Why You Shouldn’t Wish For a Balance Pill

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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.

Think You Don’t Lie To Your Doctor?

When was the last time you had a really truthful conversation with your doctor? Yes, all the glasses of alcohol, the frequency you really eat healthy foods like vegetables, the number of times you’ve tripped or stumbled.

A smattering of surveys over the last ten years or so reveal a consistent picture: over a quarter of patients say they sometimes lie or omit telling the truth to their doctor.

Sometimes the reasons are because the patient feels embarrassed or doesn’t want to be judged for poor health choices. Sometimes people feel rushed, forget or think that the problem isn’t something that the doctor can help with.

Falling is a case in point. People fall at every age: trip over the cat, a crack in the curb while out running, but falls increase alarmingly over 65, with the chance of injury high on the list.

95% of hip fractures are caused by falling

A stumble can be a warning that should be heeded and yet when asked at their annual check up about falls (Medicare requires doctors to ask all patients over 65 about falls and fall risk), many fail to mention one.

Sometimes that’s because it resulted in no great pain or injury and has been forgotten about. Sometimes because it can feel like such an ‘old’ or frail thing to have done and people are afraid of being labelled, or losing their independence. But we should be making note of falls and stumbles so that when the doctor asks, we can answer honestly.

20% of falls end in serious injury or brain trauma

Falling isn’t about being old, but it is sometimes a warning that a bigger fall could be on the way.

Typical interventions can include physical therapy to strengthen muscle weakness or improve flexibility, referral for an eye exam or a number of other actions that won’t leave the patient labelled as old. A fall doesn’t mean you have to use a walking aid, but keeping quiet about it might.

Take the chance to also discuss over the counter medicines and supplements you might be taking and ask your doctor to review your medications. Be an empowered patient and help your doctor keep you healthy and independent. And maybe tie a bell to the cat.

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.

5 Reasons Walking to Work Will Make Your Day 10x Better

April 7th is Walk to Work Day. So, gather a few co-workers or go solo and use today as motivation to integrate more physical activity into your daily life. Regular walking strengthens bones, increases muscle strength, sense of balance and decreases one’s likelihood of falling. Interested? Keep reading.

Why Should You Participate in Walk to Work Day?

  • Walking is one of the best ways to stay healthy and keep your body in shape. Regular brisk walking can help you maintain a healthy weight and prevent or manage various conditions.
  • Strengthens bones and helps to prevent osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Walking is a weight bearing exercise which can increase bone density.
  • Improves mood and relieves stress. 20 minutes of modest exercise has been found to be enough to provide your body with increased energy for as much as 12 hours.
  • Allows you to reconnect with the environment. Life can be hectic, so a morning walk allows you to slow down and enjoy the beauty of your surroundings.
  • It’s easy to get started. All you need is a pair of shoes and you’re set.

How to Prepare to for Walk to Work Day?

  • Set your alarm early. You will probably need extra time to get to work.
  • Pack a breakfast to eat on the go. Pick something easy to pack and carry. This may be the perfect opportunity to try out that new parfait recipe you’ve been craving.
  • Plan your route to work. Choose a route which is safe and pedestrian friendly.
  • Grab a second pair of comfortable shoes. Work shoes typically aren’t the most comfortable, make sure your walk is enjoyable.

Unable to Participate in Walk to Work Day? Try these 3 alternatives.

  1. Walk to Lunch. Use your break to walk to a lunch spot farther from your office than normal, this will help you incorporate extra steps into your day.
  2. Use the stairs. It’s tempting to just jump on the elevator, but try and use the stairs more often. Steps are a great way to integrate extra cardio into your daily routine.
  3. Park far from your office entrance. Choose a parking spot far from your office entrance. This will help increase your steps and give you additional time to clear your head before starting your day.

How To Go From 250lbs To Gold Medalist

never too late
One of the great things about working at Zibrio is the opportunity to meet inspiring people. If you haven’t yet heard of DeEtte Sauer, you haven’t been paying attention.

She’s a two time gold medalist in the National Senior Games, getting up every day at 4.30am to swim at her local club, where, at 76, she’s 12 years older than the other ‘senior’ swimmers in her team.

Yet what is really inspiring about her, even more than her enthusiasm and current fitness, is the story of how she got here. She wasn’t always fit, in fact for most of her life she was overweight, drank heavily, smoked and engaged in little or no exercise. As she puts it, if she’d continued like that, she’d be dead by now.

