Ballerinas, tight rope walkers, ice skaters… they seem to have such poise and a natural balance that most of us dont possess. But I want to share a secret with you today… That balance comes from lots and lots of practice. Which shows us that while our balance can worsen with age and different conditions that we cant avoid, it can also improve with practice.
WHAT IS BALANCE?
For one to stay upright, 3 things need to happen:
- Your sensory system accurately portraying information on your body’s position in its environment – Hearing, vision and touch (such as our feet on the floor).
- Your brain processing that information – Neurons and sensory receptors in the brain (i.e. making decisions).
- Your muscles and joints coordinating movement based on the information your brain gives them – Being able to contract and relax your muscles to move how you want to.
These 3 factors are usually an automatic process for our body, and so when we feel our balance worsening, we need to explore which of these steps are not working how they should be. Generally, balance is caused by a variety of factors, so we need to know what these factors can be and work to correct them.
So what are some of the things to be aware of?
- Chronic conditions, such as Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis.
- Poly pharmacy (taking 4 or more medications).
- Hearing Problems (hearing loss, infection, vertigo).
- Vision Problems (poor sight, macular degeneration, cataracts) .
- Low Blood Pressure or Low Blood Sugar.
- Nerve problems.
- Muscle Weakness.
For example, if our brain is not receiving good signals from the eyes, ears and skin, it will affect the information our brain has to work with. So it is important to get glasses and/or hearing aids if function has deteriorated. Or if we have a disease that affects the brain this may compromise motor function and movement, and so we will need to make sure our sensory input and muscle output are stronger to compensate. If our muscles and joints are too weak to carry out the messages they receive, it will be beneficial to stretch and strengthen our muscles to ensure they can adequately respond to the information they are receiving.
With balance, it is a case of practice makes perfect. If you are challenging your muscles in a controlled environment and encouraging them to be aware and responsive to the brain’s messages, your body will respond quickly and efficiently to keep you upright and stable. As a result you have better control, stability and essentially balance.
Our challenge for you this month is to find time to exercise. Many of us do not prioritise exercise, and we suffer as a result. The benefit of exercise on health and balance is very well known; let’s make May a month of finding the balance – not only physical!
Click here to start practicing your balance today!
Do you wake up and need to rub your knees or shoulders or back, because your joints are aching? This is joint pain… There is a variety of pain and a variety of reasons why we experience pain. So today, I want to focus on understanding joint pain, and specifically, why we have MORNING JOINT PAIN
We go to bed… we have a good night of sleep… and yet, we wake feeling like we have been hit by a ton of bricks! You may know that morning stiffness is more common as one gets older… but is it inevitable?
Lets start by looking at some of the causes of morning stiffness:
1. Inactivity – General inactivity leads to muscle weakness and poor flexibility that puts extra strain on our joints.
2. Poor sleep – Interrupted sleep, too much or too little sleep, can affect our joints the next day.
3. Being overweight – Excess weight puts extra strain on our joints as well as causing us to feel lethargic.
4. A cold or damp environment – If we are sleeping in an area that is cold of damp, that will cause us to be tense during sleep and the cold will stiffen the joints.
5. Prolonged stillness – when we sleep we are still, therefore the fluid in our joints moves to where gravity tells it and our joints aren’t lubricated evenly when we start moving in the morning.
6. Arthritis or other chronic conditions – Joint stiffness is often worst following periods of inactivity. So in the morning our joints have stiffened up and you may experience pain.
So now that we know some of the things that cause us to be stiff… how do we counterbalance this and relax our stiff muscles???
The body is a magical thing. We have millions of cells that work together to create everything we need to stay alive and functioning. Our cells keep us going 24/7, 365. The way it works is simple: Every day our cells take in nutrients, air, and more. They use what they can and dispose of what they cannot. Of course, our cells are subjected to an ageing process as well. In fact, how we age is influenced by the wear and tear of our cells. We subject our cells to oxidative stress when we ask them to dispose of toxic by-products that we receive from the air and food we consume. So how we manage this oxidative stress, results in how well our cells manage wear and tear.
