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.
4 WAYS TO MAINTAIN BALANCE WHEN THINGS GET HECTIC (ACE Healthy Living Feb 2019)
It seems as though the pace of life continues to gain speed. Constant events, deadlines, goals and to-do lists fill the calendar. This pace of life can become stressful. Unfortunately, stress is one of the primary causes of disease, unhappiness and anxiety. When you are really busy, it’s likely you don’t have time for a shower, much less a massage or a vacation. So, how do you make time for de-stressing? Let’s get right to the point, because time is of the essence. Try any of the following actions to improve your ability to reduce stress, maintain balance and enhance resiliency. Each idea can be implemented daily with little time commitment.
- Change the way you think – Shift your focus to abundance rather than lack. Focus on what you have rather than what you don’t. This simple mindset shift evokes gratitude and a sense of peace. We inherently fear failure and rejection. We worry about trying to control every outcome in our lives. We compare ourselves to other people, and we believe that we are always behind. As easy as it is to compare ourselves to others, it really is something to avoid. Each person has his or her own challenges, feelings of lack and bouts of unhappiness. We all have our own story, each is unique and different. It’s O.K. to be content with where you are right now and be grateful for what you have in the present.
Action: Start a gratitude journal – For one week, each night before bed, write down three things for which you feel grateful, proud, happy or content. Note how these things came into your life. At the end of the week, assess how you feel. It’s likely a mood shift may have occurred, and you feel less stressed.
- Take a break – In the midst of an overwhelming schedule, a selfish break can feel irresponsible. However, a short five- to 10-minute break will clear the mind, help with fatigue and provide a much-needed pause during a busy day. If possible, go for a short walk outdoors. Nature provides grounding energy, and movement improves blood flow and produces mood-enhancing hormones. Better yet, pair regular breaks with a daily bout of exercise. Maintaining a consistent exercise program, even when life is hectic, will enhance your physical and emotional abilities to deal with stress.
Action: Walk in the present – In the next hour, take a five-minute break for a walk. Notice your surroundings and pay attention to how your body feels. Take inventory of how you feel prior to the walk and again after the walk.
- Be a superhero – Physical activity, smiling, power postures and deep breathing are quick fixes for stress-related physical symptoms. Our bodies display stress in external ways—headaches, gastrointestinal issues, sleeplessness, general aches and pains can often be attributed to stress. Even if you don’t experience severe symptoms, it’s likely you have experienced fatigue, general tightness around the neck and shoulders, and a slouchy, tired posture. You can trick your body into feeling fewer physical symptoms of stress by changing your physical posture. Stand up straight, align the spine and smile. This power posture is an instant boost.
Action: Pose like a superhero – During moments of stress or general tiredness, stand up and place your hands on your hips. Pretend you are a superhero and puff up your chest. Take five deep breaths. Fill your lungs and belly to capacity. Next, smile for 10 seconds. The simple act of smiling sends a positive signal to the brain and allows the body to relax a bit. This power posture can be helpful before presentations and difficult conversations, and for those times when you just feel overwhelmed.
- Practice mindfulness – When life is overwhelming, your mind naturally spins with multiple thoughts. Focusing your thoughts on the past can create feelings of regret and depression, and focusing on the future can foster feelings of anxiety. The only place we can be without worry is truly in the present. That means letting go of expectations of anything except what happens right now. Most of us have future deadlines, goals and ambitions. Being mindful in the moment does not mean that we let go of those things. It simply means we turn our attention to the task at hand, and really place our focus and energy with it. For some, mindfulness is being fully immersed in work. Taking the time to eat slowly, taste and enjoy food is a form of mindfulness. Paying attention to how your body feels during movement is mindfulness. Mindfulness might also take the shape of paying attention to the breath, something that occurs all day long without you giving it a second thought. Whatever form mindfulness takes for you, the point is that it can be done anytime, anywhere, and it provides immediate results. In as little as 60 seconds, your body and mind can become calm, and a sense of balance can be restored.
Action: Breathe – Assume a comfortable position with a tall posture, standing or seated. Set a timer for one to three minutes. Close your eyes and pay attention to your breath. Follow the inhale, follow the exhale. Try to inhale for the same duration as you exhale. Notice how you feel before this exercise and after.
It takes conscious effort and commitment to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. These four ideas are quick and efficient ways to navigate stress and maintain balance when life gets hectic.
WAYS TO PREVENT FALLING (From Washington Post, Lean and Fit, Feb 27, 2019)
The author of this article had taken a fall and was apprehensive about falling again. She was 53 years of age. She consulted several people about how to prevent falls, and here are excerpts from that article regarding the advice she received.
- Practice the following:
Level 1. Balance on one foot. Start by doing it near a doorway or chair so there is something to grab for support.
Level 2. Use your non-dominant hand to stir a pot.
Level 3. Use your non-dominant hand to stir a pot while standing on one foot.
- If you are going to fall, the best way to do it is to bend a knee and roll at an angle over one shoulder to protect your hip and your noggin.
- Tuck your head, use your strength to direct your fall, and roll so that you take most of the impact on your backside, the upper back and/or gluts being the most resistant parts of your body.
