In previous posts I have addressed the isues of postural distortions due to the rise of poor computer posture and too much slouched TV watching (What About Posture, Kids and Postural Distortions). Today I want to be a bit more focused on my pet peeve of poor posture by specifically addressing the spine.
The spine is our the gateway from our brain to the rest of the of our body. While the fitness and medical industries direct your attention to healthy nutrition and regular exercise for improving one’s health and longevity, we often forget that the spine is as essential as the brain to maintaining health.
If the spine is not cared for, you can suffer from a myriad of serious issues ranging from lack of joint movement due to nerve impingement; chronic pain due to compressed or bulging discs; and even lack of mobility if the spine suffers a major bone break.
So how do we take better care of our spines you ask? Here are some helpful tips to address that question:
Reassess your standing and sitting posture.
From how you sit at your desk/computer to how you watch TV. and especially how you drive – you must always be aware to not slouch – to reduce the c-shaped curve you place your spine into when you slouch. Reclining is okay, and you don’t have to always sit like there’s a stick up your butt, but you should constantly be aware if your shoulders and/or hips are rounding forward. Straighten up, relax your shoulders while keeping them level and blood flow will course through your spine with ease.
Stretch in opposition.
In layman’s terms, if you spend a large amount of time in a sitting position where you might assume the c-shaped spinal posture – spend time each day stretching in the opposite direction. The best way to do this is to lay on your back over a large stability ball, relax hips and stretch your arms out wide so that your spine is gently placed into a reverse c-shape. Yoga and other slow moving, spine lengthening disciplines are another way to reverse the effects of c-shape spinal compression.
Enhance circulation through exercise.
Low-impact cardio exercise is a great way to increase blood flow through and from your spine. Even quick bursts of movement (like 10 burpees or 25 jumping jacks) are a great way to heat up and stimulate necessary circulation of blood and oxygen to and from your spine, with the added bonus of boosting your metabolism and energizing your brain, which in turn stimulates circulation through the spine (a non-vicious cycle).
Make spinal posture be a priority in the next few weeks and you’ll not only feel and see a difference, but you’ll soon replace bad habits with more healthy ones and the benefits will compound. Respect your spine, and your health will benefit.
We’re all busy these days, lives jam packed with jobs, kids, driving, chores, errands, (and hopefully a little play time crammed in as well). So it’s no wonder that for the past five years, the fitness industry has grown steadily towards quick and fast workouts.
First there were 30-minute workouts, then one smart infomercial peddler came up with 25-minute workouts. He showed them, eh? Soon almost every body part had a 10-minute option (10-minute-abs, 10-minute-arms, etc.). Now we have Tabata a remarkable offering of 4 minute workouts – woo hoo! Whether you workout at the gym for an hour, or hustle though 4 minute workouts here and there, I thought I might offer a few tricks of the trade to getting a calorie burn, increasing circulation and blood flow, and helping your metabolism do it’s thing – all in one minute! How about that? (Throw back to the old game show Name That Tune for those of us baby boomers who remember.)
Some are easy, some a tad more challenging; some indoors, some outside. The key is to do as many as possible throughout the day. The more opportunities you take to move your body the better health your body will be in. These little bursts of energy expulsion will not help you lose incredible amounts of fat, but added into a sensible exercise and nutrition regiment, they will help speed up the process. For those of you not doing any regular exercise they can still offer immeasurable benefits if you consistently engage in them.
1. Whenever possible, take the stairs.
If you have bum knees take them up vs. down. If you have a week cardio system (get out of breath easily), take short flights, but take them. Build up slowly.
2. Stand up and stretch.
In 30 seconds you can do a full body stretch (arms, shoulders, hands, neck, legs, ankles, feet. Get the blood moving, stimulate circulation and muscle engagement. This will go a long way to alleviating stiffness, especially if done several times a day.
3. Jumping Jacks.
As little as 10 jumping jacks (I always suggest 25) can get the heart pumping which again aids in circulation, digestion, and clears out the brain cobwebs!
4. Push Ups.
Again, 10 (though I prefer 15-20) is a magic number to get blood pumping in your upper body, while stimulating the metabolism. Don’t want to get down on the ground at work – no problem, incline pushups are almost as good. Stand back from a wall or desk, lean into it, and then do push ups.
A masochistic blend of jumping jacks and push ups, this staple to us trainers really revs up the entire body, circulatory and muscular systems, digestive process, heart rate and is perfection with as little as 10. Not sure how to execute these – easy: from a standing position, jump up then place your palms on the ground and throw your feet behind you into a push up position, perform a push up, then bring your feet back in and jump back up and repeat.
6. Walk and Talk.
On a business call stand up and pace the entire length of the call. If you need your computer, get one of those swing arm computer stands that with the flip of a lever moves to standing height. Use a speaker phone or blue tooth devise so you can be hands free.
7. Air Squats.
The more muscles (or larger muscle groups) that you can affect in a quick burst of activity, the bigger the benefits to your entire body. Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, hold your arms out in front of your body, and push your butt towards the floor like you’re going to sit in a chair. Go as low as you comfortably can, then come back up and repeat 10-20 times. Feel that quad (thigh) burn – and know that it’s doing your body good!
8. Dance Off.
At home or office, if you have music on (or can turn on a song from your phone briefly), take a moment to dance. Don’t be self-conscious – everyone needs to dance (see Footloose for validation)! The kids will love it, your co-workers will too. Does wonders for mood uplifting and fighting that afternoon slump.
9. Park Further Away.
Stop being lazy and park further away. Unless weather plays a factor, there’s no excuse for not being able to walk an extra 10-100 yards away.
10. Trot the Dog.
No this isn’t a yoga move – it’s my idea of walking your pet. Speed walk or trot the dog around a block or two (or 3 or 4). The dog and you will benefit from a slightly faster pace that allows you go a little further in the same amount of time.
I could go on but I figure 10 are enough. Please let me know how many of these your incorporate into your day and the positive results you receive.
(By the way, during the 30-minute course of writing and publishing this blog, I performed items 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8!)