Did you know that broken bones, fractures and other closely related serious injuries are the main reason why many people end up spending their final years in some type of senior living facility? The reason why this happens is actually very simple.
As we age, our flexibility, core strength and balance all naturally decline and ultimately makes it easier to have a fall and to suffer serious and often debilitating injuries. The good news, we don’t have to accept the growing risk of falls as an inevitable fact of aging. Fall potential can in fact be greatly minimized through continued focus on staying flexible and maintaining your core strength and balance.
What is core strength?
The core of the human body is the muscle groups located in and around the center of the body such as the abdominal and back muscles that are attached to the spine or pelvis. These muscle groups help originate almost all movement of the human body. The core muscles are also our key source of balance and stability. So no matter what you are doing, from cooking in the kitchen to walking down a street to picking up your grandchild, the core muscles help keep your body stabilized and balanced.
One common aliment of older people is low back pain. Most of the time, people chalk up their pain to an actual back problem when in fact, the pain is often caused by weak, unused core muscles. Add hamstring muscles in the thigh area that tighten after years of not being stretched and no wonder so many people (including many that are nowhere near the age of 65 by the way) claim to have back trouble that is really caused by a lack of exercise, poor core strength and lose of flexibility.
Quickly determine your level of balance and flexibility
Perform these two simple tests to evaluate your level of balance and flexibility. To test your balance, stand on one foot and extend your arms so that they are parallel to the floor. Then close your eyes and hold that position for as long as possible. Position yourself so that you can grab a wall or other object to catch yourself if you lose your balance.
If you are age 40 and older, you should be able to hold that position (don’t forget to keep your eyes closed) for at least 15 seconds. If you flunk this test, you have some serious work to do because it means that your balance is not up to snuff.
To test your flexibility, take the toe touch test. Stand up straight and position your feet just inside the width of your shoulders. Extend your arms straight in front of your body and then bend slowly at the waist and attempt to touch your toes with your fingers. It’s OK to slightly bend at the knees but not too much. If you can touch your toes, hold that position for at least five seconds. If you cannot touch your fingers to your toes, your flexibility needs serious attention. And by the way, this test applies to anyone at any age.
To combat poor balance, flexibility and core strength, you must work exercise on a regular basis. Many of you that don’t want to hear that I know. I am sorry but facts are facts. Before starting any exercise program, be sure to consult with your doctor about what you are planning. Certified fitness trainers and physical therapists are sources that can be employed to help you design an exercise program that will fit your personal health and fitness circumstances. The great news, many types of exercise that can help you improve core strength, flexibility and balance can be performed in the comfort and convenience of your own home.
Yoga provides a number of exercises that aid both our flexibility and maintenance of balance. The standing on one leg activity described earlier in this article is an example of an exercise that is easy to do that will help to develop and maintain good balance. Sit-ups and push-ups require nothing more than a little open space in your home. Both are great for helping to build and maintain core flexibility and strength.
Stretching exercises are essential for maintaining flexibility so that if you do happen to experience a fall, hopefully you are flexible enough to catch yourself before you hit the floor. If you do fall, you must be flexible enough to pick yourself up and dust yourself off.
The bottom line…the maintenance of your core strength, balance and flexibility is a must as you age. Numerous simple exercises and stretches that require nothing more than a few minutes and a little open space in your own home can be employed to help you win this battle.
Sitting around and doing nothing is a sure fire recipe for speeding up all the negative impacts of aging. The good news though…we don’t have to just accept it, we can do something about it. No matter what anyone says, you are never too old to experience the benefits that flow from regular exercise.