Morning Movement Routine

Here’s my easy morning movement routine to get the body moving first thing.

The following exercises generally help with mobility, circulation, and lymphatic drainage and work the major muscle groups. They can be also done in the evening before bed to help release tension.

You don’t have to do all seven, you select the right exercises for you or ask your doctor or exercise health professional.

Watch the instructional video before starting the Super Seven Exercises!

1. Marching on the Spot:
Start low impact, gently marching on the spot. It’s up to you how long and fast you march and how high you raise your feet. This can also be done between each exercise to keep moving.
2. Breathe and Shake:
Stand with feet approximately hip width apart and knees slightly bent. Deep breath in and stretch your hands and arms up to the sky.As you exhale, shake out your hands above your head and then continue shaking them all the way down to your sides. Let your neck, shoulders,  and hips and knees gently move and shake and move as they want. Do at least three times. Wonderful for your circulation and lymphatic system.
3. Side Steps:
Start with small steps first to one side, then the other. As you warm up and get more fit you can make those steps bigger. When stronger and used to this activity, you may decide to bend your knees as you step out to the sides and use your arms.
4. Arm Swing:
Start with feet shoulder width apart, shoulders relaxed and arms loosely by your side. Tighten your core or stomach muscles. Slowly turn to one side and let your arms flop and follow, then slowly turn to the other side. Gradually increase your speed of turning from side to side, letting the arms move and stay loose.
5. Shoulder Rotations and Side Neck Turns:
Stand with feet apart. Stretch and lengthen through the spine (pull up through the back or crown of the head). Lift your shoulders gently up and then rotate backwards and bring shoulders down. Repeat and rotate backward up to ten times, then relax.

Relax, release and lower your shoulders, your head facing to the front. Slowly turn your head to one side towards the shoulder to your comfort level. Hold for three to ten seconds, and then slowly come back to centre. Repeat sequence with the other side.  Ideally do this sequence at least three times.
6. Air punches:
Standing balanced with feet apart, hands held up and closed into fists, punch upwards into the air above your head with one arm. Bring back to centre and then alternate with the other arm. You can also lower the arms and air punch directly to the front. May also help to relieve stress and over time extend the range of movement in the shoulders. 
7. Air Squats or Chair Sit:
Stand with your feet hip width apart, toes pointing slightly outward and tighten your stomach or core muscles. With a comfortably straight back and upright torso, your weight balanced on your heels, bend at the hips pushing your buttocks backwards and bending the knees like you are about to sit down. Lower to a comfortable and safe level for you, keeping your hips above knee level. Your knees over but not beyond your toes.

Return slowly to your starting position.If this is a new exercise for you, don’t go too deep too soon. Place a chair behind you and sit or squat down onto it. Aim to sit down and get up without using your arms, just the strength in your legs, hips and knees. Do squats slowly to your comfort level and build up the number gradually. If there is any discomfort, stop and seek professional guidance.
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I would love to know how you go with the Morning Movement Routine. Let me know how it makes you feel!

8 Tips for Preventing Back and Muscle Pain

There are many small habits that we do everyday – the way we sit, stand, move and use our bodies that can cause poor posture, stress on muscles and pain in the long term. Here are 8 tips for preventing back and muscle pain.

1. When standing or sitting, stop crossing or folding your arms across the front of your body. That position tends to bring your shoulders forward and over time creates a cramped ‘round shouldered’ posture. Long term, this habit can create a permanently rounded upper back and associated weakness in the thoracic spinal muscles.

2. When sitting, do not clasp your hands together in your lap. If you are sitting upright, your elbows should be hanging relaxed and vertically aligned under your shoulders. Your hands resting gently on your mid upper thighs, allows your shoulders to stay back and for you to have your chest upright and elevated, breathing deeply into the lungs.

3. Carrying a heavy handbag repeatedly on one shoulder places enormous pressure on the nerves and muscles and over time can cause imbalances in the upper spine. Use the handle and hold the bag in your hand, changing sides regularly. Don’t keep your wallets and keys in your back pocket as they may create a pelvic imbalance when you sit.

4. Stand with your feet apart, not together. Standing and sitting with your feet together can put pressure on the iliotibial band which stretches from your hip to your knee and can create that outer thigh, leg ache. The wider you are in the hips, the further apart your feet may need to be. So simply changing the way you stand over time may help prevent pain.

