Today, we’re going to talk about balancing on a compass.
One of my favorite quotes comes from, you hear them from many different sources, but the quote is, “If something’s important, do it every day.” When you think about, as you age, one of the most important things that we can maintain is good balance.
Obviously, in the Z-Health system, we spend lots of time doing different balance exercises, working on the vestibular system. But we also have to work on the full body system in terms of maintaining balance in the world. The key here is that balance is dynamic, meaning if we’re going to improve our balance, we actually have to challenge ourselves with movement.
One of the simplest ways to do this is to imagine that you’re standing on a compass or a star. In traditional therapy, they’ll call this a star excursion drill. Basically, I’m standing in the middle of a compass, and I have eight major points. I have cardinal and ordinal points, so directly in front, directly behind, left and right. Then I have four additional diagonals.
The way that we’re going to use this compass to train our balance is very, very simple. We’re going to start off, get in a good, comfortable neutral position, and we’re going to choose one leg as our stance leg. I’m going to stand on my left leg. I’m going to use my right leg, and I’m going to basically work on tracing each of the lines. The idea is keep that foot in the air before you return to center, really, really simple. Traditionally in therapy, we say you have to actually spend at least one second here, come up, another second here, come up, another second here. Again, we’re just going to work our way around the compass.
Obviously, this side’s pretty easy. Whenever we start crossing the midline, things become a little bit more challenging for people. We have to cross, come back, and then think about this line here, reaching across, and then one behind, reaching back. What we’re requiring is a lot of midline stability. We’re requiring ourselves to use our eyes, very important to pick a focal point. If your head’s moving all over the place, that’ll make it more challenging, but that’s the point. Eventually, we want to make this more challenging by adding in head movements and also extending the time.
When I first teach this to people, I ask them to do one to two seconds per line with each leg, and do that for a total of five minutes. I would do my right leg, switch, go to my left leg, switch back, and just keep repeating that. The reason that we aim for between five and 15 minutes of this type of work is, in the research, that seems to give the longest lasting benefit in terms of balance. The basic progression, again, stand in neutral. Imagine that you’re in the middle of a compass. You’re going to reach with each leg to each line, holding it for at least one second before coming up to the midline. You can extend the lines and require yourself to use a deeper knee bend. That’s one of the first progressions.
Secondly, after you get good at that, you can try it eyes closed. When you have your eyes closed, obviously, the challenge is going to go way up. That’s another progression that you can use.
Assuming you have decent balance, you can start off with 30 seconds to one minute with one leg. Switch to the opposite leg, 30 seconds to one minute, spending at least one to two seconds per line. You’re going to do multiple reps. From there, you can then close your eyes and continue to work on that. Again, we’re trying to accumulate five to 15 minutes of work here. You can make it as varied as possible. If you lose your balance and have to touch down, that’s OK. The whole point, remember, it’s a dynamic process, and we have to get good at recovery in order to say that we have good balance.
Give this a try. If you have any questions about it, let us know. Otherwise, good luck.
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