Thursday, October 18 , 2018, 1:04 am | Fair 55º

 
 
 
Your Health
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Advice

Fun and Fit: How Good Is Your Balance?

How good is your functional balance control? You can find out in under 2 minutes. You can also discover which of your three balancing systems is strongest.

I had fun trying the balance assessment below when I attended the first Functional Aging Summit in Phoenix this past week. Day one of the conference was dedicated to learning how to maximize physical function for the over-50 exerciser.

In order to know what to progress, we first need to establish baselines. It’s the ole’ “you don’t know where to go until you know where you are” approach. Ergo — Time to tackle fitness assessments that measure functional abilities such as static balance, dynamic strength and dynamic balance.

(What exactly is “functional fitness”? Click to our post with the answer once you have read this one).

Test Instructions

My fun gets to be your fun. Try the following test, which assesses your ability to maintain static balance when one or more sensory systems are inhibited. Stand on both legs with your arms against your sides. Perform each of the four conditions for 30 seconds with someone else timing you and keeping an eye out in case you fall or need a hand. Stop the test if you:

» Raise your arms from your sides.

» Open your eyes in either of the two closed eyes tests.

» Lose your balance and need help to prevent falling.

Definitions of Sensory Systems

Fun Fit balance
Something in this picture is unstable. Or someone ...

Before you begin, let’s define a few terms so you know which of your balance senses are fine and dandy or need development.

» Visual System: helps us interpret visual images. Pretty straightforward.

» Somatosensory System: conveys information about the state of the body and objects in our external environment through touch. This system also gives us input about the position and movement of our body parts  through the stimulation of muscle and joints, aka proprioception.

» Vestibular System: senses spatial orientation for the purpose of coordinating movement with balance.

OK, now to find out which of these three senses are your best friends, and which (if any) need better buddying up. Ready, set, time yourself!

Condition 1) Eyes Open, Stable Surface

You are using your visual, somatosensory, and vestibular systems.

Condition 2) Eyes Closed, Stable Surface

You have pulled out your visual system, and are using just the vestibular and somatosensory systems.

Condition 3) Eyes, Open, Unstable Surface

Stand on a foam pad or BOSU ball, for example. You are dependent on your visual and vestibular systems in this case.

Condition 4) Eyes Closed, Unstable Surface

Again, using a foam pad or BOSU ball. You are relying on the vestibular system alone.

How many seconds were you able to last for each condition? Under which conditions did you have troubles?

Side (plank) note: I just became the first fitness pro in my county to achieve the Functional Aging Specialist certification. You can read about it here on noozhawk.

Take the balance test. Record your results. Which of your balance senses were strongest? Weakest? Let us know in the comments below.

— Kymberly Williams-Evans, with identical twin Alexandra Williams, has been in the fitness industry since the first aerobics studio opened on the European continent. They teach, write, edit, emcee and present their programs worldwide on land, sea and airwaves. They co-write Fun and Fit: Active Aging Answers for Boom Chicka Boomers. You can currently find them in action leading classes in Santa Barbara and Goleta. Kymberly is the former faculty minor adviser at UCSB for its fitness instruction degree offered through the Department of Exercise & Sport Studies; Alexandra serves as an instructor and master teacher for the program. Fun and Fit answers real questions from real people, so please send your comments and questions to [email protected].

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