Monthly Archives: May 2012

How Can I Improve My Balance?

Exercise programs commonly emphasize strength training and cardiovascular activity, but usually neglect efforts to keep your balance system healthy.  Balance is maintained through a combination of factors including eyesight, feedback from your inner ear, and receptors located in your joints muscles and ligaments.  Just like other body systems, balance can improve with the proper training and you are never too old to benefit from balance exercise.  The following are some examples of balance training that span all functional levels.

Low level balance training:

Be sure to stand by a stationary object that can be grabbed if you feel unsteady.  Attempt standing with the feet together for 10 to 30 seconds.  Vary the exercise by standing with one foot in front of the other and then switching foot position.  This exercise can be made more challenging by closing your eyes, or reaching outside of your base of support.  Start with 5 minutes daily and try to progress to 15 minutes as tolerated.

Mid-level balance training:

If low level training is no longer challenging, switch to balancing on one foot for 10-30 seconds.  Once again, this can be made more challenging by closing the eyes or reaching outside of your base of support.  Another level of difficulty can be added by standing on one leg and trying to touch the opposite toe on every number of an imaginary clock that you are standing in the middle of.

High level balance training:

Adding balance equipment to your training adds the next level of difficulty to your routine.  Most sporting goods stores sell balance boards, round boards, balance disks and other aids.  You can also look for items around the house to add to your routine.  Try walking tandem on a 2×4 forwards and backwards without falling off, or try throwing a ball against a wall and catching it while balancing on one leg.

Always be sure to practice in a safe environment and within your current capabilities.

By: Steven L. Bernstein PT, OMT

Lift to Live & Live to Lift

Does anyone mutter the words, “I used to be able to do that when I was your age”, or maybe you have heard some friends exclaiming the same phrase?

The aging process is something that is hard to admit. When we feel aches and pains that we didn’t have 10 years ago and our bodies start to store fat instead of building muscle. It is a tough realization to wrap our head s around.

The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t have to be that way. With the right plan and progression, your athletic self maybe just ahead of you. From children to men and women in their 90s, everyone can get stronger. It is all relative but even being a little stronger is better than not. The strongest will survive!

The thing is that strength or resistance training can address weaknesses or issues that sneak up on us as we get older. Starting at the middle ages of our life, we begin to lose 1 percent of our muscle mass per year. Strength training will help stunt this regression and also help keep ligaments, tendons, nervous system and bone density strong.

Don’t rush out the door and start doing 15 sets of various arm exercise just yet, men. To accomplish your new goal of being the strongest oldest living person, you must train smarter. The focus should be on stability and mobility along with total body strength. Ladies, it does not mean use a weight you can lift 100 times in a set!

The biggest area of improvement for everyone is the core (that does not just mean the abdominals). This includes abdominal, back extensors and hips. Sitting in our cars, at our desks and watching TV abuses this region the most and also takes its toll on the shoulders and hips mobility. The number one way to combat this is . . . stand up more . . .  move!

So, when you go to the gym to workout, do not sit to perform presses, rows or pull-downs. Start to change you your position to kneeling or standing. You will find that you may feel weaker and have to lighten the weight for correct technique (most important).  Oh, and I’m not discouraging the recumbent/stationary bike but if you sat all day, use the elliptical machine or cross-trainer. Even better do some jumping jacks or jump rope, both can be modified.

Changes like this just may make you the last one standing!

By : Rocco Ferraiolo PTA, NASM, SPARQ certified

Tennis Elbow

Yes you can get tennis elbow even if you do not play tennis.  Tennis elbow is an inflammation, soreness or pain on the outside of the upper arm near the elbow.  The medical term used to describe this condition is Lateral Epicondylitis, or an inflammation where the extensor tendon in the forearm meets with the bone at the side of the elbow.  Overuse of the extensor muscles can lead to trauma or slight tearing of the connective tissue.  This eventually leads to irritation and pain.  The condition can be common with racquet sports as well as professions involving hand dexterity such as painters, carpenters or plumbers.  It is also common amongst people who use a computer keyboard or mouse on a daily basis.

