Mandy has talked about how when she falls during pickleball, it’s a reminder to not take the ability to get back up for granted. And it’s an absolutely valuable mindset when a fall is unavoidable.
But many falls are avoidable.
How? It primarily comes down to balance and muscle strength We need to move in order to keep moving. Eyesight is also important, as are trip hazards like area rugs. Balance, however, is key here.
Even if you aren’t injured, falls can be embarrassing and make you feel unsafe. Did you know that falls are the leading cause of injury-related death after age 65? And that number has increased by 30% between 2008 and 2018! Balance is also essential for healthy brain function. Regular exercise and balance training to maintain physical balance requires the coordination of multiple sensory systems, including the eyes, ears, and muscles, which can help improve brain function and prevent age-related cognitive decline.
Doctors don’t have a standardized way to check balance like they do blood pressure or pulse, so a new study looked at asking adults ages 51 to 75 to stand on one leg for 10 seconds with their head upright and their arms down at their sides, like a flamingo. The results showed that balance is a strong indicator of our overall health.
Of the 1,702 participants, 20% were unable to complete the test in three attempts. When the scientists followed up after seven years,17.5% of those who had failed the test had died compared to 4.6% of those who had passed the test. That inability to balance was associated with twice the risk of death from any cause within 10 years.
That flamingo pose is one we encounter all the time in our lives like when we step out of cars, put on pants, or climb stairs. So balance training, that important but often-neglected skill, is vitally important for our longevity and quality of life.
Our balance is challenged all the time in Pilates: standing splits on the reformer, bird-dog on the mat, standing leg pumps on the chair, or BrainSpeed ball while standing on a foam cushion, etc.
Daily practice at home is also important and doesn’t have to be difficult. Great balance training activities are:
- Walking! (be Dory from Finding Nemo, “Just keep walking, just keep walking” 🙂
- Balancing on one foot (do the flamingo pose using a chair or wall for support until you no longer need it) and you can do it while brushing your teeth or talking on the phone
- Balancing with your leg out to the side (use a chair or wall for support until you no longer need it)
- Balancing in tandem stance for 30 seconds on each side Too easy? Close your eyes.
Physical balance is critical for overall health and well-being. It can improve posture, reduce pain, and increase mobility. It can also improve confidence and self-esteem, helping you to be better equipped to handle everyday challenges and activities. So let’s all make a pact to do this together and change that stat so that we all can pass the flamingo test!