Balance boards are an excellent way to improve balance for seniors. Today we will look at some of the best balance boards for seniors on the market!
Choosing the right balance board can be hard since there are so many different kinds in the market and not all of them are suitable for seniors.
It's also important to be aware of safety risks associated with balance training. It's your responsibility to know your own limits. If you have any hesitations about using a balance board and about their safety, consult an experienced trainer. If you have medical conditions that affect your balance you need to check with your doctor if it's safe to train with a balance board.
Let's start by looking at what exactly are balance boards and why they are so great for improving balance in seniors. and the different kinds of balance boards on the market.
If you are busy and don't have the time to read about the science and full reviews, our top picks are these five:
Any of these will do the trick for improving your balance and walking stability. Rest is just a matter of personal preference and your current balance skill and physical ability.
What are balance boards
The balance board can mean any device that has an unstable surface and is used to improve balance. These have several names besides balance boards, like wobble boards and rocker boards.
The idea behind every kind of balance board is the same; They challenge your balance by providing an unstable surface with narrow center of gravity. You must use your muscles and coordination to maintain balance. Challenging your balance like this improves it quite effectively even if you are older.
As we get older our balance and coordination naturally decline. This is due to several factors like loss of muscle strength, slower reaction time, limited mobility and decline in neural efficiency. This decline can be countered with exercises that target to improve strength, mobility, balance, and coordination.
Balance is a skill that is dependent on strength and mobility. If you are weak all the balance training in the world won't improve your balance that much, likewise it doesn't matter how strong you are if you don't practice the skill of balance.
Our balance is of course trained in everyday activities like walking, cleaning and doing pretty much any activity that requires us to move. This, however, is merely enough to maintain the skill you already have. To improve your balance it requires specific practice and this is where balance boards come in.
Balance boards are designed to specifically improve your skill component of balance. Think about, if you can stay balanced on an unstable surface, you will have a much easier time staying balanced on a stable surface.
This practice is especially important as we get older as our body weight and center of gravity can change as we lose muscle mass in the legs and gain weight in the midsection. That means the balance skills we learned and maintained when younger are no more applicable and we need to teach our body how to balance with our current weight, mobility, and strength.
Now that we know why balance boards are great for improving balance, let's look at the different types of balance boards!
Types of balance boards
Rocker boards are simple balance boards that consist of flat board or plank with a round fulcrum on the middle. They are generally the simplest and easiest of the balance boards as there is one stable fulcrum and you have to balance it only in one direction, side to side. They are still very useful for improving balance.
The size and slope of the fulcrum affect how challenging the rocker board is to use. A board with a shallow and wide fulcrum is generally very easy to balance while a board with a high and narrow fulcrum is much harder. There are also versions with are essentially a bent plank, so the whole bent profile works as a fulcrum.
Rocker boards are generally very good options for seniors due to the simple construction and ease of use. The one-sided balance makes them a bit safer as you plan your supports better.
The rocker-roller board is an advanced version of the rocker board. Instead of having a fixed rounded fulcrum it has a separate roller as a fulcrum. This naturally makes balancing a lot more challenging. You have to both balances in relation to the fulcrum and to the rolling of the fulcrum.
As you can imagine these require quite a bit of skill and more suitable for circus acts and skaters than seniors trying to improve and maintain balance for everyday life. A young peoples sport so to speak.
The wobble board is a 360-degree version of the rocker board. Instead of a plank, it consists of a circular board with a spherical fulcrum in the middle. Since the board is circular and the fulcrum spherical, you have to balance in 360 degrees vs just one axis on a rocker board.
Just like rocker boards the size and slope of the fulcrum dictate how difficult the wobble board is to balance. There are some easy ones and there some really demanding ones out there. Especially the easy ones are great for seniors who want to improve their balance.
There are also wobble board models that have a leg instead of a simple round fulcrum. The leg can have a joint as the fulcrum or it can be made out of a spring or elastic material to make the board unstable.
The leg makes the board a bit safer because it prevents slipping. The normal wobble boards can be dangerously slippery if the fulcrum is made of hard plastic and used on a hard floor.
There will be very little friction between the floor and the fulcrum. That's why it's important to use it on a sturdy carpet or get a special rubber pad to put underneath for friction.
