Mastering Gravity: How do you improve your balance?

Tripping-overIn a previous blog, we discussed how our lack of play and challenge has slowly led to decrements in our balance. Research in the Age and Ageing Journal (2013) has proven that less active lifestyles appear to accelerate loss of proprioceptive acuity and thus would contribute to loss of functional independence and increased falls.

So the question we are to ponder is…. Can we improve our balance after years of not using it?

The easy answer is yes! So how does it work? The best way of understanding how we can approach this issue is looking at the science behind it. To improve overall balance we need to ensure our body is skilled at interpreting what is happening to our body (through taking in sensory input) and then how we can try maintain a position of safety (motor output). For example, as we walk down the street and we trip on a paver. We first need to recognise that we are falling. Physiologically this sensory input is acquired a few ways:

  •  Vestibular system within the inner ear (the sensations of body rotation, gravitation and movement)
  • Somatosensory systems (conscious perception of touch, pressure, pain, temperature, position, movement, and vibration, which arise from the muscles, joints, skin, and fascia)
  • Visual system (seeing where our body position is in space)

These signals then travel through nervous system and the brain or spinal chord either create conscious or unconscious motor output which generates a movement. In our example, this would result in a very large sidestep to prevent us from falling. To perform the request we need muscular strength, power and co-ordination.

Training the sensory input and motor output:

  1. Proprioception exercises: This allows us to train us to recognise where our body is in space
  2. Co-ordination exercises: This allows us to create the desired movement with the appropriate muscles (to save the day)
  3. Strength exercises: This allows us the necessary strength to produce the actions

If you would like more information regarding your ability to master your own gravity, I am more than happy to have a chat.

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