At the recent IDEA World Fitness Convention, I had the privilege of attending a session “Heavily Meditated and Highly Motivated” with long time fitness pro and award winning presenter, Petra Kolber. Petra offered compelling reasons to start meditating. Even if you are like me – energetic, wiggly, and on the move, mentally and physically — you can reap the benefits of meditation.When your mind is full, try being mindful #activeaging #meditation Click To Tweet
Join me in a brief summary of highlights and quotes from Petra’s presentation. You may be inspired to start with just 3 minutes a day to gain happiness, reduce stress, and create more loving kindness in your life. (Great phone apps to begin with are listed in our post, Live Better with Meditation, Menopause, and Memory).
At its simplest, most accessible level, meditation is about paying attention to your breath. As Petra proffered, “the longest distance we’ll ever travel is from our head to our heart.” And “breathing” she says, “is the best, fastest way to connect the brain and body.” For a methodology on mindful breathing, try our suggestions in Breathe Life Into Yourself.Mindful breathing is the best, fastest way to connect the brain and body #activeaging #meditation Click To Tweet
People crave two things, according to Petra:
1) to be seen and heard
2) to connect. (She may be onto something. I know I often tell my husband to “please just listen. You don’t have to DO anything else. You can even pretend to listen and I’ll feel loved.”)
Two of the benefits of meditation include connecting more compassionately to others AND to yourself. Mindfulness, which is another definition for meditation is about making friends with our body, mind, and self. “Mindfulness is also about human beings, not human doings,” Petra reminds us. Being in the present is key to meditating. Being mindful puts the attention on the senses – how does our breath feel? Sound? The senses can happen only in the present moment. Therefore any time spent focusing on the senses will bring us to a meditative moment.
When under stress, we can shift from the Fight or Flight syndrome to “Tend and Befriend” just by paying attention to our breathing and calming it. When your mind is full, try being mindful. (Saaay, that’s a quote I made up just now!) Whether sitting calmly with eyes closed or walking at a comfortable pace (need I say, eyes open), put attention to your breathing. Feel your breath enter and exit your body. Note the rhythm and temperature of your breath. Create space within yourself as you inhale. Scan your body with each in- and exhalation. Send your exhalations into places of stress and tension to release.
We may not be meditating experts. But we are all professional, lifelong breathers. Therefore even without attending Petra’s session, we can reap the benefits of loving kindness meditation when we use our breath to become more present. And loving. And kind. Except towards that one guy who really acted jerky and ….. Inhale Exhale Inhale Exhale.
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Is it time to make your workouts even better, beloved baby boomers? Then get your insider insights right here. Step right up. Literally.
Who likes to be out in front? And I’m not talking cleavage or bellies here. If you’re ready to take advantage of the latest findings in the fitness world, then hang onto your stretchy legging waistbands. Let’s zip together through some of the key highlights, workout tips, and quotes from the recent IDEA World Fitness Convention.
Take on some of these takeaways to enter the next year even more prepared to redefine active aging for our generation and the generations to come.
Alexandra and I just returned from this primary industry event for fitness professionals from around the world. In her capacity as a roving editor for IDEA, Alexandra attended a range of sessions. (See her reports here: 5 Trends from the IDEA Fitness Convention and Diversity and Collaboration Mark Key Themes). I had the honor to be both a presenter and attendee, with my keen eyes focused on sessions specifically for the over fifty crowd. (Add these other key midlife workout themes to your life and really soar).
Let’s jump to the head of class with a romp through some trends from the industry’s leaders.
From “Functional Power Training for Older Adults” led by Cody Sipe, PhD
Cody’s opening statement motivated me (as an over 50 personage myself): “Exercise has the ability to change older adults’ aging trajectory.” Knew it, but can always use the kick in the formerly tight, toned tushie of mine. Raise your hand if you want to disrupt your aging trajectory.
