The Basics of Balance
There are many ways to incorporate balance exercises into your routine. You may see people at the gym using all sorts of interesting tools for this purpose. Balance boards range from simple rocker boards to multi-directional ones for more challenging practices. As balance training has increased in popularity, a variety of equipment for this purpose has become more widely available. You can now readily purchase rollers of various types, as well as inflatables such as stability balls, half-balls, and discs. For balance training, there are also many drills and exercises you can do which use very little equipment, or things you may have around the house. If you’ve been working with any of these, it’s likely you’ve had input from a fall prevention specialist trained in assessing balance and creating appropriate interventions.
For today’s blog, I will explain some of the body’s basics balancing strategies. The body controls sway through ankle, hip, and step strategies. Ankle strategy refers to how we attempt to stand upright or use a small range of motion to restore balance at the ankle. For instance, if you are bumped (gently) in a crowd, you will likely use ankle strategy so that you do not fall. Hip strategy involves using the larger muscles to control balance, such as when standing on a surface which is narrower than your foot length. With this strategy, your upper and lower body will move in different directions. Conversely, step strategy is used when something is affecting your balance very quickly, or when your body’s centre is pushed beyond your ability to stabilize yourself. In step strategy, you would take multiple steps toward the loss of balance. Some factors which limit the body’s ability to use these strategies include the type of ground surface you are standing on, your ability to feel sensation in your feet or ankles, your lower body strength and your range of motion (usually flexibility is the issue here) and your muscle power.
Source: Rose, Debra J. (2010). Fallproof! A Comprehensive Balance and Mobility Training Program, 2nd Ed. Fullerton: Human Kinetics.
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