“Dear, The Golfing Doc; My balance is not very good. It’s starting to affect my golf swing. How can I improve my balance? Thank you. Fred C., Redmond, WA”
The term balance can refer to many things when put into the context of golf. Balance can refer to our mental state, our physical state, and even our emotional state. Balance between all of these is important, regardless of whether we are playing golf or not. When most people think of balance, they often think of their ability to stand on their feet with stability. Since I’m not a psychologist, let’s focus on the physical aspect.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but balance declines with age. This is part of the natural aging process as cells in our body lose their efficiency over time. In some areas of our body, a number of our cells actually die. Now, be assured, there are some simple exercises you can do to improve or maintain your balance. Before I discuss those, let’s take a look at the important parts of the body that help you balance on your feet.
First of all, your eyes are important contributors to your sense of balance. They help you focus on targets and allow you to determine how near or far objects are in relation to your body. Your ability to see objects clearly helps you determine depth, distance, and what adjustments your body needs to make to maintain your position.
Another important instrument of balance is your ears. Within your ears are balance centers that help you maintain your equilibrium. These structures provide information on how your body must adjust itself to stay level, upright, or even crooked, if necessary.
Next, the sensory receptors located in on the bottom of your feet provide information to your brain called proprioception. This is what tells your brain your overall position and orientation in your surroundings.
And finally, with all the information provided by your eyes, ears, and feet, your muscles and joints can do their part to help in maintaining your balance. Your muscles must react to the information they receive in order to help you adjust your posture and muscle tone and, ultimately, maintain your balance. Your joints also receive information and adjust in order to keep you balanced.
As a golfer, you already know how important balance is for this game. You must have a well-balanced stance to address the ball, be able to post up on one leg during the backswing, and then be able to post up on the other leg during the downswing. Imagine how fast your brain works to send messages to your muscles and joints, using all the information it has received about your balance.
Unfortunately with age, our eyes, ears, “feel”, and muscles deteriorate. Our vision decreases, our hearing lessens, and our skin, muscles, and joints are not as sensitive as they once were. However, if you practice every day, balance is something that does not have to necessarily get worse as you age.
Here are some daily exercises you can try to help improve your balance. For the dynamic exercises, try performing about 10 to 20 repetitions for 1 to 2 sets a day. For the static poses, try to maintain each position for between 10 to 30 seconds for 1 to 2 sets a day. If you experience any pain or discomfort during any of these exercises, stop immediately and consult your physician.