Cold weather brings the urge to hibernate. Sometimes it’s tempting to just pull the bed covers up and sleep until April. But cold weather can’t really stop you from exercising and staying fit. You just have to think inside the box a little. Read on for some great tips on exercising indoors.
The joys of Wii sports
One of the best ways to work out without the risk of hypothermia is Wii sports. With the right software, you can swing a virtual tennis racket or bowl a strike on your television.
That’s right! The same technology that brought us video games now brings us ways to stay active inside our homes. Wii sports are great for everyone, but especially for people who are at risk of injury from real tennis or real bowling. Because you swing and bowl with the remote control, you limit risks that exist in real-life competitive sports.
At the same time, virtual tennis is fun! For many people, it’s a lot more fun than jogging around the block. Still others even think it’s more fun than real tennis. You may find that you exercise for 20 minutes without becoming tired or bored with a Wii system. It’s well worth the investment.
Other easy indoor workouts
Easy indoor workouts that don’t require expensive software abound for those who seek them. On YouTube, you can find an infinite amount of stretching exercises that help you achieve flexibility and strength in specific muscles. For those who love yoga, the Huffington Post has assembled the nine best yoga channels on YouTube.
One good piece of exercise equipment worth buying is ankle weights. These are pocketed weights, nested in fabric, that you can strap around your ankles. Ankle weights are great because you can wear them to work under a pair of dress pants. They add an aerobic and strength-building dimension every time you walk around the office.
Ankle weights can do the same thing at home. As you are doing your household chores, like vacuuming or cooking, the ankle weights help you burn calories and build muscle. You can turn mopping the floor into an honest workout. Weights can also go on your wrists if you decide that you need more of a workout for your arms.
Another great piece of home exercise equipment is the resistance band. These bands come in different forms and brands, but the super-cheap ribbons are about as effective as the upscale models. To compensate for the lack of handles, all you have to do is wrap the band around your hands or feet.
Ideally, you should have a few resistance bands of different lengths. That way you can work out your arms, back, waist, and all parts of your legs. It’s also far less likely you’ll get injured than if you work out in a weight room.
Make exercise part of your recovery
If you are recovering from an addiction, it’s even more critical to keep up a fitness regime. When seeking therapy for substance use, many counselors also recommend pursuing a physical wellness plan to combat not only the physical effects of substance use, but also to promote the general well-being of patients.
Exercise releases endorphins, a feel-good chemical that helps fight depression and anxiety which could lead to relapse. And exercise is a good way to fill the empty moments of the day that might, previously, have been filled with drugs or alcohol.
In short, it might be harder to find the motivation for working out in the winter. Shorter and colder days can make us want to curl up in front of the television instead of staying mobile. But you can fight the winter doldrums by doing easy exercises indoors with video game technology or with minimal exercise equipment.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
Author: Jason Lewis
In our last entry, we discussed the importance of scooping, an abdominal movement with multiple benefits that can be performed anywhere, anytime. Another important question surrounding the core involves the concepts of articulating and hinging as they relate to the bodyweight bridge exercise. Some clients ask me which of these two options is “better”, while most people are unaware these two different modalities of movement even exist.
The posterior chain - specifically its proper isolated muscle activation and movement sequencing - tends to get neglected. As with most things, the answer to whether articulating or hinging is preferable while preforming a bodyweight bridge depends on a person’s special needs and goals.
Let’s start with the short bodyweight bridge and hinging. Hingeing involves moving the hips without involving the spine, where the glutes act as the movement driver.
This often overlooked flexibility and strength exercise also utilizes the hamstring and core stabilizer muscles, including but not limited to the erector spinae and rectus abdominus. Practicing short bridges can help reduce knee and back pain and improve posture.
