We still have all of February and even March for snowfalls so we are not done with the season just yet!
Which is why today we will expand a bit on the advice from Part 1 and Part 2 of our blogs on Snow Shoveling Tips…
1. Warming up
The reason why we need to warm up prior to shovelling is because when we get out in the cold, all of our blood vessels constrict, which increases their pressure when trying to bring the blood to the rest of the body.
At the same time, we suddenly burst into mostly upper body activity, which requires a lot more blood supply!
This puts a strain on your cardiovascular system…
Therefore, before you step outside and pick up the shovel, warm your system up first so it is ready for shovelling:
Jog in one place for 30 seconds
Do jumping jacks for 10 seconds and repeat a few times
Do some air punches forward and overhead for 30 seconds
It’s also a good idea to do some stretches to warm up your muscles and avoid strains!
Do shoulder/arm swings (perform slowly and with control to avoid straining a muscle with quick, sudden movements)
Lightly stretch the backs of your shoulders by crossing one arm across your body, then the other for a few seconds at time (don’t hold for a long stretch so you don’t overstretch before having to shovel) and without pushing too hard into the stretch
Twist your torso from side to side with arms across your chest (perform slowly and with control to avoid straining a muscle with quick, sudden movements)
Slowly bend forward to stretch the back and the backs of the thighs for a few seconds, repeating a few times
Slowly lean back with hands on hips for a few seconds, repeating a few times
Do some lunges
Do leg swings (perform slowly and with control to avoid straining a muscle with quick, sudden movements)
Pull ankle to buttock while standing to get a quad stretch, holding only for a few seconds and repeating a few times before switching legs (don’t hold for a long stretch or pull too vigorously so you don’t overstretch before having to shovel)
Do some calf stretches for a few seconds, repeating a few times on each side
Once you feel warm and limber, you’re set to head outside!
2. Technique is important.
A lot of people try to get it done as quickly as possible. They rush to shovel, try to move a lot of snow at once, and end up twisting their back a lot to get the snow off to the sides. This can lead to muscle strains or back sprains.
A good rule of thumb isonly move the shovel in the direction of your toes! As you push the snow with the shovel, push in the same direction that your feet are pointing.
Use the power of your legs instead of bending a lot through the back or pushing a lot through your arms. Think mini lunges as you propel the force through your legsand push the shovel and snow forward.
When you have to lift the snow to throw it out of the way, make sure you are not twisting at the back. Keep toes pointing in same directions as the shovel. Lift with your legs in the mini lunge (or mini squat) position, rather than bending. Then, to throw the snow, use the momentum of the lift as you straighten outto also throw the snow off the shovel and into the snowbank.
As you throw that snow off the shovel, you shouldn’t have to extend your arms all the way out. The shovel should remain fairly close to your body.
If you are quite tall, standard size shovels might not work as well for you. Look for longer and/or bent handle shovels to reduce the bending needed through the back.
3. Staying active in general!
Not a lot of us will commit to working out so we can be ready for snow season, but definitely including cardio (running or brisk walks, swimming, cycling) into our workouts will make our cardiovascular system more resilient.
When it comes to shoveling, upper body cardio work e.g. light weights, boxing, etc., is great!
Adding in weighted squats and lunges are great for strengthening those leg muscles we will use to propel and lift the snow!
Adding in some upper body strengthening will be helpful for maneuvering the heavy shovel and snow! E.g. shoulder presses, chest presses, bicep curls and triceps extensions, front arm lifts with straight elbows, etc.
A normal spine has three main curves: cervical lordosis, thoracic kyphosis, and lumbar lordosis. These curves occur in the frontal plane, meaning they curve front to back. A scoliotic curve curves to the side.
Therefore, a scoliosis refers to when the vertebrae in the spine do not follow a straight line but are curved sideways. Sometimes they can also rotate, or twist, like a corkscrew.
A small scoliotic curve may be barely noticeable by eye, or it might be so slight that an X-ray (or MRI) would be needed to measure it. In those cases, the scoliosis is unlikely to cause any issues.
However, when a scoliosis is present in children, the curve may continue to grow until their skeleton is fully developed. This means that if the curvature becomes significantly large, it can cause more than just bad posture.
It can lead to headaches and back pain, loss of normal range of motion, digestive issues, affect breathing, and eventually cause early arthritis due to the unusual pressure on some of the joints, etc.
Observable symptoms of Scoliosis
The head is not centered with the rest of the body
Constant leaning to one side
Difference in hip height
Difference in shoulder blade height or position
Uneven arm position as the arms hang on both sides of the body when the child is upright
A sideways curvature of the spine when the child bends forward
Causes of Scoliosis
Most commonly (80-85% of the time), scoliosis is idiopathic, meaning the cause of it is unknown. In some cases, the development of idiopathic scoliosis can be due to a genetic predisposition.
While it can be diagnosed at any age, it is usually diagnosed in kids 10 and older.
There may be a correlation with poor posture as well. This is where we can differentiate if a scoliosis is functional or structural.
A functional scoliosis develops due to certain postures and compensations that are likely due to muscle tightness and imbalance. In those cases, the spine appears to be curved but is not actually.
