If you’re reading this magazine, there’s a good chance that you have already entered the second half of your life. That is, you have done the marriage thing, possibly have children that are or will shortly be out on their own, your careers are well established and you’re likely on the downhill side of full-time employment. What you’re looking for now are new places to visit and possibly settle. Retirement of some sort could be in your near future.
Exciting things are on the horizon! What most of us envision in our retirement is finally having the time to pursue those hobbies we could only dabble at in our busy work and family years, traveling the country and the world to explore the places about which we’ve just been able to read, and actually having time to visit with family and friends.
If you’ve been somewhat successful and invested wisely, these dreams might just come true. The only thing that could prevent them from happening is declining health. There is no shortage of information on the importance of having a healthy lifestyle at every age (and if you read my article in the last issue, you know it’s never too late to start!)
How can you prevent falls?
- It has been proven that balance can be improved with training, and the body can adapt to the stresses of sudden movements. Developing strong muscles, especially in the lower body – hips, glutes, legs, and ankles – can greatly improve your ability to balance. Also, engaging in activities that require quick movements and changes of position such as brisk walking, tennis, or dancing, aid in improved proprioception.
- Keeping your home safe requires looking at it from a different perspective. Check for these safety hazards:
Stairways and Hallways
- Make sure there is good lighting at the top and the bottom of stairs.
- Avoid carrying large loads up and down stairs.
- Check that carpets are fixed firmly to the floor so they won’t slip.
- Mount grab bars in the shower.
- Place non-skid mats on all surfaces that may get wet.
- Put night lights and light switches close to your bed.
- Keep a telephone near your bed.
- Keep electric cords and telephone wires near walls and away from walking paths.
- Tack down all carpets and area rugs firmly to the floor.
- Arrange furniture so that there are non-obstructive pathways for walking.
So, what does balance have to do with it? Actually - Quite a bit.
Let’s first define balance. There are three factors all influencing our balance: vision, hearing, and proprioception. If your sight and hearing are normal, either with or without correction, then balance problems usually stem from proprioception issues. If you have good balance, then your nervous and muscular systems are able to maintain the proper alignment and center of gravity, as well as coordinate the body during movement.
Why is that important? Lack of balance increases with age, unfortunately, and brings the worst consequence – falls. A fall can be as minor as tripping over a chipped sidewalk, resulting in a minor bruise and embarrassment, to the other extreme of falling and breaking a bone, often resulting in surgery, hospitalization, rehab, and possible loss of independence.
- Here are a few enlightening statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionMore than one-third of adults ages sixtyfive years and older fall each year.
- Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of injury deaths and the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma.
Balance and Golf
Now let’s get back to one of those hobbies you may be hoping to pursue. How does balance (or lack of it) affect the golf game? Here’s a visual: Watch any professional golf tournament on TV and look closely at the golf swing of any one of the pros. Chances are his or her balance is impeccable, finishing the swing with his body turned toward the target and holding that pose for several seconds. Can you do that?
Have your buddy film your golf swing with his smart phone. On the replay, notice for any sway you might have in your backswing. On your follow-through, do you transfer your weight onto your lead leg, or is your entire body sliding towards the target? Can you hold your finishing pose like a pro? If any of those issues are present in your swing, lack of balance may be the major reason.
Here are two exercises that, if practiced frequently, can help improve your balance, both on and off the course.
STANDING GATE OPENERS
Besides balance, this exercise promotes hip mobility and works on separation of upper body from lower body, very important in an effective golf swing.
- Stand with your feet hip width apart.
- Lift right knee up toward your chest at a 90-degree angle.
- Bring right leg across body to the left, then out to the right, keeping upper body facing front. Repeat five times.
- Perform same sequence with the left leg.
SINGLE LEG BALANCE TORSO TURNS
This exercise builds better balance in your golf swing, as well as more stability in your lower body.
- Get into golf stance, then cross arms across chest.
- Lift left leg.
- Rotate upper torso to the right, as in a backswing. Do several rotations back and forth. Then place left foot back on floor.
- Lift right leg, and perform upper torso turns to the left, as in a follow through swing.
Good balance will not only make you a better golfer, but it will make your entire life safer and easier. Isn’t that worth a few minutes of practice a day?