Your eyes, inner ears, and sense of body awareness work together to keep you balanced — these stimulation drills train all three.
Watch your step! It’s a common refrain when we’re out and about.
No surprise, as we rely on our vision to spot obstacles, stay balanced, and prevent falls. Think about how much harder it is to balance with your eyes closed.
But balance relies on more than just visual input. To keep steady as you go, your brain synthesizes body-location messages from your muscles and joints. This process is called proprioception.
“Proprioception is our ability to relate to our position in space,” explains Andi Kwapien, SilverSneakers master trainer.
“The proprioceptive system gauges how our center of gravity is situated so we stay balanced, such as when we’re walking on sand compared to walking on a boardwalk,” says Andi.
This happens through:
- Pressure receptors in your feet and other areas of the body
- Limb position
- Changes in temperature, position, and environment
Balance training is part of SilverSneakers group fitness classes! Check your eligibility and find participating fitness locations near you here.
Also lending a balance assist is the complex network of nerves, hairs, and fluid in the inner ear canals. This network is known as the vestibular system. Its job is to deliver head-position data to the brain that allows you to stay balanced while you move.
Unfortunately, the vestibular system tends to decline with aging, according to a study published in Frontiers in Neurology. Researchers noted this natural decline plays a “significant role in increasing the risk of falls in the elderly.”
It’s Possible — and Important — to Exercise Your Sensory Input Systems
The three interdependent systems — vision, inner ears, body sensors — work together to keep you balanced. And their effectiveness is interrelated.
A study published in JAMA Ophthalmology showed that adults with vision impairment or uncorrected vision problems had significantly greater risk of balance difficulties on a foam surface—used to approximate vestibular function, or the workings of the inner ear—than those with normal vision.
The good news: The drill in this video includes four variations to stimulate all three systems to improve balance.
How to Use the 1-Minute Balance Drills
Before you press play, make sure you’re wearing comfortable sneakers. Position yourself near a sturdy chair or counter for support.
As always, safety is key. The exercises here may be different or more advanced than your regular SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition, an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.
When you’re ready, follow Andi as she guides you through different stances — starting with the easiest, wide-apart stance and progressing to a tightrope stance, with one foot in directly in front of the other.
You’ll try to hold your balance as you circle your hands in front of your body. On her cue, you’ll track the motion moving just your eyes. You’ll also change your gaze from one hand to the other. This engages your body awareness, inner ear system, and visual cues.
“Stimulation drills focus on improving sensory input,” Andi says. Try to fit them in every day.
These drills don’t take long to practice, and they deliver big real-world benefits. In time, your balance systems will be better able to process and react to your environment, so you can move around with confidence — and without falling.
Bonus Challenge: Try a SilverSneakers EnerChi Class!
In this beginner-friendly workout, you’ll perform modified tai chi forms in a slow, flowing sequence to improve balance and focus. It’s offered both in-person at participating fitness locations and online with SilverSneakers LIVE.
Take Your Favorite SilverSneakers Classes Online!
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