150218 An introduction to Tai Chi part 2 of 2

150218 An introduction to Tai Chi part 2 of 2 

There are different styles of Tai-Chi, some are more aggressive than others and involve faster paced movements. Those most commonly practiced utilize gentle slower motions that are suitable for everyone.

As with anything in life there are positives and negatives in the practice of Tai-Chi. The pros seem to outweigh the cons though in these respects:

  • The movements are self-paced and non competitive, which to a competitive person may be a negative attribute.
  • The physical space requirements are negligible as well as the attire. You don’t need a lot of space or fancy gear to take part in Tai-Chi. It’s easy to do; you can do it anyplace and anytime either alone or with others. Once you become accustomed to the activity and more proficient in the art then you can add in your own to make it even more individualized and specific to your needs.

The negatives are almost non existent but do include the usual warnings of possible soreness if the first few sessions are overdone beyond your current physical fitness levels.

Beginning a new activity starts with learning how to do it correctly. In the case of Tai-Chi this will mean seeking out a competent instructor who will guide you in the technical aspects of posture and movement. Pay strict attention to your breathing and body position throughout the training session. Develop the ability to perform the motions effortlessly and without conscious thought. Doing so helps avert muscle strains and damaged joints.

Tai-Chi classes are taught throughout the world. In the United States contact your local senior center, the YWCA or YMCA or check with the gyms in your area. You can even look it up on the internet; there are scores of sites listed.

080218 An introduction to Tai-Chi part 1 of 2

080218 An introduction to Tai-Chi part 1 of 2

Tai-Chi is an ancient art that uses a series of gentle continuous movements which place an emphasis on joint leverage based on coordination and relaxation instead of muscular tension. Practioners of the art have discovered increased balance control, flexibility and cardiovascular benefits. The elderly have reduced their risk of falling after learning and applying Tai-Chi training practices.

Healthy individuals also have reported reduced pain while using Tai-Chi as an alternative exercise method along with lowered blood pressure readings, decreased pain from arthritis and the effects of multiple sclerosis.

Progressively self paced, Tai-Chi is a noncompetitive gentle exercise that is performed in a very specific defined series of movements and postures. Each of which flows gracefully and slowly from one to another without a pause.

A major benefit to older people is the reductions in falls that accompany the art of Tai-Chi due to the increased enhancement of their balance and coordination skills. Since these movements are low impact they place minimal stress on the joints and muscles which is ideal in some situations for those with advanced arthritis or osteoporosis.

Anecdotally the relationship of Tai-Chi to reduced stress, increased flexibility, improved muscle strength and definition along with the development of greater energy, stamina and agility are well documented. These benefits all contribute to a greater sense of well being. However the art has not been scientifically studied until recently. The findings, thus far, are supportive of the anecdotal reports.

The scientific research into Tai-Chi have indicated reduced anxiety and depression, improved balance and coordination which helps to reduce falls in those prone to falling and improved sleep patterns. The time spent in sleeping was found to be longer and with greater alertness reported during the following day.

Practicing Tai-Chi was shown to slow bone loss in post menopausal women an especially important issue to those with osteopenia or osteoporosis. It also reduced high blood pressure and improved cardiovascular fitness along with providing relief from chronic pain. All of these healthy benefits made for better daily living functioning.

191217 Balance

191217 Balance

Beginning around the fourth decade, we start to lose a small percentage of the ability to keep our equilibrium . Losing your balance leads to falls and possible fractures, or other injuries if not prevented.

Prevention begins with daily practice. Standing on one foot or with heel to toe for multiple seconds at a time (60-120) will help stave off this decline in balance. Leaning toward the floor on one leg with arms to the side or rear will change the center of gravity and will change the feel of the exercise. In each instance it is important to have the ability to catch yourself on something solid to prevent a dangerous fall from happening in the event you do lose your balance while doing these.

Balance is critical to our daily living activities. Without balance, we would be constantly reaching and grasping for stable objects to prevent falling, stumbling or injuring ourselves.

Here are several variations of a basic exercise to help develop and maintain your sense of balance. Once you are able to do one exercise example for up to one minute without movement, then progress to the next example.

Make certain you are standing near a sturdy chair, or wall, to help catch your balance, if need be, in the following sequences of movement.

Basic example:
• Stand with your feet touching one another in a side by side or heel to toe fashion.
• Hold your hands at your side and close your eyes.
• Maintain this position, without swaying side to side or backward to front, for several seconds up to one minute.

