Author Archives: keepitmovingweekly2

More screen time? How to use exercise to stay well.

 

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The one thing every one of us has in common right now is that our lifestyle has changed.  For some, it is filled with more time demands and less time for self care. For others, the social distancing has been a great opportunity to do more self care, catch up on home projects and enjoy moving in the outdoors with family.   We will use this next blog series to take a look at what changes you want to keep and which ones you need to adjust to allow you to keep moving and be well for the duration of this outbreak, and beyond.  

Because social distancing is a key strategy for controlling the spread of COVID-19, many of us have started to meet with friends and co-workers remotely online.  The last pandemic in 1918 did not have this luxury.  We are fortunate to live in a time where technology can help us stay connected and do our work.  The downside however is more time looking at a screen which limits the movement of our whole body for more time each day.

You might have noticed in in greater tension in your neck or hands, more back pain or headaches.  When connecting in person,  movement is built in. When staring at a screen to connect, not only is movement limited, but your body is pulled out of alignment.  Your head weighs about 12 lb.  When you are looking forward, your head gradually migrates forward too and that pulls your spine out of alignment. (not a chiropractic alignment, but a positioning of your body so your spine is lined up).  Its normal to slip into a slouch.   But, as we discussed last week, sitting or standing out of alignment creates more work for muscles in your body  and those muscles then have to let you know they are over working.  The way they do that is through pain and stiffness.

When your screen time is stressful, it also strains your body.  Stress prepares your body for movement.   Like revving the engine in your car when it is not moving, sitting and being stressed wastes energy. This is why you can feel like you ran a marathon after a day of working on your computer.  Your body is working and draining your energy because it is ready to move.

But even if you do take walking breaks, your body is still missing something important – whole-body movement.   Walking is a limited movement.  Every part of your body that moves needs to move on those screen time breaks.   Taking whole-body movement breaks, with movements for everything from your eyes to your feet is how exercise can help you stay well even with more screen time.  Here is how:

  • Start by closing your eyes and bring your attention to your body and your breath to help you relax as you do the following movements
  • Look at the farthest distance you can, then move your eyes (without moving your head) side to side, up and down, all around.  Hold on to something as you do this if you tend to lose your balance easily
  • While sitting or standing, take off your shoes if possible, and move the joints in your feet and ankles
  • Bend and straighten your knees slowly all the way
  • Move your hips around by moving your legs in all directions one leg at a time sitting or standing and shifting your weight around through your hip joints
  • Face a wall, chair or table and hold on as you move your spine slowly in all directions
  • Hold on with one hand to something stable and then move your other arm through your shoulder joint, elbow joint, wrists and fingers
  • Sit or stand holding on to something and move around through your neck, lifting your head slowly up and down and side to side

Research supports the importance of using exercise to be healthy, both in one longer bout several times a week and by moving in several short bouts sprinkled thorough each day.

  • This study of adults ages 64-84 found sitting time was directly connected to lower muscle mass and those who took more frequent breaks from sitting had a  45% lower risk of sarcopenia- the loss of muscle mass that is strongly connected to longevity and health.
  • This study found that having lower back pain was connected with sitting time.  As sitting time went down, so did lower back pain.
  • This study found that breaking up sitting time every thirty minutes with three minute bouts of simple strength training exercises resulted in lower blood sugars after meals.

Bottom Line:  To stay well in this new normal that involves more screen time, one of the most beneficial things you can do is get up every thirty minutes and move each part of your body from your eyes to your feet.

Keep moving, be well,

Janet

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by | June 23, 2020 · 6:40 pm

Setting up your home workstation to keep you feeling good

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The one thing every one of us has in common right now is that our lifestyle has changed.  For some, it is filled with more time demands and less time for self care. For others, it’s been a great opportunity to do more self care, catch up on home projects and enjoy moving in the outdoors with family.   We will use this next blog series to take a look at what changes you want to keep and which ones you need to adjust to allow you to keep moving and be well for the duration of this outbreak, and beyond.  

Since many of you are working from home (me too!), let’s start with the home work station because this is where you are probably spending most of your time.  If your body is letting you know it’s not sustainable, here are some ways to make working from home easier for your body. 

