Finding Your Balance

September 4, 2009 at 8:18 am 3 comments

j0341347While several recent and somewhat controversial articles on exercise and fitness (e.g. Time Magazine’sWhy Exercise Won’t Make You Thin“) have focused on whether exercise can actually help one lose weight, the “MisFits” column in the Washington Post written by Lenny Bernstein (August 4, 2009) featured a piece on the importance of balance, “On Balance, Your Ability to Move With Confidence Is Central to a Healthy Life.”

In the article, Mr. Bernstein described his difficulty balancing on one leg and trying to kick with the other, an action he attempted while visiting his daughter’s karate class for Parent Day. As a Boomer who is fairly clumsy, I was intrigued to learn about balance in general, and something that never occurred to me – one can and should practice balance.

Mr.Bernstein notes that, “Your ability to stay upright and move confidently through space is determined by a complex combination of muscle strength, nerve function, visual inputs, the vestibular function of your inner ear and your proprioception — the work of sensors, including nerves in the soles of your feet, that orient you in relation to other objects.”

The importance of maintaining balance is emphasized by some fairly frightening statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Every 18 seconds, someone in the 65+ age group is treated in a hospital emergency room for a fall-related injury, and every 35 minutes an older person dies from a fall.

I was happy to read that Dr. Chhanda Dutta, Chief of Clinical Gerontology, National Institute on Aging believes that loss of balance and mobility can be prevented or delayed if one works at keeping these abilities sharp, and recommends starting efforts in your 20’s or 50’s (that’s you Boomers), not your 80’s!

Mr. Bernstein goes on to describe a senior community and assisted living facility in Bethesda, Maryland, Fox Hill, that offers balance classes twice a week. Students in their 70’s are taught by a trainer to do stretches and exercises designed to strengthen their muscles and make them more comfortable with being slightly off-balance. They practice standing on one foot and then the other and walk heel to toe and then reverse it. Other exercises described include holding poses while looking at the ceiling (with your eyes closed no less!)

I’m not sure if there are any workshops or classes similar to the Fox Hill balance program being offered in our area, but I will investigate and report back. In the meantime, the Recreation Services Division of the Torrance Community Services Department offers a wide range of fitness and exercise classes including yoga, tai chi, kick boxing, and several different martial arts, all of which usually include stretching and balance as a regular part of their regimen. Check the latest issue of the Torrance Seasons to see class listings and schedule. And if you’re just too busy or don’t have the financial resources to take classes, use your Torrance Public Library Card to check out any of the Library’s many books, instructional DVDs and videocassettes on yoga, tai chi, and other similar subjects. It’s time to put some balance in your life!

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Hillary  |  September 4, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    Yoga rocks! It makes you feel five inches taller at least, and much less stressed out!

    Reply
  • 2. fuddyduddy  |  September 9, 2009 at 7:21 am

    After skimming the Time Magazine article linked here, I can see why you felt the article was controversial. With a growing population of obese individuals, devoting so much space to an article that basically discourages people from exercising or provides a rationale from them not to do so seems foolish, especially when the health care reform debate includes an emphasis on people taking personal responsibility for engaging in healthy behaviors.

    Reply
  • 3. Your “Falling” Health « LINK Logs  |  September 22, 2009 at 7:39 am

    […] 22, 2009 Several days after reading the Washington Post article on balance and posting about it (Finding Your Balance 9/4/09), I heard a segment on NPR’s All Things Considered (September 8), “Hospitals […]

    Reply

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