Over a period of months she managed to give up smoking and drinking. The following year she stepped away from her obsession with her stressful career, and that’s when the real weight began to pile on. By the time she was 46, she weighed 250lbs, unable to join in the fun on family holidays, unable to wear anything except huge tent-like dresses that she pretended camouflaged the now desperate state of her health.

One day, the fantasy came crashing down

She had to do something. Her cholesterol was out of control, her blood pressure was high, she didn’t have the balance or strength to climb into a boat on the lake where they were vacationing. This was the final straw in a realization that had been building over a few months.

She began studying nutrition and changed her family’s diet from fried, sugary foods (“I used to eat two apple fritters while doing the grocery shopping!” she says), to healthy options.

She buddied with a friend, and together they walked every day, kept each other accountable with good eating. Surprisingly, she said, the weight began to drop off quite quickly, and that was adrenalizing. “I felt fabulous”. The big payoff came when she was shopping with friends in a ‘normal’ (not plus sized) store and discovered that she could fit into a size 14 pair of jeans. It was an emotional moment, and one that spurred her to continue.

Soon, she’d joined a gym to gain upper body strength, and when that started to get a bit boring, she spotted a flyer for a new masters swim team.

“I had watched my daughters swim, so I figured I could do it too,” she said.

The first class almost dashed her hopes, she couldn’t even swim 25 yards. On the point of giving up and feeling embarrassed, she was shocked when the young 22 year old coach said the life-changing words: “Stop your whining and do as I say. You can do this, just do what I tell you!”

From Fear to Inspiration

After 3 months, the coach had signed her up for her first competition, which was terrifying. “I was afraid of embarrassing myself,” she remembers. “But when I got there, I became inspired by Jesse Coons – a 92 year old doing butterfly. After that I knew I had to have a go.”

She has never looked back, and at the 2017 Senior Games in Alabama, she found added meaning when waiting to go up to the podium and collect her gold medal – a bucket list item. She was approached by a couple in their mid 40’s who had driven especially to meet her. “We saw your story on CBS and it inspired us. We were also killing ourselves with our unhealthy lifestyles, and thanks to you, we have changed and we are so happy.” Their words made her personal triumph all the sweeter.

DeEtte, for all her energy and positive outlook is only human. There are days when she’s tempted to gorge on double chocolate cakes, or sleep through her alarm. But she likes herself better as this healthy person. She tells herself she can go down to the pool and have an easy session. That gets her out of the door. And when she reaches the pool, her team mates and coach will push her and support her and she’ll feel great afterwards.

“If I didn’t go, I’d miss it,” she says. “We start every day laughing.”

And as for the chocolate binge, she likes her new discipline, feels that with it she is no longer hiding herself, she can be who she really is.

When she’s not travelling as an athlete, DeEtte and her husband tutor middle school kids who need extra help with their school work. I suspect that’s also part of the reason for her energetic and youthful outlook on life.

5 Things Worth Being Thankful For and Why it’ll Keep You Younger

Each November, teachers around the country prompt kids to think about what they’re thankful for. But how many of us do this in adulthood? And why only once a year? Is it merely a social habit, or is there actually a benefit to it that goes beyond the obvious good manners?

A number of studies have drawn a positive link between people who regularly practise gratitude and good mental health. They have a sense of perspective about their problems, don’t ‘sweat the small stuff’ and report that they generally feel happy, or contented.

Furthermore, in her recent book, Dr Elizabeth Blackburn (who was awarded a Nobel Prize for her work on telomeres), explains that people who take time to be present in the moment, and direct positive thoughts towards themselves and their lives, are more likely to be healthy for longer, and less likely to suffer from the diseases of aging – diabetes, heart disease, cancers.

“The ability to focus on… your present experience, turns out to be very good for the cells of your body” – Elizabeth Blackburn

According to Blackburn’s research, everything from the food we put in our bodies to the thoughts we think, have an effect – positive and negative – on the health of individual cells. The telomeres inside our cells, which control when and how they grow or die, are easily affected by what we do.

Here is her list of the things that make them happy and healthy:

  • Positive attitude: viewing problems as challenges that we’ll enjoy tackling can reduce stress response from unhealthy to healthy
  • Meditation, mindfulness and breathing exercises also reduce production of cortisol, the stress hormone, and can even help lengthen telomeres
  • Exercise, especially cardiovascular exercise, is great for telomeres
  • Eat fresh, whole foods. Avoid processed and high sugar items
  • Socialize. When we feel connected and safe with other people, whether family or friends, our cells know about it. This makes a difference, regardless of income or abilities.