What do we need to add to our workouts? First, Cody asked us if we knew the two main conditions experienced by older adults? Turns out the top two are hypertension and osteoarthritis. Oh yeah, I hear you Cody My Man. (Say I with the knee arthritis and sister who just had total knee replacement). Ok, so we have to account for these conditions while working to prevent them from limiting our lives.
Next he posed the question: “Without training specifically to prevent it, which function do we lose with age more than muscular strength and muscle mass?” The answer surprised me as I know the (not so happy) stats on muscles loss in our aging population. You ready for it? Power, defined as the ability to move a load quickly. In addition to training for strength, we midlifers also need to focus on velocity and force of movement. In other words, it’s time to increase speed of motion while reducing the load when we consider a total resistance training right for our bodies. According to Cody, we’re past time if we pass our prime without power (Uh, I made up that exact wording as I kinda like how it encapsulates Cody’s point).
Let’s put this into practical application and context of our daily activities:
What’s the workout takeaway here? You finally get the official clearance to lift light weights — as long as you add speed to those moves! Therefore, it’s time to do some lifts, jumps, and throws my midlife buddies if you want to retain power and change your aging trajectory!
Using Function to Avoid Dysfunction, presented by Mark Kelly, PhD, CSCS
Mark is the living example of how lean, fit, funny, energetic, and functional an over 50 year old can be. I was so busy taking notes that I took no picture of him. However, take my word for it that he turned his aging trajectory around big time!
Not only was his session loaded with great moves to improve function, but also he had some great quotes relative to movement that you may also enjoy.
If you want to try out some of the clever, fun, brain and body smart moves Mark introduced, then join my group fitness classes in Santa Barbara. Come on Fridays when I try out the good stuff on my fit-tastic and amazing class participants. They’re the ones saying “warn us next time you go to the IDEA Convention.”
Let’s leave Mark’s session with the question he opened with:
“Are we living longer or simply dying slower?”
In a separate post, you’ll get the the direct pipeline to more happiness, less stress, and a more self-loving you, courtesy of award-winning presenter, Petra Kolber. Her session “Heavily Meditated and Highly Motivated” had a lot of quick, easy, powerful meditations I am eager to share with you. Meditation is a HUGE option and one of the biggest fitness trends for boomers as more research comes out about its benefits. For now, let’s take our leave with a reminder from Petra that I hope will have you adding power to your active life:
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How many times have you thought, “I want to improve my fitness program, but NOT the hard core one I did when I was younger?” As a baby boomer or older adult are you looking for intelligent, effective, yet comfortable exercise options? Do you worry about losing cognitive skills, getting hurt, gaining weight, losing strength, and not being able to do activities you love? At the same time, do you like to know that your workout and exercise choices are smart ones? Perhaps even cutting edge and trending?
Then the themes and trends I experienced (and contributed to) at the recent IDEA World Fitness Convention will help you meet your goals. (For my sister’s take on overall fitness trends, take a peek at “5 Trends from the Annual IDEA Convention.”)
My focus was first on doing well in my own session as a presenter. I shared 7 principles for creating outstanding group programs for baby boomers. You get 3 of them here! Then I attended every other session devoted to the over 50 exerciser, especially the more active movers and groovers (as opposed to sessions devoted to the frail and elderly).
The biggest trend I saw was the very fact that fitness pros from around the world are FINALLY interested in serving the over 50 exerciser – specifically, in a targeted way. My session, “Fitness Over 50: Getting ReStarted” was filled to capacity. Yay! And the other presentations devoted to our age group were also packed. Heck, this year IDEA offered the most sessions ever devoted to the midlifer and older adult. That’s related to trend #2 – IDEA and the various presenters for this age group finally separated the “older exerciser” into two distinct groups: the baby boomers (ages 52-70) and the seniors or “matures” who are 70+. Prior to this year anyone 50-100 was lumped into one category.
If you are curious about other trends for our age group, read my take on the Top 10 Fitness Trends for 2016
Trend #1 - fitness focus on the over 50 exerciser is finally cool and Hawt! #activeaging Click To Tweet
What were some key fitness themes and workout design principles for older adults as evidenced at the IDEA Convention? How can you incorporate them into your workouts? The following 3 themes, or guiding principles will help you create the best workouts for your midlife body. These principles are adapted from my session, which must have been trendy as all the other “older adult” presenters alluded to them as well.
