Balance Training: Do I Hafta?

BlogHer Original Post

How's your balance?

I thought mine was pretty good. Then a while back Mizfit alerted me to a balance test that tells you how "old" you are based on how long you can stand on one foot, without swaying, with your eyes closed. I don't remember my exact score, but I think I came out somewhere around 113 years old. According to that test, it's a wonder I can get out of bed in the morning without falling flat on my face.

Now I'm still not convinced my balance is that bad. But even if it were, is this really a problem? I mean, judging by so many of the romantic comedies I've watched, isn't klutziness, clumsiness, and a tendency to stumble over things just a sign of adorableness? Don't pratfalls predict happy endings?

Well, apparently not in real life. When you're elderly and you take a spectacular tumble, it's not generally of sign of fun times and complicated romantic entanglements ahead. According to the CDC, falls are the leading cause of injury deaths among the elderly.

So, OK, we want to make sure we head into our golden years all solid and graceful, not all tippy and teetery. But if we're not that old yet, why can't we just put it off a few decades? It's not like we don't already have enough to worry about, between aerobics and intervals and kegels and flossing our teeth and eating our probiotics and organizing our tax records.

Well, according to a neurology expert quoted in Runner's World, "You can lose as much as 75 percent of your balance ability between the ages of 25 and 75."

Oops.

So maybe it is best to take a look at this balance thing before is totally slips away from us.

Here are a few suggestions for working on your balance so that you don't become a CDC statistic someday.



1. Try bosu balls, wobble boards, stability balls, or other balance training gizmos.

There's something about investing in a fitness gadget that makes balance practice sound more appealing--at least for a few weeks until the novelty wears off. (I confess: I believe I have a wobble board somewhere in the basement that I haven't used in years.) Bosu balls seem to be getting very popular; and for a hilarious illustrated post on the proper use of one, go check out Jenny on the Spot.

2. Agility Training

I didn't even know this existed until Deb at Weight for Deb got all enthusiastic about it. Not only does it help with balance in dynamic situations, it can even sharpen your ability to think quickly. Which you'll need to do if you find yourself tripping over cones and ladders and hurtling towards the ground. Here are some sample agility exercises, and all I can say is: Yikes!

3. Wii Fit and other balance video games.

I keep hearing lots of great things about these, so I'm terribly jealous. Sounds like a great way to get a variety of balance exercises, but still be able to flail around in the privacy of your own home.

4. Yoga.

Yoga is great for balance. And not just in the evolved, serene, live-a-conscious lifestyle sense. But in the actual stop-tripping-and-falling-on-your-butt sense. For example, check out The Fitnessista's pictures (not just the flexible cat, but the balancing pose) or read the Geezer Chick's accounts of her yoga misadventures. And you can also find some online tips for standing balance poses.

5. Try fun-sounding sports that require balance.

These scare me to death, but braver souls than I seem to have a great time improving their balance by snowboarding, skateboarding, mountain biking, ice skating, skiing, surfing, or riding bucking broncos in the rodeo.

6. Regular Boring Old Balance Exercises:

Not as exciting as the rodeo, but there are many sources for balance exercises, like at Runner's World, Livestrong, Mayo Clinic, or 3 Fat Chicks on a Diet.

How about you folks, do you do have good balance? If not, are you doing anything to work on it? Have you joined the 10x Club?

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