Want to Age Well? Do This Simple Exercise To Build Balance and Hip Strength

Single leg balance reach
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Hip strength and balance control are the foundation of a person’s ability to move well and independently.

However, both balance control and hip strength begin to decline with age.

Impaired balance and strength in the hips are major risk factors for falls among older adults.

These issues may be due to a lack of physical activity, or they may simply be due to the aging process itself.

While aging is inevitable, you can counter some of these declines and risks through exercise.

Even simple and basic exercises you can do at home can help improve balance, strength, and flexibility.

In this article, I will detail one of the best exercises that can help you with balance control and hip strength. The single-leg standing toe touch.

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Why Should You Perform the Single Leg Balance Reach?

Why Should You Perform the Single Leg Balance Reach?

If you’re working on ways to improve your fitness as you age, you should strongly consider incorporating this exercise into your routine.

Specifically, the single-leg standing toe touch helps in all of the following ways.

Improved Balance Control

With each passing year, our balance tends to decrease. This is a big problem, especially as we enter our 60s, 70s, and 80s.

This is when conditions such as osteoporosis rear their ugly heads. Unfortunately, a fall due to poor balance, especially when a person has brittle bones, can be a death sentence.

Luckily, by performing exercises such as the single leg balance reach, you have a way to fight back against these issues.

The movement can help you improve your standing, one-footed balance and decrease your chances of experiencing a fall.

Improved Flexibility

There’s no doubt about it: modern technological advancements have improved our lives in so many ways.

Unfortunately, as our lives have become easier, we’ve also begun to sit a lot more than we used to. Think about it: we sit on the drive to work, we sit when we get to work, and we sit when we get home. We need a revolution against sitting!

This increased time sitting down has led to tight muscles all throughout our body.

Most glaringly, the tightness can be seen in our hips and knees. One of the major muscles that is tight on nearly everyone is the hamstrings muscle.

The hamstrings muscle connects to the hips and winds its way down past the knee to connect to the shin bone. Therefore, it is known as a “multi-joint muscle”.

There are many multi-joint muscles throughout our body, and it’s vitally important that we keep these muscles healthy. They are responsible for much of our movement and stability throughout daily life.

Thankfully, the single-leg standing toe touch addresses hamstring tightness. As a bonus, it also addresses calf tightness and even back muscle tightness.

It’s a terrific exercise for increasing posterior chain flexibility all around!

Optimized Strength and Stability

It may surprise you to learn that you don’t always need heavy weights or resistance bands to increase strength and stability. In many cases, you can improve your strength with simple bodyweight movements.

For example, the single-leg standing toe touch exercise improves glute and hamstring strength (much in the same way a deadlift does). Furthermore, it also increases intrinsic foot muscle strength.

Better Proprioception and Kinesthetic Awareness

Proprioception and kinesthetic awareness aren’t well-known terms, but they are extremely important. 

Proprioception essentially refers to our awareness of our bodies in space.

For instance, if you lift your right arm up above your head and close your eyes, can you match its position exactly with your left arm? If so, you have good proprioception!

Kinesthetic awareness is similar to proprioception but deals with movement. 

With the single-leg standing toe touch, you can effectively work on both of these areas of fitness. We talk a lot about the importance of strength, flexibility, and balance. But good proprioception and kinesthetic awareness are just as important for our health.

How to Perform the Single Leg Balance Reach

How to Perform the Single Leg Balance Reach

In this section, I’ll provide a step-by-step method for completing this exercise. Take your time with it, and don’t expect to master the movement on the first day. It’s complex and can take even the most seasoned exercisers a long time to achieve a perfect single-leg standing toe touch!

Step-By-Step Directions for the Single Leg Balance Reach

  • Start with both feet firmly planted on the ground.
  • Slowly shift all of your weight onto your right leg.
  • Once you have 100% of your weight on your right leg, extend your left leg behind you as you reach both arms toward the ground.
  • With complete control over the motion, begin to stand back up and bring your left foot back to the starting point.
  • Repeat the same movement on the other side and complete 3 sets of 10 reps per side daily.

The Bottom Line

Whether you’re in your 20s, 50s, or 80s, or have reached triple digits, we all need some exercise in our lives. By performing movements like the single-leg standing toe touch, you’ll put yourself in the best position for successful aging. Try it out and see what you think!

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Bennett Richardson, DPT, PT, CSCS

Bennett Richardson is a physical therapist and writer out of Pittsburgh, PA. He has maintained certification as a strength and conditioning coach (CSCS) since 2014. He then went on to earn a BS in exercise science and a doctorate degree in physical therapy, both from Slippery Rock University. In his free time, Bennett likes to read and exercise.

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