My Balance Stinks!
This week, balance was a common theme among my clients. The 30 year olds still do fairly well, but the clients in their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond really seem to struggle with maintaining balance. How about you? Here’s a few self tests you can take to see how you are doing in the balance category:
1) Stand on 1 leg. You should be able to maintain that for 30 seconds minimum, hopefully longer.
2) Stand with one foot in front of the other. Place the heel of your right foot right up to the toes of your left. Can you hold that pose? Switch sides.
3) Pretend you are walking a tight rope along the floor. Walk heel to toe. How many feet can you cover before you tip off to one side?
Successful? Congratulations! If you struggled with these, your balance needs work. There are a few components to good balance.
(1) your sensory systems for accurate information about your body’s position relative to your environment; includes your sense of touch (feet, ankles, joints), your vision and your inner ear motion sensors. For example, we rely on our feet and joints to tell us if the surface we are standing on is uneven or moving. We rely on our eyes to tell us if the environment around us is moving or still. And we rely on our inner ears to tell us if we are upright or leaning, or standing still or moving.
(2) your brain’s ability to process this information; and
(3) your muscles and joints for coordinating the movements required to maintain balance.
Unfortunately, one of the deteriorating effects of aging is loss of proprioception, described in number one above. In this case (as with most all aging effects), practice, practice, practice will offset the deterioration. Go take walks, and don’t be afraid of some uneven terrain. Purposely, do things that force you off balance, so that your body’s sensors will get to practice getting those cues. Get away from the computer for too long, because the eyes are primarily looking straight ahead and not being asked to look around for environmental cues. Once we receive the information, the brain has to process it. Healthy brains are brains that haven’t lost their love for learning. Do things that keep your brain engaged with learning new information. Last, the muscles-the primary movers and joint stabilizers-need to work. Exercising the core/trunk muscles is crucial! That would be from the neck to the hips. That is the body’s solid base (at least it should be), from which the limbs operate. Then, of course, strong limbs will assist in performing required movements. The muscles of the lower leg and ankles will be recruited to maintain balance.
Here’s a couple good exercises:
Standing heel raises: stand tall, and raise both heels up and down from the floor. Repeat 15 times. Walk around on your heels for 30 steps. Then, stand tall, turn your toes out (like a duck), and raise both heels up and down from the floor 15 times. Again, walk around on your heels. Last, stand tall, turn your toes in (like a pigeon), and raise both heels up and down 15 times.
Need more balance help? Contact me at www.cbfitnesstrainer.com.
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