Posted by: Pamela Kalivas | February 26, 2014

Are You Hanging in the Balance?

Are You Hanging in the Balance?


           After watching the winter Olympics, it was amazing to see how these young athletes were able to fall but miraculously get back on their feet within seconds.   They made it look so effortless.  We also saw athletes excel in maintaining their balance to go on to win the “Gold.” But in the real world, our sense of balance begins to slip as early as in our 30’s and 40’s.  What do these Olympians know that we might not?

Constant training through exercise gave them razor edge balance.

         Which reminds me, world-class balance is one of the perks of ballroom dancing whether on the ice rink or dance floor.  Practicing timing and coordination actually exercises the nervous system which encourages the brain to learn new moves and adjust to different environments. Since falls in our work population is the leading cause of injury, start balance training early and you can reduce your lifetime risk. We can all keep steady well into old age by challenging our body, keeping active and performing strengthening exercises.

Skaters in Balance

         But if becoming another Meryl Davis and Charlie White isn’t in your future, I have some everyday options to improve your balance.

Start to Balance out your week with some of these exercises!

The Beach Balance

Is there any better way to brighten your day than taking a walk or run on the beach?  Take a stroll on surfaces with varying inclines and surface movements (like sand) help your body naturally exercise its center for balance- the cerebellum.  This includes switching between walking on pavement and grass like in a park or neighborhood to vary terrain if a beach isn’t nearby.

The Rise-Up Repeats

This one is great for office workers. Sit in your stationary chair and practice standing up and sitting back down without using the arm rests.   Being able to do this up to 10 times in a row can greatly improve balance, according to The Wall Street Journal. When seated stick out your arms straight in front of you to assist weight distribution forward when standing up.  This will help improve balance by strengthening both abdominal and thigh muscles.

The Zig-Zags    

Create your own champion slalom course. Use cones or objects and place five of them in a straight line.  Swiftly Zig-Zag between each cone to improve balance and agility.  Start out at five minutes and aim for 10 minutes per day.

Remember Spinning like a Top . . .

That cheap summer childhood pastime spinning around and around until you fell giggling in the soft grass.  Well, it turns out that doing slow 360s can help improve balance (no falling necessary!). Practice slowly turning around in 360 degree circles with eyes both open and closed.

So, Why Train Your Brain for Balance?

Shaun White Hits Half-Pipe

       Exercise encourages the brain’s cerebellum to coordinate information from the visual, vestibular (inner ear) and the proprioceptive (or sense of body position) systems. As we age, we start to depend more on the visual system which doesn’t work as quickly as the vestibular system.  Beginning in the early 50s, people may feel unsteady, stop trusting their own sense of balance, and become more sedentary (NeuroScience Online-John Hopkins University).

       By becoming less active, they lose the ability to take advantage of sensory information and balance becomes worse, leading to falls.  Exercises like Spinning cause your brain to rely less on the visionary system and more on the proprioceptive system.

          Now you know.  A regimen of balance improving exercises will prevent falls and improve overall fitness.

          So the next time someone asks you: “Are you hanging in the balance?” Answer confidently:  “I live to balance.” Whether it is with work, family, or a much improved balancing center of the cerebellum.

Here’s to your much improved sense of balance!

~Pam Kalivas




  1. Interesting, Pamela! Also, try yoga vrikshasana!

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