The ”fountain of youth”. We’d all like to find it. There really isn’t one, but there are things that stave off the effects of aging. Anyway, most of us wouldn’t really want to remain in our youth forever, and how would anything ever get done on a planet with literally nothing but teenagers?
The best thing we can do to reverse aging is to keep its ill effects from overtaking us as best possible. One of the first things affected by aging is loss of balance. We can get a little dizzy, light headed, or simply stumble a bit. This of course leads to the dreaded “falling down” which we want to avoid at all costs.
Let me say at the outset that “trainer” often conjures up an image of a 20-something super-fit young-un who might not fully appreciate what aging can do to someone. Well, I am sixty, and I’ve been at it for over thirty years, so I certainly understand the importance of age and its potential problems.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
I also work with medical patients in a physical therapy environment. They include stroke patients, heart patients and Parkinson’s patients. The information I’m going to share is safe, simple, and effective. I practice what I preach so that I can maintain my own life–which includes personally, physically taking care of my seven acre farm. Not bad for a fella who’s gettin’ a bit older!
We all need to be able to be on our feet and perform daily activities, if possible, and for as many years as possible. Let’s share some movements that will increase our strength and balance. They involve little or no equipment.
Go for a walk
This is, I think, the best thing we can do for ourselves. Most of us can do this of course, and if we do it now, rather than “some day”, we will hold off the atrophy which would lead to problems. A “walk” can mean many things. A few feet down a hallway, some minutes on a treadmill, around the block, through the park, or some competitive event.
Regardless of where your fitness and ability level is, go for a walk. We’re built for it! Now, some folks can’t even do that at this point. Here’s some movements that will help you build up your balance (by the way…strength and endurance are critical factors here).
I’m not talking about huge distances here, rather take some small steps backward. Hold onto the wall or handrail if necessary, but walk backwards. Be sure to extend the leg backward–reach back onto the toe. Move cautiously. Stay under control no matter how slow you have to go.
Walk in a figure eight
Walking and weaving through the figure eight pattern stimulates the brain more than you might realize. It has, in fact, been used for Parkinson’s patients for years. It works! Just use whatever sized room you have available. You might wish to put chair at each end of the pattern so you have a mark to circle behind (kind of like in horse barrel racing).
This forces the legs, feet, toes to move in a multi-directional manner. Try this: Stand behind a chair, holding onto the top of the chairback as support. Using one leg for support, start moving the other leg around and touching the toe to the ground in different spots.
This should include out to the side, forward, behind, and my favorite: pretend you’re standing in the center of a big clock face on the ground. Start moving your working leg/toe around the face of the clock. Mix it up too! Noon, six, three, nine, three, six, noon, and so on.
Although this article is focused on “Standing”, I’d be deficient in not acknowledging that there are some who just have too much difficulty jumping up and doing much of anything on their feet yet. There are sitting exercises you can do as a start.
From a sitting position, swing one leg out from the knee. Return to the floor and repeat with each leg. You can do quite a few reps here…
Sitting in the same manner, extend one leg out straight. Using your toe like a pencil…..start “drawing” the letters of the alphabet. Get through the whole thing with each foot. Very effective
Once again in the same seated manner, extend one leg out straight, with your toes pointing straight up. Should be a 90 degree ankle bend. Now “rock” your foot side to side, keeping that 90 degree initial ankle bend. You’re now “swinging” the foot back and forth from the inside to the outside.
The ankle is bending side-to-side but still staying 90 degrees to the shin. This one can be challenging at first. Maintain good form. Do as many reps as you can…not many at first but you’ll build up quickly.
Finally–the most simple one. As we age, we can begin to get stooped over, use a walker, a cane, or rely on something other than ourselves for support. Try to use only your own body if at all possible. I’d rather see you stop for frequent breaks than resort to an artificial assistance.
If we all would remind ourselves to raise our heads and chins, extend our chest out and upward, we’d put the body in a better position to maintain good balance in the first place. As in many things, it might be “easier said than done”, but give these ideas a try. I have seen them work wonders and they’re so simple that most anyone can do them. Start where you can and just make progress. It’ll win the day!