By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
December 14, 2016
- It’s never to early to start saving your muscles
- Sometimes the simplest things are the hardest
- The best thing ever to boost muscle strength and prevent falls
Last month, singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen made headline news. He died in his sleep after falling in the middle of the night.
It wasn’t clear why he fell. And I’m not going to speculate.
What I will do, however, is give you the tools you need to avoid the same fate.
Here’s the thing. You start losing muscle when you’re in your 30’s. And clear signs of physical decline can often be seen by the time you hit your 50’s. But most folks ignore the early warning signals.
For example, give this little exercise a try. All you need is a 60-second timer of some sort. Even a clock with a secondhand will work…
Position yourself next to a counter or sturdy table. Then, stand up straight and place your arms straight out in front of you (horizontally). Next, bend your left knee and raise your foot off of the floor. This should put your knee at a 90 degree angle and your thigh parallel with your left arm.
Hold this position for a full 60 seconds. Then, repeat on the other leg.
Now, if you’ve faltered during the process… if you had to swing your arms for balance, jiggle your foot around or lower your other leg to regain balance… then you may already be experiencing balance problems and muscle loss in your lower body.
If you didn’t perform well on that test, try this one…
Are You at Risk for a Fall?
Find yourself a solid straight back chair without arm rests. The seat shouldn’t be more than 17 inches tall.
Position yourself in the middle of the seat and place your feet shoulder width apart. Then, cross your arms over your chest. Next, stand all the way up – then sit completely back down – as often as you can in 30 seconds.
Each fully completed sit/stand counts toward your final score. So keep track of them. (If you have to use your hands, your score is automatically zero.)
Did you complete 10… 15… 20?
This number, along with your age and gender, determines your risk of taking a fall.
For example, in your early 60’s a poor score is fewer than 14 for men and less than 12 for women. An excellent score is higher than 19 and 17, respectively. (Everything in between is considered average.)
This means that if you’re still in your 50’s – or even younger – you probably want to be able to perform at least 20 sit/stands to ensure your future livelihood. Click here to see where you fall.
If you haven’t performed as well as you would like on these tests, here’s what I suggest.
The Best Thing you can do to save Your Muscles
One of the interesting things about these tests is that, if you fail them, they can then become part of your exercise routine. The more frequently you perform them, the more strength you will build.
There are also plenty of other exercises you can do to build strength and improve balance in your lower body. Squats and lunges are two of my favorites. The key, however, is to modify any exercise program to match your fitness level.
If you’re at the lower end of the spectrum, it will take you awhile to work your way up to full fitness and balance. Check with your doctor if you have any medical condition that could prevent you from safely doing these beginning in home exercises. If you’re already at the high end, you want to stay there.
With that in mind, here’s a quick routine that combines lower body-balance training with a high intensity workout session. For your convenience, I’m breaking it down into two different levels so that it will work for you, no matter what your current condition.
Here’s what to do if you need to take a beginners approach…
- Walk forward briskly for ten paces. Then, stop and perform the 60 second leg lift on each leg (this is the same exercise as above).
- Walk sideways to your left for ten paces. When completed, march in place (knees high!) for 30 seconds.
- Walk backwards for ten paces. Then try this… Bend your left leg at the knee and raise it backward as if you’re going to kick yourself in the rear end. Then, do the same with your right leg. Alternate this movement for 30 seconds.
- Walk sideways to your right for ten paces.
Perform this routine three times with a one or two minute rest between each segment.
If you’re fit as a fiddle and want to stay that way, here’s a higher intensity version of the same program…
- Run forward as fast as you can for ten paces. Stop and march rapidly in place for 30 seconds to a minute.
- Quickly shuffle sideways for ten paces to your left. When you stop, take 30 seconds or more to perform a set of fast-paced “butt-kickers” (#3 above).
- Run backwards for ten paces. Stop and perform at least 20 squats.
- Rapidly shuffle sideways to your right for ten paces.
Once again, this workout should be repeated about three times, with a one or two minute rest between each segment.
This fancy footwork, along with the muscle-building exercises in between, can do a world of wonder for your balance, agility, stability, endurance and stamina. So get up and get moving… nobody else is going to do it for you.
Hall KS, et al. Physical Performance Across the Adult Life Span: Correlates With Age and Physical Activity. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2016 Jun 29.