All Posts tagged back strengthening

The Many Benefits of Pilates Exercise

Pilates is the exercise of choice for dancers, gymnasts, and a host of famous Hollywood celebrities, and now it finds itself firmly entrenched in the mainstream.  So why is Pilates so popular?  Pilates’ incredible popularity can be traced to the fact that it provides its faithful practitioners with benefits that you simply can’t get through traditional aerobics/strength training format.  So I have come up with a list of top 10 reasons why you may want to consider pilates as your exercise program of choice.

A Top 10 List of Reasons to Do Pilates

1. Pilates is Whole-Body Fitness

Unlike some forms of exercise, Pilates does not over-develop some parts of the body and neglect others. While Pilates training focuses on core strength, it trains the body as an integrated whole. Pilates’ workouts promote strength and balanced muscle development as well as flexibility and increased range of motion for the joints.

Attention to core support and full-body fitness provides a level of integrative fitness that is hard to find elsewhere. Pilates also teaches you how to become efficient with your body. Very few exercises can help your body become more efficient in its movement.  Being efficient means that your body moves in a way, that is smoother, safer, and less prone to injury. By practicing pilates on a regular basis, you can train your body more to move in a much safer and more efficient manner.

 2. Adaptable to Many Fitness Levels and Needs

Whether you are a senior just starting to exercise, an elite athlete or somewhere in between, the foundations of Pilates movement apply to you. With thousands of possible exercises and modifications, Pilates workouts can be tailored to individual needs.

As a result, the benefits of pilates have been particularly noted in older adults.  Even adults undergoing serious rehabilitation therapy can use Pilates to increase their range of motion and overall muscle strength.

Consult your medical professional if you have any doubts about your pilates program. If you are suffering from severe degeneration or physical pain, you should take extra care before beginning a pilates program.  You should never feel pain while practicing pilates. If you do, you know that there is something wrong. Don’t be afraid to pull back if you feel overwhelmed.

3. Creates Strength Without Bulk

Long, lean muscles without the bulk but with all of the strength are one of the main benefits of pilates.  In Pilates, the goal is to build toned muscles that work perfectly within the context of the body as a whole, and the functional fitness needs of a person as they move through life.

Most conventional workouts tend to create bulky muscle.  This is because in most workouts, the emphasis is placed on repetition and building strong muscles.  This causes already-strong (or big) muscles to get even stronger, and thus bigger. Pilates does not rely on frequent repetition, and thus no overgrown muscles.

4. Increases Flexibility

Pilates works toward a safe increase in length and stretch of the muscles and range of motion within the joints. You won’t find quite as much stretching in Pilates as you might in yoga, but a body that can stretch and bend to meet the flow of life is a very realistic goal.

5. Develops Core Strength

The core muscles of the body are the deep muscles of the back, abdomen, and pelvic floor. These are the muscles we rely on to support a strong, supple back, good posture, and efficient movement patterns. When the core is strong, the frame of the body is supported. This means the neck and shoulders can relax, and the rest of the muscles and joints are freed to do their jobs. A nice side benefit is that the core training promotes the flat abs that we all wish for.   The proper breathing control that is stressed in pilates also helps contribute to the core strength

6. Improves Posture

Good posture is a reflection of good alignment supported by a strong core. It is a position from which one can move freely. Pilates increases the strength of the spinal stabilizing muscles that may not be commonly worked out in a standard exercise program.  Strengthening these muscles allows you to have proper posture

7. Increases Energy

It might seem like a paradox, but the more you exercise, the more energy you have and the more you feel like doing (to a point, of course). Pilates gets the breath and circulation moving, stimulates the spine and muscles, and floods the body with the good feelings one gets from exercising the whole body.

8. Promotes Weight Loss and Long, Lean Appearance

If you practice Pilates regularly, it will change your body. Known for creating long, strong muscles and a leaner look; Pilates improves muscle tone, balances musculature, supports beautiful posture, and teaches you to move with ease and grace. All of these things will make you look and feel very fit.

If you want to lose weight, the formula for weight loss remains the same: Burn more calories than you take in. As a full-body fitness method, Pilates help will help you do that. Combined with aerobic activity, Pilates becomes a prime weight loss and body toning tool.

9. Increases Awareness – Body/Mind Connection

Another benefit of Pilates is that it engages the mind and enhances body awareness.  Joseph H. Pilates studied yoga, martial arts, and other ancient mind-body activities and included a strong philosophical foundation into the practice of Pilates.  He was adamant that Pilates, or contrology as he called it, was about “the complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit.” With Pilates exercises you are to practice each movement with total attention.

The smooth, precise and flowing movements of Pilates are designed to make you more mindful of your body.  Breath movement is also emphasized to put you in touch with how breath moves through your body. Pilates has been demonstrated to reduce stress, anxiety, and helps lift depression. The mind-body connection is fundamental to the study and practice of pilates.

10. Prevents You from Future Injuries

Pilates strengthens your body and helps prevent future injuries. The fact that Pilates helps to condition the whole body and not just certain muscles helps to balance the muscle and strength of the body. Since no set of muscles is ever over or under trained, there is less risk for injury. The body becomes more fluid and supple, protecting against injury.

Other Benefits of Pilates
Create a stronger, more flexible spine.
Increase joint range of motion.
Improve circulation.
Heighten neuromuscular coordination.
Offer relief from back pain and joint stress.
Correct over-training of muscle groups which can lead to stress and injury.
Enhance mobility, agility and stamina.
Compliment sports training and develop functional fitness for daily life activity.
Improve the way your body looks and feels.

