Monday, October 10, 2011

Muscle Memory

I ended yesterday’s post saying I would next discuss balance, and why it means so much to me.

When we learn to walk we develop the ability to automatically coordinate a large number of muscles so that we can move and balance without having to focus on the individual activities that are involved. It is theorized that new neural pathways are created in the brain to allow us to walk - these pathways give the muscles a sense of ("Muscle Memory").

Unfortunately, as we age we tend to loose muscle tone, muscle response, and, if we don’t work on it, our ability to balance.

I read a Scandinavian study on tripping and age. The conclusion was that people in their twenties trip as often as people in their 50's - but people in their 20's recover from their trips while older folk have more of a tendency of going down.

Ouch.

So, rather than focusing just on strength training, and building big muscles, I focus on my core and building better balance. To this end I do a lot of my exercises, like curls and presses, while either standing on a Bosu Ball or laying back on an inflated exercise ball. And, I only do one arm at a time - which puts my body in an unbalanced condition - along with my standing on a Bosu or balancing on an exercise ball.

Yup, after years of working at this, I can in fact stand on one leg and do curls. DON’T start out on one leg on a Bosu. Start with one leg on the ground and one on the Bosu. As you develop your stability, shift weight to the Bosu. Since you are only using one arm to do your exercises you can use the other hand to hold onto a wall or piece of gym equipment. Once you can move both feet to the Bosu you can start focusing on being able to let go of the wall/equipment. And, with time, you will hopefully be able to shift to one leg.

Why does it matter so much - because one hard fall can break a 50-something or 60-something’s hip - which is all too often the start of serious challenges.

By doing unbalanced exercises on a Bosu you are also developing your core muscles - which help support your back and help minimize back injuries.

Amazingly this regimen also does a wonderful job of strengthening your overall physique and toning your muscles - providing you with a much more balanced musculature.

And, hopefully, when you find yourself tripping over a step or hose or dog toy, you will catch yourself before you fall!

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