If my stint on the beam in childhood gymnastics class taught me anything, it’s that balance is no small feat. While strength and flexibility get a lot of accolades in the fitness world, your relationship with gravity is just as important. That’s why I tapped yoga teacher-slash-physical therapist Lara Heimann, PT, for balance exercises that you should make a point of incorporating into your fitness routine.
“Balance is a host of different variables that are all orchestrated in the brain,” says Heimann. Your vision, mobility, proprioception (your “sixth sense” that tells you where your body is in space), and the vestibular system (a network of organs in the inner ear) all play a role in keeping you upright. It’s an intricate system that works together in complex and fascinating ways, and Heimann breaks it down as follows.
“There are receptors lining your joints, in your ligaments, and in your tendons that are telling you where you are in space. They’re constantly communicating with the brain,” says Heimann. “If you’re walking over pavement and then suddenly the terrain switches to gravel, it’s not like you have to look down and adjust. Your body makes a really quick response, and that’s a part of balance.” All of this is encompassed by the term proprioception. Meanwhile, the vestibular system acts like a leveler in your body, keeping you from leaning too far one way or the other. Vision and mobility are a little more straightforward; you need both for balance because you need to see what’s around you and move with ease to take the path of least resistance.
“The thing about balance is that we are constantly making it better or making it worse.” —Lara Heimann, PT
Working on your balance is a lifelong commitment and one that’s well worth your time, says Heimann. “The thing about balance is that we are constantly making it better or making it worse. It doesn’t tend to stay static,” she says. When we habitually do less large movement patterns (as sometimes happens as we get older), our body develops a fear around them and they get harder to do. That’s why physical therapists often use the sitting-rising test (which involves sitting down then standing up without using your hands) as a marker of longevity.
Before you dive into workouts that will better your balance better, Heimann says she likes to recommend a little test that you can use a diagnostic that will lay bare exactly how your body’s feeling about gravity these days. (Hint: It involves standing on one leg—so get excited.)
The single-leg exercise for testing your balance
Remember your schoolyard days when you would try to hopscotch with just one leg once you’d mastered the move with two? Well, Heimann wants you to channel your younger, carefree self to see how your bod really feels about balance. “Stand on one leg. Stand on your left leg and bring your right knee up to about hip height,” instructs Heimann. From there, Heimann wants
Hospitals are holding off as long as possible before halting procedures to make room for fresh waves of Covid-19 patients, a reversal from earlier this year when facilities postponed care, leading to steep financial losses and public-health risks.
National hospital chain Tenet Healthcare Corp. pushed ahead with procedures as states permitted, such as knee and hip replacements, colonoscopies, and surgery to implant pacemakers, through recent surges in Alabama, California and elsewhere. In southeast Wisconsin, where already rising Covid-19 hospitalizations jumped 35% in the first two weeks of the month, Advocate Aurora Health continues nonessential surgery across a dozen hospitals.
HCA Healthcare Inc., one of the nation’s largest hospital systems, waited until last week to suspend some surgery in El Paso, Texas, where a coronavirus surge sharply accelerated in recent weeks. About 80% of the procedures there continue, however.
Nashville-based HCA stops surgery “as a last resort,” said Jon Foster, an HCA president who oversees 90 of the company’s 186 hospitals.
Hospitals have grown more circumspect of shutdowns through new waves of the virus after fallout from voluntary and state-ordered shutdowns in March and April. And unlike last spring, fewer states are ordering broad shutdowns, leaving it to hospitals.
The great race for a COVID-19 vaccine has more than 130 medicines in development, with 40 being tested on humans, of which 10 are in large, phase 3 trials. The U.S. Government has invested about $11 billion in Operation Warp Speed, making advance purchases from Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer/BioNTech, Sanofi/GlaxoSmithKline, Novavax and AstraZeneca — betting that at least some will be soon approved by regulators as “safe and effective” vaccines.
No matter your Twitter feed, “vaccines have been one of the greatest public health tools to prevent disease,” as The New York Times explained in January. But as late as May 9, the Times reported that “American officials and pharmaceutical executives have said that a (COVID-19) vaccine remains at least 12 to 18 months away.”
That forecast may prove unduly pessimistic: Good Judgment, a respected forecasting firm, places odds of a vaccine (approved and distributed to at least 25 million Americans by March 31, 2021), at 46%.
(And on Friday, Pfizer said it would not apply for emergency authorization of its vaccine before mid-November.)
Too fast? Many are terrified that the Food and Drug Administration may hastily authorize injections into hundreds of millions. The FDA and drugmakers are trying to assuage such concerns with enhanced commitments to safety. Nonetheless, fears have been stoked by President Donald Trump’s infomercial-style endorsement of hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 remedy, his foolhardy disdain for face masks and campaign rally boasts of a preelection cure.
Yes, politics. But the opposing political push — the demand that new vaccines must be safe at all costs — is itself a dangerous meme, and the strange bedfellow of anti-vaxxer protesters.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Laurie Garrett inadvertently quantifies the problem. In a Sept. 3 article in Foreign Policy, she cited the H1N1 (swine flu) episode in 2009 as “the last mad rush to vaccinate.” Warning that those shots “caused Guillain-Barr (GBS) paralysis in … 6.2 per 10 million patients who received the vaccine,” she argues that phase 3 trials for COVID-19 vaccines, typically involving just 30,000 people, provide little protection. “There’s no way … we can spot a safety hazard that’s in 1 out of a million, much less 1 out of 10 million, vaccine recipients.” The “safety side,” she told a TV interviewer, “looks insane.”
But, in fact, the “insanity” here is not found in the push for speed or in Garrett’s skepticism about Operation Warp Speed. It lies in a lack of balance between the two. An insufficiently vetted vaccine may cost innocent lives, but so will delaying a vaccine that, on net, saves them.
COVID-19 now costs over 700 lives a day in the U.S. — 30 per hour. Would reducing the toll even by just one-third compensate for the possibility that as many as 205 people might be paralyzed (if every Americans were vaccinated and GBS spread at 6.2 per 10 million)? Presumably, yes — in less than a day.
Insane to move forward rapidly — or insane not to?
Indeed, the 2009