The Stability ball has become a staple in every gym, therapy setting, and Pilates studio. These days, the trend has shifted from an exercise setting to the office desk. Doubling as work chairs, the Stability ball provides a versatile seating option in the traditional work space. Before replacing your chair, make sure you are brushed up on ergonomics of the Stability Ball.
The Stability ball worked its way behind the desk for a number of reasons. Sitting on the ball requires stabilization muscles to activate, it typically encourages the spine in the proper S-curve which allows for better body alignment, and it is more comfortable on the sit-bones.
To elaborate, while sitting in a chair, the pelvis may tilt forward or backward instead of the ideal neutral position with hip bones over pubic bone. Ultimately, the spine slumps into a “C” curve instead of the natural “S” curve that is optimal for shock absorption. By the end of the day, a C-curve effects the upper back, shoulders, and neck which every so often results in a tension headache to top it all off. Sitting can also result in permanent debilitating muscular imbalances such as tight hip flexors, uneven hips, kyphosis (rounding of the upper back), and shoulder misalignment. An unstable surface, such as the stability ball requires more muscular recruitment in the lower trunk to sit on the apex of the ball and also challenges the upper back muscles to stay engaged. The upright spine allows shoulders to remain neutral instead of falling into the protracted state when the C-curve takes shape.
Although the ball encourages a natural spinal position, there are many precautions that need to be taken when choosing to sit on the ball for extended periods of time.
Everyone has a different pelvic placement and spinal alignment. Those with lordosis and an anterior pelvic tilt may exacerbate the curve in the lower back. The lower back muscles, quadratus lumborum, may overwork to stabilize and result in discomfort in the lower back. Alternatively, individuals with a posterior pelvic tilt may have trouble balancing on the ball and getting their spine out of flexion. Sitting on a flexed lumbar spine may cause undue stress overtime. Ideally, have a fitness specialist or physical therapist analyze posture in the standing a seated position to make sure the ball is right for you.
When replacing the desk chair with a stability ball, begin with a half hour or less and build up seated time each day to see how the body tolerates the change. Similar to building up to a new exercise routine, the body needs time to adapt to the new spinal position and muscular activation. If sitting on the ball provides discomfort it may not be an appropriate option.
Be sure to pick the right size ball based on your height and body proportions. To test it, sit on the ball and make sure the hips are level or just slightly higher than the knees:
55 cm - 4'11" - 5'4"
65 cm - 5'5" - 5'11"
75 cm - 6'0" - 6' 7"
While sitting on the ball, keep both feet firmly planted on the floor. Stand up to do any office tasks other than seated computer work. For example, when reaching down into a drawer avoid rotating and leaning on the ball as this becomes a fall risk.
The best office solution is to reduce seated time as much as possible. For those who are stuck in a seat, it is recommended to take a stand-up break every 20 to 30 minutes to reduce the health risks. Here are some ways to stand up more throughout your work day:
- Do your work in person: Instead of emailing or calling a co worker about your latest project, walk to their desk to discuss the information.
- Stand up while on the phone: Use a speaker phone or long cord so that whenever you have a phone call you can pace your office or stand and take notes while having the conversation.
- Walk after each meal or snack: Use the last 15 minutes of your lunch break to walk outside, or take a stroll down the office hallway after having a snack to create a habit of standing up more often.
- Alternate between a standing desk and seated desk
Fascial Fitness is a fairly new buzz word among fitness professionals. It pertains to training the body based on the fascial tissue layer which has been a neglected piece of kinesthetic chain in previous research. The fascia layer lies between the skin and muscular tissue. This layer is greasy and looks like a spider web as it encompasses the muscles and organs in a net-like fashion. One important detail about the fascia: it is an interconnected web and remains continuous throughout the body.
What is the fascia made of? The fascial tissue contains three things: fibers, gooey stuff, and water. The fibers are made up of collagen (12 types) and elastin/reticulin. The gooey stuff is what makes the fascia have a greasy feeling. The body produces heparin, fibronectin, and hyaluronic acid which are gel-like subatances in the fascia. There is also a glue-like substance that helps the tissue adapt and allows nerves and cells that line the surfaces of tissues to connect. The water mixes with the gooey stuff to help keep the fibers wet a pliable.
