Fun? Yes! It balances all the hard work you do!

Add fun to your hard work for balance!

Add some fun to your routine! Yes – fun! We work hard every day – work, family obligations, chores, shopping. It’s important to balance all that hard work with fun. I work out so that I can have fun my way!

This is a terrible picture! Both Tango (my Brussels Griffon) and I are out of focus because we’re moving. But I think you can see that Tango is looking up at me and having a good time. I train my dogs not just because a trained dog is a happy dog, but because I enjoy it. The ribbons that we get and the titles that we earn are just a reflection of the enjoyment we both get out of the experience.

I’ve said it before – I work out 4 or 5 times a week, and a couple of those times are running. I hate running, but I do it so that I can have the endurance I need to run Booker (my other dog – a Boston Terrier) in agility – which I do love to do. I don’t work out for the sake of working out. I do it because I want to do other things.

I want to have fun on my terms. Yes, sometimes that fun is reading on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Or napping… But more often that fun is training my dogs. Whatever puts a smile on your face.

I wasn’t going to train my dogs this morning since we have a house guest (and her three dogs) and things are a little crazy, but Booker insisted. And I’m glad I took the time because no matter how stressful the rest of my day is, I had fun before work!

What’s your fun? Walking in the park with a loved one? Running around in the back yard with your dog? Reading a good book? Taking a cooking class?

Whatever your fun is, make sure to incorporate it into your day! Every day! It makes you happier. And that leads to better focus and productivity in other areas of your life!

Effortless movement

Play with your dog to relieve stress!Is effortless movement a goal for you? Do remember fondly when you were able to go from here to there without even thinking about it? Do you want to get back down on the floor and play with your dog or the grandkids?

What’s holding you back? Are your joints bothering you? Your back hurting? Knees? If a doctor hasn’t told you to limit your movement, then chances are you should start moving!

It used to be that when you hurt your back, bed rest was prescribed. Now the medical community is in favor or movement!

And the last thing I wanted to do when my knees hurt was get up and walk.

And when my back and hips were in spasms, I could barely get out of a chair without a heating pad.

But I hung onto a table and stood up, holding that heating pad on my back, and took a couple of steps. Then I put the heating pad down and took a couple more steps. Hunched over, leaning onto my thighs at first. And then I sat down again on that heating pad. But an hour later I made myself do it again. And then next day the pain wasn’t quite as bad. So I moved some more. And the day after that I could go a little further. And a couple days later I didn’t need the heating pad.

You get the idea. That old adage, “use it or lose it” applies! The more you move, the easier it is to move.

I’ve told you that I started running on the treadmill a couple days a week to increase my speed and endurance for agility competition? I still hate it, but I’m getting better at it. And I am getting a little faster. And my knees don’t hurt.

I also learned to strengthen my core and improve my balance to strengthen my back. And I haven’t had spasm (knock on wood!) in a couple of years. If you’d like to improve your balance and strength, a great first step is doing the Week of Balance. Click on the box to the right for your free, downloadable .pdf for your copy.

Crazy, busy life? Some tips for that …

Google calendar to set my mind at easeEveryone I know is always on the go. Working awful hours, running all over town for meetings, markets, other chores, off to dog training, family obligations, and on weekends to competitions to see how all that dog training is paying off.

Some things have got to give. Sleep should not be one of them.

Here are some tips to help you get through a typical crazy, busy day and keep a smile on your face.

1. Organization. Write everything down in a planner. Sometimes pen and paper is better than a smartphone, but be sure to use what choose! I like Google Calender because all my appointments are on my phone or my desktop, and the devices synch when something changes. And I can get my Agility Class updates on it too – our instructor updates the ever-changing schedule for us. (And lets us know if a classmate is bringing treats to celebrate!) You can get a holiday calender on Google Calender too – any number of event calenders are available to synch to your account. But, when you make appointments be sure to update whatever calender you use!

2. Relieve stress. It’s bound to happen. A meeting goes badly at work. The kids are in mutiny. The dogs are misbehaving. Customers are being ridiculous. That’s life, and you need a way to release that stress. Exercise is a good way to do that. Physical activity can clear your head, and you can pretend that you’re stomping those unreasonable people into the ground!

