Category Archives: Human health

Improving my health and fitness

Eatsmart Precision bathroom scale

Bathroom scale = no more denial.

A bathroom scale is a good tool to help stay honest about weight. My bathroom scale broke many months ago. While focusing on other health issues I had been ignoring dieting, but I had been keeping my weight steady. Without a digital reminder of my increasing weight gain, my denial grew along with my waistline.

The first requirement for weight loss is recognition that a change needs to happen. A recent photo of my plump self standing beside some skinnier friends jarred me to action. Ignoring the mirror is easier than ignoring a photograph. “Is that really how I look?” My weight had NOT remained steady. I made a commitment to a new weight loss plan. So… as a first step I did some research and purchased a new weight scale.

Basic digital weight scale

The EatSmart Precision Bathroom digital scale (Model ESBS-01) has over 20,000 reviews on Amazon and is rated nearly 5 stars. The scale is listed as the “Best selling scale on Amazon 7 years running.” There are numerous positive independent reviews on blog sites.

The scale is basic with no fancy frills. Included are 4 AAA batteries that power the scale. Also included is a measuring tape to help track weight loss, which is a nice addition. The scale is approved up to 400 pounds, so no fear of breaking the tempered glass platform. Stepping on the scale weighs automatically to 0.2 pound accuracy. The large lighted numbers are easily read without wearing my glasses. The scale can also be set to show weight in kilograms.

EatSmart Precision bathroom scale

Setting weight loss goals

Stepping on the scale was another jarring moment to shake me from any complacency about my current weight. I gained more than 10 pounds since last weighed myself on the old bathroom scale. It is impossible to ignore a number.

I am heavier than my past highest weight in 2002 when I lost 40 pounds using Weight Watchers on-line.  Though heavier, I am stronger and more aerobically fit and more flexible than in 2002. Losing weight may be more difficult than 14 years ago, but I know what needs to be done. My first goal is to lose 10 pounds. With my new weight scale, then I will know when I reach my weight goals.

Next task is to make a weight loss food plan that incorporates my personal health needs.

Links to product information and some reviews:

EatSmart Products website

ESBS-01 manual (PDF) On-line manual

On Amazon as sold April 2016

Review – Youtube video by Shopping Dad May 2014

Blog review  by Honest and Truly April 2013

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Exercises to improve balance Level 6

These are exercises that I am using to improve my balance. I practice several times a day. The goal of the exercises is to improve my overall body proprioception and balance, as well as strength in my legs. Balancing will also improve core body strength.

The exercises increase in difficulty as balance improves. Hold onto something if necessary to maintain balance. I have used holding onto a chair, touching a wall, holding onto a low hanging tree branch, touching my foot on a step, and holding a broom handle.

With my eyes closed I am still mostly working on Level 1 and 2, but raising my leg higher.  With my eyes open I am working on improving at Level 3 and 4 and adding in more time at Level 5 exercises.

I am ready to begin adding in some Level 6 exercises.

Level 6: Stand on a soft surface like a foam pillow or balance cushion with both feet starting with exercises from Level 1.

– Keep practicing and advancing in difficulty repeating all the levels till you are standing on one foot with your eyes closed and able to move your foot in all directions.

* Please read my disclaimer.

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Facing the scale – Menopause weight gain

This is a declaration of intent to change.

Gotta face the truth. I’m fat! Definitely time to do something about my weight.

In 2002 I was at a maximum weight and joined on-line Weight Watchers.  In 2 years I slowly lost 40 pounds and learned to make better choices. Eventually I got tired of counting the “points” and having to constantly think about what I should and shouldn’t eat, so quit the program. I did maintain a 30 pound loss for many years, but over time my weight crept back up.

Stepping on my scale recently saw my 2002 year’s max weight PLUS 5 pounds!! ACK!! OK… that’s IT… my breaking point! Enough is enough. Something does need to change, as whatever the factors are that are making it more difficult to keep my weight under control are real. Medications? Stress? Grief? Lower metabolism? Is this menopause weight gain? Weight is easy to put on, while very difficult to take off. It is even more important to make better choices.

If I don’t make a plan, I’m just going to keep gaining and end up a very fat old lady unable to get off the couch. Losing weight is only going to get more difficult with my increasing age. Time to make a plan. I would like to lose enough weight to not be technically “obese”, but merely “overweight”. This means losing at least 25 pounds, which is doable and a good goal. We can revisit the goal after I make this first one, which is a large enough commitment.

