People interested in living a long, healthy life often research the latest information about natural ways of avoiding the major killers of our time, cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
But if you’re interested in remaining healthy long into your retirement years, there’s one other aspect of your health worth paying closer attention to – your ability to stand and walk safely.
The reason this is so important is that falls are a leading cause of death for the elderly. Although people don’t often die immediately from a fall, secondary causes of death following a fall are very common. These include pneumonia, strokes, brain injury, heart failure and infections.
Add the fact that one in three Americans over age 65 are likely to fall and you can see the problem. Currently the death rate from falling is up 55% since the 1990s. This is very likely due to the increased levels of passive, sedentary lifestyles many people follow as they get older.
Avoiding the Problem
Fortunately, there are some great natural ways to escape the deadly consequences of falling. These include:
- Tai Chi (taiji)
- Lower Body Strength Training
Each of these activities strengthens your hip and leg muscles, which improves your ability to stand and walk safely. And while I like all of these approaches for improving balance and stability, I’m particularly fond of Tai Chi and Qigong. These are the activities that along with strengthening are especially effective for improving balance and coordination.
In fact, the July, 2008 issue of the American Journal of Public Health published a study showing that Tai Chi significantly reduced falls in seniors who practice it.
And, participants in the study didn’t have to do hours of exercise each day to get the benefits. Improved stability and decreased numbers of falls happened with only 2, one-hour classes a week. An added bonus for these people was greater independence in daily life.
How To Get These Benefits
For people unfamiliar with Tai Chi, it is a Chinese martial art that emphasizes slow, fluid movements combined with breathing and relaxed mental focus. Qigong is similar to Tai Chi, but is not specifically a martial art.
Adding to the advantages of these two forms of movement is that they are suitable for all ages. Even folks who don’t regularly exercise or who don’t enjoy or who can’t do high intensity workouts(like aerobics or weight training) can enjoy Tai Chi or Qigong.
Both of these forms of exercise are increasingly available in local health clubs, YMCAs and recreation centers.A quick search online or in your yellow pages and a few calls should locate a class near you.