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Hip Pain? Hip Tips...

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One of the common complaints I see in my office is that of hip pains, which come in two varieties:  

ACUTE hip pains:   We see these cases a lot as injuries to the groin muscles on the inside aspect of the hip.  These are usually pretty obvious in their origin, for example when a hockey player collides with legs straddling the ice, or when a football player is tackled with one leg extended out to the side.  (Hip fractures are the subject for a separate blog).  These cases often respond quickly, as long as there is no serious tear in the muscle/tendon structure as it inserts from the inner thigh.  Other cases involve the outside of the hip joint, seen with cases of bursitis or capsulitis from extended exercises like rowing, biking, or running.  Treatments include rest, physical therapies like ultrasonic vibrations, electro-stimulation, and medical acupuncture are often all that is required. An anti-inflammatory medication can also help settle things down.  If this is not working, then further investigation with images can prove helpful, and more aggressive treatments like cortisone shots could be considered.  Gentle movements are encouraged, along with a graduated program of stretching and toning of the inner thigh muscles to rehab the area. Assuming the root cause was a one-time injury, recovery is usually excellent.  If continued trauma occurs, then the problems become more chronic.    

CHRONIC hip pains: These occur if the root cause is repetitive, such as the constant pounding felt by rodeo riders, snowmobilers, or moto-cross cylclists. This can lead to the destruction of the cartilage and the build-up of extra bony growth causing osteo-arthritis.   l More commonly, the root cause is just the repetitive effects of gravity as seen in the daily movements of an obese patient.  Especially with the morbidly obese ( 100 pounds or 45 kilograms over their ideal weight) this means the simple acts of standing up, walking, and stair climbing all cause daily damage to the hip joint.  Other conditions such as systemic forms of arthritis can certainly also affect the hip joint itself, leading to “bone-on-bone” instead of smooth surfaces where the hip joint is supposed to move.  Again, we look for any correctable root causes.  This would entail routine blood-work and images, to assess underlying diseases.  It would also involve corrective action for the obese patient, with proper diet and exercise regimens.  In severe cases, that are beyond any such help, replacement of the hip joint may be needed. 

In the meantime, here are some hip tips:

  • Watch your posture: Sitting is hip-hostile.  Try to stand up a few times per hour if you can.  We have already written about the benefits of sitting on a pilates ball for back pains, 
  • it also helps hip pains by introducing some movements into an otherwise frozen posture.  If you can, try to rig your work station for standing up all the time. 
  • Select non-impact exercises, like the bike or elliptical machines in the gym.  Also try yoga and pilates to help with toning and flexibility.
  • Watch your weight.  One of the rules of medicine is that pain is fattening.  If you are in pain, you can’t move much to burn off your daily calories.  This becomes a viscous circle, where any excess calories are simply added to one’s fat stores, adding to the pains of simple movements.  To compound this, junk foods such as white sugar, white flour, etc are all known to cause more inflammation, further adding to the damage to the hips and other joints.
  • See your doctor to seek out underlying diagnoses, from systemic diseases to simple things like one leg being significantly longer than the other.  Depending on the underlying causes, you may also benefit from massage, physical therapy, or chiropractic treatments. Follow their exercise tips to stretch and tone the surrounding hip structures.

For more info,  

http://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/hip-pain/basics/when-to-see-doctor/sym-20050684

http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/PDFs/Rehab_Hip_3.pdf

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Knee pains: How to prevent and recover

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Knee pains are becoming very common.  Most of the orthopedic surgeons in professional football and hockey are specialists in the knee, leaving others to look after the rest of the bones in question.  In looking after sports injuries in my clinic, I can attest to the high rate of knee injuries among part-time athletes as well. 

Some logical questions follow:

1. Why is the knee so vulnerable to sports injuries?  The main reason is its range of movement is only in one plane.  Other joints can swivel, but the knee is just like a single hinge that straightens or flexes the leg, and is integral in our ability to walk, run, and jump.  However the knee has virtually no protection to a side impact.  Nor does the knee do well with twisting or rotational forces.  With the popularity of contact sports, especially ones with  helmets and hard pads, we are seeing more collisions resulting in serious knee injuries.  

