NEW – All Things Fitness Column

Hi,

I have been writing a Fitness Column in the Redlands Daily Facts as a Community Service since February, 2011.   I will now be posting the columns here as well.  You can also stay connected by “liking” my “All Things Fitness” Facebook page.

“All Things Fitness” Column

Balancing Act

By:  Patty Peoples

            We’ve all been told it’s important to have balance in life.  This is particularly true when it comes to developing one’s ability to have good postural balance.  Having good balance is important for several reasons, including fall prevention, maintaining a strong torso, preventing undue stress on joints and back and improved performance in most sports.  Postural balance is a common problem for a lot of people but even a bigger problem for older individuals who may have age-related complications; such as, medical problems, complications from medication reactions and general decline in muscle tone and decreased physical activity.  Poor balance is a major contributing factor to most falls among the elderly.  Falling is also the leading cause of injury death for people over the age of 65.

My 84 year-old father recently lost his balance while experiencing some dizziness in the bathroom.  He fell, hit his head on the floor and was rushed to the local hospital, nearly 30 miles away.  Upon arrival in the emergency room, he was admitted to the intensive care unit and given 24 hours to live.  He had bleeding on the brain and stroke-like symptoms.  Fortunately, he survived and after numerous tests during his five days in the hospital, he was released to a nearby care facility.  His overall condition is still not good, but at least he’s alive and slowly making progress with his occupational therapy.

While visiting him in the hospital, I wondered to myself, “If Dad had stayed committed to his exercise program, including balance exercises, could his fall have been prevented?”   We’ll never know for certain, but I do know that if he had developed his core and stabilizing muscles more, he would have been physically better conditioned to help maintain his balance.  He still may have fallen, but maybe not as hard.

So to help others become better equipped to maintain a good postural balance and hopefully, even prevent them from a life changing fall like my father’s, I am dedicating this column to my dad by prescribing a simple, but very effective balance exercise – it’s called the “one-footed diagonal pull/extend.”

Muscle groups engaged during this exercise will primarily be your core stabilizing muscles (abdominals/obliques/back), gluteus maximus, hip flexors, quadriceps, hamstrings, tibialis anterior and deltoids.  In other words, almost your entire body will benefit from this exercise, especially your overall balance ability.

Start position #1

Start Position:

*  Stand tall with your shoulders back, spine aligned and knees slightly bent.

Ready to begin

Simultaneously:

* Lift your right foot and extend it slightly off the ground behind you with the foot pointed.

* Lift your right arm up in a diagonal position beside your right ear with the palm facing inward.

* Extend your left arm slightly back in a diagonal position

* Hold pose until you get your balance.

Finish Position:

Simultaneously – Without moving your torso or standing leg:

* Fist you right hand while pulling your right arm back, bending your elbow 90 degrees and stop when  your  right fist is beside your torso.

* Pull your right leg up while bending your knee, past your torso and stopping when your right quadriceps is close to being parallel to the ground.

* Fist your left hand while pulling your left arm forward, bending your elbow 90 degrees, past your torso and stopping when your forearm is slightly above parallel to the ground.

Hold this pose for 1 sec, then extend everything back to the start position WITHOUT TOUCHING THE GROUND , hold for 1 second and repeat the pull/extend movement for 10 repetitions and then switch legs and repeat for 10 repetitions.  If you have very poor balance to begin with, you may modify by touching your back leg toe on the ground to help maintain your balance as you work toward improving your balance.   If you have excellent balance and master this exercise easily the first time, you can add hand and/or ankle weights while performing this exercise.

 ####

Patty Peoples is an accomplished fitness professional with 30 years of experience, including:
2011 AG Sprint Duathlon World Champion and Fastest Overall Female Cyclist, 2011 USAT AG Duathlon National Champion, 3-time USAT All-American Duathlete, 3-time USAT #1 Nationally Ranked AG Duathlete, College Fitness Educator since 1992, 2-time Sports Emmy Recipient for Olympic Production work with NBC 2002/04, Former US National Women’s Cycling Team, Former East Coast Triathlon Champion, Hawaii Ironman top 25 women finisher and Motivational Speaker.  Patty can be reached at p2peakperformance@hotmail.com

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