Maintaining an upright standing balance is more challenging than you think.  It requires integrating and processing sensory inputs by our body, that is our; sight (visual), touch (tactile), muscle and joint awareness (proprioceptive), and motion (vestibular).

 A lack of reliable information from one of these sensory systems leads to postural instability, which may lead to an increase in falls risk at any age.

It is interesting that while our feet and ankle sensors are usually assumed to lead in the maintenance of upright balance. Research evidence is showing that tactile information gained from “light touch” of the fingertips on a solid surface, cues the central nervous and triggers corrective postural control mechanisms.

How light touch helps balance

It is fascinating that light touch sensitivity increases with age and counters the decline of visual and vestibular systems as we age.   Light fingertip touch on a surface increases awareness of the body’s position in space. It helps to control postural mechanisms to maintain balance in the absence of reliable visual information.

What this means is when our eyesight starts to deteriorate the body’s self-awareness becomes uncertain, in this uncertain state, the mind creates illusions as to the body’s relationship to its environment.  The body moves in accordance with an illusion and not reality, it’s the reason why we sway and become off balance.

However, light touch immediately orientates the mind, and the body responds accordingly.  Further researchers showed that contact touch doesn’t need to be grounded and using a weight, for example, also reduced the body’s sway and improves balance.

Using a cane for balance

It brings into this discussion the use of canes and crutches. The common focus has been as a mobility aid supporting an injured limb. However, researchers of “light touch” observed patients with poor balance control who used a cane significantly reduced postural sway. The cane’s function was to cue the central nervous system and provide feedback for confident mobility.

I find it very exciting that we can eliminate misinformation from the body’s senses with “light touch” during exercise. Then we can build new feedback loops that will counter a decline in balance due to aging!

Get started with daily exercise that will improve your balance today! Go to the link below for more information and to get your FREE beginner 9 minute cardio, core and strength workout.


Live well with Health and WELLth!  

Written by Anna: Nutritionist and Exercise Coach