If you weave in even one or two of these themes, you will be able to:
Why not get a two-fer benefit with each exercise choice? Look for opportunities to cross the midline of your body with an arm, leg or both at once.
Move to music that has polyrhythms or beats that are more complex than straight count.
Attend workout classes where the instructor cues patterns. The brain work involved in interpreting verbal commands and following choreography literally increases your dendrites, ganglia, and axons.
Ask yourself whether the moves you are choosing relate to activities of daily living (ADL). For instance, incorporate dynamic balance moves, not solely static ones since we normally need to balance while moving, not holding still. Recognize walking as the ultimate and primary balance and functional move. So take walks. And when you do, test your balance by intermittently slowing your stride. Super slow. Then speed up. Super fast.
Let’s say you have a plan to travel. Keep in mind that especially in foreign countries you’ll be climbing stairs; walking on uneven terrain; navigating unfamiliar environments; carrying loads, dealing with fatigue and time changes. Plan to be your active best when traveling by making stepping up and down part of your workout program. Or lifting your legs up and over things so you’ll be ready for those low walls abroad.Practice twisting and turning while carrying weights (luggage, souvenirs, small grandchildren).
Do you include posture work in your routine? If not, it’s tiiiiime. Which do you think will have a bigger impact on your ability to age actively — having popping fresh biceps (single joint strength training isolation move) or having a strong core and back that keep you lifted and long? (Yeah, the opposite of stooped with rounded shoulders).
Use balance work as a move itself or as a stance option for any standing move. Not only could you incorporate balance moves into your workout, but also you can improve your balance while working your upper body or doing standing stretches. How? But narrowing your stance. Don’t always set your feet shoulder width apart and parallel. Instead, place one foot directly in front of the other in what’s called “tandem” position. Now try those tricep kickbacks or upper body stretch. Trickier right? Whenever possible choose a narrow vs wide base of support.
Are you already rethinking your program? Less working one muscle at a time and more enhancing your overall ability to move and continue doing the activities you enjoy?
QUESTION: Would you be interested in a digital product that offered moves and workout programs that follow the themes listed here? If we created videos and support text that allowed you to mix and match effective programs with balance, posture, and functional exercises, would you value that?
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
IDEA Fitness Journal has contracted with me for the past few years to cover the convention, with a specific eye toward food and group fitness. Who would say no to that? Not I. One of the benefits of attending is that I get a first look at the upcoming trends in the industry. I also get to write about those trends. One of my articles is already posted over at IDEA, so I hope you’ll read it: Diversity and Collaboration Mark an Outstanding Event.5 trends from the IDEA Fitness & Nutrition Convention that may affect U. #FitFluential #MidlifeBlvd Click To Tweet
Five trends I thought might interest you are as follows:
Dance, dance, dance – More styles were present than I recall in the past 35 years of this convention: Stomp (stepping), Bollywood, Dancing with the Stars-inspired ballroom, military and martial arts dance fusion, South African, and even a combo dance and Step workout. People our age are rediscovering the joys of dance and I expect to see clubs and studios offering more depth to their dance programming.
Celebrity-based workouts – Probably due to social media breaking down barriers, it’s now possible to work out and even chat with some of your favorite celebrities. Louis van Amstel of DWTS, Jillian Michaels of Biggest Loser, Cassy Ho of Pop Pilates – all were there sharing info on their latest workout programs and leading classes. Look for more celebrities crossing the barrier from on-screen to in-person.
Link between nutrition and behavior – This year had a summit track inside the wider convention – the first-ever IDEA World Nutrition & Behavior Change Summit. For a full day, experts from places such as Stanford, Harvard, Yale and University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus came to speak about the link between food and behavior change. Though it may seem obvious in hindsight, it’s groundbreaking to see researchers, medical doctors and health coaches/ psychologists come speak to thousands of fitness professionals. I expect to see further strengthening of the ties between these groups.
