Aging Gracefully Blog

Archive for the ‘Stretching’ Category

“S.U.S”: Secret Code for Posture

Monday, July 24th, 2017

When I was growing up, my mother and I shared a secret code for posture. S.U.S. meant Joan Pagano - desk stretches"Stand Up Straight" and I seemed to need constant reminders. When my self-image finally "grew" into my height, I straightened up to claim my full 5'10 ½ inches. Now at the age when loss of height can be an issue and posture needs constant vigilance, I look for ways to stand tall and straight.

This series of at-work desk stretches can be done anytime, anywhere – you don’t have to be at work! But because we typically develop a forward posture from doing desk work, it’s the perfect opportunity to create a habit of stretching in the small moments of your day. Do them with me in the video below.

While there is nothing we can do to stop the aging process, there are a number of things we can do to stay tall, including working on posture and alignment, ensuring the health of our skeleton, and of course, stretching out our muscles.

Posture and alignment tips

When sitting, engage your core muscles instead of relying on external support. The torso will passively conform to whatever type of chair you are sitting on, and properly designed chairs are rare. Keep your weight distributed evenly across both hips. Feel the sit bones, not the tailbone, beneath you. Sit up tall, with the spine straight and with a natural curve in the lower back.

When standing, distribute your weight evenly on both feet. Soften the knees so they are not locked or hyperextended. Stack your ribs up over your hips, pelvis in neutral, i.e. not tilted forward or backward. Think of elongating the torso, stretching the space between the ribs and the hips, lengthening the spine.

Healthy skeleton

If you have lost height and/or are developing a permanent slump with rounded back or “sloping” shoulders, check with your doctor to make sure you don’t have a spinal condition like osteoporosis. A simple bone density scan can give you a report.

Spinal fractures are the most common type of fracture to occur with osteoporosis, accounting for 40% of all fractures. Vertebral fractures can cause your spine to curve forward (“kyphosis”) and may cause pain as the other muscles of the back are strained. Once your doctor approves, these simple moves can strengthen and lengthen the spine, improve mobility in the upper and middle back, and reverse the forward slump.

 Stretching muscles in your workout

Stretching is one third of a well-rounded workout (the other two being aerobic exercise and strength training). After you've been contracting the muscles repeatedly in your aerobic workout – walking, running, cycling, swimming, etc. – it's important to lengthen them out by stretching. The same principle applies to strength training: after the muscles have been contracting against resistance, they need to be stretched out to their full length. Short, bunchy muscles will never give you a long, lean line.

It's advisable to stretch every day, even on days you don't exercise. Take a lesson from your pet dog or cat and notice that they stretch periodically throughout the day. You can move your joints to help wake up in the morning and get your circulation going. Or take a few minutes at work or in the evening to relax, to counteract the demands of your day and discharge tension from the muscles.

Video:  At-Work Desk Stretches

Contact Joan for help with your posture: http://www.joanpaganofitness.com/contact.html

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Stay on Your Feet

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

May is National Osteoporosis Awareness month. The bottom line of exercise for osteoporosis is to prevent falls and hip fractures, the most debilitating and life-altering type of fractures.  A combination of strengthening, stretching, and balance training is the perfect formula for fall prevention, and it can all be done 1-2-3!

Have you noticed that your balance is slipping with age?  Sometimes when I make a lateral move, like side-stepping to avoid something, I go off balance and swerve a bit. I definitely look tipsy and feel embarrassed!

Our ability to balance peaks at around age 20 and normally remains excellent through our early to mid-40s, after which it begins a subtle process of deterioration.  It happens so slowly that it is almost imperceptible, but the fact is that the neurotransmitters that coordinate balance deteriorate with age.

The good news is that balance improves with training, both with strength training and with specific balance training.  The first gains in a strength training program are neuromuscular, creating a new integration between the brain and the body.  As you learn proper form to coordinate the movements, the signals to the brain create growth, first in the pathways to the brain and then to the muscles and joints directly. 

The neuromuscular stimulus results in quicker reaction time, the ability to recover from a stumble or to change direction.  Our balance centers – eyes, ears and feet – work together to sense imbalance and correct the course.  As the muscles get stronger, especially in the lower body, we become more stable and more able to prevent a fall or an injury.

Specific balance training is also very effective.  If you are just starting to work on balance, try this simple stork stance to determine which leg is more stable.  Stand on one leg, fixing your eyes on something in front of you. Engage your core muscles by drawing your belly button in toward your spine.  When you can hold the position for 30 seconds, try closing your eyes (or one eye) to increase the level of difficulty.  When you switch legs, note the difference between the two sides, which can be quite dramatic.

Next, add movement for dynamic balance, such as doing a "tight-rope" walk on the floor.  Walk heel-to-toe in a straight line.  Again, it helps to keep your eyes focused on something in front of you instead of looking down since the eyes are one of your balance centers.  Maintain proper alignment, holding your torso upright, chest lifted, eyes straight ahead. 

