It may not receive much attention in the world of sports medicine and fitness, but balance should be a primary consideration when designing an exercise program. While balance is extremely important for senior citizens, all age groups can benefit from balance training.
Here’s a test: stand on one foot and see how long you can balance. Now try it with your eyes closed. It becomes a much harder test. This is because balance is comprised of three systems: vestibular, proprioceptive and visual. Most people are overly reliant on their visual system. This is partly why the majority of falls occur in low light environments. When visual input decreases, it becomes much harder to balance.
Here’s the good news – you can improve your balance. Start by simply standing on one leg. Then try it on foam or an unstable surface. At all times, have something nearby to hold onto for stability. For example, you might try standing next to a table or at the foot of your bed. Finally, try it with your eyes closed. As difficult as it is without visual input, your ability to balance can improve. It takes consistent effort; consider starting your practice a five minutes once a day.
For an advanced routine, try balancing on a foam pad while playing catch or bouncing a ball off a wall back to yourself.
Matthew Marucci PT, MSPT, OCS, CSCS is the owner of New Castle Physical Therapy and is certified as an Advanced Hip Clinician with The Hospital for Special Surgery.
New Castle Physical Therapy is located at 16 Schuman Road in Millwood. For more information, please visit newcastlept.net or call 914-488-5440