Unfortunately, balance is an often overlooked aspect of good health. We first learn a sense of balance when we’re emerging as toddlers. Through childhood, it becomes second nature, so we don’t tend to give it much thought, even when we become adults. It’s only when age creeps up on us we start to consider our balance again, or the lack of it! But there are more health benefits from maintaining good balance than preventing falls. Read our top seven reasons to make balance training part of your everyday lifestyle.
1. Overall body pain reduction
We maintain good balance using our whole body, not just our legs and feet. Balance comes from using muscle groups in unison. Many of the muscles used for balance get overlooked in our standard workout routines, which is why it’s important to do balance exercises as part of your overall physical activity. Working on your balance improves posture, which can reduce neck, shoulder and back pain, as well as decreasing the risks of arthritis.
2. Improved agility
Many athletes do balance exercises as a regular part of their training. You could think of it as a natural form of performance enhancement. This improved coordination between muscle groups allows our bodies to handle everyday physical tasks. Athletes (and you too) can benefit from improved agility, better reaction times and improved overall physical wellbeing. Improving your balance as you age results in less dependence on walking aids and greater safety on slippery surfaces.
3. Living longer
It’s a sad fact, but falls are a common cause of injury and fatality for seniors. They account for the vast majority of hip fractures, a life-altering and often life-shortening injury. Even if injuries don’t appear to be serious, cumulative falls have a compounding impact in the body which lowers our physical (and mental) resilience, and reduces our overall health. Maintaining good balance reduces the risks of these injuries, which in turn can help you live longer.
4. Minimising the impact of falls
Following on from the previous point, better balance isn’t just useful for avoiding falls, but helps people reduce the impact of falls if they have one. It’s important to note this is important for people of all ages, not just seniors, as we’re all susceptible to injuries from falls. Balance training teaches you how to fall and land in the right way, reducing the impact and severity of any injuries.
5. Balance is good for the brain!
Working on maintaining your balance can have cognitive benefits for your mind too. When we challenge the areas of our brain responsible for balance, we reinforce our physical coordination, which helps with cognitive function, in particular improving memory and reducing confusion. It likely has a benefit on the brain as a whole, keeping you sharper for longer.
6. Reducing the risk of repeat injuries
Another reason athletes incorporate balance work into their training, is to reduce the risk of repeat injuries. All people can suffer the same injury more than once. For example, if you have ever sprained an ankle, you become more predisposed to future sprains, but regular balance work substantially decreases this risk.
7. Almost everyone can improve their balance
There’s no excuse not to include balance training into your weekly routine. It’s accessible, you don’t need special equipment and you can scale your workout to your fitness level. Basic balance training is as easy as finding an even surface to stand on and gradually lifting one leg for thirty seconds. Then do the same with your other leg. Repeat this process three times. As you improve, you can add more repetitions.
The benefits of better balance greatly outweigh the small investment of time. There’s no excuse not to start, even if you’re time poor. You can do your exercises while brushing your teeth, while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, or any other time when you’re standing still on a level surface.
Better still, there are 100% free apps like Nymbl which is designed mainly for those 65+, but any New Zealander over 50 years can use for free. Nymbl takes you through a balance exercise program for as little as 10 minutes per day.