EXERCISES TO HELP ACHIEVE AN INSTANT POSTURAL ADJUSTMENT
(From IDEA Fitness, April 2019)
Did you know that good posture helps minimize stress on tendons, joints and ligaments? Plus, better posture can have a significant impact on your quality of life.
Good posture may improve your job prospects, verbal communication, self-confidence and mood and enhance how others see you. Ryan Halvorson, chief content officer for Fit Scribe Media and a TriggerPoint®master trainer, explains exercises that can help you improve posture.
5 Key Exercises – These easy-to-implement, equipment-free exercises can help you achieve an instant postural adjustment. The moves can be done seated, but standing yields the best results.
Pectoral Massage – Tight chest muscles can make it difficult to pull your shoulders back and down. One way to overcome this is to increase tissue mobility through self-massage.
Begin by rolling the shoulders back and down. Make a fist with the right hand and gently press the knuckles into the left pectoral muscle next to the sternum. Place the palm of the left hand on top of the fist for added pressure. Slowly drive the knuckles across the muscle toward the shoulder joint. Lift the hand, returning it to the starting position, and repeat.
Shoulder External Rotations – Internal rotation is a common problem. External rotation can help. Roll the shoulders back and down. Tuck the pelvis slightly to maintain a neutral lower-back position throughout the exercise. Slowly twist the wrists until the thumbs point away from the body. Hold for a few seconds and release; repeat.
Chin Tuck – This exercise stretches the muscles of the neck, allowing the skull to return to a more neutral, balanced position while the spine is lengthened. Stand with your hips and shoulders against a wall. Heels can be an inch or two away from the wall.
Lifting through the crown of the head, gently bring the chin down toward the throat while pressing the back of the head against the wall for a few seconds. Rest and repeat. Place a pillow behind the head if the pressure is uncomfortable.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch – Start in a kneeling lunge position (one knee on the floor and the other leg bent 90 degrees in front of you with foot flat). Lift from the crown of the head to elongate the spine. From here, drive the hip of the kneeling leg in a gentle thrusting pattern to achieve the stretch. Hold for a few seconds, then release and repeat. Perform the exercise several times for both hips. Place a pillow under the knee for added cushion.
Hip Hinge With Fly – This exercise improves your ability to extend your upper back. Place feet hip-width apart, and hinge at the hips while simultaneously angling the upper body forward. Aim to slightly arch the lower back by lifting the tailbone. Retract and depress the shoulder blades.
Start with the arms extended and palms clasped together directly in front of the chest. Then slowly swing the arms out to the sides of the body at about shoulder height with a slight external shoulder rotation, and pause when you feel contraction in the upper posterior muscles and a stretch in the pectorals. Release and repeat.
EXERCISE SUSTAINS MENTAL ACTIVITY (Excerpted from PsychCentral August 2018
From a review of studies on exercise and its effect on brain functioning, researchers confirm that physical exercise slows the effects of aging and helps people maintain cognitive abilities well into older age
Fitness training – an increased level of exercise – may improve some mental processes even more than moderate activity, say the authors of the review. Findings from the review of 40 years of research does offer evidence that physical exercise can have a positive influence on cognitive and brain functions in older animal and human subjects. Different methodologies were examined to comprehensively study what effects exercise can have.
The researchers first examined the epidemiological literature of diseases to determine whether exercise and physical activity can at certain points in a person’s lifetime improve cognitive ability and decrease the likelihood of age-related neurological diseases, like Alzheimer’s. Based on a review of the epidemiological literature, the authors found a significant relationship between physical activity and later cognitive function and decreased occurrence of dementia. And the benefits may last several decades.
In a few of the studies that examined men and women over 65 years old, the findings showed that those who exercised for at least 15-30 minutes at a time three times a week were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease, even if they were genetically predisposed to the disease. By examining the human intervention studies, a relationship was also found between fitness training and improved cognition, more efficient brain function and retained brain volume in older people
Other studies confirmed the evidence that fitness does have positive effects on brain function in older adults. A study of older adults who were randomly assigned to either a walking group or a stretching and toning control group for six months found that those in the walking group were better able to ignore distracting information in a distractibility task than those in the control group. Aerobically trained older adults showed increased neural activities in certain parts of the brain that involved attention and reduced activity in other parts of the brain that are sensitive to behavioral conflict.
