Balance Assessment

Balance – this isn’t “work-life” balance, but physical balance.

Remember doing fun balance play as a child such as walking along a curb, a crack in the sidewalk, or even better – a log or board? When is the last time you had fun with a Balance activity?

A Question of Balance:

  • When was the last time you tripped over something? Stubbed your toe on something? Miss-judged a step? — Did you catch yourself?
  • When was the last time you really stretched to reach for something, extending over your “comfortable” center-of-balance?
  • Do you have cats, dogs, children, or any other small and fast-moving objects in your home?

Balance can start to decrease in middle-age, and older adults with reduced balance ability are at greater risk of falling.

More than 1/3 of adults over the age of 65 fall each year in the US.

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Flexibility Assessment

I know that one of my HUGE issues is flexibility, I don’t think I’ve ever really been “flexible”, and until I got educated about physical fitness, didn’t really put much thought into it.

Until I started hurting…

I’m sure that I’m like many of you, I would commonly hear “stretch before you ___” or “make sure you stretch after you ___”,  but for the most part, I would pass because I’m trying to get on with my day.

I WAS SO WRONG!

First: Stiff & Short Muscles and Joints with Restricted Movement DON’T WORK WELL

Tight muscles can cause pain and imbalances in the body. When a muscle isn’t working properly, another muscle make take over it’s function. Chicken or Egg: the muscle in pain may not be the origin of the problem.

Tight muscles can restrict movement, which increase your risk of injury or impact your ability to do daily activities. Problems with shoulder flexibility? How does it feel to reach for items on a high shelf? I can tell that my left ankle issues impacted my ability to step certain ways when I was on my South Dakota hike, stressing my left knee and hip more because they needed to pick up the slack.

Tight muscles can restrict blood flow. Proper blood flow is important for recovery after activity. Or maybe a hint to the answer of: It’s Thursday, why am I still so sore from Mondays workout?

Second: Flexibility Naturally Decreases with Age

Certain parts of my body feel 20 years older than others…I guess it’s celebrating birthdays without me and this is the hangover? Not Fair!

Third: Flexibility does not always equal Stretching

I will do more detailed posts on specific Stretching, Flexibility and Mobility activities, but here are a couple of Flexibility Assessments that I did recently:

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Spring Walks & Classes

Is Spring really here?

Or are we getting teased with good weather before getting hit with more cold & rain?

I’m putting some of the monthly Free Introduction to Nordic Walking sessions on the calendar for April, May and June:

First Tuesdays of the month at 9:00 am in Glenview

First Thursdays of the month at 6:00 pm in Evanston

First Sunday’s of the month at 1:00 in Morton Grove

Classes will follow on Tuesday mornings and Thursday evenings at the same locations.

Group Walks will follow the Intro class on Sundays.

Check out the Events calendar for more information & RSVP to reserve your spot.

Mobility Monday – Falling

The Fear of Falling can create a Cycle of Increased Risk

Sometimes the fear of falling can inhibit an individual’s willingness to participate in activity, but decreased physical activity leads to decreased balance skills and physical conditioning, which can in turn lead to an increased risk for falling!

falling circle

There are a number of risk factors for falling, many of them listed in more detail here:  Causes & Risk Factors

 

 

Physical Activity and Fall Reduction

  • Muscle weakness, especially in the legs: Resistance Training should be considered to increase muscular strength. Select a program that incorporates Power Training as well as Strength to train in more dynamic movements and further decrease risk of falls due to muscle weakness.
  • Balance and gait: Walking poles can assist with balance as well as some gait issues. They can also allow you to walk with more safety while you participate in physical activities.
  • Sensory problems: Walking poles have been used by individuals with peripheral neuropathy or other sensory problems to provide feedback and increase walking confidence.

Walking poles should not be used on flooring or surfaces that do not provide a good grip. Make sure that your walking tips are appropriate for the surface you are on!

Pole-Tips-from-Carol-at-Y
Trekking – Mobility – Fitness Tip Types

Professional Resources

Talk to your medical professional, physical or occupational therapist to see which physical or medical condition(s) can contribute to your risk of falling, and identify ways that you can address these concerns.

Consider having an assessment done of your home to identify potential causes of falls that can be corrected.

See if your local Senior Center has a Balance or Fall Prevention class that can help you with a balance assessment and specialized training that addresses your needs.

Mobility Monday – Obstacle or Adventure?

Obstacle or Adventure?

When confronted with stairs or hills, do you see them as an Obstacle, or an Adventure?

