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movement

Happy Brain Exercises

Daily Neurodevelopmental Brain Boosters

Exercise improves brain neurochemistry, neural connections, and even the number of brain neurons.  I have two suggestions on the best exercise activities to improve brain health.  They both have roots in human neurodevelopment and can be employed by nearly everyone.  Build better brain health with a walk and a crawl.

Walking 101

Morning walks work magic.  Many top leaders talk about how much better they think and analyze when they start the day with exercise.  If you are the decision maker for your family or company, please take a morning walk.

Cadence Counts.  If you are moving at 60 steps a minute, you are not walking, you are strolling.  A compilation of many studies has found that 100 steps per minute as the sweet spot for walkers under the age of sixty.  The data for older walkers has yet to be fully evaluated, but it appears the cadence should not slow much below 100.

Tune in.  Ditch the earbuds.  Tame the dopamine damage of “connectivity” and leave the phone at home.  Be alone with your thoughts for the duration of your walk.  Gandhi, St. Augustine, Thomas Jefferson tell us that difficult problems are resolved with contemplative walks.

Get off the pavement.  The human species evolved walking through undeveloped environments.  Take your walk to a quitter and more tranquil setting.  More trees, less noise, and serene surroundings provide a calmer event.  I personally believe that uneven and inclined pathways do a better job at stimulating neurodevelopmental pathways.

Get comfortable with a long walk.  Thirty minutes a day is great, but once a week go for a sixty-minute walk.  Stretch out the distance you can travel.  Load up a backpack with water and try a two hour ruck walk.  There is no greater brain regenerating activity than a long October nature walk in Michigan.

“Walking is the best possible exercise.  Habituate yourself to walk very far.”

-Thomas Jefferson

All Crawl

It does not matter if you are an Ashtanga Yoga devotee, hard style kettlebell lifter, Crossfit firebreather, PureBarre, or Pilates disciple, there is one exercise that everyone in the fitness world has performed.  For many months we all diligently worked on becoming better at this exercise and it rewarded us with crucial neural connections.  The bad news is that most of us have stopped using this exercise.  The good news is that we can still use the crawl pattern and reboot the brain connections that allowed us to stand and walk.

More of your brain is devoted to movement than any other activity.  Despite what you have read, muscles never work in isolation.  Our muscles are arranged in an interconnected, spiral, and diagonal fashion.  The “core muscles” are neurologically wired to connect your left hip with the right shoulder and the right hip with the left shoulder.  They are designed to stabilize your middle so you can transfer force from the hips to the shoulders.  Crawling is all about that critical, spiral-diagonal connection.

Try adding two crawl training sessions a week to your fitness program.  Crawls are one of those exercises that produce the “What the heck?” effect.  Other activities of daily living suddenly become easier.  Joints move better, posture improves, and long standing soreness resolves.  Just ask any baby.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Embrace The Hate

Being Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

“I hate this one.”

“This exercise never gets easier.”

“I do this but I hate this.”

“You like to see me struggle”

These are all common statements from fitness clients and physical therapy patients.  They have complaints about certain exercise activities that are difficult, unsteady, aggravating, and just plain annoying.  The activities that provoke these responses usually involve getting up and down off the ground, single leg biased training, carrying a weight, and / or pushing a sled.

These comments are usually followed by—

“..but I know they are helping.”

“I don’t have that pain anymore.”

“My legs are so much stronger.”

“I hiked in the mountains with my grandchildren.”

To make progress in rehab and fitness, you need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  If your fitness regimen involves scented candles, soothing music, and nothing that makes you uneasy, then I doubt it has much value.  Training challenges that restore movement skills, improve strength, and add muscle mass will create some discomfort.  Developing the mindset that embraces the challenge makes all the difference.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Discover the difference between muscle soreness following exercise activity and pain you should be concerned about in “Do I Have A Problem?”.  Jeff Tirrell gives advice for women on optimizing performance  and Mike O’Hara discusses training priorities for those over forty.

Download Here

Movement You Should Master

Step Ups

Modern medicine is keeping us alive longer, so now we need to put some effort into staying lively longer.  Mastering specific movements will improve our quality of life and help us stay independent and injury-free. I have come up with several exercises you can use to make yourself stronger, more durable, and develop a healthier, more functional body.  An exercise that I have found to be very helpful in restoring the capacity to get up and down off the floor is the Step Up.