3. Eat healthy! Plan ahead for the week, and it doesn’t take any longer than the drive-thru. And eating nutritious meals will keep you energized for the things you have to do.

4. Prioritize. We all have a million things that need to get done. But there are probably only 3 or 4 things that ABSOLUTELY have to get done today. Do those first and you’ll feel great about it, and eager to get other stuff done. You’ll be more productive throughout your day if you get rid of the big chores first.

Your One Non-Renewable Resource

It’s time. You can spend it, invest it, and waste it. You can never get it back.

There are a finite number of minutes in every day, and it’s up to us to decide how to use them. We can decide to be productive at work. We can decide to plan a healthy menu for the week. We can decide to spend it with friends and family.

I decide to spend lots of time training my dogs and playing with them.

And we can fritter time away. We open Facebook and see a cute video opened right on top. And then we scroll a little bit, and there’s another.

If a thought pops into your mind, you can Google the answer. But, wait – there’s a site that looks interesting. And this doesn’t really answer my question, but it’s cool.

Too frequently, these applications just suck the time away. Before you know it an hour has gone by. And then another.

How many of us have had that happen? Or we turn on the TV for company and get sucked into a program that we really don’t have an interest in?

If you have time to waste, that’s OK. But most people don’t have unlimited free time.

Be conscious of how you spend your time. If you decide to spend 10 minutes scrolling your Facebook feed, that’s fine – but set a timer so that it’s not more than that! Consciously decide to stop drifting from one website to another.

Make a list of productive or fun things you can do in 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 or 30 minutes. Keep it handy – perhaps on your phone. And when you find yourself with a few minutes between chores or appointments, refer to your list and choose a better way to spend those minutes.

We all have a limited amount of time. Don’t waste it!

What does 62 look like?

Weird to think that I’m 62. And a half. I don’t feel much different than I did when I was 40. Or 30. But maybe I just got used to it?

Anyway, this is my 62. I do stuff I like to do – in between the stuff I have to do. I read stuff I want to read. I fall asleep in front of the TV in the evening.  I cook stuff I like to eat. And I eat stuff I like. Most of it’s healthy. I have a cocktail in the evening (sometimes). I train my dogs and compete with them in performance events.

I write. I listen to music. Sometimes when a song I like is playing, I’ll get up from my desk and dance to it.  (Probably not well, but it makes me happy.)

I like to travel and see the sights on foot. Not from a tour bus.

I work out so that I can do all the stuff I mentioned above. I don’t work out for the love of working out. I don’t. I don’t run on the treadmill because I like to run. In fact, I hate it. But I like doing the stuff that I like doing so much that I’ll work out and run on the treadmill to keep doing it. And I’ll watch what I eat too.

And I practice my balance. As we age, our balance diminishes unless we actively do something to strengthen it. There are statistics I could quote about this, and I have in the past. Almost every day we hear on the news that a public figure has fallen. There are so many more that we don’t hear about. I don’t want to be another statistic. I don’t want my friends to be statistics either, so I make them join me in my Balance Facebook group. They’ve joined the group. I can’t make them do the exercises, but my hope is that they get a little scared by all the statistics and try them.

My goal is to inspire others to join the Balance for Fitness, Balance for Life movement. Especially now, in the winter, when it can be so dangerous outside on the ice and snow. If you’re reading this, thank you! Click through to the Facebook group and join me. Don’t be a statistic.

This didn’t have to happen…

It’s a new year, new resolutions, but same sad statistics. Here’s a short video I posted today on Facebook. A man in northwest Indiana lost his mom the day after Christmas because she lost her balance while taking out the trash and died of hypothermia. She had been waiting to see a doctor for balance-related issues. Granted, some balance issues need medical support and prescriptions, but it’s been proven that simple exercises can improve balance dramatically. Just a couple of minutes every day in the comfort of your own home can improve balance. Especially in the winter, this is so important. Much of the country has seen slick conditions in the last week. If a couple of minutes a day can help to prevent a fall, wouldn’t you want to do that?

Got sleep?

