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February 12, 2021 Fitness0

The year is 2021, and we are rapidly approaching our twelfth month of the pandemic. For some, getting to the gym is out of the question. Heck, for some, getting off of the couch is out of the question at this point! It has been a long (Covid-laden) run, and the finish line’s location is vague. Some days, it even feels like it might be a mirage. That being said, it can be exceedingly difficult these days to find motivation for maintaining fitness, health, and nutrition. So, what is one to do?

If you have noticed that your waistline has… well… changed, or that your pre-pandemic fitness routine has been pushed to the wayside, perhaps it is time to consider the use of technology to help you get motivated and help you to reach your goals. You can track your fitness progress and health stats with wearable technology. This is super helpful in achieving your goals because most fitness trackers will send you reminders if you fall behind and help hold you accountable. They also may give you a sense of accomplishment by showing progress over time.

You can also explore and partake in various fitness classes, workouts, and the like with fitness apps. The best part is that these can be done at the gym or in your living room, so there are no excuses! Some of the best fitness apps on the market are literally at your fingertips, making your health and well-being pandemic-proof. Read on to learn more.

BEST FITNESS TRACKERS:

1. Fitbit Inspire 2

If you are reading this article, chances are you have wondered, what is the best fitness tracker? The market is saturated with a wide range of options that have a wide variety of features and price points. We have landed on the Fitbit Inspire 2 as our top pick because it covers a lot of ground without breaking the bank. For under $100 ($68.95, to be exact), you get all of the essentials, such as tracking heart rate variability, sleeping respiration, and activity. It is also super sleek and attractive. You can easily change the band from silicone to something fancier and get this – the battery can last as long as TEN DAYS. Yes, you read that correctly. The only thing the Inspire 2 appears to be missing from its competitors is GPS, but who doesn’t already have that on their cell phone?

2. Garmin Vivoactive 4

Okay, so if you can’t live without the GPS feature and have a bit bigger of a budget, maybe the GPS device pioneer is more your speed. The Garmin Vivoactive 4 rings in at $349. So, you could buy nearly five Fitbit Inspire 2 fitness trackers for the price of a single Vivoactive 4. What gives? Well, it does come with a ton of fancy features. To say that this device is made to track fitness is kind of like saying your iPhone is made to make phone calls. It doesn’t really tell the entire story.

The Vivoactive 4 also has music functionality (including Spotify, Amazon Music, and Deezer) and a color touchscreen display. You can (manually) track your hydration and liquid intake. In conjunction, the device automatically estimates your sweat loss post-workout (cool!). Like the Inspire 2, the Vivoactive 4 includes tracking your respiration rate for the day and sleep metrics. Additionally, it has breathwork exercises, workout animation functionality, built-in Yoga and Pilates workouts, blood oxygen tracking, and of course, GPS. The battery life averages about eight days. Not bad!

3. ŌURA

For some, no matter how great the features are, wearing a watch (especially while working out) is just too much. We are about to blow your mind with this one. Did you know that health tracker rings are now a thing? How cool is that?! If you are intrigued, you need to check out the Ōura. This sleek and custom-sized titanium ring looks like any other ring band on the outside. The inside, where it makes contact with your finger, is equipped with advanced sensors to capture your resting heart rate, HRV (heart rate variability), body temperature, and calorie burn. The price point is $299, and it comes in silver, black, or diamond. All finishes are scratch-resistant and water-resistant.

BEST FITNESS APPS:

Fitness trackers are awesome, and can easily be used in conjunction with workout apps. Below are three of our favorites.

1. Alo Moves 

Alo Moves gets our votes because for $20 per month (which is about the cost of just one yoga class at a studio), you will get unlimited access to yoga, fitness, and meditation classes led by pro instructors. The fitness classes are actually pretty diverse and include strength, barre, Pilates, HIIT, and more. You are given enough content to never be bored and always try something new. That ought to help with fitness motivation!

2. Obé

If you came into the pandemic as a group exercise enthusiast, Obé might be just what you need to keep up your workout routine. This fitness app is awesome because it offers live and on-demand classes so that you will be working out with actual people and actual instructors in real-time. Class offerings include Pilates, yoga, barre, cardio dance, cardio boxing, HIIT, and strength training. The price point is a bit higher ($27 per month) but still less than most gym memberships or the cost of dropping into in-person classes at a studio.

3. Seven

If you are “too busy” to exercise, we have got some great news for you! The Seven app was designed to make every minute count. Every workout included in the app is just seven minutes long and requires no equipment. The exercises are all rooted in HIIT (high-intensity interval training), which has been proven to be extremely effective, as it trains your metabolism to be revving all day long. The price point is great! (Only $9.99 per month, with an option to purchase for the year at just $59.99).


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Did you know that ice baths actually have an ancient lineage? That’s right! Monks have been cold plunging for thousands of years. This is because the benefits of ice baths are hard to ignore. Cold plunging, AKA cold water immersion, cold therapy, cryotherapy, or ice bathing is amazing for your mental and physical health. If you are wondering, “What does an ice bath do?” you are not alone. Clearly, this practice is not for the faint of heart. Monks and cold plunging enthusiasts alike agree that ice baths induce positive stress, which requires a total Zen mindset to navigate. Beyond that, strained and inflamed muscles will experience immediate relief.

Wait, you mean to tell me you would like me to fill my bathtub full of cold water and ice and jump on in? Voluntarily??

Well, hey, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Perhaps one of the most accessible ways to polar plunge in an ice bath is in the comfort of your own tub. Filling the tub with cold water (and adding some ice for an extra kick) is certainly one way of reaching cryo-nirvana. Another way is to take a dip in the ocean or a nearby lake in the winter. Obviously, be sure to take appropriate precautions. Your body will likely go numb after a few seconds, so you don’t want to be too deep that you can’t make your way out of the water safely.

If you want to try cold plunging, but you aren’t ready to commit to such an extreme version, you can test the waters (see what we did there?) by turning your shower to the coldest possible temperature when you are done bathing. Let the cold water run over your entire body for as long as you can possibly stand it. The ancient monks practiced cold plunging in a similar way, by standing under waterfalls for extended periods of time.

