Dear Reader,

To help us as we grow older, balance is probably the most important skill for us to keep up to date with. Imbalance is the cause of so many injuries and anything that we can do to help is surely worthy of look – and especially so if it helps prevent an injury. How many times have you heard about friends who have had a fall and the broken wrist takes forever to heal and worse if it is a hip injury that will certainly lead to a hospital visit, with all of the complications and other dangers that brings.

It’s funny, in a way, that balance as we learn as babies is so important. It’s fun watching a toddler doing its best to stand unaided for the very first time and it’s ironic that as we age it’s one of the most important things that seems to desert us. But this need not be so. In mid-life, we are all invincible and could walk a tightrope or ride a bike without holding the handlebars, and then one day, we notice that we are having problems. So, what can we do to help ourselves

Our central nervous system is the focal point for balance and where the information, in micro-seconds, goes to and comes back from the brain, advising our muscle control to do its job. However, a lot of this depends on strength and practice – just like a baby who will get better and better from the very first steps. The same applies to adults where if we are constant in our effort to keep the very best of balance, the skill stays with us. It’s a bit like flying a plane, (of course, much less complicated) but where if you don’t keep practicing, you lose the skill.

The brain uses all of our sensory system to work out what messages to send to the motor nerves that control the muscles, and primarily it does this by taking on board what we see. Visual information tells us if it’s safe to walk or run on what or where. In the process, our brain controls the wonderful machine that is our body. Close the eyes and the whole system shuts down. And all the more reason why we should all have our eyes tested at regular intervals or at least wear glasses when you need them when standing and walking.

Why do we need to be strong? Our leg muscles, the gluteal muscles (in the cheeks of the bottom) and the muscles in our lumbar spine (lower back) all have a terrific job to do to get us out of a chair and then to hold us upright; and as we age, they lose muscle-tone and are less able to do the jobs that they have been designed for. The same applies to the muscles in the upper body and arms that we use to grab hold of something when in difficulty. If they are weak, then we risk disaster. So, what can we do to keep them in good condition?

Many of you will know that prior to working full-time with SkinLikes we had, for 16 or more years, clinics in Glasgow and Ayrshire where we specialised in treating people with all sorts of musculoskeletal injuries. In this, we regularly taught them simple exercises as part of the rehabilitation regime. They are good for the muscles that we use to keep our balance, and here a few of them to consider.

Gluteal muscles (in the bottom): Easy to start with this and even easier to do. When you awake in the morning and you are in bed on your back, clench the cheeks of your bottom together and then release. Repeat 50 or more times and listen to your body as the blood flows to these muscles, revitalising and strengthening the very things that you sit on all day and every day.

Leg muscles: Still in bed and on your back. Keep the left leg straight and lift it a few inches off the bed and hold the position for as long as you can. Lower it down and rest. Then do it with the other leg. Repeat as often as you can manage. As the days go by you should get better and better and eventually be able to do both legs at the same time. And the plus point is that you are safely tucked up under the duvet while all of this is going on.

Later in the day: Sit in a chair. Hold a tin of beans in one hand, then lift and lower it as many times as you can, flexing towards the shoulder. Try to find something that is heavier (or if you can afford) buy some dumb bells. You might think that a simple exercise with a lightweight article is useless, but it’s all a case of weight over distance. The more that you do it, the better the blood-flow to the muscle and the more supple and stronger (over time) it will become.

Keeping your Balance: Stand near to something that you can grab hold of easily, a door handle or a work surface. Lift one of your feet off the ground (just a little) and see how long you can stand on one leg. Then repeat on the other side. Then repeat several times on both legs for 90 seconds each leg. Look straight ahead as you do the exercise. With practice, it will amaze you how the balance improves by doing something so simple. Then you can be ambitious, like in the attached photo of the lady doing yoga. But that’s a newsletter for another day.

You can find out all about us and read other helpful articles at Best wishes from all of the team at SkinLikes.

Office: 0800 023 6252