Archive for the ‘Healthy Spine’ Category

Check Your Posture

April 4, 2017

When you were growing up, your parents or teachers probably told you to sit and stand straight, instead of slouching your back and shoulders. They themselves may not have exactly known why that was important, it just seemed that way. But more recent science has found that they were actually right in many more ways than they imagined. As it turns out, good posture enhances physical fitness, helps reduce stress, and contributes to healthy aging.

That good posture plays a role in health and fitness should come as no surprise. Only when the body is properly aligned, the supporting ligaments, tendons and muscles can function at their best. Sitting or standing hunched over for hours — as many of us do at work and other activities — can lead to chronic pain and permanently debilitating damage. By contrast, good posture can help prevent such wear and tear and maintain greater flexibility and strength.

Research suggests that good posture can also foster people’s psychological well-being. One study from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, found that the way people conducted themselves physically did indeed influence their self-esteem and how they were able to cope with stress and problem solving. As tests showed, sitting or standing upright helped participants feel more powerful and competent when facing a number of challenging tasks they were assigned to. In other words, bodily experiences can significantly affect cognitive and emotional states as well, the researchers concluded.

A positive attitude and outlook on life can also do some good, particularly when it shows on the outside.

The issue becomes ever more pressing with age. A study from Japan discovered connections between good posture and the risk of future disability. Participants who sat, stood and walked even only slightly bent forward in their mid-life years developed greater physical limitations than their counterparts who generally maintained an upright posture. The differences became ever more pronounced as they got older, and were eventually quite significant in terms of their overall health status.

There is also a social dimension to the way we present ourselves physically, especially in our later years. As surveys have shown, old age is commonly associated with physical deterioration and visa versa. Many seniors feel left behind and isolated from society, in part because of actual physical (and perhaps mental) shortcomings, but also based on false assumptions that they no longer can keep up. However, while some slowing down may be an inevitable part of nature, there is no need to accept premature degeneration and decline.

And there is much that can be done to counteract those processes. For example, stretching, yoga and other exercises that promote flexibility can do wonders for an aging body. So can brisk walking, keeping a good stride, moving with ease and confidence — all of which are signs of good health and vitality. A positive attitude and outlook on life can also do some good, particularly when it shows on the outside.

Article sourced here:

Seated Doesn’t Mean Exercise Depleted

August 17, 2014

Article written by Glen Barnett of Coffs Coast Health Club seate

If your mobility is restricted, it doesn’t mean you can’t undertake an exercise regime of some description.  Don’t be limited by what you think you can’t do.  Instead embrace the possibilities of what you can do.   This week let’s take a look at seated exercises and how they can benefit those of you who are restricted to what you can do on your feet.  Check of course with your medical practitioner before starting and always get guidance from a qualified and registered fitness professional on your exercise programs content.

A chair bound exercise routine, like any other, does need some creativity and variety.  For starters make sure you are in an environment where you feel comfortable both physically and mentally. For example, if you are in a community environment does it promote your self confidence, is the area well ventilated and well lit?  Do you have access to water? If you are in a class situation can you hear and see the instructor.  If you are exercising by yourself do you know what you are doing? Would you like some motivating music playing in the background?

Look at covering the key components to any exercise program.  Cardiovascular activity to increase your heart rate. Strength exercises to (including some for the lower body) to obviously keep you strong.  Flexibility and stretching to keep you limber and maintain good range of movement through joints that may become stiffer from being seated.
Some health clubs have arm bicycles that will help you increase your heart rate while working the upper body.  You can also get small portable arm bikes that sit on a table in front of you.  These can also be used for the lower body to keep the circulation flowing through your lower limbs.  Swivel chairs also help with cardiovascular exercise.

Therabands and light hand weights will provide you with your strength training.  There are many exercises that can be done with these types of equipment to improve your strength while you are seated.

Flexibility and stretching is really relaxing while being seated.  You can use the chair as a lever to help you lengthen and rotate your body to get the most out of your flexibility program while focusing on gentle and relaxed breathing.
Next week we will include a seated exercise program.

At Coffs Coast Health Club we run a great seated exercise class on Fridays at 8am utilizing some of the equipment I’ve mentioned.  Don’t be limited by your limitations.  If you would like to try the class for FREE call Glen at the club on 66586222 or his mobile 0411037097.  I would love to help you. 

I tried quitting but I can’t stop sitting

April 29, 2014


This article first appeared in the Globe & Mail, Health Section  Friday, Apr. 25 2014.  If you sit at your job this article is for you.

Most of my days start with sitting in front of a computer, even before I sit down for breakfast. I may walk to the subway, where I sit on the train, before sitting again in series of meetings. I remember the day, 15 years ago, when I quit smoking and congratulated myself on how the decision would not only improve my health, but my productivity too, since I no longer had a reason to get up from my desk. I feel as though I’ve been sitting ever since.

In case you missed it, this constant sitting is killing us – literally – leading researchers and pundits to declare that sitting is the new smoking. If you accept that theory, then just about everyone in a white-collar job is the equivalent of a heavy nicotine addict.