“What is the point? What does an ice bath do for me?”

Read on for three ice bath benefits.

1. Stress Relief

We are living in some stressful times, folks! With a historical event occurring literally every 6 days, this past year has been one for the books! Collectively, this has done quite a number on our anxiety and stress levels. Our adrenal glands are working overtime as we constantly react to the world around us. But, we have got some great news for you! One of the many benefits of ice baths is that they provide substantial stress relief.

When you submerge yourself in an ice bath, you activate your sympathetic nervous system. While the cold temperature may shock you, it will also send blood to your brain and your core, which helps to flush out the neurotoxins that cause anxiety and depression.

Cryotherapy also helps stimulate a more awakened state (literally). The initial shock brings immediate attention and awareness to sensations in your body, which demands your total presence. This is one of the goals of meditation. Consider ice plunging to be somewhat of a shortcut. From that moment of total awareness, your mentality will actually shift to a focus on endurance.

This means, your goal (in your mind’s eye) shifts from, “Can I do it? Can I submerge into that icy tub??” to “I did it! Now how long can I stand it?”

This internal conversation takes awareness, mindfulness, and presence. These are all of the same thought processes involved with meditation. Thus, the outcome is very much the same. A regular cold plunging routine will provide you with stress relief and a better mindset.

2. Improved Circulation

Ice baths are a potent way to improve your circulation. Submerging your body in ice-cold water will increase your heart rate and your blood pressure, which, temporarily, is a very good thing.

The sudden drop in temperature is going to constrict your outer blood vessels, which forces your blood to flow away from the surface of your body. Instead, the blood will flow deeper toward your body’s core, which will increase circulation to all of your major organs. When you stabilize your temperature back to normal, the blood will flow again to your body’s surface. This manipulation of your overall circulation is extremely beneficial for your health.

3. Improved Immune Function

Another ice bath benefit is improved immune function. Stress has been deemed, “the silent killer.” Collectively, we have experienced a whole lot of it this past year. Thankfully, cold plunging has the amazing ability to lower your cortisol levels. Cortisol is your “fight or flight” hormone, and it is caused and released by stress.

Excess levels of cortisol in your body can cause a whole myriad of issues including, but not limited to, rapid weight gain, muscle deterioration, diabetes, and even skin that bruises easily. No thanks! Cortisol also weakens your immune system. With the pandemic still in full effect and with it being cold and flu season, it is important to keep your body’s first line of defense in optimal condition. Cryotherapy can help you to keep cortisol, that nasty hormone, in check!

Another benefit of ice bathing is increased metabolism. (Hello, weight loss!) Who doesn’t love a simple hack for a smaller waistline, especially after the many shelter in place orders we have all endured?! Ice baths also increase your dopamine levels, AKA the reward hormone. When your dopamine levels are low, you will experience fatigue, moodiness, lack of focus, and low libido. This may lead to procrastination, feelings of hopelessness, and mood swings. Thankfully you can turn all of that around within minutes, simply by taking an ice bath. Plunging into cold water will flood your brain with dopamine, leaving you in a much better mood.


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January 29, 2021 FitnessHealth & Wellness0

Making a human is hard work! Your body is going to change dramatically over the course of your pregnancy, and most likely thereafter as well. (Hello, mom bod!) You have probably heard stories (or even know women personally) who became pregnant and never, “snapped back.” If you are expecting, you may be wondering can you exercise while pregnant. Getting fit while expecting a baby is not only entirely possible but also a great idea! The healthier a mother-to-be, most likely, the healthier her baby will be. Exercising while pregnant is also a great way to prepare for the marathon that is labor and delivery. Plus, if you maintain your fitness routine while pregnant, chances are that you will have an easier time with the postpartum fitness journey and losing the weight gained over those long nine months. Read on to learn more.

Of course, the most important advice around anything involved with your pregnancy will come from your doctor or OBGYN. Always check with a qualified professional before partaking in anything strenuous or new while pregnant. In general, if your pregnancy is healthy and exercise was part of your routine before you became pregnant, you should continue (within reason) the same workouts as you were doing. As you get further along with your pregnancy, you will likely need to make modifications for safety. Especially because your body is going to drastically change. As your belly grows, it will become increasingly difficult to execute certain movements, which will yield exercises to avoid while pregnant.

For example, bending forward will become more challenging and less comfortable. As you gain weight, anything that involves jumping, bouncing, or the sudden impact of gravity is going to be not only uncomfortable because of the pressure of the baby on all of your organs, but it may also lead to unintended urination. Gross, we know. (But try having 30 extra pounds pushing on your bladder.)

At a certain point in the 40 weeks, you may also feel discomfort in positions that require you to lay on your back. Again, this is because of all of the extra weight crushing your organs. So, no bending forward, no jumping, bouncing, running, and nothing involving laying on the back. You are probably thinking, “what kind of exercise can I do while pregnant?” Keep reading for some of our favorite suggestions for getting fit and maintaining your health while pregnant.

  1. SWIMMING

Swimming is the perfect pregnancy exercise. Trust us, when you are heavy, bloated, and as big as a house (okay fine, as big as a skyscraper sideways), you are going to love the weightless sensation and buoyancy of being in the water. Water can be therapeutic, especially for those who experience swelling of the legs and ankles during pregnancy.

Swimming is also amazing because it is a low-impact form of cardio. You can really raise your heart rate and get your blood flowing while gliding through the water. This poses very little strain or impact on your joints, which are already working overtime to carry the sudden increase of weight in your body. Anything that increases your heart rate is going to increase your circulation, which will increase your blood flow and oxygen to your fetus. This is extremely beneficial for both your health and the health of your baby.

Water-resistance is a great way to get in shape. If swimming laps isn’t your thing, try taking a water aerobics class. We are sure you are going to find great comfort and strength in moving in the water.