Link between food and fitness – Again, this may seem obvious, but for many years the healthy food people had their conventions and made no mention at all about the link between eating and exercise. So the fitness world went to the food people and invited them to speak and exhibit at the fitness convention. Not only are the healthy food vendors now coming to where the fitness pros are, the fitness pros themselves are now getting additional certifications in nutrition. Your instructors and trainers have more knowledge than ever about eating healthfully.
Boomers are different from older adults – At past conventions, people over 50 were sort of lumped together at lectures and workshops. Of course, the needs and goals of an active 50-year-old tend to be different than those of a frail 85-year-old. And this year, more sessions than ever delineated between the groups. My sister was one of the presenters on Boomer Fitness. We are the first generation to intentionally embrace (to a degree) exercise as a way to to stay healthy post-college. I believe that more clubs will be offering demographic-based programming, especially for the Boomer market.
Look for an upcoming post from my sis about the trends she spotted at the convention.
Alexandra Williams, MA
Organic milk has nutritional advantages over conventional – In a meta-analysis of 170 published studies, researchers found that organic milk had 56% higher healthy omega-3 fatty acid levels than conventional milk. The study, led by Carlo Leifert of Newcastle University, also found that organic dairy provides other health benefits such as higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (why do I always think of French verbs when I hear the word “conjugated”?), iron, carotenoids, and Vitamin E. The milk in this study is bovine, not plant-based.Switching from a conventional 2 #organic diet reduced pesticides in children in just 7 days. Want more organic tidbits? #FitFluential Click To Tweet
An organic diet can reduce exposure to some pesticides – According to a study run by UC Berkeley’s Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health (along with U of Maryland’s Institute for Applied Environmental Health & Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, 40 Mexican-American children living in agricultural and urban communities in California reduced their exposure to some pesticides by switching to an organic diet. The two highlights of this study are that a number of the children reside in agricultural communities, and that the improvements were seen after only a week. “An organic diet was significantly associated with reduced urinary concentrations of nonspecific dimethyl OP insecticide metabolites and the herbicide 2,4-D in children.”
Neonicotinoids pose a high risk to the bee population – Wonder what a neonicotinoid is? Notice how it seems like the word “nicotine” is in the middle of the word? From the Oxford Dictionary: “Any of a class of synthetic compounds having a chemical structure similar to that of nicotine and related alkaloids, used as systemic insecticides on plants and as topical or systemic insecticides on animals.” All you need to remember is BAD. The bee population has been decimated over the past few years, and a lot of scientific data suggest a link to neonicotinoid pesticides use. Want some GOOD? “The presence of native habitat in close proximity to farms may sfeguard wild bees from the negative effects of pesticide use.”
If you want to focus on a few veggies and fruits that are most affected by pesticide, these are the dirty dozen:
Sweet bell peppers
Alexandra Williams, MA
So this post is about some of the things I’ve recently done that make life easier and more enjoyable. And yes, much happier and healthier. See if any of these resonate with you.
Attend ShiftCon – This social media conference focuses on wellness, health, and the environment. Bloggers, brands and non-governmental organizations come together to share information about living our values through our food, skin care, household products, activism, and how we treat the environment. Keep a particular eye out for Orgain, Thrive Market, and Stonyfield Organics. They are game-changing companies.
I support organic, non-GMO, labelled products. I want to know what I’m eating and putting on and in my body. Eighteen years ago I had to learn to cook from scratch and read labels due to my son’s allergies and delays, and his health is extremely important to me. Being unaware is an excuse, not an explanation, so I like to stay aware. And I know that my money is my vote.
Visit My Hometown – ShiftCon was held in Manhattan Beach, which is next to Hermosa Beach, where I grew up. So I spent some time walking and taking pictures. In some ways the visits back to Hermosa make me sad, and I’m not sure why, yet overall I feel at peace and can focus on the arc of my life. I don’t want to move back there, but I sure do love the emotional attachment, history, and memories.