According to the Mayo Clinic, 50 to 70 per cent of Americans spend six or more hours a day sitting and cutting that in half would add two years to their lives.

Two hours of continuous sitting – that’s a movie or a long meeting – increases one’s risk of developing chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, low back pain, and shoulder and neck pain, says Shilpa Dogra, an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, Ont.

If you think that regular exercise saves you from this “sitting disease,” think again. Ms. Dogra said that even those who meet Canada’s physical activity guidelines remain at risk. She cites a 2009 study from the American College of Sports Medicine that showed, even when we exceed government recommendations for physical activity, it does not compensate for all the sitting we do.

Unlike smoking, which has been banned from virtually all offices and public spaces in Canada, the working world is conspiring to keep us sitting, making it exceptionally difficult to quit.

“Currently, individuals working in an office setting are assigned a desk and chair, either in their own office or cubicle. They are asked to attend meetings in board rooms or conference rooms where they almost always sit down,” Ms. Dogra said. “From the time an individual is hired, the workplace facilitates sedentary behaviour and physical inactivity.”

This not only affects health and productivity but, according to her own research, that sedentary time also decreases the odds of aging well, forcing many to leave the work force in poor condition after years of sitting still. To combat sitting disease, some workplace health advocates are creating innovative solutions.

Laurel Walzak and Ron Bettin recently co-founded a company called Fitneff Inc., which manufactures fitness productivity equipment, a growing field. The former classmates from the executive MBA program at Queen’s University in Kingston have made it their mission to get workers moving. They conducted a survey, split equally between male and female senior managers in Canada, and found that 43 per cent reported sitting for more than 40 hours a week, not including their commute, eating, reading or watching TV. To counter that sloth, they developed products such as an ergonomic desk that attaches to a treadmill.

Ms. Walzak said that Fitneff products don’t replace intense aerobic exercise but incorporate low-impact, low-intensity movement, such as walking, into the workplace.

In North America, we may be behind on the standing desk trend. Mette Johansen, chief executive officer of Mette Designs, which designs workplaces, expressed her shock when she first arrived in Canada seven years ago from Denmark and observed how much time employees spent sitting.

Ms. Johnson said that 70 per cent of workers in Denmark used adjustable tables as far back as the early 1990s. In recent years, she observed, companies in Canada come a long way even if we still have far to go.

“I’ve had to educate people a lot more about healthy work environments to keep people healthy and productive. So I did a lot of preaching in the beginning. But the industry is changing,” she said.

As part of her design work, she often places kitchens and printers far away from desks so employees must get up and move around.

Admittedly, changing office furniture, even if it does boost creativity and stem health issues, remains a cost challenge for many companies. But there are other solutions.

Nilofer Merchant, a former executive at 3-D design software company Autodesk and an expert on innovation, explained last year in a TED talk that, instead of coffee meetings, she takes walking meetings, to the tune of 20 to 30 miles a week. She said walking and talking not only led to new ideas, but it changed her life.

The concept of walking meetings bring new meaning to our increasingly mobile business culture and it’s certainly a trend I would embrace, if only the business community can – ahem – get behind it.


Article sourced from:

7 Most Effective Exercises

April 6, 2014

No. 1: Walking

Why it’s a winner: You can walk anywhere, anytime. Use a treadmill or hit the streets. All you need is a good pair of shoes.

How to: If you’re just starting to walk for fitness, begin with five to 10 minutes at a time. Add a few minutes to each walk until you get to at least 30 minutes per walk. Add time to your walks before you  quicken your pace or add hills.

No. 2: Interval Training

Why it’s a winner: Interval training lets you boost fitness, burn more calories, and lose weight. The basic idea is to vary the intensity within your workout, instead of going at a steady pace.

How to: Whether you walk, run, dance, or do another cardio exercise, push up the pace for a minute or two. Then back off for two to 10 minutes. Exactly how long your interval should last depends on the length of your workout and how much recovery time you need. A trainer can fine-tune the pacing.. Repeat the intervals throughout your workout.

No. 3: Squats

Why it’s a winner: Squats work several muscle groups — your quadriceps (“quads”), hamstrings, and gluteals (“glutes”) — at the same time.

How to: Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and your back straight. Bend your knees and lower your rear as if you were sitting down in a chair. Keep your knees right over your ankles.

Squats Done RightTrainer demonstrating proper form for squats

Practice with a real chair to master this move. First, sit all the way down in the chair and stand back up. Next, barely touch the chair’s seat before standing back up. Work up to doing the squats without a chair, keeping the same form.

No. 4: LungesTrainer demonstrating proper form for lunges

Why it’s a winner: Like squats, lunges work all the major muscles of your lower body. They can also improve your balance.

How to: Take a big step forward, keeping your back straight. Bend your front knee to about 90 degrees. Keep weight on your back toes and drop the back knee toward the floor. Don’t let the back knee touch the floor.

Lunges: Extra Challenge

Try stepping not just forward, but also back and out to each side, with each lunge.

