The Wall Angel can be done at home or as part of a warm up at the gym. The key to good posture is incorporating this exercise into your daily routine, like brushing your teeth
The newest most powerful productivity hack could be standing right in front of you, quite literally! Our posture plays much more of a role than first thought and the science is clearly telling us why.
Task orientated people will agree they are most productive in the mornings. You’ve had a good night’s sleep, feel refreshed and the mind is clear to tackle the day ahead. In fact many of the world’s top entrepreneurs and business leaders advise scheduling key priority tasks in the mornings.
But where does the drive and productivity go by the afternoon and is there a way of bucking this trend of decreased efficiency?
Well the good news one simple free solution could change the way we work forever.
Lack of movement and prolonged sitting have a global effect on our health, much more than just causing muscle tightness and an aching low back. So much so that Dr. Camelia Davtyan, clinical professor and director of women’s health at the UCLA, stated that “Sitting is the new smoking”.
So let us have a look at what sitting does to our body and more importantly our brain. A study conducted by Harvard University looked at the effect of a slouched sitting posture compared to a expansive upright posture (standing, shoulders back and chest out). The results were fascinating. Slouched sitting postures promoted feelings of inferiority, sadness and depression whilst expansive postures increased feelings of confidence and leadership abilities. The standing postures actually altered participant’s hormone levels by decreasing the stress hormone Cortisol and increasing levels of Testosterone. So something as simple as standing tall and pushing your chest out can change the chemistry in the brain. This theory known as Embodied Cognition explains how the mind body relationship is a two way street. The emotional experiences have a direct influence on the function of body and visa-versa the postures we adopt have a direct influence on our mood, concentration and productivity.
The lack of movement associated with prolonged sitting also plays a role in our brains stimulation. Nobel prize winning neurobiologist Roger Sperry discovered that 90% of the stimulation of the brain comes from movement of the spine. Prolonged sitting in a slouched position reduces this stimulation drastically. Conversely walking and gentle stretching stimulates the brain. Making movement a regular part of our day is is key to keeping productive.
Poor posture and slouching also has effects on our breathing. Over time prolonged sitting causes us to adopt a shallow breathing pattern resulting in a reduced oxygen intake. Common signs of this are feeling tired and sluggish mid afternoon and yawning in the middle of the day.
The running theme in all these studies is prolonged sitting decreases how well our brain and body functions. It’s like trying to drive a sports car with the handbrake on. So what small daily disciplines can we implement to take the handbrake off and tap into increased productivity and tangible results?
Here are my top five productivity hacks for ultimate performance and consistent productivity.
- Implement the 30 for 30 rule – Move for 30 seconds every 30 minutes as an absolute minimum. Break your day into 30 minute chunks. Set a reminder and get up and move for 30 seconds. This movement stimulates and wakes the brain.
- Stand for attention! Where possible work standing up. If holding a team meeting or taking a lengthy call do these standing. This reduces the postural fatigue making it less likely you will slouch when you sit down.
- Chest up and out. Whenever you walk through a doorway raise your sternum by 2 cm. This small change in posture increases lung volume and releases hormones which increase confidence.
- Utilise your lunch time. Changing your environment and moving for 20-30 minutes will make you more productive than if you worked straight through your lunch. The movement stimulates the brain, the new environment takes your mind off work preventing mental fatigue.
- Box Breathe. When feeling tired or stressed close your eyes and breathe deeply from the diaphragm. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds and hold for a final 4 seconds before repeating 4 times. This not only increases oxygen uptake which will perk you up but also reduces the release of stress hormones.
As Jeff Olsen famously said “The following are easy to do and easy not to do”. These productivity hacks need to be replicated daily for tangible results. Don’t keep these a secret. Share them with your colleagues and enjoy improved posture, productivity and performance.
Waking with low back stiffness is common place amongst office workers and the elderly. Its often a sign the back muscles have been overworked from the day before. Thats right! The back muscles get overworked from merely sitting all day.
