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Using Balance Boards to Enhance Exercise

Balance board workouts are a training method involving a series of standing and weight-bearing exercises completed on an unstable surface. They aim to train the muscles around the ankle and improve balance.

Common in rehabilitation settings and conditioning programs for athletes, balance boards can also target upper body stability and core strength.

This article breaks down balance board basics such as benefits, drawbacks, and exercises that target all the major muscle groups.

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What are balance boards?

Balance boards, which include rocker boards and wobble boards, are a fitness tool you can stand on while performing exercises to help improve balance and posture, aid in rehabilitation, prevent lower body injuries, and increase core strength, among other benefits.

There are different balance boards to choose from, but ultimately it comes down to what works best for you.

A balance board is typically made of wood and has a flat top and a dome-shaped, unstable bottom in the center of the board. This allows the board to move in different directions.

Rocker boards can be rectangular or have a curved U-shape, which allows you to move from side to side or from front to back.

Round balance boards, also called wobble boards, allow you to move both side to side and front to back, but they also allow you to tilt the board in a circle (aka “around the world”).

Physical therapists often use balance boards in the rehabilitation of lower leg injuries — more specifically, ankle sprains. Balance boards are also a valuable training aid for preventing sports-related injuries and protecting against falls in people of all ages.

Additional benefits of using a balance board include:

  • improved balance and coordination
  • stronger lower leg muscles, especially the peroneals
  • increased motor skills
  • injury prevention, especially for the ankles
  • help with injury rehabilitation
  • improved posture

SUMMARYA balance board is a training device to help improve balance, rehabilitate and prevent injuries, and increase motor skills. There are different styles of balance boards, such as round and rectangular.

Balance boards for weight loss

Balance boards are best known for their role in injury prevention, rehabilitation, and balance training. However, any form of physical activity burns calories, so using a balance board may also aid in weight loss.

One small study looked at the differences in energy expenditure for 30 healthy adults while they were at work. The researchers measured participants’ energy expenditure while sitting, while standing on a flat surface, and while standing on a balance board.

Participants performed a total of 1.5 hours of typing — 30 minutes in each of the 3 positions. Results showed that energy expenditure was 14.2% higher when using a balance board than when sitting.

The number of calories burned during exercise depends on several factors, such as the type of activity, the intensity, and your body weight. To determine an average, you can use a physical activity calorie counter that allows you to input body weight, duration, and activity.

While you may not find “balance board” on an activity list, you can choose a similar activity such as calisthenics. For example, a 150-pound person doing 20 minutes of moderate calisthenics will burn about 80 calories (3).

SUMMARYSince balance board training raises your heart rate, it increases energy expenditure. An increase in the number of calories you burn per day can contribute to weight loss.

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Improving your balance with a balance board

The ability to balance is a function of three bodily systems:

  • visual system
  • vestibular system
  • proprioceptive system

Specifically, balance board training can improve proprioception, which is the perception of your body position and movements in three-dimensional space. In other words, it’s your body’s ability to sense its location, movements, and actions.

Experts believe that ankle proprioception plays a critical role in balancing. Using balance or wobble boards can train the muscles, ligaments, and tendons to work together to create stability at the ankle.

One recent review looked at 7 randomized controlled trials with a total of 3,726 participants and found that proprioceptive training using a balance or wobble board can reduce the risk of a first-time or recurrent ankle sprain.

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