Running: It seems like the most natural way to get into better shape. Bodies are designed to run, right? Yes, but only bodies that are young and relatively lean. For older and generally heavier bodies, the repeated impact of running can cause real damage when you begin late in life. You take more than 2,000 strides per mile, and with each one, you land with a force equivalent to three to four times your body’s weight.
One of the important conclusions of the research is that it's important to select balance-training exercises that are specific to activities you are likely to do during the day. For instance, you might want to do balance exercises on one leg that mimic the act of walking if you are unsteady while you walk (when you walk, one leg is in the air). Tai chi is excellent for this because it involves slow, coordinated movements, and is particularly beneficial for balance since you lift one leg frequently while doing it. (See also the balance exercises at the end of this article.)
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Importantly, strength isn't just a function of mass. It's also a function of something called "neurological patterning." In layman's terms, patterning is when the brain sends electrical signals via the nervous system to muscles to make them contract. For example, when you think about walking down the street, bending over to pick something up, or any other movement for that matter, the brain first processes the thought and figures out what muscles are needed to make the move and then sends the signal over the nerves to the particular muscles that are necessary for the movement. The muscles move (and so do you) once the signal reaches them. (See "How muscles work" for more detail.)
Traditional push-ups are a great way to work muscles in the arms, shoulders, and chest; however, they can be difficult to complete correctly. You can modify this exercise and still get health benefits by doing wall push-ups. Face a blank wall while standing about arm’s length away, lean forward, and press your palms flat against the wall. Bend your arms and slowly bring your upper body toward the wall, hold for a moment, and push yourself back until your arms are straight again. Do a set of 10 reps, rest, and repeat another set.
Another helpful stretch starts in the same standing position, but this time, clasp your hands in front. Turn your hands so the palms face the ground and bring your arms up to shoulder height. Press your palms outward, away from the body, and hold the move for about 30 seconds, release, and repeat. This exercise benefits the muscles of the neck, shoulders, and upper back.
Crunch: It presents the same problem as the leg press. You flatten your lower back against the floor as you raise your head and shoulders and feel the squeeze in your abdominal muscles, then go back into an arch when you lower yourself. Although you aren’t using much weight when you do it—just a fraction of your body’s weight—you typically do lots of repetitions.
Do you feel an irresistible urge to move your legs that causes you to wake up during the night? Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a sleep disorder that creates these feelings and can cause significant sleep disturbances. Typically caused by iron deficiency, low dopamine levels, or genetic factors RLS symptoms can be managed with exercise and stretches. Learn more about how you can implement exercises for restless leg syndrome into your daily routine.
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