I’ve been closely observing human movement for over 20 years – in the gym as a trainer, clinically as a Chiropractor, in my studio as a Pilates Teacher, and socially/casually when I’m out and about. I’ve come to the conclusion that in general we’re not very good at it – movement, that is. And the simple reason for that is due to a lack of equilibrioception – i.e. sense of balance.
I’m sure you would agree that lying down and sitting require none to minimal balance. However, once you are standing that’s when you really start to use your bodies balancing system. In a recent blog post I highlighted the need for “perpetual movement” throughout the day. I included a copy of an email that I had recently sent to a client that I was concerned about purely because of his lack of movement and chronic sitting. On my recommendation, he purchased a “stand-up” work desk. After a few days of standing for more hours than sitting, he remarked that his butt was so sore – like he had done a thousand squats! I was ecstatic. That’s exactly what I wanted to hear. The gluteal group of muscles should really be our strongest and most powerful muscles that we possess. They are responsible for maintaining balance and stability when we stand, and also act as our “propulsion” muscles when walking, running, jumping, etc. However, the more time you spend sitting the less conditioned these muscles get. With the support and stability that your pelvis and hips get from the chair, the gluteal muscles simply “switch off!” Look at the side profile of your typical office worker (who spends 10+ hours per day sitting on their backside) and you’ll commonly see a straight line from their lower back to back of hips to back of thighs – i.e. no “butt bump.” You want the “butt bump.” The “butt bump” is good – it means that your gluteal muscles are well conditioned, and in turn you have good stability, balance and movement. Now, excuse my bluntness, but I just need to be clear that the “butt bump” I’m referring to is built from muscle, and not that other body tissue called fat. It’s the rear bump that you see in people who have firm, strong gluteals from habitual standing, consistent movement and dare I say it, working out.
Balance is not only achieved by having a rock solid butt. There are several sensory inputs and motor outputs that are combined, integrated and sequenced to achieve and maintain balance. These are listed below… (click on the links if you’re keen to know more).
- Vestibular system (located within the ear)
- Proprioception (body position sense)
- Visual and Motion Perception
- Sensory-Motor Coupling
- Head position
For now, lets just concentrate on how you can live longer by improving your balance. What?!? Yes – you can really live longer simply by standing on one leg! In a recent study, subjects were asked to stand for as long as possible on one leg with their eyes closed. They were timed using a stopwatch. The healthiest men and women managed to stand on one leg for longer than 10 seconds while those with the highest risk of early death could only manage to balance for three seconds.
Your essential balance how to guide…
- stand with your eyes closed
- balance on one leg
- now try it with your eyes closed (in the arch of a door is best in case you need to reach out for support).
- have some fun with it – see videos below for a couple of ideas…
Include balance drills into your every day routine, and you’ll have more days to enjoy your balance.