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The Playground Keeps Your Balance Safe and Sound

What was your favorite play as a child? Did you climb to the top of trees and swing from the branches? Chase siblings over the river and through the woods? Did you swing on the swings, hang from the bars, or spin around on the merry-go-round? Play is the way we exercise our balance systems. To keep balance brain and body respond to signals from the ears, eyes, and muscles. Injury, weakness, neurological disease, visual challenge, even ear narrowing can affect balance and stability. We practiced balance on the playground when we were young why not use it now? Your eyes monitor movement and horizon. When we swing on the swing, it keeps the eyes doing their thing. Ears have fluid-filled canals sloshing up/down, round and round. Exercise these with a spin on the merry-go-round. Let's play our way to healthier balance!

The balance system relies on a high-speed highway between the brain, eyes, ears, and body. Constant messages are sending, receiving, interpreting, and resending balance signals. The brain also chooses the best source of information - the eyes, ears, or body. At night, or in dim lighting, the balance system relies on the body feeling and head orientation for information. This information helps us FEEL the horizon. When you swing, the brain FEELS facing up or down. It knows if your swing is straight or sideways. The swing exercises balance by practicing spatial orientation signals from the body. Let's play on the swing to exercise our balancing.

Always check with your physician before beginning any exercise program.

Begin in the seated position. Squint your eyes and rock back and forth like you are on a swing. Try to swing side to side. At first, move for a few seconds, then stop. When you can move, with your eyes squinted with more comfort, advance by closing one eye and then the other. Eventually, try to close both eyes. After you can close your eyes, move and stop comfortably, transition to standing. Start with a supported stand against the counter, table, or wall. Begin back at the squint with a slow swing. Gradually advance back to closed eyes. Then lessen your hold as you improve. ONLY ADVANCE AS YOU FEEL SAFE. The safe feeling lets you know your balance system has improved. Finally, try a free-standing swing with eyes closed for the highest challenge. Maintain safety as you advance. Swing to your heart's delight and play your balance challenge away!

Remember the merry-go-round? Were you the slow, center spinner or a fast-spin, hanging off the edge kind of daredevil? Your balance system uses your eyes and ears to register speed, movement, and stop. Fluid receptors in the ears signal forward/backward, side-to-side, and even diagonal movements. Eyes keep track of horizon, speed, and distance. The brain receives these messages and adjusts the body accordingly. Most falls happen while walking, changing positions, or stopping when muscles have to control your balance automatically. Let's play on the merry-go-round to keep our balance safe and sound.

Always begin seated for safety and gradually transition to a supported stand or free stand as you feel SAFE. Imagine being on a merry-go-round. Move the head and sightline from side to side for a few seconds and stop. Repeat this action three or four times. Next, move the head and sightline from up to down a few times and stop. Repeat. Finally, try a diagonal movement and stop. Be sure to check with your physician if any of these movements trigger dizziness or pain. Move slowly and gently within your comfort range of motion. Build up the length of time you can move. When you improve, transition to supported stand and free stand. Playing on the merry-go-round keeps your balance safe and sound.

What was your favorite playground piece? How did it feel to swing, hang, or spin? Playing on an imaginary playground will improve your balance. Safe practice with play can make your response to falls faster and more accurate. One of the best things about the balance system is the more we practice, the better the balance will be. Balance also relies on redundancy! Practice over, and over, and over, and over, and red rover come over again! Be sure to introduce these games slowly and safely and under the guidance of your physician.

Hopeful Healing Integrated Exercise for Seniors can help you find the best balance exercise for you. Our interactive, virtual classes come into your living room and leave your body, heart, spirit, and mind REACH the highest HEALTH potential.


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