Balance is often described as “the body’s ability to distribute its weight to remain upright and steady”. Our ability to adjust our body segments to unstable surfaces or perturbations is crucial to our daily living and interacting with our environment. For an athlete, it is crucial to have joint stability in order to adjust the body in an extremely dynamic environment and to reduce the chance of injury. For the older population, having enough balance is crucial for falls prevention and reducing the risk of injury as a result. Due to decreased muscle mass and proprioception overtime, an older person is more likely to fall which can result in major injuries and subsequently will reduce activity and quality of life. Completing balance exercises should be included in most if not all exercise programs. As our brain can make new neural connections and change with learning, balance is something that can be trained and improved over time. Here are some simple ways you can challenge your exercise at the gym or at home;
Minimising base of support – This can be done by simply balancing on one leg, walking heel to toe or simply doing calf raises. Minimising our base of support or reducing the body’s number of contact points changes the centre of gravity in the body, and as a result the body must adjust and adapt to this.
Changing the surface type- Another way balance can be challenged is by completing exercises on an unstable surface. Doing exercises on unstable surfaces, such as a foam pad, pillow or towel will challenge the body’s proprioception. Proprioception is our body’s awareness of its body segments in its environment. As we have a variety of sensory receptors in our body (such as our joints, skins and muscles), they act as a feedback loop with the brain. Because of this, our body can sense its location, movements and actions in a dynamic environment and adjust its position where needed. Examples of exercises you can complete include step overs, jumping onto a foam pad, or touchdowns.