Balance is needed for absolutely everything we do. However, it is not something we are born with or guaranteed to maintain throughout our lifetime. It is quite the opposite. Instead, physical balance is a learned skill that we are continuously utilizing even when we don’t recognize it. When we use the word ‘balance’, often the thought of a gymnast on a beam or a tightrope walker on a wire comes to mind. But, what about thinking about the ability to walk steadily? Did you know that balance even has the potential to prevent injuries overall? As you can tell, balance is key to many of our everyday activities and safety, and it is not all about standing on one foot with your finger on your nose either. There are many different components as to what constitutes our balance: muscular strength, sensory perception, vision, and practice. Luckily, we have the ability to practice most of these things that contribute to our balance. But how? Here are some suggestions:
1. Walk Heel to Toe
Sounds simple, right? Try walking 25 steps forward in a straight line. With each step, focus on keeping the pattern your heels striking the ground first and then your toes to follow. Once you have completed going forward. Begin walking backwards, but with your toe striking down and then your heel, for 25 steps as well. This is something that can be done daily or at your convenience (and you don’t need any special equipment!).
2. Focus on Your Force
While muscular strength is crucial in maintaining our balance, the force of our muscles is something we lose at a much faster rate. Pay attention to the speed you use when getting out of a chair, for example. It’s probably a very leisurely pace. To transform this regular movement into a way of improving your physical balance, produce force when standing up from your chair, enough that you may need to take a few steps after getting up. You can use your arms to provide momentum or not, but it is a simple practice to perform regularly and will improve and maintain the integrity of your muscles, and guess what that helps? Your balance!
3. Alter your Visual Experience
Balance is partially dictated by your sense of sight. To challenge this, you can print out or doodle a design on a piece of paper and tape it to your wall (for example, a checkerboard design). Walk forward while looking at the design and then backwards. You may notice your balance being compromised due to the change of field of vision. Practice this periodically and you will be surprised with the result.
4. Try Different Equipment
There are a lot of different exercise modalities to choose from when increasing your balance training. A good starting point may be to just utilize your own body differently. For example, doing exercises (like squats or hops) on one leg or split stance, where your legs are staggered with one in front of you and one behind you (think of a lunge position). If you’re looking for more advanced balance training, however, play with an exercise ball or bosu board. Both challenge your core and leg muscles, which aids in strengthening the muscles that are essential for balancing.
5. Sleep Enough
This isn’t a very active suggestion (pun intended). However, it is just as important. Sleep deprivation is a silent killer to physical balance. According to a study at California Pacific Medical Center, sleep deprivation slows your reaction time enough that it can increase your risk of falling. Therefore, get your eight hours in and you’re already on the way to improving your overall balance!
Did you know that improving your posture can also improve your balance? To learn about How to Improve Your Posture, (Click Here)
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