Balance – still important!

Torque

I almost took a tumble yesterday. We always take the dogs out, even though we have a fenced yard. There have been too many reports of hawks flying away with small dogs for us to be comfortable just letting the dogs out when they need to do their business. Plus, we don’t want them eating unidentified things that they find in the back yard. And, we don’t really want them catching stray rabbits that find their way under the gates.

Torque bounced, I flailed!

So, yesterday I followed the dogs into the back yard, when, sure enough, they all came racing back to the front, chasing a rabbit who was probably feasting on the herbicide-free grass and dandelions. (Yes, rabbits are stupid. We have four dogs, and rabbits can probably smell that. That’s probably why they reproduce in such quantities. And thinking about it, the bunnies probably were not munching on the dandelions – there are too many of them for the wildlife to be enjoying.)

Torque has absolutely no sense of personal space or staying out of anyone’s way. He will find the shortest path, even if it’s right into me and through my legs. He’s definitely adorable, but Torque needs to learn about going around obstacles.

Keeping my balance

Torque ran right into me, chasing after the stupid rabbit. He bounced, but I was flailing. I did not fall, though!

I credit my ability to stay on my feet to the balance exercises I do every day. As we age, we’re more susceptible to falls, so I’m doing everything I can to prevent it. There are a variety of exercises to strengthen that balance muscle, and it just takes a couple of minutes a day to do one. I lead others in my Facebook Balance Challenge – join us!

 

Is your head exploding?

Stress is bad in more ways than you know. It can also slow down your metabolism. Many people are stress-eaters. If you feel stress, every couple of hours, take 5 minutes and just breathe. Empty your brain and focus on your breathing. Close your eyes and think of water, mountains, flowers (like pansies), or whatever makes you happy. Not work. Not the kids. Not all the chores that aren’t getting done! Just the ocean or snow-capped mountains. Set a timer so you don’t worry about the time.

When the timer goes off and you open your eyes, you’ll be in a better frame of mind to tackle the work, the chores, and the kids.

If you’re not into meditating but still feel the stress. Go for a walk! Climb some stairs. If you have one, close your door and dance to a couple of your favorite songs. Bounce on the balls of your feet and get the blood moving. Sing along if you want to! (Off-key is fine!) Again, when you go back to your desk, you’ll be better able to manage the stress.

You won’t want that candy bar, but definitely have a drink of water! Your metabolism be chugging along, and you’ll feel much better.

Walk well to age well

runningman1We all want to get old, but we want the best quality of life as we age. We want to be able to do what we did when we were young (or as close to that as possible). What’s the secret?

Retired occupational therapist Barbara Knickerbocker Beskind suggests that good posture and a brisk 30-minute walk every day are the keys to aging well. In her article, “The Surprising Secret to Aging Well” in The Next Avenue, Beskind suggests that good posture and that walk from early childhood on will build bones and keep us young. It will build bone density and balance reflexes that will cut down on debilitating falls and injuries in later years.

Beskind states that walking has enormous benefits — emotionally and even creatively. This is in addition to the well-known benefits to the pulmonary and cardiovascular systems. A sturdy gait pattern with alternating arm/leg movement helps maintain balance reflexes and strength in lateral hip muscles. And going for a walk frees the mind for creative pursuits.

So you don’t have to go crazy – just a brisk walk (with your head held high and your arms swinging in opposition to your gait) will help you achieve the golden years of your dreams!

Unplug – for your sanity

Rest and unplug for sanityWe’re surrounded by our electronics and our devices. There is no escaping the fact that to live successfully in 2016, we need to be plugged into the world around us. It’s how we stay in touch with our friends, how we keep tabs on our kids, know if our flight is on time, how late the bus is going to be,  how we get our news.

But once in a while we just need to unplug. Stop the noise. Get some peace back into our lives. Turn off the computer. Turn the phone off. Turn the TV off.

And then we can go about regaining our peace and sanity. Just sit for a few minutes with your eyes closed. Let the thoughts zoom through your mind. Acknowledge them but don’t take any action at all. Then open your eyes and read a book for 15 minutes. Cook your favorite meal without the TV blaring. Play with the dog for a while, or go for a walk with him. Or by yourself. Look at the trees, at the bushes, at the houses. Or just think about the things and people that make you happy.

It’s easy to become immersed in our technological world, but once in a while it’s important to live in our own head and figure out who we are inside.

Incorporate exercise into your daily life

toe walkThe best way to exercise is to do it and not even realize you’re exercising! Many day-to-day activities can incorporate exercise. So you’ll get a double benefit. You’ll do the task you had to do, and you’ll exercise while doing it! This idea is especially useful when your schedule is so busy you can’t fit another thing in it!

