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VIDEO: Don't take your balance for granted

In this week's video, Newmarket athletic therapist Jen Mark shares a few exercise hacks for maintaining and improving that essential balance required to do ... pretty much everything

We take a lot of things for granted in life, and balance is one of them. We walk around demonstrating balance, climb stairs, put our pants on… all with balance, right? Maybe not. 

Without good balance getting dressed can be a challenge, putting shoes on while standing can be impossible, and playing sports with poor balance can lead to injury. 

Practising balance on a regular basis is as important as maintaining posture and developing a strong core. In fact, to achieve good balance you need a strong core. And to achieve good posture, there is some balance involved. Amazing how all these components work together to simply stand.

There are many ways to work on your balance. Practice is certainly one of them. A good, concerted effort at being balanced. Practise putting on and taking off your shoes while standing. Same with your pants and socks. If you struggle, hold a wall for some support, then try again. 

Our muscles have to work in sequence with each other. When the sequence fails leading to a lack of coordination, we fall. Practising the sequence leads to better balance. 

Standing on one foot while brushing your teeth is something I have been preaching for years. What a great time to practice balance. When on one foot, brushing teeth or lifting weights, I would rather you touch down with the other foot a thousand times before allowing your body to sway. Practising good balance means practising good balance. 

If standing on one leg is just too much, then weight shifting can be effective. Simply put more weight on one leg then back to the other leg. Increase your time on each leg, increase the amount of weight you put on as well. In time you will be able to lift up one leg.

Tandem walking is another simple way to practice balance. Imagine you are “walking the line”. Place one foot in front of the other heel to toe. Walk in a straight line.   

The supporting muscles for good balance are your glutes, core, calves, and muscles in the mid to lower back. Of course, all muscles in turn contribute to good balance, these are just the main ones. 

Clam press is great for the glute muscles that stabilize the pelvis. Calf raises are for your calves while literally being in balance. Lat pull down is a good exercise for the biggest muscles in the back. Back extensions are used for the muscles in the low back. Planks are a general core exercise that promote keeping your trunk still. And birddog works your whole core while moving arms and legs. 

Of course, there are so many exercises, these are great places to start. I have demonstrated all of them in the video. 

More dynamic ways to help with balance are yoga and tai chi. There are many poses in yoga that practise standing on one leg or holding your posture in a difficult position. There are many disciplines of yoga; you don’t have to be practising headstands to do yoga.

Tai chi is a slow moving series that requires focus, balance, and coordination. It is likely one of the best forms of exercise for older adults but is also beneficial for those looking for increased exercise in a safe setting. 

Young athletes need to improve balance to help with sport performance. Puck possession, dribbling a soccer ball up the field, for example, all require staying upright while a defender attacks. 

Many youth that are in fitness programs that promote core strengthening and balance note decreased times being knocked down.

So whether you are young or old. Whether you feel young or old! Improving balance can change your life. It takes time, patience, and discipline, but it’s so worth it.

If you want to learn more about reprogramming your body or need guidance putting a routine together, I have started a fully virtual experience, just for you. 

Jen Mark jenkelleymark@hotmail.com, is a Registered Kinesiologist, Certified Athletic Therapist, and Registered Yoga Teacher at Matrix of Motion Fitness Studios and Sports Medicine Centre of Excellence in Newmarket. Jen is currently the athletic therapist with the Markham Majors Bantams. Jen is also the head therapist and holistic director for the Junior Development Squad with the Men’s program under Field Hockey Canada. Jen uses her athletic therapy for exercise and manual treatments including soft tissue massage, joint mobilizations, and muscle energy.