Sore neck? 2 quick fixes for forward head

If it’s your habit that your head juts forward and is ahead of your shoulders, you can learn how to fix this common musculoskeletal imbalance.


  • by CONNIE ARONSON

If you feel like you have the weight of the world on your head right now, it could be time to change that situation. If it’s your habit that your head juts forward and is ahead of your shoulders, muscular neck and head pain could be the culprit. It’s very possible that headaches, jaw pain or grinding noises in the jaw could be the result of your forward head. When you have a forward head position, your body’s center of gravity shifts forward and increases the weight of your head in relation to the body. Your head effectively weighs almost as much as two bowling bowls, if it is only 2 inches forward and out of alignment with your upper back.

Imagine the head as round as a ball perched on top of the spine. In real life, the head rests on the most mobile part of the spine, the neck. Because of the small base it sits on, the head becomes more like a large ball sitting precariously on a seal’s nose. The numerous neck muscles that hold your head up all work together to keep your head sitting correctly on top of your shoulders, whether you’re riding a bike, doing crunches, walking or running. However, if you are constantly looking down at your phone, or watching a lot of television, the front neck muscles become weak from being continually stretched forward. When you align the head in an optimal anatomical position, you align the entire upper back, shoulder girdle and ribcage.

There are two common muscle imbalances in the head and neck. One is your head being too far forward, (forward head) and the second one is excessive cervical lordosis, when the muscles in the back of the neck are chronically shortened. For example, suppose you are watching a great movie on a big screen, and you sit slouching, looking up. Sitting like this causes the position of your neck to arch backward to keep your eyes on the show. This position of holding your head up, with your eyes looking up, is a deviation. You’re slumped. When you later try to correct your posture by tucking your chin, those very muscles and fascia on the back of your neck can feel painful or irritated.

Quick fix: How to tell if your head is too far forward

Here is a quick and easy assessment to see if you have forward head. You can also do this alignment check at any time during the day to see if you are practicing good head carriage and posture.

  • Sit on the edge of a chair. With your index finger, find the part of your cheekbone that protrudes outward most, just below your eye. Gently place your index finger there.
  • With an imaginary line, place your other index finger directly below your top finger, on your collarbone. They should be vertically aligned.
  • If the end of the finger on your cheekbone is ahead, your head is too far forward

Tennis ball rejuvenation

A tennis ball is a great inexpensive tool to help you loosen up tight sore muscles. Lying down, place a tennis ball on one side of your neck, and move around a little to find a sore spot. Once there, try to breath and relax on that particular spot. Do for one minute, every day, on each side of the neck. Click on video to see the exercises: vimeo.com/manage/427520367/general.


Connie Aronson is an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist at the YMCA in Ketchum. Learn more at www.conniearonson.com.

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_2a3367a6-ac2e-11ea-b3ee-d73273a6435f.html

Your feet-why they need extra care

When we walk, our feet and ankles absorb impact and force from above and the ground. Our feet need tender loving care because of this.

During this overwhelming pandemic, walking is like a lifeline. People are walking more than ever. You can use this time to improve your alignment and movement skills, starting with your feet.

When we walk, our feet and ankles absorb impact and force from above and the ground. Our feet need tender loving care because of this. Your feet have 52 bones and over 100 ligaments, with 40 muscles and tendons connecting the muscles to these bones. They all form the foundation of the human body. Having healthy feet and ankles means that they can keep your body balanced and can withstand the pressure of standing and moving. That pressure needs to be evenly distributed throughout the lower legs all the way up to the head.  

The average American walks 3,000 to 4,000 steps a day. When you walk, the pressure on your feet increases by 50 percent, and increases even more during an hour of strenuous exercise, cushioning up to one million pounds of pressure. If the feet and ankles are not functioning optimally, it could create some problems through the entire muscular system.

Other areas of the body will be affected as they shift further out of alignment to try to maintain balance.

Our gait affects the whole body, from the moment your heel hits the ground and your weight is transferred through a system of arches that displace forces. The muscles of your feet and lower leg react as our arches drop and roll with gait. The feet and ankle also must know how to adapt to changes in surfaces, like steps or uneven terrain. If your ankles don’t bend, for example, or your knees roll inward, called pronation, not only is your walking gait off kilter, but the knees, hips, lower and upper back can be affected because of musculoskeletal imbalances.

