7 Stretches for the Office

7 Stretches for the office

7 Stretches for the office

 

The average office employee spends 28 hours a week bound to his chair, sitting in front of a computer at work, stuck in meetings, and—ugh—working at home, according to a national survey. If reading this puts a kink in your neck, then it’s time to evolve your work routine.

 

Start with your workstation. Has it been assessed for ergonomics? Many companies provide a service for this, so take advantage of it. How about your stretching habits? Are you doing the same toe touches that you did 10 years ago, or worse, sitting in the same hunched over position all day?

To help you maintain better posture, boost energy, and ease pain, we enlisted the help of physical therapist Sue Falsone. Use her series of innovative moves below to redefine your workday stretching routine.

Start with one stretch each time you break during the day—to fill your water bottle, use the restroom, take lunch, or walk to meetings. Then visit our work channel for more tips to stay active all day.

While no amount of exercise will counteract a daily routine of poor posture, these simple strategies will help you straighten up at work—and even make your gym time more valuable.

1. Standing Shoulder Retractions

Benefits: This exercise combats the hunched-over posture that comes from sitting all day by moving your shoulders back into their natural position. Try it two or three times a day.

How to do it: Stand tall with your arms at your sides, chest up, and palms forward. Pull your shoulders back, squeezing your shoulder blades together for a count of three. Relax, then repeat 8-10 times.

2. Massage Stick – Lower Back

Massage Stick Lower Back

Massage Stick Lower Back

Benefits: Using a massage stick to loosen tight areas is about the next best thing to a professional massage.

How to do it: Sitting tall on your chair, take the massage stick and rub your lower back, looking for trigger points (areas that feel sore). When you find a tender spot, massage it for 10 to 15 seconds, then continue through the area, maintaining steady pressure with the stick.

3. Thoracic Spine Mobility – Tennis Ball

Thoracic Tennis Ball

Thoracic Tennis Ball

Benefits: No massage stick? Try taping two tennis balls together to form a peanut. Like the previous move, this will loosen tight spots in your back to help you move more freely.

How to do it: Lie on your back with the tennis balls under your spine just above your lower back, and raise your arms over chest. Alternate reaching arms overhead for 5 repetitions and to each side for 5 reps. Think about keeping your ribs pushed down to the ground during the arm reaches. Move slowly, and don’t forget to breathe.

4. Half-Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

Benefits: There’s a group of muscles on the front of your upper thigh called the hip flexors. When you sit for long periods of time, these muscles become tighter and shorter, yanking on your lower back and ultimately causing pain. Stretch your hip flexors with this move.

How to do it: With your back to your chair, get in a half-kneeling position with one foot flat on the floor and your back foot on your chair seat behind you. Contract (squeeze) your back glute, then shift your body slightly forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your thigh. Hold, relax, and repeat for a set of 8 before switching legs.

5. Glute Bridge

Benefits: Training your glutes (butt muscles) with glute bridges will help take stress off your back and knees.

How to do it: Lie face-up on the ground with your arms at your sides, knees bent, and heels on the floor. Raise your hips up off the floor by contracting your glutes until your knees, hips, and shoulders are in a straight line. Hold for two beats, lower back down, and repeat 8-10 times.

6. Thoracic Extension – Seated

Hunched over desk

Hunched over desk

Benefits: Sitting hunched over decreases the mobility in your thoracic spine (upper back). Regaining mobility in this area can relieve pain in your neck and shoulders.

How to do it: Sitting in your chair, place your elbows on your knees and tuck your chin. In this position, your back should be rounded. Keeping your elbows on your knees and your chin tucked, reverse the curve in your back by extending your spine. Return to the starting position and repeat 8 times.

7. Trunk Rotation to Lateral Flexion – Seated

Trunk Rotation Stretch

Trunk Rotation Stretch

Benefits: Helps improve upper back mobility and overall posture.

