Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Staying "balanced"...at any age.

I'd rather be up on the mountain having FUN on all "fours" -
than trying to get up off them on the street!
I've had an interest in the subject of "aging" for some time. Getting more serious about it, ten years ago, I did post-grad studies leading to a Certificate in Gerontology (issues related to aging) - and even received a scholarship for "academic excellence". Yes, surprised me too!

Something happens at 60ish. You begin to think about your own mortality or at least you become more aware of the "odds". It may well be that your chronological age is indisputable evidence that the larger percentage of your lifespan is behind you. You also become aware (if you're paying attention!) that you must be much more intentional about fitness especially with respect to strength, flexibility, weight, and general mobility.

Accumulating years is inevitable, but a lot of folks give in way too easily. Our two favourite self-propelled pastimes, sea kayaking and trail running, require a degree of fitness including a good measure of "balance". The fact is, however, both activities contribute generously to both general fitness and balance. There's just no down side there!

Over the years, I've become increasingly aware of the fact that as people age, it is all too often issues related to balance and stability that can have catastrophic effects on mobility. When we lose our balance, we risk falling, something which can change our quality of life forever. I've known many older folks over the years, who have tripped and fallen, broken a leg or a hip - and never walked again. That is so sad and it doesn't have to be that way. And here's the kicker  - the fear of falling is as dangerous as the act of falling.

One of the very best indoor fitness tools we have ever owned, and one of the few that is not collecting dust, is a simple Bosu Ball. It lives in the kitchen and gets used all the time. I will eat my breakfast standing on it or listen to music - practising balancing on one leg. Sometimes I will bring a paddle inside, and simulate time on the water, with my eyes closed. It's great for squats. Paddlers need strong quads to get out of the kayak after multiple hours in the cockpit. (Actually, everyone needs strong quads - just to get out of a chair!) It's amazing how quickly the body learns to fine-tune its proprioceptive abilities which is all about knowing where we are in space and time and reacting with appropriate body movements. It's how we keep our balance.

For assisting with core stabilization or stability training, the Bosu is marvellous. For ensuring that we improve necessary balance at any age, it's an incredible piece of kit! It's no wonder every good gym has one - or more.

A "centre piece" in our kitchen!"

Top image: Early this morning, up Mount Tzouhalem looking out over Cowichan Bay.
Bottom image: Yep, that's the Bosu, on the kitchen floor.


  1. Just turned 60 this year but don`t feel it at all. I agree with you about the attention to strength, weight and stability and mobility . It does take a certain amount of self discipline but there`s no reason not to exercise and keep active. and yes, it` true that most of your life is behind you but there is still a lot out there waiting for you. Don`t give up, just because the calender says you`re 60 it doesn`t mean that your body is too, with the right exercise and diet it can be a good few years younger.

  2. Thanks for that, Steve. You're so right. The accumulating "numbers" of years can become quite irrelevant. As they say, "motion is lotion". Best wishes! Duncan.

  3. Hmmm Intersting...guess that is why Jessica "the trainer" has me doing most of my exercies either on a ball or standing on one leg. May have to get me one of those "kitchen center pieces" but I must confess I do enjoy sitting down while I eat my breakfast :)

  4. That'll be the reason, L, even at your youthful age! :) The ball turns "standing around" into great fun. It is also a great tool for practising "mindfulness" - while gently exercising the core. Thanks L. D.

  5. Hi Duncan,

    Great post! Not quite 60 yet :-) but having being active in many sports all my life the past 5 years I let things slide a bit. One of the first things that I noticed was a balance issue on the trails and in every day life then other parts of my body (back) started yelling at me. Last fall I had to make a serious change in my lifestyle if I was going to reach 60 and beyond.

    For me it was yoga (the Yin and the Yang) and the past 4 months have been absolutely fabulous. Balance is back not just in my body but in my mind and every day I see the results of daily practice. I don't feel like I'm way older than 51 any more and in fact feel like I'm in my 30's again.

    I think it's all relative to what you want to accomplish. For me .... I see that I have life experiences of the last 51 years and if you count 25 of them being a child, teen and young adult then the past 26 years has been more of a exploration of myself. I see the next stage of my life be it 30+ years as the greatest adventure of all and I plan to live each day of it to the fullest.


  6. Well said, Mark! I have a sense that you're having the "time of your life" - and life is, indeed, an adventure. It's also about "exploration" and every time you "launch", it's another opportunity to enjoy the moment(s). Thanks for you thoughtful comment. Duncan.