As the days get shorter and the temperatures (hopefully) begin to drop, change is in the air. That's what makes fall a great time for renewal and fresh starts. In fact, experts say autumn is the perfect time to boost well-being and fine-tune your health by making one or two small changes that yield big results. With that in mind, here are some suggestions to get you on your way:
1. Let Beans Be a Part of Your Diet
It may sound silly, but if you do one thing to improve your diet this fall, we recommend eating 3 cups of beans each week. Besides being a comfort food, beans add flavor and texture to soups, chili, and casseroles. They're also a great salad topper! Beans are rich in protein, iron, folic acid, fiber, and potassium. So pick a bean, any bean -- lima, black, garbanzo, pinto, or others -- and enjoy!
2. Defuse Stress With Friendship
Fall is a good time to come back together after the summer scattering of vacations and busy schedules -- a great time to relax with friends. Soothe away stress by making contact in person or by phone with someone you care about, someone you haven't talked to because life got in the way. The positive emotions will make you feel good, and when joy and stress meet up, joy wins out.
3. Have Fun With Fitness
Improve your fitness this fall by trying a less-conventional workoutto spruce up your regimen.
Break out of your fitness rut by taking a ballroom dance class or a mind-body workout such as yoga or pilates. You'll be energized and more likely to stick with it.
4. Avoid Binging on Comfort FoodThe lead up to winter can be a bleak time for many dieters. Whether you’re trying to lose or just trying to maintain a healthy weight, staying strong through the change of seasons is important. While the cooler weather makes most of us want to reach for our favorite comfort foods, there are ways to curb your body’s urges. Keeping up with a regular workout routine is the first, and, second, try to avoid going to parties or functions hungry, too many food and drink choices are sure to foster overeating.
5. Heart Health: Know Your Stats
Give your heart health a boost this fall and capitalize on the seasonal sense of renewal to focus on prevention. This means scheduling an appointment with your doctor to get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked, as well as to see if your glucose levels are healthy. Knowing your numbers will help you figure out your personal risk for heart disease.
6. Synchronize Your Sleep
Manage the more demanding fall schedules by synchronizing your internal sleep/wake clock to the outside environment. In the morning, get outside within 5 minutes of getting up and expose yourself to bright light for 30 minutes. At night, avoid bright light within two to three hours of going to bed, because it might delay your sleep onset. This will keep you alert in the morning and make you sleepy at bedtime.
7. Get Your Flu ShotWant to spend a week of fall cooped up at home, suffering from fever, fatigue and aches? Didn't think so. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each season." And no, no, no, the flu vaccine does not give you the flu.
8. Sign Out of Social Media and Head Outside
The leaves will soon be changing and satisfyingly crunching under your feet. The (usually) moderate temperature is a reprieve from the sweltering summer and a gift before the frigid winter. What better season to throw on a beanie and head outside? Plus, spending time outdoors increases your vitamin D levels, makes you happier and improves your concentration, according to Harvard Medical School.
It's time to renew yourself! Try these easy health-boosting tips -- they're sure to give you a fresh start this fall.
Sleep makes you feel better, but its importance goes way beyond just boosting your mood or banishing under-eye circles. Adequate sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle, and can benefit your heart, weight, mind, and more. Here are some health benefits researchers have discovered about a good night’s sleep:
Your mind is surprisingly busy while you snooze. During sleep you can strengthen memories or "practice" skills learned while you were awake (it’s a process called consolidation). In other words, if you’re trying to learn something new, —whether it’s Spanish or a new tennis swing—, you’ll perform better after sleeping.
Too much or too little sleep is associated with a shorter lifespan, —although it’s not clear if it’s a cause or effect. (Illnesses may affect sleep patterns too.) In a 2010 study of women ages 50 to 79, more deaths occurred in women who got less than five hours or more than six and a half hours of sleep per night.
Sleep also affects quality of life: if you sleep better, you can live better.
Inflammation is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and premature aging. Research indicates that people who get less sleep (—six or fewer hours a night—) have higher levels of inflammatory proteins than those who get more sleep. In fact, a 2010 study found that C-reactive protein, which is associated with heart attack risk, was higher in people who got six or fewer hours of sleep a night. People who have sleep apnea or insomnia can have an improvement in blood pressure and inflammation with treatment of the sleep disorders.
