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Protect Your Bones with Fitness After 40
By Dr. Vonda Wright

As people age, society often makes us feel we are moving from vitality to frailty. This doesn't have to be and should not be the case. In my book, Fitness after 40, I have provided a guide to thriving in the prime of your life, although the tips are applicable to people of any age. Focusing on flexibility, aerobics and resistance training in addition to maintaining your equilibrium with balance exercises will help move you to your best health.

Your Balance is Vital to Your Health
People pay plenty of attention to aerobics, resistance training and even to flexibility, but people often overlook the importance of balance exercises. Balance doesn't get you a sexy physique, so why should you care?

There are lots of reasons to perfect your balance. Thanks to the modern day sedentary lifestyles, our balance begins to decline after the age of 25. You might think being wobbly isn't any big deal, but after the age of 65, one in three people will fall performing a simple daily task. We're not talking about minor stumbles either. The fact is, as you get older, your bones become more brittle. Not only that, the number one predictor of future fracture is having had a fracture in the past. This means that if you've broken a bone in the past, you are at a high risk of breaking that same bone in the future. As an orthopedic surgeon, I am on the front lines of fracture care, and I can tell you that no one wants a broken bone. The good news is that poor balance and equilibrium can be retrained with simple balance exercises.

How Old Is Your Equilibrium?
To determine your level of equilibrium, try this simple test:

  1. Stand next to a firm surface such as a counter or chair back.
  2. Hold your hands above the surface in case you need support.
  3. Close your eyes and lift one foot off the ground.
  4. Balance on the other foot.
  5. Count out loud the number of seconds you are able to balance.

The shorter time that you were able to balance, the "older" your equilibrium.

If you lasted:

  • 22 seconds: your balance is equivalent to a 20 year old.
  • 15 seconds: you have the balance of a 30 year old.
  • 7.2 seconds: you have the balance of a 40 year old.
  • 3.7 seconds: your balance is equivalent to a 50 year old.

So how old are you? No lying!

Everyday Balance Exercises
You can boost your balance by strengthening your buttocks, quadriceps and hamstrings. Join a Tai Chi, yoga or Pilates class.

A simple way to improve your balance is to stay productive in your down time. For example, balance on one foot when you brush your teeth! It's such a small thing but it can really improve your balance. Here are some balance exercises that you can incorporate into your daily routine.

The Stork

  • Raise one leg off the ground while keeping your legs at your sides.
  • Try to stay balanced for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat two times, and then switch legs.
  • Try to work up to 2 minutes.
  • If you have difficulty-balancing place your fingertips on a hard surface then with time remove your hands.
  • Take this exercise to the next level by closing your eyes! You'll be amazed how much this affects your balance.
  • Take it up one more level and swing your arms like you are running in place while balancing.
  • After this becomes easy (yes, there's one more level-up!), hold water bottles and continue swinging.

Side Leg Raises

  • Raise one leg off the floor and to the side.
  • Hold it six to 12 inches off of the floor and then lower it.
  • Repeat ten to 15 times on each leg.

Toe Raises

  • Bring the weight of your body up onto your toes. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

These balance exercises are simple but they can have a dramatic impact on your health. Remember that it is never to late (or early) to protect your bones and your body.

Dr. Vonda Wright is an orthopedic surgeon and internationally recognized authority on active aging and mobility. To learn more, visit DrVondaWright.com and WomensHealthConversations.com.

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