More and more these days, we're talking about balance. Not just balance in our lives, such as how much T.V. are we watching versus how much time are we reading-but the balance system in our bodies. Yes, just like there's a circulatory system, nervous system, respiratory system, and other important systems in our bodies; there is a balance system, too. It's called the vestibular system. This system is just as important as all the rest, though we hadn't been talking about it much, because we're just now finding out how important it truly is.
Balance is a multi-sensory activity.
Balance requires the senses in the body (such as sense of sight and touch) to work together with our muscular and skeletal systems. It's about coordination and communication within our body. This whole system works together like a team to get things done. All of the sports that we do require balance. Reading, writing, walking, putting a puzzle together, and almost any active thing you can think of requires the balance system to be working. And the more you use it, the stronger the connections that are made.
The old saying "Use it or lose it" was probably written about balance, but we weren't catching on. Now we are.
As you know, children are very sensory oriented. They learn about their world through their senses, which develops their vestibular systems. The process of the vestibular development extends almost into puberty, and that's why it's so important to allow children to explore, play, and get moving. Children spend more and more time these days sitting, rather than moving. They start by sitting in a car seat as an infant (I'm not saying we should ditch car seats, because they save lives), sitting in a bouncy chair when they are able to crawl around, sitting in strollers as toddlers, and then sitting around watching TV or playing on the computer. What could we help them do besides sit?
"Can you hop on one foot all the way to me?" "Let me show you how to skip." "What animal stands on one leg while resting? Can you do that?" (by the way, the flamingo stands on one leg while resting)
There are ample opportunities to help children improve their developmental skills through balance activities. Kids can play games like hopscotch, jump-rope, and Red Rover. Wheel-barrel races and riding bikes are also great. Yoga, Qi Gong, climbing, and gymnastics are all great activities. You can also use various balancing products, such as balance balls, balance boards, balance bikes, etc.
Children with healthy balance systems can thrive and those with challenges or weaknesses in these areas can begin to improve, often dramatically.
It's never too late to get moving. And to know that all of the balance activities that we do can help us in other areas in life, is huge. Some of the problems that we are facing today such as lack of coordination, struggles with comprehension, and attention can improve by improving our balance.
When we talk about balance, we often mention the word proprioception. In a nutshell, proprioception is your body and mind communicating with your muscles, which allows the body to remain stable. This is an important task when you are throwing a ball to your neighbor, standing on one foot at the zoo while looking at flamingos, playing tennis in a community tennis match, getting into your favorite celebrity's car, riding a bike in front of a school, sitting in a chair at restaurant, writing a letter to an old friend from grade school, or just about anything you decide to do today. And again, the more you use it, the less likely you are to lose it.
Balance is the key to injury prevention and wellness at any age. Top athletes recognize that balance training helps them perform better in their sports. By training to develop greater balance, you will recognize improvements in posture, coordination, and athletic skill. This will in turn result in greater stability, strength, and independence.