Much research is being done into how and why certain species live for hundreds or years and others for only a few weeks. Most of the evidence comes back to this oxidative stress. If our cells are constantly working overtime to remove bad products from the system, they will deteriorate faster. This is why we know that part of delaying our “wear and tear” comes with not subjecting our cells to extra oxidative stress. At the same time, we are continually developing strategies to prolong life and delay ageing.
One study from Future Learn, found that successful ageing comes down to 3 things:
1. Managing your health
We all know that being healthy involves eating right and exercising, doing things that are good for you and avoiding things that are bad for you. Yet, very few of us seem to follow these guidelines. Managing your health is about more than “putting out fires” when they pop up, we need to make it a priority to put our health first.
2. Staying involved with your community
People who are isolated are more likely to develop depression, frailty and overall poor health. Humans are designed to live in community and so it is vital to stay involved in the community.
3. Focusing on personal development
It is never too late to learn new skills and keep growing. When we stagnate and stop challenging ourselves, this is when we will see a decline. Grow in your strengths… learn new things… develop yourself personally and continually.
Ageing is a natural process. Ageing well is a conscious effort.
Do you want to start your journey of ageing well?
Why don’t you start with an exercise class?
Click here to come book a free trial exercise class specifically designed for older adults!
Exercise. It gets the blood pumping and the muscles going. It energises you and it tires you out. And sometimes, after a good workout, you wake up feeling all sorts of stiffness in muscles you didnt know you had. So what causes this?
Let’s start by looking at something called: Muscle Hypertrophy:
This is when your muscles increase in size as they get stronger. Due to:
- Mechanical tension
- Metabolic stress
- Muscle damage
This muscle damage is what can cause Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). So while muscle damage is not an essential aspect of hypertrophy, it is a sign that you are on the right track to building muscle… albeit a painful sign.
DOMS is a distinct muscle pain that is caused by overloading the muscles through heavy or unaccustomed activities. It can range in severity and timing and is characterised by a feeling of being sore, achy, weak and generally quite “pap”. Often it develops overnight and one will wake up feeling this soreness. Unfortunately DOMS can often deter people from exercising as they feel they are getting hurt, however this is not the case and DOMS is a natural reaction that does subside.
It is 2018!! Most likely you have sat down at some point recently and written out some New Year’s Resolutions. Did any of these include the decision to make a change with your health and wellness? Have you made similar goals like this that you have struggled to keep in the past?
Most people want to be fit and healthy, however it is not well executed and carried out often. So, what we want to look at is… how are you setting your exercise goals? Are those goals attainable? And how do you set realistic goals, particularly when it comes to exercise.
You may have heard of SMART goals at some stage. SMART, stands for:
Specific – Make your goal clear and easy to understand
Measurable – Be able to quantify your results
Attainable – Be realistic in your endeavours
Relevant – Does it fit where you want to go in life
Time-bound – Know what your time frame is
So, how do we translate this to be specific to exercise?
Humans have always felt the need to keep time and divide our days and nights and seasons. Timekeeping dates back to 10 000 BC, however, the calendar we use today, the Gregorian calendar was developed in 1582, as a refinement of the Cesarean calendar, which was the first to follow an algorithm that was independent of the moon.
So why do we feel the need to divide our time into years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds?
With the evolution of humanity and modern society, we rely on time to tell us when to wake up, go to work, catch a bus or meet up with friends. This all allows our lives to run more efficiently.
So, with there being 23 days till 2018, let us use this time to look back and look forward, on our journey through health.
December is a wonderfully festive time, with Hanukkah, Christmas, New Years, and general merriment. However it also allows for an important time of reflection, as we look at what we have done over the year, and what we would like to change for the next year.
So I want to ask you 3 questions:
- What is something positive you have done in 2017?
- What is something you would like to leave in 2017?
- What is something you would like to improve in 2018?
