Balance boards are used by athletes, elderly individuals and general fitness enthusiasts who are looking to improve their balance and coordination.
Balance boards come in a variety of styles, but the most common features a circular board attached to a domed side. When you stand on the board, it does not remain stationary because of its partial roundness. Balancing yourself while standing on the board offers a number of physical benefits.
Performing exercises on a balance board develop proprioception, which is the subconscious ability to sense body position and joint movement. The proprioceptive system involves numerous receptor nerves located in muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints that are able to sense changes in muscle tension. The brain then responds to those changes by sending signals for the muscles to contract or relax appropriately. You’re constantly correcting your body position through your proprioceptive system without being consciously aware of it.
The proprioceptive system can be damaged or become less effective with age or after an injury. For example, an ankle that was previously sprained may not be able to correct its position as effectively, which could cause balance issues and subsequent injuries. A balance board will commonly be incorporated into an athlete’s rehab program by physical therapists. In addition, those working with elderly individuals will assign balance board activities to help clients maintain or improve proprioception.
Using a balance board also increases strength and stability in your core muscles, which in turn improves your posture because you’re better able to maintain proper spine position. Healthy athletes will use a balance board in their workouts so that they challenge and improve their balance system. This leads to increased coordination during competition. Balance boards have been used by therapists working with developmentally disabled children who struggle with their cognitive and sensory skills.
USING A BALANCE BOARD
When first using a balance board, begin by trying to stay on balance while standing on the board. Set your feet on the board so that they’re shoulder-width apart with the toes pointed forward. You’ll likely wobble back and forth in the beginning, but you will see stability improvements with practice. Once you’re ready to challenge yourself further, try balancing with your eyes closed. You can also try to control the movement of the board, tilting it side-to-side and front-to-back without the edges of the board touching the floor. Make sure you use the board in an area free of obstacles.