2. Even in non-contact sports, such as running, we are seeing more gradual erosion of the knee structures.  While running is one thing the human body was well designed to do, the knee is not a great shock-absorber when one runs on pavement.  

3. Paradoxically, the inactivity of the modern work place also contributes to the rise of knee injuries.  With movement, the synovial membrane around the knee produces fluid, which not only lubricates the joint, but provides trace quantities of oxygen and food to the cartilege cells.  But today, we don't move our knees at work, we fold them under us like a deck chair.  At the end of day, it gets ugly, watching people trying to force their stiff legs into the standing position.

 

If you have injured your knee, here are some important action items:

1. Apply ice to ease swelling and pain, for about 10 minutes every half hour.  Make sure you have a layer of cloth between your skin and the ice, to protect from freezer-burn

2. See your doctor if you are not improving.  Images of Xray, Ultrasound, and MRI can help identify pathology.

3. When bending the knee, there is never any need to go beyond 90 degrees, unless you are just stretching. 

 For example, when you are doing a squat in the gym, just bend as far as if you were about to sit in a chair, then back up.  

Never bend the knees so far you can sit on your haunches if you are loading the joint with weights, or even your body weight.  If bending to pick something off the ground, bend just one knee to touch the ground, so both knees are at 90 degrees.  Its much easier to stand up, and much less likely to hurt the knee.

 

4. Watch your leg posture at the desk.  If your knees are hyper-flexed all day under your chair, they you will have a host of issues from dry knees, including stiffness of the surrounding muscles.  Try to set a timer to remind you to bend and flex the knee every fifteen minutes, even if you have to cradle it in your hands to get it started.  

5. Consider a soft knee brace when standing or doing activities.  

Not great for sitting with bended knee, as they tend to cut off the return blood flow if they crinkle behind the knee.  But when the knee is more straight, it can provide support, and may help reduce some of the swelling.  At the very least it will remind you which one is the sore knee, so you won't accidentally land on the wrong foot when running down the stairs for a train!

6. For rehabilitation, seek exercises that don't hurt, and that don't create impact.  Eliptical machines, bikes, swimming, skating etc are all good suggestions, along with controlled weight lifting and stretching exercises.  Make sure you seek professional guidance to make sure your ergonomics are good.  

 

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Static Tension: The Non-Sports injury

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Sports injuries are usually not subtle.  Tension in the underlying tissues results from acute acceleration or deceleration movements.  For example, we see this with a check into the boards,

 a tackle from the side,

 or a crash over the handlebars.

 

 

  Some sports injuries are a lot less dramatic, yet still involve movement.  We see this in stress fractures, plantar fasciitis and shin splints in runners,

 

 

 or in the gradual disc degeneration in spines of  motorcycle racers.

 

But one of the much more frequent injuries I see in my office today is the NON-sports injury, caused by the complete LACK of movement.  Otherwise known as STATIC TENSION, the condition can best be illustrated by trying to freeze like a statue, with  two hand-weights held out to the horizon.

Even if the weights are small, this position can cause acute pains if the muscles don't move for extended times.  

Yet today, we freeze our muscles for long hours at our desks.  Even with no weights in our hands, we tense our muscles, ready to pounce on the next stroke on a keyboard. 

 This static tension produces similar results to sports injuries, such as sore shoulder tips, necks, upper and lower back muscles, stiff knees, and leg cramps.

At a cellular level, here’s how it works.   Each cell in our body needs circulation, to provide incoming food and oxygen, and to carry off the waste products of metabolism.  Our muscles get this circulation only BETWEEN beats of contraction/relaxation.  Normally, this works fine, as the human body was designed for hunting and gathering, moving all our waking hours. 