Performing a bodyweight bridge using articulation instead of hinging refers to moving the hips by articulating one vertebrae at a time. The spine functions optimally when all 24 of its moveable vertebrae can articulate “fluidly”, allowing load to be transferred safely up and down the body. Spine immobility can lead to overloads causing back pain and injury. Practicing articulation and elongation of the spine leads to improved control and strengthening of the paraspinal muscles, leading over time to improved daily activities of living and reduced chronic pain.
Some other take away points:
To articulate or hinge, that is the question. Both answers are right; the best answer lies in what you’re trying to achieve.
Today is all about scooping. We’re not talking about ice cream or your pup’s poo, but rather the “pilates scoop.” This concept, and its importance, were recently reinforced for me during a yoga retreat to Mexico. Myself and fellow attendees spent a week honing in on how mindful scooping can improve flexibility and stable movement.
How can scooping benefit you? The Pilates scoop, or abdominal scoop, refers generally to the act of pulling your naval in towards your spine. More specifically, an abdominal scoop involves contracting the transverse abdominal muscle, the deepest core muscle, and pelvic floor muscles, especially the pubococcygeus. Contracting these muscles concurrently creates a sort of “T” in the lower abdomen.
Contracting these muscles is important because you can practice mindfully activating them anywhere, anytime. Doing so improves fundamental muscular awareness for all types of sports and activities, including sitting at your desk (link to chair article). Strong transverse abdominal muscles help reduce low back pain, a condition experienced by some 31 million Americans at any given time. Kegel exercises which activate pelvic floor muscles in a clench-and-release fashion aid in prolapse and incontinence reduction, and can improve orgasms.
So, instead of asking why you should scoop, the better question may be, why aren’t you scooping?
One might say sass and S.A.S. go hand in hand. The thinner we are stretched, the cheekier we become. Be it at work or with family, with others or alone; high demands, lack of sleep, too little movement, and tension change people much like the Snickers commercials on TV illustrate.
The well-muscled Stretch Armstrong toy also personifies this human plight well. Time under tension leaves people snapping and clickety-clacking. Check out these tips on how to overcome stretch armstrong syndrome by reconnecting, re-centering, and reenergizing.
A 2008 University of Vanderbilt Study of 6,300 people published in the American Journal of Epidemiology estimated that an average American spends 58% of waking time (7.7 hours a day) in sedentary behaviors such as sitting. Movement, strength and functional training offer countless benefits, not withstanding longevity. Check out the Main Line’s Anytime Fitness of Villanova for the best place to move!
Become More Flexible.
Become more flexible, in both body and spirit. Flexibility exercises reduce physical and emotional injury risk and chronic pain, and improve muscular and lifestyle balance. Lifestyle guru Jennifer Schelter’s passion for love and shared experience encapsulates flexibility’s meaning. Consider adding one of her retreats or seminars to your wellness regimen.
Work Out the Kinks.
Just beneath your skin lies a complex network of connective tissue called fascia. This thin sheath of fibrous tissue encloses muscle, acting like a jacket of sorts. If pliable, healthy fascia is like a cashmere sweater, tight fascia is like a thorn-studded straight jacket.
The ladies at Rebalance Physical Therapy are body worker magicians. Moving more while concurrently adding Rebalance to their wellness plans has left many of my clients in the best shape of their lives.
Sometimes the Best Exercise is Rest.
Last and certainly not least, sometimes the best exercise is rest. In his book Yoga and the Search for True Self, Stephen Cope discusses how he took a mid afternoon nap for a full year as part of his mind-body journey.
Too much of any one thing can be a bad thing, and listening to your body’s needs is the best way to create balance. All of us suffer from a bit of S.A.S. What steps are you willing to make time for in order to tip yourself over, and let the beautiful self out?
“No, I do not recommend exercise,” my endocrinologist answered when I asked him if he suggests to his patients exercise as a means of medical intervention. Further discussion revealed something which made the former response slightly more palatable. My endocrinologist, an older gentleman of middle eastern descent, believes that exercise is excessive. Movement, however, is important. As a patient of this man for some 25 years, I cannot distinctly remember him prescribing movement to me as a way to manage my congenital adrenal condition.
