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Do One of These Simple Exercises Every Day; It May Save Your Life!
July 23, 2014
By: Kin Wai Wu, MSPT
What is the first thing in your mind when I say the word “fitness”? Most people would think of an athletic and attractive body. There is nothing wrong with looking nice. In fact, a nice body shape is a byproduct of getting fit. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but our body will degenerate when we get older no matter what. This is just part of our metabolism. The elderly are 9 times more likely to die after a falling accident than a teenager after a motor vehicle accident. I know it’s a great feeling to tell your friends how much you can bench press, or bragging about how many marathons you have run. However, how unpleasant will it be when you grow older and are unable to go to bathroom without help? What is the key to avoid this fate if it is not just about strong muscles and endurance? Balance!
So, let’s talk about balance. There are 3 ways your body perceives balancing information; vision, inner ear, and proprioception. Obviously, your eyes tell you if you are upside down or not. Your inner ear gives your head position in relationship to the gravity. Proprioception tells your brain where your body parts are without looking at them. This last one is very important and we must exercise it as we get older. In this article I am going to focus on improving your proprioception.
Imagine your legs have gone numb and you have a find a way to a bathroom in a pitch black room. A simple task like going to bathroom would become a tough obstacle. Unfortunately, most elderly encounter this hurdle in a daily bases. I am not saying that all seniors are clumsy. As we age, our nervous system becomes less efficient. It does not matter how fit we were at our prime. This is why having great balance and a good sense of proprioception is essential when we are young. It’s like saving up lots of cash in your bank account, so we don’t have to worry about going broke in our retirement age.
Here are some great exercises to improve your balance:
1) Single leg stance: Point your feet forward and stand on 1 leg. Make sure to bend your weight bearing knee to approximately 15-20 degrees. Hold it for 30-60 second for 2-3 repetitions. If you would like to increase the intensity, you could stand on a thick foam pad, a wobble board, or a BOSU ball.
2) Squat: At beginner level, lean your buttocks against a wall or place a yoga ball between you and the wall. When you squat down, make sure your knees never move past your toes. You should squat down until your knees bend at 90 degree angle. Do it for 2-3 sets of 10. Try air squats if wall squats are getting too easy. Then progress to weighted squats by holding dumbbells in each hand.
3) Heel raise: Point your toes forward and lift your heels away from the ground. Your hips should not sway back and forth. Make sure to lower down your heel slowly (3- 5 seconds). Do it for 2-3 sets of 10. To upgrade the exercise, place the front half of your feet on a stair. Then let your heel sink down below the step. You could progress to weighted heel raise as needed.
4) Crab walk: Walk side to side with your knees bent at approximately 20 degrees. Make sure your knees do not move past your toes. Do this for 1-3 minutes. To increase resistance, place a Thera-band around your ankles or knees.
Doing these exercises daily will help keep your balance fine-tuned and preserved well into you golden years; and it may well need to a longer and healthier life. If you struggle with balance now, you should see a physical therapist before engaging in any exercise that may challenge your balance.