This is the rocker-roller board equivalent to wobble boards. Like the name suggests it's a board that sits over a ball. The ball acts as a fulcrum that can roll in any direction. Talk about demanding to balance.
These are the most demanding form of a balance board and are definitely not suitable for most seniors, or to anyone really, but to people who are very dedicated to master their balance and need it in their sport or profession.
Best balance board for seniors
The StrongTek anti-fatigue balance board is actually more of a rocker board that is intended to activate your balance when you are working on a desk (learn how to work from home for seniors) or working on your computer (check out my recommendation for the best laptop for seniors). Because of the relatively low curvature, it's a very safe option for seniors especially if they have mobility and balance issues that prevent them from using a more demanding type of balance board.
The board is made of high duty hardwood plywood with an anti-slip polyurethane layer to prevent your feet from slipping. The bottom is covered with rubber to prevent scratching of floor surfaces. The design is very smart and convenient. The board fits under your desk or bed.
The top of the balance board is equipped with trigger point foot massaging studs that gently massage the soles of your foot while you use the board. This is a great, simple wobble board that doesn't take much space and won't break the bank. It's gotten great reviews with over 84% of reviewers giving it full 5 stars so it's a quality product you will enjoy using.
This is very high quality and solid rocker board. It features a heavy-duty plywood construction with slip-resistant surface finishing on the board and on the bottom of the fulcrum.
The fulcrum is very wide with a quite high radius. This combined with the slip-resistant surface makes it very safe and relatively easy to balance. A perfect choice for seniors who want to improve their balance but don't want too much challenge.
85% of customers that reviewed this balance board in Amazon gave it 5 stars so you can rest assured it's a high-quality product that will help you improve your balance.
This is a very high-quality wooden wobble board with the slip-resistant surface finish just like the StrongTek rocker board. It also comes with a very nice graphic picturing a tree on the slip-resistant surface. It just adds that little something to the product that makes you want to keep it visible and use it actively.
This is a wobble board that sways 360 degrees, so it's more challenging than the rocker boards and requires more skill so it's best for more active seniors with a good sense of balance and physical ability.
For a wobble board this relatively easy to balance. The fulcrum is quite shallow and the board is wide so you can spread your center of gravity a bit better. This gives you more time to react when losing balance.
It's equipped with convenient carrying handles for transport. The only downside is that the fulcrum is made of hard plastic which can be slippery on a hard floor. So it's smart to use a rubber mat under it.
This is a bit pricier than the other two suggestions. But you have to realize you get a real premium balance board with tons of product development put into it. And the best thing is that it's completely made and assembled in the USA!
This is a spring leg variation of the wobble board. It offers a distinctly different balancing surface without the risk of slipping because it has a sturdy leg.
If you have the money to spare and you already have a good balance that you want to improve even more, this one is a perfect choice. 82% of people who reviewed it gave it 5 stars and several commented it is definitely the best balance board on the market. You will definitely improve your balance and strengthen your core muscles with this balance board.
The last suggestion is not actually a balance board but it's great for improving your balance. It's the Bosu Balance Trainer. The Bosu balance trainer is essentially a big rubber dome that's filled with air. It doesn't have a curved surface on the bottom like the balance boards but the air-filled rubber is very unstable under your feet and it offers a challenge for your balance this way. Think of it like trying to walk over a balloon.
The Bosu balance trainer is especially good for doing balance improving exercises for the elderly because it can't slip from underneath you, it's actually very stable. The downside is that it's quite large compared to most of the balance boards, making it hard to move around and put away from use. But if you have the space to spare, it's a great option.
The trainer comes with a full exercise program and a hand pump for filling with air. The Bosu products are made in the USA and are top quality as shown by the fact that you can find them on virtually every gym in the world.
How to use balance boards?
When you get a balance board it can be a bit challenging to find an effective way to use it. People many times use way too much the first couple of days and then forget about it or maybe use it once or twice a year.
Like with all exercise it's important to establish a weekly routine that includes the balance board. This way you will get the most benefit out from it and it won't end up just filling the space under the couch.
Balance boards are best used several times a week or even daily to improve your balance. They are not very taxing on your muscular and central nervous system so you don't need that much recovery.
If you have trouble at first with staying in balance, you should start light and do your best for a couple of minutes, rest a bit and try again for a couple of times. Then after a good night's sleep, you will likely notice a significant improvement. This is because the skill we learned during the day is ingrained during the night when we sleep.
