Holiday Balance Tips

have your cake and eat it

The holidays should be a time for celebration with family and friends, but often, in the endless round of preparation, shopping and parties, one of the first things to be sacrificed are the habits that keep us healthy.

But you don’t have to sacrifice your balance – or your health, if you keep in mind some simple tricks:

  1. Small actions help. Give yourself 5-10 minutes in the morning to do some light exercise: yoga stretches, Tai Chi sequences, anything that fires the connection between brain and muscles. If you don’t have time in the morning, fit it in later in the day.
  2. Use the dead time. When brushing your teeth, or waiting in line at the store, practise standing on one leg, the other raised just off the floor. Make sure there is something sturdy nearby to keep you safe should you need it.
  3. Keep moving. You don’t even need your workout clothes. Take every opportunity to get up and move around, or choose to stand instead of sit, and walk instead of drive wherever possible.
  4. Drink water. Dehydration adds to fatigue, which is bad for balance. We don’t feel as thirsty in the colder weather, so make a point of drinking water often. Added bonus: nutritionists recommend starting every party with a glass of water to cut down on the empty calories.
  5. Protect your sleep. Set an alarm if necessary, and get to bed in time to get a full night’s rest. But don’t beat yourself up if you can’t avoid some late nights. Enjoy them! and try to give yourself some extra rest the following day. Even a 5-10 minute period of meditation or mindfulness can help soothe a tired nervous system and combat holiday stress.

For further information on the many influences on your balance and how to help them, check out our:

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Wishing you a better balanced holiday season this year.

Signs Your Balance Needs Attention

what you give up without balance

At a health fair recently, we asked people to complete the following sentence:

If I had good balance, I’d be able to …

Stop there a moment. What would you like to do, or learn to do, if you were confident in your balance?

Some answers were not so surprising. Travel came up a lot. Some people talked about fears of walking outside on wet, leafy or icy sidewalks. Others wanted to visit friends at the other end of the country or go hiking in a National Park.

A woman in her 70’s told a story of visiting family who were extending their house, adding a floor. She happily walked up the rough steps to take a look and only noticed the lack of handrail (or anything sturdy) when she turned to come back down again.

“Until you push yourself into doing something different, you don’t know you have a problem”

A man in his late 60’s was more concerned with everyday inconveniences:

“Be able to put on my pants standing up”

Which got us thinking. When we’re comfortable in our routines, we don’t push the limits. It’s easy to put it off till tomorrow (and the day after). Until walking unsupported down stairs feels dangerous, and then even simpler, everyday things like dressing, have to be modified.

It doesn’t have to be that way though. There are some simple balance specific exercises to help with overall balance – click here to read them. And when it comes to quad strength (the muscles at the front of the thigh), the Center for Disease Control recommends the following exercise, which has a positive effect on balance:

Chair Sit to Stand

  1. Start sitting on a dining room chair (or similar firm chair)
  2. Place your feet flat on the floor
  3. Stand without using your arms to push up
  4. If you need to use your arms, try to use them as little as possible, and work towards not using them at all
  5. Take a moment to breathe and steady yourself while standing
  6. Sit back down slowly (don’t flop into the chair, control your movement)
  7. Repeat 10-15 times
  8. If you can’t do 10 to start with, do as many as you can and then rest. Try to do one more the next day

If you suffer from dizziness or light headedness when standing, this is not a recommended exercise. As with all exercise, you should speak with your doctor first before exerting yourself, and use common sense about what is safe for you to accomplish.

Think about your routine. What do you not do anymore that you’d like to? What steps can you put in place to make it possible again? It’s interesting how often better balance can be the key to the problem.

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Meet the Ambassador: Trainer Ellen Rodriguez

We’re delighted to introduce marathon runner and personal trainer Ellen Rodriguez as a Zibrio Balance Ambassador.

Ellen’s passion is to understand her clients’ goals and current status, so that she can customize workouts and more to help them succeed, and surpass those goals.

A long-time runner, Ellen completed various marathons and ultra marathons in the 1990’s. In 1996 she was part of a Houston Area Road Runners Association women’s team who established a Guinness World Record for the 100 x 1 mile relay.  In 2000, she switched focus to 5k and 10k distances, and after training from the legendary Tom Tellez (University of Houston and Carl Lewis’ coach), she started winning age group awards (though she won’t say which age groups!). Since 2011 she has been running with Power in Motion (affiliated with HARRA).

Her long-time friend, Carl Lewis (Olympic champion and author of One More Victory Lap (1996), she began organized strength training and used a personal trainer for the first time. It was a turning point that decided her to help other runners improve their performance.

