Monday, October 24, 2011

Keep "Balance" In Your Life

I am still on medical leave, but while I am gone, please continue to enjoy the wonderful guest posts from BITL contributing authors. 
BITL Founder Ginger Garner during her first pregnancy
way back when in 2005, supporting
the likes of Shelly's advice on keeping your "balance."
This week's guest post is by physiotherapist and yoga expert Shelly Prosko. Visit Shelly at

Being healthy and fit takes effort.  We all know that there are many factors that contribute to living an overall healthy lifestyle, including diet, activity level, social well-being, and managing stress levels, just to name a few. 

Physical fitness is an important factor that can improve one’s quality of life. There are several components that make up basic physical fitness: strength, flexibility, power, agility, muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance, co-ordination, and balance.  I want to discuss the often overlooked, but extremely important component, balance.  

An astonishing fact:  Falls are the second leading cause, after motor vehicle collisions, of injury-related hospitalizations for ALL ages, accounting for 29% of injury admissions (Canadian Institute for Health Information, 2004).  Furthermore, over half (51.6%) of reported injuries sustained by women during pregnancy are due to falls (Tinker et al, 200%).  

It is even more interesting to note that research has shown that falling during pregnancy is not necessarily simply due to chance or by outside environmental factors, but can depend on whether or not the woman leads a sedentary lifestyle or is involved in formal exercise (McCrory, 2011).  Obviously, there are situations where falls cannot be prevented; however, frequently they can be avoided if we understand the underlying systems that contribute to balance.

Balance is the ability to control the body’s position. The body either controls its position statically, as in standing on one leg, or dynamically, as in walking on uneven or slippery surfaces.

Several physiological systems work together to influence balance.  Sensory input from the eyes detects changes in position.  The inner ear controls balance by monitoring the position of your head (vestibular system).  Our nervous system is involved in processing information which determines how quickly and efficiently we are able to respond. Our musculoskeletal system is also very important for balance.  We need to have adequate joint range of motion, muscle flexibility and strength in our ankles, knees, hips, spine, and shoulders in order to safely and effectively ‘right’ ourselves when we are losing balance. 

Balance dysfunctions can be addressed and treated, provided that your health care provider knows what system or systems are involved in the balance problem.  Once the source of the poor balance is identified, then your balance can be improved by improving the function of the impaired system.  Occasionally the impaired system may not be able to be improved due to certain medical conditions.  In that case, your balance can still be improved by enhancing the function of the systems that are already working well.

During pregnancy, a woman’s body goes through many changes that potentially make it more difficult to balance.  Even a small increase in weight gain and the new dimension of a protruding belly can significantly alter your center of body mass, making it more challenging to maintain balance even with simple activities that you normally would find easy to do.  Also, the increased levels of the relaxin hormone during pregnancy can decrease the integrity of the ligaments that surround the joint, therefore causing a less stable joint.  A controlled study investigated differences in pregnant women who fell and who didn’t fall (Butler, et al 2006).  The non-fallers were active individuals involved in some formal exercise regime and were significantly more aware of how their body reacts and exhibited more advanced neuromotor pathways.  The fallers led a more sedentary lifestyle and had poor body awareness and responses.

The overall message is that even if you don’t have a serious balance dysfunction, it is still important to include balance training in your regular exercise routine.  Many fitness centers have group fitness classes that incorporate balance in their sessions.  Yoga and Tai Chi have also been shown to improve balance.  If you understand the components of balance and seek out guidance to help you train your balance, you can significantly improve it, therefore reducing risks of falls or even minor injuries such as recurrent ankle sprains, and therefore improve and maintain your quality of life!

About the Author
 Shelly Prosko, RPT, PYT-C, CPI
Shelly is a Registered Physiotherapist, Yoga Therapist and a Certified Pilates Instructor. She received her Physiotherapy degree at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada in 1998, her Yoga Therapist training through Professional Yoga Therapy Studies in North Carolina ( and her Pilates certification through Professional Health and Fitness Institute in Maryland (

She has treated a wide variety of musculoskeletal, neurological and cardiorespiratory conditions while working in private orthopaedic clinics and long term care facilities across Canada and the United States. Shelly was the physiotherapist and clinic manager at The Morris Center For Sports Medicine in Watkinsville, Georgia for 7 years. In 2006, she relocated to Alberta and continued to work in the private orthopaedic clinic setting and was actively involved in the occupational rehabilitation programs at CBI Health.

In 2009, Shelly settled in the Okanagan and continues to follow her passions at Sun City Physiotherapy by offering private Physio-Yoga Therapy sessions and by incorporating Yoga Therapy and Pilates into her physiotherapy treatments ( She also teaches specialty Physio-Yoga Therapy classes in the community. She believes that bridging the gap between Western and Eastern healthcare philosophies is essential in order to achieve optimal health. Consequently, her treatments are individually based and are a unique blend of both approaches.

In addition to her many skills as a health care practitioner, Shelly is also an accomplished figure skater and has traveled the world with many professional ice shows. She is also passionate about music, dance, acting, trapeze, and spending quality time with her family and friends.

No comments:

Post a Comment