As a personal trainer since 2008, I have worked with clients of all ages, sizes, and types of health goals. The one aspect of fitness that all of them struggled on is balance. In a recent training session with a client, another male gym member who works out religiously and is in great shape, commented on a balance movement I was teaching a female over 50 client. When I asked him to try the simple movement of touching his toe with a slightly flexed knee standing on one foot, he fell over. Reaching down to touch your toe standing on one foot is not complicated and does not require massive amounts of strength. You might say, “Oh I can do that, no problem,” and you may be able too. Can you do it equally well on either foot?
Dictionary.com defines balance a number of ways and parts of speech. The best definition they have for my purpose is a state of bodily equilibrium. Can you maintain equilibrium when placed in unsteady positions, that is the whole key to balance in a physical fitness and exercise standpoint. How do you improve balance? You have to work on it consistently. If you are a gym goer, try movements like dumbbell bicep curls on one foot, use a BOSU ball for standing dumbbell shoulder presses, try a one leg RDL/toe touch. When talking about the over 60 population, balance is where life can literally fall apart.
The CDC says falls are the number one cause of injury in senior citizens. Fall prevention programs are usually part of senior care facilities and medical personnel training that work in those environments. When I teach the over 60 workout class at the health club I work at, they all want to improve their balance. My individual clients in the same age group also want more balance training because they know it is a fine line between injury and full mobility. The CDC suggests two or more days a week of muscle strengthening activities for older adults. Get off the machines and use free weights. Make the body stabilize and balance in a variety of positions. More muscle used equals more calories burned anyway, so don’t be afraid of the 10 lb dumbbells.
You may be asking, “How do I find balance exercises and do them safely without killing myself?” There are a number of answers to fit everyone’s budget. You can hire a personal trainer like me at your gym/health club, join a group exercise class, find a program online, or make something up at home. Whatever you do as an active older adult, make sure you stick too it and afford. For the online group, my company Movement Academy has a program to help called Active Aging System. For a limited time, it is only $10.95 per month and guaranteed to help you improve your balance. Check it out, no contract and very affordable.
Balance is key to a longer, healthier life in every aspect.
Matt Peale is an NASM Certified Personal Trainer since 2008. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and give the Active Aging System a try if you are comfortable with online programs.