Over the past decade, many techniques and training programmes used to rehabilitate injured athletes have made their way into mainstream fitness classes. Our overall postural strength and core stability has increased as a result of these training methods moving to the gym. Yet, regardless of how much strength and core stability we have, it's of no real benefit without good communication between the brain and the body, via the central nervous system. In order to truly have healthy movement, improved sports performance and prevent injury, your body must be capable of recruiting the right muscles with perfect timing, and the appropriate motor patterns must be able to quickly and spontaneously adjust. In technical terms, you must have good neuromuscular control and kinesthetic awareness. Having good balance or proprioception is probably the one basic skill every sport has in common. This sense of joint position is necessary every time you change your centre of gravity to match your moves, and is the key to being efficient in any sport. Good agility allows us to move gracefully, without using excess motion and energy. It allows our joints to move through a full range of motion smoothly and confidently. To give an example, if you're a fast runner on roads, but find your speed plummets on hiking trails, your focus will be on not falling over. Luckily, balance can be learned and improved on. With enough practice on the trails, you'll notice that your kinesthetic co-ordination increases, allowing you to focus on the scenery instead of your trainers. Increasing sports performance isn't the only reason to improve your balance. Good balance decreases the risk of falling and sustaining injury. One study using Norwegian female handball players found a significant decrease in knee ligament injuries after the players did neuromuscular training. And it's not just the elite athletes who benefit. Studies in the United States have shown that 10 per cent of older adults who have fallen and broken a limb die within one year of the fall due to complications. Statistics have also shown that those who do fall, regardless of their age, often limit their activity afterwards because of a loss of self-confidence. Exercises to improve your balance are not difficult. Here are some examples. Stand on one foot, then gradually touch the ground in front of you and stand up again. When this gets too easy, close your eyes and/or raise your arms above your head and repeat the exercise. Alternatively, take off your shoes and stand on a soft mat and repeat the same exercise, again with your eyes closed. Finally, if you have a partner, throw a medicine ball back and forth while on one foot. To make it more difficult, again take your shoes off and stand on a soft surface. If you've never done such exercises before then your balance probably isn't as good as it could be.