A structural scoliosis originates in the spine and cannot be corrected by correcting posture and muscle imbalance
Less commonly, scoliosis can be:
congenital, meaning that there were problems in the spine before a baby is even born. Usually, the spinal bones are either not fully formed or are fused in ways they should not be.
neuromuscular, meaning that conditions that affect the nerves and/or muscles of the body (such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy), will affect their ability to support the spine, leading to the development of a scoliotic curve
Severity of Scoliosis
Mild – Curve is less than 25 degrees, and risk of progression is 22%
Moderate – Curve is between 26-40 degrees, and risk of progression increases to 68%
Severe – Curve is above 40 degrees, and risk of progression is quite high at 90%
What to do about scoliosis?
In mild cases, if there are no symptoms or cosmetic concerns, then often the course of action is nothing.
However, until the child or adolescent is fully grown, the risk of progression is there. This means that the scoliosis should be monitored regularly (usually annually) and a referral to physiotherapy might be appropriate for preventative strategies and education.
In moderate cases symptoms are more likely, such as headaches, back pain, digestive issues, and fatigue with activity. A brace is often recommended to reduce the risk of progression and give the organs more room.
Physiotherapy and sometimes other disciplines, such as registered massage therapy and chiropractic, may also be an effective adjunct to bracing to help with symptoms and postural correction / education.
In severe cases, especially if a curve is above 50 degrees, a brace is not going to be able to able to slow progression, and surgery is likely to be recommended. Surgery usually involves spinal fusion to realign the vertebrae.
There have been many advances in surgical correction of scoliosis so the kind of surgery required will depend on the type of misalignment, the severity of symptoms, and the location of the scoliosis.
Overall, surgery has good outcomes.
What can Physiotherapy do about my child’s scoliosis?
In mild cases, treatment is preventative:
Postural correction and education
Postural exercises to correct muscle imbalances that have developed due to the scoliosis
Manual therapy (soft tissue release, joint mobilizations) to help improve flexibility and restore range of motion that have been impacted by the scoliosis
Postural taping to give proprioceptive feedback to the body and provide awareness to the child so they can better self-correct as they become aware of how their body is sitting in space
In moderate cases, treatment also helps to eventually wean off bracing while managing any associated symptoms.
In severe cases, physiotherapy might be helpful post-operatively to correct the muscle imbalances that had developed pre-operatively.
Yes, exercise and sporting activities (especially ones that focus on core strength) are encouraged!
In the severe cases, there may be some sport restrictions following a surgery. This is usually because after a fusion there will be some permanent loss of overall range of motion. However, kids often are able to return to sporting activities within 6 to 9 months after surgery.
Your muscles do not really get enough stimulation to grow stronger from just walking. Their baseline strength is somewhat maintained by regular walks, but there is no added strengthening benefit.
More than that, in order for you to get the cardiorespiratory benefits of walking, you need to feel exertion and raise your heart rate. In other words, a leisurely walk may feel nice but to get the real benefits of cardio exercise, such as:
improving heart rate,
controlling blood sugar and cholesterol,
boosting your mood,
improving your brain function and memory,
you need to add some pep to your step! 😉 To do this, you can:
increase your speed,
hold onto small weights,
go on rougher terrain (lots of hills, or incline on the treadmill),
increase the distance to tire you out and work on your endurance…
Cardio exercise is great at any age and you shouldn’t trade it for strength training. But as we get older, it alone is not enough.
So what is strength training then?
Usually, strength training for your muscles means using resistance (such as weights, or even your body weight) in a repetitive manner. When done regularly, this causes an adaptive response in your muscles to grow larger and more efficient.
And why should I bother to do this?
Have you ever heard the term “sarcopenia?” It means the loss of muscletissue due toaging.
Not only do we lose muscle mass more quickly as we age, but the type of muscle fibers in our body also changes. This leads to reduced muscle responsiveness and power overall.
Strength training can offset these changes. The benefits:
Maintain your muscle mass and strength so that you are able to engage in your daily tasks, as well as the activities you enjoy, for a long time to come. In other words, maintaining your strength means maintaining your independence as you get older.
Reduce risk of falls (our declining strength is also accompanied by reduced coordination and balance for a number of reasons, which overall increase the likelihood of falls –> long hospital stays –> further muscle strength decline & increased risk of infections)
Maintain / improve bone density (as we get older, our risk of osteoporosis increases, and therefore, so does our risk of fractures if we have a fall)
Other associated benefits: improved sleep and mood, contribution to weight loss
Alright, so how do I start strength training?
Select three days per week, preferably every other day (e.g. Monday / Wednesday / Friday).
Start slow. Maybe just 15-20 minutes whenever in the day works best with your schedule.
Play energetic music, or have the TV on to something you enjoy watching. Your workouts will often reflect your mood 😉
Now, let’s consider the major muscle groups:
Chest (pecs): some common workouts include chest presses, flies
Back: rowing, lat pull downs
Shoulders: shoulder presses, front and side arm lifts
arms (biceps and triceps): bicep curls, tricep extensions
abdominals (core): bird-dogs, crunches, side crunches, planks, side planks, bridges
gluts: bridges, clam shells, side and back leg raises, squats!
legs (quads, hamstrings, calves): lunges, single leg deadlifts, heel raises
You don’t have to start with all of these. Maybe pick a few of these exercises to begin, and gradually add on based on how you are doing. Some of these exercises also work multiple body parts. If you don’t have knee pain, then squats and lunges are great multi-purpose exercises!
