As we age our muscles get weaker if they don’t get challenged. As a lifelong fitness buff I have always done conventional weights and cardio. The more I work with seniors the more I see the need to work the muscles that affect our balance.
The first place to start is with the feet and then the ankles. After that we can work on the legs and hips. The good news is that many of the exercises that help one area will also build strength in other areas as well.
A good example is standing on one foot. Go to the corner of a room or stand by something you can grab when you need to steady yourself. Lift one foot and count so you can access tangibly how well you are doing. You may only last five seconds but don’t worry improvement is guaranteed as you practice.
The surprise for many is how hard this is on the feet and ankles. Every time you sway corrections are made by tiny movements, from the feet all the way up to the hips. This is one way you can work multiple muscle groups by just doing one move. The next thing is to try various things while standing on one foot. Swing your arms over your head like “The Wave” at sporting events. Lift your arms out to the sides up to your ears. Do some curls while alternating hands. If you do this in front of a clock with a second hand you can keep track of how well you’re progressing.
If you want to have some fun, get a Swiss Ball. These come in various sizes and colors and only cost about $20. You can do a whole work out while seated on these balls and when that gets easy, try lifting one foot while doing the exercises. One of my favorites is to lay on the ball with the ball under you stomach. Start with the feet and hands touching the ground. Lift the right arm and the left leg at the same time and hold for a second or two then switch. This will not only improve your balance but work more muscles than almost any other exercise you can think of.
Finally for the advanced: get a Bosu Ball. These are the blue half dome balls that you can stand on. Without exception this is the best piece of exercise equipment for the advanced fitness buff who want a challenge. They cost about $100 but you can do about 50-60 real tough and effective exercises that you can’t do with anything else. Look forward to more information on the Bosu Ball in future blog entries.
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