Hot or Cold?: When to Use Heat or Ice for Injuries

UntitledSoreness and injury can occasionally come up with activity as well as inactivity. Common ailments for inactivity associated with long term sitting may include shoulder, neck or back pain as well as full body stiffness. Other common injuries associated with exercise or active movement can include shin splints, pulled or strained muscles in the legs, neck, or back, as well as general muscle fatigue. Specific treatment of such injuries may be dependent on the location and severity. It is always important to seek out a professional evaluation for treatment, especially for severe injuries. With this in mind, hot or cold treatment may be prescribed.

Regular treatments of heat, ice, or the combination can help the body to rejuvenate and recover. But how do they help? Ice treatments including ice baths, ice packs, or cool compresses help with pain management by reducing swelling and inflammation. Ice treatments can be applied after injury, but should not be applied for more than 20 minute intervals. It is important to protect your body from frostbite via controlled application. Continue to ice regularly for the prescribed duration until the injury is healed.

Applying heat treatments, including heating pads, hot compresses, or a warm bath can be great for relieving muscle stiffness and a sore body. Heating helps to generate blood flow throughout your muscles which, in turn, stimulates relaxation. Heat treatments should always be at a safe temperature to avoid burning the skin. Simple movement (if possible) can also be a natural way to warm up muscles and reduce tension. Consider light walking or stretching to do so. This can be followed up with physical therapy or massage treatment for optimal recovery.

How To Keep A Healthy Spine

UntitledWhen we sit all day, we often compromise the stability of our posture. As a result, we may also be compromising the health of our spine, core strength, oxygen intake, and ability to focus. Combining posture, strength, and stretching exercises regularly will not only help you feel stronger, but will make sitting or standing in alignment come naturally.

Keeping your exercises balanced will not only ensure well rounded fitness, but will help to strengthen important muscles groups that work together to keep you stabilized. Always include lower back with upper back routines to fully support your spine. Upper back routines will help to avoid hunching or slouching, while lower back routines will help your stability in daily activities such as lifting, walking, standing, etc. Here are a few exercises to help maintain a healthy back.

Airplane: Laying on your stomach, lift your head, chest, arms and legs off the ground as high as you can. Keeping your head stabilized, look no further than the floor in front of you. Hold this position for 3-5 seconds. Return limbs to the ground. Give your neck some relief by resting your head to one side. Repeat this exercise 5-10 more times, alternating your resting position each time.

Spine Extension: Balancing on all fours (hands and knees), reach one arm straight out in front of you. Balance this move by extending the opposite leg straight behind you. Hold this position for 3-5 seconds and return back to hands and knees. Repeat on the opposite side. Continue this exercise 5-10 more times.

Cat/Cow Stretch: Remaining on all fours (hands and knees), arch your spine, tucking your chin to your chest and your pelvis in. Hold for 3 seconds. Reverse this stretch by dipping your stomach toward the floor and tilting your head and pelvis up toward the ceiling. Return to a neutral spine. Repeat this exercise 3-5 more times.

The Office and Your Hips

officeOne of the most common effects of a sedentary lifestyle, often associated with office work, is tight hip flexors. When we sit all day, our hip flexors are positioned to be shortened while our glutes become stretched and inactive, causing both to become weak and inhibited. Tight hip flexors cause the pelvis to tilt forward.

Having weak glutes prevents the body from counterbalancing a forward tilt, causing the low back to arch and ultimately impacting proper alignment or posture. Additionally, this position can lead to compression of the lower discs, leading to painful injuries. Stretching, especially after long periods of sitting can help to heal and prevent tight hips, encouraging healthy alignment and flexibility. Here are a few great stretches to get started!

Butterfly - Sitting with your spine straight, move legs and feet so that the soles of your feet are touching. Keeping spine as straight as possible, slowly lean over your legs at a comfortable angle until you feel a stretch in your glutes and hips. You may choose to fold over for a few breaths to get a deeper stretch.

Cross Over - Laying on your back, keeping one leg bent, cross your opposite one foot over your bent leg so that it looks like the number four. lacing your hands between your legs, grab hold of your thigh (bent leg) and pull both legs slowly toward you. Repeat on the opposite side.

Wide Squat - Taking a wide stance, and keeping your spine straight, slowly squat down until your bottom is hovering over the floor. Hold this position for a few breaths and return to standing. Repeat a few times more for an extra stretch.

Lift Energy Levels Naturally

EnergyNearly half of US adults consume at least one cup of coffee per day. While some studies have shown that moderate caffeine consumption may have health benefits, too much caffeine can actually have negative side effects to your health and productivity. Restlessness, irritability, elevated heart rate, and interrupted sleep patterns can all result from too much caffeine. Feeling an afternoon slump? Consider one or more of the following natural alternatives before reaching for another cup of coffee or caffeine source.

