Have you ever caught yourself before taking a fall on a patch of ice on a Canadian winter day?
I think we all have.
Our balance is something that most of us are born with and develop in the first few years of life. As kids, we learn through trial and error how to roll, crawl, squat, stand and walk. We then tackle more challenging activities like riding a bike, running, climbing, swinging and hanging on the monkey bars. And then of course who doesn’t love cartwheels and summersaults in fresh grass?
At the same rate we develop this movement patterning, as we age, we begin to lose it. The good news is we can retrain and then reclaim this ability and it is never too late to start working on your balance, coordination and movement!
The four primary components of good balance are:
Proprioception: proprioception is simply our awareness in space. It speaks to our sense of coordination as well as our sensation and orientation to be upright.
Our Vestibular system: this system controls our equilibrium, balance, and orientation.
Vision: Our sight greatly effects our ability to balance and move. If you have every temporarily lost your sight you will understand how your movement and coordination are dramatically affected.
Strength: Your strength plays a huge role in your ability to coordinate, execute and recalibrate your movement.
If you have deficits in any of these four components, the body has to compensate by relying on the other three. Because the human body is so beautifully engineered, you can train your body to become even more efficient than average! A prime example; professional athletes. Check out a live pro hockey game, figure skating competition or basketball game and you can see how professional athletes have worked to develop superior components of balance in order to make their movement seem effortless while competing in their sport (sometimes it can be hard on tv to realize the brilliance of their movement).
Going back to the beginning of our development, the vestibular system is highly challenged in the early years of life with play on merry-go-rounds, teeter totters, monkey bars and swings. And think about your last children’s event or birthday party and how all the kids flock to the bouncy castle. Kids love these games because they feel fun and at the same time from a developmental standpoint, they challenge inversion, foot/hand precision, rapid change of direction, and strength all the while enhancing the vestibular system.
Without even realizing it parents are helping to develop their child’s vestibular system through play. Children become fearless if balance is developed properly and early in life. As mentioned before, the minute we stop exercising our balance, we begin to lose it. Training to help reclaim these skills should include inversion, spinning, change in heights, rapid changes in direction and tools to challenge balance and stability.
As we become adults, unless we practice and train these movements we lose this ability. If one other component of balance is lost the risk of falling is exponentially increased. The “use it or lose it rule” becomes vital to long-term maintenance of balance.
When we age and typically become more sedentary, our proprioception, vision, strength, and the vestibular system begin to decline. As balance declines in older adults, fear of falling promotes lack of movement and these systems become even weaker. And as we all know falling is one of the biggest risk factors for broken hips, bones and the need for long-term senior care.
The Good News is, it’s never too late to start playing, and it’s why we incorporate a lot of spinning, multi directional work and ‘play’ sets in our foundation training at the studio. Working with the right program and coaches you can train your body to be swinging on the monkey bars with your grandkids, hanging upside down while enjoying a popsicle – you just have to train for it!
These are just a small sample of sets we use with our awesome TT members to better work on their strength, balance, proprioception and vision.