Get a good night’s sleep before getting out the easel and paintbrushes or the pen and paper. Researchers at Harvard University and Boston College found that people seem to strengthen the emotional components of a memory during sleep, which may help spur the creative process.
Be a winner
If you’re an athlete, there may be one simple way to improve your performance: sleep. One study found that college football players who tried to sleep at least 10 hours a night for seven to eight weeks improved their average sprint time and had less daytime fatigue and more stamina. The results of this study reflect previous findings seen in tennis players and swimmers.
Children between the ages of 10 and 16 who have sleep disordered breathing, which includes snoring, sleep apnea, and other types of interrupted breathing during sleep, are more likely to have problems with attention and learning, according to a 2010 study in the journal Sleep. This could lead to "significant functional impairment at school," the study authors wrote.
In another study, college students who didn’t get enough sleep had worse grades than those who did.
If you’re trying to meet a deadline, you’re probably likely to sacrifice sleep. It’s severe and reoccurring sleep deprivation, however, that clearly impairs learning.
Another thing that your brain does while you sleep is process your emotions. Your mind needs this time in order to recognize and react the right way. When you cut that short, you tend to have more negative emotional reactions and fewer positive ones. Chronic lack of sleep can also raise the chance of having a mood disorder. One study showed that when you have insomnia, you're five times more likely to develop depression, and your odds of anxiety or panic disorders are even greater.
If you are thinking about going on a diet, you might want to plan an earlier bedtime too. Researchers found that dieters who were well rested lost more fat than those who were sleep deprived, who lost more muscle mass. Dieters in the study also felt more hungry when they got less sleep.
Skimping on sleep can mess up more than just your morning mood. Getting quality sleep on a regular basis is important on many levels, so give your body the ZZZs it needs. Your best bet is to shoot for 7-8 hours of slumber each night for peak health benefits.
Fall is (hopefully) beckoning, but we’re not quite ready to get out our big heavy braising pots. The last of the heirloom tomatoes and fresh corn sit side-by-side with figs and apples at the farm market, along with the first pickings of winter squash (kobocha, delicatas, butternuts).
Winter squashes and many of the star root vegetables (carrots, beets and parsnips) are EXCELLENT for cognitive functioning, focus, and learning (just in time for back-to-school!). Fall Immune boosters include winter squashes (antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant), and pomegranates (antiinflammatory, memory and mood enhancers). Sweet potatoes are blood pressure regulators and helpful for cardiovascular health. Definitely something to keep in mind!
To get us in the mood for fall and the delicious flavors that come with it, we are featuring 3 delicious and healthy recipes we recommend trying. They are each incredibly full of flavor and health boosting qualities. Try them and let us know what you think!
Kale with Delicate Squash and Hazelnuts
MAKES 6 SERVINGS • PREP TIME: 10 minutes • COOK TIME: 20 minutes
Getting in the swing of eating veggies is like igniting a pilot light on a stove: it may take several tries, but once it’s lit, the flame burns steadily. The challenge is to present important vegetables—and, none is more vital for brain health than kale—in ways that will kick-start your taste for this superfood. Here, kale is paired with an autumn favorite, delicata squash, along with garlic, red pepper flakes, and freshly squeezed lemon juice to create a dish that’s both a delight to the eyes and the taste buds. The chopped roasted hazelnuts take the entire concoction completely over the top.
2 bunches dinosaur kale, stemmed and cut in bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 medium delicata squash, seeded and flesh cut into bite-size pieces
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon Grade A Dark Amber maple syrup
1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
Cover the kale with cold water and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large, deep sauté pan over medium heat, then stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for about 15 seconds, then immediately add the squash and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine. Let cook until the squash is caramelized and just tender, about 10 minutes.
Drain the kale and add it to the pan in batches along with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Sauté until the greens turn bright green and wilt, about 5 minutes. Test the greens for tenderness; you may need to add 1 tablespoon of water and continue cooking, covered for another 2 to 3 minutes. Drizzle on 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and the maple syrup and stir gently. Taste; you may want to add a pinch or two of salt and another squeeze of lemon. Garnish with the hazelnuts and serve immediately.
