This weekend’s challenge is a practical, simple, but crucial exercise that improves leg-eye coordination to help prevent falls.
Fall prevention goes hand-in-hand with fracture prevention, and leg-eye coordination is one of the keys to unlocking excellent balance and “object avoidance” (not tripping over objects, in other words!).
Leg-eye coordination is about reinforcing the body-brain connection, and exercises that do this also help cognitive function, according to fascinating new research.
So let’s get started!
Falling is one of the primary causes of fracture in older adults. While this is a sobering fact, you don’t have to “give in” to this as an inevitable part of aging. Instead, you can be proactive and take steps – quite literally – to stave off the balance and coordination issues associated with age.
There are all kinds of reasons why age is associated with balance loss. For example:
- Typically due to disuse, muscles can atrophy with age, a phenomenon known as sarcopenia. Research shows that by the time the average person reaches the age of 75, he or she experiences a 20-40% reduction in muscle contractile strength due to a decrease in muscle mass. 1
- Eyesight can weaken over the years, especially if you’ve taken bisphosphonates. Research shows that inflammation from bisphosphonate use can increase the risk of eye conditions such as scleritis and uveitis, which can cause blurred vision, pain, and light sensitivity in the eyes.2 Good balance is dependent in large part on visual cues (this is why it’s harder to balance with your eyes closed), and if your eyesight is compromised, then the risk of falling is much higher.
- Reaction time may be a bit longer in older adults, and that split second can matter when it comes to catching yourself and correcting imbalance before a fall happens.
- Commonly prescribed drugs, such as blood pressure medication, can cause dizziness and loss of coordination. Various medications can interact with each other, too, producing symptoms of vertigo and weakness.
- Low blood sugar and low blood pressure can both cause dizziness, light-headedness, and a loss of balance.
- Poor posture can throw your body off balance, which is one of the reasons you’ll see many of our Weekend Challenges focusing both on posture and balance.
- Lifting your feet to avoid objects can become more difficult with age, making you more likely to stumble over objects.
Leg-Eye Coordination Exercises Can Offset These Tendencies
Strengthening the connection between brain and body is the key for seniors to overcome the tendencies listed above and regain balance. Balance, after all, is an interplay between the brain and the body. Visual cues tell you about your environment; your inner ear sends information to your brain about your head’s position and your movement in space; and your internal sense of spatial orientation – where your body is in space – all work together to keep you upright.
For instance, if you close your eyes and hold your leg up, you know where your leg is because of this internal balance mechanism. It’s really quite remarkable!
Exercises like the Leg-Eye Coordinator are just the thing to re-establish the connections between these internal systems.
You’ll need two soft objects such as foam blocks or small pillows for this exercise. The objects need to be at least 6 inches high.
- Place the objects on the floor 12 to 16 inches apart.
- Stand beside the objects – you’ll be facing forward with the objects to your right or left. For the sake of clarity, we’ll say the objects are on your left.
- Lift your left foot up and over the first object to side-step over it.
- Bring your right foot over – now both feet are between the objects.
- Lift your left foot and side-step over the second object the same way, following with your right foot.
- Now reverse the process and side-step over the objects leading with your right foot. This completes one set.
- Repeat the set eight to 10 times, or whatever works with your comfort level.
You can go as slowly and carefully as you like. If this is an area you really feel you need to work on, then feel free to use flatter, smaller objects or even tape on the floor to get the hang of stepping up and over something. It’s okay to start small – just start!
In fact, low-intensity exercise has been shown to be very effective in connecting the mind and body.
Study: Low-Intensity Exercises Improve Cognitive Function
A just-published study involved participants from two elderly care centers who were divided into two groups: one group practiced an eight-week coordination training program or an eight-week towel exercise program.
The coordination training consisted of “a simplified version of Tai Chi.”3 Towel exercises, according to the study, are “a type of stretching exercise mainly to train upper limb and bilateral arm movements, but utilize a towel as a tool.”3
At the beginning of the study, the participants’ cognitive functions were evaluated, and then re-evaluated at the end of eight weeks. The scores improved in both groups, although the group that engaged in the coordination training experienced slightly greater improvement. The scientists concluded that:
“…low-intensity level mind-body exercise could be beneficial to the cognitive functioning of older adults.”3
For more low-intensity exercises to round out your cognitive, balance-enhancing workout, you can try these Weekend Challenges as well: the Upper Body Mobility And Coordination Enhancer and the Seated Coordination Improver.
DenserciseTM Offers Coordination-Enhancing Exercises And So Much More
If you haven’t tried the Densercise™ Epidensity Training System yet, then you’ll be thrilled to know that this ebook system addresses all of the key areas important to those who wish to overcome the obstacles faced by the elderly. For example, Densercise™ includes exercises for balance, coordination, posture, stretching, and so much more.
Take Exercising For Your Bones to the Next Level!
Learn the 52 exercise moves that jumpstart bone-building – all backed by the latest in epigenetics research.
Not only is Densercise™ geared toward seniors’ needs, its bone-strengthening exercises are excellent for anyone of any age who wants to tone muscle and improve bone strength and density.
I’d love to get your thoughts on this weekend’s challenge, so feel free to leave a comment below.
Have a great weekend!
1 Doherty, T.J. “Invited review: Aging and sarcopenia.” Journal of Applied Physiology. October 2003. 95(4): 1717-27. Web. August 11, 2016. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12970377
2 Mahyar Etminan PharmD MSc., et al. “Inflammatory ocular adverse events with the use of oral bisphosphonates: a retrospective cohort study.” CMAJ. (2012). Web. August 11, 2016. http://www.cmaj.ca/content/early/2012/04/02/cmaj.111752.full.pdf+html
3 Kwok, Timothy C. Y., et al. “Effectiveness of coordination exercise in improving cognitive function in older adults: a prospective study.” Clin Interv Aging. 6. (2011): 261-267. Web. August 11, 2016. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3212417/