We all know that sleep is important for our health and fitness. And we don’t get enough of the right kind of sleep. We have trouble falling asleep. We have trouble staying asleep. And then we have trouble getting back to sleep. Lack of sleep affects our health. We’re sluggish, don’t move as much, eat more. Our productivity is diminished.

About sleep

There are three phases of sleep: light, deep and REM (rapid eye movement). We usually start with light sleep and move to deep sleep. Then it’s back to light sleep and REM, when we dream.

The cycle

Deep sleep happens most during the first part of the night usually, and is very hard to wake from.  You’ll spend about a quarter of your night in deep sleep and a quarter in REM, which is easy to emerge from.

Deep sleep helps you feel rested

You can survive on just light sleep and REM, but deep sleep is the phase that helps you feel most rested. It’s what we crave from spa treatments and pills

Pills won’t do it!

But we can’t rely on pills to take us into deep sleep. Too often when we wake from a medicated sleep we feel foggy.

Try a cave!

If you want real deep sleep, turn off all your lights. Make your bedroom a cave.

Meditation works too! If you’re new to meditation and have heard of its benefits, try guided meditation – send me a message and I’ll email you one of the short guided meditations I’ve created in mp3 format. They’re restful and soothing (and free). Just the thing to help you sleep!

A Cautionary Tale

FranI went to the dentist the other day – nothing earth-shattering there. I do it every 6 months. (All those pearly whites are my own!) I really like my dentist. She’s a cool lady and she talks about stuff I’m usually interested in – books, dogs, music, card games (well, not that interested, but OK) and roller coasters (definitely not interested in going on them myself, but I have a horrified fascination in others who enjoy coasters).

But this time I learned that she doesn’t have any dogs at the moment and probably will not be getting one in the foreseeable future. The good doctor rescued senior Labrador Retrievers and cared for them for their remaining lives. What a good thing! But she told me that at about the same time that her last one passed away, her husband had a bad fall and broke his hip and his wrist. He’s out of rehab now, but will probably need a walker for the rest of his life, sadly.

Too close to home

This is getting too close to home! I recently wrote about my conversation with Kathleen Cameron, Senior Director of the National Council on Aging regarding the seriousness of falls and how they can be prevented.  http://fitness-over-50.com/2017/07/prevent-falls-my-interview-with-kathleen-cameron/

I asked my dentist what she does to maintain or strengthen her balance, and she said, “Well, just keep up my strength, I guess…” Not good enough. You can prevent falls by improving your balance!

Our bodies change as we age

As we age, our bodies change and lose the ability to balance. Even if you work out regularly, even if you eat right, your balance will diminish unless you specifically do something about it!

Can you commit?

Practicing Yoga is good. Tai Chi is also good. But these practices must be continual. You have to really commit to them in order for your balance to show improvement.

Maybe not, but you’ve got 2 minutes a day!

But you can improve your balance in as little as two minutes a day. Exercise your balance. Do specific balance exercises. Join the “Balance for Fitness, Balance for Life” community on Facebook which gives you an exercise a day to perform. Like standing on one leg while brushing your teeth. This is an older picture – Booker is bored with my routine now and doesn’t feel the need to supervise.

I know it’s helped me! I recently fell – stepped on a rock the wrong way at night in a parking lot. It was extremely painful, and I thought my knee would be injured badly. But the only damage was a scrape on my shin that was gone in a couple of weeks. (I do have a scar as a memento now because I never keep scrapes covered for as long as you’re supposed to…)

So, the moral of this tale is, don’t fall and need a cane or walker forever! Practice your balance!

 

Prevent falls! My interview with Kathleen Cameron

Balance for Fitness, Balance for LifeI recently had the privilege of interviewing Kathleen Cameron, MPH, Senior Director of the Center for Healthy Aging, part of the National Council on Aging (ncoa.org), about balance, falls, and health as we age.

Kathy told me that older Americans’ falling is one of the most significant public problems today. It’s estimated that 25 to 33 percent of people over the age of 65 fall every year. About 25% of those who fall are injured. Most common are broken wrists or hips. Femur breaks are also common, even though the femur is one of the biggest bones in the body.

Falls are also the leading cause of traumatic brain injury, and can also exacerbate other problems to the point where the person never recovers, and may even die.