To prevent this stiffness building, which can lead to dysfunction, back spasms and possible injury including disc swelling we must gently warm the spinal muscles up before weight-bearing.
This simple movement is great at safely improving the movement of the spine to ready you for the day ahead.
For more detailed exercises specific for you email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will let you know of a great chiropractor near you.
Have a burning question you want us to answer? Leave a comment and we’ll get back to you.
Back pain and injury is one of the leading reasons people take painkiller and costs our economy $ Billions every year from time off work. In an age where we can land probes on Jupiter, decipher the human genetic code and restore sight with the use of stem cells how is it that we cannot prevent something as simple as back pain.
Describing a symptom like back pain as “simple” may be misleading and although the causes of spinal dysfunction can be varied the basic mechanism, more often than not, is a reasonably simple one. One that if addressed early can be prevented and if understood can lead to long term spinal health.
As I have alluded to in previous articles the key to a healthy spine is movement. But more importantly consistency of movement. It’s the daily lack of movement that our back is subjected to that is dangerous and leads to pain and dysfunction.
Our brain, muscles and joints adapt to the things we do every day. Muscles that are only used through a small range of motion, over time, will become short and tight. Muscles that aren’t used at all will become inactive, weak and ineffective. This will affect the movement and stability of the joints the muscles are attached to.
So what movements are you doing regularly and what patterns are you laying down for your body to remember?
The main culprit is prolonged sitting. The list of detrimental effects caused by sitting is long and not limited to the muscles and joints. Sitting causes the spine to be unsafely loaded leading to tightening of spine and hip muscles. These muscles which should be working to protect the spine from overload become ineffective. All these actions are not conducive with a spine that can deal with the demands of daily activity.
The good news is the solution to the problem is completely simple but does require a change of mindset. A change to a routine of consistent and regular movement. Walking, exercise, hydration and stretching. Here’s some top tips to make this transition easy for you.
- Monitor your steps and activity. Fitbit’s are great for this. They monitor how many steps you are doing per day and when you’re most active / inactive. iPhones now come with an inbuilt pedometer which you can access through the ‘Health’ app.
- Involve walking in your commute to work. If getting public transport then hop off a stop early and walk the last 10 minutes to work. Do the same for the return trip home. If driving the car park it an extra few blocks away.
- Get up every 20 mins at work. Sitting for longer than 20 mins is the critical period for the spine. You are more likely to encounter long term injury if you frequently sit for longer than this period. So get up often. Put the printer on the other side of the office so you have to get up and walk.
- 15 mins of mobility / stretching a week. Yoga classes are great for keeping the joints supple, flexible and healthy. If you’re not a yoga sort of person then gentle stretching at home or as part of your normal exercise routine is easy and effective.
The list could go on for pages but the key is consistency. The small habits you do every day shape your future health. Start small. Implement one of these every day for a fortnight. Then add another to the list and so on. Don’t treat this like a detox or fad diet where you focus on it for a month then slip back into back habits. Make changes and try and keep them.
For more information or to ask one of our chiropractors a specific questions please email us at email@example.com
A common frustration amongst people wanting to improve their fitness is having to reduce or stop training because of unforeseen injuries. Well these injures might not be as unforeseen as you think.
Understanding how the body functions is an important way to identify injury before it creeps in. The first and arguably most important point to remember is the body works as a whole unit. Like a well-oiled machine we need to look after all components of the system for optimum function. If you spend most of your day sitting, driving or stationary then high intensity exercise in the evening can place excessive stress on certain areas that may have tightened up during the day. Maintaining movement throughout the day prevents postural muscles becoming tight and poor muscle firing patterns being adopted. After all you wouldn’t want to have the handbrake on during a drag race!
