July is Balance Month!
We are six months down and six to go in 2022. This seems like a good time to focus on balance. Good balance represents freedom and independence, other themes of July. My blog this month will give some information about the balance center of your brain and why it’s important to work on good balance. There will be three instructional videos from three different people helping me: balance exercises from a Tai Chi master from England, a director of a yoga school, and a physical therapist. I am hoping that you get a sense of the importance of balance, watch each of the videos, and are inspired to add some of these exercises into your daily fitness routine.
First: Some science-
You have two brains, a big one and a small one. The big brain, the “talking brain” is called the cerebrum. The little brain is your balance center, the cerebellum, and it lies behind and under the cerebrum. What’s really interesting is that even though the cerebellum is only 10% of the size of the cerebrum, it has 80% of all the neurons or brain cells. The neurons in the cerebellum are very neatly and tightly packed in parallel rows unlike the cells in the cerebrum which are not parallel and not tightly packed.
The cerebellum feeds a constant stream of information to the cerebrum, regulating the flow to prevent flooding the brain with information. If the cerebellum degenerates, the cerebrum is overwhelmed with excess input. This can cause restless leg syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, depression, anxiety, and many other problems.
The cerebellum does not generate motor activity, but it does coordinate and organize function. It instructs your legs on how to keep your walking motion balanced so that you can walk in a straight line. The cerebellum processes sensory information by sorting and organizing, regulating your emotions, your behavior, and your social exchanges. It regulates your attention span, language, focus, and learning.
Unfortunately, there is a really big “Use it or lose it!” aspect to the cerebellum. Sensation improves the function of your cerebellum while no sensation or sensory deprivation, staying inside, being solitary, lack of interaction with others, sitting still too long- will cause atrophy of the cerebellum. Therefore, you are never too young to work on improving and strengthening your cerebellum. And it’s easy to understand how important it is to work on strengthening the “little brain” every day.
Benefits of Improved Balance:
Pain reduction- Working on better balance will improve your posture, your alignment, and improve the coordination and timing of muscles. There is less stress on the joints, ligaments, and tendons, and consequently less pain. Less pain means more walking and improved health.