Often, people will alternate between upper body and lower body workout days. It depends on preference and convenience.
Start with body weight only, and as the workouts get easier, start using weights or resistance bands or machines in the gym.
Start with 3-4 sets of 6-8 repetitions with high intensity exercises, and 2-3 sets of 12-15 repetitions with low intensity exercises. If a weight is heavy and you fatigue quickly, it is high intensity. If using light weights, or body weight only, it will likely be lower intensity.
Look up some free YouTube workout videos, or an app like the free Nike Training Club App, and do only what feels comfortable to you… don’t push yourself too hard when starting out because we need to build up the endurance first, or we risk straining a muscle!
Consider consulting a personal trainer for a few sessions to get exercise suggestions and work on your technique.
Depending on local COVID-19 restrictions, as well as your personal comfort level, joining an exercise class may help your motivation, discipline, and overall confidence with working out!
If you develop pain as a result from your workouts, rest for a week before trying again. If the pain is not going away, your technique or something else is likely amiss. Contact your local physiotherapist for guidance, especially if you’ve struggled with injuries in the past, or are still recovering from one! If you are unsure about coming in due to COVID-19, we alsoofferTelehealth appointments!
Infants (0-12 months) have many important milestones to hit during their development. Sometimes it seems like every week they’re learning something new!
Their brains and bodies are integrating so much information about their environment and how to interact with it. This includes sensory information (sight, smell, sound, touch).
There are different kinds of milestones:
social and emotional skills,
language and communication skills,
sensory such as hearing and vision,
gross motor and fine motor skills…
Today we will focus on the importance of gross motor skills, specifically in regards to tummy time!
What is Tummy Time?
Tummy time is when infants spend a certain amount of time, playing (or at least staying) on their tummy.
It is important to note that during various stages of development the term “tummy time” can be a lot broader. It does not exclusively mean placing babies on their stomachs. It can be modified so that they are on their knees and leaning on to / playing on an inclined surface or toy. But for the most part today we will talk about being on their tummies!
Why is this important?
Time babies spend playing on their tummy can hugely impact their gross motor development. It is basically a workout!
As they learn to push up through their hands, they develop upper body strength.
As they learn to move their neck against gravity, they develop neck strength and control.
As they eventually learn to get onto their hands and knees (and crawl), they develop core and hip strength.
By spending less time on their back, this improves neck tightness issues such as torticollis, and any skull deformities such as Plagiocephaly (Flat Head Syndrome) which develop as a result of the one-side head turning preference typical of torticollis.
Tummy time is also a gateway totransitional movements.
Initially, babies begin to learn rolling over from back to tummy and back again. Being on their tummies is more interactive than being on their stomachs, and they get a better view of their surroundings.
But rolling over is not a very efficient way of getting around. By pulling up through their arms (the army crawl), they can get further in a straight line. By getting onto hands and knees to crawl, they can do this much more quickly and efficiently.
Building up the strength in their core, neck, arms, and hips lays the foundation to learn to transition from four-point position (hands and knees) –> pulling up to kneel –> pulling up to stand –> cruising –> walking.
Transitioning from hands and knees to hands and feet (“bear” or plantigrade position) is how they eventually learn to stand up on their own.
Ideally, they are learning all of these new transitions and movement patterns symmetrically on both sides. Hand and side dominance will begin to show at its earliest around 18 months (but is more solidified between 2-4 years of age), which means that during their development, infants should learn and demonstrate all movement patterns symmetrically.
Think about what tummy time entails… pushing up through the hands, army crawling, and eventually hands and knees crawling. Infants are using their whole bodies and in order to move around to reach an object of interest, they are learning symmetrical and reciprocal movement on both sides of their body to achieve this goal. The reciprocal motion of crawling later becomes a natural reciprocal motion when walking: opposite arms and leg motion!
This symmetry also means that infants are not developing tightness/weakness more on one side than the other, leading to muscle imbalances.
In other words, if your little one is not spending a lot of time on their tummy, you can expect their motor milestones to be more delayed.
When can you start Tummy Time?
You can start super early! According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you can even do it the first day home from the hospital! (Of course, making sure to support their head as you change their position.)
How often should infants spend in Tummy Time?
Initially, you’ll be doing very short bouts. Even 3-5 minutes, 2-3x day is okay. Gradually, as your baby gets stronger and more comfortable, you can increase the time duration and frequency throughout the day.
How to do Tummy Time?
In the beginning, when your baby is still newborn (0-2 months) and does not have the strength to lift up much against gravity, you will be providing them with support.
This could be resting on your chest (skin-on-skin is a great way to bond!). This way they are inclined rather than fully horizontal which is harder, and you are able to assist them with your hands.
It could be on their playmat but bolstered at the chest with a rolled towel, small pillow, or Boppy Pillow so they are still inclined and have the support under their chest that their arms cannot yet fully provide.
Gradually, as you notice they are starting to rest more effectively onto their forearms and are lifting up their heads higher and for longer periods of time, you may sometimes skip using the pillow support and increase the time spent on their tummy.
