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.
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.)
10 BEST FOODS TO REDUCE ANXIETY (HEALTH 09/27/18)
We all know the saying, “You are what you eat.” But recent research makes the case that this adage applies not just to your physical body but your mind as well. The foods you put on your plate really can make a real difference when it comes to mental health issues, including anxiety disorders—the top cause of mental illnesses in the United States.
How does food help with anxiety? Anxiety is caused in part by an imbalance of neurotransmitters, explains Ali Miller, RD, an integrative dietitian and author of The Anti-Anxiety Diet. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers believed to play a role in mood regulation. A diet that features nutrients from whole food ingredients helps create neurotransmitter balance by improving the gut microbiome.
When it comes to dialing down anxiety, what you don’t eat is just as important as what you do, says Nathalie Rhone, RDN. “Foods that are processed, high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, fried, or loaded with additives can all heighten anxiety since they are inflammatory in your system, which can eventually affect your brain.”
Here, 10 foods to add to your meal prep routine now.
Turkey – Tryptophan, an amino acid in turkey, has a relaxation effect can also ease anxiety. “Tryptophan helps the body produce serotonin, the happy, calming neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep,” says Rhone.
Salmon –This versatile and satiating fish is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain health and a well-functioning nervous system. Opt for wild salmon over farmed varieties.
Dark chocolate – Nutritionists sing the praises of dark chocolate because it has more healthy antioxidants than other kinds. “The antioxidants in dark chocolate trigger the walls of blood vessels to relax, which boosts circulation and lowers blood pressure.” Make a small chunk of 70% (or higher) dark chocolate a part of your mid-day diet.
Asparagus – In 2013, the Chinese government proclaimed that asparagus extract is a natural functional (aka, medicinal) food for its ability to reduce stress and promote relaxation Bonus points go to asparagus for being a prebiotic food, meaning it serves as a food source for probiotics, which are also thought to have positive effects on mood.
Sauerkraut -Speaking of probiotics, fermented products such as sauerkraut are considered probiotic foods, and consuming more of them on a regular basis appears to have a mood-boosting effect.
Citrus fruits – “Our adrenal glands are the most concentrated storage tissue for vitamin C and they use the nutrient in the regulation of cortisol,” says Miller.
Broccoli – Dark green veggies like broccoli contain magnesium, “a calming mineral that can help with relaxation, as well as with keeping things moving through your digestive system,” notes Rhone. Other top sources of magnesium include almonds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds.
Avocado – Avocados are packed with monounsaturated fats and antioxidants that help optimize circulation, says Sass, which contributes to better blood flow to the epicenter of your anxious thoughts: your brain.
Oats – Like leafy greens, oats contain high levels of soothing minerals like magnesium. They also provide steady, even energy and are packed with antioxidants and nutrients involved in mood regulation.
Chamomile tea – Chamomile tea might help reduce your anxiety. According to a report from Harvard Medical School, chamomile tea has been shown to be an effective alternative treatment for anxiety.
SURPRISING NEWS ON DIABETIC SYMPTOMS (IDEA Fit Tips, Vol 16, Issue 9)
Research published online in The Journals of Gerontology turned up some unexpected findings about type 2 diabetes.
Just two weeks without much activity can have a dramatic impact on health, according to researchers who studied overweight older adults at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. And unfortunately, it may be difficult to recover from this negative effect.
Not only did an abrupt, brief period of inactivity hasten the onset of the disease and elevate blood sugar levels among prediabetic patients, but some study participants did not fully recover when they returned to normal activity for 2 weeks.
“We expected to find that the study participants would become diabetic, but we were surprised to see that they didn’t revert back to their healthier state when they returned to normal activity,” says Chris McGlory, a Diabetes Canada Research Fellow in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University and lead author of the study.
If people are going to be off their feet for an extended period, they need to work actively to recover their ability to handle blood sugar.
For pre-diabetic older adults to recover metabolic health and prevent further declines from periods of inactivity, strategies such as active rehabilitation, dietary changes and perhaps medication might be useful,” says McGlory.
Research has shown that within days of the start of inactivity, there are notable reductions in skeletal muscle mass and strength, along with rapid onset of insulin resistance, a common feature of type 2 diabetes.
STILL WALKING – We are still walking at 5:30pm, Mondays and Wednesdays, in Gillson Park. Everyone is welcome.
NEW WALKING CLINIC STARTS JUNE 18
This will be the fourth year that PFTL will offer a free walking clinic to our clients and the public. We will meet Mondays and Thursdays, from 5:30-6:30pm, at the Wallace Bowl in Gillson Park, Wilmette. Includes warm-up, stretching, intervals, stair climbing, core strengthening and a great way to get some extra exercise. Contact Julie at 847-251-6834 or Julie@pftl.net for more information. Let us know if you want to be put on our email list for the walking clinic, as walkers are notified when the class is cancelled.
