Everyone can improve their balance and save themselves from possible injuries and embarrassment. The following tips may help:
- Understand and apply the mechanical principles of balance. Consider these in varied and real situations.
- Explore and practice a variety of static and dynamic balance positions. Remember that games and other movement activities can be an excellent source of balance practice (see Skates, Frantic Ball, Freeze, Rag or Rug Hockey, and Super Sox in chapter 10). Also remember that people can learn at any age to adapt more effectively to messages received from visual input, the semicircular canals in the ears, pressures on the body, and the proprioceptors (a sensory system found within the muscles and tendons).
- Learn to relax. Being able to relax improves your reception of and responses to the messages sent by body mechanisms. People who need to improve their balance must learn to relax, and the environment in which they move must initially be as emotionally supportive as possible. They can then learn to remain relaxed under progressively more stressful conditions.
- Develop sufficient muscular strength and endurance in the muscles of the abdomen and lower limbs. This enables a person to make necessary balance adjustments.
If you want to improve balance while standing, landing, moving, or stopping suddenly, you should keep the following tips in mind:
1. Bend the knees instead of keeping them straight. (Can you see the important role that the knees play in both lowering the center of gravity and allowing the body weight to be adjusted over the base of support?) Assuming a bent-knee stride position with a lean into the oncoming force will allow you to absorb the force gradually in a rocking motion, shifting your weight toward the oncoming force and then rocking backward to absorb this force to maintain your balance. Rocking backward may also be useful as a preparatory movement for your next action (see Super Sox in chapter 10).
2. Increase the size of the base of support in the direction in which you may need to adjust your balance. A base of support that is wide but not in the direction of the oncoming force can actually reduce your adaptive ability to maintain your balance.
3. When stopping suddenly, lean away from—not toward—the direction you were moving. This keeps the center of gravity over the base of support.
4. When landing or stopping suddenly, keep your head up and look forward. Don’t look at the ground by dropping your head forward. (Can you see how dropping your head forward would shift your weight forward, possibly decreasing your stability?)