Tuesday, September 20, 2022
Short read: Falls are the second leading cause of unintentional death the world over with balance being a central part of the problem. Unfortunately, balance (like many things) degrades over time and may start sooner than we’d like to think. In a recent study, 20% of the 40-year-old participants couldn’t balance on one leg for more than 10 seconds! But we can improve the situation substantially with a little of that wisdom we’re supposed to acquire with age.
It’s a marvel to watch a baby learn to walk, first pulling themselves to standing, then cruising along on the sides of furniture and finally launching into space for as many steps as they can get in before plopping back down. The most exciting part, of course, is when it all comes together and they find their sweet spot, that through line down the center of themselves where they are in perfect balance.
It may not be until medication or age or disease or an emotional event so overwhelming it takes the ground out from under our feet that we begin to appreciate that balance, physical and otherwise, is not a steady state. We need look no further than having once again over-salted the stew or fallen out of touch with family and friends while taking on too much or blown our budget to see how easily we can throw it off; as wired as our bodies are to seek homeostasis, it seems we are as equally prone to toss it away with our excesses!
But we are given a grace: the ability to re-learn balance and locate our sweet spot all over again which is fortunate given that a substantial number of us age 40 and over probably can’t balance on one leg for 10 seconds or more. (I wonder how many of you have sprung from your chairs and are now perched on one foot while counting determined seconds under your breath.) Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that big a deal. Just stand on one leg and then the other while brushing your teeth. Before you know it, you’ll be showing off your balance skills, demonstrating dancer pose to anyone who will still suffer your company.
If you have more dignity than that, try out Tai chi; those slow, controlled movements are a perfect builder of balance, both for the body and the brain. Or, for a real mind twister, try this:
- Start on the floor on all fours, keeping your back flat
- Lift your right arm straight out in front of you
- Lift your left leg straight out in back of you.
- Hold for 5 – 10 seconds then repeat it on the other side.
Can you do it?
Finding the sweet spot
I once got roped into an adult softball game when my kids were young (a game that goes on about 6 innings too long for my taste). As I was twiddling my thumbs in the outfield, a batter popped the ball up so high up it seemed suspended in time before dropping straight down and into my outstretched mitt. I didn’t do a thing; I just lucked out and was just standing in the sweet spot. That’s what being in balance feels like: having everything all lined up so the ball dropping from the sky falls right into your mitt. We just need to position ourselves as best we can for what’s coming.