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How to Quickly Improve Balance (Key Brain-Based Techniques!)

Video Highlights

-- Sensory Reweighting
-- Vestibulo-Ocular Reflex Drills
-- Reducing Sensory Input

Dr. Cobb with Z-Health Performance. Today we’re going to be talking about what’s called sensory re-weighting in order to improve balance very quickly. If you are new to Z Health we are brain-based education company. Our focus is working with doctors, coaches, and therapists around the world who are interested in using cutting-edge Neuroscience in their movement practices. If that’s you, make sure to subscribe to the channel and check out our free resources. 
The last couple of weeks, I’ve been talking about balance. We talked about how in the United States that September is our fall prevention month and that we take this very very seriously. It’s the second leading cause of death worldwide and so we want to make sure that our clients are very resilient and able to maintain balance in every situation whenever you know physically possible. Now obviously if the ground falls away from you sometimes you just have to know how to fall and we need to talk about that later. 
Today we want to get into different ideas about how do I actually increase the challenge of the balance work that I’m already doing. Because for many people let’s say your primary client base is you know 25 to 45 years old you don’t work a lot with elderly clients and their balance is generally okay. Well it doesn’t mean that they don’t need balance work because in most cases whenever we improve the balance systems other areas of performance will also be enhanced to a certain degree. But the issue that we often run into is that people are like well I’m getting a little bored you know because I’m doing all this stuff and it’s hard but it’s not maybe as exciting as putting another plate on a bar. So the question is how do we actually make this challenging enough that the clients enjoy it and that the brain responds to it by going through an adaptive process.
So in this video what I want to talk about is what’s called sensory reweighting. and this is something we see a lot in the research and it is a cool sciency name given to something that movement professionals and movement explorers have been doing probably as long as humans have been practicing movement. The idea here is that if I take away one sense I will cause my brain to become more reliant on information using a different sense. So when it comes to moving through the world in our balance systems we need our eyes we need our inner ear we need our auditory system we need what’s called our proprioceptive system we need our sensory systems so obviously if I want to improve my ability to let’s say move through a crowded environment where I’m having to step over different objects etc, then I might need my brain to give more attention to my feet than to my eyes let’s say because let’s say it’s maybe it’s a dim environment I can’t see as well so I need to know precisely where my feet and knees and hips are in space.
Well the way that we do this is very simple it just involves using equipment or tools to reduce the amount of input coming in from a given sense. If you go back to our previous videos we talked a lot about doing smooth pursuits, saccades and then what we call vestibular ocular reflex drills moving the head while keeping the eye still. So what I would suggest that you do do is go back to those same exercises and remember we talked about using different stances a single leg stance tandem stance things like this and try those see how you’re performing go to the hardest version that you can and then we’re going to start taking away senses.

All that you really need for this is maybe you know some headphones these are like you know construction headphones. Throw these on and now I can’t even hear myself speak all of a sudden I can’t hear anything. Once you have reduced the amount of auditory information that you’re receiving then go through the same exercises again. Maybe include a little bit of walking forward and walking backward what you’ll find is that the simple reduction of any incoming sense that you typically rely on will upregulate other senses. 

So the ones that we tend to focus on in Z-Health we like to reduce auditory input we use earphones or ear plugs. We also like to reduce visual input. Now I say reduce visual input that does not mean eliminate it completely. So yes you can do blindfold work and in fact my earliest introduction is to sensory reweighting although no one knew that cool sciency name I was back when I was 11 12 years old one of my original martial arts instructors every month we would go meet to train somewhere at the park or at the beach because he always felt like getting us out into a different environment grass sand and even in the water practicing moving people and throwing would enhance our skills because it was changing the sensory stuff that we were receiving.  Now again he didn’t have any science background he just knew that he did that with people they improved. As an athlete, it was something that you could actually notice that the more you did that the more adaptive and resilient your balance became in more situations. So we’re just trying to emulate that in a practical way in a clinical or gym setting so we did also a lot of times blindfold work I’d be grappling we throw a blindfold on and he would make us work with opponents without using our visual system and again it would make your hands become eyes where you could start to feel and maybe even see what people were doing by using your hands this is again just a basic brain process. So for balance what has been shown in the research is that the use of what are called strobe goggles or strobe lighting is incredibly effective in Z-Health. We work with a company called Senaptec. They make goggles you can turn them on and basically they will blink where your vision will be occluded and then it will open up you can set different speeds one eye the other eye different portions of the visual system. They’re super cool goggles but in terms of balance training they are incredibly effective. There was a great research study they were having young people not compromised a people or older people right now but young people walking on a treadmill the treadmill actually had a very small balance beam built into it a flexible fabric and they had to walk on that balance beam. 

They took one group and they had them just practice walking on it they took the eye of the group and they had to walk on it but they used the strobe goggles so that periodically as they were walking the strobes would come on and they would not be able to see. 

At the end of the training session the group that just practiced improved by about 20-21 percent the group that was using the strobe goggles improved over 70 percent in the number of falls they had off that beam. 

So what they postulated in this paper again was that the intermittent visual occlusion had a strong since re-weighting aspect to it which made the brain pay more attention to what was going on in the feet and the rest of the body which is what we need sometimes whenever we are trying to improve balance in the real world. 

So again you’ll go back to some of our previous videos you will throw on headphones, you will go through all the different exercises and just notice what changes.

View previous videos here:

https://zhealtheducation.com/blog/build-better-balance-key-exercises/

https://zhealtheducation.com/blog/balance-fall-prevention-basics-dont-skip-these-steps/

Then if you are able to you know use goggles or just have someone’s literally flip the switch the light switch on and off in the room like that’s the old school version of doing this and it’s way cheaper you can actually spend five minutes or so just doing that and you will be I think dramatically surprised over a few weeks that type of practice of how powerfully it will impact your balance by again sensory reweighting getting the brain to pay attention to signals that we typically ignore. All right give this a shot hope you find it really useful. 

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