More research is needed to know exactly how much and what types of exercise produce the most rapid and significant effects on thinking and the brain; how long exercise effects last following the end of training; or how much exercise is needed to get continued benefits.
SOMETHING IS BETTER THAN NOTHING (From ACE Healthy Living Jan 16, 2019)
A key barrier to being physically active is an all-or-nothing mindset. Unless there is time for a full workout, why bother to start it at all? What is the point of eating carrots for dinner if I ate two cupcakes at work today? It’s Friday and I didn’t get one workout in this week—why bother doing one now? I have forgotten to drink water all day—well, I might as well have another soda. This type of thinking subconsciously drives disengagement in positive behaviors.
Although it doesn’t work with everything, the idea of “something is better than nothing” nicely applies to healthy behaviors. In other words, it is better to do something good—however small or seemingly insignificant—for your health and well-being than nothing at all.
Not convinced? Consider, for example, that a five-minute exercise interval performed once an hour may improve glucose and insulin levels in obese individuals better than one single longer session (Holmstrup et al., 2014).
Another study found that people who rode 10 minutes on a stationary bike had a sharper cognitive response to specific tests compared to individuals who read a magazine for the same amount of time (Samani and Heath, 2018). And immune function may be significantly enhanced with a 20-minute bout of exercise (Dimitrov, Huelton and Hong., 2017). As you can see from this small sample, the research confirming that something (in this case, a small amount of exercise) is better than nothing is encouraging.
Specifically, some movement is better than none. Standing is better than sitting. Walking or moving around is better than standing still. The same is true for other health behaviors that often feel challenging for some people. For example, drinking some water each day is better than drinking none. Eating some fruits and vegetables is better than eating none. Getting some sleep is better than getting none.
Here are some practical ideas for adding small doses of physical activity and movement into your daily life:
- Walk around your house while you are brushing your teeth.
- Every time the phone rings, go for a walk or do some wall-sits.
- Stand up once every 30 minutes and breathe deeply for 2 minutes while doing standing squats.
- Dance your way through household chores (it’s way more fun!).
- Convert your work station into a standing/active station.
- Make family time an active time.
- Anytime you have to wait for something, do squats or calf raises.
- Every time you have to use the restroom, do five push-ups (after might be best!).
- Perform standing lunges while fueling up your car.
- Go for a brisk 10-minute walk after dinner.
Adopting a few small healthy habits has the potential to progress into more healthy patterns over time and gives you the opportunity to experience what reaching your goal might feel like. Doing something rather than nothing also provides a sense of accomplishment, which initiates positive self-talk and self-empowerment.
YOU NEVER AGE OUT OF HAPPINESS AND HEALTH (from Guest Writer, Jason Lewis. Jason is passionate about helping seniors stay healthy and injury-free. He created StrongWell to share his tips on senior fitness. His website is strongwell.org )
Happy, healthy seniors have one thing in common: they never give up on life. And thanks to modern medicine and advanced technology, seniors are aging healthier than ever.
Pay attention to your gut – You already know that you shouldn’t ignore your “gut” feelings. But new research suggests that your intestines have a bigger role in your health than previously thought. Researchers have found that the healthiest seniors are those with a diverse microbiota. Eating fermented foods, taking a probiotic supplement, and abstaining from antibiotics unless absolutely necessary, are all ways to improve gut health and the population of good bacteria in your gut’s microbiome.
Up your energy levels – There are several ways to improve your energy levels, such as getting enough sleep and eating foods that are high in protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, and vitamins. If you find that lifestyle changes aren’t enough, talk to your doctor about adding an energy supplement to your daily routine. Don’t just grab the first bottle off the shelf, however. Take the time to evaluate your actual needs and the options available.
Exercise for 30 minutes each day – According to Genesis Health + Fitness, 30 minutes is all it takes to change your life. Half an hour of exercise each day can help you lose weight, reduce stress, and lower your chances of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Plus, exercising can help keep your memory sharp.
Avoid brittle bones – Osteoporosis is a condition that leaves you with bones that can break without warning, and you may have to limit physical activities. The Mayo Clinic explains, however, that physical activity is one way to keep your bones healthy. Getting enough calcium is also important. If you’re not a milk drinker, make a point to eat calcium-fortified foods, dark green leafy vegetables, and salmon.
Thwart loneliness – Senior loneliness is an epidemic that, according to the Washington Post, is just as harmful as being a lifelong smoker. While it’s perfectly normal to feel lonely sometimes, don’t be afraid to drag yourself out of the house to attend church, visit the senior center, or volunteer reading to children at your local elementary school.
