Why a good balance is the key to a healthy life

Editor’s note: Before beginning any new exercise program, consult your doctor. Stop immediately if you feel pain.



CNN

When people think about improving their physical fitness, they often overlook the issue of balance. This is a critical oversight. A good balance is an essential part of physical fitness and key to a long life, according to the research results. It is an important topic for everyone, no matter what age.

Older adults are most affected by balance disorders. falls are the Leading cause of injuries and deaths from 65 with almost 30% in that age group with at least one fall in 2018, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But younger adults also stumble frequently.

48 percent of young adults stated fall at least once during a 16-week study. The falls were most common while walking and exercising, with female study participants reporting more falls and fall-related injuries than men.

Falls within the last two years were reported by 18% of young adults (aged 20 to 45). another study published in the journal BMC Public Health. This compares to 21% of middle-aged adults (46 to 65) reporting falls and 35% of those over 65 years old. While falls in young adults were often correlated with participation in sports, tripping hazards in the middle-aged group were typically related to health problems and physiological changes.

Many factors can affect your balance outside of old age, such as: B. Drugs, vision problems, neuropathy of the feet, brain injuries, obesity and a general lack of physical fitness. Even if you don’t have any risk factors, neglecting to work on your balance regularly will lead to increased instability.

“Our bodies are conditioned to lose what we don’t use and exercise regularly, and balance is no different,” Susan Baxter, a physical therapist in Melbourne, Australia, said via email.

To see if your balance is on the shaky side, Here are three tests you can try. Before doing so, make sure you are in a safe area in case you fall.

  • Stand with your feet together, ankles touching, and arms crossed in front of your chest. You should be able to stand in this position with your eyes closed for 60 seconds. You can also do the same test by placing one foot directly in front of the other. You should be able to stand on either side for 38 seconds.
  • Stand on one leg without the other foot touching your standing leg. Individuals under the age of 60 should be able to stand in this position for 29 seconds with their eyes open and 21 seconds with their eyes closed. People over 60 should be able to measure 22 seconds and 10 seconds respectively.
  • Stand on one foot with your hands on your hips and place the other foot on the inside of your knee. When you lift the heel of your standing foot off the floor, you should be able to remain still and upright for 25 seconds.

If you fail any of these tests, don’t despair. With practice, you can regain—and improve—your balance skills. One of the easiest ways to do this is to practice a one-leg balance grip on each leg, said Meltem Sonmez Burr, a certified personal trainer and founder of lock in NYC. Practice standing by a chair or something to hold on to if you become unsteady.

Climbing stairs is another easy way to improve your balance, Baxter said, because part of good balance lies in a strong lower body. Squats and lunges work too. And because the vestibular system in your inner ear thrives on sensory input, Baxter recommended movements like kneeling on the floor or rising from a seated position, both of which require movement across different planes of your body.

If you prefer more playful exercises, you can dance, jump, walk sideways or backwards, or stand on tiptoe or heel, said Michael Landau, a Feldenkrais practitioner in Limache, Chile, who teaches mindful movement. (Feldenkrais is a movement therapy designed to help people reconnect with their bodies and improve their movement.)

The most important thing is to constantly challenge your balance.

“When you have good balance, you move with less fear and more flexibility,” Landau said, adding that the fear of falling makes you stiff and stressed — and stuff rather fall.

Don’t think you have the time to work on your balance? There are easy ways to incorporate it into your everyday life. Stand on one leg when brushing your teeth, watching TV or queuing at the supermarket. Or regularly walk around barefoot, Baxter said.

“Mechanoreceptors in our feet send messages to our brain to let us know our feet are working and where they are in space,” she said. “Once you’re sufficiently trained to balance without shoes, stand on a yoga mat or thin pillow and try this challenge.”

Don’t be discouraged if you find these exercises challenging. Balance improves fairly quickly with some practice. And exercise will benefit you at any age, whether you’re a kid or in your 90s.

“Good balance improves your overall mobility, so you move more and your muscles and bones get stronger,” Landau said. “It’s good for longevity and overall health and makes life worth living.”

Melanie Radzicki McManus is a freelance writer specializing in hiking, travel and fitness.

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