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Throw Your Weight Around


Fortunately, we don't usually have to think about keeping our balance. But how do we stay balanced? It's trickier than you think. Challenge yourself with these three moves!

  • Target Age: 6-11
  • Skills/Subjects: Science
  • Related Episode: Episode 3: How to Get out Your Inner Hip Hop

WHAT TO DO

1. The heavy foot.Your foot doesn't weigh very much, does it? Well, try this:Boy standing sideways against a wall

  • Stand sideways next to a wall, with your right side against it.
  • Put your right shoulder, right cheek, and side of your right foot directly against the wall.
  • Lift your left foot off the floor. What happens?

Now, move six inches away from the wall and lift your left foot off the floor. How did your body shift to help you stay balanced? Why couldn't you move this way the first time?

2. The seat that can't be beat. How hard can it be to get out of a chair? Try this:Girl sitting in a chair

  • Sit on a straight-backed, armless chair. Make sure your feet can reach the floor.
  • Cross your arms over your chest.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor and your back straight. Try to stand up.

Now, get out of the chair the way you usually do. How did your body shift to help you stand up? What is your body doing so you can get out of the chair?

3. Glued to the wall. Picking something up is easy, right? Well, try this:Boy with back against a wall

  • Stand with your back against a wall.
  • Place a small object, such as a coin or wad of paper, on the floor about 12 inches in front of your feet.
  • Put your feet together and your heels against the wall.
  • Try to pick up the object without moving your feet or bending your knees.

Now, step away from the wall and pick up the object. How did your body shift to help you stay balanced? Why couldn't you move this way the first time?

CHEW ON THIS!

When you are standing and you lean forward or stick out an arm or a leg, do you realize that you always move another part of your body in the opposite direction to stay balanced? For example, when you lean forward, gravity pulls your head and shoulders toward the ground. To stay balanced, you move your hips back. With gravity pulling your hips toward the ground, the two pulls cancel each other out and you don't fall over.

Fortunately, your brain automatically moves your legs, feet, arms, head, and everything else to keep you stable. Dancers and athletes are exceptionally good at sensing how they have to move their bodies to stay balanced.

DIG DEEPER!

  • Do animals with four legs have better balance? Get on your hands and knees. In this position, how easy is it to lean way over to one side? What do you have to do to stay balanced?
  • Figure skaters do triple lutzes; dancers leap and twirl; gymnasts pull off back flips—amazing accomplishments for most people. Watch a performance and observe how people move their bodies to maintain their balance.
  • Try some more "body puzzles" from the ZOOM Web site. To run a race folded up like a pretzel, try the Standing Pretzel Relay challenge. To stop people in their tracks with just one finger, try the Keep in Chair challenge.

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