Category Archives: stretching

COVID-19 Working from Home, Sitting, and Your Health

convertkit-9i3-OAIUHdY-unsplashPhoto credit: ConvertKit on Unsplash.com

Several of us are now working from home or looking for a new job while planted for hours at a time in a chair staring at a computer screen. If you have a job and still receive a paycheck, be thankful. If you were laid off or had to take unpaid leave, I encourage you to use this time to be creative in your job search and daily livelihood.

Sedentary Days

Regardless of your current situation, the majority of the U.S. is following a shelter-in-place protocol. Please don’t allow this forced time at home to minimize your movement and in turn, jeopardize your health.

Investigators say sitting too much can lead to increased fat surrounding organs, which can place individuals at a greater risk for chronic illness. Using MRI, researchers found that the more time participants spent sitting during the day, the more visceral and abdominal fat they possessed. The research team also notes that this relationship was strongest among those who failed to meet the public health recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. This suggests that regular exercise may offer some protection against the negative effects associated with prolonged sedentary activity. (Obesity, January 2017)

An even better approach is integrating small physical activity breaks throughout your day. One of my personal favorites is doing 10 reps of an exercise on the 10th minute of every hour. Set a repeated timer on your phone or watch. You can easily rack up 100 reps of squats in a single work day! Belly fat, be gone! Try it! Let me know how it goes!

Physical Impact

Extended periods of sitting can lead to several short-term and long-term effects on our physical body.

Sitting can lead to a tight neck, hip flexors, and shoulders. Furthermore, sitting while working at a desk can lead to a tight chest and even tighter neck muscles due to the body’s arms extended forward and head leaning forward when using a keyboard and mouse. And over time, this can cause stress, strain, and muscle tension.

Conversely, extended bouts of sitting can also lead to several muscles getting weaker due to inactivity. For example, our back (erector spinae, lower lumbar spine), scapular stabilizers (middle trapezius, rhomboids, latissimus dorsi and lower trapezius), buttocks (gluteus medius, minimus and maximus), and core (rectus abdominis, obliques and transversus abdominis) can all get weaker with repeated bouts of long-term sitting.

In addition to the physical impacts of sitting, I encourage you to further explore the physiological and mental benefits of sitting.

Adding More Movement

Several of us sit for short and often extended amounts of time tending to various computer tasks at work, home, and school. It’s easy to get caught up in a task, phone conversation, or productive meeting and the next thing you know, you have been sitting in the same chair for over 3 hours! Let’s not even talk about sitting when we eat, go to the bathroom, watch TV, or read our little techie gadgets. Regardless of what it is, all of this sitting time adds up. 

A recent 2015 British study that followed 5,000 people for 16 years completely debunked several prior studies about the detrimental impact sitting has on our health and longevity. It stated,

Long periods of sitting may not be as bad for health as previously thought. [The study] did not find any increased risk of early death from prolonged sitting. The results of this extensive study run counter to previous research claims that even regular exercise does not fully overcome the damage of too much sitting. The study did not cast any doubt on the benefits of exercise or the dangers of overall physical inactivity, but its results did suggest that prolonged sitting is no worse than other forms of inactivity, at least for risk of early death.

Find this study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology

The moral of the story is MOVE! Add more physical activity to your day period!

Here’s a quick list of five things you can do while working from home.

  1. MOVE YOUR TRASH CAN: Your trash can may currently be conveniently located near your desk. Stop what you’re doing. Pick it up. And move it to the other side of your office space. This will force you to get up more frequently throughout the day; hence, integrate more physical activity into your workday and burn more calories!
  2. STAND UP- SIT DOWN – STAND UP: I remember learning this trick while listening to a nerdy exercise physiology podcast. One of the presenters gave this excellent tip. Here it is. Every time you are seated and wish to stand up to go do something, stand up, then sit back down, and then stand up and complete your task. This forces you to incorporate move movement–especially, squats to your day.
  3. SIT DOWN – STAND UP – SIT DOWN: Similar to #2, every time you are standing and choose to sit, sit down, then stand back up, and then sit down. 
  4. DRINK MORE WATER: One of the most common complaints about drinking more water at work or even when flying is getting up to use the restroom more frequently. Well, consider this a blessing. Drinking more water AND getting up more often during the day is a WIN-WIN scenario. You are hydrated and incorporating more physical activity into your day. So what are you waiting for? Take another sip of H20!
  5. STRETCH: Regularly incorporate some active and dynamic stretching into your day. Don’t know where to start? Drop me an email.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Numbers 2, 3, and 5 assume you have the ability to stand up, sit down and walk on your own. Please contact me to explore ways to modify these activities for anyone who may have a physical limitation.


This article was originally posted on my LinkedIn profile on April 2, 2020. Since it can only be viewed by LinkedIn users, I decided to also post it on my blog.