Secondly you get out what you put in. Nutrition and hydration are often over looked or at least ignored when wanting to improve fitness. Well each of these factors has a compound effect on how you function, move and most importantly recover from exercise. Eating and drinking well during the day of training but binging on alcohol or fatty foods on the weekend is like training for a marathon by only doing sprint work. Build a routine which is replicable, comfortable and remember ‘Everything in moderation’.
Thirdly sleep is king for athletic performance. If you look at the top athletes from sporting disciplines across the board they are as disciplined in their sleep routine as they are in their training. Sleep is the time the body recovers and repairs from the day before. The body releases hormones and chemicals which promote muscle and joint recovery, reduce stress hormones and re-fill energy stores in preparation for the day ahead. Unsure if you have a good sleep routine? Ask yourself this one question – Do you feel tired or refreshed on waking? If the answer is ‘tired’ then you need to address your sleep habits.
Knowing when not to train
The mantra of ‘Champions never quit’ is outdated and potentially dangerous. The truth is champions know exactly when to quit, rest and reassess their plan moving forward. My big three tips on when not to train are:
- Fatigued – Look at doing some mobility work or core stability but never cardio or heavy compound movements
- Unwell – Go home, eat well, stay hydrated and rest.
- Pain – We all know the difference between the pain of an injury and the pain of completing a gruelling routine. Don’t ignore twinges at the beginning of the session. The adrenaline release which happens during a workout can reduce our perception of pain but the damage can continue.
A strategy for consistent progression
Building a strategy that is unique to you, your goals and ability is key.
Surround yourself with the best. Having practised in the UK before moving to Sydney I have been exposed to the good, the bad and the downright dangerous when it comes to CrossFit gyms. The boxes which, in my view, are the best will spend time with all new members going through the basic lift techniques until they are perfect before progressing to weighted bars. They will also dedicate a portion of the sessions to mobility.
Who’s in your corner?
Have a team in your corner who keep you on track to achieving your goals. Are you getting checked by a chiropractor regularly to make sure you’re on track before injury sets in? We all see a dentist for a check-up but shy away from seeing someone about the movement and function of the body. Investing in a regular check-up will save you both financially in the long term and the heart ache of not achieving your goals. Build a team you trust are happy with and are as passionate about you achieving your goals as you are.
f you enjoyed this article please check out our archive for more like it. If you’d like more info please contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
As a chiropractor I see people with all sorts of aches and pains but one trend I have noticed is neck pain and associated problems like headaches, migraines and jaw pain on the rise over the past few years.
Often ‘poor posture’ is the generalised cause but I feel a more specific cause is right under our noses, quite literally – smart phones.
So what’s really the problem with cell phones?
Firstly it’s important to understand how the neck and spine works to best appreciate how the use of phones is damaging our health.
The spine has a number of curves that act like a suspension system, evenly distributing weight and forces without overloading one area of the spine. The neck more specifically has a gentle ‘C’ shaped curve which keeps the head upright, eyes parallel and distributes the weight of the head through the spine.
The neck vertebra are unique in their structure. Their small thin structure allows for fast, intricate and accurate movements. The further down the spine the bones become wider and thicker, dealing with the increase load that is placed on them. Think of the neck as a formula 1 car, nimble, fast and delicate. The low back vertebra are more the off road 4×4 car, sturdy and hard wearing.
The problem comes with sitting and working with things in front of us. Over time we start to slouch with the head creeping forward, which undoes the natural curves of the spine. This places huge stress on the small neck joints, which in turn causes the surrounding muscles to get tight and stiff. With every inch the neck moves forward more weight and stress is being placed on the neck vertebra. Like holding a bowling ball close to the body and then further away, the work load increases even though the weight doesn’t. We are now effectively asking the formula 1 car to go off road, not a good idea.
Over the past few years a lot of money and research has gone into ergonomics, how we should be sitting, moving and lifting. No doubt driven by fear of future litigation when it becomes apartment that the deterioration of a generation’s health may be driven by the sedentary work postures we adopt. We now know how to set up our desk station and car seat to maintain good healthy posture. But is it possible to have good posture when looking at our phone?
