Proprioception, the unsung hero of healthy movement
We don't often talk about balance and quality of movement until it becomes a problem, for example, when we get an ankle injury and want to return to sport or our elderly family member falls and injures themselves.
To me, proprioceptive training is something we should include in our busy schedules, and as technical as it sounds, it actually requires very simple and accessible movements that we can all build into our routines.
What is proprioception?
It can be referred to as the awareness of your body movement and position at any one time.
So having good proprioception means:
We are agile; able to control the movement of our body at speed.
We are balanced in the position of our body at any one time.
We have good coordination that allows multiple parts of our body to work together to perform tasks.
It also contributes to our awareness of objects we want to move or avoid.
And it's an important contributor to our ability to walk without tripping over our own feet....
So I think we can all agree, proprioception is the
How can we improve our proprioception?
It’s important to practice exercises that require proprioception so we can learn new skills, progress our training and performance in sport and avoid injury through a lack of agility, balance or coordination.
Although there is limited scientific data to prove the most effective exercise protocols, studies have found that proprioception improved when people performed controlled whole body or specific limb dynamic movement over a period of time.
For the healthy population who are uninjured, the following list provides examples of the types of exercises that can help to train our sense of proprioception;
Standing on one leg whilst moving other parts of the body in a slow and controlled manner
Standing on a wobble board, using a yoga ball or TRX machine to perform exercises
Using exercise bands to provide resistance against movement
Climbing the stairs
Of course, for anyone with an injury or health condition, it is important to carefully assess their ability and prescribe appropriate exercises.
Exercise classes I would recommend to train your proprioception under the guidance of an instructor:
Martial arts including Tai Chi
Step or aerobics
If you want to find out more, feel free to contact me via the Contact section on my website.
Encyclopaedia of Neuroscience; Proprioception, J.L. Taylor, 2009
Managing Sports Injuries, C.M. Norris, 2011
The Effectiveness of proprioceptive training for improving motor function: a systematic review, J.E. Aman et al, 2015, Front Hum Neurosci. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4309156/