Balance is fundamental to how we move, so it makes sense that we should give attention to maintaining and improving our sense of balance in our fitness programme. Balance is defined as the body’s ability to maintain its centre of mass over the base of support – and this is important both when we’re still and during movement.
Better balance means more control in how we move and helps us to prevent injury. Over time our sense of balance can decline, especially if we’re not active – a definite case of ‘use it or lose it’. Balance and control involves a complex interplay between several body systems including:
- the vestibular system – the sensory system in our inner ear that communicates information to the brain about head movement and position,
- the visual system,
- the muscular system, and
- proprioception – receptors in our skin, joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles that receive information about where our body is in space and communicates this with the brain.
The benefits of working on your balance include:
- Injury prevention – with more body control and awareness, the ability to move more quickly and adapt to changes in body position improves, so you’ll be better prepared to catch and right yourself when faced with unexpected changes underfoot like uneven footpaths and steps.
- Improved core strength, posture and movement quality – balance training engages deep stabilising muscles throughout the body including in the midsection, contributing to better core strength, maintaining posture and improving your quality of movement.
- Joint stability – by challenging the stabilisers in the knees, ankles, hips and shoulders multidirectionally, we can build more stability in these joints and prevent injury.
- Improved neuromuscular coordination – by requiring muscles in the body to work together we encourage better connection between the body and the brain.
Try this simple exercise to challenge your balance:
- Stand on 1 leg for 30sec each side
- Repeat with your eyes closed
- Repeat with your eyes open as you turn your head side to side
- Repeat with your eyes closed as you turn your head from side to side
- Try this standing on a pillow or a cushion to challenge yourself further