There are two ways to tackle this problem. Firstly look at how we use our phones and secondly how much we use our phones.
Often we hold our phone below eye level causing the head to tilt forward, past the neutral position, the danger zone. Ideally we would keep the head in neutral whilst looking at our phone but this would result in people walking around with their phone out at eye level and I don’t see that catching on very soon. The potential for technology in eye wear is a real solution to this problem but until then we need to look at the amount of time we are on the phone. Looking down for short periods of time is very safe for the neck, in fact that’s what the neck is designed to do but prolonged (over 10 minutes) bending of the neck (looking down) is what causes the muscles and joints to over stretch. Limiting use to short bursts is ideal. If you love to catch up on social media at night then try lying on your back when looking at the phone. The solution however may be as simple of not using your phone as much as we are. Not a popular option but often the simplest solution is the best one.
In the meantime here are some great stretches to help alleviate the tightness that comes from txt neck.
Stretches to help with the problem:
Rolled up towel:
Lying on the floor and placing a tightly rolled up towel under the neck for 2 minutes can help undo much of the stress from a forward head position. Great to do before bed.
Introduce movement every 20 minutes. This can be as simple as rolling your shoulders, going for a 30 second walk, standing or stretching.
Have rules about phone use. Commuting to work – then listen to a pod cast and put your phone away. Try and refrain from looking at your phone whilst walking along the street.
And most importantly seek professional advice from a Chiropractor, Physiotherapist or Osteopath if you are experiencing neck pain and headaches. Don’t reach for the pain killer, you’ll only delaying the inevitable.
If you enjoyed this article please check out our archive for more like it. If you’d like more info please contact us via email at email@example.com
Correct upright posture is not only essential for a healthy spine and body but crucial when making a first impression. Someone with a slouched forward drawn posture will automatically make you think they lack confidence, are passive and timid. Compare that with someone who stands tall with shoulder back and chest out, this portrays a strong confident individual. If you were having to pick between two similarly qualified candidates for a role in your organisation you’d most likely pick the one who exudes confidence.
Using good posture as a tool to portray confidence has been used by political candidates, sports professionals, musicians and those in authority for hundreds of years.
So how can we all improve our posture? The following four simple exercises will help combat the effects of prolonged sitting which is the main contributing factor of a slouched drawn forward posture.
- Stretch the tight chest muscles
Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times throughout the day
2. Strength the weak mid back muscles
Using a theraband and standing with good upright posture open the arms out whilst squeezing the shoulder blades together. Aim for 3 sets of 12 repetitions. If you don’t have a theraband a light 1-2kg weight will suffice
3. Stretch the tight hip flexors
Hold for 30 seconds and do 3 times on each leg
4. Switch your Glutes back on.
Before raising your buttocks off the floor lightly engage (tense) your abdominal muscles then squeeze your buttocks together and lift. Aim for 3 sets of 12 reps
Making these part of your usual exercise routine and sticking to it is a great way to improve posture. Repetition and consistency, like most things with our health and fitness, will enable you to achieve great results, great posture and hopefully future success.
Would you like a complimentary postural assessment from a chiropractor near you? Enquire via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Without fail twice a day ,like most people, I spend 2 minutes brushing my teeth, it’s a social norm. It’s hygienic, stops bad breath and prevents our teeth decaying. We value our teeth so much that we will also go for a check-up with our dentist a couple of times a year just in case there is decay or damage we can’t see. And quite rightly so.
But what are we doing to prevent the same decay happening to our spine. After all the teeth and spine are both made of the same material, bone. If you compare the role of both it soon becomes apparent that our spine plays a much more important role in our survival than our teeth. If you had to live without one you wouldn’t get very far without your spine.
