Single Leg Balance is not only important if you’d like to improve your Single Leg Deadlift and your Pistol Squat, but it’s essential to health and wellness as we age!
“Falls are a leading cause of injury and death among the elderly and a significant public health issue” (this study reported).
Strength, Balance, Vestibular System Decline, and Proprioception all play a role in falls.
Strength… I think we do a pretty good job addressing this issue here. =)
Balance is similar to a foreign language – if you don’t use it, you lose it!
- practice balancing on one leg
- while you’re watching tv
- while you’re standing in line at the grocery store
- playing catch with your kids
- practice walking on a curb
Your Vestibular System is responsible for “sensing the degree and direction of acceleration, as well as providing a sense of orientation of the head with respect to gravity… and for processing the numerous sensory inputs”. (Quotes & more about the vestibular system here).
Proprioception is knowing where your body is in space.
Many factors can affect balance. This article reports: “The normal changes of aging, like poor eyesight or poor hearing, can make you more likely to fall. Illnesses and physical conditions can affect your strength and balance. Poor lighting or throw rugs in your home can make you more likely to trip or slip. The side effects of some medicines can upset your balance and make you fall. Medicines for depression, sleep problems, and high blood pressure often cause falls. Some medicines for diabetes and heart conditions can also make you unsteady on your feet. You may be more likely to fall if you are taking four or more medicines. You are also likely to fall if you have changed your medicine within the past two weeks.”
Let’s break that down…
Poor Eyesight: Proprioception is knowing where your body is in space. We use our vision as part of our proprioceptive input. We can see where our elbow is in space. Even out of our peripheral vision, we can see how big the stair in front of us is as well as where our foot is in relation to the stair. When we age and our vision starts to deteriorate, we lose the ability to see peripherally and that affects our proprioception. Now here’s the good news… We have proprioceptive ability in our joints that lies in our golgi tendon organs. These little guys are in the tendons & ligaments and they tell our brains where our bodies are in space. When we primarily use our vision as proprioception, we lose the GTO-to-Brain connection.
- An “easy” way to build that connection is to close your eyes and stand on one leg. Check out our youtube video on single leg balance. Or close your eyes and feel where your body is in space on a couple reps of any exercise.
- Be sure you are in a safe place (not in the shower or close to any sharp objects!)
- Open your eyes any time you feel unstable – no gold medals given out here, just participation trophies for effort =)
Illnesses & Physical Conditions: this is a pretty broad topic, but illnesses typically weaken your body and physical conditions can be injuries or ailments that cause weakness in different parts of your body.
- We fight weakness daily here at Pacific Strength, so even if you’re sick or have something else going on, you’re stronger than most and can compensate for anything that’s going on. We all feel horrible when we’re sick. Imagine if you didn’t have your strength training practice and you fell ill… When the bar starts low and gets lower, you’re in trouble. Let’s keep the bar high so even when it’s lowered by illness, it’s still higher than the average Joe.
Poor Lighting & Throw Rugs: This goes back to proprioception… If our vision is bad, or the lighting is bad, we can’t see the throw rugs. This also goes back to strength… If we don’t pick our feet up, due to weakness or laziness, we can easily trip. If you’re strong and quick, even if you trip, you’re less likely to have a serious injury.
Medications: Let’s do our best, through exercise, healthy eating, and healthy lifestyle, to stay off of Blood Pressure, Type 2 Diabetes, Sleep, and Depression medications so that we don’t have to worry about side effects! And the more medication you’re on, the more likely the side effects are to cause falls!
So… we’re working on balance. To help you be strong for life and to work on your single-leg strength! Follow along with us on youtube, subscribe to our channel, and come to class to get individualized help!