  1. YOGA

Not only does Yoga require that you move and stretch, but you will also be practicing rhythmic breathing. This is going to help you navigate the waves of pain that are part of labor. Yoga can help you to be very in touch and in tune with your body, which will give you great confidence and serenity during the birthing process. Many studios offer pre-natal specific yoga. This is ideal because all of the Asanas (yoga postures) in the class will already be modified and suitable for your pregnant body. It may be a fun way to connect with other soon-to-be-mommies in your community as well.

If prenatal yoga isn’t offered where you practice, consider arriving early enough to inform your teacher that you are pregnant and may need guidance on how to modify some of the postures in class. There are also many resources available online if you are more comfortable practicing at home. Just be aware that during the later stages of pregnancy, your body will release higher levels of relaxin. This is a hormone that helps to relax the uterine wall and prepare the body for labor and delivery. Your hips may therefore be more flexible than you are used to. Just be careful not to push yourself too far, so as to avoid injury.

  1. WALKING

It sounds simple, but don’t underestimate the many health benefits of walking. Walking is a very gentle form of cardio. If done outside, the fresh air may be a great way to counter the hot flashes often experienced during pregnancy. Sometimes pregnancy brain can feel foggy or it can feel overwhelmingly chaotic and fast-paced. Going for a long walk is not only good for your body, but it has tremendous benefits for your mental health as well. You can sort through your thoughts or ease your stress and anxiety.

  1. ELLIPTICAL & SPIN BIKE

If you were a gym-goer prior to pregnancy, chances are that you started your workouts with some form of cardio warm-up. For many, this typically involves a fast-paced walk or run on a treadmill. When you have a giant belly that weighs 20-30lbs, nothing about running is going to feel good. All of the bouncing up and down and the impact is going to cause a great amount of discomfort.

Luckily, the elliptical machine and spin bikes offer worthy alternatives. The gliding motion is continuous, so you never have the abrupt impact of your foot hitting the track. Plus, most machines have many resistance settings so you can really up the challenge. This is perfect if the weather outside isn’t ideal for a walk, or if you are looking to break a sweat.

What is your favorite way to stay in shape while pregnant?


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January 22, 2021 FitnessHealth & Wellness0

Are you seeking the ultimate total body workout that can be done at home? Are you searching for the one piece of exercise equipment that does it all without breaking the bank? Do you need something effective but also low impact on your joints? Look no further – the search is over! You need to invest in a stability ball. Stability ball exercises offer the whole shebang! You can tone, strengthen, and stretch every muscle group in the comfort of your own home. The best part is that the cost for one is about twenty bucks. That is less than a monthly gym membership! In this article, you will learn about the benefits of using a stability ball, and we will even give you a starting point for a home stability ball workout. Read on for more! 

WHAT IS A STABILITY BALL?

Before we get into the many benefits of using a stability ball, as well as our favorite stability ball workouts, let’s review the equipment. You may have also heard of this very same exercise apparatus referred to as a fit ball, exercise ball, or Swiss ball. A stability ball is the same as any one of these. It is simply an oversized, inflatable vinyl ball that can be used to condition, exercise, and stretch your body.

Variety is the spice of life, right? Well, in this case, stability ball exercises are super spicy. Whether you slam it to the left or shake it to the right (yes, we went there. That was indeed a Spice Girls reference), you can strengthen and reshape your physique with this dynamic yet straightforward piece of equipment. The stability workout ball is extremely versatile and can be used in hundreds of ways. Workout balls also come in many sizes, which adds even more variety to your exercise regimen. When deciding what size stability ball is right for you, you will need to consider which exercises you plan to do the most. Perhaps investing in a set with a few options is a great way to go. After all, stability balls are relatively inexpensive compared to many other exercise equipment on the market.

THE BENEFITS OF USING A STABILITY BALL

As we mentioned above, the stability ball is a fundamentally simple object. It is a ball, plain and simple. Don’t be fooled, though; simple does not necessarily mean easy. Because the stability ball is round, it inherently “wants” to roll away. When you activate your body’s muscles to prevent this from happening, you target a particular (and seldom used) group of muscles, known as your stabilizers. Your stabilizer muscles are essential tools that your body uses to keep your joints correctly aligned. Injury occurs when your joints are forced out of alignment. The stronger the surrounding muscles (stabilizers) are, the less likely this is to occur and the better your balance will be. Therefore, stability ball workouts are excellent cross-training for any other sport.

In addition to strengthening your stabilizers, stability ball exercises target hard-to-reach areas (ahem, hello lower abs, mommy pouch, and saddlebags, we are looking at you). Because you are always fighting (and hopefully winning) a battle with gravity, you are partaking in the remarkably effective form of exercise known as plyometrics. According to Collins Dictionary, plyometrics are defined as “a system of exercise in which the muscles are repeatedly stretched and suddenly contracted.”

In many cases, when athletes or workout enthusiasts practice plyometrics, there is a substantial degree of impact. (We are referring to force on the joints in the body.) As mentioned above, this can easily cause injury. Consider jumping rope as an example. Every time your feet hit the ground, your ankles and knees are hit with force. Over time, this can be damaging. If any of the joints are out of alignment upon impact, the damage or injury can occur immediately.

With the stability ball, you make contact with the ball as it rolls, so you are basically gliding through the motions. While you are targeting and working your muscle groups effectively, you are doing so in a way that is very low impact on your joints.

STABILITY BALL EXERCISES

  1. Stability Ball Plank: For this exercise, you will begin in a high plank, with your palms on the floor. Be sure to press evenly into all of your fingers. You want to visualize hollowing out your palms so that all of the weight is taken off of your wrists. Make sure your wrists are stacked directly underneath your shoulders. Rest your shins and feet on top of the stability ball. You may find that holding the plank position is enough of a workout for you. If you would like more of a challenge, you can practice a plank to jackknife motion. (You will bend your knees, rolling the ball forward toward your hands. Then return to plank.) Repeat 10-12 times for one set.
  2. Stability Ball V-Ups: Sit-ups have long been in the mix for working out. With the workout ball added in, you can really amp up the challenge and efficacy. You will want to lay on your back with the ball between your legs and your arms stretched out overhead. Squeeze the ball isometrically between your legs (hello stabilizers!). Lift the ball up with your legs and lift your arms to meet them (no bending, keep them straight). From the profile view, your body should make a V shape. Repeat this motion several times.
  3. Stability Ball Squats: For the ultimate lower body workout, squats have been on the agenda for all eternity. Ramp up the burn by doing them near a wall, with the stability ball between your back and the wall. When you are standing up, you will want the ball against the exact middle of your back. As you squat down, the ball will roll up higher toward your shoulders. Pressing into the ball will not only create resistance but will also help you to maintain proper form. Repeat several times.