In the past when doing muscular research on cadavers the fascia layer was simply cut off and put to the side. Since the muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons were the only tissues studied for movement; fitness exercises and equipment were designed to train muscles in a way that creates isolated joint movements. For example, a biceps curl with a dumbbell engages the biceps muscle to cause the elbow joint to flex. Now, researchers are paying closer attention to this fascial layer over top of the muscle that has 10 times more sensory nerve endings than muscles. When the brain tells the body to move the arm overhead, it is most likely communicating this message to the facial tissue instead of the deltoid which is one shoulder muscle. Thus, full body exercises, also known as “functional” exercises have been making a breakthrough.
This fascial research teaches us a number of things when it comes to training and conditioning the human body. We know that the fascia starts to tighten up with age which may be the biggest contributor to flexibility issues aside for the previous thought muscular tightness. Therefore, full body movements such as functional strength training, yoga and pilates are great forms of exercise to address the fascial tissue. Massage also helps to loosen up the fascial tissue for better body function. Fitness centers have started using foam rollers, tennis balls, and other massage tools to loosen fascial tissue as a quicker, cheaper alternative to setting up a massage on a daily basis. When a “knot” is palpated in a muscular region of the body, this is simply the spider-web like fascia that has bundled up and created a knot feeling. Massaging, rolling, and trigger point release techniques help to release the “knot.”
Other fasical findings help us to understand the muscular system better than before. For example, it has been discovered that tendons and muscles are more elastic than previously thought, and most injuries that occur are fascial not muscular. Building elasticity and resilience into the fascial system will help prevent injury. This can be accomplished with dynamic stretching, jumping and bounding, and utilizing the BOSU. Along the same lines, research suggests that fascial elasticity rebounds very quickly which plays a large role in quick repetitive movements such as running or jumping rope.
Lastly, findings suggest that variation is most important for the fascial tissue. Loading the fascial tissue repetitively will cause weakness that may result in injury in the long run. Therefore, mix it up!
February is the month of hearts! Not only does Valentine ’s Day fall in February but it is National Cholesterol month, providing a gentle reminder to pay attention health factors we can’t see.
Cholesterol is a type of fat that looks like a soft waxy substance and is found in the blood stream. Although cholesterol gets a bad reputation, it plays some vital roles in the body. For example, Cholesterol is essential for the structure and function of cells in the body and plays an important role in the development of various hormones.
Unfortunately, too much cholesterol has negative health repercussions. As the cholesterol levels increase, it can begin to stick to the artery walls. When cholesterol begins sticking to the artery walls it can create thick layers that slowly close the artery. This would be similar to the effect of adding layers of cement to the inside of the Hampton Roads Bridge tunnel, over time cars wouldn't even be able to fit through. The same thing applies to the arteries, with cholesterol eventually restricting blood flow. High levels of cholesterol cause lead to heart disease and stroke. Remember, heart disease is the #1 cause of death in America among men and women! Take responsibility for your health and make improvements to your cholesterol count by changing your diet, exercising regularly, and controlling your weight.
Understand your Cholesterol Reading:
· LDL: “bad cholesterol” carries cholesterol to different parts of the body
· HDL: “good cholesterol” returns cholesterol left in the blood vessels to the liver
Healthy Cholesterol Count:
Total Cholesterol: <200
Iron is just one of various minerals required in the human diet for proper body function. Although mineral deficiencies are rare in developed countries, iron deficiency is rather common in women, adolescents, and competitive athletes. Approximately 58% of otherwise healthy women in the United States have some degree of iron deficiency.
Iron plays an important role in the diet as it is a component of hemoglobin and myoglobin. Hemoglobin is the iron containing protein of the red blood cells and is responsible for oxygen transportation and utilization of energy. When the body does not have enough hemoglobin a person is diagnosed with Anemia. Anemia, Iron Deficiency, and Iron Deficiency Anemia are names used interchangeably for the lack of iron and thus hemoglobin.