I now regret eating so many holiday cookies and treats. Unfortunately my body is very good at converting extra cookie calories into fat stores for a possible future famine. I did enjoy the cookies, but am reminded of the old Weight Watcher’s motto of “Nothing feels as good as skinny feels”. I would have to go all the way back to high school when I was running on the track team to recall feeling “skinny”. Maybe my extra current weight will come in handy if the 2012 Doomsday preppers are right that the ‘End of the World’ is coming or complete economic collapse is at hand.

What’s really infuriating is that it doesn’t seem like we are eating that many bad choices. Well, except we did eat all those holiday cookies, plus my hubby came home with a box of Girl Scout cookies that I munched on. Even given my consumption of extra sugary calories, my weight has been jumping up when I am eating good choices.

Eating too much by just a few calories a day will add up, particularly at this age. That alone is enough. One extra 100 calorie slice of bread a day will be 10 pounds at the end of a year. Unfortunately I really love bread and have a bread machine! Eating 100 calories of whole wheat homemade bread is still 100 extra calories that will add up.

I know that I am not going to be able to exercise off much weight. Takes a lot of exercise to burn off an extra 100 calories. Yesterday I did quite a bit of aerobic exercise by push mowing most of the front yard. Did make me realize that I am out of shape when I was huffing. Sure tired me out.

Definitely time for the 2 humans, 2 horses, and 2 cats in this household to get on a plan to change. We all could stand to lose some weight and add in more exercise. Bottom line is that we need to start working on more calories out than calories in.

In honor of my history with Weight Watchers will make some “Zero Point” vegetable soup in my crock pot.

 

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Skipping is a fun aerobic exercise

Skipping burns twice as many calories as walking and is easier on the joints than jogging. It is definitely an aerobic activity. Skipping is a good overall body exercise, plus reminds us to be a kid at heart.

Kim Corbin founded the group iSkip in 1999 to encourage the joy of skipping.
http://iskip.com/blog/benefits/

This exercise adds in an element of balance to a fun aerobic exercise, as well as adding spring to the step.

Using skipping as a despooking exercise:

If you skip around your horses, then this can also make a despooking practice. The quick somewhat erratic action of skipping will catch a horse’s attention more than just jogging or walking around in their view. Try waving plastic bags or drag a bag of rattling cans while skipping around. Start at a distance and overtime move closer as your horses become less concerned.

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Exercises to improve balance Level 5

These are exercises that I am using to improve my balance. I practice several times a day. The goal of the exercises is to improve my overall body proprioception and balance, as well as strength in my legs. Balancing will also improve core body strength.

The exercises increase in difficulty as balance improves. The levels are my interpretation of progressively difficult exercises based on my research. Hold onto something if necessary to maintain balance. I have used holding onto a chair, touching a wall, holding onto a low hanging tree branch, touching my foot on a step, and holding a broom handle.

I am still working on Level 4. I have tried Level 5A bending as far down as top of my cat’s scratching post. I could use the scratching post as a stability point. As I improve, then I will bend further down and farther out. I am also adding in some hopping, which hopefully will help me with my spring up to mount my horse. Hopping is also aerobic exercise. My hopping is currently rather pathetic.

Level 5A: Stand on both feet with eyes open on even flat surface, then lift one foot up.

– Bend forwards and sideways, eventually working up to bending to pick something up from the floor. Work up to reaching down in various directions as far as possible.

– Next try with your eyes closed.

Level 5B:

– Add tossing a ball or dribbling a basketball to add more dynamic motion while balancing on one leg.

* Please read my disclaimer.

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Exercises to improve balance Level 3-4

These are progressively difficult exercises that I am using to improve my balance. I practice several times a day for up to 30 seconds each time. The goal of the exercises is to improve my overall body proprioception and balance, as well as strength in my legs. Balancing will also improve core body strength.

About 2 weeks ago there was a sudden breakthrough with my balance and it has continued to improve. I have progressed from being unstable at Level 1 to working on Level 4.

The exercises increase in difficulty as balance improves. The levels are my interpretation of progressively difficult exercises based on my research. Hold onto something if necessary to maintain balance. I have used holding onto a chair, touching a wall, holding onto a low hanging tree branch, touching my foot on a step, and holding a broom handle.

Level 3: Stand on both feet with eyes open on even flat surface, then lift one foot up.

– Move the lifted foot to front and back crossing over your body.

– Swing your arms back and forth. Raise arms over head. Move arms behind your back.

– Next try with your eyes closed.

