What is balance training?
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Traditional balance training was always tested and addressed in a static environment. An example is the individual was asked to stand on one foot, and see how long they could hold it. The results then one indicate their level of balance. Over the years though, experts began looking at balance through a different lense. Identifying balance as the ability an individual can move away from their body's base of support through various movements patterns, and return efficiently to the starting position. Balance training can be incorporated by utilizing authentic drivers (arms, legs, head, eyes) or balance tools. As always balance training needs to be individualized to the person/task/goal. A general progressive balance training program might look like this:

Balance Leg Reaches: Standing on one foot (ensuring safe environment) reach opposite leg away from starting position to various angles of motion  returning to balance start position each repetition.

Balance Arm Reaches: Standing on one foot (ensuring safe environment) reach  arms away from your hips to various heights and angles of motion returning to balance start position each repetition. The individual could reach arms from hips to knees, hips to shoulders, shoulder to overhead for examples.

Lunges: Perform lunges at various angles of motion (forward/backwards - laterals - right&left rotations) and return to start position after each rep. Challenges can include how far away you can lunge, adding arm reaches with lunges, starting from a 1 leg balance position-lunging-and returning to balance position.

Hopping: Perform hopping patterns similiar to lunging patterns, The individual can hop 1 foot to the other foot or same foot to same foot, returning to start position each time.

* It is important to work within your thresholds with the above movements. Meaning you move as far away, fast or slow, how high by your ability to control the motion and return safely to the starting position each rep. Once you can control your own body, the individual can progress to adding equipment to the balance program.

It is the type of training that uses instability to force you to use muscles that stabilize the body during movement. Equipment like stability balls, the bosu trainer, wobble boards, etc. all create that instability which causes more muscles to activate than if you were just standing on a stable surface. Core strength and balance go hand in hand, when you improve one ... the other also improves.

Remember to maintain neutral spine posture (this is when your ear, shoulder and hip are in alignment). This keeps you balanced over your center of mass.           

Examples:

Easy (Level 1): Standing eyes open/closed - Start with the feet shoulder width apart, look straight ahead to get your balance and then close the eyes and try not to sway counting to 15-20. Repeat this with your feet closer together until they touch each other. You can make this harder by standing on a pillow or cushion -- but don't start that way! Or try a single leg stand progressing to single leg with movement.

Medium (Level 2): Lunges - from a similar starting position as #1, step forwards with one leg and squat slightly before returning back to the start position. Repeat this with each foot/leg.  As you progress, you can take a longer stride and/or squat down further with each repetition. You can even hold onto light dumbbells and/or close your eyes to make it more challenging.


Hard (Level 3): Rocker or wobble board exercises - use a platform that rocks back & forth or, wobbles in multiple directions. Rock back and forth, eyes open and then closed, (once you get comfortable on the board).

Besides improving joint stability, preventing injuries and falls, you tend to have more muscle activation when doing balance training which means increased calorie burn!

When you do exercises to improve your balance, you are doing balance training. Often these exercises are performed while you stand, step, squat, lunge, etc. on top of balance equipment.  By practicing to improve your balance as you do these movements, your posture improves. And by learning to stay centered in your movements, you become more efficient. This means you move with more fluidity and exercising actually becomes easier (i.e. you can run a mile with less effort).

Balance training has a tremendous benefit for people of all ages and abilities and can be easily incorporated into an exercise routine. From fall prevention in the elderly, to the increased ability to generate power in a vertical jump for an athlete, and to a method to increase the force or resistance placed upon the body to increase strength balance training has a variety of applications.

Balance training is the challenging the body to maintain proper postural control throughout a series of demands that can be placed upon it typically while standing still or through advanced transitional movements.

Balance exercises can vary complexity and the demand placed upon the body. The simplest of balance exercises focus on pure stabilization such as standing on one leg. The exercise can be made challenging by adding specific upper or lower body movement while balance on one leg unsupported or perhaps on an unstable surface. Finally, performing more dynamic movements such as steps, hops, and jumps that result in a balanced finish position are examples of the most difficult o exercises in a progression of balancing.

Balance training refers to a type of training that focuses on the ability to maintain proper posture over the body's base of support.  Balance training has been shown to be beneficial for improving dynamic joint stabilization, which is the ability of the body to stabilize or keep the joints in proper alignment during movement.  Dynamic joint stabilization is critical to injury prevention and improved performance. Typically performed on a single-leg and/or on unstable surfaces, balance training can be a fun, challenging component to incorporate into an exercise program. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.