It is essential to stay fit and exercise regularly. But what does that have to do with balance and coordination? The fact is your balance, which affects your coordination and just about everything else, including your body awareness, is one of the most overlooked aspects of your health. These research findings from the UK’s Medical Research Council might surprise you. People who managed to stand on one leg for 10 seconds with their eyes closed were most likely to be healthy for the following 13 years.We take balance for granted and rarely give a second thought to it, but if you think about it, keeping your balance is quite an achievement. In this article, we will explain how your balance and coordination work, why they are essential for your health and quality of life and show you how to improve them. We’ll also guide you through the working exercises for balance and coordination and explain how chiropractic alignment can help you achieve improved balance.
Brain Anatomy and Functions
The brain is the control center of the nervous system that sends us signals and processes the incoming information. All you are – your personality, emotions, sensations, thoughts, intelligence – it’s all happening in your head. The brain is the main organ of the central nervous system that controls the activity of the whole body. Although it weighs just about 3 pounds, it contains 100 billion neurons (that’s 15 times the world’s population!).
The brain consists of three main parts, and each of them has its function. They work together through the thousands of connections formed between them and other body parts.
What part of the brain controls balance and coordination? Before we answer this question, let’s take a closer look at all the three main parts of the brain and their functions.
Being the most significant part of the brain, the cerebrum fills most of the skull. The cerebrum handles memory storage, problem-solving, thinking, and feelings. It also regulates the desired movement — say, when you want to kick a soccer ball.
The brainstem, or the middle of the brain, connects the cerebrum to the spine. It regulates automatic functions such as breathing, digestion, heart rate, and blood pressure.
The cerebellum (also known as the “little brain”) is located at the back of the head under the cerebrum. It regulates voluntary muscle movements and controls balance and coordination.
Understanding Balance and Coordination
Now, let’s define the concepts of balance and coordination.
Balance is the ability to control the position of your body, whether it is stationary (such as a complicated yoga pose) or while in motion (such as skiing).
Coordination means correctly moving all the muscles needed to perform a specific action.
How Our Bodies Balance Themselves
Image Via Unsplash
Maintaining balance is a complex biochemical reaction. The vestibular, visual, and sensory systems are responsible for maintaining balance. They form a triad of postural control.
The primary role belongs to vestibular receptors. They determine the forces of gravity and translate information into impulses decoded by the brain. As a result, you can be aware of your head and body position.
Coordination Disorders and Their Causes
When a person lacks balance and coordination of movements, we can talk about coordination disorders that affect many aspects of life, including the walking ability.
As a rule, it becomes more and more challenging to coordinate movements and maintain balance with age. Deterioration in the physical condition is not the only reason for this. Weakening of the nervous system may contribute to poor coordination.
We already know what part of the brain controls balance and coordination. This is the cerebellum, and any of its malfunctions may result in coordination disorders. Issues with the spinal cord and peripheral nervous system may lead to the same.
Poor balance and coordination may be a consequence of serious health conditions. But sometimes, they come just from continuous neglect of your body.
The Importance of Balance and Coordination
A well-balanced and coordinated body is vital for an active and happy lifestyle, whether going about your everyday activities or doing sports. For example, when weight lifting or going to the gym, you need strong coordination and balance not only to have a good workout but to prevent sport-related injuries.
With proper balance and coordination, you can prevent the risk of injuries — both in the gym and in everyday life. Slipping on a wet bathroom floor or stumbling on the stairs with a grocery bag won’t be a severe issue. With a good sense of balance, you will be able to react instantly and keep from falling.
Enhancing your ability in sport
A good sense of balance ensures the ability of your body to control itself while performing challenging tasks. You will find it easier to perform complex gymnastic and weightlifting movements. Perhaps you will master figure skating, snowboarding, surfing, cycling tricks, and other sports.
Helping succeed in learning
Next, well-developed balance and coordination positively affect kids’ learning process. Proper balance makes it easier for children to spend a lot of time in a relatively fixed position. Without that, they may experience difficulties focusing on academic tasks or listening to a teacher.
Overcoming age-related changes
With age, the sense of balance worsens, and the risk of injuries increases. With proper balance and coordination, older adults can reduce the increased risk of sprains and fractures from awkward falls.
Providing cognitive benefits
Improving a sense of balance may positively affect the brain as a whole. A study shows that balance training may improve memory and spatial cognition.
How To Improve Balance and Coordination?
How to improve balance and coordination skills? Here is the good news: specific simple exercises help you achieve this.
Performing regular physical activity for balance and coordination will help you strengthen the vestibular apparatus. It is also effective for improving the state of the nervous system. By the way, it’s no coincidence that such exercises are always present in different yoga schools.
Examples of Balance Exercises
There are a variety of exercises for balance and coordination. No matter the fitness level, everyone can find the optimal activities to enhance their balance.
