Let’s practice our English listening comprehension while we learn about staying alive for longer. Today I talk about some really interesting brain science, and a free, straightforward exercise, that every one of us can do to help us live longer. If you want to live longer and improve your English fluency? Then listen to this podcast.
If you’ve listened to our “Learn English Through Listening” podcast for any length of time, you know that keeping students engaged in the lesson is key to learning English fluency. You have to focus and really listen to what is being said to program a new language into your long-term language memory. Something traditional, boring English lessons struggle to do.
Balance has proven to be an excellent predictor of how long you will live into old age. Obviously, there are many things outside of our control that will affect how long we will live. But every now and again, we discover something that we can take control of, and balance is one of these.
Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.
⭐ Albert Einstein
We should all be interested in living long and healthy lives, so you have no excuses not to listen carefully to this English lesson! Don’t forget that every one of our podcasts has a written PDF transcript that you can download and follow along for free. If you want to read along as you listen, we also have our lessons on YouTube, where you can watch our custom, British English subtitles as you listen.
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Do you care about the health of your brain? Do you want to know about a simple exercise that you can do to improve the health of your brain and your balance? If you do - and you want the added benefit of practising your English language listening skills at the same time, then today’s podcast is for you!
Hello, I’m Hilary, and you’re listening to Adept English. We will help you to speak English fluently. All you have to do is listen. So start listening now and find out how it works.
So in today’s podcast, I’m going to talk about a really simple exercise that you can easily do for your brain and for your balance. The word ‘balance’, BALANCE in English is one of those words which is both a noun, as in ‘your balance’ and a verb ‘to balance’. If you stand on one leg, you are ‘balancing’.
This means that you’re having to make special effort to remain upright, to remain standing. So you use your balance to remain on your feet. If you ride a bike or you roller skate or ice skate or if you do ballet or gymnastics, then these are all actions which require good balance. If you learn to ride a bike, then you train your brain to balance the bike as you ride. It’s difficult at first, but like many things, it becomes easier with practice.
Zen balancing columns made with pebbles. Let’s improve our English listening skills with this podcast. Listen to an interesting discussion about brain science that could help every one of us live longer.
In the end the bike seems to stay upright on its own, but what’s really happening is that your brain has learned to balance automatically, to automatically adjust. Your eyes and your ears and your muscles are feeding your brain all kinds of information. And your brain is performing all kinds of calculations to make riding a bike, staying upright possible.
You’re automatically balancing as you ride. The word ‘balance’ can be used in other contexts too - you might ‘balance’ a pencil on your finger, or you might ‘balance’ an apple on the top of a pile of fruit. Or you might ‘balance’ your work and your personal life. And what do doctors always say? ‘Eat a balanced diet’!
As human beings, we’re fairly unusual animals in that we have two legs, not four like most mammals. And as a result, there’s quite a lot of effort going on in our brain to ensure that we can balance on two legs. Anyone who’s ever had an injury and who’s had to learn to walk again will know that balance has to be learned.
Lots of different parts of our brain are concerned with balance, with staying on our feet. Your cerebellum, CEREBELLUM - that’s the main part of your brain which looks after balance. But your brain takes information from your eyes, your ears where your receptors for balance are, your muscles and the joints of your body.
All this information is taken together to help you perform adjustments that enable you to stand and to walk. In walking or running, we are on just one leg for a surprisingly large amount of the time, so having good balance matters to us all!
Let’s just pause a minute there for a reminder that you can improve your basic English vocabulary for speaking in English with our 500 Most Common Words Course. This is Listen&Learn course, just like the podcasts, but it uses only the most common 500 words in English - you are immersed in the most common words.
And they’re the useful ones for when you want to start to speak. And now there’s even an additional section with the most common 600 words - it’s really helpful! So have a look at this course, if you want to improve basic English speaking. Back to the podcast.
If you want to test how good your balance is, there is a really easy way to do this. Some people find balancing on one leg with eyes open quite difficult to do. If this is you, then it may be good to just practise that first of all. Practise until you can stand on one leg for a minute, with your eyes open.
