Balance is the main skill required to cycle. In fact is it important in every sport. Balance helps us keep control of our bodies so we can perform a particular task with the minimum amount of swaying around. Even though we aren’t moving very much lots of muscles are working to hold us in this particular position. The better control we have the less energy we use so its less tiring.
The type of balance needed when staying still is static balance and whilst moving is dynamic balance.
But helping your child achieve good balance is vital. “Balance is the pillar beneath every skill we have,” says Marjorie Woollacott, Ph.D., professor of human physiology at the University of Oregon in Eugene. Children are bending over electronic devices and becoming overweight in large numbers; experts believe their balance is more challenged than ever. Continuously hunching over or carrying extra weight “can affect posture and balance, which could then lead to less success in sports or even problems with gait,” says Harriet Williams, Ph.D., a professor of exercise science at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.
The good news is that common games, like hopscotch and tag, promote balance. And children’s classes in balance-building activities such as yoga and Balanceability are gaining in popularity.
Why practice something so basic? More and more, researchers are connecting balance to mental, not just physical, functioning. “When kids stabilize themselves from an unstable pose, they learn how to focus faster and more efficiently,” says Catherine Jackson, Ph.D., chair of the department of kinesiology at California State University at Fresno. Kids with learning problems, who often have less than optimal balance, can particularly benefit from balance training. “If you use half your mental energy to control balance, you have only the other half to process information,” explains Dr. Williams. “But if you have to use only one-tenth of that energy for postural control, then 90% is available for cognitive things.”
How do we balance then?
Our centre of gravity has to be over the area of support e.g. standing up the support is your feet. The larger or wider the area of support the easier it is to balance. When you are in the water it is easier to float horizontally in the water than vertically. Similarly if you are walking along a balance beam its easier to do with your arms stretching out to the side.
To balance you need to use your eyes, your ears and have a good idea what the rest of your body is doing. There is one system that covers translates all the messages received and enables the body to be aware of what it needs to do to move and to maintain balance. This ‘vestibular’ system develops from birth and infancy into childhood and further matures to integrate the eye movements needed for reading and learning. It is imperative to get your children moving early in their lives.
Movement is an important part of a child’s development as it forms the foundations for all areas of learning. Children who are encouraged into activities that develop and practice gross and fine motor skills are more likely to gain intellectually as a result. Getting a child to sit still requires the development of considerable balance and body control.
Improving balance and sensory processing skills all types of children can excel including those with weaknesses such as dyslexia, learning difficulties and ADHD.
Balance bikes help to promote symmetry – for example the upper body remaining steady whilst the lower part of the body is able to move freely and evenly. Symmetry within the body quite simply means it works better. It also means that the inter-relationship between balance and movement is improved