If you want a true test of your injury risk, try this:
Stand somewhere safe – in the middle of a room away from furniture is suggested. Lift one foot off the ground and close your eyes. Are you able to hold your balance without wiggling or toppling over? How long can hold steady?
If you’re unable to hold your balance in this position, studies show that you’re at an increased risk of injury and falling. Researchers have found that there is a direct link between your balance and injury prevention. They have found that balancing and strength training exercises result in few injuries and falls.
The Link Between Balance & Injury Prevention
It’s well known that good balance decreases your risk of falling, especially in as you grow older. However, what is less known is that it also decreases your risk of sports injury. When it comes to sports training, most people focus on strengthening and performance. Both strength and performance training is incredibly important to injury prevention. However, there is a direct link between balance and injury prevention as well.
Previous studies show that poor balance can increase your risk of ankle injuries. In those same studies, researchers found that balance training in the form of jumping and landing as well as agility exercises significantly decreased injuries to the ankle and knee in athletes. This is particularly true in athletes that play soccer, volleyball, and basketball.
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Balance Improves Joint Stability
While targeted strengthening exercises helps in muscle stability and mobility, balance exercises improves joint stability. In fact, six separate studies show that balance training, and subsequently good balance, improves joint stability so much so that it lowers the risk of injury by 45%. These same studies also showed that paired with the proper strength training and agility exercises, there was a 68% drop in injuries.
Although balance training would seem to have the greatest benefit in preventing falls and accidents in both seniors and adults, it also effects overuse injuries and sprains. This is because when joints and muscles are stable and function properly, they can help the body move effectively. Alignment is one of the greatest determining factors of injury risk and poor balance can make it difficult to keep proper alignment during movement.
When you don’t maintain proper alignment while moving, you put strain and undue stress on your ligaments, tendons, joints, and muscles. Strain leads to not only lower performance but also overuse injuries. While strengthening and agility training lessen the stress on your body, balance training can decrease strain by helping your body move correctly.
The good news is that you don’t have to dedicate a training day to balance exercises. Many strengthening exercises and workouts such as yoga incorporate balance as part of the overall workout. Furthermore, you can work on balancing during any part of your day by simply standing for a short period of time on one foot and then switching feet. Even focusing on walking properly (heel to toe walking) can help increase your balance!