Why is balance training important?

Cassie Vanderwall
Nutrition & Dietetics
While it may not sound exciting, striving for balance in our everyday lives can promote an assortment of benefits. In fact, the benefits of physical balance go far beyond just being able to walk steadily.

This simple balance assessment is a great place to start. To begin, be sure to have something sturdy to hold onto nearby, and then close your eyes and stand on one foot. Keep track of how long you were able to hold this position.

This can be an eye-opening experience for those who believe they have good balance. Longevity researchers agree that good physical balance can turn back the clock not only physically but functionally. The time, in seconds, that you are able to hold this position correlates with your functional age.

28s = 25-30y
22s = 30-35y
16s = 40y
12s = 45y
9s = 50y
8s = 55y
7s = 60y
6s = 65y
4s = 70y

Functional age is the combination of individuals' physical, mental, emotional and actual chronological ages. 

Balance exercises can also prevent everyday injuries through core strength. Balance begins in your core. The core is more than just the abdomen; strong hips, ankles and gluteal muscles are also critical to good balance. Persons with weak core muscles are more prone to falls, decreased mobility in the spine, slower reflexes and lower back injuries.

Good balance can also support mental clarity and ease anxiety. Researchers concluded that people who took part in balance exercises had greater cognitive gains than those who did not. These exercises also ease anxiety by encouraging the individual to remain in the present moment.

One can build their balance by:
Be a Tree- Stand on one foot for at least 30 seconds, and then switch.
Have a Ball- Sit on a stability ball with your feet planted flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Lift and extend one leg at a time, while simultaneously raising your opposing arm to shoulder-level.
Leg Swing- Start by standing with your arms at your sides and feet shoulder-width apart. Lift one leg to a 45-degree angle and swing it back and forth at least 10 times before switching. R
Drinking Bird- Begin by standing on one leg with lifted leg at a 45-degree angle. Bending at the waist, lean forward to touch the ground. Then, with one hand touch the ground.

One set of the exercises listed above will take about 5 minutes. Dedicate 5-15 minutes per day, or per week, to this routine and you will see the benefits in less than 2 weeks.

Balance is key to all functional movement. It helps your postural equilibrium, muscular balance, joint dynamics, neuromuscular and stability. When you get middle aged, balance, stability and flexibility get harder to maintain.

Life is dynamic and ever-changing. Whether an individual is navigating through a soccer field, a garden, or a shopping center - balance is needed. Once thought to be a measure of stillness, it has been discovered balance is extremely dynamic. An individual’s level of balance is challenged on their ability to move away from their center with varying motions (lunging, running, jumping, reaching, etc..), and return to center. When an individual loses balance, a decrease in performance and an increase in injury due to compensations or falls results.

Our bodies adapt to the training that we perform.  Balance training is important because balance is a part of everything we do.  When we walk, run, bike or swim, we are balancing ourselves.  If we reach for something in a closet that is on a high shelf, we are balancing.  As we age, it’s important to maintain our balance, and if we don’t train for balance, we’ll lose it.  Keeping our balance as we grow older will help us avoid falls and bone fractures. 

Balance Training is Very Important!  Without Balance Training Athletes get hurt and your average Joe's and Jane's Fall.  Injuries and falls can be prevented with Balance Training.  Balance is key to all functional movement and everyone should be including it in their training program.
Balance training helps your brain to recognize changes in terrain and your muscles to respond to those changes.

No matter who you are you use balance throughout the day.

Balance will keep you from injuring your joints, muscles, and even your bones by lowering your risk of falling. Developing a strong sense of balance can be a lifesaver, especially in the elderly who are at higher risk for falls due to neuro-muscular deterioration.

Athletes benefit by being quicker to respond to the demands of their sport.
More and more research is being published that demonstrates that balance training can greatly reduce the number and severity of falls, thus also reducing the risk for serious injuries such as fractures.

Balance training can be done in the doctor's office and/or at your own home or office. Your doctor of chiropractic will instruct you on appropriate balance training activities. Balance training incorporates strength, endurance, body position awareness and muscle activation sequencing to ensure that your body responds appropriately, thereby limiting the chances of a fall.

Adults over the age of 50, or those with previous injuries to the spine or lower extremities, should talk to a doctor of chiropractic about simple and safe ways to improve balance. 

Including balance training into your workout is very important as life is a balance challenge. Walking, climbing stairs, stepping on uneven surfaces, bending, twisting, to name a few. Balance training challenges the ability to stabilize outside of the base of support and challenges the nervous systems ability to activate the correct muscles in the correct sequence. By improving your postural control, joint stability, and ability to make coordinated efficient movements and corrections you will increase the ease of daily tasks and decrease the chance of injury.

As we get older, our fear of falling increases. So balance, like anything else if we do not use it we lose it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every hour, fall-related injuries like wrist and hip fractures, head traumas are just to name a few that send more than 180 older adults to the emergency room and one of those individuals dies as a result of falling. As a suggestion, utilize a personal trainer or a workout partner for safety while performing new exercises. I hope this helps and have fun!
Wendy Batts
Balance training is extremely important to include in your workout because it is an activity of daily living that you do every day.  When you are walking you are balancing.  When you are getting in and out of a car, you are balancing.  There are many things we do without even thinking about it that involves some sort of balancing component.  Including proper balance training into your workout will help teach your brain and body how to work together and covert those patterns over to what we do on a daily basis.  Think of it this way…you get what you train for.  So proper balance training can reduce the chances of falling and increase the chances of moving correctly while limiting the chance of injury.

Balance training is important as it can improve postural alignment of the body & develop coordinated movement.  It's best to develop balance early in the exercise program.  Then all of your cardio, resistance & functional exercises should be performed with your body centered in proper alignment. 

By training to develop greater balance, you will recognize improvements in coordination, athletic skill, and posture. This in turn should result in fewer injuries and greater stability.  Through a complex system of environmental feedback, cues from the bottom of your feet, the relation of your inner ear to gravity and what you see, your body senses which muscles to activate or deactivate to maintain your desired position.  When the information received is too complex to translate, the system gets overwhelmed and you lose your balance.  With balance training, you can master what once seemed like impossible tasks—just like you did when you first removed the training wheels from your childhood bike or made it to the bottom of the bunny hill the first time without falling.

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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.