When you Google search “exercises for better balance” or “exercises to improve balance,” a lot of what you get focuses on strengthening your core. Think of leg swings and single-leg dead lifts. “Your core is the essence of everything you do,” Steven Ehasz, MES, CSCS, exercise physiologist and wellness coordinator for the University of Maryland Medical System, said — and while he’s right, working toward a six-pack solves only one piece of the imbalanced puzzle.

“Bettering balance begins with a tripod — the three different sensors that form your personal gyroscope: Your inner ear, perception from your eyes, and joint and muscle-nerve receptors called proprioceptors combine to give you balance,” Active reported. “If one of these elements goes out of whack, you'll likely teeter.” It’s a complex system.

How exactly do you maintain the other two sensors? Two word: mind-body exercises. Working your brain does your balance (and body) as much good as physical fitness. In a report from Harvard Medical School (HMS), authors emphasized a sharp mind helps you to think, and stay, on your feet.

“We need careful planning of our movements, decision-making, reaction time, and attention,” Dr. Brad Manor, an instructor in medicine at HMS and director of the Mobility and Falls Program at the Harvard-affiliated Hebrew Senior-Life in Boston, said in a press release for the report. “Staying mentally active is very important to avoiding falls.”

In the report, the authors cited more than 90 percent of all hip fractures are due to falls. Balance is something most people take for granted after a certain age, so Manor and his fellow researchers are conducting studies to pinpoint the benefits of mind-body exercise.

Here are three on their radar so far.


A gentle form of exercise and stretch, tai-chi (short for tai chi chuan) is a derivative of traditional Chinese medicine. It involves a series of slow movements focused on, and accompanied by, deep breathing. There are different forms of tai-chi, but research shows this type of exercise generally reduces stress while increasing flexibility, endurance, and longevity.


Pronounced chee-gong, this technique is an integration of physical postures, breathing techniques, and focused intentions, reported The National Qigong Association; some take to calling it a hybrid of tai-chi and yoga. The word qi translates to “life force” or “vital energy,” and gong means cultivating energy. One study found practicing qigong reduces symptoms in women receiving radiotherapy to treat their breast cancer.


Yoga apparel sales may be booming, but the practice itself has been around for thousands of years, reported The Chopra Center. Its purpose is to integrate and balance “all the layers of our life so that our body, mind, heart, intellect, and spirit flow in harmony.” The physical postures (also known as asanas) both make us sweat and connect us to our central selves.