 


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Cold and flu season is upon us, and oh yeah, let’s not forget the elephant in the room, the PANDEMIC. With all of these seasonal and circumstantial immune system “villains,” it is essential to remember that there are plenty of simple steps we can take to improve our health and wellbeing. Health does not need to be reactionary. Quite on the contrary. If you can learn how to boost your immune system, you may stay ahead of any ailments that come your way. In this article, you will learn about our favorite immune-boosting foods, as well as other immune-boosting supplements and habits. 

With the current state of affairs, vocabulary words, such as “vaccinations,” have become extremely common. The ICU bed counts in every city are being blasted everywhere and are hard to avoid. Culturally, we are experiencing tragedy, anxiety, and mourning like never before. While science and the medical field at large are of the utmost importance in times like these, we must not forget that we were born with an incredible and sophisticated system to combat many things that may attack our health. Our immune systems are, by design, our body’s first line of defense. We each have the ability to strengthen our personal health with these top five immune-boosting tips.

1. Trade happy hour for a session at the gym.

Let’s face it. Alcohol has a way of taking the edge off some of the panic and anxiety we all may feel. Beyond that, it has a prominent place in our social structure. During the holidays, we drink. During birthdays, we drink. During social or work outings, we drink. The thing is, alcohol suppresses your immune functions. According to the US National Library of Medicine (National Institutes of Health), alcohol disrupts immune pathways in complex ways. “These disruptions can impair the body’s ability to defend against infection, contribute to organ damage, and impede recovery from tissue injury.”

So, the key to this immune-boosting tip is to drink in moderation. Make sure you stay hydrated, especially when drinking. Make a conscious effort to consume a full glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you drink.

2. Exercise often and maintain a healthy weight. 

Another way to boost your immune system is to exercise and stay active. When you increase your heart rate, you also increase blood flow to your organs, connective tissue, and lymph nodes. All of this helps your body to rid itself of toxins, flushing them out of your system and allowing new nutrients and oxygen to take their place. 

When you let your weight get out of hand, more goes downhill than your existing wardrobe. Your immune system will also take a hit. According to the National Library of Medicine (National Center for Biotechnology Information), obesity (like other states of malnutrition) alters your leucocyte counts, as well as cell-mediated immune responses. Also, evidence has arisen that an altered immune function contributes to the pathogenesis of obesity. This may be a “chicken or the egg” scenario. The bottom line is, do your best to stay in shape so that your immune system stays healthy. 

3. Commit to getting enough sleep every night. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that sleep has a powerful effect on immune system functionality. In fact, restricted sleep can lead to various disorders, including but not limited to inflammatory cytokines and a higher risk for infection. No thanks! 

In these crazy times (and every year during cold and flu season), it is vital to let your body rest and recharge. Create a bedtime routine to promote a restful night of sleep. This can be done in several ways, but firstly, minimize screen time before bed. That blue light emitted from your cell phone can make it much harder for you to fall asleep and can also cause interruptions throughout the night. 

Related:
The Importance of a Strong Immune System

Perhaps before bed, set aside some time (even 20 or 30 minutes) to meditate or reflect in a journal. Let your mind unwind in preparation for rest and relaxation. Perhaps use essential oils in a diffuser to help create a peaceful environment in your bedroom. Lavender is an excellent choice for promoting sleep.

4. May thy food be thy medicine. 

One of the most important and powerful immune boosters is the food you eat. Historically, humans (and all creatures in nature) ate to fuel their bodies and as a means of survival. The development of eating for pleasure or entertainment is a relatively new phenomenon in the grand scheme of the world’s history. While it is fun and convenient, our bodies may pay the price. 

As a culture, we (voluntarily) consume more chemicals and preservatives than the human body was ever designed to handle. We also overconsume calories because eating is as easy as a walk to the fridge, or at worst, a trip to the store. These habits are a detriment to your immune system. Instead, it would be best if you focused on eating as many whole foods as possible, with a particular focus on produce. Produce is loaded with vitamins and minerals (especially leafy greens – the darker, the better). Also, add as many immune-boosting foods (such as ginger, garlic, turmeric, and citrus) to your diet as possible. 

5. Stop smoking. 

One of the worst things you can do for your immune system (and health in general) is to smoke cigarettes. These nasty, cancer-causing little devils greatly suppress your immune system. They make it difficult for your lungs to do their extremely important job. On top of that, they suppress your appetite and may induce cravings for junk foods. If these reasons are not enough to convince you, cigarettes also cause a greater susceptibility to infections (like the flu and pneumonia) and lower your levels of antioxidants (such as vitamin C) in your bloodstream. 

And finally, don’t forget to wear your mask! While mask-wearing is not technically “immune-boosting,” it will help decrease your risk of being exposed to germs that may lead to sickness. In times like this, play it safe!


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December 18, 2020 FitnessInjury Recovery0

While an injury may bench you from certain athletic activities, there are many low impact workouts and exercises that can keep you in shape and help speed up your recovery. If you are wondering how to speed up your ACL or hamstring injury recovery time, we are here to tell you that many of the exercises you likely already enjoy fall into the category of low impact exercises! Also, make no mistake, low impact does NOT mean easy. 

Suffering an injury can be an athlete’s worst nightmare. Training in the COVID-19 era, after several months of lockdowns and interruptions to our everyday lives, has left many with a higher propensity to get hurt. The more we stay put and the more we sit, the less we elevate our heart rate. The less blood flow we have to our joints, the more likely we are to get injured. No matter what level of pandemic restrictions are in place where you reside, make sure you dedicate time every day (and every hour, if possible) to move your body around. This will not only help you to stay in shape but will also help keep your joints healthy.