  1. How do they look?

Take a moment to look at your feet. Notice if your big toes have bunions or calluses, or if that toe has moved towards the other toes, rather than pointing straight ahead. Are your lesser toes curled up and flexed?These conditions are called hammer, claw or mallet toes. Are your arches collapsed? Are your feet turned outward as you stand? All of these checkpoints affect the position of the knee, so you can begin to understand the importance of distributing your weight evenly through your feet.

2. Golf and tennis ball roll.

Give your feet a home massage by rolling a golf ball under your foot for a few minutes every day. This exercise helps rejuvenate the plantar fascia, a broad dense tissue on the underside of your foot, where the muscles of you lower leg attach.

Place a golf ball under your foot, and roll the ball back and forth, until you feel tender or sore spots. Pause on the sore spots, until you feel the sore spot release. If the golf ball is too painful, use a tennis ball. You can also add an active stretch by pulling your toes up while rolling.

Do this myofascia release exercise as you sit watching TV, or by your bed to do first thing in the morning.

3. Toe Stretch.

After you golf or tennis ball roll, stretch the underside of your foot to increase the flexibility of your toes and ankle. Stand barefoot, one foot forward, with your toes pushed up against the wall. Keep the ball of your foot and base of the toes in contact with the floor. Slowly lean in, moving the knee inward. Hold for 10-15 seconds, and repeat.

Take at look at the exercises at

https://vimeo.com/user77012133/review/415371796/a971589693

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Say goodbye to sore muscles with foam rolling and a tennis ball

Rolling, or myofacial release is a simple therapy to help you stretch and get rid of knots in your muscles.

Should you be foam rolling?  If you’ve never noticed or heard of them, they are 3- foot long white or colored foam rolls, typically in gyms near the stretching area. And if you also noticed tennis balls being used by trainers and regulars, you might want to give them a try. Rolling, or myofacial release is a simple therapy to help you stretch and get rid of knots in your muscles. It relieves and releases adhesions within the fascia. Akin to massage and trigger -point therapy, the manual pressure of rolling rejuvenates hard working muscles and soft tissue. If your muscles hurt after a hard day of skiing, or have overuse patterns, myofascia-release helps stretch, increase blood blow and increase range of motion to muscle.

Fascia is the connective tissue that covers all muscle. Injury, inactivity, disease or inflammation contributes to a loss of elasticity, resulting in unwanted fibrous adhesions. In other words, tight, sore muscles. Physiotherapists or massage therapists typically spend about 45 percent of their time doing massage therapy on these areas to stretch tight muscles and fascia, loosen scar tissue, and relieve muscle spasms. The good news is that in as little as two minutes, foam or tennis ball rolling can enhance joint range of motion, which is important for healthy movement, particularly if you never stretch. 

1. First you roll 

Starting your training or competition with foam rolling helps get your muscles warmed up, as it improves your range of motion. Unlike static stretching at the beginning of a workout, which research shows can diminishes performance, foam rolling doesn’t have any drawbacks. In a recent study participants improved their range of motion significantly after foam rolling compared to static and dynamic stretching.

Begin by applying sustained pressure on a roller or ball with your body weight. You can roll any muscle, but hip flexors, hamstrings, calves, quadriceps, and the upper back are typically the tightest areas. Use your own body weight in varying positions. The sustained pressure helps isolate soft tissue areas and release fascial adhesions, similar to a deep massage. What’s more is that the friction between the fascia and the foam roller warms the fascia, making it more fluid and elastic. 

2. Stretch and strengthen afterwards

After spending a few minutes rolling, it is important to actively stretch the area you just rolled. Let’s say that you just finished rolling your calf muscle, because it’s tight from skiing. Getting up from the ground and performing a standing calf stretch will further stretch the muscles you just rolled, bringing it back to it’s resting length. Doing so, you’ve just helped fixed shortened, tight muscles into lengthened proper functioning muscles. The final step in a well-rounded corrective protocol would be to do some calf exercises, like standing heel raises, to strengthen all the calf muscles. 