The easier boards are intended for working on a standing desk and they can be used while watching TV for example. They work best when used for even an hour or more at a time.
The most important thing is to use the board you decide to get several times a week to see improvement and maintain your balance, there is no need for a very specific program.
Add a reminder on your phone for example so you remember to use it every night until it becomes a habit.
Are balance boards safe for seniors?
One question that you might be thinking is that are these balance boards really safe for seniors to use and if you should altogether avoid using things that compromise your. There is obviously the danger of falling down when you intentionally compromise your balance.
But that is where the whole benefit of balance boards lies. It allows you to practice your balance in a controlled manner instead of an icy sidewalk for example. After all, practice makes perfect. If you practice your balance in a controlled manner, you have a much better chance to keep your balance when your balance is compromised in the real world.
As we established before, balance is a skill and all skill need practice and honing to improve and maintain. Balance is no different. So using a balance board has its risks but the risk prevention benefits usually over weigh the risks associated with using the board. But at the end of the day the user is the only one who can assess the risk of using a balance board.
All that said it's wise to take some safety precautions when using a balance board. Have someone to help and catch you and make sure there is nothing sharp or pointy to fall on to. You can use a sturdy desk or a kitchen table to support your upper body as a safety stand when you are starting. Just hold on to the table with your hands while you use the balance board.
Never use the board alone unless you are very comfortable with using it, so in case you do fall, there will be someone to assist you. You should also make sure the board is on a non slippery surface. Most boards come with a rubbery high friction base but make sure it's not slippery on your floor surface. The last thing you want is the board slipping from underneath you.
Finally, if you have any medical conditions that affect your sense of balance or your muscles and joints, it's important to design your balance training with medical professionals.
Balance Boards For Seniors Q&A
Q:How Effective are Balance Boards for Improving Balance In Seniors?
A: Fairly effective. Balance boards challenge all the component of your balance system and thus improve your balance skill. These systems include your Vestibular system (inner ear balance organ), eyesight and fine motor skills of your muscles.
How ever it's important to remember that balance is a function of your strength and mobility. It's one thing to maintain balance while standing on a balance board and to maintain balance while slipping on ice.
The more extreme the position and speed are, the more dependent your balance becomes on overall strength and mobility. This is why balance boards shouldn't be the only form of balance training. Instead, you should combine balance training with strength training and mobility exercises. It's especially important to improve strength and mobility and your legs and core muscles.
It's also important to realize that balance training can't reverse medical conditions. If you have conditions that affect your eyes, vestibular system, central nervous system, muscles or joints, it's likely your balance will be compromised. That doesn't mean that you should strive to improve it, on the contrary, but you need to have realistic expectations and plan your training with your physician.
Q: What Type Of Balance Board Is Best For Beginners?
A: If you have never done any form of balance training, I suggest you start with a simple rocker board. It challenges your balance only in one direction from side-to-side. This is enough improve basic balance skills without being too challenging.
The downside is of course that once you get the hang of it you can't use it to improve your balance skills further without getting a 360 degree wobble board. That's why I recommend starting with a wobble board if you are relatively fit and active and confident with your balance skills even if you haven't done specific training for it before.
Q: I'm afraid I Will Fall Down Using A Balance Board. Should I Avoid Them?
A: A good sense of balance requires a sense of confidence which many seniors lack. If you are healthy and active, balance boards are generally a safe and affordable way to get out of your comfort zone so you can start improving confidence in your balance.
It's still important to realize that there is a risk of falling associated with using a balance board.
If you want to improve balance it's important to get over the fear and get out of your comfort zone. That's where improvement lives. But it's important to do it safely and without taking unnecessary risks. Using a balance board with a trainer or a solid support will help you challenge your balance with relatively low risk of falling. Like we established already, at the end of the day only you can assess the risk of using a balance board.
We hope you enjoyed reading about balance boards for seniors and inspired you to get one for yourself. Remember that balance is a skill and all skills required to use to maintain and improve them.
If you decide to get a balance board we hope you start carefully to avoid any accidents. Use support at first (a side of a table for example) to get the feel for balancing. It's actually wise to always have something you can grab in case you lose your balance completely.
Always make sure there is enough friction between the board and the floor to prevent dangerous slips.
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See you next time!