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Staying Active Year Round

We can’t deny it, cold weather is (unfortunately) just around the corner. Some of you may love this touch of cold weather and are inspired to be outside.  Others may have already started preparing for or began hibernation. Regardless, Older woman and younger woman walking resmany of you will soon begin to struggle with staying active and fit when this long, cold, hard winter strikes again in West Michigan. This blog edition is to inform readers on ways to stay active and engage in adequate exercise when the weather is less encouraging of healthy, active lifestyles. If staying healthy is important you, there is bound to be a way our team can help you reach your goals.

Staying Active

Each season offers its own variety of ways for you to engage in exercise. For those of you who are looking to remain active this season, there are many ways to do so even when leaves and snow are on the ground. Activities such as raking leaves, shoveling the snow, using the stairs at home, or walking at the local mall are simple ways to get exercise. These are activities you can do to increase your heart rate and in turn burn some extra calories that so many of us consume during the cold-weather season. Other ideas include participating in a winter hobby like snow hiking, downhill or cross country skiing, working out at a gym, or using an exercise video to get moving. Pick an activity you enjoy and get started! The reason most fail to remain active and fit is because they don’t engage in activity that is fun for them to participate.  Set goals for yourself to help stay on track and instead of catching the winter blues, you can remain motivated to stay fit, year-round.

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Biking...don't forget the helmet and other safety tips

Bicycling is a great family activity especially, with all of the trails in the West Michigan area (http://www.wmtrails.org/Trail-Maps). There are different types of bikes for every level of riding ability including bike trailers for the infants and toddlers, bikes without pedals for the wee ones, recumbent and comfort bikes for those with back issues, as well as hand bikes for those who can't use their legs.

However, as healthy and fun as cycling can be, there are a few important safety tips to keep in mind when riding with the family.

"More children ages 5 to 14 are seen in emergency rooms for injuries related to biking than any other sport. Helmets can reduce the risk of severe brain injuries by 88 percent – yet only 45 percent of children 14 and under usually wear a bike helmet." (www.safekids.org/bike)

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Keeping Athletes Safe On and Off the Ice

As we are in the midst of summer and our athletes are hard at work training for their favorite sport, we tend to forget about those in the rink who have increased their practice time by double or triple what they normally do during the school year.  Figure skaters and hockey players are hard at work indoors to prepare for the coming season.  Hockey players are attending camps to learn new plays and increase their speed and agility on and off the ice.  Figure skaters are hard at work to get to the next level and are pushing themselves harder than ever.  These athletes are prone to over use injuries just like all other sports, figure skaters more so than hockey players.

            Figure skaters are at an increased risk for back injuries.  A skater will land on average 50-60 jumps during one practice session. If you break down what is happening at the spine when a skater is in the air they are not only extending at the spine but they are also rotating and then loading the spine when they land.  For the younger skaters that are completing the higher quantity of jumps while they are still growing leaves them at an increased risk for spinal stress fractures.  This is also assuming they land each jump, which thinking logically, will not happen.  So then the spine is also absorbing impact from the skater falling.

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Running Transitions for Spring


As the weather gradually warms and the snow begins to melt, runners stray away from their treadmills and flock to the sidewalks and trails. While the fresh air may feel great during your run outdoors, our bodies may not be prepared for the transition. Unfortunately, running on the treadmill does not adequately prepare us for a run outdoors. Here are some facts to be aware of as you begin your outdoor training.

The first difference to be aware of in your transition from the treadmill to the outdoors is the variance in terrain. Obviously, while running on a treadmill, there is little worry of running into obstacles during your run. However, while running outdoors, there are many terrain variances to be aware of including the following:

  • Hills demanding increased exertion
  • Ice and snow patches during the early spring months
  • Uneven ground if running on trails

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You Have to Move to Improve

You have to move to improve. For some people, especially those having chronic or persistent pain, this is easier said than done. Sometimes a person has so much pain they are unable to participate in everyday activities. There are, however, some techniques out there to help these people. Immersion in warm water as well as breathing, relaxation, meditation, laughter and music may help to calm the central nervous system allowing people with persistent pain to improve their quality of life.

Pain is a warning system designed to protect us and to make us react to danger or potential danger.  When nerves are stimulated, chemicals are released and transmitted to the spinal cord and brain. Pain only exists when the brain concludes the body is in danger and action is required. All pain is generated by the brain. All pain is real. In people who have persistent pain, it is the potential for tissue damage that the brain is concerned with.  The result is an over sensitive central nervous system. Pain then becomes restrictive, not protective.

The good news is that a hyper sensitive, over-responsive pain alarm system can be retrained with relaxation, breathing techniques and exercise. Laughter can also be a great tool in breaking through some of the restrictions that pain can create. A lesser known fact is that laughter promotes healthier blood vessels. Artery diameter increases by 22% during laughter and is decreased by 35% during mental stress. Also, by performing exercise in warm water a person with persistent pain may be able to help calm this overactive central nervous system. Here are some of the benefits of warm water exercise.