5. Do not cross your legs (standing, sitting or lying) – besides putting pressure on nerve pathways and possibly triggering pain, that position can affect circulation and lymphatic drainage to the lower limbs.

6. When standing, take your weight evenly on both feet. Don’t slouch onto one hip or lean to one side. This places huge strain on the pelvis and back. If you are required to stand in one spot for any length of time, keep your body weight evenly distributed and simply bend the back of the knees ever-so slightly. Alternately place your buttocks and back flat against a wall and maintain weight evenly on both feet. If you find this difficult to do, it can be an indication that are structural imbalances and you may benefit from physical correction.

7. When lifting, first move in close to the object, bend your knees, hold your stomach muscles in tight before and as you lift. Do not over reach or twist. 

8. Be aware of how you are entering or alighting from a car. Getting out of a car, most of us tend to ‘throw’ a leg out and start walking. To avoid strain on the hips and pelvis, keep knees together, tighten stomach muscles and turn the trunk of your body to the open car doorway,, sit close to the edge of the car seat and swing the legs out together if possible, placing both feet on the ground. You can use your arms to lift your legs if necessary. Try not to get in and out of a car if it is parked on a slope, flat even ground is better for back and leg pain conditions.

I hope these 8 tips for preventing back and muscle pain have got you thinking! Do you do any of these habits? Is it time to change them up?

Please get in touch if you need further assistance with your back and muscle pain.

Tips for getting back to exercise

“The alternative to daily exercise, stretching or movement is deterioration, aging, loss of muscle tone and circulation, eventually atrophy and the death of healthy tissue – seriously you need to move!”

As humans we are part of the animal kingdom and are made to move – in all directions, every day.

We were not designed to sit all day at a computer desk, be in a car driving around for hours or working a 12-hour shift in a mining truck etc. We are biped with long legs and arms for a reason – we are made to walk, run, jog, dance, stretch, climb and reach.

Our anatomy and physiology is such that if we don’t constantly move, our muscles and joints do physically become stiff and our fascia (connective tissue or membranes that surround line and separate our muscles, stabilises our bodies etc.) will actually start to fuse together and then limit our mobility.

If you have not exercised for some time due to pain, illness or injury, take it slowly and consult your medical professionals. Here are my tips to consider before you start any movement program:

  • Move with intention – don’t be in a rush. First stop and think what you want to achieve. Secondly visualise it clearly in your mind, mentally feel yourself doing it successfully and then finally make your move. Be deliberate and thoughtful in your actions and you greatly increase success. You also will decrease your chance of accident or injury.

  • Do any new activity slowly. If you been in pain for a while, chances are you’ve lost some muscle tone and flexibility due to inactivity. Suddenly calling those weakened muscles and joints into fast action is not in your best interest. Start slowly!

  • Protect your lower back. Statistically the majority of people experience their pain in the lower back, hips and legs. One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself is to tighten your stomach muscles, engage your core, before and whenever you put your back under strain, particularly if you are overweight or have a large stomach. For example, when getting in and out of chairs or your car, lifting groceries out of the car boot etc, pull in and tighten those stomach muscles before and during the activity. This will help support the lower back and reduce the potential for injury.

  • Start in small ways – with your everyday activities. Go for a short walk first thing in the morning or in the evening rather than watching TV. Take the dog for a walk (or your partner, children or grandchildren). Take every opportunity to move rather than staying in bed or in that chair! That old saying is true, ‘move it or lose it!’ Start with small, realistic goals and work your way up gradually.

  • Get out of the house! A change of location can increase your energy levels, allow interaction with people, create a diversion and take the focus off your pain. A walk in the garden, along the river or at the beach can give you fresh air to breathe and help improve morale. If you are alone, head to your nearest shopping centre or park and make some new friends.

  • Adopt a positive ‘YES’ attitude. Whenever you get invited anywhere, automatically say yes! Even if you don’t feel like it, the majority of times when you make the effort and get there, you will be glad you did and your body will appreciate the variety of activity and movement.