She became a certified personal trainer herself with ACE (American Council on Exercise), and P.F.I.T. in association with the American College of Integrative  Medicine. She also holds certifications for:

  • Pilates Mat Instructor (Powerhous Pilates)
  • Sports Conditioning Specialist (International  Fitness Professionals Association (IFPA))
  • Golf Conditioning Specialist (IFPA)
  • Aquatic Exercise Association Member
  • IDEA Health and Fitness Association Member

Her own workouts include running, bicycle spinning, strength training and pilates. You may even see her at the Memorial Park Golf driving range. One of her proudest achievements is to be a lifetime member of Weight Watchers. She says “It’s one of the easiest programs to follow and it worked well for me.”

Find Ellen at Houston Inner Loop Trainer, and at 550 Westcott St, Suite 340, Houston, Tx 77007

Why Balance is Like Flossing

teeth in balance

You’re lying in the dentist’s chair and he or she asks whether you floss regularly. You nod, and avoid their eyes. Because you know they can see, from the plaque on your teeth, that ‘regularly’ is stretching the truth a bit. You own floss, you do use it – especially after eating ribs or corn – but not exactly every day.

So it is with most of our health. We know what we should be doing, but unless someone is holding up a mirror to us, or displaying pounds on a scale, we sometimes gloss over the truth to ourselves.

Balance is in many ways a holistic measure of a person’s health and fitness. So if you exercise regularly, and challenge your muscles and your balance, it will improve. If you have a period of time where you’re just going through the motions, or skipping the difficult exercises, your balance will deteriorate over time.

Like flossing, you really can’t fake it.

The good news is that, unlike flossing, you can take up balance exercises at any point and start to see improvements within a short period of time. How quickly will depend on a number of factors, including your general fitness and how hard you work at it. There is no quick fix: only by doing will your balance improve.

What should I do?

If you’ve been neglecting balance – or never worked specifically on balance before, it’s worth talking to a personal trainer or instructor who can help assess where you are and how best to move forwards. If you like the social element of group exercise classes, look for Tai Chi or beginner’s yoga near you. The instructor will help you form the poses correctly to maximize benefit and minimize risk of injury.

Even if you’re a regular exerciser or sportsperson, it’s worth checking that you’ve not fallen into a rut with your training. Adding balance training into your workout can help avoid injury and overtraining too.

Free ebook on balance

Click the link above to receive a free ebook on balance and how it works in the body.

Free Balance Screening

secret to better balance

This Fall, the Zibrio team will be running free balance events at various locations in the Houston, Tx, area.

If you’ve always wanted to know how to measure your balance, or understand the factors which affect your balance , come along to one of the following locations.

Simply stand on the smart Zibrio scale for 1 minute. You’ll receive your unique balance score – a snapshot of how you’re balancing today – as well as personalized insights into how to improve it.

We look forward to meeting you!

Bayland Community Center: 18 September 2018 @ 9.15am
Tracy Gee Community Center: 19 September 2018 @ 8.30 am
Houstonian Club22 September 2018 @10 am
Trini Mendenhall Community Center26 September 2018 @ 9.00am
Starbucks, Augusta Drive: 9 October 2018 @ 9.30 am
Trotter YMCA, Augusta Drive: 31 October 2018 @ 10.30 am

For further information, contact us, or one of the centers directly.

How To Protect Your Vacation And Come Home Injury-Free

protect balance on vacation

The danger that no-one is talking about.

The internet is full of helpful articles warning people of the higher risk of car accidents in the summer months, or of how to protect ourselves from food poisioning while on vacation. A few sites even tackle the dangers in taking up an adventure sport like windsurfing – or even jet skiing – without proper preparation or training.

But there is something fundemental to everything we do – whether on vacation or not – that no-one is talking about. It’s so important yet for most of our lives we go about doing it unconsciously.

But it can still ruin the entire holiday if we neglect it.

The ability to balance, and the risk of falling, are not just issues for the very young or very old.

Aside from frailty, two of the biggest impacts on our balance are from fatigue and lack of attention. When we travel, we have to deal with fatigue: from jet lag to sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings, being too hot or too cold, staying out later, becoming dehydrated, or simply becoming tired by all the sights and sounds of the new location.

When we’re out of our habitual surroundings, there is a lot more for our brains to notice, process and understand. And it doesn’t have to be as difficult as making yourself understood in a foreign language. Navigating an unfamiliar city in your home country also requires more effort from your brain.

All of that is tiring. And when we are tired, not only are our reaction times (to the uneven pavement, for example) slower, but the vigor of our response is also lower, making it more likely that a stumble will result in a fall all the way to the ground.

At home, in familiar surroundings, we can pay more attention to where we walk, how fast we turn around, and thereby mitigate the risk of a fall on days when we feel weak or tired. But on vacation, the chances are that, even while tired, we need to use our attention to help us find our way in the new location, to understand that different accent, to absorb the new sights and sounds. We don’t want to miss out. And so we are doubly vulnerable.