Lentil Salad with Roasted Beets
MAKES 4 SERVINGS • PREP TIME: 20 minutes • COOK TIME: 1 hour
Certain foods are so valuable from a health perspective that they need to show up time and again in new and interesting forms. So it is with lentils. They’re so versatile, and they act as a great backdrop for salads and side dishes. In this recipe, they’re the foundation for a wonderful blend of citrus and crunch, with fennel, sweet roasted beets, and walnuts all gleefully playing together in the sandbox.
1 cup dried lentils, preferably Le Puy green lentils, rinsed well
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick, or 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup Toasted Cumin Citrus Vinaigrette
1 cup diced fennel
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Wrap the beets in parchment paper, then in foil, and roast for 30 minutes to 1 hour (depending on their size), until tender and fragrant. Remove from the oven and, when they are cool enough, peel and cut into small cubes.
Combine the lentils, garlic, bay leaf, and cinnamon in a saucepan and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, then cover, lower the heat, and simmer until the lentils are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain the lentils thoroughly and discard the garlic clove, bay leaf, and cinnamon stick.
Toss the lentils with half the vinaigrette and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and let it rest a few minutes. Then add the fennel, beets, and remaining dressing. Stir in the mint and parsley, walnuts, and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Taste; you may want to add another pinch of salt, a few grinds of black pepper, or a bit more lemon juice. Serve. VARIATION: This salad can also be heated and served over arugula or spinach. The heat will gently wilt the greens.
COOK'S NOTE: You don’t have to presoak lentils, but rinse them well in a bowl of cold water, using your hands to swish them around. Drain and repeat until the water is clear. Don’t boil lentils, which makes them mushy and causes them to fall apart. Let them simmer for a nice, tender texture.
Sweet Potato Bars
MAKES ABOUT 16 PIECES • PREP TIME: 15 minutes • COOK TIME: 45 minutes, plus 2 hours for chilling
These Sweet Potato bars remind me of a healthier version of the lemon bars I used to make as a kid. Probably because this is a treat any youngster would like, a great combination of a vegetable-based sweet snack and a nutty, gluten-free crust. Sweet Potatoes and cinnamon have great anti-oxidant and blood sugar regulating capacity, making them a great anytime bar. They’re so nutrient dense it doesn’t take much to feel completely satiated, and the tastes are so delightful that you’re blissfully aware of every bite.
Prepare ahead: Leave yourself 2 hours for these yummy bars to chill before cutting and eating.
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup unsalted pistachio nuts
1/4 cup pecans
1/4 cup teff flour
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
2 tablespoons Grade A Dark Amber maple syrup
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sweet Potato Layer
These Sweet Potato bars remind me of a healthier version of the lemon bars. Sweet Potatoes and cinnamon have great anti-oxidant and blood sugar regulating capacity, making them a great anytime bar. They’re so nutrient dense it doesn’t take much to feel completely satiated, and the tastes are so delightful that you’re blissfully aware of every bite. Leave yourself 2 hours for these yummy bars to chill before cutting and eating.
1 pound garnet yams or orange fleshed sweet potatoes
3 tablespoons Grade A Dark Amber maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/3 cup plain organic yogurt
2 large eggs
freshly grated nutmeg
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Prick the yams all over with a fork and bake for about 35 to 45 minutes or until they are very soft. Allow them to cool.
Lightly oil an 8-inch square-baking pan. Place the oats, salt, cinnamon, pistachio nuts, pecans, teff four and orange zest in a food processor bowl with a fitted metal blade. Pulse until the ingredients are like a coarse meal. Add the maple syrup and olive oil and continue to pulse until all the ingredients are evenly moist, but still crumbly looking. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and press it evenly and firmly into the bottom. Bake the crust for 15 minutes or until set. Remove from oven, but keep it on.
