Before I get into what is proper exercise I am going to address the second part of the question, “Why should you care?”
Our bodies were meant to move. Prior to the industrial age, we walked 10 to 15 miles per day. Now we walk is less than ½ a mile on average. Movement increases circulation and improves joint function by pumping excess fluid out of the joints. Some tissues, such as the discs of the spine and the cartilage in joints have no direct blood supply and must receive nutrition from the fluid in the joints. If there is stagnation of the fluid do to inactivity, the discs and cartilage do not get the nutrition they need to maintain normal function and to heal if needed. In addition, exercise actually reduces all over inflammation levels, thereby reducing your risk of inflammation mediated disease such as dementia and heart disease.
The Mayo Clinic lists seven areas of your life that will be improved by exercise.
So what is “Proper Exercise” and how can you fit that into your busy schedule?
Recent research shows that regular exercise on a daily basis is much better for you than trying to play “catch up” by being a “weekend warrior.” You should aim for 30 minutes of aerobic activity such as walking, biking or swimming every day. If you don’t have time for a 30 minute walk each day, break it down into 10 to 15 minute chunks. Park at the far end of the lot when you go to the store, take the stairs instead of the elevator, get up and march in place or walk up and down the hall during the commercials of your favorite television show, just MOVE!
You also need some strength training. Strength training builds muscle which helps you burn calories at rest. Ultimately, strengthening the core will help prevent falls as you get older. Strength training includes working out with bands, weight and machines, as well as movements that utilize your body weight such as lunges and squats.
Finally, you need to stretch. Stretching the muscles allows the muscle to be more compliant. What that means is that the muscle will contract and relax with more ease than if they are non-compliant. After all, a tight muscle can only contract so much when you activate it. It’s like trying to compress and already compressed spring. Stretching includes stretching with non-elastic straps, yoga and prolonged lying poses that support the body in various positions that allow the muscles to relax.
However, one aspect of exercise that many people don’t consider is how imbalances in the body can affect the outcome of the exercise a person is engaged in. A study done with weight lifters showed that chiropractic adjustment of the neck prior to doing a bench press enabled the individuals to immediately lift a greater amount of the weight. The theory is that by improving the nerve function to the muscles involved, any imbalance or weakness prior to the adjustment was reduced, thereby allowing the weaker side to do more work. The take away from this is if you have a weakness or imbalance when you work out the strong side will be stronger as it compensates for the weak side. If a person continues this way, then they are setting themselves up for injury as the imbalance gets greater and greater. In order to be sure no imbalance exists, a person would need to be checked by a chiropractor. Only a chiropractor has the special skill needed to determine if a weakness or imbalance is due to small displacements of the spinal bone, which can press upon the nerves.
In addition, a chiropractor can do the necessary blood pressure screenings and so forth that determine if exercise is safe for you.
As with making other changes in your life style, it is advisable to start out slowly and get someone who is an expert in the field to help you. If you haven’t been exercising, start by walking or swimming and then doing some light work with bands as well as some gentle stretching. Remember that it took time to get the way you are and it will take time to make changes. Make a plan and then do it.
If you want to make sure you are properly balanced so you can get the most from your exercise or if you need some further information about how to go about developing a plan, call me. I’ll be glad to help. If you haven’t met me you know that I’m in decent shape. I have pretty good energy and considerable strength. It’s not because I’m lucky. It’s because I work at it, in a reasonable way. I would be honored to help you improve your health through chiropractic and proper exercise as well.