This conversation reminded me of another I had with a female endocrinologist - the doctor spearheading the revamping of CHOP’s endocrinology department in an effort to improve care continuity. The meeting again included the question, “Do you include exercise in patients’ care plans?” Another disheartening answer was followed by a statement about the lack of green spaces available in the Greater Philadelphia Area. The Last Child In the Woods (link) addresses this nationwide green space issue; a serious problem. Urban safety persists as a tangent concern. With this said, Philly boasts hundreds of miles of bicycle and pedestrian trails connecting people to jobs, communities, and parks in the Greater Philly Region.
Semantics may be part of the issue, as the opening conversation suggests. Exercise might connote “excessiveness” for some. Often, the terms “exercise”, “physical activity”, and “games” provoke feelings of punishment and fear as people remember being picked last in gym class, or running sprints at the end of practice. Connotations aside, movement - or even better move·ment - lives at the heart of the argument. The idea that practitioners and families alike might promote appropriate use of medications and psychological support combined with adequate movement and optimal fueling through nutrition, especially as it relates to endocrinology.
I fear that these beliefs surrounding exercise do not only live in Philadelphia’s medical institutions, but are systemic to the point where western medicine dogma trickles into contingent estuaries.
So seems to be the case in Michigan. University of Michigan’s School of Kinesiology boasts a brilliant exercise endocrinology lab, where studies designed to translate clinical findings to applications that can impact adult health and quality of daily life, explore the ways diet and exercise can be used to prevent development of morbidities. A letter to Dr. Borer, the Director and Professor of Movement Science at UofM, revealed a disheartening truth. “I should let you know that I am not taking on new doctoral students.Exercise endocrinology is a great path, but not very strong or popular at the moment.”
Hope remains. Last year’s CARES Conference offered presentations focusing on exercise and nutrition. CHOP’s unique Healthy Weight Program works with overweight and obese children and adolescents to improve the health and quality of life of children with excess weight by working with families to make healthy lifestyle changes.
It is a great feeling to hear someone say to me, “I totally forgot you have a medical condition,” stating that I look fit and healthy. To them I say “thank you,” for I feel flattered yet not satisfied. I can’t help to think about those who experience the same condition who do not - who don’t know what it feels like to feel and look healthy, who don’t feel supported or empowered.
We were born to move and amazing things can happen through purposeful acts of change. It will take curious patients, supportive families and medical holistic pragmatism to join western medicine and the sweeping exercise movement. One patient and doctor at a time.
As a former biophysics major, I am fascinated by the concept of entropy. Most of us know entropy as it relates to spacial orderliness - the gradual decline of the kitchen sink or a closet into disorder. In thermodynamics, entropy - from a Greek word meaning “transformation” - may be thought of as a measure of the degree of energy degradation in any process. Entropy explains many phenomena within the human body.
Physico - Chemical Point of View
The machine that is the human body works to achieve equilibrium. Simply put, energy balance in the body involves receiving energy in form of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, and transferring this energy to the surroundings as heat. Thermodynamically speaking, this means that ordered organic molecules are changed to totally unordered form of energy – heat.
Highly ordered systems carry low entropy. According to second thermodynamic principle, such a system, left to itself, inevitably deteriorates with time. In this way, the entropy theory of aging relates to the biological wear and tear theory. If aging is a result of damage accumulation in organisms accumulated over time, then maximum entropy results in corporeal death.
While maximum entropy may correspond to death, aging is related not only to how much metabolic work is performed but to how well the work is done. Daniel Hershey of the University of Cincinnati defines an “organic entropy” for homeothermic systems as ΔS=ΔQ/T, where ΔQ is the basal heat per unit weight per unit time given off by an organism, and T is isothermal temperature. Studies suggest that the figure 0.833 Kcal/Kg/hr represents universal characteristic for living tissue.
