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Another reason to add planks and wall sits to your routine

If you have high blood pressure or would like to maintain your current blood pressure planks and wall sits can help! 

A large study done in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that wall sits and planks (isometrics) reduced blood pressure more than aerobic/ cardio exercise, High intensity interval training and resistance training. All of these exercise programs helped to reduce blood pressure but the isometric exercises had the most significant reduction in both systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure.

Planks and wall Sits (also known as wall squats) are isometric exercises. Isometrics focus on the tightening/contracting of a muscle or muscle group where the joints don’t move and the muscles don’t change length. This type of exercises uses only body weight in a static position to strengthen and stabilize. 

They key for doing these exercises correctly is to slowly breathe in and out as you do them. You do not want to hold your breather or strain. That would actually increase your blood pressure!

When done correctly, isometrics can improve blood flow through the muscles being used, in turn reducing blood pressure.

Now of course this doesn’t mean other forms of exercise aren’t important but this is good news for a simple way to improve Blood pressure. These exercises can be done anywhere, anytime and you only need a wall to be able to complete. 

Wall sits strengthen glutes(buttock), quads(tighs) and core.

Planks strengthen your back, shoulders and core.

These can be modified if needed. Planks can be done using a wall or counter instead of on the floor. If doing them on the floor you can modify to doing them on your knees and progress if/when able to.

Doing these 3 times a week and increasing how long you can hold them for and work toward doing it 4 times with rest in between is recommended. 

Of course there are always options to make these exercises more challenging such as holding  a weight for a wall sit or changing/varying positions for planks.

If you would like further instruction on how to do these exercises or have any questions contact A to Z Personal Wellness.

Recommended Home Exercise Equipment

These items are what I use frequently, are versatile and are great for using at home!

Of course it is not necessary to purchase since I bring everything with me to sessions, but this is just if you want to purchase anything for yourself:)

Exercise Loop Bands – Several levels of resistance, light weight, doesn’t take up much space and can be used anywhere. They can be used for various lower body, upper body and core exercises.

https://amzn.to/3TvlQxe

Exercise Bands with Handles– Various levels of resistance, lightweight and doesn’t take up much space. Can also be used in many spots of the house and for many different exercises.

https://amzn.to/3Iv3gPs

Door Anchor for resistance bands 

https://amzn.to/3PiDuBX

Balance Pad – Great for challenging your balance but also works as a cushion for any kneeling exercises

https://amzn.to/3TaEl8X

Adjustable Ankle/Wrist Weights – can be used on both wrists and ankles and weights in them can adjusted to be made lighter or heavier

https://amzn.to/3TvlJ4Y

Some Tips for Decreasing that Stiffness Feeling

Do you wake up in the morning feeling stiffness or after sitting try to stand up and feel stiff?

So why are you feeling so stiff? There can be several reasons for stiffness in specific areas of your body or just general stiffness. As we age, the amount of fluid lubricating our joints decreases and cartilage may also become thinner. Arthritis and lack of activity/movement can also cause increased stiffness. Also, if only certain muscles are being used that can also cause tightness and of course weakness in other muscles 

Why is the stiffness worse first thing in the morning or after sitting for awhile? Because those or the times when we are not moving for long periods of time. The fluid our joints need to be lubricated comes from movement.

So the simple answer to stiffness is keep moving!  Just remember “motion is lotion.”

Now finding the right movements is key because you don’t want painful movements.

Avoid those long periods of sitting or at least break them up with some movement every 30 minutes. 

If you are sitting for long periods of time or are always stiff when you get up after sitting, try to do some movements seated before you get up. 

Examples include – ankle circles or pointing your toes up and down to loosen your ankles, extend your leg out so that your leg/knee is straight and then bend it and repeat it several times. You can also try to round your back and then arch/extend your back into a nice tall postural position and repeat several times. Moving your leg to the side and then back and switching to the other leg and repeating several times can also help.

Here are some other ways to decrease joint and muscle stiffness that you can add into your daily routine:

  1. Daily stretching, could be stretching done before getting out of bed
  2. Stay hydrated – helps joints stay lubricated
  3. Move frequently throughout the day- doesn’t have to be for long periods of time or anything strenuous
  4. Stay warm – take a hot shower, wear layers, possibly crank up the heat in your house or wear extra layers, heating pad or hot packs can also help with this. Warmth increases blood flow and decreases stiffness. Cold causes muscles to tighten.