Iron deficiency causes concern because it may cause a number of negative effects on human function. Iron deficiency may cause fatigue that impairs the memory, mental ability, and ability to do physical work in adults and affects athletic performance. In infants, iron deficiency may cause delayed motor function or mental function. Lastly, iron deficiency during pregnancy increases the risk for preterm babies which often experience a number of health issues.
When there is not enough iron in the body, functions may be impaired but physical signs and symptoms do not show up until Anemia sets in. Signs of anemia include feeling tired and weak, decreased mental performance, slow development in children, difficulty maintaining body temperature, decreased immune function, and glossitis (inflamed tongue). The most common tests for screening for iron deficiency are the hemoglobin test and hematocrit test. Hemoglobin test measures how much hemoglobin is in the blood and the hematocrit test shows the percentage of red blood cells by volume. Iron needs increase with rapid growth, pregnancy, and blood loss due to menstrual periods or blood donations. Competitive athletes may require more iron due to heavy training, gastrointestinal bleeding, loosing iron through sweat, and breakdown of red blood cells.
Iron is divided into two types: heme (animal sources) and non-heme (plant sources). Heme sources of iron are absorbed two to three times better than non-heme sources of iron. Vegetarians should consume iron sources in proper combinations suggested by a dietitian to achieve proper absorption. Vitamin C helps the body absorb any iron source and is recommended to be consumed in combination with the iron source.
Best Food Sources for Heme Iron:
- Beef or Chicken Liver
- Canned Sardines
- Cooked Turkey
Best Food Sources for Non Heme Iron:
- Enriched Breakfast Cereals
- Cooked Beans
- Pumpkins/sesame/squash seeds
Just as the lack of iron causes problems, too much iron can also be an issue. Hemocromatosis is a disease in which the body stores too much iron. The first sign of the disease is organ failure due to excess iron in the liver and heart. Men are more susceptible to Hemocromatosis because they do not routinely lose blood through a menstrual cycle as women do.
I was featured in the NASA Center Snapshot this month, here is the link to the article:
As 2013 emerges, millions of Americans will set a New Year’s resolution that involves exercise, eating healthy, or weight loss. These are great goals because 60% of Americans die from illnesses connected with poor eating habits or lack of exercise. However, if you have been down this road before, and your success fizzles by January 15th it’s time to make some changes.
Are you ready to change? Below are the 5 stages of change that occur when a resolution plays out, making sure you are at the “Action” phase when you start the goal is essential to implementing a resolution.
- There is no intention of change; unaware of a problem.
- Thinking about behavior change; open to feedback; recognize areas for improvement.
- Decision has been made to change; a plan has been made to reach the goal.
- Plan is in motion; success provides motivation.
- Goal behavior has been achieved for 6 months; relapse prevention tactics may be applied.
During the preparation phase, setting a SMARTT goal is a proven strategy for success; therefore, as you write down your New Year’s resolution, make sure it meets all of these criteria:
- T-Tools for Success
These tips will aid in your resolution success:
- Choose one behavior to change or improve upon that is realistic to be maintained for a lifetime.
- Make sure you are truly ready for the change and this is a good time in your life to implement your goal.
- Keep your plan simple with attainable daily actions.
- Monitor your progress with an app, online log, or handwritten journal. Take extensive notes that include emotions before and after.
- Use monitoring tools to help fix pitfalls along the way.
- Plan ahead to make your daily action towards goal easy to attain.
- Create a reward system that does not counteract the set goal.
- Make a plan for relapses so you do not veer from your goal for long.
- Utilize tools and support systems so that you are not going into a goal blindly.
- Behavior change takes a while to become a lifestyle change; therefore, understand it will be challenging for a few months until your body responds to it as routine.
What will your New Year's Resolution be and have you written it out in a SMARTT goal format?