Parts of this blog post are excerpts from other C.E.b. Fitness and Wellness blog articles, “Sitting Too Much Increased Belly Fat Around Organs” and “5 Ways to Add More Physical Activity into Your Workday.” . Email: candice@cebfitwell.com | Social Media: @cebfitwell

Needles Are My Friends! Acupuncture & Muscle Recovery

True or False?    1. Needles are sharp and pointy objects.

True or False?    2. All needles hurt.

Now that I have your attention, let’s have a crash course on how acupuncture helps your muscles recover.

EXERCISE

Exercise–whether it be an outdoor jog, walk in the park, indoor cycling class, or an intense weight lifting session–puts stress on your muscles. They literally contract, get tight, and sometimes experience tiny micro tears. Remember the last time you had a good workout and felt sore the next day? That’s what I’m talking about! The fancy term for this is delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), more specifically, it’s lactic acid build up in your muscles. Muscle soreness is completely normal and healthy.

Before I move on and share some of the amazing benefits of acupuncture, I want to give you another example about when your muscles get stressed. It’s not what you may be thinking.

REPETITIVE MOVEMENTS

So, you know the cell phone you may be using right now? Or the computer you’re reading or typing on this very second? Or the car you drive every day? (This list could go on forever and ever…) Well, every single repetitive movement we integrate into our daily lives creates muscle imbalances. Think about it. Better yet, do it right now if it’s safe. Hold your phone and text someone. Now, type something on your computer keyboard. Now pretend you’re grabbing a steering wheel. Notice a common theme? Your arms are in front of you, your shoulders may be rounded forward, your back may be slouched, and your chin may be slightly down. These repetitive movements can cause your chest to get tight, neck tense up, and your lower back to ache. Pain, pain, and more pain…or discomfort and stress in your body. (sigh)

Now let’s talk about a few benefits of acupuncture as it relates to muscle recovery.

  1. Decreases lactic acid, heart rate max, and maximal oxygen intake (Lin, et. al., 2009)
  2. Decreases pain associated with arthritis and chronic pain; more effective used in with other pain management modalities (Chou, 2018 )
  3. Can decrease myofascial pain and muscle irritability (Wang, 2017)

    …and COMMUNITY ACUPUNCTURE!!!!

In less researchy language,

  1. Decreases muscle soreness and makes you more efficient using oxygen during exercise
  2. Helps you move better with a little less pain; more effective with things like stretching, foam rolling, chiropractic care, cupping, rest, etc…
  3. Ease DOMS and achy muscles

What else can acupuncture treat? A question with a shorter list of answers is what does it NOT treat. 😉 Check out this comprehensive list of what acupuncture CAN treat for you.

I regularly go to a community acupuncture clinic locally in Sacramento. It’s called the Sacramento Acupuncture Project. SAP is a part of a larger collective of acupuncture clinics called People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture. One of the best things POCA clinics offer is a SLIDING scale for its patients. Can we say, “cha-ching!”

Image from sacacupuncture.com

This makes a highly valuable service such as acupuncture way more affordable to most people. If you haven’t tried acupuncture before, I highly encourage you to give it a go. Get over your fears and walk through the door. Voice your initial concerns and questions to your acupuncturist. The staff will definitely take good care of you. Tell them Candice sent you. 😉

 

The Stretching Controversy: ANSWERED

Q: Should I stretch before or after my workout?
A: YES!

This is an age old question that has gone back and forth over the years. The National Academy of Sports Medicine (2014) integrates static, active, and dynamic stretching into the warm-up and cool-down components of the Optimum Performance Training programming model. More specifically, in your warm-up, you should focus on stretching your most overactive (overworked and tight) muscles identified in your fitness assessments. In your cool-down, you can re-target your most overactive muscles and focus on muscles worked during your exercise program.

“[Individuals] without adequate levels of flexibility and joint motion may be at increased risk of injury, and may not be able to achieve their personal fitness goals until these deficits are corrected.” (NASM, 2014, p. 162)

Stretching helps trigger autogenic inhibition, a process where neural impulses sensing tension in your muscles override the impulses causing your muscles to contract, or stay tight. Ultimately, this leads to:Photo credit: aboutendurancerunning.com

  • correcting muscle imbalances
  • increasing joint range of motion
  • decreasing the excessive tension of muscles
  • relieving joint stress
  • maintaining normal functional length of all muscles
  • improving function

Poor flexibility can lead to [dys]functional movement patterns and result in injury. (NASM, 2014)

It is true that some studies have found stretching before your workout to have a negative impact upon athletic performance. However, no conclusive evidence has been found to determine how stretching impacts overall athletic performance.

NASM (2014) concluded,

  • “Acute static stretching, held for more than 30 seconds, may decrease strength and power” (p. 180)
  • “Static stretching may be used to correct muscle imbalances and increase joint range of motion before activity” (p. 180)
  • “Active and dynamic stretching may be used without risking a loss of strength and power.” (p.180)

 

The moral of the story is to integrate stretching into your daily routine and before and after your workouts. Learn more about your muscle imbalances by scheduling an appointment to conduct your fitness assessments. This will help you identify the overactive and underactive muscles in your body.

stretching-lion

Well, just don’t sit there. STRETCH!

