Improving Your Balance: Tips for Kids and Adults

Good balance is a base in injury prevention for youth, adolescents, adults, and older people. All age groups have a different dose-response effect on balance training and can be assessed during a variety of sports and exercise activities. A balance bike can be a good start for children to learn to keep a balance and learn how to ride a real bike.

Key takeaways:
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    Balance training is very important in injury prevention in youth and at adult age.
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    It is important to train static and dynamic balance in various ways and exercises.
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    Balance bikes and traditional bikes are good tools for children to start learning to keep balance.
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    To learn to ride a bike start riding a balance bike, this is the most successful path in the learning process.
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    Start by learning to maintain the balance not pedaling, because the reverse process is more complicated.

Our balance can be divided into static and dynamic. Static balance is “the ability to maintain an upright body posture and at the same time keep the center of gravity within the limits of support” under unperturbed conditions, for instance during standing. Dynamic balance is the ability to restore balance under perturbed situations, let’s say when we move (walking, running, playing sports) and suddenly have slipped or were pushed.

Most falls happen under dynamic conditions rather than under static conditions. That’s why balance training is very important in injury prevention in youth and at adult age. The improved balance increases physical activity, jumps, sprinting, and change-of-direction tasks.

Also, good balance is a critical point in becoming a high-performance athlete. Dynamic sports activities such as football, basketball, volleyball, and others require even more difficult physical abilities, that’s why it is important to train balance in youth to become a good player and avoid injuries in sports. A good balance is a key to avoiding ankle sprains and anterior cruciate ligament tears in sports performance.

The interesting fact is that balance training works only on that specific performance which was trained, however, this is not transferable to other performances of balance tasks. Mimicking specific tasks related to specific sports under balance conditions can improve balance and sport-related performance.

The child-oriented balance training program has a better effect on young-aged (6-7 years) than middle and older-aged youths.

Recommendations for the balance training for teenagers

12 weeks or more of balance training is a very effective period for adolescents to improve balance performance.

Two times a week of balance training would be the best choice, rather than three, four, five, or more because adolescents need longer neuromuscular recovery and adaptation processes compared to adults.

From 4-15 minutes of a single balance, training has to be included during all pieces of training to improve balance for adolescents.

Recommendations for the balance training in all age groups

Systematic review and meta-analysis gave a very informative table (see below) where was explained the balance training dose-response relationship for healthy adolescents, healthy young adults, and healthy old adults.

Training modalities
Healthy adolescents (12-19 years old)Healthy young adults (16-40 years old)Healthy old adults (≥ 65 years old)
Training period (weeks) 1211-1211-12
Training frequency (times per week)233
Number of training sessions24-3616-19 or 36-3936-40
Duration of a single training session4-1511-1531-45
Duration of a single balance exercise (s)
-21-40-

There are a variety of balance exercises. The ones you can perform at home:

  • Eyes closed with double-leg stance
  • Eyes open with single-leg stance
  • Eyes closed with single-leg stance
  • Standing on a soft surface with one leg
  • Standing on an unstable surface with one leg
  • Walking on your toes

Exercises or sports which can improve balance:

  • Tai Chi
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Dancing
  • Resistance exercises
  • Virtual reality-based training

Children: balance vehicles helps for balance

Riding a bicycle or scooter is one of the locomotion ways which requires good balance and coordination skills. Most children start cycling at the age of 7.27 ± 3.74. Cycling improves health and cardiorespiratory fitness for youths. Moreover, it encourages children to become more independent, and active, creating relational and emotional skills. Riding a bicycle helps explore the environment and react to it.

There are a lot of opinions on how to start riding a bicycle, and which way is better for learning it. Here are a few ways and schemes in which children start to ride a bicycle or the parents say them to do so:

Balance bike (BB) → Traditional bike without additional wheels (TB).

Bike with additional wheels (TBW) → Bike without additional wheels.

Balance bike → Bike with additional wheels → Bike without additional wheels.

Benefits for riding a balance bike

Let’s look through the BB concept. Firstly, a balance bike allows children to be familiar with balance, and how to maintain it. When they use BB they start by slow walking, later running, with both feet or one, and last and most important they can explore flight time when both feet are up from the ground. During it, they can learn how to keep a balance and control the center of gravity of their body as well as the bicycle’s center of gravity. So, learning to ride a balance bike acts step by step with increasing courage of the child, managing the riding process smoother, and at the same time exploring the environment.

When a child starts to learn to ride a traditional bike with side wheels firstly he or she develops the ability to pedal. The balance is not challenging at all because of the side wheels. When a child masters the pedal parents remove the side wheels, and then it’s more difficult to learn to keep balance and pedal at the same time. The child feels unsafe because of the fall risk. Moreover, the child has to learn not only to balance and pedal but simultaneously break, turn, react to the environment and avoid obstacles.

Scientific literature says that children who start to ride a balance bike when transit to a traditional bike happen approximately 1.81 years earlier than those who first use TBW and then go to TB. So, to start riding a balance bike is the most successful path in the learning process.

However, the most frequent learning path is to use a bike with two side wheels and the next frequent path is to use a bike with one side wheel. The third frequent path is to start riding with a balance bike.

The learning path is very individual and depends on the child, the parents, and the socio-cultural environment.