However, the modern work place has replaced movement with stasis.  With legs folded tight under our chairs, our necks craned forward, our shoulder-tips raised, and our knuckles white, we freeze our muscles in the name of progress.  Trouble is, when the work day is over and we try to stand up, it gets pretty ugly. 

Our legs betray us, our heads can hardly swivel to look for oncoming traffic, and we continue to wear our shoulders as ear-rings.  The muscles have been effectively starved of circulation for hours, and respond with expected results.  

So when you are at a work station, remember to be kind to your muscle cells.  Ease up that static tension, and move at least a few times an hour, to allow precious food and oxygen to fuel your cells again.  It could be a simple shoulder-roll, a pulling together of the shoulder blades, or standing up to twist your torso to the left and right a couple of times.  It could be as easy as straightening one leg at a time under the table during a meeting, or as subtle as rising up on your heels when you are standing in conversation or at a work station.  When you do get away from work itself, make a point of climbing stairs, walking quickly, or pursuing any active movement, from dance to tennis, or from yoga to gym work.

In any event, stop letting your work station give you the non-sports injuries of static tension.  Your muscles will definitely serve you a lot better.

 

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Adhesives Instead of Stitches Reduces Scarring With Less Pain

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If you have a facial cut in the future, you may not need to see a doctor for sewing.  Instead, you may see the nurse for gluing. 

During my years as an emergency room doctor, I saw a lot of facial lacerations, especially in children.  In fact, during the winter months, in the days before face shields were attached to helmets, it seemed that I did nothing but sew up kids hockey teams.  If I sewed up three six year olds in yellow uniforms, and then three in red uniforms, it was a safe bet that the game had ended in a tie.  Well, now, children's lacerations may not end in a tie at all, but rather in a gluing.  Dr. David Watson, a specialist in accident and emergency medicine in Mayday Hospital London, reported his findings in the British Medical Journal (Oct.21, 1989).  He studied fifty children under the age of forteen years, who had superficial lacerations.  These were treated with cyano-acrylate tissue glue, known as Histoacryl, and then they were followed up with photographs and repeat visits.  The glue was essentially painless to apply, although some noted a sting less than a second in duration.  The results showed fantastic healing, with none of the cross-hatching or pigmented dots that can accompany sutures.  Besides faster heasling and less pain, another major benefit iis the time saved for all concerned.  Instead of waiting for the doctor, kids with minor cuts can be glued by the nurse.  Instead of returning to have the sutures removed, they just carry on. 

Natural Goo

The search for adhesives that can perform better than sutures and surgical staples has recently been taking researchers into some unexpected places. There are a number of organisms that produce natural adhesives that could make stitches a thing of the past. Take slugs, for instance.

Andrew Smith, a professor from New York's Ithaca College, worked with undergraduate students to capture slugs and "milk" them to collect a defensive goo that the animals use to protect themselves in the wild. Upon analyzing the secretions, Smith and his helpers found that it was formed out of a combination of metal ions and a network of polymers that was neither completely solid nor completely fluid. 
"Gel like this would make an ideal medical adhesive," Smith said. "It would stick to wet surfaces, and no matter how much the tissue flexed and bent, the gel would flex and bend with it. There would be no leakage or scarring."

Smith isn't the only scientist looking for a new glue in nature: German researchers are investigating the Asparagus beetle that uses a biological adhesive to attach its eggs onto asparagus spears, while a University of Utah professor is looking at the natural glue produced by caddisflies.

Medical glues are not new. They have been used for decades in Canada, Europe, Israel and the Far East. But doctors in the US paid little attention to them until the last year or so because the older glues had many limitations.

For one thing, they were too weak for all but small, shallow wounds. In addition, some caused toxic reactions on the skin. Perhaps the biggest strike against them was a finding published a decade ago that one adhesive induced cancer in laboratory rats.

More recent research has not borne out the cancer link, and newer medical glues are stronger and, when used properly, not toxic, said Dr. James Quinn, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor who was the lead author of the new study. His success in using medical glues in Canada as an emergency room doctor touched off his interest in doing research on them.