Your physician will usually diagnose the condition due to pain reproduction with palpation and muscle testing.  Treatment may require the use of antinflammatory medications or injections.  Avoidance of the activity that brought upon symptoms may be required for several weeks.  Ice, massage and gentle stretching may also help to speed the healing process.  To prevent a recurrence, equipment modification may be needed such as changing the grip on your racquet.  You may also need to change the technique or repetitive activity that brought upon symptoms.  A simple brace that wraps around the forearm can also be worn during activity.  This helps to alleviate pressure on the tendon and makes activity more comfortable.

Symptoms typically resolve anywhere from a few weeks to several months.  Occasionally, the condition can be chronic and require further medical intervention.  Be sure to speak with your physician for more information about tennis elbow.

By: Steven L. Bernstein

Bicycling for Exercise

One of the most common pieces of equipment used for exercise is the bicycle.  It is versatile enough to be used for anything from rehabilitation to racing, and most people have the ability to use one in some form or another.  A number of different styles exist, so choosing the right bike for your needs requires some consideration.

First you need to decide if you prefer to exercise indoors or outdoors.  If you live in an environment where you experience extremes of weather such as heat/cold or frequent rainy days, your best choice would be the use of a stationary bike.  These come in two standard varieties: upright and recumbent.  The upright gives the same riding position as a standard bicycle and allows the user to stand up off the seat while continuing to pedal.  A recumbent bicycle is used in a normal reclined sitting position with the feet out front.  The seat is usually larger and possibly more comfortable for people that do not like sitting on upright cycles.  Neither style is superior to one another as the pedal motion is still the same and the resistance can be equally adjusted.  You can typically find both styles for purchase at a sporting goods store, or at most gymnasiums.  If exercising with a group is more your style, the gym offers a spinning class led by an instructor which uses upright stationary bikes.

If being outdoors is more your style, a wide variety of bicycles exists depending on the type of environment you want to ride in.  First off, if the thought of sitting on a small bike seat does not sound appealing, or your back will not tolerate riding a standard bicycle then a recumbent bike or even a three wheeled bike may be the right choice.  The three wheeler is also a good option for those who have poor balance or never learned to ride a bicycle.  Upright bicycles are categorized into riding styles and are designed with the terrain in mind.  If you plan on riding off road, a mountain bike will give a more comfortable ride from the larger tires and shock absorbers.  For those that plan on staying on the road, bicycles vary from upright cruisers to sporty racers.  Your local bike shop is a great place to find a bike which will fit your riding style.

Regardless of where or how you decide to ride a bicycle, it is a great way to improve your leg strength and cardiovascular endurance.  Try to start riding 3-4 times per week for 30-60 minutes to reap the benefits for your heart and to lose weight.  As always, consult your physician before starting any exercise regimen.

By:  Steven L. Bernstein PT, OMT

The Summer is Coming So Stay Hydrated!

As the summer months approach us, theSouth Floridaheat and humidity rises quite rapidly.  For those of us who enjoy exercise and sports outdoors, this requires close attention to hydration.  Increasing fluid intake is the best way to avoid heat related illness such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.  Here are some tips for staying hydrated so you can stay healthy and perform at your best!

– Drink before you are thirsty.  Your body’s thirst mechanism is usually inadequate for letting you know when it is time to take in fluids.  Put yourself on a schedule to drink fluids and try to stick to it.

– Hydrate before and after activity.  Drinking approximately 20 oz. of fluid before activity as well as after will help to keep the body hydrated.

– Drink Water or sports drinks.  Avoid drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine as these will have a diuretic effect and cause you to loose fluid at an increased rate.

– Weigh yourself before and after activity.  If you have lost weight during a single bout of activity, the reason is because of fluid loss.

– Know the signs of dehydration.  Signs include dry lips and tongue, headache, weakness, dizziness, severe fatigue, nausea.  If post exercise urine appears darker than normal, this is a sign of inadequate hydration.

By: Steve L. Bernstein PT, OMT