The next challenge to your equilibrium moves you from a stable surface, the floor, to an unstable one such as a stability ball.  You can sit, lie, or place your feet on top of the ball to create instability.  Just sitting on it requires continual adjustments:  the ball activates the muscles of your feet, legs, hips, and spine to maintain your balance.  Some schools in Europe have replaced chairs with balls in classrooms to improve posture and activity levels in children. I use one myself for a desk chair.

Your balance will improve with practice.  Do strength training exercises to enhance your mind-body connection and to build stability in the large muscles of the legs.  Then do specific exercises to challenge your balance and create symmetry between the two sides of your body. You'll reduce your risk of falling and prevent a possible injury.

Watch this video to see a simple way to strengthen your ankles, stretch your legs and practice balance.

Video: 1-2-3 Calf Raise, Leg Stretches, Balance

Joan Pagano demonstrating calf raise

Joan Pagano is a member of the National Osteoporosis Foundation Ambassador Leadership Council. She is the former trainer to Jacqueline Onassis and Caroline Kennedy, a best-selling author, a speaker on health and fitness topics and the owner of Joan Pagano Fitness in New York City.  For more about Joan and her services, please visit www.joanpaganofitness.com

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

10 Easy Steps to Home Fitness

Saturday, December 10th, 2016

Home fitness is the easy way to reach your goals this year and get real results. Get your mind set and body ready to make fitness a daily habit with ten easy steps.  The secret of your success is found in your everyday routines. Day by day your choices shape your actions:  Small, smart, manageable choices will become permanent habits with practice.  Consistency is the key to building and maintaining momentum.

1)  Consistency is more important than intensity. Each day you should eat and exercise in such a way today that you can face doing it again tomorrow. This is how to gradually establish healthy habits that will serve you throughout life and that you will revert to when life becomes hectic.

2)  Get in the habit of exercise to overcome weak willpower.  Habits persist even when we're at low energy and weak self-control. Studies show that we tend to default to a habit when we lack the mental capability to make a choice, for example if we are deliberating about whether or not to exercise. Read more:  http://www.joanpaganofitness.com/blog/2013/10/26/get-in-the-habit-of-exercise-to-overcome-weak-willpower/

3)  Accumulate 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most (at least 5) days of the week.  Exercise accumulated in short bouts of 10 or 15 minutes offers weight loss and aerobic fitness benefits comparable to those achieved in longer workouts.  Think "activity" instead of "workout."    Walk to work, take the steps, lift and carry your groceries, do housekeeping chores energetically.  It all counts!

4)  Count your steps with your smart phone, 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!  People who keep a track record tend to achieve their goals. Read more:  http://www.joanpaganofitness.com/blog/2013/11/17/the-quantified-self-health-and-fitness-self-monitoring/

5)  Learn to do a proper squat, the #1 functional exercise for life.  It’s the movement that we need to get up from a seated position - from a chair, toilet or bathtub.  While working the large muscles of the lower body, the squat creates strength and stability to reduce the risk of falling.  As a bonus, it helps lift and firm the bottom line!

6)  Combat the negative effects of prolonged sitting.  Extended sitting slows the body’s metabolism and creates a “lazy biology” raising the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart, kidney and liver disease, and certain kinds of cancers, even if you work out!  For every hour you're sitting, get up and move around for five minutes.  Read more:  http://www.joanpaganofitness.com/blog/2013/02/18/are-you-at-risk-for-the-new-silent-disease/

7)  Practice perfect posture.  Train yourself to stand up straight:  lift the chest, lengthen the torso, roll your shoulders down and back.  “Zip up” your abs by drawing your navel back toward your spine.  Take a deep breath and notice how good it feels to fill your lungs with air!

8)  Wake up your cardio workout.  If you are doing the same kind of steady pace cardio routine over and over, say walking or jogging for 30 minutes most days of the week, your body will stop improving because it has adapted to that level of exercise. Add intervals of high intensity or “bursts” to improve fitness levels and burn more calories. Read more:  http://www.joanpaganofitness.com/blog/2016/09/05/beat-belly-fat-with-burst-training/

9)  Stay supple with stretching.  Relieve morning stiffness and joint pain.  Just a few minutes of daily stretching helps 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.  http://www.joanpaganofitness.com/blog/2015/10/04/stay-supple-with-stretching/

10)  Be thankful!  Science finds that the practice of gratitude improves your health. Studies show it can relieve stress, lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, improve heart rhythms, boost your immune system and reduce the effects of aging on the brain.

Pick a couple of these fitness tips and begin to incorporate them daily. Then add two more as you work down the list. Don’t be discouraged that things aren’t happening faster. It doesn’t mean you won’t get there. As you are developing a new mindset, it takes time for the brain to adjust and program the changes until they become automatic.

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.

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.