Here is an example, a few years ago we got tickets to take my parents to see one of their favorite musicians, Neil Diamond. It was fabulous! We had front floor seats and no one can take away the memory of seeing my parents standing, smiling, singing “Sweet Caroline”. It was such a great evening! When the concert was over and it was time to leave, the difficulty began. My father had lost so much of his balance that it was a huge endeavor for him to make it up the aisles, even assisted, to get to the exits. My sweet husband found a crew member who was able to assist us to a back elevator and help us out. It was a slow, nervous journey.
Balance, sometimes called proprioception, is communication between your mind and your muscles that allows the body to remain stable. Proprioception is your own sense of where your body is in space. “The term proprioception refers to a sense of joint position,” writes Anne Quinn in a helpful article about balance training. “It is the basic skill needed in practically every sport. From soccer to tennis to rock climbing, changing your center of gravity to match your moves is the key to efficiency in sport.” Professional dancers and athletes have highly refined proprioceptive abilities simply because their bodies are required to respond to constantly changing forces, surfaces and elements. But balance is an important skill for everyone, especially as we age. Injuries from falls and accidents are a significant risk for older adults. Maintaining stability throughout the course of our everyday activities is a key factor in maintaining health and wellness.
Balance is like everything else, you don’t use it you lose it. That is why there is so much more emphasis on it in the fitness world these days. I often have my classes do dumbell curls on one foot and switch to the other or do other moves one legged, use a bosu ball, which gives an unstable surface forcing your body to keep balance. I always tell clients to practice balance moves at home. Some good, easy things to do are:
Stand on one leg while blow drying your hair, talking on the phone, ironing, folding laundry or waiting in a check out line.
Reach over to pick up something from the ground on one leg.
Roll up a towel, stand on it with one leg and switch.
Sit in a chair and get up using only one leg.
Time yourself on one leg and see how long you can stand without toppling over. Repeat on the other leg.
Try any of these exercised with your eyes closed – just have something to hold on to if you begin to wobble!
(On all of these exercised make sure you switch your legs so you are not lopsided!)
If you practice these you will see your balance and strength improve – and you won’t even break a sweat! How easy is that!
Here are some great tools to use when practicing balance work. You’ll see them at the gym, or in stores or online:
Are you more “balanced” on one side versus the other?
When was the last time you “ate it” because of being balance challenged?