Falls certainly account for many trips to the emergency room, hospital stays and courses of rehabilitation. It’s estimated that falls have cost $31 billion every year.

A descending spiral

The fear of falling alone can restrict activities, although most falls occur at home. People become more isolated and fearful of leaving home, which can lead to depression.Those who suffer from depression can fall even more.

You can see the spiral here. A self-fulfilling prophecy. People fear falling so they don’t do the things which can prevent falls, which causes an increased risk of falling.

Good news

The good news is that many falls can be prevented. Staying active, starting as early in life as possible, can prevent falls. Regular exercise, including strength and balance work, also can prevent falls. (And people give me funny looks when I tell them about my balance work…)

Kathy says even entirely healthy people aged 60 and older are more prone to falls than those 10 to 20 years younger. Changes occur to the body in aging that contribute to falls. As we age, we tend to lose muscle mass and strength decreases. To counteract the effect, it’s even more important to combine strength exercises with our cardio and balance!

Pre-existing conditions

Many older Americans also suffer from chronic conditions – heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes – which also contribute to the risk. And medications that are prescribed for these conditions may have side-effects such as dizziness and drowsiness, which contribute to falls.

Once again, though, there is good news. If a healthy and fit 60-year-old does suffer a fall, his or her recovery may be easier than others’. I told Kathy about a recent fall of my own. I stepped on a rock funny in the dark, fell and skinned my shin. 2 weeks later, it’s all better except for a little scab. Kathy said that it’s probably due to the strength and balance work I do that my injuries were not worse and my recovery was so fast.

Practice helps!

Practicing balance truly does help to reduce the risk of falling. But it needs to be practiced on a regular basis – in fact, daily! Tai Chi is one example of exercise that improves strength and balance, but it must be practiced for at least 50 hours before it produces any benefits. Starting early will help later, but it’s never too late to start!

Yoga has not been studied specifically for reducing falls, but if you’re physically able to do it, it certainly can’t hurt. Balance and strength, which yoga improves, reduce the risk of falls.

Balance is a combination of many factors

Kathy said that balance combines many sensory inputs. Input from the eyes, ears, and touch are all integrated through the brain and output through the muscles. All of your senses combine to affect your balance.

Balance also has a psychological component which may be even more difficult to overcome. Fear of falling is a real problem for many. There is an evidence-based program, “A Matter of Balance,” that the National Council on Aging encourages, helps to overcome the psychological effect of the fear of falling. If you or someone you know has a fear of falling, I urge you to contact your local area Agency on Aging and take advantage of this program. Everyone should be able to enjoy the world as much as they want to!

Shoes make the woman (or man)

shoes are important in balanceFootwear makes a difference in balance. According to Kathy, high heels significantly increase the risk of falling – no surprise there. But going barefoot or in socks at home also increase the risk, due to a higher risk of slipping. Low-heeled shoes with firm, slip-resistant soles like rubber are recommended. And be sure to wear your glasses, even at home!

Vision plays a very big role in balance. Everyone should have their vision checked every year, and have their corrective lenses adjusted. Your home should be properly lit. Don’t sit in the dark! If you can’t reach a burnt-out light bulb, ask for help. Don’t climb on things to change it! Have a clear, well-lit path from the bedroom to the bathroom. There are attractive modern switches that dim or light a path. Use one!

Weighty matters

The obesity epidemic in America is also a factor in falls. People who are obese may be less physically active, they may not be as strong and their balance may not be as good. Kathy said, many obese people who fall feel hopeless and helpless, feeling that nothing can be done for them. Again, increasing the risk of more falls.

Obese people suffer from diabetes and arthritis at a higher rate, which leads to more pain and discomfort, which limits their activity, and increases the number of prescription medicines they’re on, according to Kathy. Some of these medications’ side effects increase the risk of falling. Pain medicine, for example, produces side effects such as sleepiness and dizziness, leading to more falls. Obese people also tend to be more depressed. Anti-depressant medication also increases the risk of falls. More dark spirals.

Common medications may increase your risk

prescriptions may cause fallsMany older Americans are on some form of medication that contributes to falls. Kathy says that even some common prescriptions can increase your risk because they are psychoactive in nature and affect the central nervous system.

