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December 19, 2016

Obviously, physical balance is important to all of us.  It becomes vital as we age.  Sadly, there is a real tendency for us to move away from the activities that promote balance as the years go by.  Our youthful games and daring gradually give way to more sedentary pursuits such as sitting around like so many elderly lumps.  Those of us in the various stages of COPD can find even more reasons to remain idle.


We all know about the importance of exercise to build up our muscles that still work, in order to help compensate for our decreased lung capacity.  Fit muscles require less oxygen and make little things like moving so much easier!


Exercise regimens can take many forms, since we all have our own unique abilities, strengths, and weaknesses.  With COPD, our capacity for exercise may change from day to day, even hour to hour, due to medications, exacerbations, or other influences.  Thing is, we simply must do something on a regular basis in order to stave off the ravages of COPD and aging.  Part of that activity should consist of some sort of balance training.


Our sense of balance is a complicated thing, involving many of our muscles, tendons, and nerves, as well as mysterious things like our inner ears.  Luckily, utilizing that sense of balance is not something that we must spend a great deal of time analyzing.  If that were the case, we would never get up off the floor.  The simple balance involved in walking, for instance, consists of a marvelous set of involuntary movements, corrections, and counter-corrections.  The key here is “involuntary”.  Once we learn to walk, our involuntary sense of balance takes over, freeing us for other things like chewing gum or watching out for nippy little dogs.  If you think about it, walking is little more than controlled falling.  We lift a foot, lean forward, and then get that elevated foot out in front of us in time to avoid falling forward and looking like an idiot.  That accomplished, we then lift the other foot and repeat the entire process. 


Next time you find yourself on your feet, try something for me.  Hold on to something at first, so that you don’t just fall over and hurt something.  Place one foot ahead of the other, so that your feet are lined up in a straight line.  Try to balance in that position.  You may find it easier with your left foot forward, or you may not.  In any event, it is an excellent exercise for regaining or simply practicing your balance.


Once you get to the point that you can balance in that position without a great deal of difficulty, try it with your eyes closed.  Again, careful!  You will likely be amazed at the increase in difficulty without visual clues.  If you are dedicated enough or stubborn enough to master the pointed feet closed eyes thing, and you are feeling really foxy, try plugging your ears!


Uncle Jim



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