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A balance board is a great, inexpensive way to improve not just your balance, but your level of physical fitness. A traditional balance board is a very simple and inexpensive piece of equipment that also travels well. Balance boards look similar to a skateboard, but they are a flat piece of wood on top of a single wheel-type roller in the middle -- like a see-saw. A balance board might also be a large plastic disc on top of a rubber ball. You might also see them referred to as wobble boards.
Balance boards all serve a similar purpose, but there are different heights of balance boards. A balance board with a lower height, and therefore a lower center of gravity, will be easier than a taller balance board. If you are just beginning, it is safer to purchase a lower board and to stand near something that can help you balance in case you should fall. The unstable nature of the board forces constant small corrections in the body, improving muscle strength.
Balance boards are used to improve balance, core strength, motor skills, and to prevent falls, improve skills in sports such as skiing or surfing, and for physical rehabilitation after an injury to the ankle or knee. There are other uses for balance boards as well, including to improve posture and concentration, and to help with yoga and ilates.
If you are using a balance board for rehabilitation under a doctor's supervision, you should always follow the doctor's instructions. Otherwise, to begin exercising with the board, the first step is, obviously, to try to keep the board balanced and to keep from falling off. Eventually, it will get easier to keep yourself on the board, and at that point, you can try jumping or other, more exaggerated movements on the board to make it more difficult and to challenge yourself.
Another type of balance board is the balance board released by Nintendo® for the Wii Fit™. This board does not actually rock back and forth -- it is instead completely flat on the floor. Instead, the board measures the natural shifts in your center of gravity while you are playing games on the Wii Fit™. Nintendo® claims that their balance board can improve balance and posture as well, through guided instruction and bringing your awareness to your body.
Obviously, a standard balance board is less expensive than that offered by Nintendo® and offers a different type of exercise, but both can work. Balance boards travel well and can be used for exercise in a small space. Improving your balance and coordination is a great way to prevent injury in other types of exercise as well.