Balance and agility are two very important aspects of fitness that often get neglected as we get older. When we’re younger and involved with sports or games, we tend to develop these skills naturally as we grow up. There are several definitions, but for now, here is an idea of what these two terms mean.
Agility– The ability to change the direction of the body in an efficient and effective manner
Balance- The ability to maintain equilibrium when stationary or moving (i.e. not to fall over) through the coordinated actions of our sensory functions (eyes, ears and the proprioceptive organs in our joints)
- Static Balance – ability to retain the centre of mass above the base of support in a stationary position; such as a handstand
- Dynamic Balance – ability to maintain balance with body movement; such as running
Simply to survive, early humans had to be able to flow across the landscape: bending their bodies over and around any obstacle in their path, leaping without fear, and landing with precision. Heroes learned to tap into remarkable stores of reserved energy, all of it in their bodies and waiting to be uncorked. Coordination could also be grouped into these terms.
Now days, the fear of falling for adults 60+ is a major concern. The loss of muscle mass, strength, and endurance and the deterioration of neurologic control of our movements is typical as we age. These factors, on top of slower reflexes that occur with age, warrant the fear of falling. Cardiovascular and muscle strength training helps significantly to reduce the risk of falling. However, specific agility, balance and coordination training can even further reduce the risk. Unfortunately, this form of exercise training is often ignored with dire consequences. Falling fears aside, strength training also has significant effects on one’s BMD – Bone Mineral Density. This is an indirect indicator of osteoporosis and fracture risk for bones.
From my experience, adults shy away from agility training because they already feel
uncoordinated and are embarrassed or unsure of their current abilities. Children and young adults, or those still very physically active, are far more likely to participate or enjoy agility and balance training. So get out there, challenge your balance and do some agility ladders drills! You’re investing in your future.