Stretch - Wake up your muscles and stimulate circulation with a quick stretch.

Get Moving - Like stretching, exercise can help to wake up your body. Even light exercise stimulates endorphins which assists with energy and alertness.

Hydrate - Fatigue can often be associated with dehydration. Consuming a tall glass of ice water will not only keep you hydrated, but can trigger adrenaline and blood flow to your brain.

Snack - Consuming a healthy snack containing natural sugar and carbohydrates including apples, bananas, and oranges can help to stabilize blood sugar. Be sure to pair with a protein source for sustained energy.

Mini Massage - Studies have shown that stimulating pressure points on the body may help to lift energy. Additionally, giving yourself a light neck or shoulder massage may also help to increase alertness while relieving stiffness associated with long term sitting.

Stretching for Strength

Untitled 4Despite its somewhat low intensity, stretching actually has fantastic benefits associated with building physical strength. By skipping out on stretching post-workout you may be putting yourself at risk for soreness and injury, an ultimate inhibitor to physical progress. By improving range of motion and decreasing muscle soreness, stretching is a vital source for quality exercise performance and overall health. With this in mind, here are three top ways stretching contributes to strength and proper fitness.

1. Stretching, especially after physical activity actually helps to lengthen muscle tissue and increases flexibility. With this, you may also find improved range of motion necessary to carrying out strength building exercises. Doing so can also help to improve the effectiveness of exercise in this way.

2. Stretching also helps to stimulate blood flow post workout, which aids in avoiding lactic acid build up – an occurrence that leads to muscle soreness. By saving time to stretch, you can actively help your body to recover.

3. Preventing muscles soreness can similarly help to improve your endurance over time. By decreasing your time for recovery, you can quickly continue a fitness regimen. In this way, it becomes easier to to increase your exercise frequency or duration, both positive elements in improving strength.

Stay Warm This Winter

Stay WarmWhen the temperature drops, it can be difficult to keep our muscles warm while exercising or commuting outdoors. The effects of the cold can also carry indoors leaving you feeling sore or stiffer than usual. Try a few of these simple habits to help curb the wearing effects of winter, helping you to stay active and healthy!

Stretch! - Does the chill have you feeling tense? Stretching throughout the day can help! Warm up from the winter blues almost anywhere, anytime with some of your favorite subtle stretches or yoga routine. Doing so not only helps to relieve stress on the body, but can help to avoid injury. Be sure to focus on some of the most common areas of tension including the shoulders, neck and back.

Layer Up - Stay loose by wearing layers! The more you can protect yourself from the cold, the easier it will be to keep your muscles warm and functioning properly outdoors! Know when to take your exercise indoors if the elements become too harsh. Exposure to extreme cold can hinder performance and put you at risk for frostbite and other physical dangers.

Bring the Heat - Applying subtle heat to your muscles can be very soothing, and help to aid in recovery so that you can get back to your regular activities. Heat packs or hot baths are a great solution to warming and relaxing your muscles throughout the winter. Don’t forget your extremities! Keep hand warmers in reach to avoid stiffness in your fingers or toes.

Keep Moving! - If you are brave venture into the cold, be sure to keep your body and muscles moving as much as possible. Standing still, especially in frigid conditions can quickly lead to stiffness and make it difficult to fulfill your intended activity.

Stretching For Better Sleep

Untitled 2These days, it can be difficult to take sufficient time for relaxation at the end of our day. However, the busier our schedules become, the more important it becomes to wind down efficiently and effectively. Reserving even just five or ten minutes for relaxation before bed can significantly improve your ability to fall asleep faster. As a result, you may find improved energy and productivity the following day. Not only is stretching a great way to relax, but is an active way to relieve your muscles of any tension built up over the day so that you can wake up feeling recovered and refreshed. Want to give it a try? Start with a few of these great stretches.

Side Bend: Sit on the floor or bed cross legged. Support your body by placing your left hand on the floor beside you. Leading with your right hand over head, lean your body to the left to feel a stretch in your right side, neck and shoulders. Be sure that your bottom remains completely on the floor. Repeat this motion on the opposite side to complete the stretch.

Seated Stretch: At a seated position, lead your legs straight out in front of you. On an inhale, slowly bend your torso and arms forward reaching as close to your toes as possible. Hold the position for a few breaths to feel a stretch in your lower body and legs.

Happy Baby: Laying on your back, bend your knees to grab a hold of your feet. Slowly lift legs wide overhead. Gently rock back and forth to feel a release in your hips, back and hamstrings.

Release Stretch: Standing up, cross your arms and grasp each elbow with opposite hand. Slowly bend your head, neck and arms toward your feet. Gently rock side to side for 5-10 breaths. Gently roll back up to complete the stretch.