WHAT IS A LOW IMPACT WORKOUT?

To understand the benefits of low impact exercises, you must first know what they are. Low impact neither refers to how little your waistline is impacted nor how much muscle mass is gained. Phew! What a relief! So, where, then, is impact minimized?

Your joints! You can see all of the results that you usually see from exercising without the abuse and wear and tear on your body. Let’s face it, without healthy and fully functioning joints, you are going to be warming that bench indefinitely!

Joints get worn out both by overuse and as a natural part of aging. In ideal circumstances, all of the tissue that is damaged within a joint will naturally regenerate. Suppose you are an avid athlete with a training focus geared toward one sport (for example, a pitcher for a baseball team). In that case, you may experience pain, injury, or deterioration in your elbow joint. If you continue to train, even when the tissue has depleted, it will not have proper time to regenerate. Similarly, as we age, that very same tissue begins to wear down naturally and takes longer to heal and replenish. This is why you should cross-train with low impact exercises and give your joints a break so that they can recover.

So, without further adieu, our top three low impact workouts to help keep you in shape and for injury recovery and rehabilitation are yoga, swimming, and cycling. All three are excellent exercises to get your blood pumping without exerting much force on any of your joints. Read on to learn why we chose each of the three and how they can aid your road to injury recovery.

YOGA

Yoga is at the top of the list because who, especially in 2020, doesn’t love an exercise that also eases your anxiety? #amirite?? With yoga, you can improve both your physical and your mental well-being. By intentionally pairing your breath with your movement, you will increase your blood flow to your joints, which will help in the healing effort of any injury you may have.

Yoga is also a great way to target, activate, and workout your stabilizer muscle groups, which don’t typically get a ton of use otherwise. Your stabilizers offer a tremendous amount of support to all of your joints, so this may help you avoid injury in high impact sports.

You may also find that yoga can improve your flexibility and overall sense of well-being. While it may seem a bit “woo woo” for some, we are willing to bet that most serious athletes would find yoga to be far more challenging than expected. It is a great, low-impact way to stay in shape while you are rehabilitating any injury. An hour of yoga burns roughly 400 calories. If you are into hot yoga, that number can increase or even double.

Related: 

Yoga Physical Therapy: Healing From Within

SWIMMING

Another tremendous low-impact cardio workout is swimming. Exercising in water is fantastic because it not only provides resistance, helping you to build up muscle mass, but it also allows your motions to be fluid and weightless. This helps remove the impact from your joints. Imagine running on pavement. When your foot hits the ground with force, that sends a pressure shockwave through your foot, ankle, knee, and hip joints. That source of pressure can be damaging over time and can worsen an existing injury.

Now imagine swimming laps. You are kicking both legs repeatedly while your arms fluidly glide through the resistance that water provides. You are breathing heavily, in rhythm from side to side. All of this is increasing your heart rate, building muscle mass, and burning fat. Swimming is an excellent low impact workout to get yourself in shape! It is a full-body workout and can burn up to 700 calories in an hour.

CYCLING

While we are on the topic of gliding, cycling offers a similar low-impact exercise experience. Because the pedals move continuously on a circular track, your ankle, knee, and hip joints will experience a fluid range of motion. There is no forceful interruption of movement.

If you have ever ridden a bicycle uphill, you already know that cycling can be one of the most challenging cardio exercises out there. Propelling your entire body’s weight forward, plus the weight of your bicycle, will have you winded in no time. Plus, with the many resistance levels that bikes can offer, you will likely find that cycling builds muscle mass in the booty and legs very quickly. Unlike doing squats, which may strain your ankle, knee, and hip joints, cycling will keep the pressure off so that you can see results without experiencing pain. An hour of cycling can burn anywhere from 600 to 750 calories.


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December 11, 2020 Health & Wellness0

When Beyonce came out with the catchy pop tune, “Flawless,” it was impossible to escape teenage girls and Instagram models alike chanting the anthem, “I woke up like this!” Of course, Beyonce was not talking about waking up with an aching back. Experiencing pain as your first sensation of the day is neither glamourous nor #flawless. Welcome to adulthood, where the risk of injury in your sleep is all too real, and the sensations of aches and pains are inevitable. So, why does your back ache in the morning? We have a few ideas and insights that may help you target the cause of this common ailment. Read on to learn about four reasons why your back hurts in the morning and why you may be chanting your own agonizing version of #iwokeuplikethis. 

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 25% of adults have reported acute low back pain (LBP) in the past three months. That is one-quarter of our entire adult population that is suffering from back pain! The good news is that acute back pain is often defined as lasting less than four weeks, so it is not necessarily a permanent condition. The bad news is that almost 14% of insured patients who sought low back pain care were prescribed opiates, despite an overall lack of evidence to support their efficacy. Opiates are extremely addictive and can cause much more harm overall than a backache.

Related:
Treating Pain Without Pharmaceuticals

If you are among the mass population living with symptoms of morning backaches and pains, you may want to consider some alternative care treatments, such as Yoga Physical Therapy and/or Photobiomodulation Therapy. If you are in the greater Boston Metro area, contact LCG Boston to schedule an in-home or virtual session. We have many options to fit your unique needs. If you would like to personally troubleshoot the source of your back pain, we have listed four common causes below.

Common Causes of Back Pain

1. OLD OR POOR-QUALITY MATTRESS

Mattresses are not designed to last forever. In fact, the average lifespan of a mattress should not exceed seven to ten years, and that is pushing it. Aside from age, additional signs of a bad mattress are sagging, deep grooves or indentations, stains and smells that cannot be removed, bed bug infestations, lumps or bumps, allergens or asthma, squeaks and creaks, and aches or discomfort.