Don’t let age get in the way of your well-being. By implementing small changes, such as keeping tabs on your gut health and social activities, you’ll make your health a priority all year long.
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!!
THE ONE EXERCISE EVERYONE SHOULD BE DOING (from Livestrong Nov. 2018)
With so many Americans concerned about the cost of health care, this exercise can positively impact eight out of the 10 most costly health conditions in the U.S. (Heart disease, cancer, COPD, asthma, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis and back problems.)
This exercise will also improve your mood, boost endorphins, reduce fatigue and lower your stress hormones as well.
What’s more, this exercise is absolutely free and you don’t need a lot of time: Only 15-40 minutes a day five days a week will tone and trim your body, vastly improve your health and could even save your life.
Some of you have probably guessed that I’m talking about WALKING!
How Americans Compare to Other Nations – In a study published in October 2010 in the journal “Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise,” researchers used pedometers to track the steps of 1,136 American adults. They found that people living in the U.S. take fewer steps than adults in Australia, Switzerland and Japan.
- Australians averaged 9,695 steps a day.
- Swiss averaged 9,650, steps a day.
- Japanese averaged 7,168 steps a day.
- Americans averaged just 5,117 steps a day.
According to the CDC, 36 percent of Americans are obese, while a 2010 Reuters article states that “During the past decade Australia, Japan and Switzerland have reported obesity rates of 16 percent, 3 percent and 8 percent, respectively.”
And it’s not just lower obesity rates; it’s longer life expectancy as well. As A 2013 CNN article reported, 2011 data shows that 27 countries (including those daily walkers in Australia, Switzerland and Japan!) have higher life expectancies at birth than the United States.
Here Are 19 of the Proven Health Benefits Walking
- It increases mood-enhancing neurotransmitters and reduces the stress hormone cortisol, helping you feel less anxious or sad.
- Can lead to a longer life. Research by the University of Michigan Medical School and the Veterans Administration Ann Arbor Healthcare System says those who exercise regularly in their fifties and sixties are 35 percent less likely to die over the next eight years than their non-walking counterparts.
- Decreases knee pain and stiffness by keeping joints lubricated.
- Lowers the risk of fractures. A Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, study of post-menopausal women found that 30 minutes of walking each day reduced their risk of hip fractures by 40 percent.
- Reduces women’s risk of stroke by 20 percent when they walk 30 minutes a day – by 40 percent when they step up the pace — according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.
- Boosts endorphins, lowering stress, fatigue and anger in 10 minutes and lowers blood pressure by five points.
- Reduces glaucoma risk by reducing the pressure inside the eye, which lowers your chance of developing glaucoma, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
- May cut Alzheimer’s disease risk by 50 percent over five years, and for women, reduce colon cancer risk by 31 percent.
- Decreases the odds of catching a cold by 30-50 percent.
- Tones ab muscles, builds bone mass and reduces risk of osteoporosis and reduces low back pain by 40 percent.
- 54 percent lower risk of heart attack with two to four hours of fast walking per week.
- 30-40 percent less risk of coronary heart disease with three hours of brisk walking per week.
- 54 percent lower death rates for type 2 diabetics who walk three to four hours per week.
- Helps prevent and manage arthritis.
- Decreases body weight, BMI, body fat percentage and waist circumference and increases muscle endurance.
- Increases HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
- Significantly reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Increases heart and respiratory fitness in adults with type 2 diabetes.
- Reduces physical symptoms of anxiety associated with minor stress.
- Improves sleep quality and is associated with better cognitive performance.
- Increases the size of the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, potentially beneficial for memory. (Check out the study on this one.)
MOMENTUM OR NO-MENTUM (from ACE Healthy Living 3/28/18)
It’s easier to continue doing what you’ve been doing most consistently. If you have been successful with health behaviors, it easier to keep eating healthfully and integrating enjoyable physical activity and exercise into your life. You’ve got momentum. Likewise, if you have been in a pattern of moving less, skipping workouts, and eating poorly, it is also easier to keep doing that. You’ve got no-mentum—an increased likelihood of continuing to not follow health behaviors.
Blame it on inertia—expressed as resistance to change—which means a body at rest tends to stay that way while a moving body tends to keep moving. It’s Newton’s first law of motion, and it’s just as applicable to a ball rolling downhill as it is to your life.
