According to Dr Sheri R Colberg – “Regardless of your age, if you can’t stand steadily on one leg for at least 15 seconds – with or without eyes closed – then you need to start practicing as soon as possible to improve your balance”
What is human balance?
Balance is the ability to maintain the body’s center of mass over its base of support. To achieve and maintain balance requires a complex set of control systems – sight, proprioception, vestibular system; integration of the sensory input and motor output to the eyes and body muscles. The aging process can affect one or more of these and studies have shown balance starts to deteriorate starting around age 40.
Although aging does affect balance, another factor is poor posture. It is so common today to see people with forward head posture and rounded shoulders. Coupled with aging, poor posture moves the center of the body forward making it unstable during walking.
Even in younger folks, having a poor posture affects balance. Poor posture means some muscles are tight and some muscles are weak. This does not allow the individual to react well when faced with uneven terrain – resulting in falls and injuries which can range from mild to severe such as ankle sprains, wrist sprains or broken wrists.
Pilates is a system of exercise that aims to correct poor posture and to improve balance. It works for people of all ages – and for older people it is even more critical. We are well aware of the significant risks for older people when they fall. They may suffer fractured hips, wrists or elbows that often take longer to heal. And usually after a fall, it sets up a whole cycle of fear that prevents an individual to move normally.
When I first started Pilates, I had some balance issues. I find it very challenging to balance on my left leg and one of the reasons (although there could be others) is that my left foot is more pronated than my right. This is one example of poor foot mechanics affecting balance.
So during Pilates, it is not just the single leg movements that are important but also movements that help to change and improve poor posture or faulty mechanics.