Wednesday, December 4, 2019

How Important Is Balance to Aging?

Design, Son, Older Woman, Mother, SeniorFor the longest time, I tried to get my mother to go out and walk.  Walk to the store, to the library, anywhere as long as she'd move.  She kept telling me she didn't need to walk everyday because she was in good shape.  Along the way, she and dad had to move into a care facility because they could no longer live on their own.

The place offered exercise classes several times a week.  I tried to get my mother to go but again she refused.  She'd tell me she was in good shape, or those classes were for people in wheelchairs.

Then she fell and did something to her knee and found herself in a walker.  Again, I tried to get her to go to the exercise classes but she wouldn't because she wasn't in a wheelchair yet.

Unfortunately, as we age, we have to keep exercising and working on retaining our balance so we are less likely to fall.  In addition, bone density decreases, people loose strength, and when people do fall and hurt themselves so it takes longer to recover.  Surprisingly, the process begins around the age of 25 rather than when people are older.

Our brains are important to our sense of balance and as we age, we often become less active, causing our brains to loose some cognitive ability.  Furthermore, we can no longer carry out as many tasks as before and it shows when people stop moving to talk.  Furthermore, the amount and type of information provided by our brains also decreases.  In other words, as our eye sight declines, we often misinterpret what we see and we misjudge things so we fall more often.

Another way information is not longer transmitted correctly is when our joints and feet are no longer accurately providing information due to swollen joints, poor flexibility, or poorly fitted shoes.  In addition, certain medications can cause us to be less stable than before.

The good news is that we can do things to help delay the natural deterioration.  One thing we can do is to moderately exercise at least 150 minutes every day or average 30 minutes each day.  At the end of one exercise session, you should feel a bit warm and be slightly out of breath.  You should include balancing exercises via yoga as part of your regular workout.  In addition, you should also do weights to help keep and build strength.

Here are some suggestions to help you age gracefully and counter the effects of aging.

1.  Keep moving.  Get up and move around so you are not sitting all day.  You might want to practice standing up from a sitting position without using your hands, or stand on one foot while standing by the counter.

2.  Take a walk every single day.  Start with what you can do and then over time increase the time and  the distance so you are walking longer and further.  Vary the route you take so it is not the same one each day.  I am unable to walk every single day here in Alaska but I have several DVD's which allow me to walk at least a mile and often more inside the house.  It is hard to walk outside in a blinding blizzard.

3.  Practice some specific exercises designed to improve your balance such as standing on one foot for 30 seconds or more, then change to the other foot, or raise your weight up until you are standing on your toes, then lower your feet so they are flat on the floor.  Repeat the exercise 10 to 20 times and to increase it's difficulty, do this with hand weights.  Walk forward placing heel to toe as if you are walking on a tightrope.  This is a great exercise for improving your balance, or practice squating into a chair and then stand up again.

4. Take up Tai Chi because this Chinese exercise form is great for developing balance in both healthy and ill people.  Tai Chi is great because it is designed to focus on slow movements which in turn help balance.

If you just do a few things every day, you can delay the natural decline our bodies go through as we age.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

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