Aging Gracefully Blog

Archive for the ‘At-home workouts’ Category

Juice Up Your Joints

Sunday, June 18th, 2017

Video:  Juice Up Your Joints 

Don’t let creaky joints stop you in your tracks! If you feel a bit stiffer when you wake up in the morning, it's normal. We all lose flexibility gradually with age, but just a few minutes of simple limbering exercises warm up your joints and help you ease into the demands of your day. And to make it even easier, you don’t have to get up from the bed to do them!

Being stiff is something we associate with old age since it affects the way we look, the way we feel and the way we move.  We need flexibility to perform everyday activities with ease - to get out of bed, lift children and sweep the floor. We need it to bend and lift, twist and turn, and reach overhead.  If you have limited range of motion, these movements become more restricted.

Your ability to stretch depends on genetics as well as daily habits.  Technically, flexibility is the range of motion around a joint.  It is determined by the "architecture" of the joint (the shape of the bones and cartilage) and the length of the muscles and ligaments crossing it.  If range of motion is limited so the joint can't bend or straighten, it is said to be "tight" or "stiff." 

Stiff, achy joints are also the hallmark of osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease affecting the cartilage that acts as padding between the bones of the joints.  Over time, normal wear and tear causes the cartilage to break down, reducing the cushioning in the joints and causing pain, inflammation and swelling.  It usually occurs in the weight bearing joints of the hips, knees and feet, as well as in the neck, lower spine and hands. If your hips and ankles are stiff, your stride becomes shorter and there is less natural bounce when walking, jogging or dancing.  If your hands are painful, it becomes more difficult to open a jar or lift a heavy tea kettle.

Although the tendency is to minimize movement to avoid pain, this unfortunately can lead to more pain and stiffness. These limbering movements will actually diminish the discomfort, release lubricating fluid into the joints and increase mobility.  Instead of jumping out of bed in the morning, take two minutes to do these gentle range of motion exercises on the side of your bed to ease into your day. 

Contact Joan for more information about a stretching program:  joan@joanpaganofitness.com

 

 

 

 

10 Top Holiday Fitness Tips

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

The holiday season can wreak havoc with your best intentions to stay in shape. It's easy to get de-railed with parties, slice of pumpkin pie with whipped toppingtravel and general disruption to your normal routines.  Be proactive: Plan your strategy now to maintain your fitness when life gets hectic. Use these 10 TIPS to keep on track for the New Year. 

1)  Make movement a daily habit. The secret of your success is found in your everyday routines. Consistency is the key to building and maintaining momentum. 

2)  Think "activity" instead of "workout." Find opportunities to be active during the course of your day. Walk to work, take the steps, lift and carry your groceries, do housekeeping chores energetically. It all counts!

3)  Accumulate 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most (at least 5) days of the week.  Studies show that exercise accumulated in short bouts of 10 or 15 minutes offers weight loss and aerobic fitness benefits comparable to those achieved in longer workouts. Take 2 or 3 shorter walks every day. 

4)  Simple exercises provide a mini full-body workout, no equipment needed. Do 10 to 15 repetitions of body weight exercises like pushups, squats, and crunches every other day for your muscle work. Too easy? Add another set of each.

5)  Combat the negative effects of prolonged sitting. For every hour you're sitting, get up and move around for five minutes.

6)  Count your steps with your smartphone, pedometer, or other tracking device.  See how many steps you average and then build on them. Try to add 1000 steps per day every week until you hit 10,000 in a day!

7)  Use the small moments of your day to do a few minutes of exercise while you're standing at the kitchen sink, sitting at your desk, relaxing on the couch. Visit the Daily Video Tool Kit  for free video clips of different exercises.

8)  Stand on one leg while brushing your teeth to improve balance.

9)  Do range of motion exercises in the shower. The warm, moist air is perfect for limbering up stiff hands and fingers.

10)  Stretch your muscles at the end of the day to discharge tension and get a better night's sleep. Stretch every day for best results but at minimum 2 or 3 times a week. See the End-of-Day Couch Stretches in the Daily Video Tool Kit.