Level 4: Stand on both feet with eyes open on even flat surface, then lift one foot up.

– Move the lifted foot to front and back crossing over your body. Increase how far you can reach the foot in different directions. Try squatting down on the one leg to reach farther with your other foot. Rotate your body to left and right to reach sideways.

– Next try with your eyes closed.

* Please read my disclaimer.

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Exercises to improve balance Level 1-2

These are progressively difficult exercises that I am using to improve my balance. I practice several times a day for up to 30 seconds each time. The goal of the exercises is to improve my overall body proprioception and balance, as well as strength in my legs. Balancing will also improve core body strength.

The exercises increase in difficulty as balance improves. The levels are my interpretation of progressively difficult exercises based on my research. Hold onto something if necessary to maintain balance. I have used holding onto a chair, touching a wall, holding onto a low hanging tree branch, touching my foot on a step, and holding a broom handle.

Level 1: Stand with weight on both feet with eyes open on even flat surface.

Can you stand without wavering with your feet apart? With your feet close together? With one foot placed directly in front of the other foot?

– Try shifting your weight back and forth by leaning forwards, backwards and side to side and again find your center balance.

– Sway your body from your ankles.

– Next try with your eyes closed.

Level 2A: Stand on both feet with eyes open on even flat surface, then lift one foot up.

Can you stand for up to 30 seconds without wavering? If difficult, then just barely lift the foot up and feel the ground with tip of your toe.

– Try lifting the foot higher. I found that touching my toe lightly to a small step or against a wall helped because gave me more proprioception clues.

– As becomes easier, then hold the foot to the front, out to side, and behind.

– Next try with your eyes closed.

Level 2B: Moving exercises with eyes open on even flat surface

– Walk a line with one foot placed in front of the other forwards and backwards.

– Walk with legs crossing over to move sideways.

– Hop up and down on both legs about an inch or two high.

– Next try with your eyes closed.

* Please read my disclaimer.

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Improving balance

Increasing rider confidence

I used to have good balance, but discovered a couple of months ago that I was rather unstable trying to stand on one leg. I was even unstable standing on two legs with my eyes closed. Balancing is more difficult on my right leg. My right knee was hurt this past summer. I had not noticed how much stiffer and weak my right leg had become compared to my left leg. The poor balance is surely a factor in my lower confidence level for riding my horse.

I have been practicing balancing several times a day. It is easy to find times to put in a bit of practice on balancing, such as waiting in line at a store or standing at the sink brushing my teeth. The goal of the exercises is to improve my overall body proprioception and balance, as well as strength in my legs. Balancing also will increase core body strength.

Gently holding onto a low overhanging branch of a small tree gave me a 3-D dynamic aid with balancing, which was more helpful in improving my balance than just holding onto a chair or touching a wall. I also discovered that lightly touching my foot to something helped with practicing with my eyes closed because the contact gave me proprioceptive clues. I have also been using a balance ball.

In my next blog entries I will share balance exercises that I have found through researching. These are progressively difficult exercises for me. I have used these exercises to improve my balance. About one month into my practice my balance made a jump in improvement, as if my body started to remember how to balance again. The exercises are also improving my right knee stability. In addition to the balancing exercises I am continuing to work on my yoga stretching. There has been improvement in stretch of nearly an inch in my Hero Pose position. My right leg is still tighter than my left leg.

I welcome you to join with me in improving balance. Make sure to have fun while you practice balancing!

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Balance: Reducing falls

Our balance depends on three main sensory areas: the vestibular system, the proprioceptive system, and the visual system.

With age, and with certain neurologic conditions, one or more of these areas can become compromised. People can often compensate when one of them is damaged. But when two or more are impaired, people can be at a greatly increased risk of falling.

David J. Thurman M.D., M.P.H

Tin figurine of lady standing, balanced on white circus horse with one leg

I didn’t feel particularly unstable riding in my saddle on Twistur at a walk, but I had my eyes open and wasn’t standing on one leg.

Strength and flexibility

My difficulty balancing on one leg is partly due to my leg and foot strength being unable to hold me when I start to tip. I watched a yoga instructor doing the one leg pose of Warrior III. Her foot and body muscles were working on small corrections to maintain her balance.

An important component of maintaining good balance is strength and coordination in the lower extremities. This frequently declines as we get older. As a result, our ability to react quickly to a change in posture is diminished.

David J. Thurman, M.D., M.P.H is an author of guidelines on recognizing fall risk for the American Academy of Neurology (AAN).

