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Balancing Act

Posted Jun 30 2009 5:53pm
Among the many remarkable feats of the human brain, the ability to balance is one to marvel at. But balance is not a feature of the brain alone. When you think about just how many parts of our bodies are at play when we stay in balance, the awe increases. Proprioception refers to the vast network of inner regulators that allow us stand upright and stay balanced while doing so. These signals cue muscles, ligaments, nerves to do their job at just the precise moment, generally in response to external factors. Couple this ability with the organs and nerves of the inner ear and receptors that are located inside our muscles of our joints with the brain and the outcome is this incredible ability to move and balance ourselves. This vast communication system involves both large organs and the tiniest of nerve endings throughout the human body.

Maintaining balance through the aging process requires attention. While some changes are subtle and others occur perhaps through genetic fate or natural aging, there are steps you can take to ensure that your body's network stays as healthy as possible. Tending to the ongoing maintenance of core muscles, for example, is one way to help joint muscles work productively and continuously. Practicing various exercises with regularity help strengthen and stretch core muscles. For example, standing on one foot, using a balance board, standing on an air disc, stretching the foot, ankle, and leg muscles all contribute to developing core muscle strength. The recent introduction of Wii virtual sports and fitness games have added a whole new dimension to strength training and exercise for people of all ages. Many assisted living residents now engage in Wii bowling and golf and compete against each other.

Playing sports and games that help develop hand-eye coordination are also part of the approach one can take to help ward off ill effects of aging. Humans often follow the path of least resistance, especially during the aging process. Staying focused and attentive help not only preserve many of the body's amazing abilities, but contribute, too, to overall brain fitness.

If you suffer from chronic imbalance, see your physician. This could be the sign of serious conditions. If you are feeling unsteady, perhaps a little practice will help.

Share your favorite exercises and tips for balance.
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