When you first search for a weight loss solution, balance is probably not the first thing on your mind. Even so, balance training is something any worthwhile health coach or weight loss program will incorporate. This is especially important as you age.
As your body ages and certain processes that happen in your brain begin to work at slower rates, you can start to lose our ability to stay balanced in specific situations. This, plus weaker bones can be a dangerous combination.
Why Your Bone Strength Matters
Bone strength is especially important when talking about balance for one obvious reason- if you have weak bones and you fall there is a far greater chance you could be injured. And if you have osteoporosis the risk is even greater.
Luckily, weight-bearing exercises can help maintain bone strength and prevent bone loss. According to the National Institutes of Health, most of us reach our bone mass peak by our third decade in life. Since bone is a living tissue it gets stronger with exercise. Not only will your bones get stronger, but consistent exercise will ultimately help with your coordination and balance as well.
3 Systems Your Body Uses For Balance
Visual System- Your eyes receive cues that are sent through the optic nerve to the brain so you can tell how close or far away we are from objects. The visual system also works closely with the vestibular system (inner ear) so when you are having problems with your sight you will tend to lose your balance fairly easily. For example, if you try to balance on one foot it may be easy for you, but try closing your eyes while doing it and see how easily you can fall off balance.
Vestibular System- This is the inner ear. When your head moves around, the inner ear has fluid that goes throughout canals which sends signals to the brain to determine where you are in space. When you spin around and get dizzy, the fluid moves around in your inner ears making it difficult for your body to determine where you are in relation to gravity. This is also why it’s difficult to balance if you’ve ever experienced vertigo.
Proprioception- Your joints and muscles also play a big role in your ability to balance. Receptors in the skin joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles send stimuli to the brain to determine your positioning and orientation of your body. This is an automatic response from your body every time you shift your weight.
How To Train For Improved Balance
To ensure your workout program includes training for balance you want to incorporate exercises that focus on the following:
Tools for Training on Unstable Surfaces
There are some great exercise tools out there that aid in balance-work. Some you may want to consider adding to your equipment collection are:
In the video below, I will show you some ideas of how to use some of these and how to progress with them. I will also be showing you some specific exercises you can start doing right now to improve your balance.
It’s important to remember not to be discouraged if you find you’re not very good at some of these exercises. That’s the point! Your body needs to be challenged in order to improve on anything and balance is no different. Respect your limitations and be careful not to try something too difficult before you progress. Everyone has a different starting point so start off with whatever is slightly challenging to you, wait until you get comfortable with that, and then use the techniques I show you to go even further with your balance training. Remember to incorporate these exercises throughout your workouts so you have a well-rounded routine and maximize your success.
Lisa Swanson is an ACE Certified Health Coach, Personal Trainer and Orthopedic Exercise Specialist as well as a certified AASDN and PN level 1 nutritionist. With over 35 years experience helping people turn their lives around, she is on a mission to provide relevant and useful knowledge to help women in midlife reach their goals.
Check out my interview with the Magnificent Midlife podcast on staying fit and healthy long-term.