Today, I want you to step away briefly from this message, for just a moment, and test your balance.
Of course, balance matters, and good balance prevents falls. But the reason for this test today is that balance is also a marker for how old you really are... in body, not on the calendar.
So here we go...
Stand near something you can grab if need be because you will close your eyes for this test.
When your eyes are closed stand on one foot and start counting. Go!
You can open your eyes after you're back on two feet.
How long did you last before toppling over?
Here's the correlation between your ability to keep your balance on one foot with your eyes closed and your functional age:
28 seconds = 25-30y
22 seconds= 30-35y
16 seconds = 40y
12 seconds = 45y
9 seconds = 50y
8 seconds = 55y
7 seconds = 60y
6 seconds = 65y
4 seconds = 70y
The numbers come from ShareCare, the team of health professionals that has devised the RealAge test.
If you have never taken the RealAge test, we encourage you to do that sometime soon (but read to the end of this first, OK?).
Physical balance has obvious benefits related to the quality of your life, especially as you get older. We may have a good chuckle at the old “help, I've fallen and I can't get up” commercials, but the truth is scary...
Emergency rooms treat about 3 million people a year who fall and hurt themselves. If you fall, the odds are one in five you will injure yourself beyond a simple bruise or skinned knee. And most startling: about 95% of all hip fractures come from falling, not from simple weakened bones as you might expect.
If your test of standing on your leg with your eyes closed was bad news, start improving now. Here are a few tips from Gaiam, the maker of bosu, exercise balls, and yoga mats for gently improving your balance:
Anytime you make the surface underneath you smaller or less stable, you are going to have to use more balance. For example, balancing on one foot gives you a smaller base, and standing on a thick yoga mat can produce a less stable surface. Try these exercises, with or without training aids, to start improving your balance.
• Try standing on one foot and moving your arms around. Once you’ve mastered that, try standing on one foot and bending down to pick something up in front of you (like a book or some keys), all while keeping your balance.
• Traditional lunges and squats are also good ways to test and gain your balance. Focus on keeping your core strong to combat wobble.
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