Balance is the ability to maintain the body's center of mass over its base of support. It is achieved from a combination of three important systems: vision, proprioception (tough) and the vestibular system (the inner ear complex that controls the body's perception of motion & spatial orientation). Balance is also reliant on deep core stability as well as good muscular control of the hips and legs. Injury disease, medications or the ageing process can affect one or more of these components resulting in loss of balance.
While most people understand the importance of keeping fit & eating healthy, many forget about the importance of balance. Poor standing balance increases your falls risk and falls unfortunately can have some very nasty consequences! These include severe fractures which can in turn lead to surgery and the subsequent rehabilitation required to return to pre-injury fitness. Furthermore, instabilites in dynamic balance (the body's ability to maintain balance during movement) can result in back pain, sciatica, hip pain, bursitits, knee or even foot and ankle pain.
Balance is also incredibly important in sporting populations where your body is required to maintain a stable platform while completing high level or dynamic stasks such as kicking a football or performing an arabesque. If you are having difficulty with your technique in any sport it may be worth examining your dynamic balance to assess if this may be contributing to your problem!
The good news is in many cases your balance deficits can be improved with specific balance or stability exercises. However, this doesn't just happen overnight! With regular practice most people can improve their balance over time.
So how do you change your balance? Start off by performing simple exercises such as standing on one leg with your eyes open. You can then make this harder by closing your eyes or even standing on an unstable surface such as a folded towel or pillow. Make sure that whenever you're completing balance exercises at home you have someone else standing close by or position yourself near a stable surface to hold onto, such as the kitchen bench, table or the back of a chair. If you are unsure how to progress your balance further, or are not confident trying this at home, try seeking help from a health professional.