This weekend I share with you an effective arm-strengthening and balance-enhancing exercise, and all you need is a common bath towel.
You’ll be standing on one leg during this move, so the benefits of weight-bearing exercise are “doubled”, since all of your weight is on one leg instead of two.
And we also take a look at new research that connects balance with brain health in older adults, so this move goes well beyond strengthening bones and muscles.
Now grab your bath towel and let’s get started!
Balance is crucial because, obviously, good balance prevent falls, and in conjunction with increased bone strength and integrity, it’s a vital component of fracture prevention. And a recent study has shown that balance also acts as a “gauge” to determine your brain health (more on that later).
The Balancing Arms And Legs Toner increases bone strength and integrity through the use of muscle and gravity on bone (according to Wolff’s Law).
You might be surprised to learn some of the bones and muscles that are strengthened by biceps curls and by standing on one leg. Here they are…
- Biceps brachii
You probably know about the biceps brachii, which is usually shortened simply to “biceps.” These are the arm muscles that are the most visible when you lift a weight.
This is a lesser-known muscle that lies beneath the lower part of the biceps brachii. It connects the lower part of the upper arm bone (humerus) to the top of the ulna (one of the bones of the forearm). The brachialis is responsible for elbow flexion.
This muscle works with the brachialis to flex the elbow. It also connects the lower arm and forearm, originating at the base of the humerus and attaching to the radius (the second bone of the forearm, on the thumb side).
- Deltoids (shoulder muscles)
Biceps curls work these muscles that form the rounded top and sides of the shoulders. It has a triangular shape, and attaches to your shoulder blade, clavicle, and humerus.
- Gluteus maximus and minimus (bottom muscle)
These are the main muscles of the buttocks, and are key for human locomotion. When you raise one leg – the basic move from which all gaits originate – you engage your “glutes.” Standing on one leg gives the glutes of the standing leg a workout.
- Quadriceps (thigh muscle)
Located at the front of your thigh, the quads are a four-fold muscle group that stabilizes the knee joint and pelvis. They lift the upper leg and work to lower your hips down into a squat and back up again.
- Gastrocnemius (calf muscle)
You can feel this muscle bulge out at the back of your leg when you stand on tiptoe or point your toes. Many people do not realize that the gastrocnemius actually originates on the lower part of the femur before running down the back of the lower leg and attaching to the back of the heel bone (calcaneus).
- Soleus (calf muscle)
The gastrocnemius joins with the soleus, running from just below the knee to the heel. It is a powerful muscle involved in standing and walking.
- Capri ulnaris, digiti minimi, indicis, and the pollicis brevis (wrist extensors)
These are just a few of the muscles that are responsible for the motion of the complex wrist joint. The wrist extensors go from the wrist all the way to the base of the humerus, connecting the forearm to the upper arm.
- Carpi radialis, carpi ulnaris, digitorum profundus, and superficialis (wrist flexors)
The wrist flexors connect your elbow and your hand, allowing your fingers to curl and your wrist to flex upward.
- Radius and ulna (bones of the lower arm)
These important bones of the forearm are strengthened by the action of the wrist flexors and extensors. It makes sense to build density and tensile strength in these bones to prevent wrist fractures.
- Humerus (upper arm bone)
The biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis, and deltoids work to simulate bone growth in the humerus.
- Scapula (shoulder blade)
The deltoids are the primary scapula-strengthening muscles used in today’s exercise. The other upper arm muscles play a role as well.
- Pelvis (specifically the posterior superior iliac crest, or PSIS)
The motion of standing on one leg targets the quads and glutes, which are important for stabilizing and aligning the pelvis. In addition, this move helps build bone density in the pelvis. Raising one leg engages the posterior superior iliac crest, which is the back ridge of the pelvic crest and an important component in pelvic strength.
- Femur (thigh bone)
Your quads attach at various points along your femur, so when you work your thigh muscles in this week’s challenge, you’ll be stimulating bone growth in this important leg bone. Because you are standing on one leg at a time, you get more benefit from this weight-bearing move than if you were standing on two legs.
- Tibia and Fibula (lower leg bones)
The tibia is also known as your shin bone, and it runs down the front of your leg and makes up part of your knee joint. The fibula is smaller, and is not actually a part of the knee at all. The fibula lies behind and beside the tibia, and comes down to form the “ankle bump” you can feel on the outside of your leg. Building density in these bones is important to prevent ankle fractures.
An ordinary bath towel works fine for this exercise. It is the perfect pre-shower move!
- Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, lift one knee.
- Take the towel and place it under the lifted knee.
- Hold each end of the towel in both hands and stand up straight.
- Using the towel, bring your leg up as you do a biceps curl, then bring your leg back down. You’re basically using your leg as a weight.
- Repeat the curls eight to 10 times (or as many as you can).
- Switch legs and repeat the curls another eight to 10 times.
If balance is a concern, you can work one arm at a time. Stand near a wall or chair so you can use your free hand to catch yourself in case you lose your balance. Then hold both ends of the towel in one hand and do the curls. Then switch to the other leg and arm and repeat.
As you do this and other balance exercises on a regular basis, you’ll find that your balance will improve. This is important for more than just fall prevention, research shows.
Study Shows Connection Between Balance And Brain Health
Studies have confirmed that balance exercises improve life quality and the ability to perform daily tasks. But balance is also an indicator of brain health, according to a recent Japanese study. Measuring one-leg standing time among a group of 1,387 seniors, researchers concluded that balance ability is indicative of cognitive function.1 The better the balance, the healthier the brain, in other words.
So there is more to be gained by improving balance than you may have realized. The Densercise™ Epidensity Training System includes many balance-enhancing moves, so when you Densercise™ for just 15 minutes a day, three days a week, you’re doing much more than just preventing falls. You’re improving posture, balance, bone strength, muscle tone, and so much more. You’re also boosting your brain health.
The benefits of exercise encompass the whole body. While Densercise™ is an exercise program specifically designed to improve bone density, the benefits go well beyond the skeleton. When you work to improve your bone strength, you’ll reap positive effects from head to toe!
Have a great weekend!
1 Tabara, Yasuharu, PhD, et al. “Association of Postural Instability With Asymptomatic Cerebrovascular Damage and Cognitive Decline.” Stroke. December 18, 2014. Doi: 1.1161/SROKEAHA.114.006704. Web. http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/early/2014/12/18/STROKEAHA.114.006704.abstract