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Jan 06

The Balance Factor

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Balance training has become the foundation for optimal performance at any age. It is a learned and practiced skill; we either use it or lose it, according to Helen Vanderburg, international fitness trainer! Societal changes in daily living from the previous, more physically laborious era, to a more sedentary lifestyle makes this training even more important. Whether sitting, standing, walking, or running, maintaining correct alignment and posture is crucial. The loss of balance is a gradual process, and we may not notice the deficiency until we have to stand on one leg to do some chore. Of course, the balance factor plays a very important role when getting older, and it is frequently cited as the cause for falling among the elderly.

Tests for Balance

These can be done by a single performer or in small groups.
Perform exercises with the R and L leg/foot.

  1.  Developmental athletes demonstrate the “Stork-stand” with the leg in forward and sideways tuck position on the gym bench. Face forward. Arms extended out at sides parallel to floor. Tuck up leg and place foot at side of support leg knee. Hold as long as possible, time, and record. Minimum hold is 7 seconds.

    2. Integrate balance and stability exercises using various balance tools with unstable surfaces such as the wobble board, balance disk, fitness roller, and Bosu ball.

    • Stand upright on balance tool. Face forward. Extend arms out at sides or forward parallel to floor. Hold balance position as long as possible, time, and record.

    children doing balance exercises on wobble boards

     

     

     

    • Stand upright on balance tool. Arms extended alongside body. Face forward. Lower body to half squat position. Extend arms forward parallel to floor. Hold balance position as long as possible, time, and record.

 3. Half Squat with Leg Extension Forward and Sideways

    • Stand upright on floor, feet parallel, slightly apart, and flat. Face forward. Arms extended alongside body. Lower body to half squat position, keeping body upright. Extend arms sideways or forward parallel to floor. Extend R leg forward parallel to floor; supporting foot is flat. Hold balance position as long as possible, time, and record. Repeat with opposite leg/foot.
    • Stand upright on floor, feet parallel, slightly apart, and flat. Face forward. Arms extended alongside body. Lower body to half squat position, keeping body upright. Extend arms sideways or forward parallel to floor. Extend R leg sideways parallel to floor; supporting foot is flat. Hold balance position as long as possible, time, and record. Repeat with opposite leg/foot.
  1. Body Incline Backward on Toes
    • Stand in upright position, feet flat. Face forward. Arms extended alongside body. Rise on toes, and lean upper body backward (trunk) on the diagonal. Lift and extend arms overhead on the diagonal. Make sure body, head and arms are in alignment. Hold balance position for 3, 5, 7 seconds. Return to upright position, feet flat.

leaning exercise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*This exercise may be performed with partner support on the upper back until you are able to balance on your own

**The last two balance tests I developed myself

Definition of Balance

Physical Literacy is based on developing the ABC’s (agility, balance, coordination, and speed). Balance is the ability to stabilize and maintain any desired body position by engaging in daily living, physical or recreational activities, and sports.

Balance consists of two components: static and dynamic moving.

Static Balance is the ability to maintain the body’s center of mass within its base of support, for example, the single leg balance.

Dynamic Balance is the ability to move outside of the body’s base of support while maintaining postural support and alignment, for example, walking, running, etc. whereby the body strives to maintain balance from moment to moment, and integrates the responses to create balanced and skilled movement[s].

Balance is important no matter the age. According to Helen Vanderburg, well-known international fitness trainer based in Calgary, “natural and functional movement is directly related to the harmonious work and interrelationship of joints, muscles, and the neurological system.” The latter interacts with the musculoskeletal system in a coordinated and complex manner, as the muscles have to learn ways to contribute to movement when the body is in and out of equilibrium through practice. Repetition and replication improves the neuromuscular system to learn the required patterns of movement.

Balance also involves reflex control that provides crucial information about the body as to location, space, level, dimension, range, and position when stationary or moving. It is referred to as “kinesthetic sense or proprioception”, whereby environmental feedback is continually provided about body motion, body position and interaction of body parts through the eyes, ears, and specialized sensory receptors in muscles, tendons, and joints.

Training of balance improves posture and postural alignment, movement quality, coordination, agility, and also helps to prevent falls. Test the balance of your athletes, then incorporate balance training in various ways into the daily Warm-up or Cool-down, and/or your conditioning program. Include core stability exercises, Yoga, and Pilates to improve body stability and strength.

Be aware that balance can be affected by medication and or certain sickness. For example, chronic lymphatic cancer and chemotherapy affected my balance severely, and it was and still is quite frustrating when dealing with my balance issues.

Reference:

Vanderburg, H. (2017, October 19). Balance is physical skill we either use or lose. The Calgary Herald, C5.

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