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Physical therapy: Balance and gait training

One of the first things we learn during our physical development is maintaining a proper balance and walking. Both of these factors are extremely important and present a basis for many other physical skills we will develop later on.

Balancing and gait are both crucial factors of our advancement and development. Even though we are not aware of it most of the times, picking up objects requires extreme control of numerous bodily movements and without balance this is impossible.

Importance of Child Physical Development

Learning how to control your physical balance is some of the first skills you learn during your childhood. Namely, everything we do, from sitting to feeding requires balance. Additionally, if we do not master our balancing techniques, we cannot put on clothes, let alone walk, ride a bicycle or use a wheelchair and similar pieces of assistance equipment.

Thus, balance is an umbrella term encompassing numerous factors including locomotion, manipulation, mental focus and strong sense of perception, physical fitness, concentration and motivation. Most children gain these skills through the normal developmental stages they experience as they get older.

However, children who are impaired in certain ways, through physical, sensory or cognitive problems are likely to experience balance and gait problems too. If this is the case, these children will need therapeutic support in order to fully overcome these problems.

As far as this, assisted development is concerned, water presents an excellent environment for therapy, allowing children to regain their balance easier and avoid falling or getting hurt during the performance of the necessary exercises. Moreover, water reduces the sense of body weight, making it easier for children to control their bodily movements and learn how to manage them successfully, boosting their cardiovascular fitness at the same time.

Balance and Gait Training

Some of the best underwater activities for these purposes are balance beam, poly trails, aqua steps and locomotor patterning. Once the children manage to learn these important balance and gait skills underwater, they gradually get transferred to hard surface or land, where they can practice the same skills in real-life environments.

Sometimes, balance and gait training can take place without the usage of any special techniques and approaches, focusing solely on exposing the child to his/her everyday environment, allowing him/her to explore it as much as possible, supporting him/her and providing assistance when necessary.

Note that balance is hardly something that can solely be attached to standing still or walking. Rather, balance manifests through various bodily positions we take on a daily basis. Thus, sitting, kneeling, crouching and supporting oneself while on all fours, all are situations which require excellent balance management.

Music can be involved in balance and gait training too, contributing to the rhythmical support of the activities, making it possible for the children and grown-ups undergoing the therapy to control their movement better and relax during the therapy. Taking into consideration that dancing requires balance too, it is certainly useful for helping one learn how to control his/her balance and gait successfully.

Children may be reluctant to perform certain exercises over and over again. Yet, this may be necessary in certain situations and you are advised to motivate them through music, various props and some other exercise modifications.

All in all, many steps need to be taken in order to help a person regain his/her balance and learn how to walk properly, regardless if this requires assistance of some type or not.

Balance and gait training boost one's posture, contributing greatly to all walks of life. Normal posture, when not maintained, may deviate and become inadequate. Such occurrences fossilize over time and become normal themselves, making it impossible for one to consciously overcome them. Therefore, paying attention to your body posture during balance and gait training is a crucial factor too.

In general, balance and gait training reduces the risk of falling in both older adults and children. This is achieved through the exercises mentioned above, as well as strength training. Keep in mind that we are not born with a sense of proper balance. Rather, we learn this as we develop all other skills we have. However, this requires constant practice and new challenges.

Ultimately, balance and gait training helps one to overcome the fear of falling, which is the common problems of those who have not mastered these skills yet. Thus, this training boosts our social, psychological and physical well-being, teaching us how to gain better control over our body, resulting in a better quality of life subsequently.

All in all, physical therapy is a great way of helping your child learn how to balance his/her body, walk properly and perform all activities necessary for leading a happy life. Moreover, these exercises can help individuals who cannot walk or maintain their balance properly due to injuries or some other health problems they have.

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