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Going Barefoot and 8 Other Ways to Improve Balance

Balance is something we don’t think much about after we learn it (as a child) or start to lose it (as a senior), but balance is crucial to healthy living.

By
Brock Armstrong,
Episode #403
Photo of some bare feet on a slack line practicing balance

6. Practice Dynamic Balance

The kind of balance known as "dynamic balance" is most important to athletes. This is what gives them the ability to maintain posture, alignment, and control throughout a movement. To get better at this, you need to practice it.

In a study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, female athletes performed either a plyometrics program (jumping that focuses on maximal effort and quick reactions) or dynamic balancing and stability (using unstable surfaces). The researchers measured the effect of both protocols on strength, power, stability, and impact force and found that both programs improved each measure, but the balance program had a stronger effect on the dominant leg’s ability to land softly. The researchers wisely conclude that, “ A combination of PLYO and BAL training may further maximize the effectiveness of preseason training for female athletes.”

Other studies support the conclusion that a combination of plyometrics and balance training can improve sprint performance better than plyometrics alone.

7. Make It Part of Your Day

If you have been reading the Get-Fit Guy for a while, you probably saw this coming. Dedicated exercise time is great, but finding ways to build movement practice into your day is the greatest. So, to improve your balance, try things like this:

  • Stand on one leg while you brush your teeth.
  • Tightrope walk along those dividers between parking spots.
  • Walk along the outside of the sidewalk.
  • Wash your feet while standing up in the shower.
  • Put your socks and shoes on without sitting down.
  • Instead of stepping over an obstacle, do a single leg hop over it.
  • Look for every opportunity to invigorate those balancing muscles.

8. Sleep

This one is a bit of a surprise but stick with me.

There are many reasons to work on getting a good night’s sleep and this is a good one.

The day after a night spent tossing and turning, your dynamic balance will be noticeably worse. Your ability to integrate sensorimotor function with visual input (two of the three ways we balance) decreases. Your postural stability gets wobbly after a single night of sleep deprivation and if you continue to sleep poorly, you impair postural control.

There are many reasons to work on getting a good night’s sleep and this is a good one.

9. Good Posture

Balance involves maintaining a stable, neutral spine no matter what you are doing. Posture is overlooked but it is important. If your head pokes out and your shoulders slump forward, you are out of position and likely will have a hard time balancing. Plus, you have just allowed about 11 pounds of skull and brain to be tugged on directly by gravity. Ouch!

Having good balance means that we are in control of our bodies in space at all times.

The final point that I want to make is that balance is more than simply not falling over. Having good balance means that we are in control of our bodies in space: we can choose our footfall, our body position, and our alignment at all times. Not falling over is a good starting point, but just because you haven’t fallen over in a while (or ever) doesn’t mean you have impeccable balance.

Our bodies contain a wondrous and complex coordination system that, without looking, let’s us know where each cell, muscle, bone, and tendon is in space. Your brain has the remarkable ability to balance relative to yourself and relative to your environment. (Even while we are moving at high speeds through that environment.) This is the level of fitness that we need to train for and continue training for if we don’t want to lose that ability.

Balance work is truly a win-win-win situation. You win when you nurture your long-term future health. You win by decreasing your risk of falls and injuries. And you win as you improve your athletic performance through your strength and stability.

The best part? You can do it right now. Anytime, anywhere.

For more balance info, falling over tips, and to join the stable conversation, head over to Facebook.com/GetFitGuy or twitter.com/getfitguy. Also don't forget to subscribe to the Get-Fit Guy podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, SoundCloud, Spotify, Google Play or via RSS.

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