3. Don’t run for the shower yet 

You might also consider using a roller or tennis ball after demanding exercise. All that hard work creates muscle damage. Recent studies showed participants improved range of motion in the knee joint and hips compared to control groups.

And lastly, there is evidence that foam rolling can also help you reduce fatigue post-exercise and possibly improve long-term performance.

Click on link to see tennis ball rolling –

https://www.instagram.com/p/BbmloUJnn73/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

As seen in

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The Dead Bug, aka Happy Baby, is a core move you should be doing

The Dead Bug helps train the core muscles to be strong and enhance spinal stability.

Obtaining a strong core can be surprisingly easy. Even better, there are excellent exercises that you can do lying on your back, using a simple band as a progression. One of the best exercises taught by strength and team coaches, yoga teachers, Pilates instructors and the sports medicine community is the Dead Bug, also known as Happy Baby. The base move is an isometric bracing action, as if you’re readying to take a punch to the belly, which promotes core stability and strength in your torso. Progressions or regressions are then tailored to your abilities and fitness level.

In Dead Bug, the reciprocal arm and leg patterns, like a dying bug on the ground, resemble motor skills like walking, running and swimming. (Or a happy baby lying in a crib, arms and legs akimbo)

The key muscles you work during the Dead Bug primarily focus on the core musculature, the powerhouse of the body. Picture the muscles forming its structure of floor, walls and ceiling. This includes the erector spinae, the deep low back muscle known as multifidus, hip adductors, rectus abdominus and the internal and external obliques. Exercises like this enhance spinal stability by training the deep postural muscles that protect you while you play the sports that you enjoy. Core stability, or trunk stiffness, allows you to transfer force to your limbs so that you throw, strike, kick, push, swing or run better. In other words, all motions are generated from the core and are translated to the extremities.

Our nervous system prefers to move with the most efficiency at all times. If your core is weak, most likely your brain will want to make it easy for you, and compensate. But over time, the compensation will create greater degrees of wear and tear. For example, slouching and leaning on handles on a stair climber or treadmill will make it much easier. But the wear and tear is more likely to be around your neck and shoulders. This can result in even worse posture, as a weak core encourages slumping, which tips you forward and off balance.

It’s often thought that repetitive flexion and extension exercise, like the good old sit-up, are a good way to train the core. But these muscles are rarely used in this way because they are more often used to brace while stopping motion. Researchers found that disc injuries can develop through even low-compressive forces with excessive bending and extending. An isometric exercise like the Dead Bug helps train the core muscles to brace under heavy loads, which helps stabilize the spine and in turn prevents buckling.

Dead Bug/Happy Baby

Start by lying on your back. Your spine should not be arched or flattened. Draw the abdominals in to assume the neutral position.

Reach your arms up. Lift your legs off the floor, holding a 90-degree angle at your hips and knees.

Move your arms back and forth (like a baby reaching up to play with a mobile) Duration: 30 seconds. Progression: Extend your arms and legs towards the floor, creating longer levers to increase the level of difficulty. Click on the video to see more progressions: vimeo.com/389162099.


https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_9d47b746-490b-11ea-8988-9fc27539e035.html

Connie Aronson is an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist at the YMCA in Ketchum. Learn more at www.conniearonson.com.

Breakfast: Better with or without before training?

Does it matter if you skip breakfast before a workout?

When it comes to your morning training, does it matter if you skip breakfast? For some, the idea of food early in the morning isn’t appealing. Currently, one-fourth of U.S. adults feel that way, and skip breakfast. But are there benefits of working out before breakfast?

Research varies on the pros and cons of eating in the morning before resistance training (lifting weights). A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning concluded that skipping breakfast before resistance training impairs performance. The small study group of 16 trained men between the age of 23 and 27 had better results with a typical breakfast prior to squats and the bench press.

We, as humans, are hard-wired, in that eating affects the central clock in our brain. This clock controls circadian rhythms and impacts all aspects of metabolism, including how our organs function. An over-scheduled or chaotic day can certainly thwart our best intentions to eat, and to refuel to be our best.

