I get asked this question all the time. People who want to maintain their balance know that doing regular exercise will help them to feel stronger and steadier on their feet. They are thinking about going to the gym but aren’t sure if it’s right for them.
Often their children and grandchildren are regular (fanatical even?) gym-goers. They want to understand if they could also benefit from going to the gym.
The gym is where all the exercise equipment is – treadmills, weights machines, free weights etc. There might also be a ‘functional training’ space with less traditional equipment and more open floor space, as well as some mats for stretching. Gyms can vary in size from something slightly larger than your living room to a space larger than a tennis court.
What are the advantages of doing balance exercises in the gym?
- Going somewhere specifically to exercise means you will definitely do it. There aren’t all the distractions you struggle with at home.
- It’s sociable, and there’s usually an energetic atmosphere (I find this helps keep me going when I might otherwise call it a day)
- If you want to do other exercises to supplement your balance training, you have lots of options at the gym. You can get some aerobic exercise on the bike or build your strength with the weight training equipment.
What are the disadvantages of doing balance exercises in the gym?
- Gyms tend to be full of equipment. However, most of this equipment won’t help you with balance training.
- There isn’t always much free space (due to all the equipment). As a result, it can be harder to find somewhere to do your balance exercises.
- The noise (music, shouting from the spinning studio, grunting from the muscleheads) can make it more difficult to concentrate.
- Gym goers may discard equipment, towels and water bottles on the floor around the gym. If you are not paying attention, or are feeling tired, you are more likely to trip and take a tumble.
Can you make the gym work for you if you want to improve your balance?
As a general rule, many people find the gym isn’t the best place to go to perform exercises to improve their balance.
However, there are two ways we have seen people use the gym to improve their balance successfully. These involve either working with a specialist instructor or following specialist videos while at the gym. Here’s a bit more information on both these options:
One-on-one sessions with an instructor
Working one-on-one with a specialist instructor (or personal trainer) can ensure you make the most of your time at the gym. In a similar vein, shared private or small group lessons can work well (e.g. 2-4 people sharing a session).
Your instructor can make sure you are working at the right level and check your technique on the exercises. The times of your sessions can be arranged to suit your schedule, which is very convenient. Having an appointment with someone helps ensure you go to the gym as planned. Without an appointment, it is very easy to get caught up in all the other things you have to do and never get there.
These sessions can also be quite relaxing as you can rely on your instructor to tell you what to do, and you feel confident that they are supporting you.
Make sure that any instructor you work with is suitably qualified and experienced to help you. Not all instructors or trainers in the gym will have the skills or knowledge to support you to exercise safely.
There are two downsides to this option. Firstly, one-to-one or small group sessions can be expensive. Secondly, if you don’t feel comfortable in the gym environment (because of the music, mirrors etc.) then this won’t work for you.
Using instructional videos while at the gym
Many people now use videos to guide them through a series of exercises at the gym. These can be free videos on YouTube or paid videos through an app or membership site. They watch the videos on their smartphones (or tablets) and follow the exercises and instructions.
The advantages of having a video are that you don’t have to remember which exercises to do, or how to do them well. It can also provide added motivation as you have someone encouraging you.
Often people use headphones to hear the instructions (try Bluetooth headphones if the wires get in the way). These will help you to block out the noise and will ensure you can hear the instructions from the video.
It might help to go when the gym is less busy and find a quiet corner to do your exercises. If there is a studio next to the gym, but no class is going on, this can provide a peaceful sanctuary in which to perform your balance exercises. A quiet studio works well as you have more space, fewer trip hazards on the floor and fewer distractions. You could even check the studio timetable so you know when it will be empty, and plan your gym visits accordingly.
As with one-to-one sessions, you will want to make sure that you are following videos from someone who is knowledgeable and experienced in helping people like you to improve their balance.
Do you go to a gym? Do you find it a good place to do exercises to improve your balance?
I would love to know! Let me know in the comments below, or using the contact us page on the website.
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All material in this article is provided for information and educational purposes only. It is not advice and should not be relied on as such. Always consult an exercise or health professional if you have any health issues and need personalised advice. With this in mind, we hope you enjoy reading our articles.