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Balance As A Component Of Fitness

By Expert Author: Lisa Kowen

Balance in sport and everyday living is a component of fitness which is very often taken for granted. During one’s youth balancing happens almost naturally, but the aging process can significantly impact on this important component of physical fitness.

When last did you try walk on a relatively thin pole or even stand on one leg? You may be surprised at the result of how bad your balance has deteriorated from childhood to adulthood; a major contributor to this would be being accustomed to a more sedentary lifestyle, less playfulness and of course the physiological process of aging. Together with strength, speed, power, agility, endurance, co-ordination and flexibility, balance forms a critical component of physical fitness not only in sport but also in our everyday activities.

A major influencing factor in the function of balance is proprioception. Proprioceptors are sensory nerves located in the muscles, tendons and joints and send signals to the body’s central nervous system about special awareness and proprioception is the body’s ability to transmit a sense of position, interpret that information and respond (consciously or unconsciously) to the stimulation with the correct movement (Houglum 2001). Put simply, it is the ability to know where a body part is without having to physically look. Taken as a whole, proprioception includes balance, coordination and agility because the body’s proprioceptors control all these factors, for purpose of this article only reference to balance will be made.

According to the ACSM, you should be able to stand on one leg for at least 20 seconds without holding onto anything for static balance. Static balance involves supporting your posture while standing still, whereas dynamic balance involves adapting to changes during movement. An effective balance routine progresses from static to dynamic moves. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends performing exercises designed to improve balance at least two days per week.

Fitness Toys to help you improve proprioception and balance

With the core being such a huge buzzword in world fitness trends there is certainly no shortage of fitness aids to assist in any form of stabilization. "Balance not only requires equilibrium, but also good stability of the core muscles and the joints, particularly the hip, knee, and ankle," says Leigh Crews, spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise. As with any training program, progression is important when training balance. The best place to start is on the floor, a hard stable flat surface is all you need to get started. Once you have mastered your exercise routine on a stable surface it’s time for more challenges on something a little less stable such as a BOSU trainer or balance pad. Remember to start with simple exercises and increase complexity as proprioception/balance improves. To increase complexity, change variables such as the surface used; the distance covered and the duration of the activity.

Correct technique is essential when performing balance exercises, posture and good body alignment are both important and must be maintained in order to avoid muscle compensation during exercise execution. If you are struggling to do a specific exercise reduce the difficulty and follow the rules of progression strictly for the best results.

Try these exercises and see how quickly you improve! http://fitnessconnect.co.za/video/bosu-fitness-workout-with-david-weck-2#.U53L3vmSySo

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