Your spine is a series of small bones that are designed to support each other, like blocks stacked in a line to be in their most sturdy position.  From the base of your spine, your tailbone or coccyx to the last vertebrae at the base of your neck, this structure is set up to protect your spinal cord and allow for freedom of movement. 

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 When the bones are lined up, a position called alignment,  it is at its strongest position and also puts the rest of your joints in their strongest position too. When out of alignment, like when slouching or sitting up ‘straight’ in a military type posture, your muscles have to do more work to hold you up.  They get tired and let you know through pain and fatigue.  

When you set up your workstation to keep your spine in your aligned, strong and sturdy position, your muscles do not need to work to hold you up and thus feel better at the end of the day.  

Take these steps to set up your workstation to encourage your spine to stay in alignment

  • Feet flat on the floor: Sit in your chair so your feet are on the floor or a step stool.  If you want your back supported, place a pillow or two behind you so you can be supported but keep your feet flat on the floor
  • Hips straight up and down: sit so that your tailbone is not on the seat of the chair and your hips are not tilted forward either.  You will know your hips are in alignment when your lower back feels most comfortable.
  • Screen at eye level:  If you are on a laptop, this means elevating your device to eye level using boxes or a step stool or connecting it to an external screen.  You will know you are at eye level when you look at your screen and your head feels weightless on your shoulders and your neck is relaxed.  
  • Arms close to your body: . If your desk is so far away that your arms are reaching forward, your middle back will fall out of alignment.  Arrange the distance and height of your workstation so your elbows are bent at your side about 90 degrees. If you are on a laptop and your screen is at eye level you will need an external keyboard and mouse. 

As you can see, working on a laptop is a lot of work for your body.  Use external devices to work on your laptop without putting your body in a position of strain. This link gives you more information about setting up an ergonomic work station.  

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Even if you are perfectly set up at your workstation, your body is still not set up to be still for long periods of time.  Next week we will talk about the next step in keeping your body feeling good as you work from home. 

Keep Moving Be Well

Janet

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by | June 17, 2020 · 6:36 pm

How are you?

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This is just a quick check in to see how you are doing.   The past few months, and especially the past weeks, have been full of anxiety provoking and stress promoting news and experiences for many of us.  Please pause and take a moment to check in with yourself and ask yourself  “How are you?” with the same kindness you would ask a good friend.

Each of us just want to be well and these days, every aspect of our well-being is threatened.  Our health, the health of loved ones, our ability to get the basic supplies we need, our finances, and our sense of community are all uncertain.

Exercising is about so much more than burning calories.   Its about moving to take care of yourself, in the same way you would take care of a friend.   Exercising is moving not only so you have the strength, stamina and mobility to make everyday life easier, but to restore a sense of calm and and contentment in your mind as well.  It can be a time to connect with others through playing games or dancing, or a time to reconnect with yourself by taking a walk in nature or dancing when no one is watching.  Whatever you choose to do, make it an act of self care to keep yourself well each day.

If you are feeling mentally, emotionally and/or physically drained from the past few months, know you are not alone.  Ask your body what it needs right now and move in a way that helps your whole-person feel better.  Repeat as often as needed.

Keep Moving and be well,

Janet

 

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by | June 10, 2020 · 7:33 pm

Waist Trainers: Do they work?

How to get enough exercise in the busy seasons of your life

There is a known fact in marketing.  Consistency builds trust.  When you repeatedly see an advertisement for a product, your brain starts to build trust, simply because you are hearing the promises over and over again.  Lets give your mind some more information to go on, other than just the advertisements for waist trainers.  They are very popular topics on fitness and especially weight loss sites.   How do you know if the claims are true?

Burn fat? The advertisements say these abdominal binders are helpful for producing heat and burning fat.  There is no scientific evidence that heat burns fat on your body.  These waist trainers will not help you lose weight or burn more fat around your middle.

Back support?  In theory the design of these will support your back. But that support is incomplete and not really helpful in the long run.  You have the same built in support, right under your skin.  Its called your transverse abdominal muscle. Look how similar it looks to the waist trainers:

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This muscle is there, at no extra charge, in your body. The way to make it work is to use it. Click here for more information on how.    Plus, you have more layers of core muscles to help support your back that the waist trainers do not include. All of these are designed to work together to support your back while you move.  To get the most out of them, you simply need to use them the way they were designed (hint: sit ups and planks do not do this)

Tummy support? If you have a separation in your abdominal wall from a hernia or diastasis recti, the waist trainer design can be helpful but only if they are used as a reminder to use your core muscles.  Using them needs to go along with good core rehab and exercises that teach your core to do its job and give it time to heal by avoiding things like sit ups and planks that make that separation worse.