Just because it is cold outside, doesn’t mean outdoor activities have to come to a seasonal stop. Exercising in the cold burns additional calories and produces more endorphins in the extra effort to keep your body warm. Not only are there metabolic perks, but exposing your body to natural light and fresh air is rejuvenating.
Warm Up and Cool Down Properly: Warm up indoors by jumping rope or jogging in place for about 5 minutes. Once you head outside to start your workout, allow your body to adjust to the cold air by taking breaks every minute or so for the first 10 minutes. After your workout, cool down by slowing your pace down for about 5 minutes, then head inside and keep moving around for about 10 minutes. During those 10 minutes you can start taking layers off and adjusting to room temperature.
Dress in layers: Surprisingly, you can end up dressing too warmly for winter outdoor exercise. The body warms up considerably when exercising, so oversized outerwear may make the body overheat. The best solution is to dress in layers. The first layer should be a thin, moisture wicking material unlike cotton which will stay wet and close to the skin. The next layer should be an insulating material such as wool or fleece. Lastly, a waterproof, breathable outer layer will complete your exercise attire. Also, be mindful of stop and go activities since the body will be more vulnerable to the cold once you work up a sweat.
Keep your extremities warm: In colder temperatures the body centralizes blood flow to the core, leaving hands and feet disposed to frostbite. Use the layering technique for hands with thin gloves first and heavier gloves or mittens overtop that are lined with wool or fleece. Try layering socks or opt for thick thermal socks that wick sweat. Use a hat or headband for ear warmth, and consider a scarf or facemask that will warm the face and the air before it enters your lungs.
Weather conditions and wind chill: Wind chill extremes make exercising in the cold a risk even when dressed warmly. The wind easily penetrates clothing removing the warmth held close to the body along with potential frost bite to exposed skin. Exercise in the rain and cold is also a high risk as the body may not be able to keep warm when clothing layers are soaked. Consider taking a break when these weather conditions exist.
Wear appropriate gear: Remember your reflective clothing now that there is less sunlight and wear shoes with traction for snowy or icy conditions. If you will be going on ice and snow packed trails, try using yaktrax on the sole of your normal workout shoes.
Hydrate: The colder temperatures make it easy to forget; however, you are still losing water from sweat, breathing, and increased urine production, so be sure to hydrate properly.
Sunscreen: High altitude or snowy conditions provide greater exposure to rays, so slather on the SPF! Don’t forget about your chap stick with SPF as well.
Understanding hypothermia and Frostbite: Exposed skin is commonly the culprit of frostbite. Early signs include numbness, loss of feeling, or a stinging sensation. Get out of the cold, and slowly warm the affected area if experiencing the early signs. Exercising in cold, wet weather increases risk of hypothermia. Signs and symptoms include shivering, slurred speech, loss of coordination and fatigue. Seek emergency healthy right away as essential organs begin to shut down in hypothermia.
An important component of sports performance is balance and stability training. Unfortunately, balance deteriorates with age and often goes unnoticed until it becomes a major problem. Poor balance can result in falls and stumbles that can cause serious orthopedic injuries and even death. This year, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has added neuromotor exercise recommendations for 2-3 times per week on top of their regular cardiovascular, strength, and flexibly protocols. Neuromotor exercises are exercises that improve balance, agility, coordination, and gait in order to improve physical function and reduce falls.
A simple test to check your balance is to take your shoe off and stand still on one foot for 30 seconds. If you want to make the test a little more challenging you can try closing your eyes. (Make sure to stand close to something sturdy in case you lose your balance).
Basic balance training tips:
- Make your base of support as small as possible; this means feet close together as opposed to far apart or one foot instead of two.
- Use unstable surfaces to challenge your balance; you can use two feet to start and then progress to one foot.
- While on one foot, add head movement, limb movement, and even torso movement for more challenge. For example, standing on one foot move head left to right or move opposite leg out to the side hold then bring back into the body.
- Try any of these with your eyes closed.
