Why are balance and coordination important?
To state the obvious, they help to keep us upright!
To sit, walk, run and jump, the body’s nervous system, muscles and brain have to work together. Our eyes and ears play a vital part too in keeping our balance, helping us to move efficiently and well. We learn the associated motor skills from birth – everyone has experienced the joy when a baby finds its feet, stands and takes their first few steps! As they grow, children learn to use the gross motor skills of balance and coordination to reduce the risk of injury, improve the ability to perform everyday tasks, be active, and to enjoy the confidence which comes with being physically active.
A gymnast, dancer, golfer, or a track athlete require not only extraordinary balance and coordination skills, but excellent posture and high levels of overall fitness – strength, mobility and agility. Good posture is important for everyone, especially when it comes to keeping balanced, because it helps you maintain your body in correct alignment whilst exercising, which results in fewer injuries and greater gains.
Whether you are sporty or not, daily activities like standing from sitting, climbing stairs or simply walking across the floor, all require good posture, balance and coordination. As we age, other factors which affect balance come into play – for instance, changes in eyesight, hearing, muscle strength or bone density. It’s important to keep as active as possible, and to stay strong and supple. Inflexible muscles decrease the range of motion in our joints, whilst weak core muscles encourage poor posture.
Along with our eyes and ears, the proprioceptors (nerve endings which give detailed and continuous information about the position of the limbs and other body parts in space) keep us physically safe. The ABC of proprioception are agility, balance and coordination.
- Agility (dynamic balance) – the ability to remain under control while in motion or switching between positions
- Balance – the ability to distribute weight evenly in order to maintain an upright and steady position
- Coordination – the ability to move two or more parts of the body under control, smoothly and efficiently.
Some simple exercises to try
Side Leg Raise
Use a chair for support. Stand behind a chair with your feet hip width width apart. Make sure you are standing up straight, head and toes facing forward, abdominals pulled in. Raise one foot off the ground, bringing your leg up and out to the side, not too high, knee and thigh facing forwards, hold for a couple of seconds and then bring back down to the floor with control. Repeat with the other leg.
Great for strengthening the ankle and knee joints. Use a chair for support. With feet hip width apart, lift both heels to balance on the balls of your feet. Lower the heels back to the floor with control. Repeat. Try the same exercise but with the feet together, squeezing the inner thigh muscles together as you lift.
Sit to Stand
Using a sturdy chair without armrests, or wheels, sit towards the front of the chair, knees bent, feet hip-width apart and flat on the floor. Lean slightly forwards. Maintaining good posture, stand up slowly using your legs, not arms. Aim to look straight ahead, not down. Stand upright, then slowly sit down, using your core and abdominal muscles to control the movement. Only use your hands or arms to guide you if necessary. Initially aim for five slow, controlled repetitions. The slower the repetitions are the better. As you build up your strength you can add more repetitions.
Fitness with Friends
At FLexercise we have a strong focus on core control and good posture. Classes are carefully planned to include balance and coordination work be it through learning a fun dance routine, using apparatus like weights, ribbons or balls, or specifically targeting muscle groups to strengthen and stretch them. Classes are fun and friendly and new members are always very welcome!