So if you’re the young adventurous type or anything like I used to be you are most likely familiar with the craze called Slacklining. This is a sport similar to walking a tightrope. The difference is that you would walk on a 2” wide nylon strap that’s strung between two points with less tension than a tightrope so that you get a bit of a bounce. The sport is said to have originated in the mid 80’s in California’s Yosemite Valley by climbers who were looking for ways to improve their balance. Since that time it’s cropped up on college campuses and in parks around the world. The objective is, to state the obvious, to attempt to balance while walking on the slackline.
Experienced slackliners are able to add acrobatic jumps and moves to make it more challenging. There are many varieties of slacklining including slackline yoga but the most dramatic and breathtaking version is highlining, which is slackling at elevations above water or ground.
The sport of slacklining has caught the attention of many physical therapists rehab professionals. Slacklining is now being used to improve balance and strength in multiple settings. Many sports teams are using these exercises to strengthen the muscles and small structures surrounding joints. This improves joint stability and prevents injury. In addition, the act of balancing, slacklining included, is a great way to strengthen the muscles of the core. Other health conditions which effect strength and balance are benefited including stroke, multiple sclerosis, club foot, ankle sprains, post operative knee rehab and post ankle sprains.
Falls are the leading cause of death from injury among people 65 and older, and the risk of falls increases proportionately with age. Although this has not been heavily studied, slacklining is showing promise in elderly fall prevention.
Although the act of balance is complex what we do know is that our bodies sense the position of the body in relation to gravity and the surroundings. To do this, the body utilizes three sensory inputs:
- Visual input – optical input from the eyes.
- Vestibular input – input from the vestibules in the inner ear caused by fluid moving around.
- Somatosensory input – input from the sense organs on muscles and tendons.
Although it is poorly understood, slacklining fine tunes the inputs from all three areas.
The other benefits of slacklining include but are not limited to:
- Improved posture;
- Total body workout;
- Improved focus;
- Improved coordination; and
- Reduced anxiety and depression.
So if I’ve inspired you to take up slacklining, I must warn you that it’s not easy. Just like any other sport, lots of practice is the key to success. This sport is not without risk as you can hurt yourself. There are many articles and videos online that teach you the art and how to prevent injury. Foot injuries are common with slacklining but not to worry, I know a great Podiatrist. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)