Novice example:
• Assume the same position with your feet as the basic example above.
• Move your arms to the sides in a random fashion, still maintaining your balance.
• Tip your head back and continue to move your arms.
• Now close your eyes and continue the arm movements.

Intermediate example:
• Maintain the feet in the same pattern, side to side or heel to toe.
• Reach down to the front, side and the rear with one arm then the other.
• See how far you can reach down before losing your balance.
• Remember to keep your feet together and don’t sway as you reach, just reach, keep your balance and then reach in another direction.

Advanced example:
• Keep the feet in the same position as the rest of the examples.
• Tip your head back and now close your eyes.
• Move your arms in a random fashion, one arm at a time.

More advanced example:
• Feet are still in the side-by-side or heel to toe position.
• Head tipped back and eyes closed.
• Lift one leg off the floor and maintain your balance for 10-15 seconds, gradually build up your ability to remain in one position without moving about to stay upright.
Another advanced example:
• Set up is the same as the more advanced example with the simple change now of adding the reaches as mentioned in the intermediate example.
• Or you can move your head from side to side in a rapid manner while maintaining your balance.

Have fun practicing these few sample exercises, they will keep your life more balanced!

Of course there are many other ways to practice balance training but this article is not being written to list them all. Suffice it to say balance is a critical part of living a healthy life.

270217 Checking your posture

270217 Checking your posture

While viewing an individual from the side, imagine a plumb line dropping from the middle of the ear downward to the floor. From the ear, the line will continue through the middle of the shoulder, down through the hips, mid knee and onto the ankles. Viewed from the rear this same line will be seen dropping from the middle of the head, middle of the back through the Gluteal cleft and between the knees and ankles to the floor.

This line divides the body into the front and rear sections with equal weight on both sides. This dividing line makes no effort to be symmetrical nor is it passing through any obvious anatomical structures equally.

Poor posture can contribute to low back pain, shoulder joint pain, and can even affect how you walk (your gait). If left unattended this pain could become chronic in nature and in a worse case situation could cause long-term damage to the body. This column will include suggestions to improve standing, sitting and lying-down posture.

But first off do you have proper posture? A quick check may offer a revealing glance at how you carry yourself day in and day out.

Begin by standing in front of a full-length mirror. Do you look even from side to side, are your shoulder’s straight across with both sides on the same level as the other side, i.e. one is not higher or drooping when compared to the other side. Imagine a straight-line beginning from the middle of your head through your nose, through the middle of your breastbone, down between your knees and feet. The spaces between your arms and sides are equal, your hips are level, your kneecaps face straight ahead, and your ankles and feet are straight.

Now stand sideways to the mirror and check that an imaginary line beginning at your ear lobe continues down your body. As it drops down it should be hitting the middle of your shoulder. It should pass just behind the hip joint and finally end up in front of the knee and the ankle joint.

Basically, that is how you should look. Do you?

130217 Balance

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

Balance is critical to our daily living activities. Without balance, we would be constantly reaching and grasping for stable objects to prevent falling, stumbling or injuring ourselves.

Here are several variations of a basic exercise to help develop and maintain your sense of balance. Once you are able to do one exercise example for up to one minute without movement, then progress to the next example.

Make certain you are standing near a sturdy chair, or wall, to help catch your balance, if need be, in the following sequences of movement.

Basic example:

• Stand with your feet touching one another in a side by side, or heel to toe.
• Hold your hands at your side and close your eyes.
• Maintain this position, without swaying side to side or backward to front, for several seconds up to one minute.

Novice example:

• Assume the same position with your feet as the basic example above.
• Move your arms to the sides in a random fashion, still maintaining your balance.
• Tip your head back and continue to move your arms.
• Now close your eyes and continue the arm movements.

Intermediate example:

• Maintain the feet in the same pattern, side to side or heel to toe.
• Reach down to the front, side and the rear with one arm then the other.
• See how far you can reach down before losing your balance.
• Remember to keep your feet together and don’t sway as you reach, just reach, keep your balance and then reach in another direction.

Advanced example:

• Keep the feet in the same position as the rest of the examples.
• Tip your head back and now close your eyes.
• Move your arms in a random fashion, one arm at a time.

More advanced example:

• Feet are still in the side-by-side position or heel to toe.
• Head tipped back and eyes closed.
• Lift one leg off the floor and maintain your balance for 10-15 seconds, gradually build up your ability to remain in one position without moving about to stay upright.

Super advanced example:

• Set up is the same as the more advanced example with the simple change now of adding the reaches as mentioned in the intermediate example.

Have fun practicing these few sample exercises, they will keep your life more balanced!

