What’s the Single Most Important Thing You Need to Focus on to Stay Fit and Active as You Age?
Exercise. Walking. Water Aerobics. Yoga. Good nutrition. Getting enough sleep. Managing stress. Hydration. All of these are important. The #1 concept that holds them all together is balance.
In my work with adults aged 55–85, I’ve learned that to stay fit and active as we age, we need to focus on balance in three areas:
- Balanced joint alignment,
- Balance while we’re in motion,
- Balanced lifestyle.
Let’s cover some simple, practical tips to maintain balance in all three areas.
Balance Your Joints
Some people believe that arthritis, joint pain, and stooped posture are unavoidable, non-negotiable parts of aging. While it’s true that our bodies eventually slow down, and we go through some life situations we cannot change, we don’t have to experience pain and limited motion.
In many cases, it’s the uneven wear and tear on joints that causes pain. For example, if your feet pronate (collapse on the inner arch) too much, your knees or low back may hurt. By aligning your feet with better muscular balance side to side and top to bottom, you can avoid this pain.
I’ve also seen many older adults who are in excellent cardiovascular condition, but have stooped posture and pain in their knees, hips, backs, and necks. These adults have often been endurance athletes, with a lifelong love and commitment to bike riding, running, hiking, or cardio machines at the gym.
While these activities are wonderful for overall health, energy, immunity, and mood, they involve repetitive motions. Without cross-training and stretching, the same muscles get used for hours every day. The neglected muscles complain, and the imbalanced muscle effort puts imbalanced strain on the joints.
Yoga, Pilates, tai chi, and other mindful movement practices bring awareness to our posture. They help us see where we are tight and weak. We have to stretch out the tight places to reduce the uneven forces on our joints.
In my work as a yoga therapist, I help people stretch the tight places and strengthen the weak ones to improve posture, align their joints, and reduce pain.
Balance Your Balance
It’s no secret that maintaining balance and staying upright are crucial to keeping fit and active as we age. One fall can be a huge setback, especially if we break a bone or have another serious injury.
When I talk to many potential clients, they often say, “I can’t balance at all,” or “My balance is terrible.” (Once they become my clients, they learn to speak and act proactively about their balance!)
I have a big gripe with one part of senior fitness programming. The balance exercises are often too still. I’ve never heard of anyone falling while standing on one foot and touching the wall.
People usually fall when they are already in motion – walking, going down stairs, or stepping over an obstacle. To maintain and improve our balance, we’ve got to practice dynamic balance, in motion!
We also need to balance in multiple directions, including forward, backward, right, left, and while in rotation.
Balance Your Lifestyle
Even if you have the best intentions to exercise, align your joints, and practice balance every day, it’s incredibly difficult without a holistic approach. If you’re not sleeping well, eating well, or managing stress, even simple activities you need to do will feel a lot harder!
That’s why in my very first conversation with a potential client, I ask them how well they are sleeping, hydrating, digesting, and managing stress. In their first week with me, we track sleep, hydration, fruits and vegetables, and activities that bring them joy and peace.
These foundational health habits are the keys to a balanced lifestyle and must be in place to support gains in flexibility, strength, and stamina. A balanced lifestyle is also absolutely necessary for healthy bones.
To get you started, here are a few free resources:
- Two Most Important Vitamins for Healthy Aging (and You’ve Never Heard of Them)
- How I Improved Insomnia with Meditation and Yoga Lifestyle
- Calmer This Year Free Meditation Training
If you’d like to learn more ways to balance your body and stay fit and active for as long as possible, check out my free webinar Balance Your Body with Mindful Movement.
What is your weakest point of balance? What do you do to overcome that weakness? What exercises of lifestyle changes have you adapted? Which ones do you the most good? Please leave a comment below.