Balance is an essential but most overlooked skill that is a must for basic everyday tasks. Eyes, semicircular canals in inner ears, and proprioceptors in the foot help to retain our balance. These three sensory contributors work harmoniously to maintain the balance of our body. Visual cues from our eyes give us information about where we are in space. Semicircular canals of the inner ear relay information related to head motion to the brain. Proprioceptors carry information regarding the internal sense of limb position and movement called proprioception. Balance can be assessed by the following tests-
- The 30 seconds balance test– It is a single leg stance test. Stand on one foot with your arms folded across your chest. Raise the other foot, so it is off the ground by few inches. A person with normal balance should be able to hold this position for 30 seconds to a minute. Anything less than 30 seconds suggests that you need to work on your balance. Repeat with the other leg. There are many variations of this test.
- Stand with your feet together and close your eyes– You should stand barefoot with arms by the side or crossed in front of the body. A person with good balance should be able to stand in this position for more than 30 seconds without swaying or losing balance.
- Timed up and go test– Sit on a chair. Measure out 10 feet from the chair and mark this spot. Now you have to get up out of the chair, walk 10 feet, turn around, and sit back down and measure the time taken for this. If it is less than 14 seconds, you have a good balance.
- Timed sit to stand test– Sit comfortably on a chair. Now stand up and sit back 5 times and measure the time taken for the same. A person with good balance should be able to complete it in less than 11 seconds.
- Tandem stance test– Place one foot in front of another and hold this position. A person with good balance should be able to stand for more than 30 seconds without swaying or losing balance.
- Standing reach test-Stand and reach forward with outstretched arms as far as you can while standing. If you can reach forward more than 6 inches without losing your balance, it’s good.
If you are unable to complete these balance tests, it’s time that you should proactively start working on your balance and start with the below-mentioned balance exercises.
- Walk-in a straight line heel to toe and backwards-It is an easy way to help improve your balance. Take 20 steps forward and then 20 steps backward. You can stretch your arms sideways to help maintain your balance.
- Standing on one leg-You can make this exercise more challenging by closing your eyes. It is harder to balance with eyes closed as the sensory input from vision is shut.
- Strengthening of core muscles is needed, which include abs, obliques, back extensors, pelvic floor muscles, and gluteus maximus. All these muscles need strengthening to boost your balance. A strong core encourages good posture and ensures good balance.
- Planks and side planks
- Side leg lift
- Back leg raises
- Calf raises
- Move sideways along a line taking small steps.
- Tree pose of yoga.
- Tai chi
Balance is an important fitness component, but it is not given much importance like strength, flexibility, and aerobic exercises. You can build a strong body on a framework of good balance. Developing balance helps to improve your overall health and fitness levels. So, test your balance and start working on improving it.
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