Proprioception - Making Your Body Smarter

We usually don't think of our bodies in terms of their being "smart." For example, we walk to the corner store without giving a single thought to the complex mechanics involved in getting there and back. But behind the scenes there's plenty going on and your body's "IQ" has a lot to do with your success in accomplishing everyday tasks.
Proprioception is one of those background physical processes that make up your body's total IQ. Proprioceptors are specialized nerve endings located in your muscles and joints that inform your brain about your body's position in three-dimensional space. You're able to write legibly because proprioceptors are sending instantaneous data about the angles of the small joints of your fingers and wrists as your pen moves across the page. You're able to run on the beach because proprioceptors are continuously sending signals to your brain about the changing shape of the uneven surface of the sand.1
Without these specialized nerve endings, we'd never be able to hit a baseball, throw a Frisbee, or drive a car. But proprioceptors can be smart or less than that. It all depends on how well-trained they are. One person out for a stroll might trip over a crack in the pavement and suffer a badly sprained ankle. Another person might trip over the same crack, even badly turning over their ankle in the process, and keep on walking without even a trace of a limp.
The difference between injury and non-injury is the level of proprioceptor training, and this level usually is related to whether you're doing regular exercise.2 Exercise trains your muscles and joints to adapt to varying kinds of stresses (weight-bearing loads) throughout a variety of positions (the full range of motion of those joints). As a result, trained proprioceptors can withstand a high degree of stress (such as a sudden twisting of an ankle). The untrained ankle, possibly the ankle of a person who hasn't done much walking, running, or bike riding in the last 5 years, will be damaged by an unusual and unexpected stress. The result is an ankle sprain of varying severity and possibly a broken ankle.
Similarly, it is well known that older adults experience more frequent falls than do younger adults. Part of the explanation involves proprioception.3 Many older adults don't engage in regular exercise. Proprioceptive function decreases, changes in level or surface aren't recognized quickly by the person's feet and ankles, and the person falls.
It's easy to see that the effort to maintain your body's IQ is time very well spent. The fastest way to boost this skill set is by doing regular exercise. All kinds of exercise provide benefit, so the best exercises are the ones that have some interest for you personally. Optimally, a person is doing both strength training and cardiovascular exercise. As always, the key to long-term health and wellness is consistency.
1Wong JD, et al: Can proprioceptive training improve motor learning? J Neurophysiol 2012 Sep 12 [Epub ahead of print]
2Ferreira ML, et al: Physical activity improves strength, balance and endurance in adults aged 40-65 years: a systematic review. J Physiother 58(3):145-156, 2012
3Howe TE, et al: Exercise for improving balance in older people. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2011 Nov 9(11):CD004963.

Locations

Find us on the map


CERRITOS

11911 Artesia Blvd., #205
Cerritos, CA 90701


CORONA

1810 Fullerton Ave., #104
Corona, CA 92881


LAKE ELSINORE

1810 Fullerton Ave., #104
Corona, CA 92881


MISSION VALLEY

2878 Camino Del Rio South, #120
San Diego, CA 92108


NORTHRIDGE

9335 Reseda Blvd., #102
Northridge, CA 91324


ORANGE

1500 E. Katella Ave., Bldg D.
Orange, CA 92867


RANCHO BERNARDO

15817 Bernardo Center Dr., #105
San Diego, CA 92127


SAN BERNARDINO

370 West 6th St., #100
San Bernardino, CA 92401


SAN JACINTO

1695 S San Jacinto Ave., #1-1
San Jacinto, CA. 92582


SANTA ANA

800 N Tustin, #1
Santa Ana, CA 92705

UPLAND/RANCHO CUCAMONGA

330 E. 7th St., 2nd Floor
Upland, CA 91786


VICTORVILLE / HESPERIA / APPLE VALLEY

15462 Main St.
Hesperia, CA 92345


SAN GABRIEL / EAST LA

207 Santa Anita Street, Suite 336
San Gabriel, CA 91776

SAN JOSE

150 N Jackson Ave.
San Jose, Ca 95116


Laguna Hills

25251 Paseo De Alicia Suite #204
Laguna Hills California, 92653