By Jonathan Souder
Fitness Trainer, Manor House

Do you find yourself trying to maintain a healthy balance? It’s important to maintain a balance between work and play, exercise and rest, eating healthy and treating yourself. It’s also important to maintain a healthy muscle balance. Most of us have overused and underused muscles that create our movement pattern. Our muscles remember our frequently used movement patterns and do that movement automatically. Overused muscles tend to be tight, inflamed and possibly irritated. Underused muscles can grow weak over time.

We all need to be mindful of our movement patterns and work to reduce the amount of uneven stress that we place on our bodies daily. Here’s some common movement or positioning habits that can result in muscular imbalances (from the American Council on Exercise, ACE):

Our sleeping position. Do you sleep on your stomach or sleep on one side with your head turned the same way every night? If so, try switching sides or sleeping on your back for part of the night. Work to retrain your sleeping position.

Our stair climbing movement. Do you have a preferred lead leg when climbing or descending stairs? If you take one stair at a time, you may be continually using your dominant leg. Try alternating your leg each time.

Crossing our legs. Do you cross your legs while sitting with the same leg on top every time? Try crossing the other leg on top.

Carrying our bags. I find myself guilty of carrying my work bag on my right shoulder just because I’m right hand dominant and it’s become a habit. I’m going to make an effort to carry my bag on my left shoulder to help my muscle balance. Consider how you carry your bags.

Holding items. How do you hold everyday items like your toothbrush, hair dryer, or phone? Try switching hands once and a while to use the other side of your body. This will be a brain workout at first. But hang in there, it may get easier.

Weight transfer while standing. Do you place more of your body weight on one leg while at the counter, sink or waiting in line? If so, you may be creating muscle imbalances. Try this simple test to see if you need to improve your balance. Stand with your legs hip-width apart and try closing your eyes (be sure to have someone spot you for safety if needed). Slowly shift your weight from left and right. If one side feels more stable than the other, work on improving your balance on the less stable side.

Locking our knees. Don’t lock out your knees while standing still. Keep your knees soft (slightly bent) to help keep the ankle and hip joints in a more neutral (normal) position and help keep the blood flowing.

Sports training. If you consistently play one-sided sports like bowling, golf, and tennis, you may be more developed on your routine swing side. Practice using the other side to help create muscle balance. If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort, limit your time spent on one-sided sports.

Long driving times. Driving for extended periods of time can create muscle imbalance. Try keeping your feet even by resting your left foot on the rubber resting pad. This helps to keep every joint above them even.

Consider your daily movement and positioning habits. Here’s to your great muscle balance.