If you have questions or would like further guidance on movements that can help decrease stiffness feel free to reach out. 

Are You Activating Your Core?

You have probably heard of your core or activate your core or use your core or strengthen your core. Do you know how or why it is so important? 

If you are unsure about what your core is, it is what connects your lower body to your upper body. It involves the muscles in your trunk, abs, hips, pelvis and muscles surrounding your spine.

It plays an important role in keeping us stable and balanced. Which means it helps prevent falls and also prevents any other injuries! The stronger our core the better our balance and coordination is.

The core is what supports your spine so if you have a strong core it can prevent or decrease back pain and improve your posture.

A strong core also allows for more effective strength training of other muscles in your body. The core is what we use for stability and mobility with everyday tasks so it is something we should use often and can practice daily. Housework, playing with grandkids and other daily activities will be easier and safer with a stronger core.

How to engage the core: Start by either lying down on your back with your knees bent or sitting in a chair. Pull your belly button in toward your spine to tighten/engage. Keep your spine in a neutral position, meaning nothing moves you are just tightening by pulling your belly button in. Keep breathing while you tighten. There can be a tendency to hold your breath but please keep breathing through it. Start with holding it tight for 3 seconds and slowly work up to be able to do 10 and then work up being able to hold it for 10 seconds. For more of a challenge try to activate your core while walking.

There are great core exercises that you can do anywhere and without any equipment. I recommend Bridges, Bird Dogs and Planks. These can all be modified to make easier or more challenging depending on your individual needs. Avoid sit ups and crunches as they have been found to be ineffective. 

As always please let me know if you have any questions or would like help with any core exercises.

What is a PWR! Moves Instructor and how can it help with Parkinson’s?

I recently completed the PWR! Moves Instructor certification through Parkinson Wellness Recovery. It is a Parkinson’s Disease specific training course for exercise professionals. There are four main PWR moves that are the building blocks for this exercise program which can be modified and/or progressed to any level to meet the needs of everyone. These moves are designed to help people with PD function better and reduce their symptoms as well as improve their strength, balance, agility, flexibility and aerobics.

This exercise program and personal training challenges participants both physically and cognitively in a fun and supportive environment. The goal is for instructors to collaborate with Physical Therapists and Occupational Therapists so clients can go back and forth from rehab to community exercise or personal training.

The mission statement of Parkinson Wellness Recovery is to enhance access to and awareness of research driven exercises that improves quality of life for people with Parkinson’s disease. 

For people with Parkinson’s exercise really is medicine.  The right dose of exercise optimizes the medications for people with Parkinson’s. 

The main symptoms this exercise program targets is rigidity, bradykinesia, incoordination, and reduced self-awareness. The four main PWR! Moves are to help counteract the motor control skills that deteriorate and lead to loss of mobility and function in people with Parkinson’s. The focus is on functional whole body movements and trying to make larger and faster movements.

PWR! Moves can be done lying on your stomach, lying on your back, on all fours, sitting and standing depending on your ability and needs. There are functional benefits for all positions.  

The exercises target four foundational skills that impact everyday mobility: posture, weight shifting, trunk mobility, and stepping/transitions. 

Why focus on posture? To counteract stooped posture, rigidity, reduce falls and freezing and improve walking.

Why focus on weight shifting? It is necessary for any kind of moving, turning, rolling etc and it allows for better balance

Why focus on trunk mobility? It helps reduce rigidity and it is necessary for transitioning your body through space and different postures.

Why focus on Stepping and transitions? To move to different locations efficiently and effectively, to be able to react/catch your balance, and to strengthen your muscles.

The exercises are tailored towards your needs and symptoms to help you function better, be safe and manage your Parkinson’s symptoms better.

I really enjoyed taking this certification course because of all the scientific research involved in creating this exercise program and the exercises are all evidence based. These exercises also allow you to focus on the whole person and how to help them function at their best with Parkinson’s. Depending on the day they are having and symptoms they are experiencing exercises can easily be adjusted. I have already had one client notice an improvement with her tremors!

If you have questions about PWR! Moves and personal training or small group training for Parkinson’s contact A to Z Personal Wellness.

Ways to Improve and Maintain Strong Bones

What can you do to improve or maintain good bone health?

The best things you can do are exercise and make sure you are maintaining a bone healthy diet. Getting enough Calcium and Vitamin D is extremely important. Also important is making sure you are eating enough protein. 

