How many of us take for granted that we can walk, run, climb the stairs and lift items? The unsung hero that works behind the scenes to make these tasks possible is balance. If we lose our balance, we risk losing our ability to perform some of the most basic functions required for independent living and even cause ourselves serious damage.
Interestingly, being fit and healthy does not mean you automatically have good balance. The good news is that it’s possible to train balance into your body through the right exercise and guidance, regardless of your age or fitness levels.
As we age, many factors can start to affect our balance and co-ordination. From the age of 30 our muscle mass deteriorates and as we get weaker, it affects our balance. Each year, around 30% of people aged 65 and over will have a fall, which can result in serious injury, accounting for over 4 million hospital bed days every year.
Poor balance can also signify issues with proprioception: the body’s ability to sense its movement without visual evidence. For example, we know when our arm lifts above the head without looking, we can also sense when we are on a slippery surface without seeing the floor, which means proprioception is a vital component of good balance. It is sometimes known as a sixth sense because it largely occurs unconsciously.
Injury is one of the most common enemies of good balance and proprioception because it causes instability in the body. Working with a physiotherapist, it’s possible to retrain the body and restore lost balance. In fact, Harvard University found that balance training helped with ankle injury recovery, rehabilitation and prevention, and recommended it become an intrinsic part of training for athletes.
So how can you tell if you have good or bad balance? The ESPH team of experts recommend this very simple balance test which can be done at home!
Stand with feet hip distance apart, close your eyes and lift one knee to hip height. Start counting and if you cannot reach more than 6 seconds, your balance needs training.
Fortunately, the body has an incredible ability to retrain itself to balance. At ESPH we have various classes and services that will improve balance.
Personal Training – Working closely with an expert you can identify areas of weakness and work on them to improve overall balance. Exercising with an injury or during rehabilitation without any expert guidance, can have a negative impact on your recovery. Book at PT session here
Pilates – ESPH has a variety of Pilates classes to choose from including 1-2-1 sessions. It is a fantastic way to improve balance and core strength, and it is suitable for a variety of different age groups and genders because of its widespread benefits. Check out all the different Pilates classes here.
Thai Chi – This ancient form of dynamic slow movements is a low-impact way to improve balance, build muscle strength and core balance. Book a Thai Chi class here.
Yoga – ESPH has 11 different yoga styles to choose from every week, so whatever your preference or ability, you can find the perfect class for you. Yoga requires strength and balance, and regular practice will have a positive impact on the body’s ability to move and balance. Read more about our classes here.
Physiotherapy – Physiotherapy can improve your neuromuscular control. The brain is the nerve centre of the body and the better it becomes at controlling the position of your limbs and joints, the more stability and balance you will develop. Physiotherapy can also help you identify muscle weaknesses and deficiencies which can be corrected and strengthened to give you more control during increasingly demanding activities. Read more about our physio services here.