The Path to Fitter, Healthy Lives Often Starts with the Basics

The Path to Fitter Healthier Lives

by Dr. Ira Shapiro, Director, Plaza Chiropractic Center, Old Bridge, New Jersey

Playing sports is an important part of many lives. In fact, the boomer generation is more involved in activities ranging from biking, golf and tennis to jogging, aerobics and weight lifting than ever before.

Unfortunately wisdom doesn’t always accompany the desire to stay fit and trim. There are all too many of us that refuse to admit that age requires change as well as the general awareness that our bodies just don’t work the same way that they did years ago.

Consequently, baby boomers are heading for physical treatments and oftentimes emergency rooms in ever-increasing numbers. While exercise can strengthen your heart, bones, and joints and reduce stress, it can also produce injuries as a result of overzealous regimens, insufficient warm-ups, lack of stretching, poor form and training practices, and most importantly, attempting to do too much too soon.

Weekend warriors looking to actively enjoy the summer months after a winter of inactivity are also among the most susceptible to sprains, strains, dislocated joints and torn ligaments and tendons. In addition, older athletes are more likely to suffer from multiple ailments at the same time. This is due to the added stress placed on other parts of the body when attempting to overcompensate for the pain and soreness in already ailing areas.

However, sports injuries can be prevented when performed in conjunction with the appropriate conditioning, warm-up and cool-down procedures. Understanding proper techniques and wearing the right gear can also significantly increase overall work out benefits.

In addition, it’s never too late to start moving and becoming as physically fit as possible. The trick is finding an activity that you enjoy and will look forward to doing regularly. First, start gradually. The speed and intensity of your work outs will then increase almost automatically over time and as you become more comfortable with the routine.

Next, don’t underestimate the need to flex and stretch, which is essential for protecting the body from injury, especially if most of your work day is spent sitting at a desk or in front of a computer. Flexibility will not only reduce stiffness, it will improve your range of motion, while helping to alleviate the possibility of aggravating or causing musculoskeletal problems.

As a result, it is extremely important to warm up cold muscles before walking, running or performing any other physical activity. For instance, here are some simple exercises for increasing core temperatures, heart rates and overall muscle flexibility:

  • Toe-touch: Standing straight up, hold your arms out directly in front of you and walk forward, kicking your legs up and trying to touch your toes to your hands without lowering your arms. Repeat 10-20 times for each leg.
  • Inverted toe-touch: Standing straight up, lean forward and reach your arms down to the ground while you lift your right leg behind you. Keep your back straight and return to start. Repeat 10-20 times on each leg. As with the previous exercise, if you can’t reach all the way down to the ground, simply go as far as you can without losing your balance.
  • Piriformis stretch: This can be completed either lying down or standing straight up. With one leg straight, pull the other knee into the chest toward the opposite shoulder. Repeat three times on each leg.
  • Cobra: Lying on your stomach, gently push your upper body off the floor, hold and then return to start. Repeat this stretch three times.

Furthermore, always use good form and never stretch a cold muscle or stretch beyond the point of pain. Also, do not hesitate to reach out to licensed professionals, who can help you formulate a thorough, safe and realistic wellness routine that represents your goals, age, gender and level of fitness. For more information on obtaining a better, fitter life please contact the Plaza Chiropractic Center at 732-723-0023.

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