Hiking along a sun-drenched coastline is my idea of filling the senses with positive vibes. It’s a simple pleasure. When historical landmarks and ancient fishing villages are added to the movement of the ocean and the changing landscapes, it’s a formula hard to beat. Recently while in England, I did some hiking the 630 miles (1,014 km) path that hugs the coasts of Devon and Cornwall. One short section of around 5 miles from Zennor to St Ives involves a rugged succession of climbs and descents.
It started out as a training exercise, and I took pleasure in moving swiftly and nimbly (dare I say gracefully?) up and down the steep paths and over and among the granite rocks. It’s a great way to put to use the core, agility and balance exercises important to any training regime. After all, we are balancing on one limb even when taking a stroll. But it was a magnificent morning, with cloudless sky, gentle breeze to dry perspiration, trail bordered with spring flowers and the sound of sea and birds. I couldn’t resist stopping to take a few photos or exchange pleasantries with other walkers. These were of all ages (one couple were around 70) and sizes. All having fun, even though a few were undertaking multi-day hikes and laboring beneath heavy packs.
Walking is a basic movement and I wondered if any of the walkers I encountered took it for granted. In the past I did so until I had an ankle or knee injury. Moving confidently along a challenging coastal path or simply walking over uneven, wet or icy ground near our homes is a skill we can lose with inactivity or age. Sadly, far too many no longer move gracefully, having lost muscle strength or range of movement or disease brought on by poor fitness and health.
Mobility & balance
Poor mobility and balance can lead to falls at any age but studies of Older Adults (OA) over 65 show:
- One in three take a fall
- 50% fall again within one year
- Fractures are most common as a result of falls
- In the US, every 15 secs an OA is treated in Emergency rooms for a fall and every 29 mins an Older Adult dies from a fall
Starting the second half of life does not mean we give in to losing muscle mass; bone density. Growing old gracefully does not mean losing graceful movement. We can take action to reduced the risk of falls as we age, even when we are younger.
Where would you rate yourself on the mobility and balance scales? In my next blog, I’ll have some suggestions on how to test and improve this essential fitness area.