The sports medicine specialists in our Toronto physiotherapy and chiropractic clinics treat a wide range of issues that have to do with the musculoskeletal system. Many of these individual conditions, from muscle strains to torn ligaments, chronic back pain and more, often boil down to a central issue: a lack of balance.
An imbalanced posture, and impaired sense of balance, can affect you in many ways.
- It can lead to uneven use of muscles, and lack of proper support for your back, shoulders, and other body parts;
- It can lead to improper form when performing sports or other activities, which in turn can cause strains and even injury;
- Over time, a lack of balance can lead to muscle strain and issues like chronic back and shoulder pain;
- Lack of balance can contribute to slips and falls, easily one of the most common causes of injury overall, and particularly worrisome as we age.
What is proprioception? It’s your ability to feel where you are in space, particularly relative to other objects or people. Improving your balance with exercise will improve this ability, and correct the issues mentioned above.
Exercising for balance
Exercises that focus on balance will work with specific muscle groups. These include:
- Core (abdomen, sides)
- Lower back, glutes (supporting the upper body)
- Diaphragm and pelvic floor
- Lower body strength training
The most important principle to keep in mind with balance exercises is consistency. It’s not about getting spectacular results; it’s about being able to reproduce those results reliably in any situation.
Here are five you can practice everyday.
1. One Leg Lift
- Slowly lift one leg straight back, keeping your foot at a right angle, facing ahead. Hold for one or two seconds, then slowly bring it back down. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
- Repeat to the side, and to the front. Now, change it over to the left leg.
Beginner: Use a chair to help you out at first.
Increase difficulty by adding reps, and more time to the hold in position.
- You can also add arm movements that mirror the leg raises, and hold your toes when you raise the leg to the front.
2. Tightrope Walk
- Just like it sounds, this is a heel to toe walk in a straight line.
- Place your heel directly in front of the toe of the front foot to step forward.
- It doesn’t sound like much, but is surprisingly challenging to do slowly, in control of each step.
- Try it for 20 steps to start, increasing the number as you get stronger.
3. Rocking the Boat
- Stand with your feet directly underneath your hips, and your spine straight.
- Transfer your weight to the right, lifting your left left off the ground as you do.
- Raise your left leg to the side as high as you can, and hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Begin with five repetitions per side.
To start: use a chair to help if you need it.
Advanced: To take this to another level, get a Bosu, a piece of equipment that has an inflatable dome, on top of a circular platform. Just standing on the platform is a challenge.
Noon To Six (Clock) Reach
- You will probably need a chair to start out, holding it to the left.
- 12 is the position directly in front of you, 3 to the right, and 6 directly behind you.
- Raise your right arm and right leg, and point to the 12, then the 3, then the 6, holding each position for at least 10 seconds.
- Shift the chair to the right, and then cycle with your left leg and arm raised from the 12 to the 9 to the 6 position.
- Let go of the chair as your balance improves.
- Take the position as you would to do push-ups, up on your toes, and with your arms directly below your shoulders.
- Lower your upper body down so you are resting on your elbows.
- Keeping your body as straight as you can, hold the position for at least 10 seconds.
Increase the time of the hold as you get stronger.
Working on your balance can be a productive addition to your existing workout, and it also makes a great stepping off point if you are new to exercising daily. If you need any advice about injury avoidance, or exercise in general, don’t hesitate to contact one of our Toronto physiotherapy and chiropractic clinics today for a consultation.