It’s important to include motor skills in your exercise – and not just obsess about weight loss or general fitness.
For many the main goals of exercise and nutrition are weight loss and fitness. Others may include strength as well. But it’s rare that “improve balance”, “help my co-ordination” are clearly stated goals. Although weight loss and general fitness are highly beneficial in many different ways, there are other components of fitness that are just as important and which should not be ignored. Although these components are not perhaps the main tools in the weight loss battle (resistance training, cardio-vascular work and good nutrition) they are just as important, and can actually be combined into a weight loss programme to make for a fitter, more agile and co-ordinated you. These are motor skills, a group of abilities that contribute to controlled and efficient human movement.
For those over 50, motor skills are as important as strength and fitness, perhaps even more so. This is an area we have come to specialise in – 50 plus fitness.
Proprioception is a component of fitness that informs an individual where all the parts of their musculoskeletal systems are and what they are doing relative to each other in space and time. Or in real-speak an innate sense of positional awareness. It’s a very important part of all-round fitness, and all of our personal training programmes will contain elements of this. It really helps you to stay on your feet in sports and everyday situations, from not tripping over a large labrador that appeared in the kitchen by magic to hitting a straight golf ball. For older people these motor skills, combined with strength and flexibility, translates to climbing stairs in a sure-footed and nimble way; getting up out of a chair with ease; hiking or walking over uneven surfaces; playing a sport like golf or tennis to a good standard. It also improves recovery time and will always reduce the chances of injury. Open chain exercises where your limbs are free in space as they push a resistance or weight are great for this. So are wobble boards, bosu balls and stability balls. Free weight training is a good example of this open-chain exercise.
Balance can be defined as the ability to maintain the centre of mass within the base of support. Again vital in everyday life and really helpful if you want to have fun and be an active outdoorsy type.
Co-ordination can be defined as a controlled interaction between two or more body parts that produces a desired movement under the control of the neuromuscular system.
All human movement requires some degree of these motor skills. The more complex the task the more motor skills are required. Different activities require different combinations of these motor skills, and they are just as essential to a great life and physical well being as being functionally strong, having a healthy cardio-vascular system and looking great. The whole package if you like.
What sort of training will improve my motor skills?
Most exercises can be done one-legged or one-handed 0 this is a good place to start. Standing on one leg with the other raised could a good start. Getting our of a chair on one leg could be a progression. If you can skip, try to skip backwards. If you like to jog, try to do some agility footwork before you go out; you never know when you might need to be agile. Staying away from gym machines may also help – although these do have their place. But by supporting yourself and using your core, legs, arms and balance in exercise will improve your motor skills.