Help protect your vacation and come home injury free:

  • Plan for time to catch up on sleep while away
  • If you’re crossing time zones, remember it takes about a day to normalize for every hour of time zone
  • Give your fitness a boost by exercising before you go away, and plan to keep doing something while away – walking, using the hotel gym
  • If you take medications, try not to start a new one just before going away. And make sure you take them in your hand luggage as changing the dose either up or down can impact your balance (not to mention your health!)

Why You Shouldn’t Wish For a Balance Pill

sharon-mccutcheon-530237-unsplash

Are you frustrated that there’s no pill for balance?

Wishing you could just drink the elixir of balance and go back to what you were doing? But stop and think about it for a minute, it’s actually much better this way.

If you could pop a pill to cure your balance, you’d become dependent on that pill. And anxious if it begins to run out, or becomes more expensive. But if you get hold of the tools to improve your balance, you not only “cure” your wobbliness, you give yourself true Independence too.

Tools? You say. There’s a tool for balance?

One of those stability balls I see in my gym? Well, yes, that’s one of them. But once you use the tool, how do you know it’s making a difference? Unless you’re constantly falling over, it’s hard to know when your balance is bad. And how to judge if it’s getting slightly better or slightly worse?

You could book yourself in for a comprehensive balance assessment with a physical therapist. If you’re able to, you could time yourself standing on one leg (we don’t recommend this unless you’re very confident you can do it safely). Both of these would give you one data point, for how you’re balancing today (physical therapy would also give you a personal plan for improvement). Balance fluctuates, like blood pressure does, like your weight does, and the greatest value lies in tracking it regularly. Then you’ll know when you’re making good use of the tools available, when you’re making progress.

Knowing where you are on the journey makes it more fun, and motivates you to keep going. So stop wishing for a magic pill and grab your independence for yourself.

Grab my independence!  keep me inspired, and let me be the first to know when the Zibrio tracking scale is available

Can Indulgence Motivate You?

The Harvard Business Review made a case recently for regarding exercise as part of the day job. Their theory is that because exercise delivers benefits like enhanced creativity, better focus, better mood and enhanced interpersonal relations, it should be a required part of everyone’s workday. Exercise helps us achieve balance in our lives, and could also help reduce falls and accidents at work.

Whilst I certainly wouldn’t want to dissuade an employer from building a gym or sports facility on site, there is a significant downside for regarding exercise (or any health-promoting behaviour) as ‘work’.

When it becomes something we have to do, a large part of the enjoyment gets sucked out of the activity. When it’s work, that requirement brings a bucket load of guilt on days when life throws too many challenges at us to fit in a workout. Or we simply get an attack of lazyitus. Which then further demotivates us on the following days, making balance even harder to achieve.

Why does everything in Western culture have to be pleasure-free to be good for us? It’s no wonder people don’t sign up for balance classes or fall prevention: even thinking about it such a downer!

Why can’t the things which are good for us be fun too?

What if we reframed our understanding of exercise, good nutrition, and sleep and called them all indulgence: precious time for ourselves, away from phones and demands from those who need us? Whether it’s the feel of water on skin in the pool, the smell of trees and earth by the running trail, or the delicious flexibility after a good workout, we can absorb the simple pleasures of these experiences as a time of nurture for ourselves. Can we make exercise itself the treat, never mind the (longer term) benefits that go with it?

The human body wants to be exercised and oxygenated, to keep its muscles moving and the joints supple. Recent research shows that the benefits of exercise are greater when one’s mental approach to it is positive and engaged. In one study, those who regarded an activity as exercise (work) were more likely to eat hedonistic food as a reward afterwards (thereby overeating), compared to those who regarded the exercise as fun. When the activity itself is the reward, there is no need for additional compensation in the form of food, which makes sticking to those health goals so much easier.

In this sense, staying balanced is about more than fall prevention.

When we take the time for the gym it isn’t just another chore we have to check off a list, but time we’re investing in ourselves. Because we deserve this indulgence: we deserve to let the mind run free. If some people want that investment to be in mastering a particular skill, like Tai Chi or other balance–boosting exercise, good for them. We can also just satisfy the inner novelty junkie by trying new sport or exercise every week, which has the added benefit of challenging the brain and muscles, helping them grow.

It’s time we celebrated the fun in good health, rather than using it as a stick with which to beat ourselves up.

5 Easy Balance Hacks You Can Do in Secret

balanced chick

How good is your balance today? It’s hard to measure without professional help, but you can still take action. Here are 5 simple balance exercises you can do without the need to put on your active wear or make a fuss.

As with any exercise, don’t attempt if you don’t feel confident, and check with your doctor first if you have any doubts.