Meanwhile, peel the yam and mash the flesh. Measure 1 1/2 cups of mashed yam, and place into the food processor bowl. Add the maple syrup, orange zest, cardamom, ginger, yogurt, and eggs and process until smooth. Pour the mixture onto the crust and smooth the top evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle with nutmeg and bake about 25 minutes or until the filling is set and just beginning to pull from the sides of pan. Allow to completely on a rack. Chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Cut into16 squares.
STORAGE: Store refrigerated in airtight container for 4 days or freeze tightly wrapped for 2 months.
COOK'S NOTE: Teff is gluten free flour. Technically, oats are gluten free, however, they are subject to cross contamination. If you’re extremely sensitive to gluten we recommend using Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Oats.
We all know that being overweight is bad for our health, but is lack of physical fitness worse? The answer might surprise you.
Back in the mid-1990s, when researcher Steven Blair introduced the idea that thinness wasn’t synonymous with fitness, fitness fanatics of all shapes and sizes rejoiced. His landmark study was the first to suggest that fitness trumped fat when it comes to overall health, concluding that a lack of exercise poses a greater risk to health than being overweight. Blair’s results, along with several subsequent studies confirming his findings, sparked the term “metabolically healthy obesity,” which is defined as being overweight (a body mass index above 30) without the associated high blood pressure, abnormal blood sugar and elevated cholesterol levels often associated with carrying excess weight.
Since regular exercise has proven effective in reducing mortality even among the severely obese, it’s clear that being fit can mitigate the health risks associated with being overweight. In fact, it’s worth noting that fit individuals with heart disease had a lower risk of mortality independent of body weight and age, proving once again the importance of exercise for all ages and sizes.
Faced with the reality that exercise alone isn’t always effective when it comes to getting rid of unwanted inches, it’s nice to know that your efforts in the gym won’t be in vain, despite the fact that the numbers on the scale may not change significantly. So, it’s time to stop using the scale to determine success in the gym. Exercise is truly its own reward — at least as far as life expectancy is concerned.
So how much exercise does it take to reap the rewards of being fit? Thirty minutes of moderate intensity exercise most, if not all, days of the week should do the trick. And it doesn’t have to be done in the gym...a brisk walk, bike ride or swim will get the job done. It does have to be aerobic exercise, however, which means yoga lovers and those who pump iron need to include some form of sustained activity that raises heart rate and oxygen consumption into their workout schedule.
The best news of all is that it’s never too late to get in shape. Men who went from unfit to fit in a study that spanned five years experienced a 44-per-cent drop in all-cause mortality. The opposite occurred in fit individuals who joined the ranks of the unfit. They saw their mortality risk increase as their commitment to regular exercise waned.
The time has come to own the idea that being fit is more important than becoming thin. After all, anyone who’s tried to lose weight and keep it off can tell you success in the gym is easier to achieve than moving the numbers on the scale. Fitness is a goal that’s not just attainable, it’s accessible no matter your shape or size.
With fall sports in full swing, concussions are certain to ramp up within the mainstream consciousness. And while conventional wisdom often states that “time and rest” are the best and only options for recovery from concussion, studies now suggest managed exercise and movement can hasten recovery.
In 2010, researchers at the University of Buffalo were the first to show that specialized exercise regimens can relieve prolonged concussion symptoms. Focusing on both athletes and non-athletes, researchers based their findings on the hypothesis that “the regulatory system responsible for maintaining cerebral blood flow, which may be dysfunctional in people with a concussion, can be restored to normal by controlled, graded, symptom-free exercise.”
Nearly 3.8 million people suffer from concussions each year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many of these are a result of athletic injuries or motor vehicle accidents, and 5 to 10 percent of those suffering from a concussion may experience symptoms that last beyond six weeks. Concussions are serious medical conditions that can hold you back for days … even weeks. The good news is that physical therapy can guide a patient through the healing process, making recovery more proactive and possibly even quicker.
When choosing physical therapy to aid in recovery, a physical therapist will first provide concussed patients with thorough neurological, orthopedic and cardiovascular evaluations in an effort to develop an individualized treatment plan that addresses specific needs and goals. Then, following some rest and recovery, a physical therapist can determine when it’s best to begin treating the problems related to the concussion (dizziness, balance and headaches) while also starting a light, guided exercise program for the restoration of strength and endurance, putting the patient on track to a full recovery.