How to do it: Sit in a chair with a towel between your knees, with your hands behind your head and your elbows in line with your ears. Keeping your chest up, rotate your trunk to the right. At the end of your range of motion, laterally flex your spine, crunching your right elbow down toward the ground. Reverse directions to the left and repeat. Rotate a bit further each time for 3 reps.

Arturo Espitia Certified Personal Trainer Everett, WA

Better Posture with…Duct Tape?

Better Posture with Duct Tape

Better Posture with Duct Tape

 

Here’s an enlightening way to kill some time over the holidays and make even those interminable gatherings with the in-laws more tolerable and productive. Find a roll of duct tape and take off your shirt. While standing as straight and upright as possible, have a friend apply a strip of tape down your spine—from just above the vertebrae at the base of the neck to your lower back. Then apply two other pieces of tape from the top of each shoulder to the middle of your back. When finished, it should look like you’re wearing an upside-down peace sign.

Now put your shirt back on and go about your day—working at the computer, driving your car, finishing up your Christmas shopping, or mingling at a holiday party. Every time you start to hunch or slouch, the tug of the tape on your skin will remind you to stand taller or sit straighter while gently pulling you back into alignment. (Note: If you have a hairy back, this “gentle pull” will be more of an “agonizing rip,” which is even more effective.)

“If an athlete’s posture is really bad, I’ll tape him,” says Sue Falsone, PT, CSCS, the director of performance physical therapy for Athletes’ Performance. “Sometimes the tape ends up coming off in less than 30 minutes because they slouch so much. It’s a great way to become more aware of your posture. The goal is to go through the day without ever feeling the tape on your skin.” And it works. I taped myself for a morning and found it even reminded me to squat and lift with my knees rather than bending over and risking my low back. (However, when it came time to remove the tape, my wife ripped it off way too fast. Now I have a giant red peace sign on my back, which has been producing some double takes at the pool.)

The Internet is rife with Rube Goldberg inventions that promise to promote better posture and all its subsequent advantages in far stranger ways than duct-taping yourself. I spent some time perusing the market and found three products that—although I haven’t tried—looked promising enough to call your attention to:

Adidas TechFit PowerWeb Apparel

Adidas claims that its line of compression-wear “improves posture and increases power and endurance…by actively supporting your muscles and focusing their energy.” Falsone says she’s used the shirts to increase posture awareness, and “athletes tell me they put them in a good position.” Here’s a video of Core Performance founder Mark Verstegen explaining how it works.

iPosture Intuitive Electronic Device

The $75 iPosture is a one-inch-diameter disk that’s worn on your upper body, either clipped to clothing or stuck to the skin. Once adjusted to your optimal sitting or standing position, it will vibrate when you slouch or hunch for longer than 60 seconds, which supposedly helps you learn better posture over time.

PostureTek Biofeedback Apparel System

Developed by an orthopedic surgeon, this $120 T-shirt (or bra) features a side pocket that holds a small posture-sensing disk. After calibrating it to your desired alignment, it’ll vibrate whenever your body angle needs adjusting.

Although neither Falsone nor I have personally used the last two products, she says that continuing feedback—whether from an electronic sensor, compression fabric, or simple duct tape—is the key to correcting bad posture for good. And as we’ve discussed in previous blogs, better body alignment is the secret weapon for enhanced performance and injury aversion. So give it a try. All you have to lose is some skin.

Great Article

Arturo Espitia Certified Personal Trainer Everett, WA

5 Ways to Make Your Daily Commute Healthier

Make your commute happier

Make your commute healthier

 

A long commute can wreak havoc on your body and mind. The stress of dealing with traffic combined with being hunched over a steering wheel can spell trouble even for those dedicated to maintaining the proper mindset, nutrition, movement, and recovery. Unless you work from home, walk or bike to work, or have a short drive to the office, there’s no way of getting around the daily grind of commuting, but there are plenty of ways to keep the commute from driving you into the ground. Start here:

