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Benefits of Balance Exercises – Enhancing your Proprioception

posted Jul 14, 2015, 2:47 PM by Sandy Karlek   [ updated Jul 14, 2015, 8:46 PM ]



Can you touch your nose with your eyes closed? Do you have difficulty walking in complete darkness without losing your balance? Try standing still, feet together and eyes closed. Stretch your arms out to your sides, stand still and balance for 10 seconds. Easy? Lift up one foot, or arms over your head, close your eyes and try again.

Exercises designed to improve muscle memory and hand eye coordination will increase your balance, hone your agility and improve coordination skills to perform activities of daily living. This position-movement sensation is called proprioception. Unfortunately, our proprioceptive ability tends to weaken as we age because message transmissions to and from the central nervous system work slower. Poor proprioception can negatively affect balance, agility and coordination, all of which increase your risk of falling.

Performing the proprioception activities in water allows you to focus on the movement with less fear of falling because the water supports your body. The water resistance requires you to work harder than on land but with less impact on your joints because buoyancy decreases the effects of gravity, makes you weigh less and lessens the amount of shock transmitted through your joints, bones and ligaments. The water provides sensory input while the turbulence massages your body.

Below are 5 basic exercises to help improve proprioception. First perform each exercise with your eyes open. When you feel comfortable, repeat each exercise with your eyes closed.

1.  Heel To Toe Stands


a. Standing chest deep in a swimming pool, gently hold the railing or side of the pool and lift your heels.

b. Keeping your posture, roll your feet back and lift your toes.

c. Repeat this exercise 10 times.


2.  Alternating Opposite Directions


a. Standing chest deep in a swimming pool with your feet flat on the surface of the water.

b. Lift your right heel and your left toe, then slowly switch, lifting your right toe and left heel.

c. Repeat this exercise 10 times.


3.  Slowly Walking Heel to Toe 


a. You will need 10 feet of pool space all the same depth.

b. Starting with your right heel touching the bottom of the pool

c. Slowly roll your foot forward and push up on your toe as your left heel touches the bottom of the pool and rolls forward until you push up on your left toes and bring your right heel back down again.

d. Easy? Slow down and count to ten with each step.


4.  Kickboard: Leg Extensions


a. Seated on a step in the pool, using the bottom of your foot, press a kickboard to the bottom of the pool.

b. Keeping the opposite foot firm on the ground, slowly lift the kickboard 3 inches off the bottom of the pool’s floor.

c. Keeping it parallel to the floor, extend your leg, pointing your toe and stretch out as far as you can, then bring it back until it touches the step.

d. Repeat 5 times, then switch to the other foot.


5.  Kickboard: Lifts/Ankle rolls


a. Seated on a step in the pool, using the bottom of your foot, press a kickboard to the bottom of the pool.

b. Keeping the opposite foot firm on the ground, slowly lift the kickboard 6 inches off the bottom of the pool’s floor.

c. Gripping the kickboard with your foot and holding it steady in one location, push your toes down causing the back of the kickboard to rise, then lift your toes up bringing the front of the kickboard to rise.

d. Repeat 5 times, then switch to the other foot.