Everyone knows that finding balance in life is important to happiness and overall emotional well-being. But what about physical balance? How often do you pause and assess how your body is doing when it comes to balance?
Our ability to balance is important throughout life in terms of reducing the risk of physical injury. The need for balance however becomes even more crucial as we age and our bones become more brittle and prone to breaking. You might be going to the gym 3 times per week and working strength and cardio, and yet, it still might not be sufficient to prevent falls as you age.
Our balance is controlled mainly in our inner ear, by the vestibule system. This complex network helps with proprioception, our body’s ability to sense imbalance. When we can sense imbalance, proprioception helps send quick messages from our brain to our bodies to fix it. The more we challenge our balance, the more those adaptive proprioception skills are ingrained in us.
As our bodies age several things that affect balance begin to slow or deteriorate (vision, muscle strength, hearing, sensory perception). As a result, our balance and coordination begin to wane and the risk of injury increases. And this is all just normal aging!
Clearly, working on your balance now, no matter what age you are can slow this normal process down. The earlier you work on your balance, the better the results.
Here are some simple daily strategies our trainers suggest:
- Stand on one foot whenever you can (barefoot and with flat soled shoes). Washing dishes, brushing your teeth, standing in line. As you do this, try not to SHIFT your weight to one side, instead, LIFT your weight off of one limb. Even if you have to hold onto something, simply lifting a leg and balancing can help your body’s senses stay sharp.
- Change up your workouts: Instead of standing bicep curls, add a bosu or other unstable object underneath to challenge your balance. Similarly, don’t just do push-ups or sit-ups on the floor, get on a ball.
- Practice shifting your weight from side to side. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and distribute your weight evenly. As you shift your weight to your right side, lift your left leg off the floor and maintain this position for up to 30 seconds. Return to the balanced starting position and then repeat on the other side. As your balance improves (you can stand on one side for 30+ seconds), increase the number of repetitions you do.
- Try to incorporate yoga or Tai Chi into your workout routine. The reality is however, that any kind of exercise that requires coordination and builds core strength can help with balance.
Remember, everything we want to get better at requires practice. Be conscious and work on your physical balance everyday. As your body ages, you will be grateful you took the time now.