Walk With Confidence

When my daughter was two years old she learned to walk. At first her steps were hesitant and clumsy. Comfortable on her knees, but not her feet, she would flail with her arms for some kind of purchase and land unceremoniously on her rear. She then learned to stand while holding onto a chair or table. Once balanced, she would launch herself on wobbly legs and cross the room in an uncertain path. Slowly the crossings became more stable. She then began to run and venture forth into the adult world with a confident and secure step.

Yet, as senior adults, many have seemed to forget that confident step of their youth. Their gait is wobbly and insecure; they rely, not on their innate balance and strength, but on haphazardly placed chairs, tables or walls to affect a safe passage. Walkers and canes become a permanent part of their entourage. A simple matter of crossing a room is now an adventure fraught with peril. When confronted with this peril as children, their confidence abounded. Challenged as seniors, their conviction has seemed to age with their years.

Healthy seniors with no traumatic illnesses or physical disabilities will voluntarily abandon their right to be ambulatory and independent. They literally and figuratively become dependent upon their insecurities. And the main instigator of this lack of confidence and retreat from proper walking is the fear of falling. This fear, while realistic and well founded, inflates to become a conquering adversary and imprisons its victims in a cocoon of insecurity and doubt. Those afflicted lose their ability to assertively launch themselves into activities of daily living.

A natural consequence of aging is the loss of muscle mass and bone density. Many seniors accept and, in fact, embrace the feelings of muscle weakness, the frailty of bone loss, and the overwhelming desire to sit, lie down or otherwise engage in non-activities. The diminishing of eyesight, hearing and hydration contribute to this downward spiral, like an old car rusting on the side of the road. And, as a result, when you cannot navigate the activities of daily living, then you are simply fodder for the nursing home. You surrender your right to live an independent life to the care and nurturing of others. Yet seniors need not surrender their independence so acceptingly. As a toddler learns to walk, a senior can reawaken muscle memory and bone growth and reestablish their primacy over their own lives.

Exercise is the primary activity that will create an impediment to deteriorating muscle and bone. We have inherited the bodies of our ancestral hunters and those bodies will respond to exercise, no matter what your age. As your body is physically stressed, your muscle fibers react by becoming bigger and denser. Bones, as foundations for the muscles, recognize that growth and respond in kind. Depending on the exercise’s nature and intensity, your bones will actually slow their density loss and possibly reverse it.

Balance is a result of three systems working in harmony: your vestibular system (your inner ear acting as a gyroscope); your ocular system (vision); and proprioception (your brain’s ability to detect where your body is in space). Cognitive fitness and balance exercises can dramatically enhance those systems efficiency.

As a child, the increase of strength and muscle memory enabled you to walk with confidence your entire adult life. As a senior, this same formula will enable you to maintain your independence and perform activities of daily living with a renewed confidence. Exercise properly and you will properly function.

Copyright © 2014 Richard J. Portugal All rights reserved.

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