“Use it or lose it’
As you get older your balance decreases, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Balance is often neglected and not appreciated and if we don’t use it or maintain it, we lose it. 25% of falls among older people are caused by poor balance.
If you improve your balance you will see lots of other benefits, such as better coordination, posture, more ease in movement, being more alert, increased capacity to breathe, more energy, being more present, less fearful and prone to injury.
So, what interferes with balance, and how does balance deteriorate?
Here are some of the most common reasons; excessive tension, getting older, lack of exercise, gravity, lack of awareness, injury and sedentary culture.
These are some solutions, suggestions for improving and restoring your balance.
There are many parts of the body that help to maintain balance, but the principle mechanism for balance are the vestibular sensors in the ears.
The vestibular sensors in both ears are designed to keep the body aligned over the centre of gravity. Have you ever had a bash in the ear, or you spin around, this upsets the balancing mechanisms causing you to feel dizzy, equally if the head is well balanced on top of the spine in such a way, that head is going upwards relative to the spine and the spine is lengthening; this facilitates optimal balance in the spine and ear sensors.
Proprioception (body position awareness), and vision are equally important, these parts work together, contributing equally or relying more on one system or two, to keep us stable and balanced.
Your eyes tell you how our body is oriented with the ground. They help you stay upright. You only have to close your eyes to appreciate the importance of vision; most of us start to sway ever so slightly. Try closing your eyes and lift one foot off the ground; you’ll appreciate the stabilising effect of vision.
The feet are often overlooked but also play an essential part in balance.
Footwear is often about fashion rather than comfort or support.
Most peoples shoes are too small or pointed, with heels that are too high, shoes need to be foot shaped.
Practice being present with your feet, we live predominately in our heads, when you get present with your feet you are more grounded, supported, balanced and present in your body, you will discover your connection to the surface of the earth. I love to walk on the grass, the earth, the ground with my shoes off, whenever and wherever possible, by doing this you take the negative charge from the earth, which is really healthy, healing, balancing and energising.
Challenge Your Balance.
If you are a regular walker, try walking on rough terrain, take advantage of it to challenge your balance. Frank Forencich, an exercise expert and human biologist says: “Every little rock, every uneven root, every slippery patch of moss…boosts the detection of tactile signals. It wakes up the sensory nervous system and makes your body smarter.”
Click on picture below to see how beneficial it is to walk on the Earth.
One-legged standing exercises are some of the most effective and challenging; doing it while keeping your body still, relies mainly on proprioceptors in your feet, ankles, and legs to maintain balance.
Balance on one foot at every opportunity; for example, while shaving or brushing your teeth, standing or waiting somewhere. This will develop your proprioception, which is your sense register which gives you a sense of space, balance, orientation and equilibrium.
Closing the eyes makes it harder, challenging more receptors. The vestibular system kicks in only if you struggle to stay still- again wobbling is good, because it wakes up all the stabilising muscles.
Falls or injuries will create a mindset where we will avoid exercising, which limits movement, resulting in inactivity, stiffness, being fearful. This eventually decline is so evident in elderly people; wonder how they became so tight and stiff. Often it was a minor fall that started this decline.