Balance can be defined as an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.
For the majority of people, balance is something that is taken for granted. However, as we age, balance can become more of a challenge resulting in trips and falls in older adults. This, in turn, can lead to fractures and dislocations which can cause significant problems in this age group.
Don’t wait until you’re older.
However, it’s not just older people who should be working on balance training. Improving balance and maintaining that balance when you’re younger helps to avoid problems in this area as you age.
Athletes and Sports People.
For athletes and sports people, good balance is essential to good performance and prevention of injury. Sports people work hard to improve strength and endurance. But, as most sports require a degree of balance and coordination, it’s important to include balance training also. For example, in running the athlete will be on one foot for part of the movement. To run efficiently therefore, it’s important to be able to balance on one foot. Add in the twists and turns of other sports such as football, basketball, tennis etc. and we can appreciate the amount of balance required.
Even those who exercise regularly rarely include any form of balance training in their routine. Balance training improves proprioception (the awareness of the position and movement of your limbs in space, without having to continually look at the limb to see where it is) and therefore improves the body’s ability to react quickly if you stumble. Good proprioception occurs when the nerves are sending accurate signals to and from the brain and the muscles. Regularly practicing balance exercises improves proprioception by training the muscles and nervous system to work together efficiently.
Injuries can interrupt proprioception in the injured area causing a feeling of instability around a joint, even after the initial injury has healed. It’s important, therefore, to include balance exercises as part of a rehabilitation program after injury.
Adding some of these sample exercises to your routine can help to improve your balance over time.
Stand on one leg:
If your balance is very poor, make sure that you’re standing close to a support such as a chair or table.
Start with legs hip distance apart.
Lift one foot off the floor and balance for as long as you can. Keep an eye on how long you can balance for.
Repeat on the other leg.
Practice this move daily until you can stand for one minute on one leg.
Stability Ball exercise:
If your balance is very poor, just sitting on the ball is a challenge, make sure you are close to a support to hold onto if necessary.
Sit on a stability ball with both feet on the floor, hip distance apart.
If you can sit on the ball without needing support, you can try to slowly lift one foot off the floor and slowly return to both feet down.
Repeat on the other leg.
Kneel on a mat on all 4s, hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
Slowly reach your right arm out in front and your left leg out behind.
Repeat on the other side.
You should be able to do this move without have to look to see what your arm/leg are doing.
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the mat hip distance apart.
Lift your hips up so that you create a bridge from your shoulder blades to your knees.
Hold for 5 seconds and slowly lower back down.
Remember to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine if you have an underlying condition, are elderly, pregnant or haven’t exercised in a while.
Regular practice of balance exercises is necessary to improve balance. Pilates classes include many exercises that can improve balance and proprioception. If you would like a tailored rehabilitation plan or to get further information, please get in contact.