  • Get out of your pyjamas! When you are not feeling well, you’re tired and you could just stay in bed all day, please don’t! It’s so easy to get stuck in that rut and then the days drag into weeks and months and you just get weaker and weaker. If the least you do in a day is to drag yourself out of bed, clean your teeth, get dressed and brush your hair – you’ve done well. Give yourself a simple daily “must do” routine and commit to looking after yourself!

So the truth is that a movement program takes effort and commitment, however the benefits are immeasurable and the alternative is very scary. Getting started may not be easy but you just have to do it if you want to relieve your pain long term.

How to sit for pain free posture

Are you aware of how you sit? It might be causing you pain and creating bad posture.

Often lounge and TV chairs are made to look good, but they may not be the best for your back. They may tilt your back too far backwards and if they are too soft, you can really sink into the seating and then find it difficult to get up from that position. So while soft seems so inviting, in reality it may not be good for your back.

The ideal chair is one that allows you to keep your back relatively straight and vertically aligned. Generally you should be sitting slightly forward on your hips and tailbone – not leaning backwards with your spine past vertical. Push your buttocks into the back of the chair so you are sitting upright.

Extend and pull up through your spine – don’t sag into the chair and allow your rib cage to collapse onto your stomach and hips. Pull up through the crown of the head and rest your hands on mid thighs (not clasped together or crossed in front of your chest). Shoulders should be down and relaxed to help keep an open chest with your elbows hanging vertically.

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Chairs that tilt your spine back will make you (unconsciously) push your head and neck forward so that your body can find a centre point of gravity. Your body has an inbuilt balance mechanism that means when your body is tilted backwards, your head will automatically come forward to compensate. As soon as that happens, neck and shoulder muscles strain and tighten, circulation is affected and pain can be initiated or increased.

Most lounge chairs today are plush and you tend to sink deeply into the seat – I avoid those chairs because I know they can trigger my back and I want to stay pain free. Soft chairs can be a trap for people who end up sitting all day and maybe falling asleep in the chair. For many pain conditions, being ‘lazy’ and sitting all day can have painful consequences. If you have back issues, you should choose wisely how, where and how long you sit.

People also come with different leg and spine lengths so one chair design is not ideal for all. For example a too high chair can press on the hamstrings, the back of the legs of a shorter person and over time can compromise circulation and lymphatic drainage. This can result in tight calves and swelling of the feet and ankles. Pick a chair where your legs are not swinging but your feet comfortably reach the floor (or use a foot stool). Also flex your feet and stretch your legs regularly while seated to avoid circulation problems.

If you have back, hip or knee pain, and the length of the chair seat is too long, you may have difficulty getting out of the chair suddenly. Or if you’ve been sitting far back into a chair, do not stand up immediately from that position. First, bring yourself forward horizontally towards the front edge of the seat until you can get your feet firmly on the ground. Tighten your core or stomach muscles, lean slightly forward over your knees and then rise. Stand for a few seconds for your circulation to equalise and to regain your balance before you move away. Stop and visualise what you want to do next and then move – no need to rush. Do not jump up quickly from a chair that is not optimal for you.

If you go somewhere and the chairs don’t suit then stand up and walk around. Don’t allow other people to dictate that you remain seated and put your back at risk. Stand off to the side or at the back so that you can move unobtrusively and protect your back. 

You might think that sitting in chairs is simple because it is something we do all the time and often for many hours a day but it can be the number one thing that it is triggering your back or leg pain.

Do you need to improve your sitting habits?? Let me know how you go with these tips.

Do you have ‘text neck’?

If you are on your phone a lot, your posture might look like this and you may have ‘text neck’!

Poor phone posture can create problems like these:

👉 pain, stress and tightness in the neck and back

👉 headaches

👉 limited range of motion in the neck

👉 rounded shoulders

👉 slumped posture 

👉 respiratory problems 

Do you think the lungs can fully inflate and allow you to breathe easily if the head is down (constricting the throat and airway) and you are constantly slumped forward, crowding and compressing the lungs and organs in the trunk of the body?

For short periods of mobile phone or tablet usage, hold the device up to eye level, keeping your spine and neck straight as possible.

For longer periods, you may need to prop your device on a stand or use it at the table or desk to get it close to your eye level and not have to tilt your head down. 

Be creative, do whatever it takes to use your device in a comfortable and good posture position.

Of course, I can help your posture with Bowen Therapy too!