Practice Balance At home:
- Stand on one foot while doing tasks at the kitchen counter or bathroom counter such as brushing your teeth or blow drying your hair.
- Pillows and couch cushions (that can be stepped on) can be used as unstable surfaces.
Practice Balance In the gym:
- The BOSU is ideal for balance training.
- Single leg exercises with the legs or arms moving with weights such as dumbbells or ankle weights.
- Regular exercise cardiovascular and strength training helps maintain balance.
What do blueberry muffins, skittles, coca cola, barbeque sauce, waffles, canned baked beans, and pumpkin spice lattes all have in common? SUGAR! Sugar is everywhere and can be located on the ingredient list of almost all processed and packaged foods. Food manufacturers add sugar to packaged products to improve taste, customer satisfaction, and the craving for more. To put it in to perspective, according to the American Heart Association, one can of soda is over the recommended amount of sugar for most women. Numerous studies have suggested sugar has addictive qualities and hormonal responses similar and in some cases worse than cocaine. With the American addiction in full swing, upwards of 28.5 million adults and children have diabetes according to the American Diabetes Association.
Remember that any kind of added sugar is still sugar. Although processed sugar (white sugar, simply listed as “sugar” on the ingredient list) is the most common, naturally occurring sugars such as raw sugar, agave nectar, cane juice, and honey still count. Sugar names on food labels often end with the suffix “-ose” or include “syrup” in the name. Other common sugar names are: Corn sweetener, Dehydrated Cane Juice, Dextrin, Maltodextrin, Molasses, Sorghum and Treacle.
Although added sugar is a major problem, the body still needs sugar sources to function. Naturally occurring sugar is in fruit, some vegetables, and milk. Obtaining your sugar from these sources is a healthy contribution to your diet and is a great way to settle a sweet tooth. Additionally, these foods contain fiber which will subdue the blood sugar spike after consumption along with provide a healthy dose of vitamin and minerals.
The easiest way to avoid added sugar is to consume a diet of whole foods that is full of lean cuts of meat and fish, nuts, vegetables and fruit. Staying away from processed foods and drinks will cut out a huge percentage of sugar. A great rule of thumb for grocery stores is to shop around the perimeter of the store because most of the food in the middle is processed.
For a quick way to learn how much added sugar is in our food, try a no sugar challenge for one week and see how tricky it is!
The human diet is primarily composed of three macronutrients: protein, carbohydrate, and fat. Dietary protein plays an important role in proper nutrition by supporting growth and tissue maintenance within the body. Protein is made up of combinations of amino acids which allow them to do specific functions such as carry oxygen, catalyze reactions, and contract muscles.
The human body is composed of 20 amino acids, 11 of these can be synthesized by the human body and are known as “nonessential” amino acids because they do not need to be consumed in the diet. The other nine amino acids are “essential” because they must be obtained through the diet. Animal sources of protein such as meat, fish, milk, and eggs contain all of the essential amino acids. Vegetable sources of protein such as beans, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains, do not always contain all essential amino acids, but can be consumed in combinations to become well rounded protein sources.
The average amount of protein for men and women between the ages of 30 and 50 is .80 grams per kg of body weight. To calculate intake take a person’s weight in pounds and divide it by 2.2 to get kg., then multiplying that number by .80. For example: a person that weights 125 lbs would divide their weight by 2.2 to get about 56.8 then multiply by .8 to get approximately 45 grams. Athletes should increase protein intake to 1.2g per kg of body weight; however, consuming too much protein is not beneficial and will simply result in excess calories that need to be burned. Additionally, the body cannot use more than about 30 grams of protein in a given meal so protein intake should be acquired throughout the day.
Including lean protein sources into the diet is a great way to maintain a well rounded diet and aid in weight loss efforts. The body burns more calories digesting protein than any other macronutrient and it will curb hunger for long periods of time. Protein also helps restore muscles after the long bouts of cardiovascular exercise and strength training which is often incorporated in weight loss. Although protein aids in the weight loss process, a well rounded diet that includes all macronutrients will be the healthiest and most successful.