190916 Measures That may Reduce Your Risk of a Fall

190916 Measures That may Reduce Your Risk of a Fall

The prevention of a fall is important for those diagnosed with Osteoporosis due the fragility of the bones and the potential consequences of damage to the skeletal structure. The disabling nature of a broken bone can be devastating to an older person, especially a broken hip.

Falling results from a variety of sources. The elimination of as many of these as possible will help reduce your chances of taking a tumble. Keep in mind the older we all get the more dangerous a fall can be, especially one that breaks a hip. A few of the ways to help lower the risk of falling can be summed up into a few words-exercise to stay strong, remove the hazards in your home and regularly consult with your doctor about the medications you are taking.

Exercise by its very nature will help prevent a fall by making your body stronger and better balanced. When you lose your balance the power in your body has to be sufficient to immediately regain your equilibrium and set you back on the right path. Strength training is designed to make you stronger and this, coupled with the ABC’s of agility, balance and coordination will enable you to protect yourself to a higher degree than without these attributes.

Your home is a prime site of accident hazards that may be eliminated by simply taking the time to look it over and removing them. Start by getting rid of, or putting up all the things that you can trip over; this includes the small rugs that are notorious for slipping out from under you. If you have extension cords in the home make certain they are picked up and out of the way to prevent stumbling on them.

In the kitchen place rubber backed rugs near the sink and when water or other stuff gets on the floor clean it up promptly to eliminate that potential accident source.

Stay away from the old step stools most of us at one time had in our homes. In your bathroom have grab bars installed around the tub, shower and if need be the toilet. While you’re at it put a no slip surface in the tub and shower area and install adequate lighting so you aren’t groping around in the dark dim light. A nightlight in the bathroom is a good idea as well.
Keep your halls and doorways well lit, even better when you get up at night turn on the lights.

Wear good shoes with non-slip soles and make sure you have handrails on all of the stairs in your home. Keep your stairs in good repair and don’t set junk on the steps-keep them clear at all times; they are for walking on, not storage space.

The next time you see your doctor take in all of the medicines, herbs, vitamins and other supplements you take in each day. Some of these may interact negatively with one another and just be setting you up for a fall. Medications that treat blood pressure or muscle soreness (relaxants or sedatives) can cause dizziness and subsequent loss of balance.

Finally have your vision checked out to make certain you aren’t contending with glaucoma or cataracts. Both can limit your vision, which increases your chance of falling.

Falls occur from medications, hearing problems, lack of muscle strength, coordination difficulties and from conditions that affect balance and the reflex systems of the organism.

These basic precautions will go a long way in helping to make your home more fall proof.

220816 Healthy movement

220816 Healthy movement

Healthy movement is beneficial to your body and at its lowest level, even some activity is better than doing nothing. If you are just starting out then gradually build up your endurance with 5 to 10 minute exercise breaks throughout the day. At the 10-minute level, your body begins to adapt and then noticeable changes become evident.

After you are able to exercise aerobically for at least 10 minutes, it is time to branch out by adding resistance exercises to the daily routine. One way to begin is by doing one 10-minute session of endurance work and then later on in the day doing 10-minutes of resistance training.

Alternate between aerobic and resistance training for at least thirty minutes for the day.

The aerobic exercises can be brisk walking, skipping rope, riding a bike or any other activity that is continuous and places a demand on your breathing and heart rate. After you are finished then cool down with static stretches, holding each one for fifteen to thirty seconds. Do this three to five times for each stretch.

For the resistance training start out with body weight calisthenics by doing 3-5 sets of fifteen to thirty bodyweight squats, push ups, calf raises, prone back extensions, curl ups, leg raises or others of your choosing. You can do these in a circuit or one exercise at a time. Stay with it for the full 10 minutes.

If you are over sixty-five, the health benefits of activity are just as important to you as they are to the younger people. Start slowly and build up your fitness levels over time. If you have chronic health problems, work around them and do what you can.

If you aren’t able to ride a bike or have access to a treadmill or other such equipment, then get one of the hand ergometers available at Costco for about $49.00 and exercise your upper body. Do counter top pushups by standing two or three feet away from a counter top and then doing pushups on it.

Do chair sits. Sit in and stand up from a chair without pushing on your legs with your hands as you stand up. Practice sitting down on a chair; standing up, walking away briskly for 10 feet, and then coming back and sitting in the chair again. Repeat this for a minute or more. This builds up leg strength and helps with your balance.

Practice your balance to help prevent falls by walking sideways, standing heel to toe; practicing the stork stand on one leg with the other bent ninety degrees at the hip and knee or any of the many other balancing exercises.