1. Change shoes.

There’s a reason Mister Rogers would change his shoes and switch from a suit coat to a sweater when he arrived “home” at the start of his television show. He wanted to be more comfortable, but it also signaled a shift in mindset. Many city commuters wear one pair of shoes in the office and change for the walk home or to catch a subway or bus. So why should drivers be any different? “People tend to get home tense and stressed from work, and one reason is that they’re still in their work clothes,” says Anthony Slater, Core Performance’s director of performance. “Something as simple as changing into more comfortable shoes for the drive home can give you that mental transition.” (To stress less the rest of the day,

2. Adjust your seat.

New parents typically visit a car dealer to have a professional fitting for a child’s car seat, but when was the last time you considered your own fit? Use your armrests to take the tension out of your upper body, especially the trapezius muscles. Don’t view your car seat like a lounge chair; aim for the same posture you’d have at the desk. Having a hard time not slouching? Consider the rear view mirror. “Adjust your mirror to where it should be when you have perfect posture,” says Sue Falsone, vice president of performance physical therapy for Athletes’ Performance. “That way you’ll have to maintain good posture to be able to see out of it. It’s an effective reminder.”

3. Switch to stick?

Granted, few of us are going to return the driving mentality of just a generation ago, when more people engaged their left leg by driving manual transmission. These days, the left leg generally is bent and still during long drives and only the right foot is extended. That makes for easier driving, but it’s not as good for the body. “You’re tilting your hips to one side, and that creates imbalances,” Slater says. “You see a lot of people with their right leg externally rotated because of this.” There are plenty of exercises to counteract this (some examples below), but one easy fix, especially for men, is to take that fat wallet you’ve been working so hard for out of your back pocket before getting into the car. Sitting on your wallet tends to exacerbate muscle imbalances.

4. Take five.

On long rides, Falsone recommends stopping at least once every two hours to stretch and walk around—every hour if you have back problems. (See also: “How to Reduce Back Pain”) “Yes, it’s inconvenient, but it’s better than arriving at your destination and not feeling good,” she says. “A five-minute break can make a big difference.”

5. Warm up first.

If you live in a cooler climate, you know the importance of letting a car warm up in the winter before pulling out. So why should your body be any different? After a long day hunched over a computer, stretch it out before stepping behind the wheel. Core Performance moves such as a Backward Lunge with a Twist, Inverted Hamstring, or Standing Ts will help you prepare for the drive home. So, too, will stocking your car with a bottle of water, your favorite tunes, and healthy snacks—especially if you missed out on a late-afternoon feeding and might not have dinner until late. All of which will make commuting less stressful. “The more we can create the right environment and have the right mindset, the less stress you’ll feel at the end of each day and the end of the week,” Slater says. “If you take two minutes before every drive to do a couple of Movement Prep exercises and set your car up the right way, that’s an investment that will pay huge dividends down the road.”

Arturo Espitia Certified Personal Trainer Everett, WA

Study: Driving to Work Packs on Pounds

Driving to work packs on the pounds

Driving to work packs on the pounds

 

People who drive to work gain more weight yearly, even if they exercise, than people who don’t drive to work, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine [HuffingtonPost.com].

Australian researchers analyzed 822 commuters. Of the people in the study who exercised at least two and a half hours a week, people who drove to work gained an average of four pounds a year, a half pound more than exercising people who didn’t drive to work.

People who didn’t get enough weekly exercise also gained weight, but it wasn’t impacted by their commute. The only participants who didn’t gain weight were those who got enough exercise weekly and never drove to work.

“Even if you’re efficiently active during leisure time, if you use a car for commuting daily then that has an impact on weight gain,” said lead author Takemi Sugiyama.

If driving is your only transportation option, read “5 Ways to Make Your Daily Commute Healthier.”

Arturo Espitia Certified Personal Trainer Everett, WA

Eat Colorful Foods for Better Health

Colorful Foods

Colorful Foods – Better Health

Different colored foods play different roles in the body. Aim for at least three colors at every meal and two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables over the course of the day.