Trying to spread out both calcium and protein consumption throughout the day instead of at just one meal is beneficial for bone health. Eating enough protein throughout the day helps maintain muscle mass.

Foods rich in Vitamin D include egg yolks, cheese, salmon, tuna, mushrooms, some yogurts, milk and orange juice that say they are fortified with Vitamin D on the label.

Foods high in calcium include dairy (cheese, milk, yogurt) and leafy greens (kale, spinach, and broccoli). Cereals, oatmeal and juice will say if they are fortified with calcium.

Omega-3 fatty acids also promote formation of new bone and protect against bone loss. Examples include chia seeds, flax seeds and walnuts.

Magnesium and Zinc also help maintain bone density during the aging process. 

Examples of Magnesium include dark chocolate, avocado, almonds, cashews, and legumes (beans, chick peas, lentils), and leafy greens. 

Examples of Zinc include shrimp, beef, flax seed, pumpkin seed, spinach and oysters.

What exercises are best for strengthening bones and preventing Osteopenia or Osteoporosis?

Weight bearing exercises which means exercises where your bones are supporting your weight and you work against gravity. Some examples of weight bearing exercises are walking, hiking, racquet sports, push ups, planks, squats, step ups, etc.  Although swimming, water exercises and biking are great for your health, they are not considered weight bearing.

Strength training using resistance bands or weights is also beneficial to prevent bone loss and increase muscle mass.

Balance training is also important to prevent falls. With weakened bones an injury from a fall can be more severe and take longer to heal.

Also talk to your doctor. If you are unsure of your bone density or would like to find out if you have Osteopenia or Osteoporosis a simple and painless bone density scan ( also called a DEXA scan) can be done.

What is the difference between Osteopenia and Osteoporosis? 

Osteopenia is when you have a lower bone  mineral density for your age. Osteopenia usually has no signs or symptoms but can be found with a bone density scan. Osteoporosis is when you have more severe bone density loss which weakens bones and increases risk of fractures. Both Osteopenia and Osteoporosis are most common in women over the age of 50.

Osteopenia can sometimes progress to Osteoporosis but not always. There are ways to prevent it and strengthen your bones. Bone density naturally decreases each year as we age but can decrease more rapidly due to certain medical conditions, medications, hormonal changes with menopause and/or an unhealthy lifestyle. 

If you have questions about maintaining or improving bone health through exercise contact A to Z Personal Wellness. As for a bone healthy diet, I love making smoothies with bone healthy ingredients:)

A Quick Warm Up for Pickleball to Avoid Injuries

Did you know April is National Pickleball Month? It also happens to be the time that outdoor courts have started to open up for the season. 

I am only a beginner, but after hearing my mom talk obsessively about it, I have started to play a little and finally understand the craze! It is such a great way to be social while being physically active; I am all for it! 

If you haven’t played in a while or are a beginner, try to ease into playing and slowly build up playing time so that you don’t injure yourself. Pickleball does involve quick changes in direction, multidirectional movements, balance, agility and coordination which is great, but getting into a stretching/warm up routine and conditioning program before hand can enhance your game and keep you safe.

 Here are some tips for improving your pickleball game, avoiding injuries and preventing falls. 

Warm up before you start playing. Dynamic stretching is a great way to warm up. Dynamic stretches are active movements that stretch your muscles. It is more effective to stretch dynamically before you play instead of static stretching which is holding a stretch for a longer period of time.

Some dynamic stretches that I recommend are below.  These will loosen up your muscles and joints, help your balance and prepare you for Pickleball. 

Depending on your balance you can either stand and use hand support or do these while walking:

  • Leg swings forward and back – start by standing on one leg (can hold onto a wall, chair etc) and swing the other leg straight in front of you and then straight behind you 
  • Lateral leg swings- swing leg out to the side and then cross over to the other side of your body. 
  • High knee march
  • Straight leg kicks
  • Butt kicks – bring your heel up towards buttocks while knee stays pointed toward the ground
  • Side stepping or side lunges
  • Walking lunges or large steps
  • Walking backwards
  • Walking on your toes and heels (tip toe and then the opposite, trying to walk just on your heels with toes off the ground) 
  • Grapevine and tandem walk (walk like you are on a tight rope heel to toe)
  • Arm swings and arm circles can be done to warm up your arms. 

If in doubt use hand support first and then slowly take it away. 

These do not have to take a lot of time, 30 seconds to 1 min of each or even just a few of these will help get your body ready for pickleball. 

