What makes for a well rounded workout? We all know that weight bearing exercise is a vital part of a well rounded exercise regiment as is maintaining cardiovascular fitness through aerobic exercise. But there are two elements that are often ignored or brushed over at best. Those two are balance training and stretching.
Today we’ll talk about balance training and why it’s important. While the majority of us will never need the precision of an Olympic gymnast on the balance beam, balance training is necessary, especially as we age and our stability starts to decline. The ability to control our balance during daily activities is often impaired in older adults as a result of deterioration in the sensory systems, the cognitive system (central nervous system), and the musculoskeletal system. Consequently, many older adults face a risk of falling during their normal daily activities. In most cases falls and related injuries impair the quality of life and result in physical limitations. Often anxiety, loss of confidence, and fear of falling follows.
Physical activity and balance training programs have been suggested for improving balance control. These programs challenge the sensory, cognitive, and musculoskeletal systems in a controlled environment while addressing balance challenges. Directional changes, the speed and height of the center of mass during static and dynamic situations resembling movements we perform in daily life can all be practiced. Eventually as our bodies adapt we see improved balance result.
Adaptations are achieved as we practice standing on unstable surfaces with a reduced base of support, change direction, and make vertical and horizontal changes to the center of mass. The combination of dual-task, function-oriented challenges while controlling balance stimulates the sensory and neuromuscular control mechanisms. Among older adults, these programs have been found to improve static and dynamic stability, as well as a number of aspects in the quality of life. Another benefit may be improved cognitive functions such as memory and spatial cognition.