Thursday, January 29, 2015

Achieving Balance. Literally.

     Earlier this winter when there was snow on the ground, I was walking to my car and did one of those very ungraceful dances on a patch of ice, arms flailing as I tried to regain my balance. I didn’t fall but I’m sure if someone had a camera rolling, the video would have gone viral on YouTube.
     Balance is something I take for granted. Then I nearly do a face plant into the concrete and remember why you have to work on balance when you exercise.
     We do balance exercises in some of our Jazzercise routines, sitting on the ball or standing on one foot, for example. And balance is an important part of yoga. (Tree pose, anyone?)


     In one of my strength classes at Prairie Life Fitness, the instructor had us stand up and sit down without using our hands. #fail Balance decreases as we get older and is a serious health concern for the elderly. However, instability at any age or fitness level can lead to sprained ankles, twisted knees and other injuries.
     When police officers ask a motorist to stand on one foot, eyes closed and then touch their nose, they’re checking proprioception, or the ability to perceive where your body parts are in relation to each other and the environment. (No, I don't know this from personal experience!) Impaired proprioception may cause you to miss a step on a staircase or wobble a little when you’re running on uneven ground.
     Whether you’re walking to work, running a marathon, playing kickball with the kids or reaching for something on a shelf, balance is essential.
     One way to improve balance is to work on core strength. Strong trunk muscles help maintain equilibrium and avoid falls.
·      The stability balls we use in Jazzercise challenge the core and keep us a little off balance so that          we have to fight to keep our position. Try doing crunches on the ball with one leg lifted.
·      Tools like BOSU trainers do the same thing. Have you ever tried the “dead bug” on the BOSU?       You balance on your back with your arms and legs up in the air. It looks silly but it's great for balance and core strength.

·      Incorporate balance into weight lifting. For example, do biceps curls or another upper body  exercise while balancing on one leg.
·      Close your eyes. Vision is an important part of your balance system so when you take it away, you’re challenged to regain equilibrium. Try doing those single leg bicep curls with your eyes
·     Add a yoga or Pilates class to strengthen your core and improve flexibility.

And while you're at it, use the word "proprioception" in a sentence.

1 comment:

  1. I've been doing some balance work! My balance was all kinds of wonky after the broken leg, so I started doing a few different things, but this is my favorite: stand on one leg, while raising the other out to the front, then the side, and then the back.

    In general, having a broken leg has made me much more aware of how easily we can break, and I put a lot more emphasis on injury prevention than I used to. I think that's useful at any age!