06/02/2011 08:07 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Exercises For Balance, Coordination And Agility

How much do you think about balance, coordination and agility when it comes to fitness?

For many Americans, the word "exercise" is only associated with "gym" and "jogging." But in order to keep our bodies resilient with age and prevent common injuries that occur from everyday activities (tripping, back aches, strains and sprains), it's imperative to move in different ways -- ways that our bodies are naturally designed to move.

This is the basis of conditioning drills and calisthenics -- fitness basics that have virtually disappeared from the modern fitness lexicon. This type of fitness works the neglected muscles in your body -- those muscles that keep you from falling when you trip carrying groceries and keep you on your toes when you've forgotten you're at the end of an escalator! By moving in these ways, you train your body to be more nimble, more coordinated and better prepared for the movements of everyday life.

Here are three of my favorite drills that you can begin to integrate into your current routine or use as a good substitute for cardio (you can choose to break up your jog in the park with 10 to 15 minutes of these movements). They're fun, you'll look cooler than your jogging buddy and they're free -- do them anywhere, anytime, no equipment needed.

Start off slow. If you're completely new to moving in these ways, make your hops tiny and your shuffles short. No matter your age or skill level, these movements can be modified to suit you. The more you do them and the more you work your body in the way it has been naturally designed to work, the more it will thank you and reward you in the years ahead.

Exercise #1: Hopscotch


This adult version of "hopscotch" has you performing the same hop on one foot, split, hop on the opposite foot, split, movement, but this time you're holding your arms overhead. You want to keep your torso tight throughout. Spot a line or "marker" on your lawn or in the park and hopscotch to the end, turn around and hopscotch back for one repetition. Do this three times for one set.

Exercise #2: Line Hops


Here is where you'll be zoning in on your agility and speed. By hopping as fast as you can with both feet across a line (you can even choose a small twig as your marker) and back for 30 seconds, you begin building muscle responsiveness, stamina and coordination -- all at once! I love this exercise because you can pace yourself while doing it and it's a great alternative to other types of cardio, like running.

Exercise #3: Pooja's Shuttle Shuffles


In this exercise, you're shuffle jogging sideways! Start at the beginning mark, touch the starting point with your near hand and begin to shuffle to your end point, making sure to keep your body low to the ground as your feet shuffle below. When you reach your marker, touch it again and shuffle back to the starting point -- that's one repetition.


View more pictures of these exercises at