Why should you care about balance? Well, for starters, its the fundamental skill needed for basically every sport as well as for simple tasks such as walking, getting up from a chair, and standing. Improving your balance can be achieved by increasing your kinesthetic awareness, or the ability to know where your body parts are in 3-dimensional space, which is required for every move you make.
Some benefits associated with balance training include:
Improved aerobic and anaerobic capabilities;
Improved fat-burning and cardio capabilities;
Improved muscle memory;
Increased confidence levels in competition;
Enhanced full body movement;
Improved joint stability;
Improved muscle and joint strength/flexibility;
Improved muscular endurance;
Improved injury prevention from falls;
Increased performance for all physical activities; and
Stimulated brain activity.
If you are an athlete, then changing your center of gravity to match your moves is the key to efficiency in your sport. The technical term is agility. Agility is what allows us to move gracefully, wasting little motion. It allows our joints to move through the full range of motion smoothly and confidently. With that in mind, it is important to point out that balance can be learned, challenged, and improved. Balance training is not a new concept; many athletes incorporate it into their overall training program for both performance enhancement and injury prevention.
In addition, balance training is often used to rehabilitate a variety of ankle, knee, hip and spine injuries. Retraining proprioception (body position awareness) after injury has been shown to prevent further injury and ensure a speedy return to activity. For example, failure to retrain balance after ankle sprains can lead to chronic weakness and recurrent sprains.
Through proper repetitive balance training, our bodys reflexes can be strengthened and linked together, allowing us to recover and maintain balance in challenging situations that before would have forced us to fall. Whether you are an athlete or not, it is important to be able to maintain/recover balance in situations such as slipping on an icy sidewalk.
If you already workout, adding balance training to your current routine can give you variety along with the aforementioned benefits of improved balance skills. Balance training aids come in a variety of forms, although you can just as easily improve your balance with little or none of the fancy equipment. We can train our bodies to improve the proprioception within the muscles, just by creating simple balance challenges for ourselves like standing on one leg with your eyes closed.
Stephie Steele is owner of Symmetry Fitness, LLC. She has been featured in IDEA Health & Fitness Source magazine and specializes in weight loss, sports performance, total body fitness, posture alignment therapy, strength training, core conditioning, cardiovascular and flexibility training. Readers can send their questions to Stephie via e-mail to AskStephie@symmetryfitnessonline.com.
From the Dec. 27, 2006-Jan. 2, 2007, issue