Staying In Balance

How's your balance? Try standing on each foot for 15 seconds with your eyes open, and again with your eyes closed. Could you do it without having to put your other foot down or reaching to steady yourself with your hand? Are you symmetrical? If the answer is "no" to either question, you might want to start to work on your balance.

Balance is all in your head. Your brain, to be specific. Your inner ears, eyes, and sensors in your joints, muscles, tendons and skin all send messages telling your brain where you are in space. If you close your eyes, you lose that visual input. If you sprain your ankle, the joint sensors there are disturbed and make balance more challenging. This can persist for years past the injury.

The good news is that balance is trainable- it gets better if you work at it. Start standing on one leg when you brush your teeth or stand in line or talk on the phone. Do it with your eyes open until you become proficient, then try closing your eyes. Other challenges are to move your arms and other leg while balancing, eventually even holding weights. If you walk or run on trails or other uneven surfaces, balance is essential. Your body needs to adjust quickly to stepping on roots or rocks to prevent falling and injuring yourself.

Balance is just as important as strength and flexibility, so don't neglect it. Stay in balance!