I am on the front lines. I see first hand how my students have changed over the last 5 years in their ability to process instructions in a timely, correct manner. I don’t mean to be an alarmist but the bells are ringing. It is time to put more attention on challenging your mind.
I try my best to adjust my programming to suit the needs of my many students. I now see that I need to add more mental stimulus to our workouts to try to mitigate the problem, but my question to you today is a simple one: what are you doing when we are not together to challenge your mind?
I encourage you to put as much focus on keeping your mind sharp, as you do on attending the gym every day for your muscles and bones. There are many games out there to keep your mind sharp and you can go the traditional route with board games or use your electronic devices. Most of you are in amazing physical shape and I want your mind to keep up with your body! Use it or lose it. I see several people in my line of work who are losing it far too young. Get busy.
One of the common complaints that I have heard over the years is, “I don’t know my left from my right!” While this is a cute way to tell others not to follow you in class, I see the effect of people refusing to try to fix this with a concerted effort. Losing direction in class can be dangerous, especially in aerobics or dance class but if we ignore this, it can impact our driving ability and put others at risk on the road. In many of my classes, I have to keep the movements quite simple because so many people are having trouble with multi-tasking and direction. When I give you directions in class, repeat them in your mind while doing them, and this will help reinforce your sense of direction and hopefully improve your ability to process the information.
It is quite normal for reaction time to slow down as we age but we can slow this effect by continually challenging our nervous system through targeted exercise. Eye hand co-ordination games like Pickle Ball and Tennis and Badminton, all help to keep our reflexes sharp. Why is this important? As an instructor, I want you to be able to slow your body down in a fall. I want you to be able to catch yourself before hitting the ground, by getting a leg out in front of you fast enough but you need to practice these movements in a safe setting. You need to maintain flexibility and strength in your muscles to recover from being off balance and to withstand hitting the ground.
“But sports irritates my knees?” I can hear many of you saying this so here is my prescription. Seriously look into what is causing your knee pain. Spend the money to discuss your situation with a physiotherapist and then address the issue. Maybe you cannot take up Pickle Ball or Badminton, but then work hard to strengthen and stretch the imbalances around your knees because avoiding the issue will not make it go away. In a situation where you are falling, you need to have good flexibility, and quick reflexes to avoid serious injury. I can’t stress this enough. Once we pass 50 or 60 years of age, it takes longer to heal if we are not in good shape before an injury and often an injury will set us back in more ways than one. So let’s address the issues that are keeping us from staying agile and be proactive instead of simply reactive.
Often, we stop moving to avoid pain in our joints but this is a dangerous cycle because the lack of movement results in atrophied weak muscles, which results in imbalances and sets us up for injury. Remember that we are fighting decay. A “rolling stone gathers no moss.” We need to keep moving, in every way that our joints are designed to move, and we need to use our mind in the process. We are aging but we can ease the process through activities that challenge every aspect of our physical well being.
“What a bummer blog post Beth!”
Sorry everyone. I am here to keep it real. Remember, I need you guys to keep going so I can keep doing what I love.