Childrens play is all about balance and taking chances. Do you remember jumping across the rocks on a creek to get to the other side, spotting the next rock and hopped to it, balancing on one foot briefly skipping on to the next one. Hanging upside down from a climbing frame, walking a balance beam or swinging really high and jumping off.
Balance is affected by three senses: sight, sound and touch. Your eyes are constantly transmitting information to your brain, even if you aren’t focusing on it. Your sense of hearing helps your brain measure stability and motion. Through your sense of touch, your nerves communicate with your brain to confirm your body’s position in space. Your brain sends signals back to the muscles to make necessary adjustments in position, contraction or relaxation. Since you use 300 muscles to balance when you are standing still, this sensory system benefits greatly from exercise.
Balance exercises can help you maintain your balance and confidence at any age. It’s important to do them because it can prevent you from falling and maintain your independence. Nearly any activity that keeps you on your feet and moving, such as walking or running can help you maintain good balance. But specific exercises and sports are very beneficial to help improve balance and stability and reduce the incidence of falls. Yoga, Pilates mat, Pilates apparatus and Tai Chi are all excellent choices to work on your balance.
”Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving”. – Albert Einstein
To function effectively across environments and tasks we need the ability to maintain controlled positions during both static (still) and dynamic (moving) activities through life. Second thoughts and inhibitions often cause fear. A fear of slipping could be your downfall and actually leads to a higher risk of falling.
Static – Dynamic balance
Static balance is the ability to balance while holding one position. Dynamic balance is the ability to balance while moving or changing between positions. Both types of balance are important for an active lifestyle. For balance, either statically or dynamically, your center of gravity must be aligned over your base of support. Your center of gravity is the center of your body’s weight. It is about one inch below your belly button in the exact center of your body.
Exercises to Improve Static Balance
It doesn’t have to take much time to improve balance; just practice a few positions daily. The smaller your base of support, the harder it is to balance. When balancing focus your eyes on a point on the wall in front of you and keep your knees soft as you find your balance. Try standing over only one foot and progress moving arms and legs away from your base of support. Once you can balance over each foot individually, add an unstable surface and progress through the same steps. Some unstable surfaces that are good for balance training include foam pads, inflatable balance discs, wobble boards, gliding pads or the reformer pilates machine.
Exercises to Improve Dynamic Balance
Static training is important, but rarely are you in one position for a long time. The real value of developing static balance is that it helps improve dynamic balance. To move through life balanced, you must both create
movement and resist momentum. At any given time, some of your muscles are movers and others are stabilizers that provide balance. As you get better at balancing statically, add movement to your static poses by swinging your arms or the free leg. Then move smoothly from one balanced position into another. For example, transition from balancing on one leg into a forward lunge with the front foot on a balance disc. From that position, you can step up onto the balance disc and stand on it with one or both feet.
Balancing is very much about centering your body and mind. Like a tree, you have to find your roots and then you can bend in the wind. Have fun with it!