His new study included 130 adults with 136 lacerations on the face, torso, arms and legs that were treated in the emergency room of Ottawa General Hospital in Canada. Half the wounds were closed with a medical glue, the other half with stitches. Deep wounds that normally require two layers of stitches were given stitches beneath the skin and then randomly assigned to be closed with either glue or stitches on the surface.

Certain wounds were excluded from the study because of the high risk of infection and other complications, including animal bites and scratches and puncture wounds.

The study found that the wounds in each group healed equally well when evaluated within the first few days or weeks and again after three months. But the glue had two big advantages over stitches. First of all, it closed the wounds in a quarter of the time: about 3.6 minutes compared with 12.4 minutes. And patients reported significantly less pain.

Further studies are still going on, but it seems that children with facial cuts will be spared the needles, and instead be treated painlessly with glue.  I wish they had it when I was a kid.

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Realistically Beginning A New Exercise Regimen

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Are you embarking on a new exercise program to redress the flab put on over years of sedentary living? Well, there are a few things you should be aware of right at the start.

The human body was built for motion, and until the computer age changed the workplace during the last generation, we had plenty of motion just staying alive. To find food, ancient hunters had to walk or run for miles. To kill it, they had to exert great muscular strength and reflexes in battle. An image that depicting people running on a treadmill To carry it home, they had to be weight lifters. Even in the Industrial age, men at work needed brute strength on the assembly line, and women, lacking refrigerators and cars, put in thousands of calories of exercise walking to stores, tending the vegetable gardens, and, for the minority, joining the men on the assembly lines.

Well, now we all have the easy life, at least as far as exercise goes. With no more exercise than pushing a few buttons or keys at work, and with an average of 5 hours of television to watch each evening after work, it is no wonder that we have collectively turned to flab.

To correct this, many have embraced the quick fix exercise remedy. Jogging along with Jane, or bouncing along with Biff on the TV fitness shows, the average person can be setting him or herself up for injuries big-time. First of all, there is no way that these people get their terrific bodies doing just twenty minutes a day. These professionals work out almost as many hours a day as you work at your desk. So the first step to reintroducing motion to your body is to have a realistic goal, such as to have fun and to gradually improve your exercise tolerance. The sports medicine clinics are filled with weekend athletes wearing slings and tensor bandages to treat injuries caused when their mental enthusiasm exceeded their physical shape.

If you have been under-exercised for years, don't try to make up for it in minutes.

  • Make sure you invest in the right equipment: Wearing appropriate clothing is a crucial part of exercise injury prevention. An exerciser should choose an outfit that allows him to remain comfortable during his workout, but does not pose any safety risks. For instance, a cyclist should not choose to wear loose-fitting pants, as they can become caught in a bicycle’s pedals, causing a fall. If exercising outdoors, it is also important to select clothing that suits the weather. In cold weather, layers can help an exerciser stay warm, while a lightweight long-sleeved top can be useful for preventing sunburn on warm days.
  • Seek professional instruction: An overwhelming 250 certification programs exist throughout the United States, yet all have different requirements, ranging in depth from "heavy" to "feather" weight. While some programs require a college degree in a health-related field, along with the passing of written and practical exams to qualify for certification, others can be completed with little preparation by taking a simple test in an afternoon. And just because a personal trainer is "certified" does not necessarily mean that he or she is qualified to work with people in all different areas of fitness. at a minimum a good trainer should have a certification by a reputable organization, such as the American College of Sports Medicine, National Strength and Conditioning Association, and the American Council on Exercise.
    • Ask a health professional you trust to refer you to a good trainer. Health professionals who recommend exercise may have a network of personal trainers that they routinely refer people to.
    • Arrange to meet with the trainer before making your final decision. Be sure to ask about his/her background and any relevant training.
    • Ask to speak to some current and former clients. They can give you a good picture of the trainer's style.
    • Make sure you are comfortable talking openly and honestly with the trainer about your needs and goals. Do not choose someone who intimidates you or someone with whom you feel uncomfortable.
  • Check your pulse regularly during the exercise. Review Stressipedia's written and video instruction on how to check your pulse here (Read Your Speed)

And remember, one of the best exercises of all is to turn off the TV for a while, and go out for a walk!