The dictionary defines balance as:
- an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady
- put (something) in a steady position so that it does not fall
- an instrument for weighing
- an oscillating wheel operating with a hairspring to regulate the movement of a timepiece
- physical equilibrium
Perhaps you have also heard people say things such as, “My balance has always been bad”, or “Poor balance is a part of getting old”, or even “I am thinking about getting a stick now that my balance is so bad”
So in your context, what is balance?
Maintaining ones balance depends on the following 3 processes happening:
- Your sensory system accurately portraying information on your body’s position in its environment – Hearing, vision and touch (such as our feet on the floor)
- Your brain processing that information – Neurons, sensory receptors in the brain and the decision making centres.
- Your muscles and joints coordinating movement based on the information your brain gives them – Being able to contract and relax to move how you want to.
These 3 factors are usually an automatic process for our body, and so when we feel our balance worsening, we need to explore which of these steps are not working how they should.
Most of the time, poor balance is a combination of a few factors, each adding a little bit to our instability. It is important to explore each of these factors and see which are lacking. Most of the time our balance problems can be anticipated and corrected if we know what to look out for.
There is one thing that is certain in life, and that is that each and every one of us ages a little bit, every day. In your 20’s and 30’s ageing is probably not even noticed, as life is so busy and exciting. By the time you are 40, some hints start creeping in, but these are minor symptoms of ageing – slight crow’s feet around your eyes, or somewhat less vigour and energy compared to when you were in your youth, for example. When you are in your mid 50’s all of a sudden, out of nowhere, you have developed several aches and pains, body stiffness, and you may have to take a handful of pills every day for a list of chronic conditions that you have somehow managed to accumulate. What about when you are 70 or 80 years old, then what? Considering that life expectancy has increased substantially, and that people are living much longer than a few decades ago, it’s certainly becoming a realistic question to ask, “When I am in my mid-80’s, how will I have aged and how functional will I be?”
Ageing seems to be relative, as some people approach ageing with the attitude of “70 is the new 60”. How old are you really? Your biological age is simply how long you have been alive, but a much more important question is, “What is your body age?” In other words, how well does your body work and function? Is your body old, stiff, weak, unable to carry out functional activities because of pain, disease, chronic conditions and poor lifestyle habits? Or are you mobile, functional, able and fit? Although we are all getting “older” every day, exercise has been shown to challenge the concept of biological ageing, as it significantly reduces the risk of disease development and other chronic conditions that are so often associated with old age.
Winter… the dreaded time where productivity decreases, laziness increases, and the days are generally colder and darker, making it a lot less appealing to exercise.
Staying active all year round can be an intimidating task, especially when Mother Nature is not co-operating. This is why it is important to be involved in a community based exercise program where you can have friends to hold you accountable and cheer you on through the winter. Exercising throughout the year will help you to achieve a weather-proof, healthy lifestyle. When we exercise, our muscles change slowly and get stronger over time, which is why it is vitally important to keep up your fitness throughout the year, as opposed to exercising intensely in the summer and then doing nothing in the winter.
Knowing that activity levels drop in winter and we are naturally inclined to exercise less, this is one more reason to celebrate the 1st of September and the start of Spring!
August – the month when women unite to celebrate their uniqueness and embrace the power that comes with being female. Women are special and so it makes sense that the ageing process, as well as the factors that influence ageing are different between the genders. So while there are a lot of similarities, there are some things that are uniquely female.
According to the World Health Organisation, women live an average four years longer than men. Life expectancy ranges from 58 – 80 across the world. However cardiovascular disease, which is often considered a “male” problem, is the number one cause of death in women. Luckily exercise substantially reduces not only the risk of cardiovascular disease but also many other chronic disease risk factors including breast cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes and more. Women tend to live longer than men, as they make up 54% of people 60 years of age, 60% at age 75 and older, and to 70% at age 90 and older. As a result, it is even more important for older women to ensure that they maintain an active lifestyle achieving the correct type and amount of exercise. Being active is not just about adding years to your life, it’s about adding quality life to your years.