Renowned sports nutritionist Nancy Clarke explains that skipping meals can disrupt normal biological rhythms. The result, she says, is erratic meal timing that can impact the development of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity. Athletes who frequently skimp breakfast often get hungry and then devour way too many calories of ice cream and cookies, she says. If this is a nightly habit, the body is poorly programmed to deal with an influx of sweets, and can pave the path to health issues. A good solution, she suggests, would be to eat part of your breakfast prior to training and enjoy the rest afterward.

In terms of weight, it doesn’t matter if you’re dividing your daily calories into one, three, six or nine meals. Calories still matter, and dividing them up throughout the day doesn’t change your body fatness. But, as noted before, it can make a difference in your blood sugar levels.

There is new research to support the old adage of breakfast being the most important meal of the day. A study of more than 4,000 middle-age adults found that those who ate breakfast were less likely to have artery-clogging plaque (atherosclerosis) than those who didn’t eat in the morning. Published in the 2017 Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the evidence supported the idea that breakfast eaters typically ate healthier overall and were less likely to be obese or to have high blood pressure, diabetes or unhealthy cholesterol levels. But even with those factors taken into account, skipping breakfast was still linked to a higher risk of atherosclerosis.

So the question remains about whether it’s sensible to skip breakfast before morning training. A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism showed that men who performed exercise before breakfast burned double the amount of fat than the group who exercised after breakfast. While this didn’t have any effect on weight loss, it did dramatically increase their ability to respond to insulin.

In effect, exercising in an overnight-fasted state allowed their bodies to use more of the fat from their fat tissue and the fat within the muscle as a fuel. Though the study lasted only six weeks and excluded women, it showed that the muscle from the men who exercised before breakfast had greater increases in key proteins, specifically those involved in delivering glucose from the bloodstream to the muscles.

Everybody starts the day differently. Some people do better eating before a morning workout, while others do not. The choice is yours, so make it one that will energize you for this new day.

.https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_a0425aca-0188-11ea-9e5c-5f5b778f0f87.html

Five essential exercises for ski training

It’s not too late to build the strength and stamina needed to hit the slopes

 

Preparation plays an important role in athletics. And now that it’s not long before the mountain opens; it’s not too late to build the strength, endurance and power needed for the demands of skiing, and decrease the risk for injury. Here are five key training tips to start off the ski season prepared, and excited for a new season.

1. Get out the door.

When it comes to having a great day on the hill, a strong cardiovascular base will make your time on the mountain fun, rather than being out of breathe and exhausted. Head out to local trails, for both steep short climbs and longer hikes, or if pressed for time, indoor cardio equipment. Try to do cardio workouts 3-5 each week, for 20-45 minutes.

2. Knee control

Squats and lunges strengthen all the muscles that stabilize and support your knees. But to do them right, you want to train the correct hip and knee angles. If you have knee cave when your bend your knees  (i.e.; your knee falls in) for example, it typically means that the gluteal medius muscles (middle butt) are weak. Single leg squats, using a band above the knee, strengthen the glutes and hips, while stabilizing the knee. This will help you improve your coordination of the whole movement and translates to better skiing. 

3.Tempo for tough legs 

Strengthening the quads and hamstrings is paramountto carving great ski turns. Front squats make your legs stronger, as these train primarily “concentric “ strength-the strength it takes to press out of the bottom of the squat. Keep doing them, as they are great. When it comes to alpine skiing though, gravity helps you down the hill. From a strength perspective, your legs first fight gravity from being forced into the hill, and then pop up, into the next turn. Adding “ eccentric” training, like “squat jumps “and “skater’s hops “ mimic ski turns. 

Eccentric is the action of a muscle lengthening: for example, remember a time hiking down a mountain that made you sore, not the hike up the mountain. In squat jumps, land, and slow down your deceleration, (about 2-3 seconds) to train eccentric leg strength. 

 

4.Dynamic balance 

Skiing is dynamic. You tip a ski (or board) onto its edge, balance your weight over that edge, and then the ski turns. Like magic. When you are skiing well, you look relaxed, fluid, and in balance. Dynamic balance also helps you react to changing snow and light. To train balance, stand on one foot for one minute, writing the alphabet with small movements of the free foot and ankle. Progress the move to standing on a BOSU,  (a half- ball) or a square of foam. 

