Keeping Our Lives in Balance – Literally
Many of us have elderly relatives or friends, and are probably aware of how balance becomes more of an issue as we age. I’m not talking about balance in one’s life, e.g., between work and play, diet and exercise, etc. (all topics for another article, I’m sure!), I’m talking about the ability of one to maintain a steady upright posture in our day-to-day activities.
There are several aspects of balance, and, interestingly, they become more intertwined and interdependent as we age. An excellent article on the subject can be found at: http://www.askdoctork.com/why-does-balance-decline-with-age-201306054928
The article presents some of the major causes of age-related imbalance, and offers a handful of very useful, easy-to-do exercises requiring absolutely nothing more than our own body and a chair. I’d like to offer another, one suggested and strongly recommended to me by my physical therapist.
As some of you know, I had a major running injury some years ago. After years of false starts and a series of misdiagnoses and incorrect and even harmful therapies, I underwent an investigational procedure and began working with a sensitive, compassionate, empathetic therapist to regain my physical health. The work involved a lot of very specific weight work, stretching, and, interestingly, balance work, as my therapist noted that I’d lost some muscle mass, flexibility, strength, and I was off balance during some of the early sessions.
The strength and flexibility exercises helped immeasurably, as did the specific balance exercises, but I think the one exercise that helped my balance the most was simply walking backwards! I don’t think either of us realized just how beneficial it would turn out to be, but as I continued with my rehab, it was obvious it was helping my balance more than the specific balance exercises.
I’ve since done some reading on the subject. There are a number of excellent articles out there, such as the one at: http://www.movemoretoday.com/3-ways-you-benefit-from-walking-backwards/, which explains a couple of additional benefits – it burns more calories than walking normally, and improves our peripheral vision, both of which wonderful unexpected side benefits. Another fine article can be found at: http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2012/12/14/walking-backward.aspx
The one caution in most of the articles, and one I emphasize, is that when walking backwards, one can’t easily see where one is going! Several of the articles mention doing the exercise on a treadmill, which pretty much eliminates this danger, but many of us don’t have access to a treadmill. I’ve found a great place to do my backwards walking is on a local track. I have the benefit of having not only a high school outdoor track available, but also an indoor 1/8 mile tracks at one of the local Arlington middle schools. The only “danger” I’ve discovered when walking backwards on the middle school track is the jeers and looks from the kids who’s PE class coincides with my workouts!
School’s in session – please be careful out there, and watch out for the kids who won’t be watching out for you!