“I would hate to get old, I never want to get old!”
Similar sentiment in my patients of the younger generation are not uncommon. When asked why, the reasoning is often similar: getting old is synonymous to reduced quality of life.
Instead of trying to change their mind, I keep a straight face at their seemingly naïve declarations, and thought about why these young adults would think this way.
My examination took me in a different direction, however, after a little looking around.
I remember the fact that as we age, the muscles in our body weakens upwards, starting from our feet and legs.
Practically speaking, this starts as 'slowing down' in the beginning, turning into 'unsteady' and for some, eventually into 'lost my confidence on my feet'. It is a sad reality that I see everyday with my older patients.
One patient recently told me, “You never really think you have a problem, until something happens and then it really brings it home.” He had a fall, but was lucky he did not injure himself. Now he attends balance exercise classes to prevent it from happening again.
The best way to stay well, and prevent injury, is to follow the Law of Process – success is in preparation every day, not in one day.
Not only does balance exercise help with physical movement, but you will find yourself moving with a lot more confidence. This is something everybody and anybody can benefit from, no matter your age, level of fitness, and body type.
You could either practice in your own home, or attend a class. Ask your doctor or physiotherapist for information about balance classes near you. Attending a class also has the added benefit of socialising!
Here are some entry level exercises to start with at home. If required, stand close to something sturdy you can hold on to for additional balance. Do this regularly, and build it into a part of your daily life eg. Just before having breakfast, or when you clean your teeth.
Weight Shifts: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, and your weight equally distributed on both legs. Next, shift your weight to your right side, then lift your left foot off the floor. Hold for as long as you can maintain good form, for up to 30 seconds. Return to the starting position, and repeat with the other side.
Single leg balance: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, and your weight equally distributed on both legs. Place your hands on your hips. Lift your left leg off the floor and bend it back at the knee. Hold for as long as you can maintain good form, for up to 30 seconds. Return to the starting position, and repeat with the other side. For experts, reach forward with your foot, as far as possible, without touching the floor.
A Kaumatua (Maori elder) told me – it is our responsibility to show and teach the younger generation, and pass on our knowledge so they can make better decisions. Youth is not stupidity, but they need to be shown the way.
I could not think of a better way to put it!