5.Intra-abdominal pressure; your core 

A strong core makes it easier for your whole body to move together when you are carving a nice round turn. The core muscles splint the entire trunk and torso. In PT speak, the core is known as the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex, and is actually 29 pairs of muscles. All of these muscles work together; the abs, hips, and lower back, to transmit and generate force between the lower and upper body.  Practice planks, with your forearms underneath your shoulders. Staying straight from your head to your heels, lift one leg upward, and hold for 2 seconds. Alternate lifting one leg at a time, for 35 seconds.

Click on link to view exercises athttps://vimeo.com/365178195

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Fix your back pain; don’t forget your glutes

Through proper exercise, movement, and posture, you can help low back pain.

Kevin Mullins, a master instructor for Equinox Sports Club in Washington, D.C. understands low-level chronic back pain and found three recurring issues that personal trainers can address with their clients. Excess bodyweight, sedentary lifestyles, and improper exercise selection, are areas a trainer can help a client with, all factors having a correlation to low back pain. It is estimated that over 84 % of the population will experience an episode of LBP, from children to the elderly, at some time during life.

As well, age, stress, occupational factors, lack of flexibility or hyper-mobility, sports, postural habits, and smoking are other contributing factors.

Recovering from low back pain is a long complex road. If you are in pain, but not dealing with any diagnosed or diagnosed medical issue, you fall into the category of mechanical low back pain, or LBP.

Unlike a car, says Dr. McGill, one of the most widely respected spine researchers in the world, where you change one thing and it’s fixed, fixing a back is different. Back pain is more complicated and is much more than just fixing one part. Because, McGill notes, it comes down to cold hard science.

How the  spine functions and it’s relationship the rest of the body is the key to being free of back pain. Through proper exercise, movement, and posture, even disc bulges can be made less painful, and usually pain-free, he notes. 

Of course it’s hard to stick to a program if you are in pain. You lose the very conditioning that could help treat LBP, or even more frustrating, gain unwanted weight.That extra weight is the number one reason clients turn to a trainer, with or without low back pain. Healing starts to occur when you keep the bigger picture in mind; a good diet,adequate sleep, and a matched activity/ training program.

Tip #1 The Big Picture 

A traditional strength training can improve strength and muscle mass. Overall body strength as well as a daily walking regime are important part of a client’s program to become free of back pain.

Tip #2  Bend at the hips, rather than the spine 

There is a direct correlation between posture and pain. You can reduce episodes of back pain by reminding yourself to bend at the hips, which is a ball and socket joint, not the back. The spine does bend, but repeated spine bending, whether it’s picking up a weight in the gym, or swinging a kettlebell, could eventually lead to delaminations in the layers of the discs. Someone swinging a kettlebell, along with their back, instead of stabilizing the spine while doing so, to protect the spine, risks further trauma to an already sensitive back. When you’re performing squats, for example, sink your hips back towards your heels, like sitting onto a low park bench. Keep your eyes forward. Use your hips rather than round your back.

Tip #3  Rethink the core 

To enhance back fitness, you need a strong focus on core strength, as theses muscles play a protective role. The internal and external obliques, transverse and rectus abdominals, and the erector spinae are arranged around the spine and act as guy wires to allow the spine to control movement, bear loads  and facilitate breathing. But all too often you see good athletes and gym members entirely focused on just the rectus abdominis, commonly known as the “6 pack”. If we go back to our car analogy, focusing on only one part won’t solve back pain.

The core musculature extends to the entire body,  from the upper back down to the pelvis, not just the 6 pack.The lats, trapezius, the gluteals, hamstrings, hip flexors and inner and outer thighs all have an impact on the spine. 

Typically what happens with someone experiencing low back pain, is that that pain hasn’t allowed them to adequately train. The outcome is weaker core and gluteal muscles. This is where science comes in.

To see how important the glutes are for strength, try this exercise; Stand on one leg and balance. Then sink your hips back slightly, behind your heel, and see how much more stable standing on one leg feels. This is a great demonstration of the role the gluteals play regarding core strength.

Your progression, with an awareness on good movement patterns, including planks, back rows, squats and bridges, for example, should be aimed at strengthening more and more of your whole body, back to health.