What about other parts of your life?

  • Do you park at the back of the lot, or drive around until you find a space close to the door?
  • Elevator, escalator or stairs?
  • Walk to dinner, or drive? or delivery?
  • Paper or plastic?

ok, maybe not the last one…

 

 

Adventure is an aspect of Attitude

Don’t let something like hills, stairs, or anything else become an obstacle to your walking activity. Don’t let the rain or the snow keep you inside.

Break the obstacle down into smaller segments if you can, develop a strategy for tackling each segment:

  • Strength – if multiple stairs are difficult for you, are there exercises you can do to improve your leg strength?  Strength Link
  • Stamina – also referred to as Endurance, maybe you can’t tackle the full distance, but can you work up to it? Endurance Link
  • Stability – if you have stability challenges or are concerned walking on certain surfaces, there are techniques and equipment that can help.
  • Balance & Flexibility –  both are important in reducing the risk of falling, considering adding balance training and flexibility movements to your physical activities. Balance and Flexibility links.
  • Pain – talk to your medical professional about pain management options, find the best time of day for you to be active, move only within pain-free ranges of motion, and make sure you warm up and cool down properly during activity.

Putting it all together: The National Institute on Aging has a good page describing the many benefits of exercise as applied to your daily life. As I continue with Mobility Monday articles I will detail out many of these benefits as well. Benefits Link

Do a little bit at a time and those bits will keep adding up.

  • Explore the idea of using walking poles if that can help you
  • Consult a medical professional, physical or occupational therapist, or personal trainer for specific recommendations
  • Find a friend to accompany you and to encourage you

“If you think you can or think you can’t, you are right” – Henry Ford

 

Mobility Monday: Mobility = Ability

One of my favorite things about teaching Nordic Walking is when I can put a pair of walking poles in someone’s hands and watch them break out into a huge smile.

mo·bil·i·ty

mōˈbilədē/

noun
  1. the ability to move or be moved freely and easily.

    “this exercise helps retain mobility in the damaged joints”

    synonyms: ability to move,  “restricted mobility

Now this just isn’t any smile.  This smile usually starts small….

Sometimes it grows very quickly, sometimes it takes a bit more time to emerge, but I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this smile build to a contagious ear-to-ear grin.

a·bil·i·ty

əˈbilədē/

noun

  1. possession of the means or skill to do something.
    “the manager had lost his ability to motivate the players”

    synonyms: capacity, capability, potential; and more

 

Why the big grin?

  • Imagine the capacity to walk with less back pain, hip pain, or knee pain.
  • Imagine the capability to walk with confidence, without fear of falling.
  • Imagine the potential to walk faster and keep up with your friends & family.
  • Imagine the ability to walk with more safety in the winter time.

These aren’t imaginary results, I’ve seen it over the last few years with many of my walkers. Put the poles in their hands and watch a transformation…

A transformation not just in their smile, but in their walking ability; confidence, gait pattern, walking speed, posture, and much more. They’re excited to walk!

Mobility Coaching can open up a world of possibilities for individuals who find that their walking activities may be limited for a variety of reasons.

 

Foggy Stair
Does this look like an obstacle, or an adventure?

 

 

 

 

Nordic Walking & Hip Osteoarthritis

A recently published study indicates that “patients who engaged in outdoor Nordic Walking for a year had better improvements in functional performance, physical activity level, and mental health than study subjects who engaged in home-based exercise or supervised strength training.”

 

In hip osteoarthritis, Nordic Walking is superior to strength training and home-based exercise for improving function.

This observer-blinded, randomized controlled trial compared the short- and long-term effects of 4 months of supervised Strength Training in a local fitness center, supervised Nordic Walking in a local park, and unsupervised Home-Based Exercise on functional performance in 60+-year-old persons with hip osteoarthritis not awaiting hip replacement.

Generally, improvements in functional performance were greater after Nordic Walking compared with Home Based Exercise and Strength Training at all follow-up time points (2, 4, and 12 months). Furthermore, Nordic Walking was superior to Home-Based Exercise for improving vigorous physical activity and to both Strength Training and Home-Based Exercise for improving mental health. These data suggest that Nordic Walking is the recommended exercise modality compared with Strength Training and Home-Based Exercise.

Remember that the best way to learn how to walk safely as well as get the most out of your Nordic Walking is to work with a certified instructor!

See also Biomechanics of Nordic Walking and Fibromyalgia & Arthritis Studies