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Preventing Injury In The Winter

For all of those who have had to dig out of the snowstorms up north and in the mid-west, you know there can be problems when snow, ice and frigid weather blast into town.  Winter recreational activities and chores can pose problems for the outdoor enthusiast whose body is not in condition. Winter sports like skating, skiing and sledding can cause painful muscle spasms, strains or tears if you’re not in shape. Even shoveling snow the wrong way, clambering awkwardly over snow banks, slipping on sidewalks and wearing the wrong kinds of clothing can all pose the potential for spasms, strains and sprains. Preparation for an outdoor activity, including conditioning the areas of the body that are most vulnerable, can help avoid injury and costly health care bills. Simply put, warming up is essential.  Here’s some recommendations to help prevent injury:

Skiing – Squats are the best exercise to do to warm up for skiing.  Stand with your legs shoulder width apart, knees aligned over your feet. Slowly lower your buttocks as you bend your knees over your feet (but do not let your knees go past your toes to prevent knee injury).  Stand up straight again.  Perform 10 to 15 squats.

Skating – Lunges are the best exercise to warm up for skating. Take a moderately advanced step with one foot. Let your back knee come down to the floor while keeping your shoulders in position over your hips. Repeat the process with your other foot.

Sledding/tobogganing – Perform knee-to-chest stretches to fight compression injuries caused by repetitive bouncing over the snow. Either sitting or lying on your back, pull your knees to your chest and hold for up to 30 seconds.

Don’t forget cool-down stretching for all of these sports – At the bottom of the sledding hill, for instance, before trudging back up, do some more knees-to-chest stretches, or repetitive squatting movements to restore flexibility.

Shoveling snow can also wreak havoc on the musculoskeletal system. The American Chiropractic Association suggests the following tips for exercise of the snow shoveling variety:

1.  If you must shovel snow, be careful. Listen to weather forecasts so you can rise early and have time to shovel before work.

2. Layer clothing to keep your muscles warm and flexible.

3. Shoveling can strain muscles between your shoulders, in your upper back, lower back, buttocks and legs. Do some warm-up stretching before you grab that shovel.

4. When you do shovel, push the snow straight ahead. Don’t try to throw it. Walk it to the snow bank. Avoid sudden twisting and turning motions.

5. Bend your knees to lift when shoveling. Let the muscles of your legs and arms do the work, not your back.

6. Take frequent rest breaks to take the strain off your muscles. A fatigued body asks for injury.

7. Stop if you feel chest pain, or get really tired or have shortness of breath. You may need immediate professional help.

After any of these activities, if you are sore, apply an ice bag to the affected area for 20 minutes, then take it off for a couple of hours. Repeat a couple of times each day over the next day or two. If you still feel soreness or pain after following all these tips, it may be time to see your doctor of chiropractic.

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Questions About Bulging Discs Answered

One of my patients came into my office last week wanting information to do a speech on bulging discs for his college public speaking class.  He wanted to use this topic because he had suffered from disc problems for years being a former member of our heroic military, and it was something he could apply to the lives of other members of his class.  Because I deal with this condition on a regular basis in my office, sitting down with this patient to help him with his speech made me remember that bulging discs can be a little scary and confusing to people who have never had back or neck problems.  So I’m going to answer some of his questions for you so that you may have more information on a condition that may be affecting your life or the lives of people you care about.

To begin with, discs are the cartilagenous cushions that are between the vertebrae of your spine.  Each disc has 2 parts:  a tough outer layer of cartilage that surrounds a softer gel-like material in the center. I often compare them to jelly doughnuts with my patients.   So a bulging disc is one that simply extends or bulges outside the space it should normally occupy due to some weaking of the  outer disc.  Bulging discs are very common and can often be asymptomatic unless something is done to inflame them.

So what can cause a bulging disc?  Wear and tear on our bodies is my best answer to this question.  I’ve seen teenage girls who were avid horseback riders come into my office with bulging discs because they’d been thrown off the horse a few times and then proceeded to put in hours on the back of a horse bouncing up and down on a joint that’s been injured.  I’ll see the weekend warrior who sits at a desk weakening his spinal muscles all week long and then taxes his body to the limit on the court putting stresses on his spine that the stabilizing muscles are too weak to handle.  I’ve seen the computer guru who spends hours at a time sitting with poor posture in front of a computer screen, not knowing that the poor posture was putting added stress on the discs in his neck causing them to weaken.  The causes of a bulging disc are too numerous to mention, but I think you’re getting my point.

So how can a bulging disc be prevented?  Simply by taking good care of your spine.  If you’ve had an injury to your back – get it checked out by a chiropractor or other spinal specialist.  An injured joint could be putting abnormal stresses on a disc causing it to weaken.  Also, strengthen the stabilizing muscles of your spine by strengthening your core muscles.  Our bodies were not designed to sit in a chair for 6-8 hours a day.  This weakens our muscles.  So if that’s what you do for a living, make sure you spend time working those muscles when you’re not at work.  I’m a big advocate of using the physioballs for exercising.  You can even use them to sit on during the day at work.  I have another patient whose mother is a trainer in CA for some people in the movie industry.  She told me the first thing she did when she took on a new client who spends a lot of time sitting is to make sure they’re sitting on a physioball for at least 50% of their day.  She said doing that exponentially improved their results in the gym because they were working their muscles when they were away from the gym.   Finally, be sensible with your lifting and other activities that put stress on your back.  I have one friend who used to lift his sofa and other heavy furniture by himself on a regular basis – he too, ended up with a bulging disc.  Heavy or awkward items can put extra stress on your spine which will weaken those discs causing them to eventually bulge.

So I hope this helps you get a better understanding of what a bulging disc is and what causes it.  I’ll be answering a few more questions about bulging discs in a future post so please stop back to visit us for more information.

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