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Enhance your Balance and Coordination with Neurological Training

By Coach Patrick Marques


Are you ready to improve your balance and coordination with neurological training? It doesn’t require any kind of fancy equipment or “unstable surface training.” Understanding how balance really occurs allows us to train the systems that contribute to maintaining your stability at any age.

Woman slacklining!
Woman slacklining!

Some of the benefits of Neurological Training for Balance include:

• Decreased risk of falling

• Improved coordination

• Improved athleticism

• Better posture

• Increased reaction time






The older you get, the greater the CONSEQUENCES of losing your balance. The CDC states, "Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among adults age 65 and older, and the age-adjusted fall death rate is increasing1,2 “. Although you can certainly improve balance and coordination at any age, the earlier you incorporate balance and stability training into your routine, the better!

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At NeuroAthlete, we utilize balance and stability training for a variety of clients, at every age and level of athleticism, because of the great benefits this type of training provides stability and longevity.


Consider incorporating balance training into your routine to optimize your stability, coordination, overall health, and well-being. It will pay off now and as you age!


What is Balance?


A common definition of balance (with regards to your body, vice your checkbook) is usually something like this: an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady. Basically, balance is your ability to maintain your position against gravity.


How do we maintain Balance?


We describe balance as a three-legged stool. Your sense of balance is provided by three specific sensory inputs to your brain: Visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive.

The Performance GPS - Wether you are young or old
The Performance GPS - Wether you are young or old
  • Visual: Your eyes allow you to see the external environment, using vertical and horizontal alignments to contribute to balance.

  • Vestibular: Your vestibular system (the inner ear) is essentially an onboard gyroscope that constantly monitors your head’s orientation to gravity and senses movement in all directions

  • Proprioception: This is your “self-sense” of where you are in time and space. Think of proprioception as your brain’s 3D map of you for movement. Proprioceptive input comes from the joints, muscles, and tendons to “map” your body for your brain.

A great analogy for this is a GPS. For a GPS in your car or phone to accurately plot and track your location, it must have three satellites to triangulate your position. Your brain is basically the GPS, and in order to accurately balance you (both statically and while you are moving!), it requires input from the three satellites of visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive input:


Why does our balance seem to get worse as we age?


The quick answer to why we seem to have more difficulty maintaining balance as we age is… use it or lose it! When we are very young, we move around in multiple ways and directions – running, jumping, rolling around, playing sports, and wrestling our siblings. Think about all the varied types of playground equipment – seesaws, swings, merry-go-rounds, climbing walls, etc. Playgrounds are essentially balance training gyms!


But as we age, we tend to move less, especially in a dynamic, multi-directional way. Our lives as young to middle-aged adults keep us moving in, well, basically the same ways every day! Driving, sitting at desks (or in front of the TV….), or engaging in the same repetitive movement patterns. We do less jumping around, less multi-directional running, fewer sports, etc. Eventually, this catches up to us because our “satellites” are sending less varied input to our brains to maintain balance.


Can we improve our balance even as we age?


Yes! We can improve balance and coordination in several ways and do this at any age. We can do this in both specific and general ways. Specific training to improve balance would include training our three “satellites”:

The Performance GPS - Wether you are young or old
The Performance GPS - Wether you are young or old
  • Vision Training – Vision is far more than merely “good eyesight,” such as being “20/20”. 20/20 (or worse, or better) eyesight merely measures one visual skill, visual acuity, or clarity, in which both the person and the target are stationary. Vision is a compilation of multiple visual skills that culminate in your ability to take in visual input, process that information, and obtain meaning from it, all in a split second! There are several visual skills that can be trained to improve balance.


  • Vestibular Training – Since your vestibular system is what tells you 1) which way is up and 2) which way you are going, it is vitally important to maintain, especially as we age. Training the vestibular system cannot only improve balance, but it also improves posture, coordination, and reaction time. You don’t have to have dizziness or vertigo to have a sub-par vestibular system because, as we mentioned, the disuse over time as we age can make this system less strong than when we were young!

  • Proprioceptive Training – Anytime you move, you provide proprioceptive input to the brain, so just about any kind of movement or exercise can help. However, moving joints in their fullest, pain-free ranges provide the most input from this “satellite.” Joint mobility drills are an easy and super-efficient way to do this, and we teach a lot of this to many of our clients.

Joe Frasca - Pickleball Champion! Expert at balance training.
Joe Frasca - Pickleball Champion!

General training to improve balance would be to engage in safe movement practices (don’t exceed your capability!) that get us moving in ways we don’t normally do in our daily lives. Sports are our favorite way to do this, and it does NOT have to be at a hardcore, competitive level. Pickleball is a great example of a sport that requires all three “satellites” to function in a new and fun way. But you could also walk or hike on varied terrain (e.g., trails), join a group exercise program, or even get involved in a dance class.

What about training on unstable surfaces?


You see this a lot on the internet and social media. And it has been promoted a lot in the fitness industry as a means of improving balance. You’ll often see a person standing on an unstable surface like a cushy pad or a Bosu ball while exercising.


But here’s the reality: while unstable surface training can have a place in rehabilitation and provide some good proprioceptive input, it is not great for improving real-world balance. Why? Because of a foundational law of physiology – Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands, or the SAID Principle. This principle states that you will get better at what you do, and more specifically (no pun intended), it means you will ONLY get better at EXACTLY what you do. So, if you use unstable surfaces for your balance training, your balance will get better on… unstable surfaces. But in the real world, we want your balance to be better in the conditions you encounter every day, such as in your house, unexpectedly stepping off of the curb, and when you have to do rapid head movement.


Consider incorporating balance training into your routine to optimize your stability, coordination, overall health, and well-being. It will pay off now and as you age!

Click here to schedule an appointment to assess your balance and get a training plan for improved stability and coordination!




References:

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. National Vital Statistics System, Mortality 1999-2020 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released in 2021. Data are from the Multiple Cause of Death Files, 1999-2020, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed at http://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html on Feb 9, 2023

2. Burns ER, Kakara R. Deaths from Falls Among Adults ≥65 Years—United States, 2007–2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018;67:509–514. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6718a1


Enhance Balance Coordination Neurological

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