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November 30, 2018. For someone you love. Someone who loves you back and appreciates your genuine concern for their well-being. Someone who likes to stand on their own two feet.

Somebody who, like anybody, could slip, trip or otherwise sprain an ankle or end up on their butt later today. And off their feet for six to eight weeks. Not to mention the pain.

Somebody who could benefit from some balance training. On a Balance Board. It’ll strengthen the dozens of muscles you use reflexively to regain your balance at the moment you sense you might lose it.

The exercise is actually fun – like being on a tiny surfboard. And after a couple of weeks of training, you feel the difference every time you step onto an uneven surface, a slippery surface or anything unstable. Three minutes a day on the board will do the trick. Too busy? C’mon, wake up and stand on your balance board for the first three minutes you’re checking your e-mail. Really, you can do that. Personally, I’m not big on that kind of multi-tasking. But it beats a sprained ankle.

I’ve been doing this since I lost my balance on a steep stairway and had a wicked ankle sprain fifteen years ago. I’ve been upright ever since. These little devices prevent injuries and even save lives. They’re great for overall conditioning. And they’re fun. Small enough to use anywhere. Fits under any tree. Should make it down most chimneys.

You can buy this basic balance board for $26. That’s less than the co-pay in the emergency room.

How it works
The board doesn’t balance you; you balance you. The board’s bottom isn’t flat; it’s curved. So when you stand on it, it’s almost surely going to tip to one side or the other. The object of the game is to balance yourself and the board by perfectly centering your weight on the absolute center of the board. Which really isn’t that hard; do it a few times and you’ll be an expert. In the first few seconds, you’ll feel dozens of small muscles in your calves, ankles and feet working to make the fine adjustments. And you’ll use all your core muscles, especially your abs, to maintain your center of balance. It’s a great way to exercise. The less you move, the better you’re doing.

It’s Always Something
Of the 300,000 men and women over 65 who fracture a hip this year, 20% will die within a year. And 50% won’t regain their mobility; they’ll move to nursing homes. Journal of the American Medical Association.

Every Thing Is Everything
Strong bones: another way to avoid hip fractures. Weight-bearing exercise like my Strength Training 101 contributes mightily to bone density and strength as well as to muscle mass and strength. Buy someone a gift subscription. A whole year of Better Cheaper Stronger Balanced. For $10.

If your bone density’s on the way down – and this begins after age 35 if you don’t counter it with exercise and diet – you’re on the way to osteopenia and its severe form, osteoporosis. If you get there, you’re at a significantly higher risk for hip, spine, wrist and rib fractures.

Like muscle, bone is living tissue that responds to exercise by becoming stronger… The best exercise for your bones is the weight-bearing kind, which forces you to work against gravity. Some examples of weight-bearing exercises include weight training, walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, tennis, and dancing.” (National Institutes of Health). And you know how I feel about dancing.

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