Get simple strategies to enhance daily life with more energy, a better mood and less stress. Call Joan today:  212-722-8116.

© Copyright – Joan L. Pagano.  All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Stay Supple with Stretching

Sunday, October 4th, 2015

Inevitably with time, things change. You feel a bit stiffer in the mornings; your joints are a little creaky; a glimpsed reflection in a Cat stretchingwindow reveals you're not as straight as you thought.  Decreased flexibility may be a common aspect of aging, but it is one that you can do something about, no matter what your age. 

Just a few minutes of daily stretching can help maintain flexibility, which in turn keeps the muscles supple and counteracts the wear and tear of everyday life, allowing you to maintain a youthful appearance and active lifestyle. By enhancing your mobility, stretching increases your efficiency in all activities so that they require less effort and leave you feeling less tired.

Your ability to stretch depends on genetics as well as your daily habits.  The unique structure of bones and the length of the soft tissue (muscles, tendons and ligaments) surrounding them determine the joints' range of movement.  Some joints, like those affected by arthritis, may be "stiff" or restricted; others like those of a contortionist, "loose" or hypermobile.

The constant downward pull of gravity and gradual dehydration of the body's tissues cause us literally to shrink over time, but stretching can help by lengthening the muscles.  There is a natural tendency for some muscles to be short and tight, while others are prone to being long and weak.

Stretching can help offset this imbalance and improve the alignment, as in the "forward slouch." This is a typical posture of aging:  upper back rounded, shoulders hunched, and the head forward of the body. The remedy is to stretch the chest and shoulders and re-align the head by strengthening the neck and back muscles.

Poor posture and alignment can cause pain when the muscles become chronically tired and strained and more prone to injury. Headache, neck and shoulder tension, sciatica, low back, hip and knee pain can all be symptoms of this. In addition, shortened muscles are more at risk for injury caused by simple movements. 

Here are easy stretches you can do throughout the day:

Gentle Morning Limbering:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0cYeDANUwk

At-Work Desk Stretches:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XE-uuiZnChM

End-of-Day Couch Stretches  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prLmMmObous

See more simple exercises you can do around the house in my Daily Video Tool Kit.

Exercise Smarter, Not Harder

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

Exercise smarter not harder

Take a creative approach to exercise.  Not only is it fun to find innovative ways to shake up your normal routine, but all the body’s systems need to be surprised with diverse patterns of stress in order to continue to improve.  Use these simple tips to become more resourceful in your every day activities and watch your body redistribute as you shape up. 

Instead of doing the same old route when you're out for your usual walk/run, look for inclines to power up, stairs to hop down and places to throw in 20 jumping jacks.  By adding intervals of varying intensity, you are simultaneously building bone, tuning up your cardiovascular system and burning extra calories.

If your program is stale and needs rejuvenating, try something new.   Intervals of high intensity work can be adapted to resistance training as well as to cardio activity.  Try interspersing one minute of heart-pumping cardio into your strength training exercises.  You can use exercises like jumping rope, step-ups or running in place to keep your heart rate elevated. 

Use compound movements in your strength training. Combine upper and lower body actions to target 8-10 muscle groups for efficient toning and calorie expenditure.  For example, try combining a front lunge with a lat row, a squat with a biceps curl and calf raise, a plie with a shoulder raise. You improve your coordination and core stabilization in addition to getting a full-body workout in a shorter period of time.

Invent time-saving ways to fit exercise into your day-to-day.  If life intervenes and you can’t do your normal weight training session, at least do some exercises using your body weight, like push ups, squats, crunches and planks.  Do two sets of diagonal push ups after your walk/run, using a railing or back of a park bench for support. Practice balance by standing on one leg while brushing your teeth for two minutes.  Sit on a stability ball at your desk to add some core training as the muscles of the trunk work to keep you upright.

Ramp up your daily activities by becoming more creative in how you choose to exercise.  As you develop an active lifestyle in your daily routines, your body will thank you by becoming healthier and more energetic.  And the changes will be reflected in the way you wear your skinny jeans!

 (c) Copyright - Joan L. Pagano. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

 

 

Is Your Spine Bent Out of Shape?