Entropy, Exercise, and BMR
The heat evolved by the body is called the basal metabolic rate (BMR). Different states of arousal, age, and even diet affect BMR. For example, Vegetarians have lower BMR than nonvegetarians with high proteins consumption.
The entropy production in mild exercise is 1.5-2.4 times as great as that in basal conditions. The entropy production in vigorous exercise is six to eight times as great as that before exercise. Studies suggest that strength training can increase BMR due to increases in lean muscle mass.
Keeping in mind the aforementioned description of entropy, one might conclude exercise is detrimental to longevity. However, it is important to look at the human body as a whole and not individual organ systems. Just small amount of physical activity indeed helps people live longer.
As one of my former professors stated, “Metabolism affects the heart, the heart affects the lungs, the lungs affect the blood, the blood affects the muscle, muscle affects hormones, and hormones affect metabolism!! It is hard to just study entropy and its effect on lifespan when other factors play a role in lifespan!!"
For more information, check out Entropy Theory of Aging Systems: Humans, Corporations and the Universe.
1 HEALTH, AGEING AND ENTROPY - http://www.ped.muni.cz/z21/knihy/2011/39/texty/eng/34_navratil_eng.pdf
2 Entropy Theory of Aging Systems: Humans, Corporations and the Universe
As our brains become smarter, our bodies lose their chutzpah. Healthcare data, human’s desk-bound prevalence, and GrubHub’s ubiquity all suggest this this to be true. “Not me!” you say. “I’m as fit as a fiddle.” Give your fitness a try with this challenge: crawl on the floor like a baby. I’m serious. Now, how much concentration did that require? Were you able to crawl? Are you out of breadth? Were you able to stand up without assistance after this experiment, and go about your day?
You might say this test is unconventional. I find it to be fundamental. Crawling offers countless benefits, including proprioceptive enhancment, reflexive core musculature activation, improved posture and gait patterning, and even increased movement force transfer.
Let’s begin crawling our way back to health by delving into some science.
If sitting is the new smoking, than one might say crawling is the new walking. In a perfect world we would not need to intentionally press reset every day. We were made for movement and we simply do not move enough. We spend most of our days being sedentary. And when, on occasion, we decide to go out and exercise, we wonder why we don’t move as well as we used to, or we wonder why we often get nagging injuries. The truth is: There would be less “movement issues” if people simply moved.” The very movements that made you resilient as a child are the same movements that can make you resilient as an adult. Consider adding some form of crawling to your workouts and experience its benefits!
Three minute reset from Tim Anderson’s Bulletproof:
Cross-crawl x 1 minute
Baby-crawl x 1 minute
March x 1 minute
Ido Portal Locomotion Studies
Meaning Exists in Even the Smallest Things…
My dad tells this story, and claims it to be one of my most silly moments. I used to drag my feet as a little girl. You know, where each step provokes a gravel-y sandpaper noise beneath the shoes. One day while walking, my father instructed me to “pick up my feet.” Quite literally I stopped and grabbed my foot. He soon found himself laughing as I sat down, holding both feet at once while attempting to scootch forward.
The phrase “think about your feet” quickly became my father’s adage. Whether it was countless times lying in the hospital due to my chronic medical condition, working to improve skills for after school sports, or studying for a test, my dad would simply say “think about your feet” when feelings of stress aroused.
I’m not sure when I began understanding the meaning of his words. Now I think of them often, embracing their message and appreciating his lesson.
To Think About Your Feet Means…
To be where your feet are, mindful and fully present in the moment; to exist, observing one’s thoughts and emotions, without judging them; to be grounded in one’s beliefs while moving amidst an infinite world of possibility. Science suggests that cultivating mindfulness - avoiding clinging onto the past or living only for the future - can bring improvements in both physical and psychological symptoms as well as positive changes in health attitudes and behaviors.
Increasing your capacity for mindfulness can help relieve stress, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, improve sleep, and even aid heart disease treatment.
