The Key to Good Balance Could Be in Your Feet

Balance is a function of voluntary muscles and also the brain.

Written by: Bill Ross (Vintage Fitness personal trainer, Markham)

As a Vintage Fitness trainer I am often asked by clients if I can help improve their balance.  With this in mind I attended a balance workshop at the recent Canadian Fitness Professionals conference in Toronto this past weekend.  The presenter, Dr. Emily Splichal is a podiatrist and specialist in balance training and fall prevention.

While I was familiar with some of the theories presented I did learn several new ideas, and also learned some new techniques that help activate the balance systems quicker.  Balance is a function of voluntary muscles and also the brain.  The three brain systems, the brain stem, limbic system, and neocortex must be fully “awake” and in communication with each other through the Reticular Activating System (RAS)  for optimal balance.   Some ideas to stimulate the RAS are quite simple:

  • press your tongue against the palate
  • rapid side to side eye movements
  • rubbing beside the ears. 

The Corpus Callosum which connects the left and right sides of the brain can also affect balance and can be improved by cross body exercises like balancing on the right foot while making figure eights or infinity signs in the air with the left hand.

We know that fear of falling makes a person more likely to fall.  Part of the reason lies in breathing: fear causes a panic response making a person breathe more rapidly.  This in turn affects the diaphragm making us lose core stability which is necessary for good balance.  Combined balance and breathing exercises can help.

The palms of our hands and soles of our feet are equipped with mechanoceptors which measure pressure, skin stretch and vibration.  This information is relayed to the brain to help keep us upright.  The use of thick padded insoles can damp the vibration and pressure these cells measure and put us more at risk for falling. 

If you or someone in your family is experiencing difficulty with balance please contact us at Vintage Fitness (416) 951-7978 or email .  We have the knowledge and training, and can help.

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