The ability to stand upright, the machine that weighs an item in the science lab, evaluating a financial statement or even the stability of one item or another—these are all different definitions of balance. But why is balance important to us in our daily living? Keeping our balance is what allows us to stay upright, to be able to walk, run, jump. Without balance, we would stumble and fall and we would have sketchy posture.
When we were young, we walked on balance beams, walked on the curbs, played games in PE that had us walking toe to heel. All of these things worked on our balance. It helped to develop our posture and kept us from being clumsy—well, maybe.
As adults, working on balance looks a little different. As adults we work on our core muscles to help keep our posture in check. We perform exercises to practice and improve balance. All of this helps with our proprioception—the ability for our brains to know where our body parts are in space. This is the system in our bodies that keep us from falling down, tripping or just being klutzes.
For our athletes, improving balance helps improve their ability to play their sport. Think of the basketball player who gets hit and falls. Why do some kids fall and others stand their ground? Size is one answer, but the other is they have good balance. Their brains know where their feet are in relation to the rest of their body and holds strong to keep them upright.
So how do we do improve our balance? A simple exercise to start with is to practice standing on one foot. Start slowly and hold the foot a little ways off the ground; hold on to a chair as needed. As this gets easier, raise the knee higher and the hip higher until you are at a point where your hip and knee are both at 90 degrees. Hold this for up to a minute. Repeat on each side 2-3 times per day. Once you master this, you can add a wobble board or a bosu ball to further challenge yourself.
Start today working on your balance and see how it improves many areas of your life!