If colic, or other issues, are limiting your baby’s ability to practice tummy time, speak to your physician and/or local physiotherapistfor alternative strategies!
Where to do Tummy Time?
Everywhere! Exposure to different textures, surfaces, and environments is great practice.
You may notice that even their clothing makes a difference. Some infants do not tolerate being bareskin while others may dislike tummy time in their clothes. This can be a sensory issue, or perhaps the clothing (or carpet / duvet, wherever they are practicing) may be cumbersome and making it hard to move around.
Different places to try:
Chest on chest
Lay baby across your legs, raising one knee higher to raise their chest
Is it ALL about Tummy Time?
Of course not!
While it is important that babies spend time on their tummies, having an equal opportunity to practice sidelying, sitting, side sitting, high kneeling, etc. (as appropriate for their age) is also important. Otherwise, they will get overly strong with one set of muscles and not develop others.
Lastly, the most important thing of all is giving them the opportunity to learn on their own! If you are always picking them up place them somewhere, or handing them their toys instead of having them try to get there on their own, then they won’t have the opportunity to problem solve and get stronger. 😊
In-person classes are scheduled to resume in just over a week! That’s hardly any time at all!
What is your back-to-school preparation looking like?
Today we will cover a few tips to get us back into the back-to-school mindset and to make the transition easier…
1. Sleep Quality
Sleep quality is so important. What time is the whole family going to bed and what time are they waking up at during the summer? Will you need to adjust that time once school starts?
It might be a good idea to start practicing getting up a bit earlier and going to bed a bit earlier. Start in small increments!
Did you know that exposure to sunlight early in the morning can actually reset your biological clock and sleep cycle?
It doesn’t happen immediately but if on average you view sunlight at a similar time each day, this will begin to shift your sleep cycle based on that time of day.
For this to be most effective, make sure you are actually outdoors and not viewing the sun merely through a window.
Do not wear sunglasses unless you are very sensitive to bright light.
You do not have to look directly at the sun (nor should you, especially if it is hurting!)
Do this first thing in the morning when you wake up (or as soon as able)
If it is bright and sunny out, then even 2 minutes is enough!
If its overcast, then up to 10 minutes would be needed
Bonus points if you go outside for 2-10 minutes around sunset / dusk so your eyes can also be exposed to the fading light
2. Meal Schedule
How has your eating / snacking schedule been at home during the summer?
It might be worth it to start adopting a meal schedule that would mirror the one at school!
Bonus points for practicing with younger kids how to open their lunchbox, take out the tupperwear, unwrap the snacks, and then put everything away on their own!
3. Getting the backpack ready!
If picking out a backpack for a younger child, ensure the sizing is correct. The width of the backpack should be similar to that of the child’s back and shoulders. It should sit just below their shoulders and on top of their hips!
Avoid carrying unnecessary textbooks or supplies… the weight of the backpack should be maximum 10-15% of the child’s body weight. Make sure your child is wearing both straps, well-adjusted, to evenly distribute the weight of the backpack.
Maybe even a waiststrap might be appropriate if the backpack is on the heavier side!
4. Desk and computer ergonomics…
If you or your child is an older student who will be spending a lot of time in front of a computer for school, make sure the ergonomics are set up for success!
should be ideally at eye level (for laptops, consider a riser table, or connecting it to a larger monitor)
Keyboard and mouse
should be close enough so that you are not always reaching your arm forward for them
Elbows should be close to body and forearms parallel to ground while using mouse and keyboard
A mousepad can avoid bending your wrist too far up and creating strain
Avoid having the table too high because that will cause tension in your neck and shoulders!
sitting as far back in your chair will allow full use of the back support (ideally, the backrest should support the whole back)
Feet should be able to fully touch the ground even when sitting all the way back in the chair
Adjustable chairs and tables can really help!
Can really help avoid the strain of prolonged positioning
Microbreaks can be just getting up to move around, get a snack, drink some water, go to the washroom…
They can also be some postural stretches… E.g. wall angels! Neck ear to shoulder stretches! Reaching arms forward as far as you can until you feel shoulder blades pull apart from each other!
5. Team Sports
If getting back into team sports, remember…
Eat well to fuel up and hydrate!
Stretch and warm up… don’t pull something on day 1!
Wear appropriate clothing and footwear
Listen to your body! Don’t push yourself back too quickly into what you were able to do back in early 2020! If it’s been a whole year since you’ve been that active, your body is going to need time to rebuild that strength and flexibility.
Welcome back to Part Two of what is exercise! Here is quick link to Part One for a refresher on what counts as exercise and whether it may or may not be enough of what you need.
This time we answer some burning questions like…
Why do some of us hate to exercise?!
The problems we often encounter with exercise can be that:
It is usually hard work, which makes the body feel uncomfortable, and therefore, can often feel punishing rather than enjoyable!
Unlike work, groceries, paying bills, or driving kids to activities, an exercise routine is not a mandatory part of life… wehave to carve that time out for ourselves!
Depending on our relationship with physical activity growing up, we may not have had the opportunity to develop enjoyment of sports, unlike someone who may have played soccer or baseball growing up.