Functions of the spine
- Houses and protects the spinal cord. Communicating signals from the brain to the rest of the body, without which we wouldn’t be able to function.
- Maintains our frame: This gives us strength, mobility and durability.
- It is an attachment point for our muscles and ribs.
So the problem arises from the lack of feedback regarding the health of our spine. Unlike our teeth, we cannot see the daily health of our spine. In fact, the scary truth is that the spine can slowly degenerate over many years with no signs or symptoms at all.
“But I don’t do anything strenuous enough to cause decay to my spine”.
Unfortunately this is a common misconception, the truth is the less activity you do the quicker your spine is affected by osteoarthritis (degeneration); a moving door hinge will rarely rust. Sitting at work is enough to speed up degeneration in the spine. I have seen numerous people in their mid-20’s and 30’s who present to me with mild to moderate back pain that they attribute to posture and sitting at work. When we look at their spine on X-ray I am shocked at the rate of degeneration. Their spine is that of a 50-60 year old, all because they weren’t looking after themselves. Osteoarthritis of the spine cannot be reversed. Treatment and maintenance can help prevent progression of the degeneration but once you’ve got it, you’re stuck with it.
Rarely though, I am pleasantly surprised and see elderly people who have looked after their spine and have little degeneration and great movement, they are also healthy and happy. So what’s their secret? Consciously or sub consciously they all follow these four key principles
- Move often and move safely. Sitting for longer than 20 minutes causes undue stress on the spine. Get up and move as much as you can. Take part in regular exercise; this can be walking, yoga, pilates or going to the gym but move frequently!
- Don’t ignore your core. Your core brings strength to your spine. You need it like you need the tyres on your car.
- Eat well. A balanced healthy diet is needed for the health of all the cells in the body, including the bone cells. Smoking, excessive drinking and sugary foods deteriorate the health of bone making it easier for them to degenerate irreversibly.
- Get a regular check up with a chiropractor. Chiropractors specialise in the function of the spine and nervous system. This is our bread and butter, like a dentist is with teeth. Get a check-up regularly throughout the year to keep you at your best
Doing all the above regularly can make the difference between keeping mobile and having great quality of life into your later years versus being immobile, in pain and house bound. As a dentist once said “you only need to floss the teeth you wish to keep”, so go and floss your spine daily by doing these 4 healthy habits.
Written by Dr Callum Forrest MChiro, DC
For more information on how to keep your spine healthy or for the details of a great Chiropractor near you email us at: email@example.com
It’s that time of year again. The post-Christmas / New Year’s blues have truly set in, your email inbox is overflowing, the work is stacking up and to make things worse you’ve made a new year’s resolution to lose weight and get fit which is making you feel constantly hungry. It’s no surprise then that 90% of New Year’s resolutions are broken within the first month.
Well this is how I think we should approach our health for 2016. Pick one small change to your usual routine which is going to benefit your overall health, not 6. Because when the inevitable happens and you break one of your resolutions it won’t be long until the others come tumbling down.
Once you’ve implemented your health change for a month you should be comfortable with the routine you’ve put in place to maintain it. It shouldn’t feel like a chore or be an effort. Now pick another healthy action and add this into your routine. Again do it for a month, get used to it, and get comfortable with the routine. So you now have 2 health routines which you’ve consistently implemented into your life and it doesn’t feel like you’ve done much! If you keep doing this every month you will have made 12 significant health changes by the end of the year. If you had tried to action the same 12 health habits all at once in January it’s fair to say you would be in a worse situation come the end of the year than if you implement one at a time.
Here are 12 everyday actions for you to action to benefit your overall health.
- Hydration. Drinking enough water for your body type is one of the most underrated factors essential for good health. Almost every disease state will have chronic dehydration as one of the causative factors. To calculate how much water you should be drinking multiply 35ml per Kg of your body weight. During periods of hot weather or if you’re unwell you can increase this to 45ml per Kg. Now you know the amount for you invest in a drinks bottle. Buy one for work and one for home. Work out how many you need to drink to reach your goal. Little and often is so important. If you drink all your water when you get home in the evenings your body will flush it out.
