Balance. Strength Not Included.

So latest in the batch of strange and unusual studies comes this one:

Developing good balance is critical element of healthy aging.

Seems like a fine, usuable bit of information, does it not? Let’s explore their claims a bit further, however.

1) The very first line (“Balance has less to do with strength and everything to do with an elderly person’s ability to get around and live independently.”) is quite misleading. While it is true that the proprioceptive act of balancing is not strength-related, the performance aspects of balancing are almost entirely related to the strength of one’s muscles. Or, restated, everyone has a balance “sense”, which is not affected by strength, but in order to actually balance yourself, your muscles must possess some degree of strength.

What do I mean by this? Try the following right now – Stand up. Lift one foot and hold that position. You are now committing the act of balancing. Your actual sense of balance is giving you feedback on where you are in space and will warn you if you begin to lose your balance (i.e., fall), but it is your muscle contractions that allow you to perform the actual balancing.

I think that I just blew up Blogger’s metatag limit on the word “balance.”

But I hope you catch my drift. Saying that balance is unrelated to strength is quite ridiculous, as is this statement: “…their study that looked at whether a home-based balance program could improve balance.”

My goodness, I certainly hope it does.

2) The researchers “balance program” consists of a bunch of held postures, or as they are more commonly known, isometric postures. In other words, the subjects, while no doubt causing some improvements in their balance recognition, were doing strength exercise. By strengthening the muscles that help maintain balance, their balance improved.

Gee whiz.

3) The best part? The caveat, stated here: “Study participants were fairly fit to begin with. The research was geared toward helping people with their balance before it becomes problematic.”

It’d be very interesting to see what happens if they ever decide to perform this study on deconditioned, weak subjects. My guess is that there would not be significant improvements unless a separate strengthening regimen were conducted concurrently with the research study.

Let’s say it all together now:

You can’t train balance, you can only train the muscles that contribute to balance.

Class dismissed.

  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon