Balance exercises…are they worth it? Can they help me? Is improving balance much ado about nothing?
Simply put, balance is the ability to control your body’s position. As we age we tend to have more problems with balance due to the loss of muscle mass, decreased joint stability, and the overall deterioration in our senses like vision and proprioception. Plus, balance tends to be a use it or lose it skill. As kids we seem to always be playing around riding bikes, walking on railroad tracks, etc. As adults, not so much. We have to put forth the effort to improve balance and often don’t.
Without getting into too much detail, this little illustration is a great visual to understand the advanced skill of balance. Think of balance as a 3 legged stool: 1. Passive structures (bone, disc) 2. Active structures (muscles, tendons) 3. Nerves (communication of the nervous system); take away one of these aspects and there will be problems just like removing a leg from a 3 legged stool.
So what can be done if you find yourself having a hard time staying upright, or even if you want to prevent deterioration in balance?
1. Stand on 1 leg: You should be able to do this for about a minute. Once you can do that easily, close your eyes.
2. Use a wobble board, BOSU ball, pillow, etc: Stand on an unbalance surface to force your body to adapt.
3. Squats: Whether you are doing these on one or two legs, squats help by adding movement causing your ability to have to adapt.
4. One legged reach: Standing on one leg, do different movements such as reaching in different planes or reaching down to the ground.