Further, the law says the body will continue in its present state until it is acted on by an outside force. An outside force is like an external motivator, and could be anything from bad results from a blood test, a spouse or partner who wants you to lose weight, or someone making fun of you for being out of shape. These external factors might get you started, but they almost never keep you going over the long-term. To do that, you need to use your internal force. It’s your inner motivation and strength.
Gather Your Inner Forces – Answer these questions to help identify the internal forces that keep you motivated:
Identity: What kind of person are you? What do you stand for? Your sense of who you are as a person and what you stand for gives you a connection to what is truly important to you. For what matters most, you often find it easy to do what you need to do. When you care enough, the effort becomes almost effortless. Whatever your best qualities are, consider using them in the area of health behaviors. When health is something you “should” do—a chore, task or obligation—you will be more likely to struggle. When you make health a part of your identity, you will more easily follow through on it.
Strength: What is something you excel at doing? You’re awesome at something. Perhaps even multiple things. All of the qualities that make you a terrific parent, manager, business owner, hard worker, community leader, etc., can also be used to ensure success with health. It is not unusual to meet people who own successful businesses, work in very demanding fields and successfully manage family needs, and yet are crippled when it comes to following through on a health plan.
You already have a lot of skills and abilities to organize complex and challenging tasks and achieve them—just use those same skills to improve your health instead of compartmentalizing them to the areas in which you are successful.
Meaning: What do you most care about in life? Why bother? Why do any of it? Why work hard at anything? What and/or who truly motivates you in this life? Whatever you care most about in life, you will enjoy it more and do it more effectively if you do it in a healthy body. Whoever matters most to you in life—your friends, partner, spouse, pets—whatever time you spend with them will be richer and more enjoyable when you live in a healthy body.
Health has an almost magical ability to elevate almost all other experiences you have and to expand your view of the world. As the saying goes, “A healthy person has many goals; an unhealthy person has one.”
Enjoyment: What is something you have done (or would like to try) that puts a smile on your face while you are exerting yourself physically? Stop engaging in forms of exercise, physical activity or classes that you do not enjoy. Just stop. Forcing yourself to do things you don’t enjoy because you think you should never works. Haven’t we been trying this for long enough to know this? No one naturally hates physical activity (or vegetables). We learn it. There are no fish born that hate swimming in water.
Find healthy foods you enjoy and don’t eat the ones you don’t enjoy. Try different forms of physical activity until you find some you enjoy. Consider getting back into a sport or activity you used to love but stopped when you got married/had kids/got busy at work (i.e., lost yourself in other things and people) or try an activity that you have always wanted to.
The hardest part of health is getting started. If that’s where you are, let’s make this the last time you ever start again and turn “no-mentum” into momentum.
MUSCLE LOSS IN OLD AGE LINKED TO FEWER NERVE SIGNALS (from BBC News-Health March 2018)
Researchers say they may have worked out why there is a natural loss of muscle in the legs as people age – and that it is due to a loss of nerves. In tests on 168 men, they found that nerves controlling the legs decreased by around 30% by the age of 75. This made muscles waste away, but in older fitter athletes there was a better chance of them being ‘rescued’ by nerves re-connecting. The scientists published their research in the Journal of Physiology.
As people get older, their leg muscles become smaller and weaker, leading to problems with everyday movements such as walking up stairs or getting out of a chair. It is something that affects everyone eventually, but why it happens is not fully understood.
Prof Jamie McPhee, from Manchester Metropolitan University, said young adults usually had 60-70,000 nerves controlling movement in the legs from the lumbar spine. But his research showed this changed significantly in old age.
“There was a dramatic loss of nerves controlling the muscles – a 30-60% loss – which means they waste away,” he said. “The muscles need to receive a proper signal from the nervous system to tell them to contract, so we can move around.”
The research team from Manchester Metropolitan University worked with researchers from the University of Waterloo, Ontario, and the University of Manchester. They looked at muscle tissue in detail using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and they recorded the electrical activity passing through the muscle to estimate the numbers and the size of surviving nerves.
The good news is that healthy muscles have a form of protection: surviving nerves can send out new branches to rescue muscles and stop them wasting away. This is more likely to happen in fit people with large, healthy muscles, Prof McPhee said.
Although it is not known why connections between muscles and nerves break down with age, finding out more about muscle loss could help scientists find ways of reversing the condition in the future.
