Published on May 16th, 2013 | by Joe Starks
Physical Fitness Types: Coordination
Coordination isn’t just one of those fitness components people tend to ignore. Sadly enough most don’t even know coordination training is part of a complete fitness regime! This happens because many think coordination is a natural skill given to us by our genes. This however is not entirely true. Another problem when it comes to coordination is that most people don’t know what it really is! Explaining the meaning of the word coordination can be a headache when you wish to be precise. So what is coordination? Can you train it and how? What does it do for you?
What is coordination?
Coordination can mean many things. We will talk specifically about motor coordination, which interests us most in fitness. Motor coordination is when many groups of muscles and/or different limbs work in harmony with each other in such a way that we get a smooth, purposeful and exact action done. For instance when you jump up to throw a basketball into the hoop your legs push you high, your hands need to hold the ball, your arms need to extend your hands up higher and your core need to keep you balanced. If one of these components goes wrong you will most probably end up falling on the floor and missing that hoop.
All movements, let alone exercises, need a certain degree of coordination to be completed. The better our coordination the less energy we will waste in useless movement. Coordination goes hand in hand with balance and agility. You can’t master one without the others. This is why coordination can often be confused with agility or balance. They are not the same.
Balance is actually just a component of good coordination. So let’s see what goes into good coordination as a whole:
- Balance, as mentioned before. This is a state of equilibrium (meaning you can stay in full control of your limbs in situation you would probably lose it and fall), which can be during dynamic movement like in ballet or during static poses like in yoga.
- Rhythm. This ability is all about knowing how to time your movement correctly.
- Synchronization. You need this skill to be able to move your limbs together, so that the complicated action can take place.
- Movement adequacy. You need to be able to move efficiently when you want to. Usually it is diseases or genetic illnesses which lower you movement adequacy. For instance arthritis will lower the movement adequacy of your hands.
- Kinesthetic differentiation. This is the amount of force you need to apply or use to reach a desired result. Grabbing an egg might break it, while gently touching a basketball might not be enough to lift it.
- Spatial awareness. This is the ability to know where you are in relation to your environment. Knowing how high the ceiling is or how far the table is from you is spatial awareness.
Can you train coordination and how?
I suppose you already expected this answer after all I have written, so here it is: Yes, you can train your coordination. There is a myth going around that only preadolescent children can learn and improve their coordination. While there is a certain truth in the fact that children absolutely need to learn a degree of coordination before reaching the age of 6, if they want to be physically functional afterwards, this does not mean that you can’t work on what you’ve got in later ages.
So, coordination has its two important stages:
- Preadolescent children absolutely need to work on their coordination skills. If they don’t, the best outcome is that they’ll be clumsier than their peers, the worst being that they might end up slightly handicapped. Coordination is one of the reasons young children should never ever have a sedentary lifestyle. Training coordination is not a hard thing when you are so young. Any type of active game involving toys and rules will help children coordinate their movements better. Some exercises like ballet and martial arts are especially effective because of how specific the movements have to be performed in those sports.
- Adolescent people and up. During puberty and afterwards, your ability to improve your coordination might not be as dramatic as before, but you can still work wonders given the right amount of time and effort. To train coordination as an adult (or teen) you have to do specific sports and exercises which improve your balance, rhythm, spatial awareness and movement adequacy. For an overweight person, losing weight through exercise will improve movement adequacy. Balance can be learned through yoga and other acrobatic exercises. Rhythm is best trained through martial arts and dance, where music or fighting matches demand that we move in specific time-frames.
It is never too late to improve your coordination skills. Do not let young children have sedentary lifestyles, because they might lack in coordination later on, making them lacking at moving smoothly and purposefully compared to than their peers. While children can easily improve coordination through active games and other sports that include rules of movement, older people need to focus on specific sports like yoga, martial arts and dancing.