Luckily, mattresses are much less expensive than they once were. On top of that, many companies have shifted to the bed-in-a-box model to add to the convenience. In many cases, gone are the days of hiring a moving company to haul your mattress up the stairs to your apartment or room. New technology has enabled a vacuum packing system where an entire mattress can arrive at your doorstep via post. Check out this Zinus mattress on Amazon! For less than $300 (including shipping), you can have a brand new memory foam mattress delivered to your door! These mattresses are designed to sit on a platform, so you can eliminate the expense and hassle of purchasing a box spring. So, go ahead and #treatyoself. 

2. POOR POSTURE WHEN SLEEPING

We get it; it is hard to control your body when you are… well… sleeping. Unfortunately, the way you sleep may impact how you feel when you wake up. Luckily, there are ways to mitigate your posture when you lay down so that you can help your odds of sleeping with proper alignment.

If you are a side (fetal position) sleeper, be sure to place a pillow between your knees when you lay down. This will take the pressure off of your hip joints and sacrum because your knees will be aligned with your hip sockets. If you try it, you will feel an immediate difference and improvement. If you like to sleep on your back, consider placing a pillow underneath your knees. This will neutralize the curvature of your lower spine and increase blood flow to your back. If you prefer to sleep on your stomach, place a thin pillow underneath your stomach to prevent your lower back from collapsing on itself.

Voila! Sometimes all it takes is a pillow in the right place to change your whole life. (You’re welcome.)

3. OSTEOMALACIA (AKA VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY)

Vitamin D helps your body to absorb calcium. Because of this, a deficiency may be a precursor to arthritis, osteoporosis, or rickets. As you can imagine, this may be the culprit of agonizing and debilitating back pain. Luckily, the solution here is simple! You can take vitamin D supplements, get more sunshine, and incorporate more vitamin D rich foods into your diet. These include salmon, tuna, egg yolks, and mushrooms.

4. LACK OF MOVEMENT AND EXERCISE DURING THE DAY

Like the Beastie Boys say, get your “body movin’!” If you are sedentary all day long, specifically if you are glued to a phone or computer all day, you will not get much blood flow to your spine. “Now, let me get some action from the back section!” Because if you don’t, you may wake up thinking, “hello, nasty.” (See what we did there?)

We get it. We are in the middle of a pandemic and have been told to stay home. This means that screen time has gone through the roof for most of us. For your health, safety, and sanity, make sure that doesn’t translate to staying still on the couch all day long. The change from a brick and mortar workplace to a home office (read: sofa or recliner) may also mean a change from a swanky, ergonomic office chair to slouching in your pajamas all day. This has an inevitable and negative impact on your posture, quality of sleep, and overall health. Make sure to take a break at least every hour to move around. Do some yoga (Cat-Cow is great for the spine) or take a walk.

If you are interested in meeting with one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy to discuss any back pain you may be experiencing, you can book an appointment here!


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December 4, 2020 Health & Wellness0

Did you know that strength training is crucial for runners and cardio enthusiasts? That’s right! To optimize your athletic performance (hello, improved race times!), mitigate injury, and strengthen your joints and muscles, you can’t rely on cardio alone. Resistance training is especially important for runners. In fact, we will go as far as to say that strength training is as important as cardiovascular exercise for distance runners. In this article, we will explain the why and how of incorporating strength training into your routine. 

Why is Strength Training Important?

Most avid runners are mainly concerned with endurance and speed. It is not so often that you will hear of a group of track stars comparing six-packs, bragging to their friends about “getting yoked,” or flexing their guns for fame. That is largely because the runner bod is typically leaner due to long-term movements with a higher quantity of less-impactful reps (i.e., running). Over time, however, too much focus on cardio, without any focus on strength training, can lead to depletion of muscle mass and connective tissue and loss of flexibility. This will lead any athlete toward a greater propensity for getting injured.

For runners, strength training is an imperative counterpart to decrease the risk of injury and improve performance. For example, with weight training, your body will actually build muscle mass. The appeal of cardio exercise for many is that you will burn fat and lose weight. That is true, but what is also true is that you can deplete your muscle mass. Here is the kicker with all of that jazz:

The more muscle mass your body has, the more calories you will burn.

Read that again. Have you ever heard of the term “skinny fat?” If you haven’t, it describes slender people (like, they look great in their clothes) who are soft because they have no muscle and lack strength. If you only focus on cardio, you may end up “skinny fat.” While the importance of strength training exceeds your reflection in the mirror, it will help that too. The notion that to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume is nothing new. The more muscle mass your body contains, the more calories you will burn.

One of the other benefits of strength training for runners is a boost for your metabolic rate. This is because during your recovery period after finishing your workout, strength training demands a higher level of post-exercise oxygen consumption. This essentially means that the amount of energy needed to return your body to a resting state after lifting weights (or any other strength-building exercise) is much more work than doing the same post-cardio. In turn, your resting metabolic rate (MRM) will be boosted for more than an entire day after strength training!

Resistance training for runners can also lead to increased bone density, healthier heart functionality, and better blood flow. All of the connective tissue in your joints will benefit from the fresh influx of blood, which will greatly reduce your chances of injury. Your flexibility may improve as well, since you can focus on training ranges that wouldn’t otherwise be worked, decreasing the gap between active and passive flexibility.

(Related: Four Tips to Improve Flexibility)

The Best Strength Training for Runners

Now that we have covered why strength training is important, let’s move on to incorporating it into your fitness routine and/or athletic training.

Use Your Own Body Weight for Resistance!

We have found ourselves in a new situation where going to the gym (if it is even open) poses a considerable health risk for ourselves and others. The good news is that you don’t need gym access to change up your training routine. Your own body weight can be used to strengthen and build muscle mass. Don’t believe it? Look at the aerialists and acrobats in Cirque Du Soleil! There is a sizable range of challenging exercises that can be performed without the use of any equipment. You can work your major muscle groups and your stabilizers (which will help you in your battle against injury).

Consider holding planks

You can gradually increase your hold time as you get stronger. You can also add in side planks to work your obliques. (Always make sure to work both sides evenly.) You can also do lunges. If you really want to feel the burn, maintain a squat with your back up against a wall. Hold it for as long as you can and keep adding time as you get stronger. Another full-body equipment-free favorite is “air swimming.” Lay on your stomach with arms and legs fully extended, pulse your hands and feet up as high as possible, and back down to a hover above the ground. Repeat as many micro pulses as possible. You will surely feel the burn!