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Osteoarthritis and the Cherry: The latest Joint Venture

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Joint inflammation,  or “arthritis”, is very common with today’s active public.  As opposed to a disease that travels through various joints in the body, osteo-arthritis is one condition that is physical in nature.  In other words, “osteo” form of arthritis is a “wear and tear” or “rusty hinge” phenomenon, usually caused by repetitive trauma in any joint, which can vary depending on the activity in question. 

For example, runners often get this in their great toe joint, where the toe meets its metacarpal.  This form of repetitive motion is certainly aggravated by poorly fitted shoes, or by running on concrete (instead of grass or soft ground).   When this joint is inflamed by gout (a systemic condition where millions of crystals of uric acid deposit in joints and kidneys), we call it “podagara”.  Coincidentally, Sports Medicine researchers are now finding that an old-fashioned natural remedy for gout can also work wonders for any “osteo” joints in the body. 

Tart cherries have long been suggested as an anti-inflammatory aid to gout patients, as part of their treatment protocol.  But recently researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University studied twenty women between the ages of 40-70, all of whom had osteoarthritis.  Each was asked to drink tart cherry juice twice a day for three weeks.  They were tested for markers of inflammation in the blood stream.  It turns out that excellent results were seen, especially with those who had the worst inflammation to begin the study. 

Principal investigator Kerry Kuehl  M.D. of the Oregon Health and Science Universtiy, was delighted to confirm that a natural food could offer such anti-inflammatory help without any of the side effects associated with drugs.  Since most people who exercise are also health conscious, this is particularly good news for athletes, including the weekend “warriors”. 

Leslie Bonci, Director of Sports Nutrition athe University of Pennsylvania Medical Center for Sports Medicine, has incorporated tart cherries into the training menu for all of her athletes. 

The active ingredient in the cherry is the antocyanins; antioxidant compounds that reduce pain and inflammation at levels comparable to many well-known pain pills.   Available in dried, frozen and juice forms, tart cherries are versatile, and easy to find.

So if you are aching in any joint, don’t be intimidated by all the pills at the drug store.   Sometimes the best treatment can be “cherry-picked” right from your local grocery store. 

For more reading: Reduce Chronic Inflammation in People with Osteoarthritis 

And for another good way to treat pain without drugs: Acupuncture: An old treatment gets to the point!

 

 

 

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Preventing Spinal Cord Injuries

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Spinal cord injuries associated with sports and recreation are increasing, in spite of our improved medical technology. Once again, prevention is where we are falling down, literally.

An image of hockey player with a severe injury

Paralysis is tragic enough when it comes as part of a long-standing disease in later life, but it somehow seems even more shocking when it hits a fit young person after a moments trauma. Such injuries come from a variety of sporting activities, such as diving, equestrian pursuits, parachuting, the use of off-road vehicles, and contact sports such as football and hockey.

In some of these areas, improvements have been made. For instance, a group of Florida neurosurgeons, alarmed at the rate of accidents with divers plunging into shallow water, agitated for an awareness campaign. Their slogan of "feet first, first time" was spread to every poolside, and caused a subsequent decrease in the number of fresh spinal cord injuries. Education and risk reduction can do the same in other sports as well.

Schools that teach parachuting in the morning then offer a real jump in the afternoon are unacceptable, and deserve every law suit that will inevitably follow such imprudence. Football players can be taught to tackle with their shoulders instead of with their heads, and indeed great improvements have been made in reducing injuries in this sport. In addition to changes in technique and equipment design, modification of some of the rules have also helped organized football’s injury rate. These factors could well be applied to other sports such as hockey, where the rate of spinal cord injuries is actually rising. One area where more regulation and rule changes would help is in the area of off-road vehicles, from boats to snowmobiles and motor-cross bicycles. In most jurisdictions there is absolutely no mandatory teaching or examination for competence, no minimum age requirements, and, with the exception of boaters in some areas, not much testing for intoxication.

