Weekend Challenge: The Balancing Split Squat
This weekend I share an exercise that strengthens your bones in key areas, such as the femur, pelvis, and more. It also improves balance, which obviously gets more important as we age.
Speaking of aging, did you know that how you perceive your age plays a significant role in staying healthy in your later years? It’s been scientifically proven, and we’ll take a look at two studies that discuss this fascinating mind-body connection.
Now let’s get started with a description of the muscles worked in the Balancing Split Squat, and why it’s so good for your bones and balance.
A squat works some key muscle groups in your lower body, helping to build bone density in the pelvis, femur, knees, and ankles.
- The glutes (buttocks) are the largest muscles in your body. They are, in fact, the primary muscle group that allows humans to walk upright. So it makes sense that they are vital for standing straight and having a strong, balanced gait.
In addition, working the glutes puts healthy pressure on the pelvic bones, building strength and density and increasing fracture resistance.
- The quadriceps (quads) are composed of 4 muscles in the front of the thighs. Squats target these muscles, strengthening and stabilizing the knee joint and hips and building bone strength in your femur.
When you do a squat, you can place your hand on your thighs and feel these muscles working hard.
- The hamstrings run through the back of each thigh thighs, and are made of 3 muscles. They work antagonistically with the quads, so your entire upper leg gets a workout with the Balancing Squat.
- Your calves get a workout when you do squats, specifically the soleus and gastrocnemius muscles. This helps strengthen the bones in your lower leg and your ankles.
- The torso is also engaged when you do squats, particularly your lower back muscles (erector spinae) and the muscles that run along your sides (the transverse abdominals).
When you consider the delicate act of balancing, you can see how all of these muscles are utilized to maintain an upright posture and avoid falls.
You’ll want to have a chair or wall nearby as you learn this exercise, so you can hold on to something, if necessary.
- Stand with one leg back and one forward, as in a lunge (we’ll talk about the difference between a squat and a lunge in a moment). Toes should be facing forward. The forward foot should be flat and the back foot should be far enough back that your heel is off the ground.
- Hold your hands out in front of you, turned slightly out to the sides with your elbows slightly bent (as if cradling a really large ball).
- Drop your back knee down to a few inches off the floor; your front knee should not bend past your toes.
- Come back up to the starting position.
- Repeat 8 to 12 times, or however many times you feel comfortable.
- Switch legs and repeat another set of 8 to 12.
You might be wondering why this is called the Balancing Squat rather than the Balancing Lunge. I’ll explain.
The Difference Between Squats And Lunges
The main difference between these two exercises is where most of your weight is placed.
Today’s exercise is a split squat, and most of your weight is concentrated on the front leg. The back foot is lightly touching the floor, but not taking much weight.
In a lunge, your weight is distributed evenly, and you’re coming down and back up with your front and back legs working equally.
Both squats and lunges help promote balance, and research is clear that as we age, balance is more important than ever. Amazingly, research also suggests that our personal perception of our age is equally vital in preserving our overall health (including bone health).
You’re Only As Old As You Feel – Really!
A remarkable study evaluated 47 men and women aged 63 to 82 years old, all of whom walked without assistance and considered themselves healthy. Then, while participants played a computer game, researchers periodically flashed a screen with either a positive (such as “wisdom”) or negative (such as “decrepit”) reinforcement about aging stereotypes. The words flashed too fast to be seen, but the messages sank in.
The results are fascinating. Those who received positive reinforcement about aging actually showed an increase in walking speed and swing time, while the negative reinforcement group showed no change.
Researchers noted that:
“The observed improvements in gait were related to the positive intervention, but were not related to age, gender, health status, or psychosocial status.”1
This is important, because it clearly shows that the positive reinforcement had a very real effect on the physical health of the participants.
The study concludes that…
“Interventions designed to enhance perceptions of old age may prove beneficial in helping to improve gait and functional independence among older persons. In the future, positive changes in society’s view of aging may also help to reduce and prevent age-related declines in function…”1
More Research Confirms The Health-Promoting Effect Of Positive Self-Perception
Another study spanned an 18-year period and included 433 participants. Researchers examined the participants’ beliefs about their own aging, and evaluated their functional health.
They found that those with positive self-perceptions about their age had greater functional health, which led them to conclude that
“[…] the way in which individuals view their own aging affects their functional health.”2
Amazingly, scientists found that those with positive age stereotypes actually lived 7.5 years longer, and recovered from periods of disability much faster as well.2
How You Can Find That Positive Self-Perception
It’s evident that your beliefs and attitudes about aging can go a long way toward improving your quality of life in your later years. So how can you get there?
If you don’t have a positive outlook regarding aging, then it’s time for a change of mindset. Start with your “vocabulary” – when you think of age, associate it with words like “sage” or “wise,” and consider what a wonderful resource the older population is. Spend time with other seniors who are active in their community and have an upbeat attitude.
Another powerful way to change your perception of aging is to get involved in activities typically associated with youth, like exercising on a regular basis, which gives you more energy and makes you feel and look younger.
The good news is that the Save Our Bones approach incorporates the whole body, which includes the mind. Abundant research points to the positive mindset that exercise promotes, including elevated mood.
With the Densercise™ Epidensity Training System you’ll be achieving a youthful perception of yourself all the while you’ll rejuvenate your bones and body.
Enjoy the weekend!
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Learn the 52 exercise moves that jumpstart bone-building – all backed by the latest in epigenetics research.
1 Hausdorff, J.M.; Levy, B.R.; and Wei, J.Y. “The power of ageism on physical function of older persons: reversibility of age-related gait changes.” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. November 1999. 47(11): 1346-9. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10573445
2 Levy, B.R.; Slade, M.D.; Kasl, S.V. “Longitudinal benefit of positive self-perceptions of aging on functional health.” The Journals of Gerontology. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences. September 2002. 57(5): P409-17.Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12198099