Balance and co-ordination is an often overlooked part of fitness and should be trained as much as strength and endurance.
It is known that balance and co-ordination is controlled by several parts of the body, namely the eyes and the ears. These senses pass on the data it has gathered via the nerves to the muscles to appropriately move about gracefully. In older people though, these senses deteriorate and as a result, balance may worsen. Improving balance and co-ordination can benefit everyone, especially the elderly, to increase health and mobility.
There are many factors that may hamper one’s balance and co-ordination. The alignment of your neck, your spine, and your pelvis is one. Age and disease is another problem. For example, when your pelvis is misaligned, your body needs to compensate for that misalignment. Your neck may shift to one side to promote balance, but this, in turn, may cause you stiffness and neck pain.
Age and disease can also contribute to poor balance. With poor balance, the elderly are prone to slip and falls. It hinders mobility and lessens the overall quality of life. Diseases such as arthritis and osteoporosis can also hamper balance and co-ordination.
Exercise improves flexibility and strength and, through these, balance and co-ordination. Nutrition is another important aspect of a healthy life. Important nutrients for balance and co-ordination include sodium, calcium, potassium, and magnesium as they are needed in regulating nerve impulses and muscle activity. Without them, you would experience painful cramps. Blueberries in particular are a superfood that contains many nutrients for improving balance and co-ordination. With the right exercise and nutrition you will increase you chance of living a full healthy life.
If you’re following the trends in exercise and fitness, you’ve probably heard the phrase “core strength” or “core stability.” These terms refer to the muscles of your abdominals (stomach) and back and their ability to support your spine and keep your body stable and balanced, helping to prevent back pain.
The core muscles lie deep within the trunk of the body. They generally attach to the spine, pelvis and muscles that support the scapula. They stabilise these areas to create a firm foundation for co-ordinated movement of the legs and arms.
Core stability is also needed in everyday life, helping to keep you fit and to prevent injury when you are lugging those heavy shopping bags or doing the ironing. Rises in back pain incidence have been linked to the sedentary lifestyle that many of us lead. How about neck and shoulder pain? Time spent hunched over the desk instead of getting out and about can mean that we don’t pay enough attention to posture, and the muscles of those crucial “corset” muscles.
To strengthen your core stability:
Start by lying on your back with knees bent.
Your lumbar spine should be neither arched up nor flattened against the floor, but aligned normally with a small gap between the floor and your lower back. This is the “neutral” lumbar position you should learn to achieve.
Breathe in deeply and relax all your stomach muscles.
Breathe out and, as you do so, draw your lower abdomen inwards as if your belly button is going back towards the floor.
Hold the contraction for 10 seconds and stay relaxed, allowing yourself to breathe in and out as you hold the tension in your lower stomach area.
Repeat 5-10 times.
Bear in mind the following points:
Do not let the whole stomach tense up or your upper abdominals bulge outwards, as this means you have cheated by using the large rectus abdominus muscle (the six-pack).
Do not brace too hard; just a gentle contraction is enough. Remember it’s endurance not max strength your are trying to improve.
Do not tilt your pelvis nor flatten your back, as this means you have lost the neutral position you are trying to learn to stabilise
Do not hold your breath, as this means you are not relaxed. You must learn to breathe normally and maintain the co-contraction.
Use your fingers for biofeedback on either side of your lower abdomen to feel the tension.
Once you have mastered the abdominal hollowing lying on your back, practise it lying on your front, four-point kneeling, sitting and standing. In each position get your lumbar spine into neutral before you perform the hollowing movement. If you feel any pain or discomfort while doing these exercises, then stop immediately and seek medical advice before continuing.
Heavy, one shoulder bags are among some of the most popular types of bags to wear, but they actually come with many health risks. Holding the wrong bag can negatively affect your back more than you know. One-shoulder bags can leave you with chronic muscle pain, headaches, migraines, spinal damage, and even pinched nerves.
