Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Importance of Keeping your Muscles Moving!

Our muscles make up the loco motor and supportive system of the body which helps us move and supports us as we do just that.  They help us get our bodies moving and also act as a girdle to support and protect our spine and our inner organs as we go about our daily business. They also help to increase blood circulation to the outer tissues of our body (such as our fingertips) and help to move lymph and waste products out of our body.

When our muscles are working properly, they help to align the bones of our spine and extremities to support our body weight and maintain good posture as we move. In addition, they help to pump blood to all the tissues of the body and also help to remove waste from our cells, tissues, and organs. When our muscles aren't working correctly (due to shortened or weak muscles, poor posture, past injury, or even lack of proper muscle nutrition), they can interfere with our freedom of movement, make us prone to injury, and even cause pain. This can cause movement to be painful and may even effect the inner working of our bodies such as circulation, lymphatic flow, and hormone regulation.

Here is a picture of muscle man Greg Valentino

Here is a picture of my daughter Camryn imitating "Muscle Man"

See the resemblance? Me neither, and that's a good thing because they aren't related in the slightest bit. :)

Why is this important? 

Movement is the key here! By keeping our bodies moving not only are we working our muscles and bones (to promote bone density) but we are also pumping blood through our bodies and getting rid of waste. Wow, all that from just moving!

So how do we keep moving? Walk for starters. Walking is great because its low force on your joints and low intensity so its great for all ages and bone densities. Walking gets your muscles moving and can help with a number of other health problems including osteoporosis, diabetes, blood pressure, and even cholesterol. Walking three times a week for 20 minutes is a great addition to your day (if you find mobility to be an issue try breaking it up into 5 or 10 minutes walks instead), however if you're motivated try walking one mile four times a week on an uneven surface (such as a field or hiking path).

Stretching is also very important. By stretching your muscles you are getting movement into your muscles and joints, but you are also promoting good posture. I've found that most people with low back pain have tight muscles in their lower legs and pelvis that are preventing them from having good posture and can be contributing to their pain. In addition, I've found that most people with tightness in their neck and shoulders tend to have forward head posture and weak spinal support muscles that are causing their poor posture and contributing to spinal degeneration and compression fractures. 

So how do you know which muscles to stretch? Start at your toes and work your way up. I've included some simple stretches below. 

If you're having any pain before you begin these exercises, consult your doctor about what type of exercise program you should begin. 

If you are having any pain while you are doing these exercises, STOP and consult your doctor.

Chin Tucks
  • Sit or stand with good posture (ear canal over the midline of your shoulder)
  • Tuck your chin in towards your chest while looking straight ahead
  • Repeat 10 times while holding position for 5 to 10 seconds, Repeat exercise three times a day

 Shoulder Blade Press

  • Roll your shoulders backward and press your shoulder blades together
  • You should feel a burn where the arrows are pointing
  • Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute, Repeat three times a day

 Calf Stretch (Position 1 for gastrocnemius)

  • Place hands against wall for balance
  • Place left heel in front of wall with toes pointing upward on wall and lean into left foot
  • Stop when you feel a stretch in the back of your calf ( you may feel it all the way up your leg)
  • Repeat for opposite leg
  • Hold for 30 seconds, repeat three times a day

 Calf Stretch (Position 2 for Soleus)

  • Instructions are the same for the stretch above except you will bend the knee of the foot against the wall to stretch the second layer of muscle
  • Repeat on opposite leg
  • Hold for 30 seconds, Repeat three times a day

 Crescent Stretch

  • Lay on your back and stretch your arms over your head
  • Bend arms and legs to one side so you resemble a crescent or a croissant
  • Stop bending when you feel a stretch on the side opposite the one you are bending 
  • Repeat while bending to other side
  • Hold for 1 minute, Repeat 3 times a day

If you're having trouble getting in any of the positions for these exercises, let me know and I'll find a way to modify them for you.