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Shakira said it best. “I’m on tonight, and my hips don’t lie, and I’m starting to feel it’s right.” Your hips really don’t lie. They are the most central vortex of your entire body, and when they are hurting, chances are the rest of your body will follow suit. Structurally speaking, your hips are smack dab in the middle of everything else. Therefore, if your hips are out of whack, your body will be forced to compensate and end up in pain and out of alignment. 

The everyday lifestyle choices that we make in the western world often involve jumping from one extreme to another, as far as our bodies are concerned. For example, you most likely spend most of your day working at a desk, on a computer. Maybe you try to keep yourself in shape by hitting the gym super hard or playing an intense sport or even going for a long run. After that, you are tired, so you retire to the couch with a cold one and your favorite show or movie to unwind before hitting the hay and repeating the same cycle the next day.

With a routine like this, you ask your body to ping pong from sitting to partaking in an extreme activity, and then back to sitting or laying down. Add alcohol into the mix (which causes dehydration of the joint tissue and everything else), and you are not helping the situation.

Let’s face it, in this day in age, we are not partaking in the constant and consistent fluid motion that our hunter-gatherer ancestors endured to stay alive. Here’s the problem with this lack of motion, followed by intensity: you will lose your hip mobility, which can contribute to pain in the knees and the lower back. Luckily, there are some reasonably simple hip mobility exercises that you can do to limber up your most central joint system and potentially prevent injury. If you are wondering how to increase hip mobility, read on to learn more.

HOW TO IMPROVE HIP MOBILITY

First and foremost, when doing these hip mobility exercises (and any other feats of the body) you should not push yourself to the point of pain. The goal is to loosen up and increase your range of motion. The goal is not to push yourself past the point of your body’s capacity and cause injury.

Related:
Restorative Fitness: You Don’t Always Need to Max Out Your Capacity

So, if something is beginning to feel unpleasant in any of these exercises, slowly back out of it and regroup before attempting it again. Without any further ado, here are some of our favorite hip mobility stretches.

3 Easy Hip Mobility Stretches

1. PIGEON POSE

Yogi or not, pigeon pose (or any figure four position) is where it is at for opening up your hip flexors. To get into pigeon, you will want to place your right ankle directly behind your left wrist and your right knee directly behind your right wrist.

Be sure to flex your right foot (by pulling your toes back toward your shin) to protect your knee. Your left leg will be extended out behind you. You can either remain seated in an upright position, or you can fold forward over your front leg. Be sure to practice these hip mobility stretches on both sides to maintain balance.

2. BUTTERFLY STRETCH

Butterfly stretch earns its place on our list of favorite hip mobility stretches because it is an excellent opener for hip flexors. Sit on your butt and draw the “palms” of your feet together so that they are touching. Open them as if you were reading a book. Sit up as tall as you possibly can, elongating your spine.

While maintaining the length (and without slouching or rounding the spine), begin to hinge forward at the hips over your feet and folded legs. You can clasp your hands around your feet and use your elbows to push your legs and knees down, closer to the ground. If you feel your spine beginning to round, come out of it, reconnect with your length, and start again.

3. FROG STRETCH

Another one of our favorite hip mobility stretches is the frog position. Warning, this one is not for the faint of heart. It is a deep stretch, so as we mentioned before, be sure to listen to your body and not push yourself past your limit and into pain.

For this stretch, you may want to put a squishy mat or cushion underneath your knees. You will begin on your hands and knees in a table-top position. From there, you will widen your knees as far as you can from each other while lowering down onto your forearms. You will want to turn your toes out, away from each other. Once you are as low as you can go, you can experiment with the positioning of your pelvis. You can try tucking your tail bone down and under your rear end. You can also play with slightly arching your lower back. Even slowly and gently moving back and forth between the two positions may feel nice and will enable you to stretch different parts of your hip joints.

It would be best if you aimed to do these three stretches as often as possible, but at least once every day. If we take advice from Shakira, the key here is really to do them, “whenever, wherever!” Seriously – take care of your hip joints, and they will take care of you.

These hip mobility stretches don’t take very long, and the benefits are undeniable. Having healthy hip joints will help you combat natural aging, a sedentary lifestyle and will aid your athletic performance. As you age, the longevity of your body and all of its mobility and functionality becomes the name of the game. If you live in the Greater Boston Metro area, consider scheduling a session with one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy (DPT) to work on your hip mobility training. We offer in-home treatment and can facilitate your schedule.


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We live in stressful times. In the past twelve months, anxiety levels have been collectively on the rise. This year, we have lived through many historical moments, from the pandemic and the election to protests and natural disasters. What if we told you that there is a free way to escape and mitigate it all that is accessible to any and every person? Would you be relieved? Luckily, there is a way that you can interrupt negative thought patterns, calm anxiety, and release stress. It is called meditation! Read on to learn more about what it is, the benefits, and how to get started!