( edited )https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_d44c4e26-d581-11e9-bddf-b7175436d170.html
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Are you doing it right? How to do standing bicep curls

If you needed to work on your balance, standing on one leg, say for 30 seconds, is a good exercise. A good cue would be to imagine your stance leg as a wood post, or that you cement your foot into the ground. Besides helping improve your balance, the muscles of the lower leg play a role in helping you stand on your leg. An exercise like this, standing on one leg, offers a practical carryover to a real-life situation where you just might need to be strong on one leg. A goal of strength training is not only to improve strength, but also to improve function and prevent injury.

The barbell or dumbbell bicep curl is an arm strengthener, common in resistance training. The action involves elbow flexion, or bringing the hands toward the face. Most people stand with their feet side-by-side, or parallel, to perform them. Front-loaded exercises, like the barbell biceps curls, shift the body’s center of gravity forward, outside of your base of support. What typically ends up happening is that most people sway their trunk backward to counter the added weight in front of them, lose their postural control and end up stressing the lumbar spine.

It’s always a good idea to limit compressive forces on the back. Research shows that having weights alongside the body, rather than held out front of the body at shoulder height, is much more spine-friendly.

If you think about daily activities, such as lifting a big UPS package, or carrying something in front of you, most people would lift or stand in a staggered stance, as it is more stable.  As training is meant to improve function, it makes sense to train in positions that mimic real life, not just a single muscle.

As we age, it becomes even more important to train not just muscle, but movement. Countering muscle disuse through resistance training is a powerful intervention to combat the loss of muscle strength and muscle mass. Independence, mobility, psychological well-being and healthy life expectancy are all benefits.

Lifting groceries or a basket of laundry requires not only strength and mobility, but also good postural control, much like the front-loaded bicep curl. What foot position would give you a larger base of support so you don’t fall? What foot position would give you better stability and balance when doing tasks such as lifting?

Getting back to the bicep curl, the question of which stance was better—parallel or staggered—was recently addressed by two studies at the National Strength and Conditioning Association national conference. The studies showed that the staggered stance provides a bigger base of support anteriorly. Keep in mind that any front-loaded exercise, like the bicep curl, shifts the body’s center of gravity forward. Standing in a staggered stance helps maintain overall stability and balance. It turns out that all muscle activation is the same, no matter your foot position. This includes forward-and-back trunk sway, external obliques, lumbar erector spine, front shin and side shin activity. Whatever stance, staggered or parallel, that you are most comfortable with, without back sway, is good lifting technique. Add an image such as your legs as wood posts, or Krazy glue your feet into the ground, and your bicep curls will look and feel great.https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/fitness-guru/article_a6726150-bf8f-11e9-b702-0348f49bc0a0.html

Spend a little time in nature for health; two hours a week makes the cut

Spend a little time in nature. A walk on a wooded trail, or sitting by a stream on a sunny day is good for the soul.

A walk on a wooded trail, or sitting by a stream on a sunny day is good for the soul.  Or maybe you like to collect and hold smooth stones or leaves or watch a sunset to feel alive and well. Having a connection to our natural environment improves physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Numerous studies on happiness and well-being show that time spent outside, like taking those wooded walks or simply digging up earth while gardening, can have such a positive effect on your state of mind. And the time allotted to nature doesn’t mean you have to move to a lakefront property.  A new large-scale study found that spending at least two hours a week in nature is a key dose for good health and well-being.

As humans, we are entwined with nature. Do you ever wonder why outdoor cafe patios are packed in cities and towns come springtime? Or why doctors choose realistic nature landscapes or murals in their examining rooms? Our connection to nature is deeply rooted in evolution, and as humans, we adapt so much better to natural settings than to man-made ones.  Natural light, not time in front of a screen, is therapeutic. Our stress, blood pressure and immune system are all affected positively just by being outdoors.

Research shows that we need to connect to nature to promote happiness, as there is a spiritual enhancement that is linked to the human-nature experience. People living in leafier areas, close to green space, have lower levels of stress, regardless of age, race or the socioeconomic status of their neighborhood.  Children encouraged to spend more time outside are also less prone to problems like anxiety, depression, obesity and asthma. The same benefits apply to teenagers, as well as improving their coping skills.