It is recommended to use a backpack because they evenly distribute the weight you are carrying on your back. It is important to remember to never carry more than 5-10% of your body weight.
If you are insistent on wearing a one shoulder bag, the smaller the better. Wearing a large bag hanging off of one shoulder can cause the upper trapezius muscle to begin to shrug. This happens as the shoulder adapts to the increased load.
Because the muscle attaches onto the base of the skull and extends across the entire length of the neck, there is potential to cause not only neck pain, but tension headaches as well.
With time, wearing these types of bags can lead to a straightening of the natural backward C–shaped curve in your neck. This change in shape alters the weight distribution on the discs, putting more pressure on the joints leading to inflammation, osteoarthritis, and nerve compression.
If you find yourself still wearing a one shoulder bag, try and switch sides as frequently as possible. This helps to distribute the weight. Also, opt for a thick strap over a thin strap to resist it cutting into the shoulder
The nights are still long, temperatures have plummeted and flu season is very much upon us. From shorter days with less sunlight, changes in hormones and potential nutritional deficiencies, there are so many factors that can contribute to feeling of exhaustion at this time of the year. But here are a few simple ways to put the spring back into your step!
Move more, yawn less
Regular low-intensity workouts help boost energy levels in people suffering from fatigue. In a study, subjects trying low-intensity exercise, like leisurely walking or bike riding, reported the biggest drop in feelings of fatigue compared to the group doing more intense exercise. You should keep moving and ensure you continue exercising regularly, as the endorphins released during activity will help give you a much-needed lift. Regular exercising should also help you achieve a better night’s sleep so you feel more energised in the morning.
Multiple studies have shown that regular exercise strengthens your immune system, so it can fight off bacterial and viral infections. When you exercise and get your blood pumping, immune cells circulate through your body more quickly, helping them to seek and destroy infections. This boost only lasts for a few hours, which is why it’s good to exercise consistently.
Let the light in
February is the worst month for sleep. Research found that it takes longer to nod off in February than any other month. This can certainly be a contributing factor towards people reporting lower energy levels in February than any other month of the year. Aim to go to sleep and wake up at the same hour every day, so you get a good length of rest. Avoid sleeping too much at the weekends, because it might result in you actually feeling even more tired and sluggish.
Check your room temperature, too. If it is too high, it can make you feel like you didn’t get enough sleep, even when you have slept a proper amount of hours. And if it’s too cold you might wake up several times during the night. Sleep experts recommend bedroom temperatures to be between 20-22C degrees. Even if you are sleeping well, you may experience fatigue as a result of increased levels of melatonin, because of lack of exposure to sunlight. To help regulate your melatonin levels, spend as much time outdoors in daylight as you can – take a walk at lunchtime, or make sure the blinds are open if you sit near a window at work.
Boost from within
For most of us, the colder it gets, the more we crave carbs. It’s true that if we’re shivering, we burn more energy to keep warm, but as we spend most of our time in heated environments, most of us don’t need the extra calories. Comforting drinks and foods are often higher in fat, carbohydrates, and added sugars, and they can have a detrimental impact on energy levels, which can end up making you feel worse. Swap in healthier alternatives, like sweet potato, lentils, veggie soups and porridge. It’s also important to include a vitamin D supplement in your diet as our bodies are unable to create enough at this time of year. Food sources such as eggs, oily fish, spreads and fortified cereals are helpful to include in your diet, but a good quality vitamin D3 supplement is more effective. Nutritional deficiencies can cause low energy levels and exhaustion.
Chronic back pain has been called a modern epidemic- so how do we help prevent and manage it?
Back pain is the second most common reason to visit the GP, after skin conditions, and almost eight out of 10 of us will suffer from it at least once in our lives. It’s also the number one cause of sick leave – and sufferers are getting younger. It rarely has a serious cause, usually being brought on by bad posture, awkward sleeping positions and other lifestyle habits.
