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Finding the right balance

You will hear people often talk about work-life balance. But have you ever considered how your physical balance can help extend your life?

Balancing is a fundamental aspect of any movement we perform, but it’s something that we just take for granted. Every time we run, walk, stand, even sitting down, we rely heavily on balance. When balancing, we’re not only working the often-neglected stabiliser muscles, we’re also improving our joint stability and internal focus.

To help improve our balance, we have to work on it. Balance-focused activities will challenge our bodies’ vestibular and musculoskeletal systems as well as our proprioception. When we were kids, we developed these systems by rolling, spinning, climbing, and walking the captain’s plank- in other words, through play.

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It’s no wonder we tend to lose a little bit of balance as we age because we don’t allow our bodies to improve on it. It’s a case of use it or lose it.

Before we look at a few exercises that will help improve our balance, let’s check out some reasons why we should.

It can help prolong our life.

A critical predictor for longevity is the length of time that a person can stand on one leg.

Balancing is a complex skill that involves the brain, muscles, and parts of the inner ear.

If you don’t practice and maintain balance, the co-ordination between these three systems can deteriorate over time, making it harder for you to stay upright and maintain proper posture.

Reduces the chances and fear of falling

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When your balance system is working optimally, you can more quickly react to slips, making it less likely that you’ll fall. Avoiding falls not only helps you steer clear of physical damage like broken hips, it also boosts confidence.

When you have good balance, you no longer have to worry about whether you might fall every time you leave the house.

Even if you’re young, having this unconscious awareness allows you to feel more confident in your environment.

Reduces the risk of injury

If you have ‘weak ankles’, your balance will play a significant role in the likelihood of going over your ankle. Balance, along with strength and proprioception, will help reduce your chances of injury. Here are a few exercises you can try out:

Tightrope walk

Start simple by walking one front in front of the other with your toe touching the heel of the other foot each time. You can increase this by carrying it out on a raised platform.

Stand on one leg

Start with one foot an inch off the ground. You can increase this by raising your leg higher or even out to the side. Test yourself to see how long you can hold it for.

Close your eyes

Start by standing with two feet on the ground and close your eyes. You will feel your internal balance system switching on. Once you have mastered this one, try balancing on one leg with your eyes closed.

Pass a ball

This is a fun one to try with a partner. Once you have the hang of balancing on one foot, pass a large ball or tennis ball between you and a partner or throw a ball against a wall and catch it again. Add a few of these exercises into your rest periods in the gym or into your morning routine.

Play about with them and make them fun. You can even start a challenge with family and friends to see who can hold their balance for the longest. It makes it more enjoyable and also helps prolong your life.

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