Maybe we learned to associate exercise as something we were not good at, e.g. always being picked last in gym class. It either didn’t interest us, or it didn’t make us feel good about ourselves.
Maybe exercise does not feel possible if we already have chronic pain or a recurrent injury that flares up every time we try.
If we don’t have a lot of experience with exercise and sports, maybe we just don’t have the confidence or knowledge to know where to start.
And for some, exercise may seem to be a financial luxury they are not able to afford.
However, I’d like to offer up some solutions to the problems listed above. After all, every problem implies a solution! 😉
How to start liking exercise…
If exercise is hard work and feels like punishment, maybe it doesn’t have to be! Let’s forget for a minute what you think exercise shouldbe and let’s brainstorm what would help you enjoy the activity instead…
Do you prefer cycling or the treadmill? A specific sport or using weights?
Would you rather exercise at home or do you feel more motivated at the gym?
Would you like it to be a solo or a social activity?
If you are a beginner, or it’s been a really long time, don’t put pressure on yourself. Something is better than nothing, so even a moderately-paced 30 minute walk, a half hour yoga video, or 20 daily squats can be a place to start!
Also, consider combining exercise with something you enjoy, like listening to music or an audiobook. In that case, limit your time listening to the audiobook unless it’s when you’re exercising. Research shows that pairing something you like with something you procrastinate can help improve the habit! 😊
Consider using a tracker app or having a small reward for every time you exercise to help motivate you! Starting a tally of how many weeks in a row you’ve been exercising can boost your sense of accomplishment and the desire to keep the streak going 😉
Is exercise a priority for you?
Once you select an activity that seems more enjoyable and achievable, let’s talk about priorities…
As (somewhat) proficient multi-taskers, we have a lot of priorities in our day. How many of them are for your personal self-care?
Self-care includes proper nutrition, decent quality and quantity of sleep, time for deep and meaningful connection with family and friends, alone time to enjoy meaningful hobbies such as gardening or reading or knitting, etc… but it should also include your physical and mental health.
Not everyone can make time for 30 minutes of daily exercise. What about 20 minutes, 3x week? Or any other schedule that works for you.
When would that be? Where will you exercise? Who will you be with?
Tell your family in advance you won’t be available during that time, and remind them again right before you start!
Is there someone, or something (like a tracker app), that will be keeping you accountable?
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself…
If you didn’t grow up playing any sports, or don’t feel you are the “sporty” type, then don’t worry…
Exercise isn’t something you have to be goodat.
It doesn’t require a certain body type or a special discipline.
That is why we brainstorm what we might actually likedoing and that is why we prioritize time for ourselves during the week to actually try it and see how it goes.
If you don’t know where to start, it’s okay to feel overwhelmed by the options!
Start simple… like a 20-minute free YouTube video for pilates, or yoga, or cardio!
Ask friends and family about their preferred exercise routine!
Ask yourself what your fitness goals are… why do you want to exercise… what do you want to exercise… what do you picture exercise looks like. The answers to these questions may help guide you.
Consider asking your PT for an individualized program, especially if you are dealing with an injury or chronic pain. We would love to help!
Otherwise, consider taking a class or two when gyms open up, or maybe doing so virtually. Maybe consider hiring a personal trainer for a few sessions to get you started and to make sure you have good technique to avoid injury!
Exercise does not have to cost you…
Even if you cannot currently afford a gym membership, a personal trainer, or fancy equipment, something is better than nothing!
Walking and running only require a decent pair of running shoes!
A lot of workouts can be done solely with body weight… e.g. squats, lunges, push-ups, planks, crunches, etc.
There is a ton of free content on YouTube, or even some apps like the Nike App. You will find a wide selection from cardio and dance workouts, to body weight exercise routines, to pilates and yoga.
The hardest part is getting started which is why you should start small and don’t overthink it!
Often, people who work more physical jobs consider their job to be a form of exercise.
Whether it’s construction or landscaping… working in a warehouse… doing daily house and gardening work… or even as a physiotherapist, we might all feel that because we are on our feet all day, we are physically active!
But is that the same as exercise? Maybe… Let’s check out the definition below!
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) defines exercise as “a type of physical activity consisting of planned, structured, and repetitive bodily movement done to improve and/or maintain one or more components of physical fitness.”
If I am going up and down the stairs, bending to push a vacuum cleaner, getting down on the floor to clean the tub, or squatting to pull weeds in the garden, I am doing repetitive movements on a regular basis. So in a way, I am doing a form of exercise!
But is that enough? Is that all there is to exercise? We will address that in the following section!
As an aside… if you do have a physical job and don’t think it counts as exercise, just know that research into “job crafting” shows that people who reframe the physical things they do all day as a healthy way to move their body and maintain a level of strength and flexibility actually have improved health outcomes over time! Sometimes, things really are mind over matter… 😉
The different types of exercise…
If we get sciencey about it, then exercise can be divided into two categories: aerobic and anaerobic.
Simply put,aerobic means your muscles require a steady supply of oxygen to perform the exercise. These types of activities are more endurance-based.
For example: brisk walking, running, cycling, swimming. i.e. cardio workouts.
Anaerobic activities are short-bursts of high intensity energy that break down glucose (sugar) stores in your body as an alternate energy supply to oxygen. This is not sustainable for longer periods of time.
