Improving Performance Through Balance Training

Written by Dr. Edythe Heus
RevInMo Founder – Los Angeles

If you’re a fitness fan, you’ve probably heard that you must incorporate strength, flexibility, and aerobic training into your routine to get the best results.

While that’s true, most people miss an integral training component: balance. It’s a skill needed for even the most basic movements like standing and walking. If you’re not having issues with these, you probably don’t feel the need to train your balance.

But balance training isn’t necessary only for people with apparent stability issues from neurological or vestibular dysfunction. Like any other skill, we lose balance when we do not practice it.

Healthy people, and even high-performing athletes, stand to gain many benefits from balance training.

Intrigued about how balance training can optimize your movement? Let’s dive into its physiology to better understand its benefits and how to train for it!

The Body’s Balance Systems

Keeping our balance requires integrating various systems, most notably the vestibular, visual, and proprioceptive. They send the stimuli they receive to the brain, which then processes these signals and relays instructions to the muscles to keep the body stable.

Let’s take a closer look at how these systems function:

The Vestibular System

Housed in the inner ears, the vestibular system consists of three semicircular canals and two otolith organs.

The otolith organs are responsible for detecting linear movement. These are surrounded by cilia, sensory cells topped by a gel-like matrix. This gelatinous substance bends the cilia as we move, informing the brain whether we are accelerating forward, backward, or sideward.

Meanwhile, the semicircular canals sense rotational movement in three dimensions. At the end of these canals are ampullae which contain a ridge surrounded by sensory hair cells, much like in the otolith organs. These cells sense the displacement of the endolymph fluid in our inner ear as we rotate our heads.

The Proprioceptive System
The proprioceptive system is comprised of proprioceptors found in our muscles, tendons, joint capsules, ligaments, and skin. These sensory neurons inform the brain about our joints’ position and motion, and the forces exerted on our body.

We practice proprioception consciously and unconsciously to assess our body’s position and motion in space. Without it, we won’t be able to correctly approximate the distance of the objects around us or move without intense concentration.

The Visual System
The eyes perceive our position and motion in space relative to other objects. Our brains rely heavily on these inputs to keep ourselves balanced. Even standing on two legs suddenly becomes a bit difficult with eyes closed.

Our vision can even override the stimulus sent by the vestibular and proprioceptive systems. For example, we can keep ourselves from getting dizzy on a boat by focusing on a specific object.

The Importance of Balance Training

We lose balance as we age due to the deterioration of our vestibular, proprioceptive, and visual systems. Injury and disease can also cause these systems to become dysfunctional.

Balance being fundamental to all movement, its impairment is detrimental to our daily activities. Lack of balance also harms the body parts that compensate for the resulting poor quality of movement.

Conversely, good balance leads to better coordination and posture, increased functional strength, faster reaction time, and prevention of injuries.

The good news is that training can reverse years of poor balance and help us achieve all of these benefits. Studies have found a dramatic improvement in balance amongst functional, healthy individuals and even elite athletes after undergoing balance training.

Balance training has also been found to positively affect the brain regions associated with vision and vestibular function. As such, we not only improve physical balance through exercise, but we also strengthen the systems crucial for maintaining our balance.

The Optimal Way to Train Balance

Good balance results from effective vestibular function, vision, and proprioception. So, a good training regimen must involve these sensory systems. Exercises that target these at the same time are even more efficient.

Here’s how RevInMo checks all of those boxes:

Vestibular Function
Our semicircular canals are aligned to the three planes of rotational movement:

  • Pitch (nodding)
  • Roll (moving your ears towards the left to right shoulder)
  • Yaw (shaking your head no)

Stimulating our vestibular system in all these planes through exercise equips us to better stabilize ourselves in daily life, even with unexpected stimuli.

Most RevInMo exercises are done on a gymnastic ball, effectively teaching our vestibular system how to respond to all three planes of movement.

Proprioception

Most proprioceptors can be found in our fascia, a thin interconnected web that touches every cell in our body. This tissue can become dense due to overuse, injury, and inflammation.

Thankfully, the fascia can be remodeled to its natural, elastic state. That is precisely what RevInMo exercises do, effectively improving our balance as a result.

Furthermore, training needs to sufficiently challenge our balance to see any results. RevInMo is founded on instability training, constantly demanding our balance systems to work in tandem.

Experience the astounding benefits of a balanced body when you sign up for a RevInMo class today: https://revinmo.com/membership. 

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