Happy Spring! Soon you can get outdoors again, and enjoy all the things that nice weather allows.
BREATHING IS NOT JUST FOR OXYGEN; IT’S LINKED TO BRAIN FUNCTION AND BEHAVIOR
(from Neuroscience News, Dec 2016)
Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered for the first time that the rhythm of breathing creates electrical activity in the human brain that enhances emotional judgments and memory recall.
These effects on behavior depend critically on whether you inhale or exhale and whether you breathe through the nose or mouth.
In the study, individuals were able to identify a fearful face more quickly if they encountered the face when breathing in compared to breathing out. Individuals also were more likely to remember an object if they encountered it on the inhaled breath than the exhaled one. The effect disappeared if breathing was through the mouth.
“One of the major findings in this study is that there is a dramatic difference in brain activity in the amygdala and hippocampus during inhalation compared with exhalation,” said lead author Christina Zelano, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “When you breathe in, we discovered you are stimulating neurons in the olfactory cortex, amygdala and hippocampus, all across the limbic system.”
Northwestern scientists first discovered these differences in brain activity while studying seven patients with epilepsy who were scheduled for brain surgery. A week prior to surgery, a surgeon implanted electrodes into the patients’ brains in order to identify the origin of their seizures. This allowed scientists to acquire electro-physiological data directly from their brains. The recorded electrical signals showed brain activity fluctuated with breathing. The activity occurs in brain areas where emotions, memory and smells are processed.
This discovery led scientists to ask whether cognitive functions typically associated with these brain areas — in particular, fear processing and memory — could also be affected by breathing.
The amygdala is strongly linked to emotional processing, in particular fear-related emotions. So scientists asked about 60 subjects to make rapid decisions on emotional expressions in the lab environment while recording their breathing. Presented with pictures of faces showing expressions of either fear or surprise, the subjects had to indicate, as quickly as they could, which emotion each face was expressing.
When faces were encountered during inhalation, subjects recognized them as fearful more quickly than when faces were encountered during exhalation. This was not true for faces expressing surprise. These effects diminished when subjects performed the same task while breathing through their mouths. Thus, the effect was specific to fearful stimuli during nasal breathing only.
In an experiment aimed at assessing memory function — tied to the hippocampus — the same subjects were shown pictures of objects on a computer screen and told to remember them. Later, they were asked to recall those objects. Researchers found that recall was better if the images were encountered during inhalation.
The findings imply that rapid breathing may confer an advantage when someone is in a dangerous situation, Zelano said.
“If you are in a panic state, your breathing rhythm becomes faster,” Zelano said. “As a result, you’ll spend proportionally more time inhaling than when in a calm state. Thus, our body’s innate response to fear with faster breathing could have a positive impact on brain function and result in faster response times to dangerous stimuli in the environment.”
BREATHING AND CORE CONTROL
As you may know, your inner core muscles include the diaphragm, pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominis and lumbar multifidi. These are the true core muscles that stabilize your spine and pelvis. If these muscles are weak, it is very difficult to balance and center your body, and your spine becomes unstable and prone to injury . Additionally, your body will compensate by trying to use other muscles to stabilize the spine (i.e legs, arms), causing overuse and fatigue which can result in ankle, knee, hip and even shoulder pain.
One of the most important of these inner core muscles is the diaphragm. If you are not breathing properly, you are not using your diaphragm properly. AND, if you are not breathing properly, your other inner core muscles do not work as well as they should either. There is a strong relationship between all the inner core muscles; if one is weak or deconditioned, the others tend to be weak as well.
If your balance is not good, and/or you feel pain in your knees and hips (absent any known pathologies), you may want to focus on how you breathe.
A quick way to test if you are using your diaphragm properly is to stand in front of a mirror and take a deep breath. If you notice your shoulders rise, then you are not fully utilizing the diaphragm. Practice inhaling and feel your back rib cage expand, but your shoulders should stay relaxed. This is easier to practice while lying on your back with your knees bent. As you inhale (through your nose, if possible), maintain a neutral spine (no arching), and imagine your ribs in the back of your body expanding. As you exhale (through your nose or mouth), imagine your ribs compressing and your abdominal muscles contracting.
If you can activate your diaphragm fully before exercising, you will find that physical activity may be easier as the other inner core muscles can then do their job to stabilize and center your body. Even walking may be easier and more enjoyable.