Test your balance, maintain your independence

SPRINGFIELD, Mo On this Fit Life, we're looking at something that's critical to staying active and keeping your independence as you age.

Here are exercises to improve your balance.

Here's what Pamela Hernandez of Thrive Personal Fitness told us: We know that the things that lead to loss of balance start in
your 30's, when muscle mass starts to naturally decline.

It's never too early (or late) to work on improving your balance.

Start with a simple test. See how long you can stand on one leg. One minute is ideal, but anything under 30 seconds means you need to focus on improving your balance now.

Here are three exercises that you can do to help improve your balance to stay functional and fit.

Half Kneeling Rotations and Chops: A half kneeling position engages core muscles that are important for balance as well as stabilizers in the legs. Start in a half kneeling position with fingertips behind your ears. Rotate your elbow towards the front knee, keeping the knee and torso stable. Return to forward facing and repeat 10-15 times before switching sides. You can progress this exercise by holding a
weight or cable and performing a chopping motion across the body.

Weight Shifts: Stand with feet a little wider than shoulder width apart. Lean to your right and put all your weight into your right foot while lifting the left foot off the ground. Hold for 3-5 seconds and return to start. Then shift to your left with all of your weight on your left foot and lift your right foot off the ground, again holding for 3-5 seconds. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions on both sides.

Heal to Toe Balance Walk: Imagine a tight rope in front of you. Take one step forward, with your right foot coming down directly in front of the left. As you walk lift the knee up before placing the foot down in front of the foot on the ground. Repeat for 10-15 steps per side.

The focus here isn't on volume but quantity. Do these exercises daily if you wish, but always with a focus to form and accuracy.