Many people believe that as we get older we begin to lose our ability to balance. This may have been the case for previous generations, but I would say they just didn’t practice. Our nervous system is worthy of our attention because it is infinitely trainable. The different movement systems interact with each other and specific balance exercises ensure everything plays nice together.
When we do balance exercises the muscular system gets strengthened while simultaneously improving the neurological component, the nervous system. This is called coordination and agility. In other words, it’s important for our muscles to be strong but it’s important that they’re smart.
Say for example you decide you want to get in shape for skiing, so you get on a leg press machine. Good for you, but what does skiing have to do with laying on your back and pushing weight up and down on a single plane? I’m not saying there is no benefit whatsoever, but skiing creates challenges to the leg strength from many different angles depending on terrain while simultaneously negotiating the forces of gravity while moving.
So skiing is a complex activity, it requires as much strength as it does balance.
Kinesthetic awareness is another word for coordination. Balance is largely about your wiring. When you practice balancing, you actually ‘burn in’ new neurological pathways which, when practiced enough, become new habits. After practicing a while on exercises which are progressively more challenging you become able to do things without needing to think about it.
Any exercise you do that involves the muscles and also involves balance is a good core exercise. Performing a body weight-balance exercise that strengthens the leg will also strengthen the muscles that surround the spine and better yet improve coordination.
Need some ideas for incorporating balance into your workout routine? Check out this link for balance exercises to add to your workout routine.