USE MYOFASCIAL RELEASE AFTER A WORKOUT (from ACE Fit Tips May 2018)
You have seen them in our studio: foam rollers, compression balls and rolling-pin-like sticks all help reduce muscle tightness, and at least one of them should be a part of your regular recovery program. If a muscle doesn’t experience a proper cool-down, or is held in a shortened position for an extended period of time, collagen, which are inelastic fibers that are a component of the connective tissue surrounding each muscle, can bind between layers of muscle and create adhesions or knots. Traditional massage therapy works by manually manipulating muscle tissue to break up adhesions, allowing the layers of muscle to slide against one another without restrictions. The pressure and motion of a muscle moving on a foam roller can help break up adhesions and realign muscle tissue to be able to function normally.
In general, foam rollers provide the greatest response when an individual places a body-part directly on top of the roller and moves rhythmically to apply pressure to the underlying muscle and elastic connective tissue. Breaking up adhesions can help reduce muscle tightness and improve joint range of motion. Because it is not practical to hire a massage therapist after every workout, foam rollers, rolling sticks or compression balls can be used to apply the necessary pressure to break up collagen and promote optimal muscle recovery.
Do not, however, try to “roll out” your low back or neck with a foam roller, as you will be putting unnecessary pressure on the vertebrae. Instead, use compression balls to apply pressure to the muscles only, not the bones.
BRAIN GYM ACTIVITIES – (from IDEA Fitness Journal May 2018) These are short, intentional exercises used in workplaces to release stress and enhance learning and work productivity. Here are two to try:
Cross-crawls. Stand or sit and march in place, touching one hand to the opposite knee, then doing the reverse (alternate). Continue for 4-8 complete breaths to activate both brain hemispheres. This exercise engages the brain and coordinates visual, auditory and kinesthetic abilities.
The owl. Grasp the R shoulder with the L hand near the neck and squeeze firmly. Inhale deeply, and then exhale, turning the head to look over the R shoulder. Inhale and return to center. Drop the head forward and exhale, then inhale and raise head. Repeat for 3 or more breaths and then switch sides. The owl relaxes the neck muscles and increases listening comprehension.
FIVE FOODS YOU WANT TO SKIIP TO STAY SLIM (from ACE Healthy Living May 2018)
More than 20,000 new food and drink items hit our grocery store shelves each year and, with so much conflicting information about health and nutrition floating around, it can be challenging to know what you should and should not be putting in your body. Here are five foods with unwarranted health halos that aren’t doing your body any favors, especially if you’re trying to reduce or maintain your weight.
Fruit Juice – skip the juice to stay slim. Eat your fruit—don’t drink it. Juice adds calories in a concentrated form without any of the fiber found in real fruit, which is one of the best reasons to eat fruit. When you juice fruit and discard the pulp or don’t include the peel, you’re getting rid half or more of the fiber. If you like the idea of juice for the flavors it offers, add fresh fruit to your water.
Granola Bars – Granola bars aren’t so good for your waistline. If it looks like a cookie and it tastes like a cookie…it’s a cookie. At its core, granola is just a grain with added sugar and fat. Package it up in bar form and it gets even less healthy. Most commercial granola bars are made with refined grains and contain added sweeteners and fat, and they rarely feature whole grains, fiber or protein, which should be key components of a better-for-you bar. You can find great recipes for homemade granola bars that are full of fiber and flavor. Bypass the granola bar aisle and save yourself from what are clearly just cookies in disguise.
Flavored Yogurt – flavored yogurt is bad for your waistline. If you can tolerate dairy, there is nothing wrong with plain yogurt. Unfortunately, not all yogurts are created equal, and most are packed with added sugar. Fruited and flavored yogurts are the worst, as they pretend to feature fruit. If they actually did include real fruit, it would also contain fiber, which yogurt products don’t. If you like fruited yogurt, make it yourself by adding real fruit to real yogurt and leave the flavored stuff on the shelf.
Veggie Chips – veggie chips aren’t a healthy food. Veggie chip bags show pretty pictures of real vegetables, but the ingredient list tells a different story. Most vegetable chips are a variety of fried and salted versions of potato starch. While a potato is technically a vegetable, when you fry and salt it, you negate its nutritional value. In other words, veggie chips are glorified potato chips. You want real veggie chips? Cut up vegetables, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with a modest amount of salt and bake them. If you want potato chips, buy them, but don’t pretend your veggie chips aren’t French fries in disguise.
Pretzels – pretzels aren’t good for staying slim. Somewhere in the fat-free frenzy of the 1990s, people got the notion that pretzels were a health food. Sure, they have no fat, but neither does white bread. And pretzels are just white bread with a little more crunch and salt. What about whole-grain pretzels, you say? You’d be hard-pressed to find a pretzel in which the first ingredient is actually a whole grain. Even pretzels made with whole grains are mostly refined white flour that contains no fiber. If you want a satiating snack, choose nuts over pretzels. Nuts contain fat, fiber and protein, and are a much more satiating snack.