Move Into Downtown Santa Barbara – For the past ten years, we’ve lived at the top of a mountain, with driving being the only travel option. Taking all the other chores out of the equation (and they are overwhelming on their own), just the chauffeuring was taking up hours and hours of my time, as I was the only driver in the house. Now my younger son and I are living in a place where he can walk or take the bus (he is blind at night, so I’ll be doing some driving, which is way better than constant driving).
Since I’m not driving as much, I’m using the time to pick up more writing and social media jobs. And put more of my photos up for sale. Feel free to hire me. I’m very good. The cat is all settled in (no more barfing or peeing on my bed), and the dog is now here too.
Block Out People Who Add Stress – If you get into a situation where you are the caretaker for someone, shed yourself of the idea that you have to answer to anyone except those who are directly impacted. Heck, even if you’re not a caretaker, do this. Opinions are stressful; solutions are helpful. Answer every inappropriate or judgmental question with “May I tell you how you can be helpful?” That usually works.
If I had tried to solve all my big problems over the past year, I would have been stuck because I was too overwhelmed. So I am solving one thing at a time. I cannot help others if I don’t stay healthy and happy. The martyr thing is overmarketed. Now, who wants to come over and help me plant hedges and a garden?
What do you do to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy and happy?
by Alexandra Williams, MA
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Are you over 50, one day hope to be, or have loved ones who are? Then the following quotes and key points from the recent IDEA World Health and Fitness Convention are for you! And you! And, yes, you too! All of yahs! And your parents, as well. But only if you want to live healthier, smarter, or better.
My prior post promised to share the good stuff from the trend setting sessions beyond Day 1 at IDEA. This year’s convention theme was “Inspire, Connect, Transform.” We hope the following quotes and highlights do that for you.
Day 2 started with one of my favorite subjects: the effects on the brain from movement. Who among you knows someone with Alzheimer’s or memory loss or slowing mental capacity? Of course such ravages will never happen to us, right?
Guess what? “A case of dementia is diagnosed every 4 seconds in the U.S. If our nation were to increase its activity by 25%, we would decrease dementia cases by 1 million per year! Over 10% of adults 65 and older, and more than 50% of those past 80 have some sort of cognitive impairment.” And with these stats that take one’s breath away faster than an elliptical machine on an incline, expert presenter, Fabio Comana opened his talk, Brain Fitness.
“If you want to live longer, work in 20 minutes daily of cardio activity.” And if you want to know what’s going on in those added years, “a mere 8-12 minutes a day of aerobic exercise improves cognition.” You want to be smart and minimize dementia in your later years? Take Fabios’s advice. Don’t just think about moving. Move to think!
So I did. Over to the next session with one of my favorite presenters, Shari Kalkstein who specializes in physical function for people 70 and older. Also known as “parents of baby boomers.” Am I right? If you want your parents (insert “yourself when older”) to be independent and active as long as possible, then Shari’s protocols and warnings are important. (Click on her links to see exercises, assessments, and practical tips).
Her session, I’ve Fallen, made a strong case for preventing falls and setting up the home to account for them when they happen. And they will. “More than 18,000 older adults died from injuries related to falls in 2007. In 2008, more than 2 million older adults were treated in emergency rooms due to fall injuries.” Wonder where most falls occur? In the home, where, as Shari says, “we have complete control over our environment.” Like her, my sis and I have lots of practical moves and solutions to address this reality.
After I’ve Fallen, I moseyed my way to The Future of Fitness Technology with Marco Della Torre. Spoiler alert – I earned an IDEA Fitness Inspiration Medal by correctly answering his stumper question. And talk about a coincidence, turns out Marco is one of the co-founders of Basis, now owned by Intel, the company from which I won a Basis fitness and sleep tracker. So I won two technology related prizes in a row! Yup, it’s always worthwhile to get to the IDEA Trade Show between and after educational sessions. Anyway, wearable technology is big and about to go humongous! Ready to take advantage of fun high tech fitness gear? Check out a few of our posts on the subject:
Accepting and agreeing that fitness technology will wield an ever growing impact on our workout lives, I loved how Marco ended his talk: “The biggest trend coming in wearable tech is that new ideas and products will bring people closer, rather than driving them apart.” Think about that for a sec. Instead of seeing the top of people’s heads as they bend over their phones and pedometers, you’ll be in a new world of gadgets that connect you with others more and more.
