Exercise Spotlight: Balance "Step Over" Challenge

The UW Health Sports Medicine Fitness Center presents two balance movements that are simple, can be done anywhere and help prevent falls.

 

Setting

 

Find a convenient open space. You may want to practice the movements with a stable support to determine your ability to perform them well when you are out in "free space."

 

Equipment

 

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Although these videos show the exercise performed with exercise hurdles, a variety of props can be used as your "step-over" challenge. Some possibilities include:

  • Props lower than six inches: Piece of wood (e.g., a 2-by-4) lying flat on floor, a pillow
  • Props six to 18 inches high: A shoe or cereal box or two, two or three stacked cans
  • Props higher than 18 inches: Larger boxes, multiple shoe boxes

A Note on Surface

 

The floor surface matters with these exercises. A concrete or wood floor provides the most stability. Carpet or other surfaces with a "cushioning" feel add to the level of difficulty. Start on a more stable surface, if available, and gradually progress to one with more cushioning.

 

Purpose

 

These exercises enhance balance and may also improve lower-extremity strength.

 

Sets and Progressions

 

Your training can progress over the course of weeks or months depending on your initial fitness and your ability to adapt to each movement. Start by doing one set of five to six repetitions of each exercise as long as you can do so without allowing your foot to touch the ground between reps. Your arms can be used as a way to counter-balance yourself, but you may find it easier to place your hands on your hips or have a support device first and focus solely on your lower body.

 

Evaluate your body's response and use that feedback as a guide to help you determine how aggressively you can advance. Upon mastery of the exercise, first consider adding two or three repetitions every couple of weeks. Once you reach 12 to 15 repetitions, you can then consider using a taller object to cycle over or add an additional set of movements.

 

Video Examples

 

Fitness Center senior exercise physiologist Jude Sullivan demonstrates a simple balance exercise that can be done virtually anywhere.

 

Forward Balance Stepover 

 

Backward Balance Stepover