Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Just Standing- Back Health and Weight Loss

More articles on why standing is better than sitting, plus an exercise that will help:

Stand Up While You Read This!
Your chair is your enemy.

It doesn’t matter if you go running every morning, or you’re a regular at the gym. If you spend most of the rest of the day sitting — in your car, your office chair, on your sofa at home — you are putting yourself at increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, a variety of cancers and an early death. In other words, irrespective of whether you exercise vigorously, sitting for long periods is bad for you.
The always interesting and thorough New York Times writer Olivia Judson gives this lively overview on the topic of not sitting.

Can’t Stand to Sit Too Long? There’s a Desk for That
Although standing up all day seemed better for his back than sitting down, the real pleasure was in being able to change positions over the course of the day. A moveable desk lets him do that; whenever his body threatens to stiffen into a single aching pose, he switches to another.
The chair is the chair, what can be done?  You can compensate, by occasionally sitting on a stability ball, or, purchasing an adjustable height desk.  My favorite part is the mention that it is the ability to change the method of using the desk, not just finding a single perfect position and holding it, that provides the benefit.  That's why sitting on a stability ball is good- they make you move around a bit.

Weighing the Evidence on Exercise
"In a completed but unpublished study conducted in his energy-metabolism lab, Braun and his colleagues had a group of volunteers spend an entire day sitting. If they needed to visit the bathroom or any other location, they spun over in a wheelchair. Meanwhile, in a second session, the same volunteers stood all day, “not doing anything in particular,” Braun says, “just standing.” The difference in energy expenditure was remarkable, representing “hundreds of calories,” Braun says, but with no increase among the upright in their blood levels of ghrelin or other appetite hormones. Standing, for both men and women, burned multiple calories but did not ignite hunger. One thing is going to become clear in the coming years, Braun says: if you want to lose weight, you don’t necessarily have to go for a long run. “Just get rid of your chair.” "
This article is primarily about how exercise helps, or doesn't, with controlling body weight.  The gist is that exercise isn't so good for losing weight, but is great for keeping it off.  At the end was the paragraph I quote above, offering yet more evidence for my Don't Sit Down campaign.

A Simple Standing Exercise
Sometimes the exercises I describe are advanced and require gym equipment.  The one leg step down is an easier one that can be done at home and that works those standing muscles, including the ones needed for lateral(side to side) stability and movement.  Plus, it improves balance.

Stand on the bottom step of a stairway, facing sideways, with one foot on the step and the other hanging above the floor.  Hold the rail at first, but work on balancing without using your hands.  Lower the unsupported foot to the floor, lightly tap, and raise it.  Try to get the hips tilting up and down to work the abductors.  Keep your weight back and torso upright.  Do up to 20 repetitions, then turn around and do the other side

This exercise works the muscles needed for leg and hip extension- glutes and quads primarily, but the unusual part is the emphasis on leg abduction.  The abductors are the muscles on the side of the hip connecting the pelvis to the leg.  Stand with your arms akimbo* and your hands are on them.  Even people who know what the abductors are often think of them only in terms of moving the leg sideways, and they do.  Their primary role however is to stabilize and control the lateral angle between the leg and the pelvis(frontal plane) while the leg is pressing on the ground.  Stand on your right leg, and the right abductors prevent or allow the hips to tilt sideways.

As you get stronger, try 3 taps on the floor- to the front, out to the side, and then to the back.  Imagine that straight down is the center of a clock dial and tap at 12, 9, and 6.  Also really work at elevating the side of the hip when you raise your foot. For fun, kick the leg out to the side as it is raised, and bouncing up on the front of the standing foot.  If you can still do more than 20 reps, bravo!  you're ready to buy some iron(weights) or start going to the gym.

 *A chance to use the word "akimbo" is not to be wasted!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Play Soccer, Have a Cherry-Beet Sports Drink, and then a Massage

Cherries for Recovery
Here are a few recent articles on interesting fitness topics:

Marathon Runners Should Pick Cherries for Speedy Recovery

Cherry Juice May Prevent Muscle Damage Pain

Tart cherry juice is a well known folk remedy for arthritis and other aches and pains, and it's good to see science supporting and exploring its use.

Beetroot Juice Boosts Stamina, New Study Shows

Will this be the new acai?  Will it be banned from the Olympics?  How do beet juice and cherry juice taste together?

Soccer Reduces Risk of Falls and Bone Fractures, Study Finds
An extensive research project has studied the effects of soccer on muscle strength, postural balance, bone mineral density and reflex response to a sudden push in the back among adult women and men. Five scientific articles are now being published in Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports showing that regular participation in soccer increases both bone mass and bone density, causes a significant improvement in standing postural balance and improves muscle strength. Together, these effects reduce the risk of falls and bone fractures.
Soccer is a great example of exercising the entire body in a wide variety of movements. It doesn't just require moving quickly, but changing speed and direction quickly, shifting weight, coordinating moving the body and reacting to external stimuli (the ball and other players).  This is very much like the ideas of functional fitness, including exercising while standing, and doing exercises involving the entire body.  Plus, it's fun and social, which is very motivational.

Note this one bit in comparison to running:
Interestingly the short- and long-term training effects on bone mineral density were greater for the soccer players than for a similar group of runners and an inactive control group.
While running is great in many ways, it does lack variety.  Do some cross-training if you run, especially weight training.  Through the rainy season here in Palo Alto I've been using a treadmill on days too soggy for bicycling(I loathe riding in rain) and have fun tossing around a medicine ball and pulling resistance bands as I move.

Shopping for Happiness? Get a Massage, Forget the Flat-Screen TV
This isn't strictly about massage, but it does support the value of the experience beyond the direct health benefit.

Image by Sujit Kumar

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Bodywork and Statins

From the excellent blog Happy Healthy Long Life I have learned that the common statin Crestor has been approved for use in healthy people for prevention.  Statins are a class of drug used for treatment of high cholesterol.  This new ruling may substantially raise the number of people who take this already very common type of medication.

Where this matters in the realm of bodywork and fitness is that possible side-effects of statins include muscle aches and pains, muscle injury, and peripheral neuropathy.  If you have, or your client  presents, non-specific muscular complaints then statin use should be considered a possible cause.  Inform your doctor, and get approval for massage or exercise. Your doctor should be informed immediately especially if there is severe pain, swelling, or dark urine.  In the extreme, a life-threatening condition known as rhabdomyolysis may exist and emergency care is needed immediately.

With minor symptoms, massage and exercise seem to be safe if not done too strongly.  In severe cases, either may exacerbate a dangerous condition and should be avoided.  In all circumstances, the information offered here is neither expert nor complete- it is just to increase your awareness.