Your proprioception, or sense of physical self, is what allows you to move naturally throughout the world, go through motions, or participate in physical activity and be sure that your limbs will be in the right place to move you correctly. You receive proprioceptive signals from all over your body, via your muscles, tendons and joints.
A good sense of proprioception can improve your balance and coordination as well as your physical capabilities. This can improve your day-to-day coordination if you’re accident prone, and it can help the elderly, children and those who are disabled.
You can train to improve your body’s ability to read its proprioceptive signals by using exercises that specifically challenge you to be aware of how your body is moving and how it is positioned. A 2015 study found that proprioceptive training improves your balance and coordination by more than 50 percent. Here are four training trips to improve your balance and coordination by training your proprioceptive senses.
1. Close your eyes while you perform exercises
When you close your eyes, you should still have a general sense of where your body is. This can enable you to, say, touch your nose with your eyes shut. To improve your proprioceptive signals, you can practice simple exercises with your eyes shut to focus on the sensations being sent throughout your body.
Perform a simple exercise that won’t trip you up—lifting dumbbells, for instance—and practice feeling how your body is positioned as you go through the exercise with your eyes closed. Practice Push-ups or ride a stationary bicycle with your eyes shut. This can help you identify the sensations your body is sending. By allowing yourself to focus on them, you can notice more parts of your body than you usually do, and develop a more instinctive knowledge of how you’re positioned.
2. Perform balance exercises to improve your coordination
Balance exercises can improve your ability to evenly distribute your weight and keep you from toppling over. This can help you when you’re leaning down, when you’re carrying something heavy, when you’ve injured one leg or when you’re simply performing physical activities. Improving your balance can keep you from tumbling, tripping, falling down stairs or otherwise injuring yourself, which becomes increasingly important as you age.
Introductory balance exercises include standing on one foot for 20 to 30 seconds at a time, then switching to the other foot. You can also practice walking in a straight line, positioning one foot in front of the other with every step, to improve your balance. You could test and further develop your balance through water sports like surfing, water skiing or using a stand-up paddle board. These exercises can help you learn how to control your weight distribution and coordination.
3. Incorporate strength training into your workout
Strengthening exercises—particularly exercises that work on critical joints, such as your knees and shoulders—can make a significant difference in your coordination and your proprioceptive senses. By building strength in your legs, shoulders and back, you build a stronger base to control your body and improve your awareness and physical capabilities. If you perform core exercises, you can further strengthen your balance by improving your trunk muscles to hold up the upper half of your body more effectively. For example, if you trip, you can use your core muscles to hold yourself up and pull back from the fall.
4. Use plyometric exercises to improve your sense of self
You can use exercises that require quick footwork and coordination to improve your proprioceptive signals. These plyometric exercises, such as running in a figure-eight pattern, make you think about how your body has moved and how it will continue to move in order to prepare yourself and your balance. They can be physically demanding, so be sure to stick to a level you’re capable of rather than attempting to clear a 4-foot hurdle with no training.
By working on your balance and coordination, you can keep yourself from tripping, improve your movements and become more graceful. Avoid the hip-breaking fall in your elder years by improving on your ability to read your proprioceptive signals now.
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