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Understanding Balance

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Try to stand perfectly still. Are you as still as a deeply rooted tree?

 

Bring your inner focus to what your feet and ankles are feeling. Shift your focus up along your legs to your lower back, your shoulders, and neck. Do you feel the small twitches and sways your body makes as you remain as still as you can? These small movements are a result of the instructions your brain sends to your muscles and joints in order to maintain your standing position.

Our brain is amazing. It is continuously processing information while we sleep, eat, or wait in line thinking about what to make for dinner. We don’t have to think about balancing when we’re standing; our brain automatically does it for us.

Vision

Vestibular

Proprioception

sense of movement

and touch

Feedback Loop 

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There are three main systems working together with the brain which allows us to keep our balance: the visual system (eyes), vestibular system (inner ears), and proprioception or movement sense (skin, muscles, joints). Each of these systems sends signals of what they sense to the brain. The brain integrates the information, processes it, and decides on an action - for instance, shift the hip slightly to the left. It then sends the instruction to the muscles and joints that control the hips. As the hip shifts, new information is immediately sent back to the brain for the next set of instructions. This continuous feedback loop is what allows us to stay balanced.

The Aspire Balance sensor is highly sensitive and picks up the tiny movements we make. Individuals with better balance control make smaller, less frequent adjustments and will have a higher balance score. Those recovering from injuries, or experiencing changes in one of the three sensory balance control systems will have larger, more frequent adjustments and a lower balance score.  

The balance scores are based on the balance abilities of individuals between ages 20 - 80. The higher the score, the better your balance. The highest possible score is 100 and the lowest possible score is 1. If your score is below 10, you should seriously consider adding balance training exercises into your daily routine. 

 

Each individual is unique so it’s important to treat your score as your own baseline. Balance control changes as we age. It is also affected by others factors such as stress, sleep, diet, blood pressure, and medication.  The average score of different age groups shifts and should be used as a reference point. Try to score better than your age group average. 

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The Role of Balance in Sports

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Improving balance can help us perform better in our favorite sports. Numerous research studies have established the importance of balance in all sports including soccer, golf, running, and bowling.

Having good single leg balance is linked to good cognitive function, reduced risk of injury, and better athletic performance. Studies have shown that golfers with better single leg balance have longer tee shots, better putting, and higher golfing scores. 

Another study of 50 athletes competing at the highest national level showed that balance control could be used as a predictive marker of lower extremity injuries.

Knowing our balance provides unique insights into our overall health.