With this weekend’s move, both your brain and your body get a workout that improves balance and strength. You’ll be standing in one place throughout this exercise, so the Proprioception And Balance Improver is as convenient as it is effective.

Proprioception refers to your body’s position in space and your awareness of it. That’s one way this move engages your brain. Another way is by encouraging you to believe in the power of exercise to improve your balance and bone health. In fact, we’ll take a look at a recently published study that shows this belief actually influences the neurophysiological and psychological benefits of exercise.

And last but certainly not least, today’s exercise also strengthens your feet, ankles, and core muscles.

Let’s begin!

Why:

Honing your balance skills helps prevent falls, but this involves more than just strengthening key muscle groups and joints (although this is very important). It also includes sharpening your proprioception, or your perception of where your body is in space.

While much of it happens unconsciously, proprioception involves a complex interplay between many neural mechanisms. It’s such a complicated process that despite decades of study, scientists still do not fully grasp everything that is involved. But they do know that the brain is surprisingly flexible in this regard.

This “neuroplasticity” allows your sense of proprioception to be manipulated and changed via exercises (like today’s) that target the receptors involved. In other words, you can improve your sense of proprioception on a fundamental level, which in turn improves your balance.

That’s because the entire nervous system is involved in proprioception. Stimuli such as joint movement, pressure on the skin, and visual cues activate nerve receptors in your skin, joints, and muscles. Information from these receptors is then transmitted to your brain. This occurs continuously, allowing you to perform tasks and move through space without having to look at your limbs constantly.

For instance, many people can play the piano without looking at the keys. The same is true for typing on a computer keyboard. Think about some of the ways your proprioception sense works for you when you’re not aware of it – when you’re driving, do you have to look at your feet to work the gas and brakes? If you have a manual transmission, do you have to look at your hands and feet to coordinate the clutch and shift mechanism? How about walking through the door carrying a load of groceries? You don’t have to monitor every subtle movement of your limbs and body; you do so automatically in thousands of minuscule ways to drive the car, fit yourself through the door, and so forth.

It’s really remarkable!

While much of the proprioception system works unconsciously, these receptors respond to visual cues, too, helping you gauge how close or far you are from people and objects.

Today’s exercise uses visual and sensory cues to sharpen your proprioception, thus enhancing coordination and balance. It strengthens fracture-prone areas as well.

Areas Strengthened In Today’s Exercise

The Balance Proprioception Improver targets the ankles, feet, and core muscles.

Ankles: The ankles need to be strong and flexible to avoid falls. When you consider that your ankle joints have to bear three and four times your body weight when running and jumping, and just walking requires them to take one and a half times your weight, then you can appreciate just how strong these articulated joints are. More importantly, this helps you realize how vital it is to strengthen them.

Additionally, ankle fractures are some of the most common fractures among adults, often serving as the first warning sign that you have weak bones. A lack of flexibility, in fact, is as much to blame in falling and fractures as a lack of strength, according to research.1

Feet: It is not often that people consider a workout for their feet. But given the role these extremities play in balance, they should not be overlooked. Today’s exercise is done barefoot, so the bones of your feet can spread as needed and there is nothing to hinder their range of motion and flexibility.

Core Muscles: Broadly speaking, the core muscles are the muscles of the torso. You use them to twist, bend, and turn, and also to hold yourself upright. These muscles “fine tune” your proprioception as you make adjustments to your position in space throughout the day.

Some of the core muscles are deep, such as the psoas muscle that connects your pelvis with your lower spine. Others are more superficial, such as the rectus abdominis (the abs you can see and feel when you flex your tummy muscles).

Now that you know the main muscles and bones you’re targeting, take off your shoes and get ready for this weekend’s challenge!

How:

For the sake of clarity, we’ll begin with the right leg. If you have trouble balancing on one foot (or balancing in general), you might want to do this exercise near a wall or bed so you can catch yourself if necessary.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hold your arms out at an approximate 45-degree angle, elbows straight, palms facing forward.
  3. With your right knee straight, lift your right foot up off the ground.
  4. Bend your right knee and bring your right foot on top of your left foot, “stacking” the toes on top of each other.
  5. Lightly touch your right heel to your left shin if you need to.
  6. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds.
  7. Gently swing your right foot up and place it back on the floor.
  8. Repeat the exercise with the other foot.