Imagine a community of like-minded, actively aging, high-functioning people who interact personally via stuff not yet invented. Might you already have something close to this? It’s coming, so be ready to Inspire, Connect, and Transform! Or maybe you will Invent the next best thing that gets people to exercise and enjoy the benefits of lifelong movement. I’ll plug that!
By Kymberly Williams-Evans
Readers: What wearable tech do you already own? Use? What do you think of it? When is the last time you crawled? Not pub crawled, but crawled like an infant?
Do you like to stay ahead of the curve? I mean besides the ones on our baby boomer, midlife bodies? Then hold tight as we zoom through some of the key takeaways and quotables from the recent IDEA World Fitness Convention. Alexandra and I just returned from the main industry event that draws fitness professionals from around the globe. By attending many sessions focused on the over fifty crowd (Wheee! that’s most of us), I gleaned some relevant Fun Fit Facts, exercise trends, and plain ole’ good quotes.
Now to lay some of those fitness pro insights on you, so you can revel in the workout fun that lies ahead. Or more specifically, get your trending fitness quotes now while they’re hot!
Speaking of standing up, presenter Tomi Toles asked attendees at his “Walking Tall” session: “What muscles and structures do we walk from?” Most of us fell right into his trap — “Why, we walk from the legs, doncha know.” Wrong! After watching a video of a man with no legs “walk” on his ischial tuberosities (google it), we could see that great gait really comes from the abdominal wall muscles and spine. Want to be a better walker AND tone your abs at the same time? Check out our post on achieving great gait.
Come to my group fitness classes and look for our upcoming package of moves for “Fitness Over 50” if you want to try what we learned.
And that is it for quotes that “Inspire, Connect, and Transform” from the first day at IDEA. Subscribe, open your emails from us, and keep reading if you wonder how Day Two and Three managed to surpass the quality that was Day One. Coming soon to a blog near you. Near and dear, we hope.
By Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Readers: Which is your favorite fitness quote? One of the above? One to share from elsewhere? Let us know in the comments below.
Put on by the industry association for fitness professionals, it has grown over the years to offer options for enthusiasts too. Two in particular might appeal to you when making your 2016 plans for July.
Entrance is free, so that’s a super incentive right there. Several hundred companies, ranging from heavyweights Reebok, Merrithew/ Stott Pilates, TRX, General Mills, and Lorna Jane to smaller and newer companies such as Ahnu Footwear, Siggi’s Dairy, Lolé Fitness Apparel, LaBlast Dance Fitness, and Functional Aging Institute were offering samples, demonstrations, workouts and discounts to visitors.
No matter what your age, ability, fitness level, or health preferences, you could find something of interest. Just a few of the types of free workouts – indoor cycling, slacklining, Core Stix, interval training, walking, dance, suspension training, strength training, treadmills & cardio machines, Pilates, yoga, competitive events – are enough to get you thinking, “Wow, for the price of, um, ZERO, I can work out all day if I want.”
You can also shop for just about anything you need for fitness – clothing, shoes, apps, tech gear, equipment, healthy food, supplements, skin care, water in all kinds of forms (we saw dark brown mineral water that tasted just like clear water), education, pain relief, music. I’m wearing the Recon Jet glasses above from Intel.
Besides eating lots of free samples, I got a free functional fitness assessment. I didn’t do well, thanks to my knee that needs reconstruction, and my shoulder/ wrist injury, but at least I have additional information about ways I’m compensating. I also won free custom shoes from Reebok, and my sis won an Intel Basis Peak fitness/ sleep tracker. Other people won free spa weeks, a Schwinn indoor bike, mini-fridges, protein packs/ bars, clothing, music, training, books, and on and on and on.