“Every meal should include colorful fruits and vegetables because of their fiber and nutrient densities,” says Verstegen. “Proteins and carbs will most likely be brown, beige, or white. Add veggies like red and green peppers, carrots, and green beans to get your color quotient up.”

Colorful Foods by the Numbers

500
Eating three colors each night at dinner will add up to over 500 servings of vegetables over 6 months.

Red Foods

Packed with phytochemicals like lycopene and anthocyanins, red foods help increase heart and circulatory health, improve memory, support urinary tract health, and decrease the risk of certain types of cancers. Try these red foods:

  • Cherries – This delicious fruit is high in antioxidants that have been shown to protect against heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. A rich source of antioxidants, tart cherries also help reduce inflammation in the body and relieve pain from gout and arthritis.
  • Cranberries – High in antioxidants and proanthocyanidins, cranberries have been shown to prevent bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract wall and reduce inflammation in the body.
  • Red bell peppers – Bell peppers are low in calories and fat and high in vitamin C and fiber. Eating bell peppers has been linked to increased immunity, improved digestion, lower cholesterol, and a decreased risk of colon cancer.
  • Tomatoes – High in the antioxidant lycopene, tomatoes have been shown to help reduce damage to our cells and decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
  • Beets – This low calorie veggie is high in fiber, folate, and vitamins A, C, and K. Beets have been shown to optimize digestive health, decrease inflammation, and help fight heart disease.

Other Red Foods

Other delicious red foods include strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, pink grapefruit, pomegranate, red kidney beans, red apples, red grapes, red pears, radishes, radicchio, red onions, red potatoes, and rhubarb.

Orange Foods

Orange foods are high in antioxidants such as vitamin C, carotenoids, and bioflavonoids. Eating orange foods has been linked to skin and eye health, increased immunity, decreased risk of cancer, and a healthy heart. A few of our favorite orange foods include:

  • Carrots – Carrots are high in vitamin A, which helps maintain the integrity of the skin, and beta carotene, which has been associated with boosting the immune system and potentially reducing the chances of skin cancer.
  • Oranges – This fruit is high in vitamin A and C, which has been linked to increased immunity, heart health, and healthier skin. Also high in magnesium and fiber, oranges can help strengthen bones and improve digestion.
  • Sweet potatoes – Often touted as one of the healthiest veggies we can eat, sweet potatoes are high in fiber, vitamins A and C, iron, and antioxidants. Eating sweet potatoes has been shown to promote healthy skin, increased immunity, and a decreased risk of cancer.
  • Peaches – High in vitamin A, C, E, K, and fiber, peaches have been shown to help prevent cellular damage, promote healthier digestion, reduce inflammation in the body, and help reduce your risk of cancer.

Other Orange Foods

A few other orange foods to try include apricots, cantaloupe, Cape gooseberries, golden kiwifruit, mangoes, nectarines, papayas, persimmons, tangerines, butternut squash, and rutabagas.

Yellow Foods

Pineapple, yellow peppers, corn, star fruit, and other yellow foods contain nutrients that promote good digestion and optimal brain function. High in alpha- and beta-carotenes, yellow foods have also been linked to increased immunity, a decreased risk of some cancers, and healthy eyes and skin. Grab these yellow foods on your next shopping trip:

  • Pineapple – Cholesterol and fat-free, pineapple is high in bromelain, an enzyme that helps regulate and neutralize body fluids and aids in digestion. Its high vitamin C content has also been linked to decrease in heart disease, cancer, cataracts, and stroke.
  • Yellow peppers – High in vitamin C and A, yellow peppers have been linked to increased immune system and healthy skin. Yellow peppers are also high in carotenoids, which help protect from heart disease.
  • Star fruit – Caramobla, or more commonly known as start fruit, is high in high in vitamin C and calcium. This fruit has been linked to increased immunity, bone health, and muscle contractions.

