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Episode 229: Balancing While Walking

Video Highlights

- Drills you can do immediately
- Drill progression for any level
- Neurologically and research backed drills

Today, we’re going to talk about balance in motion.

Today, I want to continue on with our discussion of modern balance training, based off research.

As I mentioned in previous blogs, one of the things we keep finding is that what you practice is what you get better at. Whenever you do a lot of balance work that is removed from your real life activities, you get better at the test or better at the drill that you’re practicing, but it may not transfer.

One of the biggest recommendations coming out of the whole research environment is you need to make your balance training as close to your daily activities as possible.

One of the things that we’ve now started to do–we’ve been doing this for a number of years–is we introduce balance work in a different way to people. If you think about, as people age, one of the things that we notice is their movement box shrinks.

One of the reasons their movement box shrinks is that they actually start to lose capacity to maintain balance, while their bodies and heads and eyes are doing different things.

One really easy way to start to think about, “How can I improve my balance for the real world?” is to start incorporating head movements along with basic walking. Sounds really easy.

Sounds really silly. However, when I test this even amongst athletic, in an athletic environment with people coming through our courses, probably 30-40% of them struggle with just these very basic things.

I’m going to show you some progressions that you can think about, give you some ways to start to work on this at home. Please, again, hear me clearly on this.

If you know that you have a history of vertigo, if you have a history of vestibular disturbances, a history of significant visual issues, you should be pre-screened or talk to someone, a professional who understands these things, to make sure that these exercises are appropriate for you, because all that I’m going to show you are general approaches.

You may not need a general approach. You may need a specific approach, so if you feel like that’s you, do yourself a favor and get screened first.

Now, assuming you’re a generally athletic, healthy person, wanting to be better at things, here are some different things that you can do. I tell people, what you’re going to do is you’re going to go out. You’re going to take about a 10-minute walk.

We’re going to do several different evolutions in this walk.

The first one: You’re going to start walking. You’re simply going to turn your head to the left as you walk. All right? You’re going to take about 10 steps, turn your head back to the front and make sure that you don’t feel weird, all right?

Maybe you get a little bit dizzy. If you get dizzy from that, you know that that’s a problem.

You’re then going to keep walking. You’re going to turn your head to the right and walk. It should be easy, once again. If you are feeling fine with both of those, then what I’m going to have you do is walk about 50 meters, all right, 50 yards, and turn your head every two to three steps.

Woman with arms out staying balanced while walking on the curb.

One, two, one … All right? Really, really easy, again, just good balance drill .

You want to notice if you’re swerving along the path, right? Don’t get hit by a bicycle. You should be able to maintain a straight, straight line movement, while you’re doing that.

After you’ve done rotations, the next thing you want to think about is looking up and looking down. Do the same thing. Start walking, looking up at the sky, looking up at the ceiling, again five to 10 steps, see how you feel, back to neutral.

Then, I don’t generally have people do too much looking down, because they already do that, but if you notice that this is uncomfortable for you, then you can go from up to down, another 10 steps.

If both of those are okay, then the next evolution is two steps up, two steps down, two steps up, two steps down, all right?

I think you’re seeing the pattern now. I want to give you a couple of other options.

I have people also walk with the head tilted side to side.

If those are all okay for you, and you play sports, particularly ball sports, I also like to include up and left, up and right, looking over your shoulder, and then also down and right, down and left, as if you’re looking at your dog while you’re taking a walk.

None of those, like I said, should challenge you, in terms of being able to maintain balance, but we find, in many cases, one position particularly is a little bit hard to understand neurologically.

You feel a little off balance One of the best ways to rehab this is just do it, all right?

Get out, spend 10-15 minutes a day.

The payoff on this is actually quite enormous for people, because if you can think about the idea of being able to relax, breathe, let your body move while your head is in different positions, without it being threatening or taxing to you, it opens up a lot of possibilities to enjoy movement, more so than you currently do.

Final thing I’m going to mention within this particular process is if you are an athlete, you don’t just have to walk.

You can actually jog.

You can do light sprints with these different head positions.

One of my favorite things to do, particularly with soccer players and football players. You can do light hopping or skipping.

If you’re an athlete who does a lot of running and sprinting, again, trying to integrate these different head challenges or head and neck challenges with your movement. Again, you can be creative with it.

The last thing I’ll tell you is, once you get good at doing all this going forward, you also want to get good at doing it going backwards, all right?

That’s actually a pretty long progression of things that could take you just a couple of weeks to work on, up to as long as you want.

There’s always ways to add difficulty and load to these exercises, but this is, again, a really nice kind of research based approach to say, “I want to get better at moving through the real world, and part of moving through the real world means my gait combined with different head positions.”

This is a really high value target in your search for better balance.

If you have any questions about this, please let me know.

Otherwise, good luck, and stay balanced.

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