No. 5: Push-Ups

Why it’s a winner: Push-ups strengthen your chest, shoulders, triceps, and core muscles.

How to: Facing down, place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Place your toes on the floor. If that’s too hard, start with your knees on the floor. Your body should make a straight line from shoulders to knees or feet. Keep your rear-end muscles and abs engaged. Bend your elbows to lower down until you almost touch the floor. Lift back up by pushing through your elbows, Keep your torso in a straight line throughout the move.

Push-Ups: Too Hard? Too Easy?

If you’re new to push-ups you can start doing them by leaning into a kitchen counter. As you get stronger, go lower, using a desk or chair. Then you can move onto the floor, starting with your knees bent. For a challenge, put your feet on a stair, bench, or couch while keeping good form.

Crunches — Method A

Start by lying on your back with your feet flat on the floor and your head resting in your palms. Press your lower back down. Contract your abdominal muscles (abs) and in one smooth move, raise your head, then your neck, shoulders, and upper back off the floor. Tuck in your chin slightly. Lower back down and repeat.

Crunches — Method B

You can also do crunches with your feet off the floor and knees bent. This technique may keep you from arching your back. It also uses your hip flexors (muscles on your upper thighs below your hip bones).

Mastering CrunchesTrainer showing improper form for crunches

Keep your neck in line with your spine. Tuck in your chin so it doesn’t stick out. Breathe normally.
To keep chest and shoulders open, keep your elbows out of your line of vision.

No. 7: Bent-Over Row

Why it’s a winner: You work all the major muscles of your upper back, as well as your biceps.

How to: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees, and bend forward at the hips. Engage your abs without hunching your back. Hold weights beneath your shoulders, keeping your hands shoulder-width apart. Bend your elbows and lift both hands toward the sides of your body. Pause, then slowly lower your hands to the starting position.

Mastering Bent-Over Rows
Trainer showing bent-over row without weights

First, do this move without weights so you learn the right motions. If you have trouble doing bent-over rows while standing up, support your weight by sitting on an incline bench, facing backward.


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Keeping your Spine Healthy & Happy

February 9, 2014


Five Ways to Keep Your Spine Healthy and Happy
Your spine has many nerves, muscles and ligaments that serve as connections to areas throughout your body, so keeping your back in top condition is one of the best things you can do for both your back and your overall health. There are a number of simple things you can try to help keep your spine as healthy as possible and minimize complications from your back condition and/or prevent future painful episodes.

Let your spine really rest while sleeping
While you’re sleeping, all of the structures in your spine that have worked hard all day finally have an opportunity to relax and be rejuvenated. Using the right mattress and pillow will support the spine so the muscles and ligaments can be stress-free and have a chance to become refreshed. A large part of the decision of what type of mattress and pillow to use is based on personal preference. As long as the basis for the choice includes ensuring that the correct support and sleeping position will be attained, any of the many available types of mattress can be helpful.

Choose your shoes carefully
Whether you’re walking for exercise, or just to get where you’re going, the shoes you wear have a big effect on your back. They should be well balanced, flexible and most certainly comfortable. Good shoes provide not only protection for your feet, but also a supportive base that helps the spine and body remain in alignment. Selection of the right shoes, and correctly using inserts if needed to provide even further balance, can help you avoid muscle strain and possible injury.

Enjoy the benefits of a massage chair
Many people love a good massage to relax their muscles and relieve stress. Therapeutic massages not only improve flexibility and decrease tension; they can also improve blood flow and increase the level of endorphins in your bloodstream, which is a chemical in the body that makes us feel good. While it’s not the same as going to a massage therapist, having a massage chair in your home can be a practical and easy way to get some of the benefits of a Shiatsu or Swedish massage.

Sit up straight – with support
The discs in your lower spine are loaded three times more while sitting than standing, so long periods of sitting can often create or aggravate a painful back condition. Moreover, when sitting in an office chair, many people slouch and lean forward, and this poor posture usually leads to muscle tension and pain in the lower back and legs (e.g. sciatica). The right office chair plays an important role in promoting good posture and supporting the natural curves of your back. In addition to a comfortable chair, most experts recommend getting up to stretch and walk around every 20 to 30 minutes, as prolonged static posture is stressful for the structures in your spine.

Specifically exercise your abs and back
One of the most important components of good spine health is exercise. Specifically, performing abdominal and back exercises (which don’t get much exercise from daily activities) will go far in helping to keep your spine healthy. These exercises are simple and can be performed in 20 to 30 minutes as part of a daily routine. If back and abdominal muscles are not in good shape, additional pressure can be put on the spine, which is already under the stress of supporting your entire body. When these muscles are well maintained they help support the spine and minimize the chance of injury.

The topics discussed here are simple ways to help your spine and back stay in alignment and maintain a stronger, healthier you. Even if you are in very bad pain and are undergoing extensive medical treatments, we encourage you to still try to remember the simple things you can do for your back to help it heal and get stronger and healthier over time.

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