  1. Brush your teeth. It takes 2 minutes, and you’re standing in front of a counter or sink that you can use for support. Use this wasted time to practise standing on one leg. Hold onto the counter and raise one leg off the floor. Hold for up to one minute. If you have to put your foot down to feel secure, that’s ok, just rebalance and then raise it again until the minute is up. Then repeat with the other leg.
  2. In the grocery check out line: stop checking Facebook on your phone, stand close to the shopping cart, using the handle for support if necessary. You can do the one legged balance again, or this time rise up onto your toes slowly and then lower back down again. No one else will notice (unless they’ve read this blog too).
  3. Waiting to meet someone? Don’t take that comfy chair, choose to stand instead. Put your feet hip width apart and stand tall, distributing your weight evenly on both feet. How still can you stand before you need to move?
  4. Waiting for coffee to brew? Or water to boil? Or the microwave? Try a tandem stance. You may want to hold onto the counter to start with. Put the heel of one foot directly in front of the toes of the other (as if you’re walking on an narrow beam). Look straight ahead and hold for one minute. Repeat with the other foot in front.
  5. Watching TV? In the commercial break, stand up and sit back down again 10 times. If you’re bingewatching on Netflix, you can do this at the start or end of each episode.

What do you think? Have you tried these or other balance exercises? Which ones are hard for you, which ones do you like? And can you feel a difference in your balance afterwards?

Resilience: The Enduring Philosophy of Thriving Older Adults

As the US population continues to grow, so does the aging population. The number of Americans aged 65 and older is projected to double from 46 million to more than 98 million by 20601. Staying healthy, active and productive are admirable goals for our nation’s older adults. However, society’s traditional view of “old age” has not always kept up with the reality of being old in America. Many older adults and others in society buy into the old myths of fragility, feebleness, forgetfulness, and senility2. Therefore, many are treated by healthcare providers as such and may and/or have been pigeonholed to those stereotypes. Physical therapists are in one of the best roles to dramatically change this practice and improve the aging populations health status and function. The goal in this article is to help the physical therapist incorporate the concept of resilience into the rehab process.

Resilience: The Game Changer

Resilience is described as the ability to achieve, retain, or regain a level of physical or emotional health after illness or loss3. There are multiple interventions as listed below that physical therapists can perform in clinic to help their older adult clients learn resiliency skills. Additionally, older adults can achieve greater outcomes in physical therapy as a result of learning these skills. This provides another avenue in which a physical therapist can be more effective.

Physical therapists can provide a quick written guide (pamphlet in their waiting room or as a parting gift provided at their first appointment) to their older adult population on local community and/or outreach groups that are specific to certain conditions or just for general social interaction. There a multitude of different national organizations in the government and NGO’s involved in improving the nation’s older adults.
For example: National Coalition on Aging created an Aging Mastery Program with reading materials and access to classes that are led by expert speakers who help participants gain the skills and tools they need to manage their health, remain economically secure, and contribute actively in society.

Education is key with the older population.

It is necessary to take time (even a whole PT session) to go over concept points on resilience and use client centered language that makes the client feel heard. Furthermore, it might be helpful to ask the client to bring in important family members that either help in their care or are essential to their social identity.
Physical therapy clinics can and sometimes do provide info-seminars. These seminars can bring together older adults with similar and/or different conditions in order to promote camaraderie and dissemination of knowledge.
Open floor clinics are sometimes a great setting for older adults to come in and use their session as a way to socialize with others with similar changes to their lifestyle. Many times this gives that older adult a glimpse into the future success they will incur with continuing their PT program.

It is not a form of defeat for a physical therapist to refer individuals who display symptoms of severe depression and or other mental health disorders to an appropriate mental health professional

Physical therapists who are owners of a brick and mortar clinic can provide fun and interesting group classes that target at risk older adults (dance, yoga, stretching, etc). Making it more of a recreational activity can boost self esteem and create a meaningful experience.

During the session focused activities to enhance happiness, with the conclusion that doing so can improve resilience. This can be done by creating positive goals (written in clinic or in a daily journal) related to previous activities that have made the client optimistic about the future or happy in the present.

Other effective interventions may emphasize the strengths of older adults, including the ability to establish and maintain social connections, willingness to help others, and desire to engage in the community. For example having a retired family law practitioner who just underwent a knee replacement to help get back to standing for hours on end in order to provide pro bono work for at risk youth3.

In conclusion:

Clinicians must educate older adults about topic of resilience and the importance of physical activity in any form. It empowers older adults to play a more informed, active role in their own health. Clinicians can correct misconceptions that illness and disabilities are caused by activity or necessitate inactivity.

References:

http://www.apa.org/pi/aging/resources/guides/older.aspx
http://transgenerational.org/aging/myths-of-aging.htm
MacLeod S et al. (2016). The impact of resilience among older adults. Geriatric Nursing, 37, 4, 266-72.