Waist Trainers can have their place in your healing process. For many who have lost weight, and have extra skin, they find these helpful for feeling more comfortable with certain movements.

If you are considering a waist trainer, choose it for the right reasons but know that your body is designed to take care of you, no matter what the scale says.  Learn how to strengthen it through high quality exercise and it will help you feel good each step of the way of your weight loss journey.

Post any questions or comments about your experience with a waist trainer in comments.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

 

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by | June 3, 2020 · 7:25 pm

Tips for finding online strength exercises that are right for you

How to get enough exercise in the busy seasons of your life

Online exercise has become a lifeline for exercising during the COVID-19 outbreak.  It’s always a good idea to have as many options for exercise as possible.  This challenging time is an opportunity to find new ways to exercise when time and equipment are limited.   I am hearing from many people how they are discovering old favorites and new ways to exercise.

In the last blog we covered what to look for in acardio online exercise program.  Today, we will look at what to avoid and what to look for in a strength exercises online.

What to avoid in strength exercises

    • Exercises that target certain areas like triceps, core, thighs. These are most likely to waste your time and put your body in positions that increase the risk of injury.  The biggest benefit to strength training for weight loss is the overall metabolism boost that strength training provides. It does this better than other types of exercise, as long as you challenge a large amount of your muscle mass in the right way.  Target exercises use small amounts of muscle mass. Since your body does not burn fat directly from the area you are exercising, focusing on target areas means you are most likely missing out on the metabolism boosting benefits.  Words like ‘tone’, ‘firm’, ‘slim’ or ‘tighten’ are great red flags the exercise is based more on what is marketable than what is science based.   Examples of marketing based exercise include sit ups (any variety), triceps exercises (dips, overhead, kickbacks), leg lifts meant for toning thighs, and twists (for ‘love handles’).
    • Core workouts, are popular to reduce back pain and because of the belief that they will give you a flat stomach or get rid of belly fat. Yet many exercises, like sit ups and planks, actually strain rather than strengthen your back.  As we discussed above, exercising a certain part of your body wont burn more fat in that area.  Your core muscles are not designed to be movers, they are there to stabilize the center of your body while moving your arms and legs.  Core exercises like sit ups and crunches and planks do not reduce belly fat, and ask your body to move in ways it was not designed.   Click here for more information about how to strengthen your core.
    • Workouts that start at a high intensity are most likely to leave you feeling sore.  There is absolutely no evidence that muscle soreness has a benefit for your body.  No pain no gain is a term for athletes how have to endure pain to overcome the competition. If you want to be healthy, you don’t need to be in pain to get more benefits from exercise.  More importantly, your brain is hardwired to avoid what feels uncomfortable. That ‘great workout that left you with a good sore’, is really telling your brain to start making excuses why you cannot do it again and again. Be wary of any program that has a ‘jump start’ to get quicker results.

 

  • What to look for in an online strength program

    • Exercises that mimic movements your body needs to do in daily life such as lifting overhead, stepping, squatting, pulling, pushing are all movements your body has to do in daily life.  You will be using more muscle mass with each exercise and this is what will help keep your metabolism up so you are more likely lose more fat overall, rather than targeting certain areas and using less muscle in the hope it will burn fat in certain areas of your body.
    • Exercises that incorporate your core into each exercise, rather than strengthen it separately. this not only saves you time but teaches your body to work together, with your core keeping your whole body strong.
    • Exercises that start at a very light level because strength comes from muscle memory.  Your brain is what coordinates all the muscle fibers to work together so you can be strong.  Starting at a lower resistance gives your body time to build strong muscle memory so when you do challenge those muscle fibers, your body is ready.  Skip this vital step to improving strength is like building a house with a weak foundation, its not likely to last.

If you are a weight center patient, email me at Janet.Huehls@umassmemorial.org for information about our free online course for strength training.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

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by | May 27, 2020 · 7:36 pm