Incorporate a medicine ball into your workouts.

Another perfect home-gym option is the medicine ball. If you want to get started with strength and resistance training, but you aren’t too keen on bench presses, weightlifting, and the otherwise iconic, “macho” gym feats, a medicine ball is a perfect starting point. It isn’t intimidating or fussy (there are no bolts, gadgets, or know-how as far as equipment features are concerned). Plus, it can be incorporated into exercises that you probably already know and practice in your running warm-ups.

The other reason why we love the medicine ball is that it is so diverse. You can use it for exercises that require lifting, pushing, and isometrics. One of our favorite medicine ball exercises is reps of lunges with a twist while holding the ball. We also love medicine ball push-ups, which can be done by placing the ball underneath your hands with your body in a plank position. From there, execute push-ups as usual. You will not only be targeting all of the typical muscle groups used in standard push-ups but also all of the stabilizers that are keeping you from rolling off of the ball. The best part of the medicine ball is that it is just a weighted ball! It is simple, and there are no rules. Pick it up. Put it down. Move it around. Really, any way that you can think of manipulating it is going to build strength. Typically, medicine balls come in sets of different weights, so choose your own adventure!

 


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November 20, 2020 Coronavirus0

Pandemic fatigue has taken its toll on just about everyone. We are all ready for this to blow over so we can get back to normal, but unfortunately, that complacency is prolonging the problem at hand. Collectively, we all must do our part to help slow the spread of COVID-19. You could potentially be making inadvertent mistakes and contributing to the latest surge of cases. Read on to learn what they are and how to avoid them.

We are approaching our ninth month of the Coronavirus Pandemic. In the beginning, people were very afraid. There were so many unknowns. The shelter-in-place orders were unprecedented and for the most part, people were willing to adhere to whatever mandates necessary to “flatten the curve” so we could all get back to normal. In those early moments of this catastrophic and prominent event in history, everyone believed that the extreme measures would only be in place for a few weeks. Admittedly, many welcomed this interruption from the hustle and bustle, the exhaustion of their normal lives.

Unfortunately, that was March. We are nearing December. Cases are surging. The death count is on the rise. Hospitals are reaching capacity. While the development of vaccines is well underway, they won’t be immediately available if for no reason other than the logistics of distribution. That is, of course, after approval for emergency use is granted.

As a nation, we have not been given uniform directives, leaving many variables for rules, restrictions, and mandates depending upon which municipality you reside in. Therefore, the absolute best thing that everyone can do is to take responsibility into their own hands. That means not only adhering to mandates and restrictions from your local legislation but also going above and beyond when possible. Pandemic fatigue is real. We get it. Everyone is ready for this to be a thing of the past. Unfortunately, we are a ways away from that point and have been warned that the worst is yet to come. It is going to take every person doing their part on an individual level to turn this ship around.

Of course, we have all been told to avoid crowds, stay home when possible, and of course, to wear a mask. Even when you believe you are doing all that you possibly can to stop the spread, there are still ways to slip through the cracks unknowingly or without intent. Below we have outlined some of the common mistakes that people are making that are contributing to the surging spread of Coronavirus.

Common COVID-19 Mistakes

1. NOT WEARING A MASK CORRECTLY

A mask is only an effective precautionary measure if it is worn correctly. We have all seen people in the grocery stores and other outings with their masks lingering somewhere between their noses and mouths. Or worse, some masks are worn below the mouth altogether, resting on the neck. Perhaps at some point over the past nine months, you have also been a victim of a faulty mask that slides down. Look, we know now that this situation isn’t going anywhere for a while. Invest in a few masks that are comfortable and stay up around both the nose and mouth. If you are wearing a surgical mask, note that there is a metal strip that can be bent over your nose for a more secure fit.

2. ATTENDING SMALL GATHERINGS

We all crave human interaction. We have all been deprived, on some level, of our normal communities and activities. For the summer months, most states allowed small gatherings. Because the weather would allow for it, many of these happened outdoors, where the transmission rates are much lower. Now that the temperatures have dropped, people are gathering inside, which is not safe.

While you may be practicing all of the precautionary measures, it is not safe to assume that your friends and family are doing the same. Even if they are, most everyone has to leave home for essentials. Most everyone needs to buy groceries, put gas in their cars, and many people have been back to work. It is important to remember that with this virus, you are never inviting just one person into your home. You are inviting every person they have come in to contact with in the last 14 days.

3. NOT WASHING HANDS OFTEN OR LONG ENOUGH OR WITH SOAP

When washing your hands, be sure to do so for the entire length of the “Happy Birthday” song. Scrub in between fingers, and the tops, palms, and all the way up to the forearms. Use the warmest water possible. Don’t forget to use soap. Wash your hands as frequently as possible.

4. TOUCHING YOUR FACE AND NOT SANITIZING YOUR CELL PHONE

Avoid touching your face. When you touch your face, you are spreading germs both into your eyes and your nasal and oral orifices as well as contaminating your hands with germs that can spread to others.

What touches your face just as often, if not more so than your hands? Your cell phone, of course! Not only that, but you touch your screen with your hands, which touch literally everything else. Commit to a routine to sanitize that (albeit expensive) germ-laden thing! It is gross!

5. NOT SOCIAL DISTANCING

You still need to maintain six feet of distance if you are wearing a mask. With COVID-19, you can’t rely on a single precautionary measure. You need to practice all of them in order to keep yourself and others safe. Even if you are wearing a mask, stay six feet away from others. Masks are not foolproof or airtight. They are simply one helpful tool in combatting this crisis.

6. NOT STAYING HOME WHEN YOU’RE SICK

We have created a culture that prides itself on productivity and overachieving. Prior to COVID-19, it was more common to receive praise for pushing through your seasonal illness and still making it to work, still getting the job done. How times have changed! The tricky thing about Coronavirus is that it is a mutation of the common cold, so symptoms that are common for other illnesses could actually mean that you are infected. If you are sick at all, stay home. End of story.

