Trunk Exercises Aimed at Improving Sitting Balance


Trunk exercises to improve sitting balance can range from simple exercises in which you shift your weight while seated to more difficult exercises designed for such sports as rowing and riding horses. For example, a sports-specific seated exercise drill for kayaking begins by sitting on an exercise ball, holding a paddle with arms extended overhead. By tilting the torso from side to side or turning the torso left to right, you can improve your seated balance in a boat.

Reaching and Weight Shifting

  • People who have suffered from strokes often engage in a regimen of exercises to recover sitting balance. These exercises can involve sitting on the edge of a bed for a designated period of time to reaching for objects with your upper extremities while sitting. Once you’re comfortable with reaching movements while in a static seated position, you can advance the exercise by introducing weight shifts, according to “Neuromuscular Essentials: Applying the Preferred Physical Therapist Practice Patterns” by Marilyn Moffat. For example, if you reach for something on your right side, shift your weight from your left hip to the right, slightly raising your hips off your seat and allowing your ribs to move in sync with your hips.

Advancing Exercises

  • The difficulty of sitting balance exercises can be advanced in stages in different ways. For example, the type of surface you sit on will vary the challenge. You can begin by sitting on a chair with a back, progress to a chair with no back and then use an exercise ball with or without a ball holder. The placement of your hands also affects the difficulty of an exercise. While setting your hands on a chair seat is easiest, crossing your hands over your chest will pose a greater challenge. By wearing dark glasses or shutting your eyes while performing an exercise, you can no longer depend on vision to address imbalance and make adjustments, according to “Fallproof!: A Comprehensive Balance and Mobility Training Program” by Debra Rose, director of the Center for Successful Aging at California State University.

Rotating the Trunk

  • Performing trunk rotations while perched on an exercise ball can help to hone your sitting balance. For example, begin by sitting upright on the ball with knees bent at 90 degrees and feet hip-width apart and flat on the floor. Extend your arms directly in front of you at shoulder height. Reach forward with your left arm, which will initiate a trunk rotation to your right. Slowly return to starting position and repeat on the other side. You can also perform this exercise with a bar set across your shoulders and behind your neck. Twist your torso to bring one end of the bar to your front and then reverse direction. Keep your hips squared to the front throughout trunk rotation exercises.

Resisting Pushes and Pulls

  • Learn to regain your sitting balance by having a partner push or pull you in different directions – forward, backward, sideways or diagonally -- while you’re seated. By reacting to these perturbations, you can improve your balance. Your partner can first apply gentle force to your shoulders or hips to try and knock you off balance. Use the muscles of your trunk and lower body to remain seated. When you counter the force applied, try to keep your reaction in proportion to the size of the perturbation. Make sure that you’ve recovered fully from one perturbation before your partner performs the next perturbation. Also, have your partner stand behind you so you’re unable to predict where the next perturbation will come from.

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