This very week in July, for many years, I attended a yoga retreat tucked away on 100 acres in Wyoming. Participants have the choice of staying in a big lodge, cabins, yurts or tepees. All the attendees living in urban settings told me that all year long, they looked forward to staying in the yurts or tepees. For them, being out of the city and being able to have an immersed nature experience was heaven. (I’ll be honest; I stayed in the lodge; my boyfriend and I camp most weekends.)

You can improvise a wilderness retreat, as being outdoors for a couple of hours a week can improve our well-being. The author of the study, Dr. Mat White, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said, “It’s well known that getting outdoors in nature can be good for people’s health and well-being, but until now we’ve not been able to say how much is enough. The majority of nature visits in this research took place within just 2 miles of home, so even visiting local urban green spaces seems to be a good thing. Two hours a week is hopefully a realistic target for many people.”  Think of writer Mary Davis the next time you step outside: “A walk in nature walks the soul back home.”


Connie Aronson is an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist at the YMCA in Ketchum. Learn more at www.conniearonson.com.

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_e930bc12-a99b-11e9-aa57-777390b636bd.html

Stretch to stay on top of your summer game

We all want to enjoy summer to the max, and that means more time outside, doing the activities and sports that warm sunshine offers. But each sport has specific demands on your body. A stretch routine after a ride, golf game or hike can make a difference in staying up to the task, especially as you age. Flexibility can decrease as much as 50 percent in some joint areas. The good news is that this loss of motion can be minimized with a regular stretching and range-of-motion routine.

For decades, coaches have thought that pre-exercise stretching was important for their athletes, and would prevent injury or muscle soreness. However, copious research on the topic of flexibility challenges that old belief. It is thought that due to an alteration in joint connective-tissue compliance, stretching before workouts may lead to greater joint instability.

What the research shows is that stretching will help you achieve positive long-term performance outcomes when done at times other than before performance. A warmup that increases blood flow, like arm circles, or leg swings, to get a mild sweat beforehand, is a better injury prevention component.

Your post-game stretches have to be specific to target the muscles that have been stressed or overused or have a reduced range of motion. Here are some tips to ensure that you end a great day outside energized, happy and loose.

Cycling: Stretch after you get off the bike

The quads and hips are big players in cycling, used powerfully and repetitively, and stretching afterward helps combat tightness. Cycling is different from other sports in that force is primarily produced as the muscles are shortening. In cycling, the pedal stroke doesn’t use the full range of motion of the hip, knee or ankle. Running, on the other hand, bends your knees as you raise your thigh, but straightens and extends your leg to push off the ground.

Cyclists also spend a lot of time bent over in the riding position, which puts the hip flexors in a shortened position. Short, tight hip flexors add to achy hips and backs. Tight hip flexors, particularly the deep-seated psoas, can pull forward and down on the lumbar spine. When that happens, you lose an important lower back curve. No wonder your back can hurt after a long ride. Aim for post-ride hip, low-back and chest stretches. You can view those at vimeo.com/343122017.

Golfing: Get loose

Flexibility is imperative to improving your golf swing. Without flexibility, you won’t have the range of motion to unlock any of the power you already have, or are working on. Picture a golfer, at the final moment of follow-through from a fairway shot. That person is, for the most part, opened and stretched in a fluid spiral line of energy. That takes optimal range of motion in joints or groups of joints.

In just one round of golf, you end up swinging a golf club up to 300 times, including practice swings, and at speeds upward of 90 mph. That’s a lot of stress on your muscles, tendons and joints! A pre-game 5- to 10-minute warmup provides essential preparation for your game. Walking around a practice tee, leg swings or arm circles are ways to loosen up for your game. A good warm-up increases blood flow to working tissue as well as velocity of nerve impulses to muscles. It should be relatively easy, inducing a mild sweat. Stretching is recommended after your game. Click on this link for a golf-specific flexibility routine: vimeo.com/343122336.


Connie Aronson is an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist at the YMCA in Ketchum. Learn more at www.conniearonson.com.https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_6eacb7c8-9377-11e9-9a99-5301d856d0cc.html