Harvard Women's Health Watch

The benefits of balance training

Though not included in official exercise guidelines, balance training can do a lot to help keep us on our feet and active.

With ankle sprains, it is important to restore ankle function as soon as possible after an injury. One important goal is to prevent the ankle from giving way recurrently during weight-bearing activity, such as running, walking, or even standing. This chronic ankle instability, often caused by inadequate healing or rehabilitation after a sprain, can result in increasingly injurious sprains, arthritis, or tendon problems.

Experts in sports medicine and physical therapy say that in addition to the usual range of motion, flexibility, and strengthening exercises, rehabilitation should include exercises aimed at training (or retraining) the body's sense of its position in space — in particular, its sensation of limb and joint movement. This largely unconscious capacity — the medical term for it is "proprioception" — is what allows us, for example, to walk in the dark without losing our balance or to distinguish the brake from the accelerator without looking at our feet. Aging and injury to muscles and ligaments can take a toll on proprioception.

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