Archive for Around the Home
Stretching is the part of our workout regimen many of us tend to skip. We might say it is because of lack of time, impatience or a feeling that stretching is “pointless.” However it is important that our joints are able to move in various directions with a certain degree of freedom. As our bodies age, we become stiffer and lose the flexibility we had when we were young. Chances are unless you’re a dancer or a gymnast, you’ll have lost that fluid flexibility you had as a child even in your twenties. However, it is never too late to regain enough flexibility to remain youthful and limber by training through stretching. Proper stretching allows us to continue doing our daily tasks into old age, such as reaching that high shelf, bending to pick up a dropped object, or accessing that hidden switch behind an awkward kitchen cabinet.
One reason it’s really important to stretch before working out is that we are likely to use muscles and tendons that are normally inactive. Without flexibility to those muscles, the risk of injury or of tearing those muscles and tendons when used, is higher. If stretching is done correctly before working out, it’s a good prevention against injury, and can also be used to treat injuries as well. Finally, when done properly, stretching simply feels good. It can be a great way to gently start the day or to wind down after work. Preparing the body for exercise by warming up the muscles by stretching is easy and need not take up much of your time. This will increase the blood flow to your muscles and loosen them up allowing you to exercise without having to worry about injury or being overly sore the next day. Simply warm up the various muscle groups with slow stretches of the joints towards the end of their range of motion; this should cause the feeling of a gentle “pull” being felt in the muscles. Hold the position for up to half a minute and then alternate side or muscle groups.
Not only does stretching prevent injury, but it also improves the mechanical efficiency of your body. Stretching prior to exercise means the muscles are stretched and warmed up, allowing them to undergo the full range of motion with less effort when exercising – this means the body’s overall performance is improved. Other added benefits to stretching include improved circulation to the muscles and joints, alleviating the pains felt post-workout, and stretching can also help to improve your posture. If you find at the end of the day stiff and achy from sitting at a desk all day – try stretching. You might find that you’ll feel instantly better. Regular stretching in your shoulders and neck may help you to maintain a better posture. As a result, this may help to prevent the onset of lower back pain.
References Used:  http://www.spineuniverse.com/wellness/exercise/incorporating-stretching-your-exercise-routine Accessed October 2011  http://www.healthnewengland.com/newsletters/LivingWell/LW/Livewell13.pdf Accessed October 2011
With summer at an end, the leaves are turning brown and falling, cluttering up your yard and garden – so it’s only natural you’ll want to get the rake out. However, as with all physical tasks about the house and garden, it is very important you take the necessary precautions against accident and injury. Fall yard work, leaf raking and other outdoor maintenance activities carry numerous risks such as: upper and lower back strain, neck strain and shoulder pain. Just like with sports, if your body isn’t prepared for physical activity this can increase your chances of injury. You can avoid straining yourself by taking simple precautions, such as: doing warm ups, stretches and maintaining good posture.
Athletes are able to reduce the risk of strain and injury by doing warm ups. The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) recommends 10-15 minutes of stretching exercises: from trunk rotations, side-bends and knee-to-chest pulls. When these are also combined with a short walk, which helps to stimulate circulation, and with additional stretches at the end, this prepares the body for manual labor associated with raking and yard work. While raking your garden or yard, good posture can also prevent back problems – make sure you keep your back straight and your head up. Use common sense while working: lift with your legs and bend with your knees, taking care you don’t strain your back while picking up bundles of leaves and grass. If you’re likely to carry heavy items, hold them close to your body to help prevent back strain. In order to take the pressure off your back, rake using the “scissors” stance: put your right foot forward and the left one back, then reverse after a few minutes. When using a lawn mower, try to use your body weight to move it as opposed to your arms and back.
It is vitally important to take breaks. Pace yourself, and whenever your body feels tired take a respite – this is particularly important if the weather is hot, so drink lots of water and wear sun-protection such as a hat, sun block and protective glasses. Investing in extra protective gear, such as gloves to prevent blisters, a mask if you’re prone to allergies and protective eyewear, can make life easier while taking on outdoor chores. Ergonomic tools with extra padding, larger or curved handles are less strenuous to use over a long-time period. Changing tasks regularly helps to prevent repetitive strain injury of certain muscle groups – change positions, or simply move onto another task for a short period of time before returning to the previous one. Make plans for your gardening tasks; make sure they’re realistic and unlikely to cause strain or exhaust you too much. If you’re unaccustomed to physical labor, chances are you will feel sore and stiff the next day – in this case, use ice to soothe the discomfort, but if there is no improvement in your aches and pains, then see a chiropractor.