Stretching for Stress Relief

Untitled  Daily stretching can have great physical benefits when paired with exercise or on its own. Stretching can also influence a positive mental outlook, particularly in times of high stress. Taking a moment to breath and do some of the following stretches at home or in the workplace can help to relieve physical tension and improve mental clarity.

Side Stretch – Sitting in a chair or standing, raise hands over head and clasp hands together. Keeping your arms over head, gently lean over to the left until you feel a comfortable stretch on your right side. Slowly return arms back to center and continue the stretch by leaning to the right. Repeat this motion several times to feel a great release in your back.

Shoulder Shrugs – Sitting or standing, move your shoulders up and down a few times taking a few deep breaths in this motion. Continue the stretch by rolling your shoulders back a few times to relieve tension in the neck, shoulders and upper back.

Arm Stretches – An easy stretch to achieve at your desk, begin by crossing one arm over your chest, holding your wrist with the opposite hand. Hold this pose for a few moments taking two to three deep breaths. Repeat this stretch on the opposite arm. Continue the stretch by reaching your arms out in front of you, and clasping your hands together. Slowly arch your upper back and neck forward and back to center.

Neck Stretch – Another great workplace stretch for your neck, start by sitting up straight and slowly bend your neck to the right nearly touching your right shoulder, holding for one to two breaths. Repeat this motion on the right side. Bend deck slowly forward and back several times to complete the stretch.

Tips For Travel: Protect Your Health

Untitled‘Tis the season for traveling! It’s that time of year for frequent travel to visit family and friends for the holidays. By car or by plane, extended travel can do a number on your body. Aside from fatigue, muscle stiffness can be one of the most common side effects of sitting still for long periods of time. Prolonged slouching, a likely position during travel, can also have harmful impacts on your spine. Before you pack your bags and hit the road, consider a few of the following ways to protect yourself in transit.

Get Moving - When you’re pressed for time, or crammed in an airplane, it can be easy to forget the magic of movement during travel. Taking even just a few minutes to stand or walk around can help to stimulate circulation and prevent stiffness. Whether you’re driving or flying, aim to take 3-5 minutes out of your seat at least every two hours.

Pack A Pillow - Having light support for your neck or back can help to prevent compression and stress on your spine. Pack a small pillow or neck wrap, especially on long trips to promote healthy posture and comfort.

Stretch - Frequent stretching during travel will help to stimulate muscles and ease tension. Stretching can also be a great way to incorporate subtle movement throughout your trip, in between standing breaks. Getting a good stretch on a plane or in the car can be easy, and doesn’t have to be intrusive to your neighbor. Try sitting straight with your feet flat on the floor and hands on your lap. With an inhale, arch your back, pulling your shoulder blades in together and chest out. On an exhale, tilt your head down and roll your shoulders forward, pulling into your chest. You should feel a slight release in your neck and shoulders. (Note: You should avoid heavy stretching while driving. Opt to take a break at a rest stop or alternate drivers if possible before executing).

Hydrate - Staying hydrated will not only keep your energy and focus sustained during travel, but will aid in preventing dry skin or eyes. Muscle stiffness can also be prevented with healthy hydration. Take advantage of refreshments offered on your flight or be sure to bring a water bottle along for the ride.

 

Healthy Eating Habits for Strong Productivity At Work

AppleWe’ve all heard the saying “you are what you eat”. While those words may sit quietly in the back of our minds, there is no better time to bring them to life than during work hours. What we eat can have a tremendous influence on overall performance during the day. Making healthy and consistent choices, especially at work, helps to maintain energy and focus which may ultimately reduce the risk of stress and fatigue. Check out our quick guide below to be happy, healthy, and hunger free!

Be Proactive: Chances are when your stomach is growling, your mood and energy levels are at an all time low. Eating smaller, more consistent meals throughout the day will help to sustain glucose levels, helping to keep you focused and alert. Avoid burn out by eating before you’re hungry. For some people, this might mean consuming a light snack every 2-3 hours and a full meal every 5 hours throughout the day.

 Brown Bag It: Bringing healthy snacks to work is a great way to curb hunger and stay consistent with good food choices. This is especially helpful for those with busy schedules, who may be more likely to make poor choices in a pinch. Aim to provide yourself with a combination of non-processed carbohydrates, protein, fruit or vegetables and healthy fats. Doing so will give your body the right amount of protein, fiber and antioxidants that will not only help to keep you fuller, longer, but help to maintain productive energy and a positive mood.

Stay Hydrated: Just as important as the food we eat. Staying hydrated allows our muscles, joints, and organs to function properly. Dehydration can cause our minds and bodies to slow down, making it difficult to focus or feel well during work. Drinking water instead of alternative beverages will also help to cut unneccesary sugars and keep energy levels sustained. Try substituting a glass of water instead of a mid-day soda or coffee which can be packed with simple sugars and lead to afternoon crash.