What is balance?
Balance is a complex skill involving your brain, muscles, and parts of the inner ear. If you don’t practice and maintain it the coordination and relationship between these areas will deteriorate making it harder to maintain good posture, alignment and balance.
One of our senses is proprioception which is an awareness of where we are in space. For example, knowing where your foot is without having to look at it. We get sent constant messages along our spinal cord and to the brain from our joints and soft tissues to tell us what position we are in and how we are moving. If injured this sense could be affected and our balance might not be as good. We need good reactions and strength in our muscles to respond and to maintain good control.
A good sense of balance and a strong awareness of where your body is in relation to things around you can help you to react quickly and prevent injuries and accidents.
The benefits of good balance and training
Reverses age-related loss of balance, developing better body awareness and coordination – As we age our balance deteriorates but through balance training, we can get the whole body working together, and this will help to prevent falls and fractures.
Reaction Time – With good balance comes good reaction time. If you did trip or stumble, your body would be quicker to re-balance itself easily to avoid falling and will improve reaction time in everyday life.
Joint stability – Balance training will promote stable knees, ankles, hips, and shoulders, helping to prevent injuries including sprained ankles and knee problems.
Better posture – Balance requires good posture and alignment and good posture results in better balance.
Faster recovery from injury – Research suggests that people who practice balance exercises, recover from injury faster and it can also help to prevent injury in the first place.
How do I know if I have good balance?
If you are fit and healthy with no contributing medical conditions, you should be able to do the following:
- Stand with both feet together and stand still with balance for at least a minute.
- Stand on one leg easily for 30 seconds
- Stand on one leg with the eyes closed for 30 seconds.
If you ever feel like you are moving when you are standing still on two feet or regularly trip or fall, perhaps feel faint or have blurry vision then visit your GP as there may be a medical reason for the poor balance.
How can we maintain good balance and how can Pilates help?
One of the many benefits of Pilates is to give us improved balance alongside better posture and flexibility. Improving balance is excellent for posture as having great balance requires good posture. The two go hand in hand!
Often, we are stronger in our bigger outer muscles but to have good balance requires our smaller, deeper, stabilizing muscles to do their part too. Pilates concentrates on building strength and endurance in the deep core and stabilizing muscles which in turn will improve our balance and control during movements.
As mentioned earlier as we get older our ability to balance declines, so maintaining it is especially important. The good news is that good balance can still be learnt and improved.
This can be challenging though, and there are various balance training aids that can be used to improve your core stability, balance, strength, and agility. For example, balance balls, pads, and discs. I especially like to use small balls and the foam roller in my Pilates classes. This can be both challenging and fun at the same time! Balance challenges shouldn’t be easy, and it should feel like you are going to wobble! Improvements will be made if you challenge the body this way.
One of the best ways though is to simply stay active, do a variety of exercise regularly and if you are not practicing it already maybe give Pilates a try too.
There are options at Bridge Pilates to join group classes or practice at home with the on-demand library.Favourite?