Exercise is one of the best ways to help reduce back pain and keep it from returning. Most minor cases of back pain can be reduced with regular exercise and tailored workouts. Stretching, strengthening, and conditioning exercises can result in stronger muscles that support the spine and your body’s weight. When your body’s skeleton is supported, you are less likely to suffer injury and back pain. 5 great exercises to beat back pain:
You need to take care of the core muscles that support your spine. There are many workouts for back pain that do this, and your doctor or therapist should be able to give you specific advice and training for your unique back pain condition.
A good example of a safe strengthening exercise is the pelvic tilt. To do this exercise, lie on your back with your knees bent. Tighten your stomach muscles until you can press the small of your back flat against the floor. Hold the press for about five seconds and repeat up to 10 times.
Keeping your core muscles limber is as important as keeping them strong. Two good stretching exercises are the knee-to-chest and the hamstring stretch.
To do the knee-to-chest, lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Bring one knee up to your chest and use your hands to pull the knee close while flattening out your back; then repeat with the other knee. The hamstring stretch is done from the same starting position. Pick up one leg with both hands placed behind your knee and then straighten your lower leg. These stretches should be held for about 20 seconds and repeated five times. Be sure to warm up before you stretch.
Stretches to avoid: One of the worst stretches for a person with back pain is bending over to touch your toes while keeping your legs straight. Even worse is bouncing while trying to touch your toes. Other bad workouts for back pain are ones that require you to bend or twist with any type of weight in your hand.
An aerobic exercise is any exercise that uses the big muscles of your body in a rhythmic and repetitive way. Aerobic exercise can get blood flowing to your back muscles, which can really help them recover from injury and increase their strength. Walking is a good low-impact aerobics choice for your back, but swimming may be an even better workout for back pain if you get backaches.
In general, swimming is an excellent form of low-impact aerobic conditioning that is easy on the back and spine, with swimming there is practically no impact on the spinal structures. The water supports the body, relieving stress on all joints in the body.
Yoga and Pilates
Three all-around good workouts for back pain are Yoga, Pilates and working with an exercise ball. Yoga and Pilates are great because, as long as your teacher knows your limitations, they can be adapted safely for most people with back pain.
Yoga and Pilates are both fantastic mind-body workouts that can dramatically improve your overall fitness and wellbeing if a regular practice is put into place. In terms of flexibility, both workouts can improve overall flexibility as well as increasing spinal flexibility. Increasing spinal flexibility will really help to improve your fitness performance, in addition to helping prevent injuries.
Pilates focuses on spinal flexibility through articulation of the spine. It is excellent as a strengthening exercise and supporting your back. Pilates and Yoga stretches benefits include improving your posture, helping support the spinal column and alleviating back pain. However certain postures such as deep back bends and cobras can be a bit risky, especially if you suffer from any back pain.
Neck Tension is one of the most common issues treated in the chiropractic office and it’s no mystery why.
When we look down for prolonged periods of time, we disrupt the natural position of the neck. Our neck is designed to have a nice curve in it so that the weight of the head can be supported by the entire spine.
By looking down too often, all of the weight and pressure of the head is put on the neck and upper back. As the average human head weighs 5kg, that is a heavy load! This causes our neck to actually change shape – becoming straighter rather than curved.
When muscles get tight and irritated, the joints become stuck, the ligaments are overstretched and, worst of all, this causes interference in the spinal cord. If you spend several hours a day looking down at your phone or computer, chiropractic care would be extremely beneficial to you.
Since the neck supports the entire head and cervical spine, it is important to treat neck tension properly. The neck most commonly experiences stress and tension leading to pain. Neck pain may involve muscle spasms and strain. The presence of problems on the muscles and bone at the neck can cause limitation of motion of the neck joint. Most commonly, people complain of stiff necks.
If you experience any neck pain ask your chiropractor how to reverse the effects of neck tension.