7. ASSUMING YOU ARE SAFE FROM COVID-19 IF YOU ARE YOUNG

While data has shown that symptoms appear to be more severe among the senior population as well as those with pre-existing conditions, you should not assume that because you don’t fall into one of those categories that you are immune. While you may have a higher chance of surviving the virus, victims (even younger folks) have said that it is a gnarly sickness with lasting symptoms. Not only that but even if you are #blessed with a mild case or no symptoms at all, you can still spread the infection to others. Even if you are young, now is the time to be mindful of the safety and health of others.

Stay safe this holiday season!


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If you are experiencing muscle soreness, a stiff neck, or mobility issues, trigger point dry needling may be for you! Dry needling is an alternative therapy that decreases pain in your muscles by deactivating a myofascial trigger point. Trigger points are tiny knots that develop in a muscle when it is injured or overworked. These spots are tender at the site and often refer pain to other areas. This treatment uses a dry needle (a needle without medicine) to deactivate trigger points in your muscle. Read on to learn what the treatment entails, how it is different from Acupuncture, as well as the benefits and side effects of this revolutionary treatment.

What is Dry Needling Therapy?

Dry needling is a skilled intervention in which a filament needle is inserted into the skin and muscle directly at a myofascial trigger point. If you are wondering what that means exactly, you have probably experienced pain in your back and referred to it as having a “knot.” That so-called “knot” is actually a tight and irritated band of muscle fiber. Because it has tightened to a point of forming a bump or nodule, it actually shortens the muscle and restricts your range of motion. This causes pain and inflammation and can have somewhat of a domino effect on your entire body. When muscle groups don’t function to their maximum capacity, other muscles will compensate and you will end up with more “knots” or myofascial trigger points. The treatment of muscles has the greatest effect on reducing the pain mechanisms in the nervous system.

Trigger point dry needling can be used in all phases of healing as well as a “maintenance” tool. The musculoskeletal system is under constant pressure from gravity, stress, work, etc. A regular exercise program combined with good posture can prevent many problems. If the pain returns, “tune-ups” are recommended to treat and prevent serious injuries.

There are a few different techniques that practitioners use. Sparrow pecking or pistoning involves the in-and-out insertion of a needle. The motion is fast and repetitive and stimulates all areas of an affected point. Another technique of dry needling involves a broader stimulation of the entire nervous system. The practitioner will insert needles around the area in pain, but not on the trigger point itself. The needles typically stay in place for longer with this method. The idea is to stimulate the surrounding nerves and muscle tissue in order to create more blood flow and release of tension in the actual trigger point itself.

Dry Needling vs. Acupuncture

At first glance, dry needling and acupuncture may look exactly alike. They both use thin, stainless steel needles. They both involve the insertion of the needles into the skin and they are both beneficial in the treatment of pain and ailments. So, how are they different?

For starters, Acupuncture originated in China (circa 6000 BCE). Since that time, the methods and evolution of the needles used have improved greatly. This ancient Chinese medicine technique has also gained a lot of traction in the Western world, to the point that many U.S. insurance policies now cover it. This ancient form of healing is rooted in Taoist philosophy and tradition. Practitioners would utilize meditation to observe energetic meridians in the body. Using the needles to stimulate specific energetic centers and trigger points, they would direct the flow of energy, releasing any blockages, and encouraging healing.

Dry needle therapy is similar to acupuncture in that the needles target specific trigger points, but the points are actual places of anatomic ailment (i.e. knots) rather than energetic meridians. This means that the target points are tangible and can actually be physically shown. That is not to say that energetic blockages are not real or harmful, but it would be a lot more difficult to show someone a photo of your Chi than it would be to show them a picture of your nodule or bump, caused by a muscle spasm.

For this reason, dry needling may be a bit easier to grasp in the Western world, where people tend to prefer science over spirituality. Performance and placement of dry needling are based on the understanding of neuroanatomy and the physiologic effects on the musculoskeletal system. It involves a thorough evaluation of the musculoskeletal system and identification of trigger points and tissue dysfunction. These areas are where the needles are placed.

In Western medicine, it is also far more common to directly treat the area of the body that is in pain, rather than looking at what may have been the origin. For example, when someone has an injured hip, Western medicine will likely involve targeting the muscles around the hip joint and mobilizing the joint itself. A doctor may prescribe pain medication or a steroid to combat inflammation. When an Eastern medicine practitioner treats a hip injury, he or she will not only aim to mobilize the injured area but will also incorporate breathing and meditation exercises, and perhaps stimulation of the energetic meridians that run through the second or Sacral Chakra.

Related:
Yoga Physical Therapy: Healing From Within

What are the benefits?

The benefits of dry needling include but are not limited to the myofascial release within the neck, back, and shoulders. Dry needle therapy can also reduce headaches (such as migraines and tension-type headaches), foot pain (plantar fasciitis), and leg pain (sciatica, hamstring strains, calf tightness/spasms).

Athletes may enjoy the benefits of trigger point dry needling, as it is capable of increasing one’s range of motion and flexibility as well as providing relief of muscle pain and stiffness.

What are the side effects?

While the side effects of dry needle therapy are common, the majority of them pose no serious risk or long-term complications. The most important precaution for this treatment is the use of sterile needles and also the pre-treatment sterilization of the targeted area. Our Doctors of Physical Therapy use brand new needles out of a package at each point of service and dispose of the needles after use. They also use alcohol prep pads to sterilize your skin before beginning the treatment.

Aside from minor swelling, bruising, bleeding, and temporary soreness at the treatment site, you shouldn’t have much of an adverse reaction. The biggest risk of trigger point needle therapy is the contraction of bloodborne illnesses and/or diseases due to improper sanitation practices. It is more than okay to ask your practitioner to show you the brand new needle in the packaging prior to use and to make sure they are wiping your skin with alcohol.

Where can I go for Dry Needle Therapy?

If you are in the greater Boston metro area, LCG Boston can provide concierge dry needling support and services for any individual.


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