Step Ups

The ability to go up and down steps will almost always be needed.  Losing this ability is a sure sign that one’s quality of life and independence are quickly fading.  Step Ups can be done in a variety of different directions and loaded a number of ways making them easily progressed or regressed based on goals and fitness level.  Step Ups improve balance and strength in the glutes, quads, and hamstrings.  Depending how you load, they can also challenge the core and shoulders.  The average step in the United States is 7 inches tall.  Strive to work up to a 14 inch box so that no flight of stairs will ever intimidate you.

Here Coach Katie demonstrates two different versions we like to use and the benefits of each along with some progressions.  Watch the video and give it a try: https://youtu.be/iGXtKyGlKMg.

1) Anterior Step up (Progression: Anterior Step Up with Racked Kettlebell hold)

2) Lateral Step Up (Progression: Lateral Step Up with one side loaded)

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1

 

Movement You Should Master

Weighted Carries

Modern medicine is keeping us alive longer, so now we need to put some effort into staying lively longer.  Mastering specific movements will improve our quality of life and help us stay independent and injury-free. I have come up with several exercises you can use to make yourself stronger, more durable, and develop a healthier, more functional body.  An exercise that I have found to be efficient and effective is a Weighted Carry.

Weighted Carries

Very few things are more functional than a carry.  You’d be hard pressed to get through daily life without having to carry something at least a few times per week.  While basic, a carry is an efficient and effective full body exercise.  Depending on the carry you choose, the load is virtually limitless.  Performed for time or distance, carries will always improve gait and core stability.  Depending on which version you use, they can also be an effective tool for improving shoulder mobility/stability, grip strength, balance, and overall awesomeness.  Watch the video and give it try: https://youtu.be/PaP4-IlVAOA

Coach Chad demonstrates my top four carry picks:

1) Farmers Walk (gait, core stability, grip strength, upper back, legs)

2) Suitcase Carry (gait, core anti-lateral flexion, grip, upper back, balance)

3) Waiters Carry (gait, core stability, shoulder stability, balance)

4) Double Waiters Carry (gait, core stability, shoulder mobility, shoulder stability, balance)

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1

 

Better Tests With More Movement

I attended an overcrowded grade school.  From 1st through 8th grade, we had 40 or more children in a classroom.  One Felician sister kept order by keeping everyone seated and stationary.  During my grade school education, I was stuck in a chair and every day it felt like time had stood still.  When a school day came to an end, the children were so movement deprived they would literally sprint out the doors.  I believe this illustrates the psychological impact of depriving children of movement during the day.

I know we have to be concerned with standardized test scores, and that taking time for physical activity takes away from reading, math, and science.  A long litany of research is revealing that children score better on tests when they are able to move around more.  More movement creates a healthier brain and better test scores.  More of the brain is devoted to movement than language, and if we wish to fully develop intellectual capacity, we need to include movement.  This appears to be even more important for boys.

Everyone involved in improving education needs to read Spark, by Dr John Ratey.  In this book, he discusses how brain function is enhanced by the habit of exercise.  Over the last nine years, more research has documented the positive effects of exercise on brain health.  A teacher friend sent me this *article from the New York Times.  If you have grandchildren or children you need to read this.

Micheal S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

* Why Kids Shouldn’t Sit Still in Class, Donna De La Cruz, New York Times, March 21, 2017.  Read the article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/21/well/family/why-kids-shouldnt-sit-still-in-class.html?_r=0

Movement You Should Master

Pull Ups

Modern medicine is keeping us alive longer, so now we need to put some effort into staying lively longer.  Mastering specific movements will improve our quality of life and help us stay independent and injury-free. I have come up with several exercises you can use to make yourself stronger, more durable, and develop a healthier, more functional body.  An exercise that helps build upper body strength and maintain shoulder mobility is the Pull Up.

Pull Ups

If you are a superhero and find yourself hanging off the edge of a cliff or a building, you’ll need to pull yourself up.  All kidding aside, the pull up is a fantastic exercise to build strength in the lats, biceps, rhomboids, and rear delts, while helping to maintain shoulder mobility.  Pull ups can be done with a variety of grips.  The most important thing is to use a full range of motion and maintain control (avoiding excessive movement to reduce injury risk).  I utilize one of three pull up versions with most clients depending on their fitness level.  Watch the video and give it a try.

