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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Get Up and Get Moving!

How Movement and Stretching Can Transform Your Health.

By Dr. Jon Thomas

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Improving your health can sometimes be a lot like Mark Twain’s quote regarding the weather.  Everyone talks about it. But nobody seems to do anything about it.  That’s literally what it takes to improve your health: Action, not words.  While Big Pharma wants you to believe that they have a pill that can cure most anything that ails you, if you really want to lead a healthier, happier life, you can’t get there by being a couch potato.

That being said, when it comes to choosing the right kind of exercise, there is no magic pill for that either.  What I mean by that, is the kind of physical activities that work well in your twenties, can put you on the disabled list if you are in your fifties and sixties.  In fact, trying to keep up with the younger generation is one of the quickest ways to wind up seeing a chiropractor.

The trick is to select the kind of exercise that’s right for you.  As a rule, the older we get, the less flexible we become and the more prone we are to injury.  If you haven’t exercised in years, the last thing you want to do is participate in high-impact exercises, such as competitive weight lifting, tennis or most martial arts.  Just as you wouldn’t try to run a marathon without working up to it gradually, the same should be said about participating in other strenuous activities.

Stretching is Your Friend

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Whether you are looking to get back into the swing of things on the golf course, or you are considering joining a bowling league, the best first step you should take is to stretch.  If you have noticed, amateur and professional athletes would never think of competing without stretching.  Even after years of training, they know that the last thing you want to do is put your muscles, tendons, and ligaments under strain without first warming up with a series of stretches.  Another thing that athletes are taught that is that stretching after a workout or competition is as important as stretching beforehand.

Whether you are a competitive athlete, or sit behind a desk all day long, stretching at least two times a week can help you feel better and prevent injury.  Especially when your occupation keeps you in the same position all day long, taking a stretch break is the best way to reverse that posture.  One of the best ways to decompress the spine after staying seated for an hour or more is the Standing Cat Camel stretch (pictured below).

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Stand upright with your knees flexed and place your hands on your thighs just above your knees.  Alternately arch your back like a cat, then stretch it the opposite way to form a hump like that on a camel.  Repeat a half dozen times while taking your time to enjoy each stretch.  Your neck and lower back will thank you.

If you are going to be doing more than simply sitting and standing, there are stretching routines that are customized to your sport of choice.  There are literally hundreds of stretching routines you can find on YouTube that are designed to help you prepare for most any activity.  (You will find five samples below.}  Speaking of warming up, another good idea is to walk, jog or ride a bike at low intensity for 5-minutes or so before and after exercise. 

Image courtesy of Vibrant Life Health Center
Before participating in any sport, let alone stretching, you should first consult with your chiropractor.  Especially if you have any pre-existing medical condition or have had an injury in the past, the best practice is to work with a medical professional before you engage in any rigorous activity.  The last thing you want to do is wind up sustaining an injury.

Being more active is a great way to tone up, strengthen the musculoskeletal system and improve cardiovascular health.  Another benefit to exercise is that it can improve everything from your flexibility and digestion, to your mood.  From a chiropractic standpoint, clinical studies have reported that exercise can be helpful in managing chronic and acute lower back pain.  However, as with other of life’s endeavors, it is important that you don’t overdo it.  Below are five stretching tips you should learn and use.

1.      Don’t bounce -  Keep your stretches smooth and supple.
2.      Breathe normally – Don’t hold your breath while stretching.
3.      Tension is good. Pain is bad -  Stretching should feel good.  If it hurts, ease off.
4.      Hold your stretch – 30 seconds is usually sufficient, unless otherwise instructed by your health professional.
5.      Know when to back off – Particularly if you have sustained a strain or injury, you might need to adjust your stretching routine.

When it comes to living a more active lifestyle, the key to success is finding the kind of exercise you love, make it part of your routine and do everything in your power to avoid injuring yourself.  If you can accomplish all three of these goals, you will put yourself in a position to live longer and healthier.  And that’s no stretch of the imagination.

Dr. Jon Thomas is a Board Certified Chiropractic Physician. His practice, The Vibrant Life Health Center, is located in the Mandarin section of Jacksonville. After studying and learning from some of the top health experts throughout the world, Dr. Thomas dedicated his life to helping people of all ages to transform their lives. The objective for each patient is to initiate the body’s healing and to work progressively toward a body that functions optimally. Dr. Thomas is seen regularly on TV on First Coast Living, where he discusses the transformations of his patients. He also speaks at events throughout the community and writes informative articles to improve the health of residents throughout Northeast Florida.

1 comment:

  1. I have been practicing Tai Chi for more than 10 years and am now more flexible than I was when I was 20. I highly recommend stretching to keep the body limber and avoid injury.