  • Gravity is reduced /eliminated depending on the depth of the water
  • When movement stops, the workload immediately stops
  • Pain, stiffness and muscle guarding are reduced
  • The touch, temperature and pressure of the water will compete with the pain signals going to the brain
  • Repetitive and comfortable movement helps to normalize input to the brain
  • Balance, core strength, stability and gait can be comfortably retrained using the water as an external support

According to the American Chronic Pain Association, chronic pain is the #1 cause of adult disability and affects 50 million people in the United States. If you are one of these people you may want to try some of the techniques listed above to help you deal with your pain and improve your quality of life.

Aquatic Therapy Rehab Institute Chronic Pain Specialty Course

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Are You a Well-Balanced Individual?


Can you stand on one leg without falling over? If not, we’ve got a lot of work to do.  If so, that’s great.  But let’s try challenging you a bit.  How about standing on one leg while turning your head from right to left, or closing your eyes.  Too easy?  Try doing those activities while standing on a pillow or unstable surface.  If you are truly a balance master, make it even more challenging by adding some trunk, arm or opposite leg movements and see if you’re still standing.

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Have a Jolly, Less Jiggly Holiday!

I love this time of year.  My family always gets a little bounce in their step.  We have school concerts, family gatherings, sneaky gift planning, and all the running around needed to accomplish these things.  It’s a hectic time full of conflicting emotions and lots to do.  It’s also the most intimidating time of year from a fitness stand point.  We have temptations galore on the calorie front and less time to squeeze in exercise.  I have tried all kinds of ways to combat the holiday pitfalls from treat abstinence to exercise frenzies with varied levels of success.  I have also just ditched it all and indulged in all the goodies and stopped exercising for a few months with the thought that it would make New Years resolution weight loss easier when I started a healthy lifestyle again.  I can tell you first hand that that thought process, while fun for a while, leaves you with 5 extra pounds and a belly ache until summer. 

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Protecting Yourself and Others During The Flu Season

As we head into the winter season we often think about what comes around this time of year such as SNOW, holiday traditions, spending time with family and friends and wonderfully cooked meals. But there is one thing that is always associated with this time of year that makes life miserable, the FLU.

Here are a few helpful hints that could help prevent you and others from getting sick or if you do get sick, how to get better soon. These are easy steps to follow and implement at anytime you get the flu.

Ø One of the most important and easiest tips to follow, and should be done on a regular basis, is washing your hands frequently. The flu virus can be easily spread through droplets when you sneeze or when blowing your nose. Avoid putting your fingers in or near your mouth as well as rubbing your eyes.

Ø Be sure to get plenty of sleep at night otherwise lack of sleep can slow down your immune system from working efficiently.

Ø Eating healthy foods such as: almonds, peanuts, fruits, peppers, broccoli or any food rich in vitamin C and E. These foods help improve the immune system. Avoid foods that have high sugar content.

Ø Staying hydrated will also help decrease the possibility of getting the flu. Sometimes drinking warmer fluids of inhaling steam maybe more beneficial in keeping the flu from spreading to the upper respiratory tract.

Ø Exercising on a regular basis can help to stimulate the immune system, lower stress levels and promote better sleep at night.

Ø If you happen to get the flu, rest is the best option. Increased activity can often make things worse.

Ø If symptoms continue to worsen after a few days make an appointment to see your Dr. and get tit treated as it has the potential of turning into something serious such as pneumonia.

We come into contact with many people throughout the day whether at work, school and at home and these preventative measures can help reduce the risk of getting or giving the flu.

Published in Blog
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Preventing Winter Related Injuries

When the winter weather arrives, there is no need to stop exercising outdoor; it just needs to be done the right way in order to prevent an injury. Following is a list of steps that will help you get the fresh air you crave and the exercise your body needs; while minimizing the risk of an injury:


  • Snow RunningDress in layers (loose clothing) and either add or remove when your body temperature changes.


  • Wear the proper shoes for the activity.


  • Drink plenty of fluids; water is preferable.


  • Know your surroundings: when you know your surroundings, you know where the sidewalks are uneven, the trails marked for running or walking, hills, closed roads, and construction areas. This will help you to avoid such areas.


  • Warm-Up: a gentle and short stretch is needed to prepare your muscles for the activity that will follow. After the warm-up, follow with some stretching.
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Have you ever wondered why you have done 100 crunches and sit ups
and yet your abdominal muscles still look flabby andIMG 0049 your low-back still hurts?  If so, you may have a diastasis recti. 

After delivery of a baby or after a c-section surgery this issue can occur. A diastasis recti is the separation of the rectus abdominus muscles (6-pack abs) that are situated vertically extending from the rib cage to the pubic bone.  If there is a space between the abdominal muscles greater than about two finger lengths when a person is lying on their back with their knees bent and head lifted from the floor, this could be the problem.  Additionally if a “hump” is seen in the abdomen between the “6 pack abs”, this could also indicate that a diastasis is present.  In the case of a diastasis, the connective tissue between the abdominal muscles has been lengthened and has not returned to the original length, creating limited ability to produce force with the rectus abdominal muscles.  Many abdominal exercises done in the gym could actually worsen this condition.

Diastasis recti can occur in anyone, but the chances of having a diastasis are greater in women over 33 years of age, have been pregnant or delivered multiple babies, women who have carried large babies or gained greater amounts of weight in pregnancy, and those who have had a c-section.  Individuals who have had multiple abdominal surgeries could also be at risk for this problem.

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