1) Eccentric Pull ups: Use a box to start in the top position, and slowly lower yourself with complete control down to the bottom position.  Once you can complete 10 of these with a good 4-6 second descent, then it’s time to move on to a standard pull up.

2) Standard Pull up:  Start hanging from a bar (or rings) with your arms completely straight.  Pull yourself up until your clavicle touches the bar.  Slowly lower yourself back down until your arms are completely straight and your body is motionless.

3) Xiphoid Pull ups: Start as you would for a standard pull up, but rather than pulling to your clavicle, you want to lean back and pull yourself up until your xiphoid process (bony part at the bottom of your sternum) touches the bar.  Then, lower yourself in a controlled manner back to the start.

See video of pull ups here: https://youtu.be/Cyvp4X2MRC0

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1

Are You Ready?

Spring At The Physical Therapy Clinic

The weather is warming up and soon we will leave the heated, insulated, safety of our home gyms and fitness centers.  The spring migration back to tennis, soccer, pickleball, golf, fitness running, ultimate Frisbee, and stadium steps will begin.  My physical therapy question is– Are you ready for these new challenges?  Has your fitness program prepared you to withstand the rigors of these spring endeavors?  This checklist should help you answer the question.

Have you been performing most of your fitness activities in standing?
Nearly every sport and most household chores are performed in a standing position.  During most of my visits to commercial gyms, the majority of the activity I witness is in the supine, seated, or heavily supported positions.  If your goal is to move better and remain free of injury, then 90% of your exercise should be performed in standing.

Do you practice moving in all directions?
Nearly every sport involves moving side to side, forward-backward, and in a rotational pattern.  Basketball, soccer, golf, and tennis all require you to accelerate and decelerate movement in all directions.  Most gym activities are predominantly sagittal plane– forward and backward.  You ride on the elliptical, spin the bike, and run on the treadmill for months, and your spring visit to the tennis court results in a twisted ankle because you are unfamiliar with side to side movement patterns.

Have you been working on better balance?
Balance is a skill that tends to deteriorate with age, injury, and a sedentary lifestyle.  Many commercial exercise machines take all balance demands away.  The elliptical, spin bike, recumbent bike, rower… all are heavily supported.  Proficiency with single leg stance balance prevents injuries and improves performance.  The older and more deconditioned you have become, the more your fitness program should include single leg stance balance training.

Do you perform any explosive exercises?
We get slower before we get weaker, and life is an up-tempo game.  We need to perform exercise that enhances quickness and improves control of deceleration forces.  What you do in the gym is reflected in how well you can move during activities of daily living.  If you continually exercise at slow tempos, you will get better at moving slowly.  If you train explosively, you get better at moving at faster speeds.  The capacity to decelerate a fall requires fast reactions.  Gracefully traveling up the stairs and getting out of the car are only improved with exercise that enhances power production and speed of movement.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

PDFIn this issue, Mike O’Hara, PT gives ten reasons to love lunges.  Video of lunge exercises/progressions are included.  In Going Grizzly, Mike presents the exercise combination of Crawls and Sandbag Carries; a combination that helps you train more efficiently and move better.  Watch the video for instruction on these exercises.

Download Here

That Office Chair Can Be Keeping You From Your Fat Loss Goal

the-new-york-timesFor many years, I have been preaching about the negative impact prolonged sitting has on our metabolic health and musculoskeletal system.  All the research has demonstrated that adaptive shortening of connective tissues and weakening of muscles occurs with as little as two days of prolonged sitting.  New studies of daily movement patterns demonstrate that sitting has an even more severe impact on our ability to metabolize body fat.  Take the time to read the article “Keep It Moving” by Gretchen Reynolds in the December 9, 2016 issue of the New York Times.

Once again, the answer is to get up off the Aeron, Barcalounger, La-Z-Boy, or setee and move around.  Every twenty minutes, stand upright and defy gravity with some good old fashioned ambulation.  Do not exercise in a seated position–train in a standing position.  More and more we are learning that consistent daily movement is an essential element of human health.

Read the NY Times article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/09/well/move/keep-it-moving.html

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

 

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