WHAT IS MEDITATION?

To understand the many benefits of meditation, we must first have an understanding of what it is. Most people have a mental image of someone sitting cross-legged with their thumb and forefingers adjoined and palms facing up on their knees. But what is going on in that mental image? (And by the way, there are many, many ways to meditate in that position.)

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, meditation can be defined as an intransitive verb, meaning, “1: to engage in contemplation or reflection. He meditated long and hard before announcing his decision. 2: to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.” 

While the definition uses the term “mental exercise,” we would argue that meditation is quite the contrary. Meditation is more so a means to relax, quiet the mind and allow the many layers of chatter that are part of our existence to come to rest. In our day-to-day lives, we live through the details, the constant hustle and bustle, and the systematic crossing off of our daily to-do lists. While it is essential to be pro-active, productive, and efficient in our lives, it is easy to be caught up in the drama of the details. We can get so wrapped up in being task-driven that we almost become servants to external forces.

With meditation, you can consciously silence the external layers of yourself and your thoughts, carefully and one by one. You can focus your awareness from the exterior inward to the many layers of yourself. Yoga teaches us that there are five layers of self in every person. These are known as sheaths, or “kosas.” They range from our body (where we experience physical sensations) to our innermost spiritual beings (where we may experience inner joy and peace and connectivity to a greater power or life force.) If you are interested in developing a yoga practice, consider booking a Yoga Physical Therapy session with one of our Yoga Physical Therapists.

Related:
Yoga Physical Therapy: Healing From Within

While a meditative state is typically achieved by relaxation and silencing of the mind, that is not to say that it is easy. AT ALL. In this day in age, turning off the chatter is possibly more complicated than it ever has been. On top of our responsibilities, we (as a species) are addicted to our devices, social networking, and the notion that we need to broadcast our lives to validate them. (Hello millennials, we see you.) When you pair all of that with having jobs, careers, families, and social lives, the chatter is LOUD. So, while the definition uses the words “mental exercise,” we believe it implies mental discipline. It takes a lot of practice and discipline to let go of everything going on in your life and allow your awareness to turn to the spiritual core of your being. Even more so, it takes a whole lot of discipline to stay in that state.

THE BENEFITS OF MEDITATION

Because meditation allows you to connect with the most spiritual and sacred layer of yourself, the benefits transcend the moments you spend in a meditative state. Having that self-awareness will positively impact every aspect of your life. First and foremost, meditation is a fantastic way to mitigate stress. The more time you spend being fully present in the moment, wherever and whenever you are, the less time and energy you will devote to dwelling on issues or stewing in anxiety around, “what ifs?”

You may also find that meditation is potent in boosting your imagination and creativity. When you are in touch with your true self and purpose, you are more equipped to see the potential in all that is around you. When you liberate yourself from negative emotions (which meditation will undoubtedly do), your perspective will shift to seeing what is possible. Most forms of meditation involve controlling your breath in rhythmic patterns. This has many health benefits for your lungs and heart and can lower your cortisol (stress hormone) levels.

HOW TO MEDITATE PROPERLY

There are many forms of meditation. It is an ancient practice that has been around for thousands of years. Almost every ancient culture practiced one form or another. In today’s society, people practice mindfulness meditation, guided meditation, and sleep meditation, all of which have unique benefits.

If you are new to the practice, we recommend beginning in either a seated position with your legs crossed and your palms facing upward or laying down on your back with your palms facing upward. If you are opting to be seated, be sure to sit with your spine fully elongated. (Feel free to prop your hips forward by sitting on a pillow or a bolster.)

Allow your mind to quiet and begin to focus inward on your breath. Inhale for four seconds, exhale for eight seconds. Repeat this several times until you are entranced in the rhythm. Thoughts will arise. This is normal, especially if you are new to the practice. Acknowledge them and let them drift by as you bring your focus back to your breath.

Once you are in the rhythm of breathing, shift your focus to your body. You will begin with your toes. Without moving, see if you can feel them. Notice any sensations that are there. Acknowledge the sensations, and then non-verbally (in your mind), say, “toes, relax.” Continue this up through your entire body until you reach the crown of your head.


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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 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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October 23, 2020 FitnessHealth & Wellness0

Brrrr! The temperatures have recently dropped, and Baby, it’s cold outside! And you know what that means… The holiday season is on the horizon! You know what they say about gift shopping. The early bird catches the worm! (Or in this case, the better prices.) Folks, it is time to start making your list and checking it twice. After the recent lockdown, the general consensus is that mayyyyybe it is time to hit the gym a little harder, the kitchen a little lighter, and bounce back from the quarantine-fifteen (or twenty…okay, or thirty.) Not to worry! We’ve got you! Read on for our top health-related gifts and gifts for fitness.