Fitness Fanatics Day
You don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to sign up for this, because once you participate in just one of the workouts, you’ll become one – it’s that fun. Open to both convention attendees and the general public, Saturday was a full day of workouts lead by the fitness celebrities who created them: Jillian Michaels, Todd Durkin, Leslie Sansone, Beto Perez and Jeanette Jenkins.
I didn’t do the workouts, as I was covering them for IDEA Fitness Journal and didn’t have time, but I did stop in to all of them, and can tell you that the room was packed for all five sessions, and the exercisers were having the time of their lives.
If you’ve never enjoyed exercise, this “time of your life” concept will sound weird, but it just means you haven’t found the RIGHT exercise yet. I was really tapping my feet and wishing I could just stay in the “3 Mile Walk Concert With Leslie Sansone.” That was my favorite because it was easily accessible to nearly everyone. I saw people in there who represented typical Americans. This was not a class for the fit people; it was a class for the people. And since I’m a Boomer (with injuries) and I teach older adults (and university students), I am drawn to these inclusive kinds of workouts.
Next year the IDEA World Fitness Convention is back in Los Angeles July 13-17. Mark it in your calendar now. You’ll recognize me. I’ll be the one standing on the side of the room taking notes and tapping my feet. Except when the disco songs start. Then I set my stuff down and “help” the leaders show the youngsters how it’s done.
by Alexandra Williams, MA
How good is your functional balance control? You can find out in under 2 minutes. You can also discover which of your three balancing systems is strongest.
I had fun trying the balance assessment below when I attended the first Functional Aging Summit in Phoenix this past week. Day one of the conference was dedicated to learning how to maximize physical function for the over 50 exerciser. In order to know what to progress, we first need to establish baselines. It’s the ole’ “you don’t know where to go until you know where you are” approach. Ergo — Time to tackle fitness assessments that measure functional abilities such as static balance, dynamic strength, and dynamic balance. (What exactly is “functional fitness”? Click to our post with the answer once you have read this one).
My fun gets to be your fun. Try the following test which assesses your ability to maintain static balance when one or more sensory systems are inhibited. Stand on both legs with your arms against your sides. Perform each of the four conditions for 30 seconds with someone else timing you and keeping an eye out in case you fall or need a hand. Stop the test if you:
Before you begin, let’s define a few terms so you know which of your balance senses are fine and dandy or need development.
Ok, now to find out which of these three senses are your best friends, and which (if any) need better buddying up. Ready, set, time yourself!
– you are using your visual, somatosensory, and vestibular systems.
– you have pulled out your visual system, and are using just the vestibular and somatosensory systems.
(stand on a foam pad or BOSU ball, for example) – you are dependent on your visual and vestibular systems in this case.
(again using a foam pad or BOSU ball) – you are relying on the vestibular system alone.
How many seconds were you able to last for each condition? Under which conditions did you have troubles?
I’ll tell you who aced these tests when we tried them at the Functional Aging Summit — my new pal and inspiration, Marliene, an 80 year old teacher/ trainer from northern California. Not only did she have amazing balance and get to 30 seconds for all four conditions, but also she beat me in the Sit to Stand assessment test. I managed only 19 ups and downs to her 20, which put her above the 90 percentile for her age group and me in the 75% for mine. She is THE example of what active aging and functional training can do for a person. Yeah, I wish I had taken her picture, but we were too busy learning cool, functional exercises.
Side (plank) note: I just became the first fitness pro in my county to achieve the Functional Aging Specialist certification. You can read about it here on noozhawk.
The write up means I have a chance to be as incredible as Marliene one day — IF I put all my functional training knowledge into action! How about you?
Take the balance test. Record your results. Which of your balance senses were strongest? Weakest? Let us know in the comments below.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
PS If you want to assess your leg strength, then check out this companion post, How Strong is Your Lower Body?