If you or a loved one are suffering from a concussion, do not delay in getting help. The quicker you seek help, the faster you can return to your normal activities. Call us today to set up an evaluation and let us help you get back on track!
If you knew that a certain type of exercise could benefit your heart, improve your balance, strengthen your bones, and help you lose weight all while making you look and feel better, wouldn't you get started right away? Well, studies show that strength training can provide all those benefits and more.
Contrary to popular belief, strength training exercises from weight lifting to bodyweight movements like squats, push-ups, and planks will not make you bulk up. Instead, they offer a slew of other benefits — both physically, and mentally. In fact, numerous studies have shown that strength training can play a role in slowing bone loss, and several show it can even build bone. This is tremendously useful to help offset age-related declines in bone mass.
According to the American Heart Association, strength training is physical activity designed to improve muscular fitness by exercising a specific muscle or muscle group against external resistance, including free-weights, weight machines, or your own body weight. It is an important part of your overall fitness and benefits people of all ages, particularly those with health issues such as obesity, arthritis, or a heart condition. So, besides the well-touted (and frequently Instagrammed) benefit of adding tone and definition to your muscles, how does strength training help? Here are just a few of the many ways:
1. Makes you stronger
This benefit is the obvious one, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. Strength training not only increases our muscle strength, but also our bone strength, helping minimize the risk of fracture. In addition, strength training works the range of motion of our joints. All of these things help us to stay independent and perform activities of daily living, such as house and yard work, playing with grandchildren, or caring for a pet.
2. Protects bone health and muscle mass
At around age 30 we start losing as much as 3 to 5 percent of lean muscle mass per year thanks to aging. Just 30 minutes twice a week of high intensity resistance and impact training has been shown to improve functional performance, as well as bone density, structure, and strength in postmenopausal women with low bone mass.
3. Helps you develop better body mechanics.
Strength training also benefits your balance, coordination, and posture. One study showed that in older people who are at higher risk of falling (and causing a lot of damage) because of worse physical functioning, strength training reduced risk of falling by 40 percent compared with individuals who did not do strength-training exercise.
4. Helps with chronic disease management
Studies have documented the many wellness benefits of strength training, including helping people with chronic diseases manage their conditions. A few examples are:
Aerobic exercise such as walking, running, and cycling is well-known as a way to help increase the number of calories you burn in a day, thereby shedding extra pounds. But strength training helps, too (even if you’re not burning a huge number of calories during the workout). Strength training is helpful for weight loss, because it helps increase your resting metabolism (meaning the rate at which your body burns calories when you’re just going about your day, not exercising).
6. Boosts energy levels and improves your mood
Strength training will elevate your level of endorphins (natural opiates produced by the brain), which lift energy levels and improve mood. In addition, research that’s looked at neurochemical and neuromuscular responses to such workouts offers further evidence it has a positive effect on the brain.
There’s also evidence that strength training may also help you sleep better.
7. Strength training has cardiovascular health benefits
Along with aerobic exercise, muscle-strengthening physical activity helps improve blood pressure. The recommendation is doing muscle-strengthening activities twice weekly plus 150 minutes of weekly moderate-intensity activity, at a minimum, to help reduce hypertension and lower risk of heart disease.
If you’re looking to add strength or resistance training to your routine, you don't have to jump into a CrossFit class to see such major health benefits. Even relatively simple exercises such as a sit-to-stand or wall push-ups can go a long way, particularly if you're just starting to get back into shape. If you're no stranger to strength training, though, try taking it up a notch. Interval training, where you alternate between, say, 40 seconds of weight lifting and 20 seconds of rest, has been shown to be particularly effective. So, what are you waiting for? Start taking steps (even if they're small ones!) toward your goal today, and you'll start seeing benefits in no time!
Picnics in the park. Perfectly grilled fish. Farmers' markets piled high with summer's peak produce. Summer is our favorite time to cook...it's the best time to eat a little healthier, too! We're playing the following recipes on repeat straight through Labor Day. Try them and let us know what you think!
