Falls and their consequences are a paramount health concern in older populations. Poor balance has pervasive effects on daily life and therefore maintaining balance represents an important pillar for the quality of life as we age. A study published in Europe brings clarity to how exactly we should go about improving our balance.
The common prescription from both physical therapists and exercise professionals for improving balance has consisted primarily of the performance of balancing tasks; stand on one leg for a set period of time, perform heel to toe, "tight rope walk", and the like. The limitation with these activities is they are what motor learning experts refer to as "closed skills" that do not transfer to "real life" scenarios or other balancing contexts. Stated otherwise, although we can improve our ability to perform that specific task, it doesn't help our performance in the infinite scenarios in which we must utilize our ability to balance.
The most recent study published last month adds to the ever-growing body of research that suggests a strong correlation between strength and balance. Participants in the study did a leg press exercise for a total of 9 weeks and then were analyzed for their ability to balance in a variety on contexts. By performing the leg press only and no specific balance exercises, the participants significantly improved multiple measurements of balance.
Take home message: GET STRONG!