Proprioception, also known as kinesthesia, is the ability to sense and freely move your body and limbs in your external environment. Having this kinesthetic awareness is important for day-to-day living and vital for sports performance.
If you’ve ever noticed the difference between grass and cement on the bottom of your feet or felt a grocery bag become heavier as you fill it with apples, you’ve experienced proprioception.
Proprioception can worsen with age, injury, or disease, making daily tasks harder and increasing your risk of injury and falls. Fortunately, adding proprioception training exercises to your routine can lower your risk of injury and improve your fitness levels.
This article explains all you need to know about proprioception and offers 10 exercises you can try to improve it.
Proprioception is your body’s ability to sense its movements, locations, and actions. The main purpose is to prevent injury by increasing spatial awareness and balance. It involves a close relationship between the nervous system, soft tissues, and proprioceptors (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).
You may hear people refer to proprioception as body awareness.
Proprioceptors are specialized sensors located on nerve endings in your muscles, tendons, joints, skin, and inner ear. These sensors deliver information relating to changes in movement, position, tension, force, and environment to your brain (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).
For example, you experience proprioception when you’re hiking on a dirt path and detect small deviations, such as holes or rocks, in the path. To prevent injury, your body adjusts, stabilizing your foot and ankle in response to the feedback picked up by your lower limb proprioceptors.
In some cases, a person may have reduced proprioception from a recent or chronic injury, neurological disease, or as a result of aging. Further, intoxication from alcohol or drugs may reduce your balance and proprioception (3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
For those with reduced proprioception from an injury or disease, many at-home exercises can help improve your balance, spatial awareness, and overall movement. In severe cases, you may need to work with a trained specialist first.