Started a new exercise regime lately and noticed your balance isn’t quite up to scratch? Chances are, you need to dial things back a little and return to the basics. Balance is an important part of fitness and improving your balance can dramatically improve your performance.
What is balance?
Balance is a state in which weight is evenly distributed in order to prevent falling. Balance has major parts:
- Vestibular system (the inner ear)
Change any one of these three variables and you’ll challenge your balance in different ways.
What is proprioception?
Proprioception refers to the awareness of a person about their body’s position in space. The origin of the word is derived from Latin, and it translates as “one’s own perception”. The central nervous system gains sensory input from receptors in the skin known as mechanoreceptors. This information is processed by the brain, and helps to translate data sent from the body in the form of vibrations, pressure, motion and joint position. Proprioception helps to maintain stability.
How can I test and improve my proprioception?
- Stand with two feet together.
- Close your eyes.
- Count how long you can maintain your balance for.
- Try again, this time standing on one foot. Close your eyes only once you have found a steady posture with your eyes open.
- To increase difficulty, stand on an uneven surface, like a pillow on the floor. Start by standing with two feet together; stand on one foot if this becomes too easy.
While this isn’t a definitive test, if there is a significant difference in your balance when your eyes are open to when your eyes are close, or from the right side to the left side, your proprioception might be a little diminished.