For example: sprinting, high intensity interval training (HIIT), weightlifting.
But we can break these grouping downs even further! The ACSM provides us with four kinds of exercise:
1. Cardiorespiratory Exercise: e.g. the aerobic activities mentioned above!
2.Strength (Resistance) Exercise: depending on the intensity of the exercise, this can be either aerobic, anaerobic, or a combination of both.
3. Flexibility Exercise: stretching exercises which can help prevent injuries as well as allow you to reach your full range of motion.
4.Neuromotor: this one is a newer addition! Also referred to as “functional fitness training”, these types of exercises involve a more active cognitive role to go along with the motor activity. E.g. exercises that involve balance, agility, coordination. Examples include dance and yoga, or even sports that include more strategic and quick reactions.
So, now that you’ve learned about different types of exercises, do you think your typical weekly routine includes all of the above?
The reality is, neither a physically active job, nor regular housework at home can hit all of the above categories. And sometimes, the type of exercise you are doing may not be what your body needs most at that point in time… So, while being physically active is always great, being strategic and intentional about the activities you engage in is the best way to maximize your physical health and fitness!
But how do we do that??
In Part Two of “What is exercise?” we will discuss some of the more commonly experienced barriers to exercising regularly, as well as suggestions on how to overcome them!
If you are just starting out, don’t feel overwhelmed by trying to incorporate all types of exercise into your routine! Start small. Even when you’re out for a brisk walk, you’re still lapping everyone else on the couch! 😉
If you are overfocusing on only one activity, e.g. running, don’t forget that strength training can improve your running speed and endurance while minimizing your risk of repetitive strain injuries. Just because your muscles are used to running doesn’t mean their strength is enough for long-term training or to avoid strains when you increase your training intensity.
If your exercise regimen is not hitting all of the categories listed above, then what are ways you can start incorporating different forms of training? Sometimes you can hit two birds with one stone… dance aerobics are a cardio activity that also has a neuromotor component. Certain types of yoga include both stretching and balance.
If you’ve got a familiar exercise routine but have recurrent injuries every time you try to progress or branch out, let us know and we can help!
Ever since we re-opened our physical doors on June 1st, 2020 (during the initial lockdown, we were only available for virtual therapy!) some cases have stood out more than others…
A lot of neck / upper back / shoulder / arm pain as people are working exclusively from home
Injuries resulting from people taking advantage of being home to exercise more, specifically by running (e.g. Achilles issues)
Chronic issues resurfacing because people have not being able to work out regularly at the gym (e.g. back pain)
1. Neck / upper back / shoulder / arm pain
The first issue has been directly as a result of the change in ergonomics and working longer hours! Think about it. If you didn’t have a home office, you probably ended up working at the kitchen table, or from the couch. Sitting for eight hours in a kitchen chair, or sinking into the couch the whole time, can get quite uncomfortable.
Plus, at home we don’t have meetings in conference rooms… we don’t drive to see clients… we don’t get up to go talk to someone at another desk… There are lot less breaks from sitting and a greater opportunity to work longer, especially when there is no commute back home!
So… we end up spending longer time in positions that are less than ideal, and end up putting stress on certain muscles or joints.
Not to mention the stress associated with a pandemic! You don’t know how long it’s going to last and it affects your life in so many ways both work and non-work related… And stress causes us to tense up, raises our heart rate and blood pressure, reduces our adaptability and immune system…
It’s no wonder we start having pain!
So what can you do about this?
The pandemic is not going away any time soon. If you haven’t already, it might be a good time to invest in your workspace at home. Here are some suggestions about how to optimize your workspace:
Desk and chair height should allow for your forearms to be parallel to the ground while keyboarding and mousing
Ideally, chair height should allow your feet to comfortably rest on the ground
Seat depth and distance from desk should allow for you to sit as far back as you can, so that you are taking advantage of the backrest
Backrests for the full back are preferable to backrests that only go up halfway
Backrests with adjustable lumbar support are preferable
Screen(s) should be at eye level so you are not constantly looking down
If you use a laptop only consider getting a riser table so that the screen is at eye level, and a wireless keyboard so that your forearms can still be parallel to the ground
Consider setting up reminders on your phone to get up to move and stretch, or get a drink of water
If possible, consider switching for half an hour to the kitchen island with your laptop so you spend some time standing instead of sitting. Or, when you have conference calls, taking them standing.
These ergonomic modifications can make a difference over time. But if your pain has been worsening, let us know so we can help! We are considered an essential service and remain open during lockdown for all of our services: physiotherapy, massage therapy, yoga therapy, chiropody, and acupuncture!
2. Injuries from exercising more
A lot of people have been walking more, especially in the past Spring and Summer. There have also been a lot more runners and cyclists. This is great news! These are activities that don’t require much (or any) fancy equipment and can be done alone, or with family.
However, when you are adding a new activity for exercise, overdoing it is a concern.
Here are some tips when adding in new exercises to your routine:
Do not go from 0 to 100! If you never used to run, start with 2-3x week, not every day.
Do not push yourself right off the bat! Start with light jogs, or a run-to-walk ratio. Think more about endurance (pacing yourself) rather than speed. Same goes for biking.