Avocado and Chicken Caprese Salad (20 Minute Meal)
Garlic-Parmesan Hasselback Zucchini
Chicken and Bulgur Salad With Peaches
Skillet Ginger Peach Crisp for Two
Watermelon Feta Blueberry Salad
1 lime, juiced
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
It's a scorcher out there, folks! And as summer continues to heat up and temps camp out in the triple digits, it is important to take precautions and protect yourself from heat illness while being outdoors. Extremely high temperatures especially put athletes at an increased risk for heat illness. Knowing the steps for prevention can help keep you safe.
The common denominator of heat illness prevention is: Water, Rest, Shade. Getting plenty of all three when outdoors is the best way to beat the heat and stay out of trouble.
Heat Safety Tips
When overheating does occur, it's important to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) identifies four stages of heat-related illness: heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Heat Rash is an irritation to the skin caused by sweat buildup. While common, heat rash is usually treatable by getting individuals into a cool environment with good ventilation.
Sweating causes a loss of body salts and fluids, which can lead to heat cramps. An individual suffering from muscle spasms or pain due to the heat should move to a cool area, rest and hydrate.
If the body loses too much water and salt, heat exhaustion may result. Signs of heat exhaustion include cool, moist skin, nausea, headache, dizziness, weakness and rapid pulse. Workers should immediately lie down in a cool area, drink lots of water and apply cold compresses or ice packs if available. If signs of heat exhaustion do not abate or worsen, the individual should go to the emergency room.
Heat Stroke is a medical emergency. Heat stroke signs and symptoms are:
Don't be afraid to get out and enjoy summertime with your friends and family. Just be sure to be prepared, use precaution and common sense, and know when it's time to take a rest.
Are you experiencing pain? Pain can be both physical and emotional, and results from actual or perceived damage to tissues. That’s right—pain is all in your head. But regardless of whether the damage is real or not, pain most definitely feels real.
Why do we have pain? It is our body’s way of protecting itself from danger and can be a warning sign of damage rather than damage itself. Although injury pain is different from the pain we feel from a hard athletic effort, the concept is the same. Athletic pain is our body’s way of telling us that we are approaching our physical capacity, and if we continue at the same intensity, we will soon run out of energy or other essential needs. However, the athletic limit of individuals can be altered to push through performance barriers.
How is it that a runner can feel like she is in so much pain that it is impossible to go any faster, but then suddenly find the energy to sprint for the finish? The body’s reserves are the same, but the brain perceives the end of misery to be near and allows free use of available resources. In a similar way, injury pain warns us to protect vulnerable areas of our body. Nociceptors, or special nerves throughout the body, send signals to the brain to create feelings of pain. Everyone experiences pain differently and life experience can increase or decrease the way we perceive situations related to pain. If we have had a previous back injury, for example, the next time we are in a situation that might cause back injury, it can trigger warning pain to prevent us from overworking and leading to re-injury.
The American Physical Therapists Association Move Forward Guide to Pain tells us:
"Stand up straight." That's timeless advice we've likely all heard at one time or another, and it's worth heeding. In fact, researchers have linked bad posture with some uncomfortable health conditions and high risk of injury, especially during exercise.
Posture is the positioning of the body when a person is sitting, standing, lying down, or performing different tasks. But what is good posture really? Good posture is also known as neutral spine. When we have good posture, the muscles surrounding the spine are balanced and supporting the body equally. Poor posture, on the other hand, can cause an array of health problems. Some of those include:
Now that we know the dangers that come with poor posture, here are 9 key benefits along with tips to achieving good posture:
1. Reduced lower back pain
Sitting or standing in a slouched position for prolonged periods of time stresses your lower back. More specifically, it puts pressure on the posterior structures of the spine, including the intervertebral discs, facet points, ligaments, and muscles.
Tip: Do bridges to strengthen your lower backBridges strengthen and engage your gluteal and abdominal muscles, so your body relies on them instead of stressing your lower back. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Tighten your core without changing your back position. Lift your hips and lower torso off of the ground by contracting your gluteus maximus muscles, then slowly lower your hips back down.
2. Fewer headaches
Poor posture can contribute to tension headaches, due to increased muscle tension in the back of the neck. Often if we correct our posture, we can reduce muscle tension and improve our headaches.
