Falls and impaired mobility are a serious problem for our aging population. The good news is that much of the decline in balance can be reversed through a program of balance training. One study found that healthy people as old as 90 can reduce the tendency to fall by 50 per cent. It’s not hard to see that this can help keep people independent and mobile far longer, as well as reduce their risk of injury.
Balance is an integral component of almost all sports, yet many athletes neglect this aspect of their training. An athlete, older or not, who pays particular attention to balance conditioning will notice an improvement in coordination and in ability to transfer strength to movement. Studies indicate that athletes who have suffered from an injury are more likely to experience reinjury. This recurrence can be linked to failure to incorporate balance training into rehab programs.
Today, injury rehabilitation almost always includes a number of different balance exercises to ensure the patient develops kinesthetic body awareness – the body’s ability to find and maintain neutral and effective alignment in the affected joint. This helps restore the previous level of coordination, agility, strength and endurance. Balance training is absolutely critical for restoring normal functioning of joints and muscles. Without balance training, the healing joints and mucles are not as proficient at staying in their neutral, safe positions and may function inappropriately under unforeseen conditions, thus causing reinjury.
You don’t need a tightrope to train your balance system. Here’s a variety of exercises to help you implement this type of training into your workouts.
Begin by standing on one foot, with fully upright posture. Hold for 30 seconds, each side. Once you’re able to hold your balance without wobbling, do this exercise with your eyes closed. If your balance isn’t very good to begin with, you may want to have something sturdy close by to steady you if you waver.
Upper Body & One-legged Stance
It’s easy to implement balance training while doing traditional upper body exercises. Do on one leg any exercise that you would generally do standing on both legs.
2 X 4 Training
Head down to your local hardware store and pick up a long piece of 2″ x 4″ lumber. You can walk along the wood as if you are on a tightrope, then do the same on your toes, and then try it walking backwards. You can step sideways up and down the timber. You can throw a ball to and catch a ball from a partner while maintaining balance on the 2″ x 4″. Your options are endless. You can also do these exercises along a curb or on a log at the beach or park.
Any exercise you do sitting or lying on a bench can be advanced by incorporating an exercise ball. By sitting on the ball and performing, say, an overhead shoulder press, your stabilizing muscles have to work much harder because you are positioned on an unstable piece of apparatus. The same goes for lying over the exercise ball and performing, say, a chest press. By lying on the ball instead of a bench your stabilizing muscles are challenged to a greater degree.
There are various models of wobble boards, from less to more advanced versions. You can attempt to balance on one or two legs. Make it a game and see how long you can balance before an edge touches down. Maintain perfect posture, and remember to stand close to something sturdy until you get good at these exercises. Once you master the wobble board, you can continue to challenge yourself with it by performing other activities such as bicep curls or catching and throwing a ball while balancing.
This is an excellent tool for developing balance. You stand on a move able platform that slides you from side to side or forward and backwards. This piece of equipment comes with a video and a booklet that demonstrates a variety of balance and muscle conditioning exercises for the entire body. As you can imagine it is a great conditioning tool for any level of skier, whether on water or snow.
These are made of foam and are long cylindrical. You can attempt to stand on them, perform squats and lunges on them, or complete abdominal stabilization exercises while lying on them.
Fitter International also sells exercise balls and other balance products. Take a few of these exercises and perform them a couple of times per week. Soon you’ll be in balance.
For those of you who are more serious about developing your balance, there a number of balance products available. Fitter International FITTER1; www.fitter1.com). a company based in Calgary, Alberta specializes in balance products. Here’s a look at what it offers, though you will find similar equipment at other too.
There are some sports that will your balance without your ever think about it. Ice-skating, in-line skating, alpine skiing, are among the sports maintain high levels of balance as you age.