Why is balance so important?

Physical inactivity in children may not only lead to known physical health risks such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and coronary artery disease, but can also lend to poor motor skills that have detrimental effects on cognitive function and academic performance, according to a recent study. (Medical Daily Oct 28 2014).

Without effective transition from basic balance and sensory integration, learning and reading development can be significantly delayed.

Child balancing on 'The River'

Although balance maturation is not generally achieved in children until the age of 12, by improving balance and sensory processing skills, children with healthy vestibular systems can excel and those with challenges or weaknesses (those with dyslexia, Down Syndrome, ADD and ADHD) can improve dramatically.

What is balance?

Balance is the ability to maintain control of a particular body position whilst performing a given task with minimal postural sway. This could be achieved simply by sitting at a table, standing on one leg or riding a bike. Good control reduces the energy required and minimises fatigue. To perform efficient movements across a host of activities and tasks, we need to be able to maintain control of body positioning during static and dynamic activities thus needing good static and dynamic balance.

Static balance is the ability to maintain control of a position whilst remaining stationary - for example, balancing on one leg or holding a headstand.

Dynamic balance is the ability to maintain balance and control of the body whilst moving, such as hopping, jumping, riding a bike or snowboarding.

Developing skills

Child riding a bike

Fundamental motor skills are the building blocks for engagement in physical activity and aid all aspects of the learning process. If these skills are underdeveloped in childhood, children's ability to participate in and enjoy physical activity can be greatly diminished. In practicing gross and fine motor skills, children not only gain intellectually, but also grow in strength, develop new skills and enjoy increased confidence levels in the face of new challenges.

Balance bikes also promote symmetry, particularly with the upper body being encouraged to hold the handle bars steady whilst the lower part of the body is able to move freely and evenly. Balance, postural control and symmetry all help children develop the basic skills for any future physical activity.

Balance is important to achieving success in almost every sport or physical activity and is fundamental in the process of learning to ride a bike. Through practice using balance equipment and balance bikes, children gain the ability and confidence needed to ride a pedal bike with confidence.