By Laurie Sweig
It’s getting cold outside. That means snow and ice are a reality in the not too distant future. Now is a great time to take your balance to the next level. It doesn’t matter what your abilities are at the moment, balance is something that can always be improved. It’s also something that if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.
Basically, the muscles of our bodies have one of two functions. They either are responsible for movement or for stabilization. Movement without stability is a dangerous combination. That’s when falls occur. The big secret is that we have to practice a repertoire of movements every single day in order to keep moving in all of the ways that we would like to. As an example, think about stepping in and out of the shower. There is a whole lot of work done by the stabilizing muscles to keep us upright. Those muscles are trained every time we take a shower.
There are activities we don’t do every day, such as walking on ice. The stabilizing muscles (and the associated nerves) that keep us safe in unpredictable circumstances like walking on ice are essentially taking a nap. It’s not difficult to wake them up. It starts with standing up and standing on one foot at a time. Here’s a progression of exercises you can try:
• Kick off your shoes and socks (barefoot is always better).
• Stand on your right foot (by the way, the right side is often weaker for right handed people) and count to 10. Change to the left side and repeat. As you get stronger progressively increase to a count of 20.
• When you get to 20, count on both sides, add swinging the non-supporting leg forward and backward slowly. Count each swing. Work at it until you can get to 20 on each side
• The next challenge is swinging your arms. Swing ‘em in every direction you can think of while standing on one leg. Count to 10 before changing sides.
That last challenge mimics the body’s movement when balance is lost. If it’s practiced in a controlled manner all of the stabilizing muscles are jumping in to do their job to keep us from falling.
There are so many opportunities to work on our balance. All that is needed is a flat surface and a few minutes. It’s not like we don’t have those two things available on a daily basis. Make the investment. You’ll be glad that you did.
Something to think about.
Laurie Sweig is a certified personal fitness trainer and spinning instructor. She owns and operates The Point for Fitness. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.