How 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!
I 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!
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!