Proprioception is a concept we are intuitively aware of even if we can’t give a technical definition. We use it every day when we perform simple tasks and complex athletic movements. Proprioception is your body’s ability to sense the position of a body part relative to other body parts and to the world around you (source).
Body Awareness for Your Health and Performance
Body awareness is accomplished through an interaction of the motor and sensory nerves of your muscles and connective tissues. Balance, coordination, and agility are possible because body awareness works on both a conscious and unconscious level to constantly make adjustments. Balance training to improve proprioception can be an effective addition to your exercise routine, but work into it slowly so you can learn proper technique.
Benefits of Improving Body Awareness
Proprioception can be improved in patients in physical therapy and healthy people who want to improve their fitness level and athletic performance. The key to improving this ability is focusing on the core muscles of the abdomen, back and hips. These muscles are the seat of power, the body’s center of gravity and where all movements start. Balancing on one leg, performing a plank and twisting to reach something behind you all use your core and examples using body awareness (source). Some forms of exercise work this more than others including yoga, Pilates, and martial arts. Coordination, flexibility and balance are stressed in these workouts and improve your overall functionality and decreases injuries.
Balance Training Exercises
There are particular exercises and specialized pieces of equipment to target the core muscles and improve balance and coordination. BOSU Balance Trainers are commonly seen in gyms and therapy clinics. This is basically half of one of those big exercise balls attached to a platform. You can use these to perform a lot of different movements such as stepping, lunging and squatting. Intensity can be gradually increased by moving faster or adding dumbbells and medicine balls to create full body exercises.
Thera – Band Stability Trainers will also help you focus your workouts. These are a color – coded set of foam pads that go from firm to soft. The softer the pad the harder you work to maintain balance (source). As you skills increase you can gradually replace one set of pads for another.
Why Balance Training Should Be Taken Seriously!
Falls Are Serious and Costly
- One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury.1,2
- Each year, 2.5 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries.3
- Over 700,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture.3
- Each year at least 250,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures.5
- More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling,6 usually by falling sideways.7
- Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).8
- Adjusted for inflation, the direct medical costs for fall injuries are $34 billion annually.9Hospital costs account for two-thirds of the total (source).
Don’t take your proprioception for granted. Get serious about your balance training, not only for your daily life and performance but also for injury prevention!
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