The way you sleep could be causing you unnecessary aches and pains. We are told time after time that we should be sleeping flat on our backs, but many of us have already developed habitual sleeping patterns, which are hard to get out of. However, if you suffer from neck or shoulder stiffness, muscle tension or more commonly back pain, you might want to think twice about curling up into a ball next time you reach for the sheets.
Why do I wake up in pain?
Incorrect alignment and poor support of your spine and limbs will put pressure on different areas of the body, which is why you may sometimes wake up with pain or discomfort.
Why is it so important to look after my spine?
Your spine also plays a huge role in sending nerve signals around the body; delicate nerve tissues help control your critical organs, so any damage to these tissues can lead to problems affecting impairment in balance, vision, temperature regulation, digestion and hormonal regulation problems.
Refrain from sleeping on your stomach as this causes your spine to arch unnaturally and usually results in both back and neck stiffness
Laying on your back or side is the ideal position, however to perfect your alignment try to use an orthopaedic pillow to give your neck adequate support
If you sleep on your side, consider placing a pillow in-between your knees for support to prevent your back and pelvis from twisting
If you sleep on your back, consider placing a pillow under your knees to take the tension off your lower back
Acknowledging and correcting your posture throughout the day will help you find ease when it comes to sleep
What if the pain persists?
Importantly, remember that poor quality sleep can be caused by an underlying neck or back problem causing increased muscle tension. So if you are experiencing poor sleep, you need to ask your chiropractor to check your neck and back.
With shorter days and colder weather, finding the motivation to stay healthy and fit can be difficult. And that can lay the foundation for a weakened immune system, posing a greater risk of developing illness or injury. No wonder they call it the winter blues! Here are some easy tips on exercise, diet, health and wellness that you can follow during the cold season.
Start a Keto diet
The ketogenic diet (or keto diet, for short) is a low-carb, high-fat diet that offers many health benefits. In fact, over 20 studies show that this type of diet can help you lose weight and improve your health. It involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis.
When this happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy. It also turns fat into ketones in the liver, which can supply energy for the brain. Ketogenic diets can cause massive reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels. This, along with the increased ketones, has numerous health benefits. Ketogenic diets may even have benefits against diabetes, cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease.
Add Omega 3 fatty acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are a healthy type of fat that are naturally found in many food types including fish, plant seeds and nuts. Omega 3 fatty acids are great for reducing joint pain and stiffness as they are a natural anti-inflammatory”. Studies have also shown that omega 3 fatty acids help lower levels of depression, which people commonly feel during the shorter, darker days of winter.
Cook with Spices and Spice Related Foods
Onions, garlic, ginger and turmeric are the perfect items to add flavour to your dishes. Not only do they make food taste great, but they’re also shown to help improve immune function. Fresh garlic, ginger and onions are more than flavouring. Using all three together has a synergistic effect on lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. Turmeric is a spice traditionally used in Chinese and Indian medicine. This spice helps to combat a number of conditions including inflammation and heart disease, and it also acts as a powerful antioxidant.
Plan your Workouts
If you don’t feel in the mood for fitness, you can do exercises at home. There are plenty of resources online that supply workout videos and exercises. These resources offer a variety of workouts including yoga, strength training, aerobics and other body-weight exercises. But try to stick to a weekly exercise plan so you don’t put off your regular exercise activities. On Sunday night, write down your exercise schedule for the next seven days. Choose your exact workout routines, activities or exercises for each day and how long they will be. Knowing what you’re scheduled to do each day ahead of time makes it easier to stick to.
Head to a Steam Room or a Sauna
If you begin to feel yourself experiencing depression or higher levels of stress after the holiday season, steam rooms and saunas can help. They help tense muscles to relax, which can alleviate feelings of stress. The high temperatures also get you working up a sweat, which is a great way to detoxify your body and your skin.
Frequent Hand Washing and Vitamin C
Frequent hand washing throughout the day and consuming lots of vitamin C are an absolute must in maintaining your health during the winter.
Not only do they help protect your immune system and prevent you from developing flu and colds, they also protect others around you.