How to improve balance and coordination if you are an absolute beginner? No worries! At the first stage, you need no special equipment. You don’t even need shoes to exercise. Comfortable clothes and about 10 minutes of your time are all you need to start.
Standing on one leg
Squats on one leg
It is dynamic coordination and balance exercise. It also helps you strengthen your core and leg muscles, so you can incorporate them into your strength training routine.
To begin, stand straight with your left hand on your belt. Then bend your left knee and lift your foot off the floor — this is your starting position.
Next, do a squat on your right leg. At the same time, tilt your body and touch the floor with your right hand next to your right foot. Then return to the starting position and repeat the exercise.
Do ten squats, and repeat an exercise on the other leg.
Jumping from one leg to the other
This exercise is similar to the previous one, but it involves a side jump.
As described above, do a squat on your right leg, touching the floor with your right hand.
Then straighten up and make a side jump on your left leg, changing arms. After landing, stand on your left foot while your right leg is off the ground and your right hand is on your belt. Leave your left hand lowered along your body.
Do a squat on your left leg, touching the floor with your left hand, straighten and jump to the side on your right leg.
Do three sets of 10 reps.
Raising arms and legs on all fours
This exercise looks very simple at first glance. But to properly perform it, you need to keep your abs, shoulders, and arms in constant tension. It’s excellent for strengthening core muscles – just what you need to maintain balance.
Get on all fours and extend your right arm and right leg to proceed with an exercise. Hold the pose for 30 seconds, and repeat on the other side.
Plank on one arm and leg
The starting position is a plank on the arms. Place your feet hip-width apart and your palms under the shoulders. Be sure to direct your gaze to the floor. Next, perform the following actions:
- Extend your right arm forward, maintaining balance. Return to the starting position.
- Extend your left arm forward, maintaining balance. Return to the starting position
- Extend your right leg back while maintaining balance. Return to the starting position.
- Extend your left leg back while maintaining balance. Return to the starting position.
Perform this exercise 6 times.
Rotation of the body around its axis
Stand up straight, put your feet a little wider than your shoulders, spread your arms to the sides. Begin to rotate the top of the body around its axis. Do it three times in one direction, then three times in the other direction. Over time, increase the number of spins up to 10 times.
When you feel more confident, you can train on unstable fitness surfaces. These include balance boards, balancing platforms, and hemispheres.
Static and Dynamic Balance
There are two types of balance:
- Static Balance — the ability to maintain the body in some fixed posture;
- Dynamic Balance — the ability to maintain postural stability while the body parts are in motion.
Let’s illustrate the difference between them with examples of exercises for balance and coordination. When you stand on one leg, you apply your static balance ability, and when you jump from side to side, you apply dynamic balance skills.
Why Incorporate Balance Training into Your Workout
Are you thinking of incorporating balance and coordination exercises into your training program? Let’s look through the health benefits this may bring you.
Proprioception is very important for controlling your movements. If someone suddenly pushes you, you immediately catch yourself, straighten up, and move back to your original position by adjusting the positions of your limbs relative to each other (like regaining balance after a stumble).
You move and react quickly, but not because you have thought about it. You have relied on reactions programmed into your body by evolution. The responses are fast and accurate because they are automatic — they happen without thinking.
On the other hand, if you try to stand on one foot with your eyes closed, you regain your balance only after a few seconds. That’s because standing on one foot requires precise programming by the brain — fine control that comes only from processing thoughts.
Balance training involves a set of exercises in an unstable environment. These exercises may enhance proprioceptive signals from peripheral parts of the body, helping improve posture and joint control and reduce the likelihood of injuries.
Balance training assumes that your whole body works as one. Otherwise, you may fall or stumble. Doing balance and coordination exercises will help you develop coordination in your daily life.
Improved reaction time
Balance training can improve your reaction time. If you happen to slip or stumble while doing the exercises, your body should rebalance immediately to prevent falling. As a result, you will improve your reaction speed in daily life.
Incorporating balance training into your program will help maintain or improve your balance and prevent falls and fractures. As we age, our sense of good balance can deteriorate, which we all want to avoid.
It is obvious how important balance is to a healthy and functional life. So, it can be beneficial to include exercises for balance and coordination in your schedule.
Chiropractic Care to Improve Balance and Coordination
- The strength of sight and hearing senses;
- The correctness of nervous system functioning;
- Musculoskeletal alignment.
- Restore the alignment of the vertebrae in your back and neck;
- Improve the muscle balance and strength;
- Improve the nervous system’s functioning;
- Correct your posture and gait.
SummaryBalance and coordination are essential not only in sports but also in daily routine activities. Balance exercises provide you with specific health benefits. To name a few:
- Strengthening the vestibular apparatus;
- Improving coordination (and thus helping to prevent injuries);
- Improving posture;
- Developing proprioception;
- Improving overall life quality;