Balance – For Millennials & Beyond

 

Why Are More People of All Ages Falling?

The frequency and drop in age of people coming in to see us with balance issues is increasing. We used to help clients 50+ with balance problems but now we are seeing more people in their 30’s and even late 20’s with balance concerns. Why?

Do you remember when you were a kid, running around and bouncing off everything? Hands and arms flopping around like a windsock, legs and feet all over the place. You had no balance issues then. Fast-forward to high school; your movements became more controlled and refined. You had more control over your body and more strength, what we call mobility. But then something happened between entering college and graduation. You came to a fork in the road. Gym classes disappeared, pick-up games with friend vanished, after-school sports became less of a focus, and happy hour required less effort.

How Did This Happen?

Take a step back and it is no wonder that all that most of us have lost some of our sense of balance. After high school, we started training our bodies to be expert at activities involving sitting. We became Olympian sitters. As children, we squirmed in our desks, hard-pressed to sit still for even a short. Now, we have become expert marathon sitters, able to go hours without once breaking our slouched form! We have trained ourselves to become peak performance chair athletes.

Use it or lose it.

The beauty of the human body is that we have the ability to adapt to and change with our environment. When we don’t use a skill, the brain files it away for a rainy day. Other, more current information and movement takes its place. You may not have ridden a bike in years but you never forget how to ride it. Learned movements can be recalled with a little practice. The balance and movement issues arise when the body’s form, shape, and skills have changed so much that the brain can’t find its familiar balance and movement patterns. It is not able to duplicate the skill we learned and knew. We have gone from pliable and balanced to stiff and hunched forward, an unrecognizable medium for the brain to work through.

Although there are many areas where one can focus to improve balance, I am going to focus on the head, neck, and feet. We can re-balance the whole body by starting at the head and shoulders. I was recently at a workshop where our primary focus was on activating the muscles of the neck. I was stunned by how much more agile I was afterward! Our feet take on too much work when their movement is limited by functional weakness at the neck and shoulders. These exercises will help bring your neck back to balance from all those hard hours training in front of screens. They will wake up your feet for a softer landing and more control.

What can I do to fix it?

Standing Arm Circles – This is one of the most important exercises for helping balance and correcting text neck. Start with your spine against the edge of a wall or a door, arms straight out from the shoulders, hands in a light fist with thumbs facing back. Pull your shoulder blades toward your spine. Start making circles with your whole arm about the size of a dinner plate, keeping the arms back far enough so that you can’t see your hand out of the corner of your eye. Keep the core tight and the ribs vertical by staying flat against the wall or the door. Do 20 circles backward, following your thumbs. Change direction and circle your arms forward, again following your thumbs. Try to build up to 40 each way daily.

Prone Super Person – This is a gym class oldie but a goodie for building strength in the back, neck and shoulders. Go to the floor and lie on your stomach with your hands out in front. Squeeze your butt muscles (glutes) and lift your chest, shoulders, and neck off the ground while holding the arms out in front. Start with 1 round of 5-6 seconds. Build up to 6 rounds of 6 seconds each.

Standing One-Leg Calf Raises – Find a wall or table for balance. Cross one foot behind the other and slowly lift up onto the ball of your foot. This exercise is great for improving ankle strength and mobility. Take your time and keep the hips from rotating. Start with 7 Calf Raises to 10 each side. Do more on the side that is weakest. Build up to 2 sets of 10 Calf Raises per leg.

 

Standing & Moving Funny Walk – This series is great for building dynamic stability and balance. Remember to keep the head and shoulders back. Pace the length of the room at least twice for each: walking on heels; walking on the balls of your feet; walking on the outside of your feet; and walking on the inside edge of your feet. Go through all positions at least one full run-through. Rest and add the other set. Do more on angles that feel most challenging.

 

 

 

Standing In-line Balance – This exercise pulls the whole series of exercises together in a way that tests and enhances your balance. This particular exercise is an excellent way to gauge how your balance changes. Start by standing with one foot in front of the other heel to toe. Slowly bring your front foot to rest on the top of your other foot near the ankle. Try holding this for 1 minute. You may feel burning in your shins and the side of your foot. This is great! Those muscles are getting stronger.

Follow this group of exercises and your balance and body awareness will improve dramatically. If you would like more personal assistance, comment below and we will be glad to help you with an Initial Evaluation or the full Balance program with these specific balance and awareness exercises.

 

Kathryn Kohler

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