Photo credits:
woman stretching – aboutendurancerunning.com
lion stretching – tarirose.com

 

Roll, Release, and Recover: A Foam Rolling Workshop

FoamRollingWorkshop-FINAL

Good news! We have partnered with Nava’s Dance and Wellness Studio to offer a foam rolling workshop next month in Dumfries, Virginia. 

Since I routinely integrate foam rolling into my clients’ fitness programs, I decided to offer a workshop specifically targeting foam rolling. You may have seen a foam roller somewhere at the gym and didn’t know what it was or the purpose of using it. This workshop is a great way to learn more about the what it is, why do it, and how to foam roll. 

Make sure you register by September 14 if you need me to order you one. 

Get driving directions!

To Foam Roll or Not to Foam Roll, that IS the question…

Have you ever wondered what that black tubey looking thing is sitting over in the corner at the gym? Have you watched someone use it and wondered, “what in the world is the point of doing that? What muscle does it work out?”

foamroller6x36fs

High density foam roller.

Admittedly, the foam roller entered my life right before I started studying for my personal training certification. And trust me, there’s been no looking back.

To get started, let’s talk about the geometry of a foam roller. It’s a cylindrical tube made out of ethylene vinyl acetate, or EVA, foam. I’m not a chemist, so you will have to research the safety of this material on your own. I don’t think EVA is made from carcinogenic substances, but a few articles I found online recommend infants and young children to NOT come in contact with products made from EVA. EVA is a durable, semi-soft material that is highly conducive to long-term usage. It can withstand repeated use over an extended amount of time.

Next up, foam roll sizes. Foam rollers come in multiple sizes, colors, and density. A good rule of thumb is the darker the color the harder the density. I personally own a 3 ft black foam roller, but for traveling purposes it may be better to also purchase a smaller foam roller (I’ve seen some as small as 5″ x 5″!). There are several brands to choose from. I don’t endorse any particular brand, but I purchased mine from a small business fitness equipment company. Feel free to email me if you’re interested in receiving the company’s information. There are also foam rollers that help target various trigger points, or knots within muscles, on the body.

Next, let’s chat about a physiological concept called, “self myofascial release,” or SMR, for short. Self myofascial release helps correct muscle imbalances, overactive muscles, and helps alleviate knots within muscles. Foam rolling is a way of performing self myofascial release. The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) recommends SMR to be conducted prior to stretching and physical activity. You can also do SMR after exercise.

photo credit: http://wiki.bluebuddies.com/Grouchy_Smurf_%28cartoon%29

“I hate foam rolling!” -Grouchy Smurf. A common misperception is that foam rolling hurts. The foam roller doesn’t hurt; instead, the knots on your muscles hurt!

You may be wondering, why should I do SMR before stretching and exercise? SMR helps break up any muscle adhesions and knots PRIOR to activity; thus, it helps elongate your muscles. Lengthening your muscles plays a significant role in static and active stretching, let alone subsequent physical activity. Lengthened muscles allows you to get a deeper stretch and increased flexibility helps increase overall neuromuscular efficiency, or your body’s ability to efficiently utilize muscles in all planes of motion, within your workout.

So, what exactly happens when you do SMR? SMR focuses on both the neural and fascia systems in our bodies. When we apply gentle and steady pressure to the knots within our muscles, we help flatten and realign muscle spindle fibers. Our muscles’ tendency is to contract, but thankfully, our Golgi tendon organs help our muscles relax and trigger a process called, autogenic inhibition. In order for autogenic inhibition to occur and for us to truly maximize SMR, we must hold pressure on the knots within our muscles for a minimum of 30 seconds. It’s important to relax and hold steady pressure on knots. It may take longer for some of us to relax and allow autogenic inhibition to kick in. Be patient and ease into the slight discomfort of steady pressure on your muscles.

Let’s start foam rolling!
The best way to tell you is to show you how to do SMR. Please review the following video that provides a comprehensive overview of SMR. Enjoy!

NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist training video. Feel free to fast forward the video to 01:25 to view the specifics about how to conduct self myofascial release.

Do you have questions or comments about SMR? Comment below!

Additional reading about foam rolling and self myofascial release:

Penney, S. (2013). Foam rolling-applying the technique of self myofascial release. Retrieved from http://blog.nasm.org/training-benefits/foam-rolling-applying-the-technique-of-self-myofascial-release/

MacDonald, G.Z., Penney, M.D.H., Mullaley, M.E., Cuconato, A.L., Drake C.D.J., Behm, D.G., & Button, D.C. (2013). An acute bout of self-myofascial release increases range of motion without a subsequent decrease in muscle activation or force. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 27(3), 812-821.

 

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