Here's an action tip:

A lifetime of paralysis is a stiff price to pay for a momentary indiscretion. Let's all be more aware of the risks of spinal cord injury, and use our heads to save our spines.

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Realistically Beginning A New Weight Loss Exercise Regimen

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Are you embarking on a new weight loss exercise program to redress the flab put on over years of sedentary living? Well, there are a few things you should be aware of right at the start.

An image that depicting people running on a treadmillThe human body was built for motion, and until the computer age changed the workplace during the last generation, we had plenty of motion just staying alive. To find food, ancient hunters had to walk or run for miles. To kill it, they had to exert great muscular strength and reflexes in battle.  To carry it home, they had to be weight lifters. Even in the Industrial age, men at work needed brute strength on the assembly line, and women, lacking refrigerators and cars, put in thousands of calories of exercise walking to stores, tending the vegetable gardens, and, for the minority, joining the men on the assembly lines.

Well, now we all have the easy life, at least as far as weight loss exercise goes. With no more exercise than pushing a few buttons or keys at work, and with an average of 5 hours of television to watch each evening after work, it is no wonder that we have collectively turned to flab.

To correct this, many have embraced the quick fix exercise remedy. Jogging along with Jane, or bouncing along with Biff on the TV fitness shows, the average person can be setting him or herself up for injuries big-time. First of all, there is no way that these people get their terrific bodies doing just twenty minutes a day. These professionals work out almost as many hours a day as you work at your desk. So the first step to reintroducing motion to your body is to have a realistic goal, such as to have fun and to gradually improve your exercise tolerance. The sports medicine clinics are filled with weekend athletes wearing slings and tensor bandages to treat injuries caused when their mental enthusiasm exceeded their physical shape.

If you have been under-exercised for years, don't try to make up for it in minutes. Make sure you invest in the right equipment, seek professional instruction, and check your pulse regularly during the exercise. And remember, one of the best exercises of all is to turn off the TV for a while, and go out for a walk.

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Boxing for Fitness

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Sometimes rehearsal is a lot safer than the real thing. 

boxing for fun and exercise

Ski and snowboard acrobats rehearse over a trampoline with bungee cords tied above them to prevent injuries as they learn new flips.  Even sword-fighters in the days of the French musketeers had to come up with a rehearsal format.  Thus was born the art of ballet, which basically incorporates all the jumps, thrusts, lunges and spins needed to keep the swordsmen sharp between wars.

Boxing is another such sport.  In actual combat, or a pro fight, boxing is indeed very dangerous.  Every blow to the head counts as a potential brain injury, from which the brain has very limited powers of recovery. In addition, head injury is also possible including injuries to both the the scalp and skull.

For the few who do this as a profession, there are now a great number of safety measures installed, such as pre-fight physical examinations, MRI’s of the brain, neuropsychological testing, and on-site physicians.  But for the general public, one can gain a lot from boxing as a rehearsal - especially in terms of eliminating the risk of brain injury or head injury.  In other words, be the boxer, not the box-ee. 

 As the popularity of arena fighting surges, ordinary people are learning to get their fitness from fighting against inanimate objects such as the heavy punching/kicking bags, or the hand-pads held in place by the trainer.  In a way, this gives the best of options; no head contact, yet full benefits of the sport.

 

having fun punching a bag!

For most people working at a computer all day, the back hunches, the neck is craned forward, and the abdomen sags.  Over time, this becomes a habitual then permanent “posture creep”.  In order to reverse this trend of the modern office work, boxing (as training) is extremely efficient.