How to Hone In Your Present-Moment-Presence…
To be where your feet are, mindful and fully present in the moment
To exist, observing one’s thoughts and emotions, without judging them
To be grounded in one’s beliefs while moving amidst an infinite world of possibility
In his book Toughness Training for Life, Jim Loehr agrees that controlling stress so it is sufficient yet not too extreme is an important skill: “distinguishing between insufficient stress and maintenance stress and also between adaptive stress and excessive stress - it’s a vital toughening skill.”
Our backs tell stories that no books have the spine to carry…
No doubt living the phrase “be where your feet are” is difficult. Though difficult, the rewards you can reap are worth the challenge.
For tips on how to stay committed to commitment, check out my Empower Hour podcast from the radio!
Giving and receiving, breaking and building...
Anatomy and physiology. Architecture and design. Religion and philosophy. People researching these and other fields have all, at some point or another, contemplated ideas surrounding the concepts of form and function; processes and cycles...
Humanity and the human body. Where within the human organism, millions of cells, diverse in form and function, play particular roles in maintaining a healthy system. The principle that governs the functioning of the body is cooperation within a cycle of renewal. The body’s various parts do not compete for resources; rather, each cell, from its inception, is linked to a continuous process of giving and receiving; breaking and building.1 Wherein each being is unique in form, and thereby function, all the while operating within the fundamental sameness of humanity’s existentialism.
Countless analogies surround this unique-yet-universal process of giving and receiving, breaking and building. As an exercises specialist, I take pleasure in relating most everything back to the body and movement. For example, the same forces affecting bridge’s efficacy can be compared to the elements influencing individual’s goal achievement.
I recently asked friends and strangers alike, “What’s the first thing you think about when you hear the word tuff?” Unable to see the word’s physical spelling, most people spoke about physical strength, or the cool kid from middle school. Others, upon seeing the spelling of the word, envisioned volcanoes. One person said the words reminded her of elephants (I’m still not sure I understand this one).
With this simple question, a thread of analogies – the word tuff, the homophone tough, and the acronym T.U.F.F. – revealed itself, along with its interconnections amongst movement, humans and their surroundings.
“Tuff” – A look at the word...
Did you know the word tuff describes a fragmental rock consisting of the smaller kinds of volcanic detritus? Neither did I until a friend directed me to do some research. Stress, including compression and tensile forces, can cause what are called joints, or fractures, within the rock. Simply put, these and other forces break down and reshape some rocks, allowing other others to form. Rocks are always changing form and are redistributed as part of the giant rock- cycle of renewal.
In a previous blog entry, I compared bridges to the human experience of connecting one’s present state to future goals, whereby the same stresses associated with bridge building apply to human experiences. Now, pretend for a second- you are a rock. Do you experience stress? When it comes to the human, rock-like cycle, stress can either break you down, or it can build you up.
“Tough” – A look at the homophone...
One might say those who embrace their tuffaceous selves – those people who allow stress to build them up rather than tear them down – are tough. This is the more obvious analogy.
To be tough, however, is more than the quality of not being easily broken. It is reliance in the face of adversity – using re-creation as a form of recreation; using life’s stress as a tool to learn and teach and rebuild.
Tuffaceousness is not simply the lack of breaking down, but also the strength to build back up.
T.U.F.F. – A Look at the acronym...
Going one step further, t.u.f.f. might stand for “the unity of form and function.”
The principle “form follows function” is associated with both physiology and design; the idea that object’s shapes are or should be formed in direct correlation to what they are meant to do.
As previously stated, the body’s various parts do not compete for resources; rather, each cell, from its inception, is linked to a continuous process of giving and receiving; breaking and building; where life and being exist as a compound of matter and form.
Through movement of substance - move-ment or purposeful acts of change – one can re-form structure aimed at optimizing wellness.
In conclusion: Embrace your t.u.f.f.aceous self!
Grant me the Flexibility to adapt quickly,