Many opioid pain medications increase the risk. So do insomnia medications such as benzodiazepines, and blood pressure medication. As we get older, our bodies don’t flush out medicines as quickly as when we’re young. Dosage could be a factor that increases our risk of falling. Get your medications checked on a regular basis.

Get your orthostatic blood pressure checked – sitting versus standing. If there’s a significant drop when you stand up, that could be a problem in your medications or their dosage. Our bodies’ response to medication changes as we age.

Even over-the-counter medications can also increase your risk of falling. The active ingredient in Benadryl and other antihistamines can lower your blood pressure, causing you to be dizzy and fall. It’s also found in sleep medicine that you can buy over the counter. Non-sedating allergy medicines are recommended, especially for people over 60 and those with a higher risk of falling.

What to do

In terms of exercise, walking alone doesn’t reduce falls, Kathy says. Walking is certainly important for cardiac benefits, but it should be done in conjunction with strength and balance work. The CDC recommends 20 minutes or so of vigorous activity 4-5 times a week, and moderate- or high-intensity strength work 2 days a week that involve all muscle groups.

Before anyone starts an exercise program they should check with their doctor and start slowly. Set realistic goals and build slowly. If you haven’t exercised in the past, the “Stay Active and Independent For Life” (SAIL) program is good for older adults. Then progress to “EnhanceFitness” and “A Matter of Balance.” These are evidence-based programs and are promoted by the National Council on Aging.

On a personal note, I add balance work to my regular exercise, which combines cardio and strength work.

Draft your doctor to help

If you’ve been to the doctor and had a bone density test, and you’re fine – Kathy says don’t be complacent! Falls are caused by many factors. At your next visit, ask your doctor for a falls-risk screening and assessment. Be pro-active and know your risks. Less than half of older Americans talk to their doctors about falls and their risks, not realizing their doctors can help.

What’s our take-away?

Be active and stay active! Be sure to follow the CDC’s guidelines on exercise, and add strength and balance work to your regimen. Contact me for suggestions!

If you’re overweight and fall into the “obese” category, get physical and psychological support. We want you to be healthy!

get your vision checkedTalk to your doctor about fall prevention, especially if you have fallen, have a fear of falling, or feel unsteady on your feet.

Have your prescriptions monitored for interactions and side-effects that contribute to falls.

Get your vision checked once a year and your corrective lenses adjusted accordingly.

And turn your lights on!

Wear safe shoes – there are some cute ones out there… I checked.

Join my Facebook Balance CommunityBalance for Fitness, Balance for Life!

Be sure to subscribe to Fran’s newsletter for news, tips, recipes and (sometimes) fun stuff!

Stay in control of your falls risk. You have the power to prevent a fall!

Stress – it’s not going away

Play with your dog to relieve stress!Stress, our old friend. It’s ever-present. And it’s not going away. Every day we hear on the news something that makes us gnash our teeth. And since social media makes everything immediate, even from the far-reaches of the globe. Former allies are now questionable, and we’re cozying up to former enemies. Your boss is asking for ridiculous deadlines. The talk-show host on your favorite radio program has gone insane. Even commercials are making us angry and on-edge.

And when we feel those stresses, they can manifest themselves in our behavior. Many people eat when they’re stressed. Some get cranky with those they love (because getting cranky with the boss can get you fired). Some people become ill. None of these are good things.

So, how can you keep your blood pressure (figuratively) under control?

Take a step back. Unplug for a while and turn off the TV.

Go for a hike in the woods. Or just a nap under a tree in the back yard. Enjoy some nature.

Close your eyes, clear your mind and breathe for a few minutes.

Talk to a friend about your dogs.

Play with your dogs.

Work in the garden.

Listen to music. Not on the radio.

Some people advocate meditation. I honestly do think it helps to ground me. I do a couple of minutes every day or so – without meditating for a bit my mind tends to take off into the “What if …” zone. And then it goes around in circles and spirals, and I get all hot and bothered. So I sit down, close my eyes and think about nothing.

Some people like listening to guided meditations. They’re good too – in fact, I’m developing a series of short guided meditations.

But, whatever you do, make sure the stresses of today’s world don’t affect you adversely.