Fit bits and 30-day challenges are great motivators. However, pushing yourself to the limit for the sake of hitting a mark can cause more issues than it’s worth. If you are getting pain, do NOT push through it! If you really don’t want to skip the day, replace or modify the activity.
Recovery days are just as important as workout days. Whether it’s a full day of rest, or a lighter activity like yoga, recovery days are important to let your tissues recuperate and adapt. What’s more, exercise normally increases your heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension. Recovery activities are meant to reduce these metrics so your system is in more balance. This reduces the risk of injury.
If you’ve taken up running have you been having any foot, ankle, knee, hip, or back pain? If you’ve been cycling, any wrist or elbow or shoulder pain?
Let us know so we can help! If you’re not comfortable coming in due to COVID-19 concerns, we continue to offer Telehealth services (video calls).Click here for more information.
3. Chronic issue resurfacing because we are not going to the gym
Do you have any chronic neck or back issues? Did you have a regular workout routine prior to the pandemic? Was this routine interrupted as a result and you’ve been noticing your old issues creeping back in?
If so, you are not the only one!
A lot of people manage certain conditions with regular exercise. They usually notice that if they are not as diligent about their exercises, their pain and mobility may worsen.
Unfortunately, access to gyms has been spotty. Even when lockdown restrictions were lifted in Summer and Fall, gyms were operating at limited capacity and by appointment-only. Unless you have all or most of your workout equipment at home, you were likely affected.
While investing in a new desk or office chair is cheaper and more pressing, investing in workout equipment is not. You may buy some free weights, or splurge on a stationary bike, but you likely are not replacing all the equipment you used to use at the gym.
Or perhaps it’s not the equipment that you miss, but the dynamic and instruction of group exercise classes.
So what can you do?
Even if you don’t have chronic pain but would like to get back to being active, here are some ideas:
Accept that your workouts do not have to look like what they used to be. A lot of shoulder, core, and leg exercises have equipment-free alternatives that rely on body-weight resistance only!
If you have some free-weights but you used to use machines, the free-weights are still better than nothing!
If you miss the group classes, a lot of places have online classes. It may not be the same but it’s still better than nothing! Sometimes, it just takes a while to get into a new routine.
Take the opportunity to try a new form of exercise that doesn’t require gym equipment (just make sure you follow the tips outlined in the previous section!)
If you find it hard to get motivated at home, consider what puts you in the right state of mind… what kind of music do you like working out to? Is there a time of day that works best? Do you like having the motivation of peers? Then ask if some friends want to join you in a remote challenge! Are they free 2-3x week to attend an online class with you? Do they want to check in at the end of each week or each day to make sure everybody is meeting their activity goals?
If you need 30-60 minutes on your own 3x week for your health and well-being, have this conversation upfront with family members about helping you do this and how it’s going to work! You don’t have to do this alone!
If your chronic issue has flared up because of the lack of maintenance, let us know! We are here for you whether it’s an in-person appointment or virtually!
Hi all! Welcome back to why our breathing pattern is important!
In Part 1 we talked about the muscles involved in breathing and how to test if your breathing pattern is “optimal.”
Today we will delve a bit into the why this matters!
Role of breathing in ribcage expansion and joint mobility
If you remember… when we inhale, our intercostal and diaphragm muscles contract to spread out and elevate our ribcage to make room for the lunges to expand as they fill with air.
But stiffness in our joints between the spine and ribs can affect how well this expansion happens.
Alternatively, if our breathing pattern is not optimal, or not all of the muscles are engaging, we may get more expansion on one side than the other. The side that gets less expansion gradually gets stiffer.
As the ribcage attaches to the thoracic (upper and mid back) spine, its mobility also affects how our torso moves (e.g. turning our body to look over our shoulder).
As you can see, spine and ribcage mobility can both affect and be affected by our breathing!
Role of breathing in posture
In Part 1 we briefly talked about “accessory breathing muscles”, or muscles that are not active during regular breathing. Instead, they are activated during heavy exercise, a stressful situation, or an asthma attack, i.e.when breathing becomes hard work and more energy is needed!
These muscles also become active depending on our stress levels, our posture, or even when the major breathing muscles are not being optimally used.
When these accessory muscles are habitually used, our breathing pattern changes so that we become more “apical” breathers. This means that most of the movement happening is through our chest and shoulders.
However, most of the movement should be happening from the expansion of the ribcage!
These accessory muscles then become overactive and tight, while our diaphragm is underused, and our ribcage becomes stiffer.
This leads to, and is reinforced by, a more slouched posture:
Head and neck positioned more forward
Greater curve (or “hump”) in the upper and mid back
More rounded shoulders and tighter pec muscles
Role of breathing in stress and anxiety
A lot of people carry stress in their neck and shoulders. This is also reinforced by a lot of us sitting in front of a computer all day. As we sit for prolonged periods of time, we naturally crane the neck forward toward the screen, round the shoulders and upper back, and slouch through the lower back.
Our stress and anxiety can affect how much muscle tension we carry. Have you ever noticed that when you are cold, you hike your shoulders up and tighten the neck?
What about when you are stressed, anxious, or even just overly focused on your work? Do you hike up your shoulders, or clench your jaw?