As with any sport, there are issues of technique.  Boxing is more than just beating away on a bag, as any coach will tell you.  Proper technique involves good posture, balance, footwork, and rotation around your core.  As one arm advances to land a jab, the other shoulder rotates backward, in order to add strength to the punch.  This involves great use of the back and shoulder-blade muscles, as well as the abdominal ones, all of which are ignored in our desk posture.

Boxing is a higher-impact alternative cardio exercise routine. If you are looking for something new to add to your regular exercise routine then perhaps you look for boxing gloves and bags. Boxing is a good way to build both strength and endurance and can be a great way to add to your abdominal exercises. Speed bags and heavy bags offer different ways to develop a core work out, letting you choose what’s most comfortable for you. Workout balls offer another option, allowing you to stretch, strengthen muscles and augment your abdominal workout exercises.

Even without equipment, shadow boxing in front of a mirror, (or, in the picture below, on a beach) can be very useful, especially for your core mid-section or abdominal exercises.

shadow boxing on the beach

In much the same way as Tai Chi can rehearse martial arts, one can even slow down the motions, and practice good boxing form between lessons.

While the subject of professional risks is best left to another forum, be sure to consider boxing lessons as one way to strengthen your core, improve your cardio fitness, and burn off a lot of calories in just a few minutes.  You will quickly appreciate how long a two or three minute round can be!

Professional trainers demonstrate great results in teaching the “sweet science” to all age groups, from school children to octogenarians. 

 

For more info, see www.ringfitboxing.com

Toronto gym, boxing for fun and exercise

That's where I train with Stephan Boyd, Canada's middleweight champion in 2012.  He and his professional coaches make a great training team.  If you are interested, check out similar facilities in your area.  As a break from the mental and physical stresses of office work, this could be one of the more fun fitness options for you to explore.

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Tai Chi, a Sure Way to Balance your Health Defense

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Our bodies were designed, built, and programmed for movement.  Our joints need movement to self-lubricate through the bag of synovial membrane. 

This movement even feeds food and oxygen to the bloodless cartilage inside the joints, and carries away the products of metabolism.  Movement also benefits our muscles, by contracting, toning, and stretching them.  Even our stress defenses were wired to energetic  responses.

But now we have redesigned our ancestors' active workplace to remove most movements as we sit all day at a desk.   So the modern response to stress has gone from the “fight and flight” option to  a not-so-energetic “sit and stare” response.  

But new research is indicating that even more is at stake with our modern inactivity.  Mental functions are all sharper if we move, and duller when we sit.  Even our immune mechanisms are enhanced with movement.  Scientists have emphasized h that sitting still for 4 hours at a time is basically an “inflammatory”event, sort of like eating a donut.  (Worse, obviously, if you are sitting and eating for the same four hours!).  Not only do bones lose their density and muscles lose their mass, but our mental alertness suffers from this inactivity too.

 So our basic instincts of movement are correct, and we indeed need room to roam.  In other articles, I have reviewed posture at the office, as relates to carpal tunnel and low back pains

 But another solution comes from the world of Tai Chi.

 An interesting discipline, Tai Chi basically is a slow motion version of martial arts.  Speed up the film of people doing Tai Chi in the town square, and you get a Jackie Chan fight scene.  While it may look simple, it involves weight shifting, swaying, stretching and toning.  And, above all, balance.  Now doctors are appreciating how well it works with patients suffering from Parkinson’s as well as many other medical conditions.  See this link to learn more

Requiring no equipment, Tai Chi is easy to start.  While learning can be an infinite process, even a  beginner can benefit right away.

So if you are getting stressed by your desk job, try to interject a few moments of Tai Chi into your breaks.  Remember to set a timer for every fifteen minutes, to remind yourself to move something.  For example, at least pull back your shoulders, neck and head away from the computer, and try to touch your shoulder-blades together in a “rowing” motion .  At the very least, make this a simple part of your routine for a few seconds.  If space and time permit, use one of your 15-minute breaks to stand up and try a few Tai Chi moves, and notice the difference.    Who knows, the whole office might join in!

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