Our brains are very ‘plastic’ and the adjective ‘plastic’ in this context, that’s PLASTIC - it means that they can grow and change and be flexible. So we can train our brains to do things. If standing on one leg is easy, try standing on one leg with your eyes closed. You could pause the podcast and try it right now. Mmm - that’s much harder, isn’t it? That’s because we rely on a lot of information from our eyes to keep us upright, to keep our balance.
By closing our eyes, we then have to rely on information coming just from our ears, our muscles and joints and also what are called our ‘proprioceptors’ - they’re receptors that we use to have a sense of where we are in space, how close or far we are from things nearby. If you practice standing on one leg with your eyes closed, your plastic brain will grow and will become better at balancing.
The average time that a 40 year old person can balance with their eyes closed is only 12 seconds and if you’re in your 50s, it’s 8 second! That’s not long, is it? And it gets worse with age. But if you practise balancing, it can get better.
So why is all of this important? Well, first of all, we tend these days to lead more sedentary lifestyles than previously. ‘Sedentary’ , SEDENTARY - it means we sit down a lot of the time. With the current situation and ‘work from home’ affecting many people, we might spend long hours at a computer screen, not moving, not on our feet.
So we’re not practising balancing as much and we might lose our capacity to balance even faster. Why is this important? Well, apparently ‘The biggest cause of accidental deaths worldwide after car accidents are falls - which are a failure of balance’. So people have accidents and die because they fall over. It’s also a main cause of serious head injury and brain injury.
We know this about old people - often a sign of decline is that a previously independent old person starts to have falls. But not only that - in tests, which were designed to predict ‘longevity’, that’s LONGEVITY or in other words, ‘how long someone is going to live’ - ability to balance came out on top as the best predictor of who lives the longest.
Strength of grip, GRIP was another test and measure - that means ‘how strongly can you hold onto something in your hand?’ But ‘grip strength’ was not as good a predictor of who would live the longest, as balance. And balancing on one leg with eyes closed was the most reliable test.
In the UK, attention has been drawn to this idea by a doctor called Michael Mosley. I’ve mentioned him before in podcasts - he’s the instigator of what’s known as the 5-2 diet, and I’ve talked about that the past - the 5-2 diet that involves fasting. It’s still for many people the most successful method of losing weight, but it also has many benefits for the brain.
Michael Mosley is very popular in the UK - he’s a doctor but also a health journalist. And he puts to the test many new theories and ideas about our health - and makes TV programmes or write books about the results. He often tests them on himself. So Michael Mosley is drawing attention to the fact that if you’re over 40 years old, your balance will already be getting worse, deteriorating.
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But even if you are under 40 years old, it’s good to improve your balance to enable you to be better at sport, better at cycling, dancing, yoga, martial arts, golf - all sorts of activities. And if you want to improve the health of your brain and your balance, Michael Mosley’s suggestion is that this is possible by practising standing on one leg, with your eyes closed regularly. And seeing if you can extend the time that you’re able to do this for.
So I do this while cleaning my teeth in the morning. Like many people, I have an electric toothbrush which has a timer - 4 times 30 seconds. So that gives me opportunity to see if I can remain standing on one leg, eyes closed for 30 seconds at a time. Usually I can’t quite manage the full 30 seconds - but I’ve improved and my balance has got considerable better for doing this! And I like seeing evidence that my brain is plastic and it can change and grow and improve.
So why not give it a try yourself - what have you got to lose? Test it out when you’re cleaning your teeth in the morning. And even if you don’t do that, this podcast contains quite a lot of good, basic, English vocabulary about everyday things and many common words - as well as some technical words for the brain!
So listen to the podcast a number of times, until you understand all of it.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
Thank you so much for listening. Please help me tell others about this podcast by reviewing or rating it. And, please share it on social media. You can find more listening lessons and a free English course at adeptenglish.com