing some form of workout. By increasing the intensity of your movements for a period of time you use up more energy than usual. Using a balance board requires more energy than sitting still so it can benefit weight loss. For this benefit what you compare using the balance board with is very important.
One small study divided 30 healthy adults with sedentary-based jobs into 3 groups. These individuals performed typing work in either a sitting, standing, or balance board position.
They did observe that a balance board increased energy expenditure compared to the sitting position (15). However, they did not measure a statistically significant difference in energy expenditure between standing and balance board positions.
So standing on a balance board can help you lose more weight than sitting down but the results will likely not be very impressive.
Keep in mind that other lifestyle habits like what you eat are important when trying to lose weight no matter what exercise you do. You can work out and gain weight at the same time if your other lifestyle habits are not good.
All in all, it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding exercises with one piece of equipment to your workout routine.
One thing you need to remember is that even though there are benefits to training with a balance board, you can also push your balance boundaries too much which can result in falling and related issues.
It may not be smart for individuals with a bad balance to use a balance board. Anyone should be careful when using a balance board and if needed consider seeking help from an expert.
Also keep in mind that consistency is a big factor in a workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently. If you like using a balance board, great.
If not, other balance board alternatives and balance workouts can also offer a lot of benefits.