- Movement. Sitting for prolonged periods has been shown to have huge detrimental effects to your health including accelerating the rate of degenerative change (Osteoarthritis) to your spine which is irreversible. Make the effort to get up and move if you’ve been sitting for up to 20 minutes. You can download programmes for you PC which let you know when 20 minutes have passed with a reminder to get up and move. Why not get up and have a glass of water and kill 2 birds with one stone!
- Fresh Fibre with every meal. Eat some form of fresh, raw and uncooked vegetables and fruit at the beginning of each meal in your day. This will take minimal preparation and you will notice a difference to your energy levels within a week.
- Stretch every morning. Whether you feel it or not certain muscles will get tight after sleep. To ready your body for the demands of the day do a simple Cat Camel stretch every morning to improve mobility and decrease chances of low back pain. Taking part in a yoga class regularly is a fantastic way to keep your body mobile and healthy.
- Educate yourself in an area of health you’re interested in. It can be fitness, nutrition, skin care, whatever you fancy but make the effort every day to educate yourself in an area you wouldn’t normally. The best way to do this is read 10 pages or listen to at least 15 mins of an audio book or pod cast in your selected topic every day. The latter can be done on the way to work, during your lunch break or whilst shopping at the supermarket. There are tonnes of fantastic pod casts out there, free to download on every health topic under the sun.
- De-stress every day. Stress affects everyone but in different ways. Stress, whether it be at work, home, family etc. causes a cascade of chemicals to be released which if at consistently high levels are dangerous for our overall health. Free to down load 10 minute meditation Apps are great. If you find it hard getting off to sleep try then do in bed at night. Alternatively it can be done first thing in the morning.
- Reduce your coffee or tea- Caffeine should be limited as much as possible. Try and reduce your intake by 50%. It will be challenging for the first week but your body will quickly adapt and you will not rely on caffeine to keep you awake.
- Invest in yourself: Get a check-up from a dentist and chiropractor. Prevention is the best medicine. If you wait until you have tooth ache or back pain the cost and time of treatment will be more than if you get a regular check-up.
- Make time for breakfast: This often comes down to a time management issue more so than anything else. A wholesome healthy breakfast eaten everyday will not only give you more energy throughout the day it will reduce your craving in-between which can lead to unnecessary snacking but it also it improves gut motility and absorption.
- Plan your evening meals: At the end of the day when we’re tired hungry and have nothing at home to eat is when we make poor meal choices with unhealthy quick to prepare meals often accompanied by over eating. Try and plan your meals for the week so you know what you need to get. Prepare the meals in advance. Make a batch and freeze where possible. Remember your fresh, raw and uncooked vegetables or fruit from number 3!
- Go for an hour power walk every week. You’ll be amazed at how much energy is needed to maintain a good paced power walk for a whole hour. Doing this on your own can also act as a great stress reliever and de-clutter the mind but getting a friend, partner or family member to go with you is great too. I advise doing this on a Sunday morning.
- Minimise your use of laptop’s or tablets directly before bed. These electronic devises emit blue light which ssuppresses the production of the hormone melatonin. Melatonin controls the sleep and wake cycles. A reduction in melatonin at night is associated with sleeplessness. But melatonin suppression has far worse consequences than simply poor sleep it has also been shown to increase the risk of cancer, impair immune system function, and possibly lead to cardio metabolic consequences such as type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and heart disease. So instead of watching your favourite TV programme in bed or catching up on the news on your phone put them down and read something real like a book or magazine.
If you are serious about making these small easy to do changes to your lifestyle then make a note of each change to its corresponding month in your diary. Also get a friend, family member, work colleague on board as well. It will help you keep accountable to the positive changes you’re trying to make.