Exercising for Life
How many memes have you seen about getting hurt as a kid versus getting hurt as an adult? You know the ones I’m talking about- falling off your bike as a kid results in the same pain as rolling over in bed as an adult?? Why is that? Are adults just destined for aches and pains? Did we watch our parents and grandparents moan and groan every time they stood up, sat down, or bent over to pick something up so we just think it is normal? I don’t think so. I think we have just fallen prey to a modern lifestyle.
Our society is very arm and head forward. What do I mean by that? We spend HOURS each day in a position with both arms in front of us and it isn’t because we are zombies…although we may sound and look like one some days! We are driving, texting, looking at and typing on a computer screen, all with both arms forward and our shoulders rolled in causing our backs to round in a hump like the legendary bell ringer of Notre Dame. All these activities that we partake in are causing major postural issues, aches, and pains. Neck muscles are straining to hold up our noggins that are pushed forward out of alignment. Each inch that the head is forward puts an extra 10 pounds of weight on the neck muscles. Our pectoral or chest muscles are in a shortened position and tightening up there. Our rhomboid and trapezius muscles in the upper back are feeling tight, but that is because they are actually stretched too far. One of the jobs of these upper back muscles is to hold the shoulder blades in place so that we stand up straight. However, due to prolonged arm forward activities, the pectorals are so tight that the rhomboids and trapezius muscles are too weak to bring the shoulders back into alignment. Look around you the next time you are in line at the store or bank and see if you recognize anyone stuck in this forward head/humped back position. Catch a glimpse of your profile in the glass. Do you resemble these remarks???
So what do we do about it? Toss our phones in the trash, get new jobs that don’t involve computers, and just live a stress free, well aligned life? I guess you could, but I don’t think that would work for everyone! To start, I would suggest getting up and moving around throughout the day if your daily life is sedentary one. How long should you spend up and moving? Start with just more than you are doing now. Many watches prompt us to get up and move around each hour if they don’t detect movement for a while. If that little nudge doesn’t work, set an alarm to go off once an hour and actually get up to turn it off. Walk down the hall or up and down the stairs for a flight or two. Roll those shoulders back and try to stand up straight like your granny always said. If you can take a call or meeting while on the move, do it! Grab a colleague and take a meeting while you take a 15 minute walk. Not only will your body thank you, research tells us that our brains will work better too. If you can’t break for a walk during the day, try to get one in before or after work in addition to moving every hour. Maybe you need a little more help and you want to hire a trainer. Great! That’s where I come in with years of experience.
Many of my clients come to me because they have pain or difficulty doing things in their “real life”: hiking, playing with their kids, walking up steps, or gardening. Most people aren’t exceptional weightlifting athletes bound for the Olympics. That’s ok! That doesn’t mean they don’t belong in the gym. On the contrary, everyone should spend some time in the gym so that “real life” can be lived pain free. I am a big believer that strength isn’t just about picking up heavy things. It’s about being able to pick up heavy things and move them through space with control. Sometimes those heavy things are our children or groceries. Sometimes it’s us! Being able to control our bodies with balance and precision in many different positions is very difficult for a great number of people, but important for all. I would argue that it is even more important than being able to lift 20, 50, or 100 pounds.
Many of us work really hard to make money so we can travel and have experiences that create memories for a lifetime, but if we have difficulty moving because we have aches and pains when we get there those experiences may not be what we imagined. Remember the saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy?” I’d say it might make him an achy, stiff, unhappy boy too! Exercise can be playful. It can be done in many different ways and have wonderful benefits that will spill over to “real life.” One of those benefits might be better alignment and fewer aches and pains too!