For example – you have to walk to the garage to get in your car, right? Incorporate some toe-heel walking. Place the heel of your foot directly in front of and against the toe of your other foot. You’ve taken a step (okay, a small step) and you’ve exercised your balance. This is actually harder than it might seem, and it really does train your balance.

Another good functional exercise is to get up out of a chair without using your hands. Also harder than it might seem, and you’re strengthening your legs. Try it on one foot, and you’re doing all that and practicing your balance!

Try standing on your tip-toes and leaning to the side. Ever reach for something in a cabinet? That’s what you’re doing with this exercise.

Of course, no matter how you exercise, practice good posture – suck in your stomach and lengthen your spine!

How’s your balance?

bal_bathroom2How is your balance? No, really – how is it? Can you stand on one foot for 30 seconds? How about 15? No? Time to work on it.

As we get older, our balance can diminish. But as with most other things, we can improve our balance with practice. The more you test your balance, the better it gets! Just a couple of minutes practice a day will show remarkable improvement in just a week’s time.

Gradual changes linked to growing older—such as weak or inflexible muscles, slower reflexes, and worsening eyesight—affect the sense of balance. (Better Balance, Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School) You’ve experienced this. When you’re young, you can run along a curb and not have to take a step in the street. Now, even walking slowly it’s difficult to keep to that curb and not step in the street or on the grass next to the curb. And in the winter, we’re all scared of losing our balance and slipping on the ice.

But, it’s been shown that balance training programs reduced falls that caused injuries by 37%, falls leading to serious injuries by 43%, and broken bones by 61% (published online in the BMJ). So, while it’s important to exercise vigorously to improve our cardiovascular system, it’s also important to work on our balance!

My favorite multi-tasking balance exercise is to stand on one foot while brushing my teeth – switching every 30 seconds. Or 15 seconds, or 10 seconds. Be safe, though – make sure the sink is handy for holding onto if you need it! (Canine supervision is optional!) Or just stand next to a chair on one foot for a couple of seconds and then switch. Just do something to improve your balance!

Assess your pain

What kind of pain do I have today?

091215_rtangleI worked out today, but I sure didn’t feel like it. My knee hurts. My hips hurt. But I powered through it, and I’m not sorry.

But, sometimes, we really have to ask ourselves if we’re pushing too hard. Working out 3-5 times a week for me is plenty. Some weeks 3 times, other weeks 5 times. And we really have to be in tune with our own bodies and ask ourselves how much is too much. Working out for the sake of working out, just because it’s on our schedule, sometimes defeats the purpose of that workout.

If I really had an injury to my knee, then I would have to ask myself if doing a regular workout would hurt that knee more. Should I just skip the workout and put ice on the knee? Today, I knew that I was on my feet a lot yesterday and the knee was just feeling that. And the hips always hurt from bursitis. So, I put the pain to the gauge from 1 to 10 – if it’s a 10, maybe I’ll skip the workout and put the heating pad on.

But today was just normal achiness so I worked out. And now I get to feel virtuous!

Why Exercise?

tango_triple_sd
Tango jumping

The Mayo Clinic will tell you all about the clinical benefits of exercise:
No. 1: Exercise controls weight – no secret there. The basic rule of weight loss is that if you use more calories than you take in, you’ll lose weight. Exercise boosts calorie usage. The harder you exercise, the more calories you burn. I like to eat, so I exercise!
No. 2: Exercise combats certain health conditions and diseases – Exercise can help lower your blood pressure and boosts good cholesterol (HDL). Blood flows more smoothly, decreasing the risk of heart disease. And regular physical activity can help prevent or manage many health concerns, like stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, certain cancers, arthritis and can help prevent falls, which is a great concern to those of us over a certain age. (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2/5/14)
No. 3: Exercise boosts your mood – After a hard workout, I just feel better. I’m nicer to my family and coworkers, and I feel better knowing that I did something good for my body.
No. 4: Exercise boosts energy – Exercise increases endurance and muscle strength. So walking up a flight of stairs or vacuuming the den won’t make you winded.
No. 5: Exercise promotes better sleep – Regular exercise can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep. But, make sure you get your workout in well before bedtime, otherwise you’ll be too energized to fall asleep.
No. 6: Exercise can be fun – Any continuing exercise is good for you. Just make sure that you enjoy your workout, otherwise you won’t stick with the program.

But I exercise because it helps me do what I want to. I’m able to wake up in the morning and run with my dogs, practice agility and obedience with them. When I exercise there’s less pain. And that’s a good thing!