Tip: Stretch your neck muscles with a head retraction exerciseThis exercise strengthens the neck muscles that are often weak and stretched out. Lie on the floor on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Pull your chin back toward the floor like you’re trying to make a double chin. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds and repeat 10 times.
3. Increased energy levels
When your bones and joints are in correct alignment, it allows the muscles to be used as they’re intended, so you’ll have less fatigue and more energy. In other words, the muscles don't have to work so hard to do what they’re supposed to do.
Tip: Twist your torso to activate your side abs Strengthen your obliques so the right muscles are activated when you’re sitting or standing. Start by sitting on the floor with your knees bent. Lift your feet off of the floor about 6 inches. Tighten your core as you rotate your upper body and elbows from side to side.
4. Less tension in your shoulders and neck
A forward head posture puts strain on the upper back, shoulder, and neck areas. With proper alignment, the joints and ligaments are less stressed and less subject to chronic overuse.
Tip: Look in the mirror and perform this neck stretch Stretch out your neck to relieve pressure and correct tension. Stand with a straight spine and neck. Slightly tuck your chin backward. You should feel a slight tensioning of your clavicle muscles and a lengthening of the posterior part of your neck. Hold for 3 seconds and complete 15 repetitions.
5. Decreased risk of abnormal wearing of the joint surfaces
Crooked sitting and standing, such as resting on one leg or side of your body, leads to hip strain. Your joints wear down naturally over time. If your posture is even, not many problems arise. But if you’re uneven, more pain and issues tend to occur.
Tip: Strengthen your core and lower back with this hip flexor stretchThis exercise strengthens your core and lower back at the same time while stretching your hip flexors. Start in a lunge position with one knee on the floor and your leg extended backward. The other leg should be at a 90-degree angle in front of you with your foot planted on the floor. Engage your core by pulling in slightly.
6. Improved circulation and digestion
If you’re compressing vital organs, your circulation is poor, and those organs aren’t going to work as well. Healthy blood flow requires proper alignment and avoiding positions which cramp circulation, like crossing your legs.
Tip: Roll out your spine with a thoracic foam roll
Lie on your back on the ground and place a firm foam roller in a horizontal position underneath you at the bottom of your rib cage. Support your neck with your arms. Slowly extend your spine over the roller. Hold for 5 seconds and take a deep breath. Slowly move up 1 to 2 inches at a time. Perform this exercise daily.
7. Reduced TMJ (temporomandibular joint) pain
When we have a forward head position, our mandibular joint and jaw muscles experience stress and tension. This can contribute to pain with eating, talking, yawning, as well as clicking with opening, and headaches.
Tip: Loosen your jaw
With your head and neck in a neutral position and your eyes looking forward, turn your head slowly from one side to the other to stretch your neck muscles.
8. Better form during your workouts
Our posture doesn’t just affect us when we’re sitting and standing, but when we’re exercising, too. For example, having an engaged core and neutral spine during a squat will help prevent injury.
Tip: Try the tree pose
Stand upright with your feet firmly planted on the ground. Bring your hands to meet in the middle of your chest with palms and fingers touching. Pull your shoulder blades back with your ears resting above your shoulders. Lift one leg up to your thigh or shin (not your knee), and press the sole of your foot into your leg for stability. Both legs should be engaged, and your core should be tucked slightly as you maintain a neutral spine.
9. Appear taller
While it’s icing on the cake, good posture can make us more attractive. “People look taller and slimmer when they have good posture,” admits Griffith. Sometimes it can even make our abdominals appear more defined.
Tip: Flex with the forearm plank
Lie on the floor with your frontside down. Keep your forearms parallel and your feet hip-width apart. Tighten your core and lift your torso off of the ground. Make sure you’re looking down between your elbows, your shoulder blades are pulled back, and your core muscles are tight. Hold your plank for up to 30 seconds, but stop sooner if your form starts to decline. Complete 3 sets.
Up for a challenge?
Aim to get all the benefits of good posture by trying the above tips consistently for 30 days! Being mindful of body positioning, stretching regularly, and employing the tips listed above can tremendously improve posture and your overall health. For even more help, call to make an appointment at The Smith clinic today!