Dear Tracie,

Is balance an important part of a fitness program?  If so, what do you suggest?  Herb

Dear Herb,

Thanks for this great question!  Yes, balance is a critical part of fitness training.  Whether you are a weekend warrior, competitive athlete, youth or senior citizen balance training is a mainstay for fitness programming

‘Experts in sports medicine and physical therapy say that in addition to the usual range of motion, flexibility, and strengthening exercises, rehabilitation should include exercises aimed at training (or retraining) the body’s sense of its position in space — in particular, its sensation of limb and joint movement. This largely unconscious capacity — the medical term for it is “proprioception” — is what allows us, for example, to walk in the dark without losing our balance or to distinguish the brake from the accelerator without looking at our feet. Aging and injury to muscles and ligaments can take a toll on proprioception.

One form of proprioceptive exercise — balance training — has been shown to prevent ankle re-injury and reduce the risk of ligament problems in athletes. It’s also under study for wider use to improve mobility and prevent falls and injury. Harvard Medical School Health

If you have little time to dedicate to balance training or you are a beginner try doing 1 to 2 minute drills such as one leg balance, walking a line or one leg toe taps.  ‘Little pockets’ of training such as this can be put into a warmup prior to training or perfumed during an afternoon walk to improve proprioception and balance.

The practice of yoga often focuses on balance with postures such as Tree pose, Dancer pose or headstands. Dancers move and pause into retire, arabesque or releve.  Martial arts, gymnastics, skiing, diving and skating all rely on the ability to balance and improve with regular balance training.  However, toddlers master walking by learning to balance and seniors can prevent falls when walking by regularly practicing balance skill training. This prioritizes balance training for those cohorts.

With the wintery weather on its way, now is the time to integrate balance training.  Here is a balance blitz to be performed at the end of a workout.

Balance Blitz

Equipment: Athletic wear, bare feet, yoga mat, BOSU or wobble board

  1. Stork pose, 1 minute each leg
  2. BOSU [dome side up] mini jumps x 10, 3 sets or squat hold for 1 minute, 2 sets
  3. BOSU [inverted] I leg balance lunge, 1 minute each leg [can be done on floor too]
  4. Triangle pose, 45 seconds each side [requires more advanced flexibility but worth it even in a modified form]

Focus on breathing, engaging your core stabilizers and maintaining alignment.  Good luck and I hope this helps. 

What will you conquer today?    Start dreaming, set your fitness goals & conquer them. 

Kind regards, Tracie

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