What IS balance training and why should I be incorporating it into my regular exercise routine? Balance training is an often ignored aspect of a fitness routine, but is so very important.
Balance training is a type of exercise that challenges an individual's ability to stabilize outside the normal base of support, which improves balance and proprioception. Proprioception is the sensation of knowing where the body is in space, such as when walking on an unstable surface. Balance training uses proprioceptively enriched (unstable yet controlled) environments to improve the nervous system's ability to activate the right muscles at the right time in the right plane of motion. (Clark, Sutten & Lucett, 2014)
The benefits of including balance training includes improved posture, core function, coordination, balance, body mecanics and a reduced rate of injury such as ankle sprains, ACL tears and other lower extremity injuries. I've, personally, found balance training to be extremely helpful in the recovery process of my lower back injury. I'm certainly not at 100% yet, I still have setbacks but it's getting there and I completely believe that balance training is contributing to the progress I'm seeing.
Now that you have an idea of what it is and why it's important, let's talk about HOW you can add it into your regular routine. There are so many exercises to choose from and often times you can take what you're already doing and turn it into a balance exercise by doing something as simple as standing on one foot while doing it. See below for some tools available at many gyms or on the market as well as some fun demo videos and workouts.
BALANCE TRAINING TOOLS
Half Foam Roll
This video provides a great beginner's demo. This is perfect video for those who have never done any balance training before. He emphasizes establishing stability and balance statically before progressing to dynamic moves.
Here's a great demo for full-body work using a Bosu ball. I really like how she breaks down the body mechanics of each of the moves. So important!
If you've already had some experience in balance training and are looking for some challenging moves to get you to the next level, this video is for you.
Figuring out your own workout from various exercises, not for you? Try out this Fitness Blender workout below. There are a few moves I would consider above 'beginner" (ahem..the superman one, but you can easily modify that to a back extension) otherwise it's a great place to start. Happy balancing everyone!
Clark, Sutton & Lucett (2014). NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training. Burlington, WA:Jones & Bartlee Learning
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