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However, those who could manage only two seconds were three times as likely to die before the age of 66.
There is also feedback from your joints and muscles.
'When a surface is less predictable, the proprioceptors in feet have to work that bit harder,' says Sammy Margo.'This is why physiotherapists use Bosu balls (an air-filled dome that looks like half a gym ball), or wobble cushions (hard, plastic, inflatable cushions) to improve balance.
But you'd get a similar effect standing on a fat-ish pillow, folded in half.''When you're sleep-deprived, the connections between different brain functions become slow or skewed,' says Professor Jason Ellis, director of the Northumbria Centre for Sleep Research.
When they bend or stretch, special sensors, known as proprioceptors, send signals to the brain.
'Proprioception is the body's way of knowing where it is at any given moment without seeing it,' says Dr David Selvadurai, an ear, nose and throat (ENT) consultant at St George's Hospital, London, who specialises in balance disorders.
'Your feet also get used to any support you're giving them, so vary the shoes you wear to keep everything working harder.
Researchers suggested the effort of supporting the body in water improved swimmers' balance.
Weak ankles, in particular, are a common cause of trips and falls, he adds.
The third set of information comes from the inner ear, where there are tiny tubes, known as the semi-circular canals, which contain fluid that moves when our head does.
Cells lining the tubes detect the fluid's motion and communicate to the brain via the vestibulocochlear nerve - the pathway for both hearing and balance.