Other Yellow Foods

Try some of the other delicious yellow foods like yellow apples, yellow figs, grapefruit, golden kiwifruit, lemon, yellow pears, yellow watermelon, yellow beets, yellow tomatoes, and yellow winter squash.

Green Foods

Green fruits and vegetables contain varying amounts of potent phytochemicals such as lutein and indoles. Benefits include a lower risk of some cancers, improved eye health, rejuvenated musculature and bone, and strong teeth. Stock up on these healthy green foods:

  • Broccoli – High in calcium and iron, this veggie has been linked to stronger teeth, bones, and muscles, and a decreased risk of cancer.
  • Spinach – This leafy green is high in antioxidants and vitamin K, which helps strength bones.
  • Kiwi – Kiwi is high in folate, vitamin E, and glutathione, which all help decrease the risk of heart disease and promote optimal overall health.

Other Green Foods

Other healthy green foods include avocados, green apples, green grapes, honeydew, limes, pears, artichokes, arugula, asparagus, broccoflower, broccoli rabe, Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, green beans, green cabbage, celery, chayote squash, cucumbers, endives, leafy greens, leeks, lettuce, green onions, green peppers, peas, snow peas, sugar snap peas, watercress, and zucchini.

Blue/Purple Foods

These colorful foods get their bright hue from anthocyanins, which have been linked with antioxidants and anti-aging properties in the body. Blue and purple foods help promote bone health, and have been shown to lower the risk of some cancers, improve memory, and increase urinary-tract health. The main benefit of blue and purple foods is increased circulation and microcirculation. A few of our favorite blue/purple foods are:

  • Blueberries – Blueberries are high in fiber (2.4 g per 2/3 cup), vitamin E and C, and antioxidants. Eating blueberries has been linked to improved cholesterol, increased urinary-tract health, and a boost in brain activity.
  • Blackberries – These nutrient-packed berries are high in fiber, vitamin K (promotes calcium absorption and bone health), and high in antioxidants that improve overall health. Research has also linked blackberries to increased immunity, improved heart health, lower cholesterol, and decreased cancer risk.
  • Plums – Plums are high in vitamin B, which helps metabolize carbohydrates, proteins, and fat. High in vitamin K, plums also help promote bone health.
  • Eggplant – In addition to being high in fiber (8 percent of your daily needs), eggplant is also high in vitamin C, calcium, and phosphorus which promote strong bones and teeth.

Other Blue/Purple Foods

Other blue and purple foods to try are black currants, dried plums, elderberries, purple figs, purple grapes, raisins, purple asparagus, purple cabbage, purple carrots, black salsify, purple-fleshed potatoes, and purple Belgin endive.

White Foods

While many white foods are refined, like white bread and white rice, there are a lot of white foods that are packed with nutrients. White fruits and veggies have been linked to lower cholesterol, decreased blood pressure, and a lower risk of heart disease. The key benefit of white foods is increased immunity. Eating white foods helps enhance the immune system, the lymph systems, and aids in cellular recovery. Here are a few of our go-to white foods and their specific benefits:

  • Garlic – In the same family as chives and onions, this powerful, potent food has been linked to heart health and decreased cancer risk. Garlic also has anti-microbial compounds.
  • Onions – In addition to having powerful sulfur-bearing compounds that work as anti-microbial agents (similar to garlic), onions have also been shown to help lower blood sugar levels and improve heart health by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. Onions are also high in the flavonoid quercetin, which has been linked to cell protection and slower tumor growth.
  • Cauliflower – High in powerful antioxidants such as manganese and vitamin C. One cup of cauliflower has 52 mg of vitamin C, compared to 64 mg in a medium orange. This healthy food has also been linked to increased immunity.

Other White Foods

A few other healthy white foods include ginger, turnips, and jicama, white corn, turnips, shallots, white potatoes, parsnips, mushrooms, kohlrabi, Jerusalem artichoke, white peaches, and white nectarines.

Arturo Espitia Certified Personal Trainer Everett, WA



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