Vision

Balance can improve by consciously adjusting the body’s position based on vision. Closing the eyes removes this method of balancing.

Proprioception

Proprioception is the ability to identify the body’s position in space through special sensory stimuli. The sobriety test of closing the eyes and touching the nose is a test of proprioception. Where is your hand? Where is your nose? There are special sensors in the joints, muscles, and tendons that detect changes in your body’s movement and position. There are reflexes that compensate by responding to pressure on the joints and muscles to maintain posture. A person standing upright begins to lean to one side and the muscles reflexively contract to maintain balance.

Vestibular function

Vestibular balance comes from the inner ear that can detect body positional tilt and movement. Your vestibular system works together with your eyes in the vestibulo-ocular reflex to help keep images properly centered on your retina. When the head turns one way, then the eyes turn the other way to hold the image steady. The vestibular system can affect posture via a reflexive pathway. For instance a perceived forward motion causes a sway forward to maintain the support base. Various medications and high blood pressure can cause damage to the inner ear. Age is the biggest risk factor for vestibular disorders. Sometimes the body gets improper signals. Vertigo results from a mismatch of vestibular, ocular, and proprioceptive inputs.

The body needs input from the eyes, the feet, and ears (including the vestibular system) to stay upright. All of these systems decline during the natural course of aging, which can lead to balance problems.

Yuri Agrawal, M.D., an otolaryngologist at Johns Hopkins Medicine

There are several different balance tests. I wish there was a test to help me determine my likelihood of falling off my horse. I don’t want to take the test of “Horse sees scary monster, spins and takes off test”. That probably would be a test that I’d fail.

What I need to improve

One thing I do know is that I need to keep my eyes open! I rely strongly on my visual system for my balance. Closing my eyes makes me much more unstable standing on one leg, but I can walk down a dark hallway at night without much difficulty. I can tell when I am starting to tip over and where my body parts are located. With practice I can improve strength in my feet, ankles and core muscles that should help with standing on one leg and also general balance.

The preponderance of evidence shows fairly convincingly that strength and balance training can reduce the rate of falls by up to about 50 percent.

Dr. Thurman

How to get better balance?

There are many different exercises to work on the various methods the body uses to balance. This is good news for improving balance for riding too. Improvements in balance progresses in increments and may take as long as 3 months to notice a change. Professor Tracey Howe, of Glasgow Caledonian University whose findings are published in The Cochrane Library says to improve balance you should exercise at least 3 times a week and “combine activities, such as carrying things while walking or dancing which involves using various parts of the body.”

References:
(1) Neurology Now (American Academy of Neurology) April/May 2011 Volume 7(2) p 32–33 by Shaw, Gina

(2): From “The New York Times” article “Staying on Balance, With the Help of Exercises” by John Hanc Published: 09/15/2010

Tests:
Romberg Test, Clinical Balance Function Test, Berg Balance Test, Tinetti, Fullerton Advanced, Spring Scale, Y Balance Test.

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Balance needs 2 out of 3 components

Can You Pass the Test? Dynamic Balance Test

Video by http://www.builtlean.com/

How did you do? I definitely need practice and am a bit wobbly. I didn’t feel particularly unstable riding in my saddle on Twistur at a walk, but I had my eyes open and wasn’t standing on one leg.

Dr. David Thurman, a neurologist for the American Academy of Neurology explains to maintain balance “there are several components of the nervous system, as well as motor or movement functions, that need to be intact.” Maintaining balance we need at least 2 of the 3 components: vision, proprioception and vestibular function. We also need the strength and flexibility to hold ourselves against gravity. “All of these,” Dr. Thurman said, “tend to degrade with age…” Unlike many effects of aging, balance can be improved. “The preponderance of evidence,” Dr. Thurman said, “shows fairly convincingly that strength and balance training can reduce the rate of falls by up to about 50 percent.” (1) This is good news for improving balance for riding too.

I used to have good balance. I have already made improvements in my balance in just the last couple of weeks with practice. I’m finding ways to practice balance during the day. While doing simple daily tasks, I’ll hold up a leg. A short practice multiple times a day is optimal for improving balance. I’ll lift the leg a bit and move it forward, back and to the side as I fill up the horse water or brush my teeth. Holding onto a small tree branch by one of the water buckets provides some stability while allowing more dynamic balancing than a solid object like a chair.

Footnote (1): From “The New York Times” article “Staying on Balance, With the Help of Exercises” by John Hanc Published: 09/15/2010

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