You can also read this if you’re under 50, because ideally, those of you who are under 50 will one day also be over 50. And how many times can I say 50 in one sentence? Probably 50, but the joke got old before it started.
I have two questions for you:
1. How good is is your balance?
2. How is your strong is your core? (Not whether or not you have a six pack. Or a party ball...)
You need to know the answers to these questions, especially if you are over 50. Balance and core strength are critical and become more important as you age. Stop what you’re doing right now, stand behind a chair with no wheels on it (this is crucial), and removing your hands from the chair, see if you can balance on your left foot for a minimum of 10 seconds. The chair is only there if you lose your balance because I don’t want you to face plant and you don’t want you to face plant. No one likes a face plant.
Go ahead, I'll wait....
Can you balance on one foot for 10 seconds? If the answer is no, see your doctor. Seriously. We use a combination of things to stay upright, including muscle strength, visual inputs, and the inner ear, as well as our proprioceptive system (receptors in the nerves of our joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons that let us know where we are in relation to other objects), and if you can't stand on one leg for 10 seconds, even with repeated attempts, check in with your doctor.
If you hit 10 seconds with no problem, great! Time yourself on each leg. Can you hit a minute?
Did you notice if one leg was easier than the other? That’s not uncommon. My right leg is much more stable than my left, presumably from being a softball pitcher for so many years. I drove my entire pitching mechanic from my right leg time and time again for six years.
Why do I care about your balance?
That's just the kind of gal I am. Caring....sharing...(bonus if you can name the song and movie I reference).
I care because our risk of falling increases with age, and the older we get, the deadlier those falls can be. How many times have you heard the story, that so and so was doing great, then took a horrible fall, broke his hip, and died three months later? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the top cause of injury death among people over 65.
I’m not saying this to frighten you, though fear is an effective motivator. I’m saying this because you need to use and practice your balance in order not to lose it. No I don’t want you walking a tight rope. I mean that’s cool if you want. But you need to work on your balance. And in tying into the second question I asked, a way to work on your balance is to improve your core strength.
Working to build a stronger core is what will help you as well. If you slip on the ice, having stronger core muscles will help you, hopefully, keep your feet. (Also walk like a penguin on ice. Or move to Florida.)
If you are walking on a treadmill three times a week, that's something. That's cardio. (But it's not enough. Mom and Dad if you're reading this I'm talking to you.) Practice your balance. Start by standing on one leg in line at the grocery store. It will help your balance and attract potentially unwanted stares and comments. Do it while you stand there and wait for the coffee to perk. But practice.
And train your core.
I've posted this exercise before, but I use it with many of my senior clients. The Bowler Squat.
Spend time working on core stability. I have some favorite exercises I use with all of my clients. I've posted deadbugs here before, and will post here again. This variation requires that you press actively into the wall as you perform the movement. S.....l......o......w..........Perform five reps per side.
Side plank. If you struggle to maintain a straight position from head to toe, bend your legs and press up from your knees.
It's never too early to start working on balance and core strength. The research shows that if you use it, you're less likely to lose it. Research also shows that watching pet videos reduces stress. So watch this pet video on one leg.