Cardio, strength, flexibility – the three ‘pillars of fitness’ that no one can argue with. But there’s one area that’s commonly forgotten.
Fitness gurus say the three foundations of fitness are:
- Cardio – walking, biking, running, etc., to facilitate blood flow and improve resting heart rate & endurance
- Strength – machines, dumbbells, etc., to build muscle or add mass
- Flexibility – stretching, yoga, etc., to reduce risk of injury, improve range of motion
These are the fitness areas that you likely work within, too. But these fitness fanatics may be missing a crucial foundation of fitness – one that should be ‘non-negotiable’, in terms of whether it should be included in a fitness regimen or not.
That fourth area, is balance.
What makes balance so crucial to fitness though, besides staying on your feet when you’re moving?
Well, balance and proprioception are intrinsically linked. The latter is a mind-body connection that helps your body recognize where you are in space, therefore informing it how to appropriately react. Challenging your sense of balance can fine-tune this proprioception. The mind-body link is crucial to everything you might do in regards to exercise – from athletic maneuvers, to fall prevention, to improved posture, to injury prevention and foot strength.
Plus, better balance gives you more leeway for error – navigating uneven terrain on a run, Euro-stepping by another athlete on the court, picking up heavy objects, and stabilizing yourself so you don’t fall embarrassingly, are all examples.
Fall prevention, especially for older demographics, is critical. A study from the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Canada followed up with more than 500 broken-hip patients a year after their injury. Of the group that was aged 50 and above, the study found 20% had died, 5% experienced a second fracture, and 20% had to be institutionalized. Those percentages worsened for participants confined to long-term care. Building balance and proprioception can be a preventative measure against such outcomes happening in the first place.