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4

Create Great Baby Boomer Workouts: Part 4

Kymberly Balance Exercises Rancho la PuertaOver 50 and looking for ways to make your workouts the best ones possible? Welcome to Part 4 of a series sharing principles you can use to enhance your exercise program and life.  These principles are specifically helpful for baby boomers, whether newcomers to exercise or long time “activists.”

Before revealing Principle 5, let’s briefly recap the insider strategies I shared in Parts 1-3. Click on each link to access the relevant post. Just be sure to come back!

Principle 1: Activate Your Back

Principle 2: Train Using Functional Options

Principle 3:  Activate from the Middle to Extremities; from Inside, Out

Principle 4: Offer Movement Patterns that Enhance Cognitive Skills

And now for today’s peak performance principle:

Principle 5: Incorporate Dynamic and Static Balance Exercises

When you hear “balance options” do you think solely of static balance moves? “Stand still and lift one leg.” If so, time to add dynamic balance to your repertoire.  Coming up — lots of practical balance exercises you can play with.

Use variations on walking as a fun and functional balance warm up Click To Tweet

Walk This Way … and That

Kymberly Walking - Balance Exercises

Walking – the Ultimate Balance Exercise

Walking is the ultimate and primary functional balance move.  Use variations on walking as a fun and functional balance warm up. Try walking forward, backward, quickly with direction changes, slowly, super slowly. Then walk in one line as if on a balance beam going forward and back while lifting a knee up and over with each step. Also challenge yourself to go forward and in reverse toe to heel; heel to toe.

Another dynamic balance move that is also functional is heel walking. With toes lifted, walk around the room both forward and in reverse. Or take two steps up to an imaginary line with the heels down, toes up, then two steps back to start. Watch that you don’t hinge at the hips to counterbalance; keep your hips open and glutes under your shoulders, not behind them.

Improving Static Balance as Primary Goal

When selecting static balance exercises you have a range of moves to choose from. Assuredly, you’ll want to include a few options whereby you support on one leg while lifting, holding, moving the other (half static, half dynamic). In such cases, the balance exercise itself is the focus.

Balance Exercises KymberlyFor example, stand on the left leg while making figure eight loops in front and behind the body, clockwise and counterclockwise with the right leg.

Improving Static Balance as Secondary, Two-for-One Goal

You can create a time efficient, two-for-one coupon special by combining static balance challenges with upper body exercises.  In essence, any time you stand in place while doing another exercise, you have an opportunity to add a balance component.  Simply take advantage of varying stance options, progressing from a wide to narrow base of support.

For instance, if you are doing lat pulldowns with resistance tubing, rather than always default to a wide, parallel stance (feet about shoulder width apart in the same plane), narrow or stagger your feet. While your primary goal is to strengthen the lats, you are retraining your body and brain to account for a different base of support as a secondary benefit.

Stance Progression to Add to Balance Exercises

Your stance options in order of most secure to most challenging are as follows:

  1. Wide Stance Parallel (Most Common and offers Most Control)
  2. Wide Stance Staggered (one foot forward of the other, though not lined up)
  3. Narrow Stance Staggered
  4. Narrow Stance Parallel (Feet and Inner Thighs touching)
  5. Feet in one line but not heel to toe (ie, space between front and back foot)
  6. Tandem Stance (feet lined up one in front of the other, heel to toe (More Challenge)
  7. One foot resting on top of the other or 1 leg lifted (Most Challenge)
Stretching is also a great place and time to work in balance work Click To Tweet

Stagger or narrow the feet during upper body stretches. Stretching is also a great place and time to work in more balance work. Gently dropping your ear side to side while your feet are in tandem position requires new attention and adaptation.

Kymberly Balance Exercises Rancho la puerta

Really Stretching My Limits While Balancing

As you see, this principle is accessible and straightforward. Use it and any of the other principles to stimulate your creativity and rethink your workout content. Your body will thank you — your future, functional, energetic body!

ACTION: Principle #8 – Subscribe to get active aging insights written to help you enjoy the second half of life as energetically and comfortably as possible.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

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10

How Good is Your Balance?

balance on stable surface with eyes open

Alexandra pretending she is balanced. Eyes Wide Open

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).

Test Instructions

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:

  1. Raise your arms from your sides
  2. Open your eyes in either of the two closed eyes tests
  3. Lose your balance and need help to prevent falling

Definitions of Sensory Systems

Before you begin, let’s define a few terms so you know which of your balance senses are fine and dandy or need development.

  • Visual System: helps us interpret visual images. Pretty straightforward;
  • Somatosensory System:  conveys information about the state of the body and objects in our external environment through touch. This system also gives us input about the position and movement of our body parts  through the stimulation of muscle and joints, aka proprioception;
  • Vestibular System:  senses spatial orientation for the purpose of coordinating movement with balance.

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!

Condition 1) Eyes Open, Stable Surface

– you are using your visual, somatosensory, and vestibular systems.

Condition 2) Eyes Closed, Stable Surface

balance on an unstable surface with eyes closed

Something in this picture is unstable. Or someone….

– you have pulled out your visual system, and are using just the vestibular and somatosensory systems.

Condition 3) Eyes, Open, Unstable Surface

(stand on a foam pad or BOSU ball, for example) – you are dependent on your visual and vestibular systems in this case.

Condition 4) Eyes Closed, Unstable Surface

(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?

80 Years Old and Kicking Booty (of this 56 year old)

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.

Doing a side plank on the Ranch bridge

A different kind of balance

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?