When you get older, you may become wiser, but also a little bit more uncoordinated. It could happen for a number of reasons, but it actually doesn’t have to. Here are three great exercises that you can add to your workout routine so that you can find your balance and remain active, no matter how old you are.
What does coordination mean?
“Coordination is the ability to use different parts of the body together smoothly and efficiently,” says Kathy Caiello, ACE certified advanced exercise specialist and owner of Kathy Caiello’s FitStop. Being able to move two different parts of your body with ease will give you better functionality and balance. Not only is it vital in certain, if not all sports, but it’s also an important part of day-to-day life.
There are many parts to coordination. Each system works to keep us balanced. The first is visual, which involves our eyes to help us identify direction and movement. The vestibular system is in the inner ear and it tells us whether we’re standing upright or doing a handstand. The final system is somatosensory, which concerns the perception of body sensations, such as touch. Each of these systems helps with your coordination and if one isn’t functioning as it should be, it can throw you off.
You might find that as you get older, your coordination starts to decrease. Maybe you can’t move as easily as you used to be able to or balance as well as you used to. Caiello explains that, for older people, “they tend to lose their coordination because of loss of muscle strength and balance due to lack of exercise.” Unfortunately, to add to this, falling is a common occurrence for seniors. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that one in four Americans over the age of 65 falls every year.
Exercises That Can Help With Coordination
To beat the odds and prevent falling, it’s ideal that you work on your coordination, especially as you get older. A great way to do so is to incorporate certain exercises and movements into your daily routine. Studies have shown that active seniors have better motor performance than their sedentary counterparts; this is why it’s important to keep moving.
“Walking is a simple activity that can work on coordination,” says Caiello. It helps to build strength in your lower body, works on your motor coordination, and counts as aerobic exercise. It doesn’t matter how much distance you cover. What counts is how long you walk for.
Older people tend to lose their coordination because of loss of muscle strength and balance due to lack of exercise.
Try really focusing on the heel-to-toe movement. When you place one foot in front of the other, make sure that all of your weight is on your heel. Then, slowly shift the weight to the sole of your foot before placing your toes down on the ground. Then, repeat on the other side. This will assist in maintaining balance as you shift your weight. As you slowly start to improve, add more minutes to your routine or try going up hills to make walking more intense. “I also like to cross train by moving in all directions and adding arm combinations and patterns,” adds Caiello.
This is an easy movement to include in your day-to-day life because you can choose to walk to places instead of driving, for example. Just remember, as well, to use a cane or walking stick if you need to.
Caiello recommends taking up dance classes, such as Zumba. Plus, dancing your way to better coordination is a fun way to improve it! It involves a lot of cognitive work because you need to memorize the moves and constantly think about the next step. It also includes music, which means that you have to move in time with the beat. You’re not only working on your coordination with your own body but to the beat of the music, as well.
Aaptiv classes are set to the music you love, there’s a genre and a class for everyone.
Studies have shown that dancing can “reduce the prevalence of falls and cardiovascular health risks.” So, it’s not just your coordination that benefits from taking up dancing as an extracurricular activity. There are different types of dancing that you can do, so just pick one that you enjoy. If you want to do something fun with a friend or partner, then ballroom dancing is a great pick, as well.
For a more gentle exercise, try tai chi. Tai chi consists of moving your body with slow, gentle movements in conjunction with deep breathing. It works to cultivate your qi—or life energy—throughout your body. You have low chi when you don’t feel slow and tired, and tai chi helps to restore this.
This low-impact exercise assists in controlling your movements as you learn to shift your weight, which you can then apply when it comes to walking and running. You’ll become steadier on your feet whether you’re standing still or on the move. The New England Journal of Medicine saw promising results of tai chi improving the balance of those with Parkinson’s disease and reducing falls, so it’s a great exercise to add to your fitness regime.
For other low-impact exercises, try yoga or walking with Aaptiv.
Age is nothing but a number.
As you age, you may think that losing your coordination skills or balance is something that you just have to deal with, but that’s a myth. As long as you keep up your exercises and remain active, you can remain fit. Caiello sees it all the time with her clients, adding,“[With] the majority of people in my club, about 80 percent are over 50 years old…Some have been with me over 25 years and they really are more fit than many 20-30-year-olds!”