Advanced version:

If you’d like an extra challenge, or if you want to further sharpen your proprioception, try this move with your eyes closed. Again, don’t try this if you feel you might fall over, or if you don’t have a bed or something nearby to grab onto nearby.

To further strengthen your ankles and improve balance, try these other Weekend Challenges: the Balancing Ankle And Leg Strengthener and the Squat Jack.

Your Brain And Exercise

It’s clear that your brain has a role to play in exercise, including your sense of proprioception. But did you know that your mindset before and during exercise influences the benefits you’ll get from it?

According to a fascinating recent study, your expectations matter. Researchers asked volunteers to exercise for 30 minutes on a stationary bike. Beforehand, the participants were asked to watch a short film either praising the benefits of cycling or presenting a more negative viewpoint. The volunteers also rated their mood before exercising, and had their brain activity measured with an electroencephalogram.

Researchers found that the positive beliefs about cycling had a sort of placebo effect on the volunteers. Those with positive expectations had a more relaxed neuronal profile than the others. They also enjoyed the exercise session more than their more negative colleagues.2

Head study author Hendrick Mothes explains that:

“The results demonstrate that our belief in how much we will benefit from physical activity has a considerable effect on our well-being in the manner of a self-fulfilling prophecy.”2

He went on to note that this research could shed light on endurance sports, especially with regard to motivation, stating that:

“Beliefs and expectations…can be a determining factor on whether we can rouse ourselves to go jogging again next time or…stay at home on the couch.”2

It’s my firm belief that it’s easy to have a positive attitude toward exercise. You see, scientific studies have clearly shown, and continue to confirm, that it benefits every body system, including bones, and beyond. For example, exercise improves mood, cognitive function, and reduces stress.

That is why it’s so important to exercise on a regular basis, and with the Densercise™ Epidensity Training System, you’ll reap all those benefits while building your bones. Densercise™ does not require any special equipment and is appropriate for all fitness levels and ages.

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So keep moving and enjoy the weekend!

References:

1 Soo-Kyung Bok, M.D.; Tae Heon Lee; and Sang Sook Lee, M.D.. “The Effects of Changes of Ankle Strength and range of Motion According to Aging on Balance.” Annals of Rehabilitation Medicine. February 2013. 37(1): 10-16. Doi: 10.5535/arm.2013.37.1.10. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3604218/

2 Mothes, Hendrik , et al. “Expectations affect psychological and neurophysiological benefits even after a single bout of exercise.” Journal of Behavioral Medicine. (2016). DOI: 10.1007/s10865-016-9781-3

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  1. live4ever September 24, 2016, 2:11 pm

    Since we must exercise, embrace it! Learn to accept it as a big part of staying alive and healthy. Too bad our parents and culture doesn’t give us a better habit and view of something so wonderful and effective. So start now, get motivated, and enjoy the process and benefits!! The longer you stay with it the easier it is to continue

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA September 24, 2016, 3:54 pm

      So true! Thanks for sharing your positive thoughts!

  2. Marlene Villar September 24, 2016, 1:08 pm

    Good morning Vivian,
    Thank you very much for sharing this exercise.
    I loved it.
    Have a wonderful day.
    Marlene

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA September 24, 2016, 3:53 pm

      You’re welcome, Marlene!

  3. Margaret Giri September 24, 2016, 6:32 am

    I would like to ask about calcium, at the moment I use Advacal@forte with k2 and D3( BioCeuticals) which one the best calcium I have to take? And how long I have take calcium? Thank you?

    • Jan D September 24, 2016, 7:54 am

      Hi, as somebody who has been following Vivian’s posts for over 3 years, it is really helpful to search her previous articles. There are many on calcium etc. Just go right to the top of the webpage and click on ‘articles’. Regards, Jan D

      • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA September 24, 2016, 3:52 pm

        Margaret, the best calcium is organic from algae. That’s because the body treats it as a food, and therefore, it’s the most bioavailable. As Jan wrote, feel free to use the ‘Search’ tool to read our previous posts on this very relevant topic 🙂

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