- Wear “minimal” shoes with thin, flexible soles for both sports and everyday living. The information we get from the bottoms of our feet (the technical term is plantar neurosensory input) helps us maintain balance. This input, coupled with muscle strength and agility, is essential for generating a “good correctional movement” should we fall.
Debora’s Note: I recently took a fall while walking fast on a dark street. I tripped on uneven pavement and when I realized that I was not going to be able to regain balance, the one thing I told myself as I was falling, was, “Don’t hit your head on the sidewalk”. I did hit my nose and head, but I was able to keep from hitting hard by bracing myself with my arms. Despite a lot of facial bruising, I was unharmed. But I learned that walking in the dark requires one to pay extra attention to the surface you are walking on.
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.)
THE HUMAN HEART (from IDEA Fitness Journal October 2018
As “head coach” of the circulatory/cardiovascular system, the heart pumps blood throughout the body, supplying oxygen and nutrients to tissues.
Actually, two circulatory systems work as a “team”: Systemic circulation carries oxygenated blood from the heart to the body and sends deoxygenated blood back to the heart. Pulmonary circulation transports oxygen-poor blood from the heart’s right ventricle to the lungs, where it picks up a new supply of oxygen-rich blood that it carries to the heart’s left atrium.
According to the Heart Health Institute (2015), you’d need to leave your kitchen faucet on full blast for at least 45 years to match the amount of blood pumped by the heart in an average lifetime. Heart health is high on the list of client goals—and for good reason. Learn more about this miraculous muscular organ:
- The “broken-heart myth” may not be that far-fetched. A breakup or traumatic news (say, the death of a loved one) can spur a heightened risk of heart attack. It can also trigger the release of stress hormones that may temporarily stun the heart, potentially causing heart attack symptoms (Heart Health Institute 2015).
- The heart of a typical athlete “churns out up to 8 gallons of blood per minute” (Arkansas Heart Hospital 2016).
- Heart attacks (also known as myocardial infarctions) most often occur early on a Monday morning in fall or winter (Lefer 2010).
- What’s the earliest known case of heart disease? Scientists have found atherosclerosis in a 3,500-year-old Egyptian mummy (Allam et al. 2011).
- Christmas and New Year’s Day are the two days of the year when heart attacks are most likely to occur (Kloner 2004).
- The heart beats 100,000 times a day and 35 million times a year. During an average lifespan, it will beat more than 3 billion times (Arkansas Heart Hospital 2016).
- Women have smaller hearts than men do and exhibit different signs of a heart attack. Women are more likely to experience shoulder pain, nausea and indigestion rather than the trademark chest pain (Watson 2009).
USING STRESS FOR POSITIVE RESULTS (from IDEA Fitness Journal October 2018)
You’ve been training for a 10K. You’re ready, but when you show up on race day, your heart is pounding and you feel panicked. What should you do to lower your stress? Some people might say, “Take a deep breath.” We all know that deep breathing to calm the nervous system is a go-to strategy for dealing with stress. But is it always the best strategy?
In her work as a psychologist and a yoga and fitness professional at Stanford University, Kelly McGonigal, PhD, has found that expanding your repertoire of strategies for dealing with stress is helpful. She suggests three alternative approaches.
Harness the Energy of Stress – Studies have compared the physiological responses of terrified first-time skydivers and experienced skydivers (Allison et al. 2012; Hare, Wetherell & Smith 2013). Surprisingly, they don’t differ. Heart rates go up whether people are scared or thrilled. Yet how you interpret your pounding heart and sweaty palms can be the difference between feeling panicked and feeling amped up. It turns out that choosing a positive interpretation of stress is something many elite athletes have learned to do. They don’t see stress as a barrier to performance, and they don’t view anxiety as a signal they are going to choke.
The takeaway: When you feel your heart pounding, palms sweating or mind racing, remember that these are signs of an adrenaline rush that can fuel peak performance. Remind yourself that even the most accomplished athletes, performers and leaders experience anxiety, and the most successful choose to channel their stress into energy and positive motivation.
Choose a Growth Mindset – Think of a time in your life that changed you in a positive way. Maybe you discovered your courage or developed more compassion for others. Maybe it was a turning point that forced you to make an important change.
Whatever your story is, it’s likely it was stressful while you were going through it. Psychologists know that it is through stress that we learn and grow—even if the process isn’t always fun. Difficult experiences can have positive outcomes, whether it’s personal growth from defeating obstacles or growth that can follow serious adversity.
The takeaway: Reflect on how you have grown from adversity. What past difficulties have strengthened you and given you a greater sense of your own capabilities and purpose? You can strengthen your resilience by thinking about how a stressful situation can contribute to your personal growth.
Make It About Something Bigger Than Yourself – Imagine two people in a hospital waiting room, both worried. One reaches out to hold the other’s hand, hoping to comfort her and offer compassion. Which of the two will experience greater stress relief?
Both will likely feel better, but the person who offered the compassion will get the bigger benefit. Neuroscientists have studied what happens in the brain during social support, and giving support reduces stress significantly more than receiving support (Inagaki et al. 2016). Moreover, just thinking about helping and encouraging someone else can create the same stress-relieving changes in the brain (Engen & Singer 2015).
The takeaway: Savor being part of something bigger than yourself. In a moment of stress, thinking about others who might also be struggling, or connecting to the joy of helping others, can be a powerful source of resilience.