1. Bluetooth Headphones

Let’s face it, having to navigate a workout is hard enough on its own. Add in the complication of wires strewn about your body when you are trying to move and all chaos breaks loose! Thankfully the technology gods have risen to the occasion and brought us Bluetooth headphones! Check out one of the best gifts for fitness lovers, this wireless, noise-canceling Jabra Elite 85h headset. One of its greatest features is the nano-coating, water resistant technology to wick away sweat and water. The material on your head will feel like cloth (instead of plastic) for ultimate comfort.

On top of that, these bad boys feature an automatic ear detection sensor, so when you remove the headphones your music will pause automatically. They are also capable of pairing with two devices at the same time, so you can listen to music without worrying about missing call or message notifications during a lunch hour workout. The battery life totally rocks! With just fifteen minutes of charging, you can yield a whopping five hours of playback time! Not bad!

2. LCG Gift Card

Give the gift of long-term health this holiday season! If your loved one lives in or frequents the Boston area, they are going to love a contribution to their health and wellness efforts in the form of an LCG gift card! Think of it as a choose-your-own-adventure, where the outcome is a combination of healing, longevity, and recovery. Your gift recipient can apply the card balance to Physical Therapy or Yoga Physical Therapy, or any of our alternative wellness & recovery services. These include Assisted Stretch, Strength & Conditioning, Golf Assessment & Mobility, Percussion Massage Therapy, NormaTec Compression Therapy, Photobiomodulation Therapy, and Dry Needling.

Related:
The Benefits of NormaTec Therapy

3. Personal Blender

The fitness-lover in your life will love having their own, single-serving blender. We like this Oster BLSTPB-WBL My Blend. Millennials have replaced “forty ounces of freedom” with 20 ounces of convenience. Health and fitness have never been more trendy with the 25 to 40-year-old crowd. Nothing beats a tool that allows you to prep breakfast for the next day and leave it in the fridge. The next morning, you can just blend and go. The blender is capable of crushing ice (with its whopping 250 blending watts of power.) The bottle itself is dishwasher safe, since it is stainless steel (BPA? No, thank you!) The bottle also comes with a shaker ball so if you are in a serious rush and only wish to mix protein powders or supplements, you can take and shake on the go, making it one of the best health gifts for busy people. For an added bonus, enjoy some delicious smoothie recipes, included in the manual.

4. Body Wipes

If you are looking for the perfect stocking stuffer, look no further! Millennials are busy people who often wear many, many hats. This means that they are very good at cramming a lot in to one day and are often on the go! Sometimes only an hour is allotted for an office lunch break, but a die-hard fitness lover will not let that get in the way of a dedicated work out regiment. With only an hour to break a sweat, that doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to hit the showers before returning to the office grind. Enter Goodwipes!

As the packaging touts, these are a “shower in a wipe!” Each one is jumbo-sized (9.5” x 11.5”) and individually wrapped so they won’t dry out in the package. They are 100% biodegradable, hypoallergenic, and biodegradable. The individual wrapper is awesome because you don’t have to carry around a whole pack in your gym bag or purse (unlike their predecessor, baby wipes. Plus, these won’t leave you smelling like you just had your diaper changed.) Each pack comes with ten wipes so you can divide them into in-case-of-emergency places (i.e. glove box, gym bag, purse, office desk, etc.) Not only are they great for the gym and quick workouts, but they can also be a saving grace for camping, between flights, or music festivals (if those ever happen again….Thanks, Corona!)

5. Veggie Spiralizer

If you haven’t heard, the low carb, gluten-free, and Paleo lifestyles are trending hard right now! In the name of weight loss, better skin and gut health, and more energy, lots of people are swapping out traditional dishes for their low carb counterparts. For example, “zoodles” (zucchini noodles) have become a popular substitute for spaghetti. So much so, that they can be found already prepped in the produce aisle or frozen section of most grocery stores these days.

The thing about buying the pre-made version is that zucchini and other veggies lose their structural integrity and texture very fast when stripped of their protective skin. Not to mention that prepped food is almost always more expensive than making it yourself. To combat the case of the soggy zoodles, we recommend gifting your health-nut this Brieftons 5-Blade Spiralizer. This puppy can handle more than zucchini (try sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and even beets!) The whole, “eat the rainbow” adage is decades old. What better way than to recreate traditional pasta dishes with all sorts of mineral-rich vegetables? This particular spiralizer comes with attachments to cut five different varieties of “pasta.” (It includes a flat blade as well as a blade for angel hair, spaghetti, fettuccine, and pappardelle.) Plus, it comes with a LIFETIME replacement guarantee. Yes, you read that correctly!