Interestingly, our respiratory rate (our breathing) can influence our nervous system and therefore, our muscle tension.
For example, if we are in a more stressed state (fight, flight, or freeze response), if we consciously slow down our breathing and lengthen our exhales, we can switch over to a more relaxed state (rest and digest state).
There are known as the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system… When we are in an amped up state (sympathetic response), we carry more tension. When we are in a relaxed state (parasympathetic response), our muscles are also more relaxed.
You can try this as a stress management technique!
Every time you find yourself stressed or anxious, take a moment to close your eyes, consciously relax your shoulders, or anywhere else you feel you are tense.
Then, take five deep breaths, making the exhale twice as long as the inhale.
e.g. Breathe in to the count of three. Exhale to the count of six.
Another breathing technique for when feeling anxious isalternate nose breathing:
Exhale through the nostrils
Then, close the right nostril with your right thumb and inhale slowly through the left nostril
Then, close the left nostril with the right ring and pinky fingers, and slowly exhale through the right nostril
Still covering the left nostril, slowly inhale through the right nostril
Then, close the right nostril again with your thumb and slowly exhale through the left nostril
Repeat either nine rounds, or for about 5 minutes
End on a left nostril exhale
Role of breathing in low back pain
If your ribcage and spine are stiff, you may experience some upper and/or mid back pain.
That stiffness may be also contribute to low back pain…
Let’s take the psoas muscle as an example. The psoas flexes your hip, but can also function as either a spine stabilizer or a spine mover. In others words, it affects our back stability and mobility.
That’s because the psoas attaches to both the lumbar spine and to our hip bone. However, it also attaches to the diaphragm through the fascia! Therefore, it has the potential to be affected by our breathing.
If we are chest or belly breathers, our ribcage and low back do not expand much with our breath. This is the path of least resistance for the breath.
If our psoas is tight, it reinforces a suboptimal breathing pattern because we are going to continue breathing through that path of least resistance into either the chest or the belly.
But when we focus our breathing into our sides and back, we can help relax some tight muscles, like the psoas, that can be contributing to low back pain and/or tightness.
Here is an exercise you can try to do this:
Start by lying on your side. Curl into the fetal position so that we are opening up the back and blocking the abdominals. You can even hug a pillow to brace the abdominals.
Now, take a few regular (or slightly deeper) slow breaths. Every time you inhale, think about forcing that breath into the back (upper and/or lower), feeling it slightly expand out.
Then, as you exhale, feel the the expansion come back in.
You can even place your top hand on your lower ribcage, pushing the hand away on inhale, and pushing the hand down into the ribcage on exhale.
Role of breathing in core strength
The diaphragm attaches to the ribs, sternum, and lumbar spine. As such, it is both a respiratory muscle and a postural stabilizer.
Imagine the core units surrounding the abdominal cavity as a container:
Transversus abdominus muscle at the front and sides
Back stabilizer muscles like the multifidus and erector spinae at the back
The diaphragm at the top
The pelvic floor muscles at the bottom
As you can see, the diaphragm is part of our core unit! Therefore, how well it is functioning can impact the rest of our core muscles.
Our breathing pattern is foundational. In fact, more and more research is showing that the first step to core strength, stability, and overall function is diaphragmatic breathing.
More than that, we want that diaphragmatic breathing to expand our ribcage from all sides, rather than just focusing on pushing out the belly with the inhale. In others words, we want a 360 degree expansion with each inhale!
Role of breathing in diastasis recti
If you remember from Part 1, as you inhale, the diaphragm contracts and moves down to allow for the lungs to fill with air.
This causes the pressure to go into the abdominal cavity (see the cylinder diagram above!).
Pressure will follow the path of least resistance, which means it will usually go to the belly and distend some of that front fascia (i.e. the abdominal diastasis).
If we carry a lot of tension in our abs and tend to brace there, breathing into the fascia is a good thing. We can help relax and stretch that fascia.
But if we have some weakness there (e.g. postpartum), then belly breathing reinforces stiffness/tightness in the back and weakness in the abdominals because the breath is constantly following the path of least resistance, and pushing into the weak abdominals.
This can then reinforce the diastasis recti, rather than help heal it.
Therefore, focusing the breath into tighter areas, like the back, is preferable.
Role of breathing in pelvic floor
As shown in the cylinder diagram above, our pelvic floor muscles form the base of our core. This means that your pelvic floor is also a spine stabilizer. (In fact, sometimes pelvic pain can refer to the back!)
When we are belly breathers, we often breathe through the upper abdominals. However, women postpartum often have more weakness in the lower abdominals, which means that’s where the path of least resistance will be.
This puts more pressure down into the lower abdomen and pelvic floor.
As a result, women who close their diastasis recti more quickly postpartum often have a greater risk of prolapse!
To prevent the pressure system from placing too much strain on the pelvic floor, we want to reduce the upper abdominal tension, strengthen the lower abdominals, and overall encourage a breathing pattern that expands on all sides (front, sides, and back)! And eventually, even breathing down into the pelvic floor!
If you are having back pain, or recovering from a diastasis recti, and would like to learn more about what you can do (including the role of breathing for core strength and general mobility), let us know! We offer both in-person and Telehealth Physiotherapy services 😊