Engine idling, butt flashing, and balance training

I’m the most hated parent at Highland Dance. I asked another two motorists today to switch their engines off. They both did and were very good about it but I know how much people dislike being told what to do even if when it’s done politely. I had to do it though because the man I’d asked the other day was there again and this time had his engine off and he’d have been wondering why I picked on him and not the others so I really had no choice.

One of the motorists was quite surprised when I told her why. She gave me this look like I was telling her that cute fluffy puppies are on the rampage and killing small children while they sleep. I’m surprised so few people realise how harmful fumes from cars are to our health. In the UK, nearly 40,000 deaths per year can be attributed to air pollution. Turning your car engine off is an easy win as it requires little effort on the part of the car owner and will save them money at the same time.

While we were waiting for Elizabeth, Daniel and I went for a walk down Union Street and got a few things from Pret and the Co-op. When I got back I discovered my dress had become hitched up under my backpack and I was flashing my butt to the whole city.

There’s an interesting article in New Scientist about balance and how humans are losing this skill, the consquences of which are more accidents and even death. Apparently, falling over is the second biggest cause of accidental death behind car collisions.

The article explains that human balance is a tricky thing because we’re top-heavy, with a high centre of gravity, and a tiny base. We stop ourselves from falling over thanks to a complex network of communication between our brain, muscles, inner ear, and eyes.

Our ability to maintain our balance starts to decline from our 30s and 40s but the good news is there are things we can do. The first step is to test yourself. If you can’t stand on one leg with your eyes shut for at least 30 seconds then you need to start balance training asap. The article advises that pilates and yoga and other slow-moving exercises aren’t particularly helpful for balance training because they mostly rely on still postures. Similarly, sitting on a static bike or running on a treadmill is also not great for balance training and nor is swimming because gravity is an important part of the exercise. The best thing to do is to go cycling or running outside.

Road cycling and mountain biking involve balancing while looking around for cars or trees, looking straight ahead on a static bike doesn’t. Similarly, running outside involves dodging pedestrians and negotiating uneven ground.

I’m now off to stand on one leg with my eyes shut.

8 responses to “Engine idling, butt flashing, and balance training”

  1. I suppose the errant drivers might have understood your exposed posterior as some sort of visual lesson in how easy it is to avoid the escape of noxious fumes, though equally it might merely have reinforced their belief of how bonkers you are if you’re the sort of woman who exposes unnecessary flesh in Aberdeen in November. But well done for biting the bullet and asking them to turn off the fumes. There are any number of signs going up around the many schools hereabouts telling people to stop driving and stop their SUVs have their engines idle. And Southwark, our local authority despite a fair bit of resistance have just introduced a temporary traffic measure to close Dulwich village and the immediately surrounding streets to all traffic except buses and emergency vehicles between 8 and 10 am and 3 and 6 pm – school hours from end November with everyone expecting this to be made permanent. Given there are something like 20 schools in less than a mile radius it’s well needed. And when the buses go electric as the Mayor has promised, even better…

    • I think they probably just all think I’m bonkers 🙂

      I’m very happy to hear what’s happening in your part of the world re. driving kids to the school gate. You’re definitely further ahead than we are up here. My local school doesn’t care if there are 100 cars driving up to the school gate and spewing fumes into the playground each day. I tried for years to get them to do something about it but it was all a waste of time.

  2. My balance is quite poor because my core strength has always been lacking but def improving as I am now able to do a yoga crow, almost do a tuck headstand and almost wheelie my bike – I think all those things are linked and related to confidence that you can keep yourself upright. I do think there is something about feedback/dynamically using your core to balance that is very important for making sure we stay safe in real life situations.
    It’s good that they guy who was idling before wasn’t doing it again. And it reminds me of one boy in Year 11 who says his dad gets very annoyed when people idle their engines, so you would have his support.

    • The strange thing is the article said it’s more your leg muscles rather than your core for balance and if you try the balancing on one leg with your eyes shut you’ll really feel it in your legs. I know I did. Try standing for a minute and it starts to hurt.

      • Are you allowed to put your arms out and move around? That’s like the opposite of yoga balance where you have to be (as your post says) still and fixate with your eyes. I have big strong chunky legs from so much walking all through my life, which I have always seen as a bane, but maybe if I can balance it is not such a bad thing.

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