If you have any questions on dynamic stretching or a conditioning program to help improve your Pickleball game contact A to Z Personal Wellness.

Strength Training: A Prescription for Aging Well

If you aren’t strength training, you should be! It is never too late to start strength training and it will bring numerous benefits at any age. 

Whether you are inactive or active, like exercise or hate exercise, it can make an incredibly positive impact on your life. 

Let’s go over all the ways strength training can help you:

  • Improve your sleep
  • Increase cognition
  • Increase your energy and metabolism 
  • Increase longevity
  • Improve your posture
  • Increase your confidence
  • Maintain independence as you age
  • Increase bone density which reduces risk of osteoporosis
  • Preserve and enhance muscle mass which progressively decreases with age if you don’t do anything about it
  • Improve quality of life
  • Increase mobility
  • Better your balance which decreases risk of falling
  • Improve ability to do daily activities (things like carrying groceries, walking, getting up from a chair, getting up and down from the floor, going up and down stairs, housework, gardening, etc)
  • Manage and/or prevent chronic conditions such as arthritis, back pain, heart disease, depression, diabetes, osteoporosis and more!
  • Decrease blood pressure
  • Prevent injuries
  • Enhance your pickleball or golf game
  • Be an active grandparent

The good thing about strength training is that it doesn’t have to take a lot of time and it can be done anywhere.  2-3x/week is recommended. 30 minutes is recommended, but even 10 minutes can make a difference. There are many strength training exercises that can be done solely with your body weight. It is usually best to start with bodyweight exercises and then progress to adding resistance bands or free weights such as dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, ankle weights  and suspension trainers (like TRX). 

Resistance bands are great because they are lightweight, don’t take up much space, are inexpensive, can be used at home or when traveling and can be used in a variety of ways targeting all large muscles groups. 

Strength training is not just for people that want big muscles or want to look good. It is for everyone and every body. It should not be painful so it is about finding ways to make it work best for you and your body. If you have good muscle strength you will be able to function at a much higher level (doing all the things you want and need to do) for much longer. 

If you are unsure of how to start strength training or if what you are doing includes strength training contact A to Z Personal Wellness.

Tips for Traveling and Fitting Exercise in this Holiday Season

The holidays are right around the corner, which is exciting, can be stressful, very busy, and can throw us off of our routine. I know for me, it is harder to make time to exercise. It is even harder to keep up with an exercise routine if you are traveling. Here are some tips to keep exercising during this busy and fun holiday season.

If you are traveling by car, take breaks every 2 hours to to walk/stretch. This will help decrease aches and pains and keep your body happy. If in a car or a plane, pump your ankles (point your toes up and then down) to get blood flowing. Even if you are on a plane, try to move around/walk a little bit, at least every 2 hours.

Drink water! – I know I say this a lot, but while traveling it is easy to get dehydrated, especially if you are traveling by plane. Staying hydrated keeps your joints lubricated, gives your more energy and the list goes on with all of its benefits.

Keep your medications organized and stick to your routine. Being out of your normal routine can also cause a change in when you take your medications but it is best to take the same dose at same time to avoid any negative effects.

If you are staying overnight somewhere, make sure there is a night light or light switches that are very easy to access and that you have a clear path from your bed to the bathroom. This will help prevent tripping or falling in a dark and unfamiliar area.

Try to fit in exercises in short bouts if you don’t have enough time to do your regular routine. “Exercise Snacking” is great during the holidays. If you are in the kitchen cooking, do some marching in place or side stepping. Practice standing on one leg while you brush your teeth. Each time you stand up from a chair try to avoid using your arms so that your leg muscles do the work. If there are stairs where you are, try going up and down them 2, 3 or more times in a row or doing step-ups on the bottom step. Another option when driving places is to park farther away to get more steps in.

Examples of some exercises that you can do in a hotel, while staying at a friend or relative’s, or at your own home are:

Wall push ups

Squats

Heel raises

Toe Raises

Marches

Standing on one leg for balance

These can be done anytime throughout the day and they don’t have to be done all at once.

If you want to keep resistance exercises in your routine, resistance bands are easy to travel with because they don’t take up much space, they are light and you can use them for core, upper and lower body exercises.

You know the saying, “use it or lose it.” Don’t lose it this holiday season!

For an individualized exercise program or more exercise snacks that you can do anytime and anywhere during the holiday season contact A to Z Personal Wellness.