“People are like bicycles. They can keep their balance only as long as they keep moving.” – Albert Einstein in a letter to his son Eduard, Feb. 5, 1930..
Movement! Haven’t we all heard this at one time or another…”Don’t lie down if you can sit, don’t sit if you can stand, don’t stand if you can walk.” Whatever! I know that I often just want to kick back with my feet up – literally. However, we must admit that A.E. did get that whole theory of relativity thing right so maybe we should pay attention to his remark about balance! (Although I do not agree with his minimal sleep habits – but that is another article!)
The importance of balance and movement cannot be overemphasized for us as we move into the 50+ range. Along with changes in our muscle strength and flexibility we also incur issues with balance in our everyday movement. Increasing that movement can enhance our ability to maintain balance. How many times did you fall down as a child? Bet you sprang up without a problem; your strong bones, muscle tone, and flexibility enabled you to brush yourself off and keep on going with barely a notice! According to the BMJ (British Medical Journal, 29 October 2013) French researchers analyzed the results of 17 trials that tested the effect of fall-prevention exercises on seniors’ risk of falls and fall-related injuries. Overall, exercise programs reduced falls that caused injuries by 37%, falls leading to serious injuries by 43%, and broken bones by 61%.
Independence is something we all value – children are eager to become independent, and mature adults are eager to stay independent! Broken bones from falls which can be prevented limit mobility and lead to a host of other health issues as well as lack of confidence and fear of falling. What is to be done? Movement! As a fitness instructor, I find it both amusing and rather sad that many people look upon stretching as a not-very-challenging workout and therefore not to be highly regarded. Ask any Olympian what type of workout offers the most benefits. In addition to increasing balance and flexibility, stretching transports oxygen and removes toxins from muscles, improving athletic performance.
Fitness classes aimed at improving balance are increasingly common, I am pleased to say. In addition to promoting better balance, participants can experience improved muscle tone, stronger bones as well as coordination and a sense of well-being. When is it a good time to start? How about now? Taking control of our balance and movement – along with better nutrition – can make a world of difference to the quality of life we cherish. Self-care is not only a gift we give to ourselves, but a precious gift we offer to those who love us. It truly is the “gift that goes on giving” to coin a phrase!
Sharon McMahon, CNWC
The opinions expressed in this article are not intended to replace advice of your personal physician or licensed health professional. Please consult your physician for any issues you may have related to nutrition or fitness activity.