Saturday, March 7th, 2015

As you sit reading this, what is the shape of your spine?  Are you hunched over your computer, leaning on your desk or slumped back in a chair?  Daily postures can sabotage proper spinal alignment, but a few easy exercises help reinforce the natural curves of the spine, improving both your normal posture and your form in weight training exercises. 

 The natural curves of the spine:

  • serve to counteract the constant force of gravity on the body.
  • ensure that the joints work efficiently.
  • enhance body mechanics in all positions – standing, sitting, on all fours, moving.

 In neutral alignment the curves create a functional balance:  

  • two slight inward curves of the neck and low back
  • two slight outward curves of the mid-back and sacrum

When any of these curves becomes exaggerated it can cause strain in the joints, ultimately leading to headaches, neck and shoulder problems, sciatica, and hip and knee pain. When overloaded with weights, this can cause worse problems.

Get in the habit of doing these four simple exercises to improve your spinal alignment. You can even do them sitting at your desk.  Repeat each move 5-10 times daily. 

  • Lengthen the spine:  To restore and maintain the normal curves of the spine, try this "growing exercise." Take a deep breath, filling the belly with air, and gradually lengthen the spine as you lift the top of your head to the ceiling.  Think of elongating through the torso, stretching the space between the ribs and the hips, decompressing the spine.  Fluff up the chest by drawing the air up into the chest cavity. As you exhale, hold the height and stay tall.
  • Realign the head:  It is common to develop a forward head position from our daily activities.  The "neck press" strengthens the muscles of the neck and upper back and realigns the head over the shoulders.  Put two fingers on your chin.  Inhale, then as you exhale use your fingers as a cue to retract your chin, i.e. move it straight back, pressing the curve out of the back of your neck.  Keep your chin level being careful not to push it down. Release and repeat.
  • Anchor the shoulder blades:  When you're in the habit of slouching, your shoulder blades slide forward and apart exaggerating the curve of the mid-back.  "W's" activate the muscles that stabilize your shoulder blades, an extremely important technique to use when doing upper body weight training.  Hold your arms out to the sides, palms forward, with the elbows bent and in line with the shoulders. To form a "W", inhale, then squeeze the shoulder blades down and together as you let your breath out slowly.  Hold for 2-3 seconds and repeat.
  •  Align the pelvis:  the position of the pelvis determines the degree of curve in the lumbar spine.  Neutral spine alignment is midway between a full arch and a flat back position. Explore your personal range of motion by tilting your pelvis forward and back. Return to a neutral position, allowing the slight curve in the low back area - just enough to slip your hand in if you are lying on your back or standing straight with your back against the wall. Tighten your abdominals to hold this position.
  • Video: Two Easy Exercises to Align the Spine http://www.joanpaganofitness.com/daily-video-tool-kit.html
  • Other related posts:  http://www.joanpaganofitness.com/blog/2010/08/16/s-u-s-secret-code-for-posture/

Sculpt Your Arms in One Easy Move!

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Looking for the most efficient way to get tank top arms in a hurry?  Here it is:  The classic push up firms your chest, sculpts your shoulders and defines the triceps in the back of your upper arms, all in one easy move.  And even better, you can do this version at the kitchen sink while you're waiting for your coffee or tea.

The diagonal push up is a simply elegant exercise that activates these three muscles of the upper body as well as your core.  With your body on an angle, you need to assume a plank position, using your abdominals and back muscles to stabilize the torso.  The position of your arms determines which muscle you target.  Begin with one set of 10-15 reps of each position; build up to 2 sets.

To target the chest and firm the muscles under your bust line, position your arms 3-4 inches wider than your shoulders.  As you lower your chest toward the counter, bend your elbows out to the sides to 90 degrees (think of making a "box" with your arms).

To focus on your shoulders, move your arms in closer, placing your hands directly under your shoulders. As you lower your chest, bend your elbows straight back so they come in close to your sides.

For the triceps, move your hands in even closer, so that you can make a triangle with your index fingers and thumbs.  Now when you bend your elbows, they will flare out to the sides, making a diamond shape as you lower your chest to the counter.

Check out this video for more tips on proper form.