It’s been almost a year ago now since I introduced my monthly fitness challenge. I explained my “inspiration” and why I think it’s so important to do strength work ESPECIALLY as we age. (You can read all about that here.)
So. How are you doing? By now, I hope you’re having some success with my challenges. Keep up the good work. Every day! (And if you haven’t started yet? Well. You can begin today!)
Today’s challenge . . . is a little test.
Not much of a test; don’t freak out. It’s just a little one. (But important.)
Challenge #12 – How’s your balance?
For the next few months, my monthly fitness challenges are going to shift a little: they’ll focus specifically on balance for a while. So to get you primed and ready, let’s just see how you’re doing, balance-wise, with this 10-second balance test.
Can you balance on one leg for 10 seconds? You can leave your eyes open, but you can’t hold onto a chair or table or the wall to do it. (You should have one nearby, though. Just in case.) Now, try it again on the other leg.
Photo credit: Sarah Karlan for The New York Times
Whether you can “pass” the test successfully or not . . . isn’t really the point. It’s just to give you an idea of “where you are” today. We all need to work on our balance, and especially as we age.
Balance impacts our quality of life — and our longevity, too, it turns out (recent study results here). The National Institutes of Health reports that every year in the US, one in three people over age 65 will experience a fall. Falls, of course, are serious at any age — but they’re especially dangerous for us as we get older, when fractures can cause potentially serious and long-lasting health problems.
For most adults, our balance actually starts to decline long before we notice it — between the ages of 40-50. Why? There are lots of reasons! Some of it is just age-related, some is related to health conditions, and a lot of it is . . . well . . . a use-it-or-lose-it thing.
- Muscle mass begins to decline faster every year as we age, which impacts our strength and stamina.
- Reflexes and coordination decline as we age, which impacts our ability to react quickly.
- Cells in our vestibular system (the system in our inner ear that helps us perceive and adjust for changes in balance) begin to die off as we age, which affects our ability to right ourselves when we need to.
- Medical conditions (vision issues, changes in blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease . . . just to name a few) and various medications can also impact our balance.
“There’s a downward spiral of the people who don’t go out, who don’t walk, who don’t exercise, who don’t do balance training, and they become weaker and weaker. And muscle weakness is another important risk factor for falls.”
—Dr. Lewis Lipsitz, professor of medicine at Harvard University and the director of the Marcus Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife, as quoted in The New York Times
While it’s impossible to prevent some age-related decline, we can counteract the impact on our balance through specialized training and strength-building. Over the next few months, my Monthly Fitness Challenges will focus specifically on balance-enhancing activities.
So this month, let’s get ready. Give yourself the 10-second balance test . . .
See what happens.
And then join me here next month where we’ll continue to work on our balance!
(For now, most of these links will whisk you back to Stepping Away From the Edge. I’m working at transferring them over to my new space, but it hasn’t happened yet. Bear with me.)
Previous Get Strong Monthly Fitness Challenges: