The best way to keep your joints healthy is to BE ACTIVE. A sedentary lifestyle of sitting most of the day is not good for your joints, especially your knees. Moving your body regularly ensures adequate synovial fluid circulation within your joints to keep them healthy and to prevent stiffness. Losing bodyweight is particularly recommended to lessen knee pain due to cartilage breakdown. Every pound you lose removes four pounds of pressure from knees. Daily stretching is strongly recommended to lessen joint stiffness and pain. Just be sure to warm up your muscles prior to stretching to loosen up the tendons and ligaments surrounding your joints. Low-impact cardio exercises (e.g., walking, biking, swimming, etc.) are recommended to protect your joints from cartilage damage. Weight lifting is also encouraged to strengthen your muscles surrounding your joints and to lessen the risk of arthritis. Be sure to move your joints in a FULL RANGE OF MOTION when exercising to lessen stiffness. Also, perform core-strengthening exercises that work your abdominals, lower back, gluteals, and hamstrings to maintain a strong foundation for your joints. Eat fish (e.g., salmon, mackerel, etc.) to lessen joint inflammation as well as plenty of dairy products containing calcium and vitamin D to maintain strong bones. Maintain good posture to protect your joints by performing exercises such as fast walking and swimming regularly.
The importance of having good posture cannot be overstated as the many aches and pains felt by your body may be associated with having faulty or bad posture. Having good posture will lessen your risk of incurring back pain while serving to maintain a strong and healthy back.
What exactly is meant by having good posture? Good posture occurs when your musculoskeletal system is in alignment to guard against injury and deformity over time as a result of needless muscular strain. Your muscles work more efficiently when your body is in a state of balance and equilibrium whether in a standing, lying, squatting, bending, or sitting position. Good posture can be assumed when drawing your chin back, relaxing your shoulders, stretching your chest forward, tucking your navel toward your spine, sitting with your knees lower than your hips, and having both feet planted firmly on the floor. Good posture means standing or sitting "tall', shoulders pulled back (chest pushed out) with your stomach pulled in. Assuming good posture does require isometric contraction of your stomach and lumbar muscles but the result will be good spinal alignment, reducing upper and lower back pain caused by slouching and hunching. Having good core strength in your abdominal, lumbar, hamstring, and gluteal muscles will certainly help in maintaing good posture. (See elsewhere in this blog for information regarding core exercises.)
BOTTOM LINE: Strengthening your core muscles as well as stretching tight chest and shoulder muscles will be helpful in maintaining good posture. And don't forget there's a bonus to having good posture: you will look much more attractive!
The ill effects of sitting for long periods of time on your body can largely be attributed to one thing: reduced blood circulation. When you sit behind your desk at your job for eight or more hours daily each week your blood circulation significantly slows to a point where your blood becomes more viscous. The increased viscosity reduces fresh blood to your muscles and organs. This causes a lack of fresh oxygen and nutrients to flow throughout your body. Your metabolism becomes sluggish as a result and organ function slows. In addition, neck strain from craning your neck forward while typing may cause an imbalanced cervical vertebrae. Sitting for long periods of time may cause uneven compression of your thoracic and lumbar vertebrae which in turn may damage your intervertebral discs. The result: unbearable back pain. Stiffness and tightness in your hips also tends to occur from spending too much time in a sitting posture.
Sedentary behavior may cause multiple organ damage, promotes increased abdominal fat deposition and bodyweight, and lessens flexibility. The insidious part about this is that the effects occur slowly without us knowing the extent of the damage that's occurring until it's too late. Heart disease may occur from sluggish blood flow and the buildup of fatty acid deposits which may clog the heart. Symptoms of this scenario include elevated blood pressure and cholesterol. Type-2 diabetes may occur from your body's inability to produce enough insulin from your pancreas to metabolize a buildup of glucose in your blood caused by lack of exercise. Symptoms from high blood sugar may include increased hunger, thirst, urination, fatigue, dizziness, and weight loss. Excess insulin within your blood may promote carcinogenic cellular growth, increasing your risk of colon, breast and/or endometrial cancer. Lack of exercise and poor posture causes anterior and posterior muscles to become weak and tight, respectively (i.e., abdominal muscles are weakened and back muscles become tight which causes more slumping in your chair). Chronic slumping will cause hyperlordosis or swayback. Hip flexor muscles become tight due to chronic flexion which causes shortening of these muscles, limiting hip extension. Swollen ankles and blood clots may occur from sluggish blood circulation as a result of sitting too much. Your bones, which are composed of living tissue, become less dense and weak as a result of a lack of weight-bearing activities. Weakened and soft bones increases your risk of osteoporosis.
So what can you do to counteract the adverse health effects of sedentary behavior? It's obvious. You need to get up and move around more often. Here are some suggestions to get you started in the right direction:
BOTTOM LINE: You've got to move your body more often in order to prevent sluggish blood circulation, lessen abdominal fat deposition and increased bodyweight, and feel more energized. Some form of resistance training with weights is recommended in order to maintain muscle mass to prevent increased bodyweight from fat. Lifting weights will prevent the risk of frailty and therefore allow you to live an independent life as you get older. Resistance training also helps to maintain your strength and lessens the risk of osteoporosis. By moving, you'll lessen your risk of incurring the life-style related diseases that plague industrialized societies (e.g.., heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.).
Kyphosis (i.e., forward head posture) caused by slumping over your computer exacerbates chronic tension in hypertonic or tight muscles in the shoulders and neck. Mental stress and improper breathing are also contributing factors to the pain you feel. So what's the treatment for shoulder and neck pain? Try yoga. The benefits of yoga are too numerous to name here but suffice it to say this ancient art can relieve your pain by improving your posture, reducing mental stress, and learning how to breathe properly. Yoga poses such as the Standing Mountain pose in conjunction with shoulder shrugs and overhead arm raises, Angel Wings, forward bends with neck massage, and stability ball/foam roller supine stretching are excellent exercises to reduce shoulder and neck pain. You can see a description and demonstration of the aforementioned poses here.
First of all, it's important for you to distinguish between good pain and bad pain. Good pain feels like a dull, aching muscular soreness which occurs when a muscle is fatigued during a reasonably intense set of an exercise. Bad pain feels like a sharp, piercing ache which can occur during or after an exercise is performed. Good pain should dissipate relatively soon after muscular fatigue occurs whereas bad pain may linger for a while.
Back pain may occur at any time and its occurrence in many cases is unexplainable. Nevertheless, any back pain should be taken seriously as it can be quite debilitating. Normally, your back (particularly your lower back) will be involved to some degree when performing most exercises, especially those that involve standing. This is why it's important to strengthen your core muscles (your lower back being one of them) in order to maintain postural integrity. In fact, poor posture due to weak core muscles may exacerbate back pain as a result of muscular imbalances.
If you experience back pain (especially lower back pain) while exercising, do NOT be alarmed. Your lower back is essentially the link between your lower and upper body. As such, the erector spinae muscles need to be strong to withstand the daily strains that occur. Remember that dull aching pain is normal and you need not be concerned with this when performing exercises like the squat, deadlift, lunges, etc. But if you feel sharp pain that feels severe, then it's time to take a break and give your back some time to heal and recover. See other articles elsewhere within this blog for tips on treatment for back pain. There may be particular exercises that simply don't work for you and seem to aggravate back pain. If this is the case, avoid doing them. Maintaining good posture is extremely important when executing exercises and if at any time your posture becomes compromised, this may be the cause of your back pain.
BOTTOM LINE: Listen to your body! Know the distinction between good and bad pain. Always be aware of your posture when performing exercises and when in doubt, either seek tips from a professional personal trainer or else refrain from doing the exercise.
Utilizing foam rollers has become very popular lately as a means to increase flexibility and reduce muscle soreness. The technique is known as self-myofascial release (SMF). Additional benefits include enhanced muscle recovery and increased movement efficiency. SMF is ideal for people who tend to have poor posture and/or employ repetitive movements daily which increase muscular stress. Poor posture and dysfunctional movements over time tends to cause adhesions or scar tissue within muscle tissue which can lead to muscular imbalance. Thus, the primary benefit of employing SMF is to alleviate soft tissue adhesions (also known as "trigger points" or "knots") in order to restore optimal muscle function. The pressure of the body against a foam roller can inhibit muscular tension and thereby allow hypertonic muscles to stretch more optimally.
It is recommended that you should use SMF as a method to warm-up your muscles prior to working out before dynamic stretching. Investigate particular sore areas of the body while lying on the foam roller and then spend between 30 seconds to a minute on these spots without movement. The objective is to relieve possible trigger points. Be sure to slowly roll over the lengths of each muscle.
To summarize, the benefits of using a foam roller are the following:
This comes down to incorporating the fundamental aspects of training smarter and safer. This is where the mind-muscle link is paramount. When exercising, be sure to focus on the muscle performing the movement. If you allow your mind to wander your risk of injury may increase. Be sure to steer your mental focus back onto the muscle being worked if you feel yourself beginning to wander.
You should perform these five steps each and every time you weight train:
In addition, consider performing sets of relatively high repetitions (e.g., >20 reps) of the same exercises the following day of your heavy workout day to facilitate the recovery process. If you have an existing injury, perform high reps during weight training to lessen further injury while also maintaining your strength level.
BOTTOM LINE: Having an injury should not preclude you from working out. Use common sense and "listen to your body" to guide you on workout intensity. Take time to warm-up prior to your work sets.
Having good posture is what makes each of us appear more attractive. What are some good exercises you can do to better your posture?
Poor posture is usually indicative of weak and/or tight core muscles (e.g., weak erector spinae, weak gluteals, weak abdominals, and especially tight hamstrings). Your posture is tremendously affected by how you "hold" your body throughout the day. If you slump in your chair most of the day with your shoulders hunched over and your lower back in perpetual excessive stretch, your body will respond accordingly (i.e., sunken chest, chronic lower back pain). It is essential to strengthen as well as stretch your core muscles to alleviate the tendency to assume bad posture. The solution to alleviating lower back pain does NOT come in a pill. You must strengthen your core muscles, especially your abdominals and lumbar.
Some key aspects to focus on while performing the following exercises include:
Here are some recommended exercises to get you on the right path toward having better posture:
Your success in accomplishing your fitness goals is largely dependent on psychology. Remember that your mind ultimately controls your body. Here are three aspects which will affect your success in accomplishing your fitness goals:
All three of these aspects or factors are intimately linked and therefore are not mutually exclusive. Self-confidence is the belief in yourself and your abilities. Vision is your fitness goal, whether short- or long-term. Process is the method in which you must use to accomplish your goal. You cannot achieve your goal without a road map or plan (the process) to get there--a good personal trainer can help by designing the appropriate workout program. The process is dependent on what your goal is (your vision)--you must have a goal in order to go from point A to point B. Your vision is dependent on self-esteem, optimism, motivation, and a good attitude (self-confidence)--this must be inherent or else your success in accomplishing your goal will be fruitless. A personal trainer can lead you on the path to your goal but you must believe in yourself and your abilities in order to make it happen! Your focus, determination and motivation to succeed while exercising is essential in order to achieve your fitness goal.
Another factor which will affect your success in accomplishing your fitness goals is called imagery. Imagery relies on imagining the performance of an exercise or movement in your mind before actually doing it. Athletes such as powerlifters, sprinters, football players, etc. use this technique in order to perform seemingly unimaginable feats.
Here's the imagery technique:
What are some problems associated with long-term sitting and what can you do to alleviate potential back problems?
Sitting actually compresses the spine more than standing. The greater intradiscal pressure can cause nerve impingement and degenerative osteoarthritic changes. Always remember to take periodic breaks (an alarm set to go off hourly helps) and stand up and walk around to lessen muscular aches and pain.
Here are some recommendations for you to do to help minimize lower back pain:
The benefits of good posture are numerous and cannot be overstated as the nature of your health and wellness later in life may depend on your posture now. That is, if your posture is poor (i.e., rounded shoulders, drooped head, etc.) due to sedentary behavior (i.e., sitting for extended periods of time in front of a computer), adverse effects on your body will become more apparent down the road. Such conditions as joint osteoarthritis and spinal misalignments may develop due to stresses incurred as a result of poor posture. Good posture means drawing your chin back, relaxing your shoulders, stretching your chest forward, tucking your navel toward your spine, sitting with your knees lower than your hips, and having both feet planted firmly on the floor.
Here are some benefits of having a good posture:
Here are some self-check methods to assess your posture for any deviations from good posture:
For your information, here are some postural misalignment terms and their possible causes:
Possible cause(s): tight hamstrings, abdominals, and/or hip extensors and weak lumbar spinal erectors and/or hip flexors
You don't have to live with aches and pains in your body as a result of misaligned joints from poor posture. Physical therapy, chiropractic care as well as the services of a good personal trainer can rectify any musculoskeletal imbalances within your body. A knowledgeable personal trainer having a sound background of anatomy, kinesiology and biomechanics can strengthen and stretch the appropriate muscles in order to rebalance and reduce postural deviations. Having good alignment will enable you to live a pain-free, mobile and functional life.
Correct posture is absolutely essential when executing resistance exercises such as overhead presses, bench presses, squats, etc. Improper form when lifting will undoubtedly detract from an efficient workout that maximally targets the intended muscles. The key to safely and effectively engage your muscles is to assume stability in your body when lifting. In order to do this, you need to practice and adhere to the following fundamentals of posture no matter your body position in space (e.g., standing, sitting, supine):
In addition, be sure to always inhale when performing a pulling action and exhale when executing a pushing action. For example, when performing a bench press, inhale as the weight is lowered to the chest and exhale as you press the weight upward. Another example, when executing a squat, inhale as you bend your knees and exhale when straightening your knees as you press upward.
By following the aforementioned recommendations you will find you will be much more successful in achieving your fitness goals. Remember to always work smarter, not harder!