So although Thanksgiving only comes once a year, make some time in your day to sit quietly and think about the good things in your life right now. It will keep you present, and it can also help strengthen good habits, like taking regular exercise and enjoying delicious food that’s good for your cells.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Diabetes & Fall Risk

glucose

If you’re one of the 422 million people who live with diabetes, you already know how much damage unused glucose in your blood can do to cell membranes, nerves and organs.

What you may not know is how diabetes can affect your balance and put you at a higher risk of falling.

Muscle Weakness:

In a study published in Diabetes Care in the UK, MRI scans revealed pockets of fat hiding inside  muscle tissue, making them able to exert less force than the outward muscle size would suggest. The effects can be seen in balance tests and gait analysis, where the muscles of the legs and hips are stiffer and weaker, making negotiating stairs and other obstacles more difficult.

This can become a negative spiral, as greater effort needed to move around makes people do less, resulting in further muscle weakening, and an even higher fall risk. Finding an activity you can safely enjoy, and ensuring it contains exercises to strengthen muscles, is one way to combat this problem.

Nerve Damage:

Neuropathy effects around 70% of diabetic patients, causing numbness, tingling and pain, especially in the extremities of the hands and feet. This lack of sensory feedback is a significant reason why patients struggle to be active, and can make tripping over objects like stairs or curbs more likely. Paying attention, and gait training, can help lower some of the risks.

Hypoglycemia:

For patients who are learning to manage insulin doses, or who don’t eat at regular intervals, low blood sugar also poses a problem, resulting in weakness, dizziness, and trouble with vision. Have a plan for what to do if this effects you, speak to your doctor about the best way to manage these fluctuations.

Eyesight:

In addition to the risk of damage to the optic nerve, it’s important to see an optometrist regularly as diabetes puts you at a higher risk of glaucoma and cataracts. We rely on sight for a huge amount of sensory information and when it deteriorates, typically our balance does too. Managing any eye conditions with corrective lenses where appropriate is a vital part of keeping on your feet.

Drug Interractions:

Many people with diabetes also have to contend with other medical issues, from cholesterol to high blood pressure. A simple rule of thumb is that the more medications you take, the higher your risk of falling. Increasing information is available to help you and your doctor work out which combinations can minimize the risk.

 

 

The information contained on this site is general in nature and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. None of the statements on this site are a recommendation as to how to treat any particular disease or health-related condition. If you suspect you have a disease or health-related condition of any kind, you should contact your health care professional immediately. Please consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise, supplementation or medication program.

Why Memory Training Is More Important Than You Think

Train your brain

Ever walk into a room and forget what you came in for? Lose your keys? Your glasses? And at what point do you stop laughing it off and start worrying that these are the early warning signs of dementia?

Scientists in Italy  recently researched a link between age-related cognitive decline and general inflammation in otherwise healthy adults. Age-related inflammation typically shows itself in conditions like thickened arteries, arthritis and diabetes, and increases at a similar time to a decrease in memory and reasoning.

The study took 32 adults over 60 and treated them to 1 hour of Memory Training twice a week for 6 months, while another group of 28 older adults received no intervention. At the start and end of the study the participants took a number of cognitive tests, as well as giving a blood sample so that the scientists could establish levels of Cortisol (the stress hormone) and other inflammatory markers.

While memory training, or Brain Training, as it is sometimes called, has become a popular in commercial products, the research behind it has often been called into question. Just because you train your mind to recall a list of names, and makes you better at name recall, doesn’t necessarily mean that your brain is ‘fitter’ all over.

But, interestingly, the 2017 study discovered that the adults who received training in specific memory tasks, namely:

  • shopping list recall
  • remembering the locations of monuments on a map in an unfamiliar city
  • names and photographs of faces
  • remembering a short story and re-writing it from memory

not only performed better in recall tests, but also showed lower inflammatory markers and lower Cortisol in the 6 month follow-up test. The mechanism for this relationship is not fully understood, but it seems that by practising these tasks, not only did the participants’ brains improve in memory tests, but their level of inflammation (and therefore risk of diabetes, thickened arteries and arthritis) declined over the same period.

Perhaps there is more to Memory Training than simply finding your keys where you expected them to be.