 


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October 9, 2020 Health & Wellness0

Fad diets have dominated the health and wellness industry for decades. By now you have probably heard of them all, from vegan, to keto, to paleo, to the South Beach diet, there seems to be a dietary prescription for weight loss and wellness around every corner. The thing is, all bodies are different. What may work well for one, could potentially do nothing, or worse, even harm another. To believe that diet, weight loss, and wellness are a one-size-fits-all conversation, could be short-sighted and lacking the nuanced needs of each individual. So, why not consider eating for your blood type?

Most blood types emerged as a direct result of environmental and/or evolutionary necessity. Because of this, there are large concentrations of certain blood types in geographic regions. Experts believe that your blood type may be closely related to your body’s ability to metabolize specific types of foods. If you adopt the proper diet for your blood type, you are likely to experience a healthy weight, an increase of energy, mental clarity, and even prevent certain diseases. Read on for dietary tips and lifestyle suggestions for each of the four blood types.

If you are Blood Type A:

A is for apple, artichoke, and arugula! If you are blood type A (positive or negative) you will be nourished the best by a diet that is high in fruits and vegetables. People who are blood type A have been shown to have less stomach acid than people with other blood types. Because of this, meat (especially red meat) may be difficult to digest. Therefore, a mostly-vegetarian diet will be optimal.

Seafood and occasional lean, white meat, such as turkey or chicken will be better for those with this blood type than beef. Tofu and tempeh will be the best consistent sources of protein. Dairy intake should be mostly restricted. Cultured dairy is better than uncultured. People with blood type A will be able to easily digest yogurt, kefir, goat milk products, and select cheeses (such as feta and goat cheese.)

When it comes to healthy fats, most nuts are okay for blood type A. The best and most beneficial nuts for this blood type are peanuts, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts. For cooking, marinades, and salad dressings, type A folks should stick to flaxseed oil and extra virgin olive oil. Cod liver oil is extremely healthy and can be taken as a supplement.

Blood type A people are more likely to develop cancer and diabetes than other blood types. Routine check-ups and evaluations from a health care provider are recommended.

If you are Blood Type B:

B is for balance. A balanced diet will serve those with type B the best. This blood type first appeared in the Himalayan Highland areas (present-day India and Pakistan). This blood type is actually the rarest in the Western world. Type B makes one very adaptable and apt for a nomadic lifestyle. If this is your blood type, you will benefit the most from a diet rich in produce and most meats, except for chicken and pork. The key for you is to maintain even amounts of nourishment from both the vegetable and animal kingdoms because if your diet ventures too far in either direction, you will potentially fall ill from being out of balance.

As far as health challenges and indications go, those with blood type B tend to produce higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) than those with other blood types. Because of this, blood type B folks have a higher propensity to develop inflammation, and Syndrome X (which may result in chronic viruses such as Lupus, CFS, MS, and autoimmune diseases.) People with blood type B (if adhering to proper diet and exercise regimens) are more apt for physical fitness, and less prone to mental illness. They are also able to adapt to changes in altitude than people with other blood types.

If you are Blood Type AB:

If you are blood type AB, you are the rarest of the bunch! Less than 5% of the population has this blood type. As would be imagined from its title, type AB was developed by consistent mixing of the A and B blood types over several centuries. This is unusual, as every other blood type emerged as an adaptive means of survival, and as a direct response to environment and evolution.

Those with the AB blood type should avoid all alcohol and caffeine. They are more apt than other blood types to suffer from stress and stress-related illnesses. These folks should also avoid all cured and smoked meats. Because they inherited lower than average stomach acidity from their type A predecessors, they too have a proneness for stomach cancer. Luckily, they also inherited the blood type B’s ability to digest meat. They must be mindful of the types of meats they eat. Because of this, people with blood type AB should stick primarily to seafood for their protein intake.

If you are Blood Type O:

People with type O blood are considered the hunter/caveman archetype, making them the complete opposites of those with blood type A. They have much more stomach acid, which enables them to digest meats more easily. If this is your blood type, chances are that your body has an enhanced ability to process the cholesterol in animal products. By now you have probably noticed that for every benefit of each blood type, there is also something that isn’t well-suited. For the folks with blood type O, the latter would be grains and dairy. These should be avoided or completely omitted from the O diet.

If you are blood type O, your most likely health-related issue will be anything that involves inflammation of the joints and tendons. Arthritis is something that you should watch out for. You are likely to enjoy (and be very good at) high-intensity athletic endeavors. Unlike some of your blood type counterparts, you thrive in a competitive, high-risk environment. Because of this and your propensity for inflamed joints, you must take extra precautions during warming up and cooling down. Maintaining flexibility and joint mobility will be important so that you don’t strain or injure yourself.

Related:
Four Tips to Improve Flexibility


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