Walk more, be healthier

Technology has made a lot of things easier. If you need to buy something, order it online. If you need to get somewhere, just drive your car.

What this also means is that Americans are walking and moving less. This is one of many factors leading to the ever-increasing waistlines in our country. And even if you haven’t been gaining weight, moving less can contribute to heart disease and other health issues.

If you want to add some more activity into your daily schedule, walking is one of the easiest things to do.If you want to add some more activity into your daily schedule, walking is one of the easiest things to do. As the American Heart Association points out, it’s easy, safe, and absolutely free! If walking 30 minutes a day seems daunting, set smaller goals and work toward that 30 minutes gradually. Find a way that motivates you, whether it’s in the morning on your own, walking with a friend on your lunch break, or taking the dog on a walk every night.

If you have questions about starting a walking program, talk to your physical therapist. She can create a walking program to help you get moving. Use our locator to find a Physiquality therapist in your neighborhood.

Walking after meals is particularly beneficial, says Libbie Chen. A physical therapist at Coury and Buehler Physical Therapy (a Physiquality member in California), Libbie explains that a postprandial walk can boost your metabolism and encourage digestion by increasing the rate at which food moves through your stomach. This can lower your blood sugars and triglicerides, leading to a healthier heart and weight loss.

The Mayo Clinic has some tips that can maximize your daily walk.

  • Keep your focus forward and your head up, rather than looking at the ground.
  • Relax your upper body and avoid stiffening your back, but be sure to keep your back straight rather than hunched over or arched backward. (This should also activate your ab muscles, which will help strengthen them.)
  • Walk smoothly, making sure to place each foot from heel to toe.
  • Don’t jump to your fastest pace – warm up by walking slowly at the beginning, and cool down by slowing your pace as you wrap up your walk.

There are plenty of ways to add variety to your walking routine.One of the best things about walking for exercise is that there are plenty of ways to add variety to your routine or to increase the level of exertion, notes Polar, a Physiquality partner vendor. Choosing a walking route that includes hills will challenge your legs and stamina; choosing one with a beautiful view may help you extend the walk and stick to it.

You can also up the ante by adding some variety to your walk. If you walk in the park and there are benches, Polar suggests doing tricep dips or step-ups to add resistance. Or simply quicken your pace for 30 seconds, then slow down to your regular pace for two minutes. If you have a heart rate or calorie monitor like those from Polar, or a pedometer, you can use those to set goals for calories burned or steps taken, increasing your goals every two weeks to improve your fitness.

 

Libbie Chen, PT, DPT Libbie Chen, PT, DPT, is a physical therapist at Coury and Buehler Physical Therapy, a Physiquality member with six locations in Orange County, California. A basketball player, she is fascinated by the intricacies of the human body and enjoys the art and science of physical therapy and its effects of helping others. She believes that the combination of providing individualized therapy, patient education, and communication are essentials to improving functional outcome and quality of life.
Polar Polar is the innovator in heart rate monitoring, activity and sleep tracking, and GPS sports training solutions for elite athletes, coaches and active fitness enthusiasts. For over 40 years, Polar has helped athletes understand, track and improve their performance. Polar’s award-winning product range includes pioneering sports wearables that work elegantly with Polar training apps and cloud services.Headquartered in Finland, Polar is a privately held company that operates in more than 80 countries. Polar products are sold through over 35,000 retailers globally. For more information on Polar, a Physiquality partner, please visit polar.com.

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6 habits for a healthier heart

Most of us know that exercise improves your cardiac health — you get moving and your heart pumps more, which helps your heart remain strong. But what else can you do to improve your heart health?

A few years ago, the American Heart Association, or the AHA, created Life’s Simple 7: seven ways to improve your cardiac health. One of those seven is exercising more. Your PT can help you create an exercise regimen to help you get moving, in the best way for your particular body. Use our locator to find a Physiquality therapist in your neighborhood.

Here are the AHA’s six other ways to make your heart stronger and healthier.

 

  • Manage your blood pressure to keep your heart healthy.Manage your blood pressure.

 

High blood pressure, or hypertension, can put you at risk for a variety of health problems, especially heart and kidney failure, stroke and vascular disease.

It’s important to know in what range your blood pressure falls, as well as whether it’s consistent over time. Talk to your doctor about your blood pressure and whether it falls into a healthy range under the new hypertension guidelines that the AHA published with the American College of Cardiology last fall. If it doesn’t, while there are medicines to take for hypertension, your doctor will most likely advise some lifestyle changes to improve your blood pressure first: lower your sodium intake, eat more fruits and vegetables, reduce stress, and exercise more.

 

  • Control your cholesterol.

 

In the past, patients were simply told to watch their cholesterol levels, as it can lead to blocked arteries and stroke. Now we know that LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) is the type that leads to these build-ups, while “good” or HDL cholesterol actually cleans your arteries of plaque and build-ups. When your doctor runs blood tests, you usually get a report on both types of cholesterol, with the hopes that your HDL levels are higher than your LDL levels.

If you have high levels of LDL cholesterol, you may be able to lower it simply by eating a low-fat diet and monounsaturated fats, like olive or canola oil; others may need help with medication. Speak to your doctor about what cholesterol range is right for you, and how best to achieve it.

 

  • Lower your blood sugar levels.

 

Lower your blood sugar levels to help your heart.Your blood sugar level is literally the amount of sugar, or glucose in your blood. High glucose or blood sugar levels can be a sign of type 2 diabetes and can lead to nerve damage, kidney or eye problems, heart disease and stroke.

As with cholesterol, there are medications that can regulate your blood sugar, but for most people it is better to start by changing your eating habits. Eating more fruits and vegetables, drinking fewer sugary drinks, and filling up on high fiber foods are easy ways to reduce the amount of sugar you’re consuming.

 

  • Eat better.

 

The AHA notes, “A healthy diet is one of your best weapons for fighting cardiovascular disease. When you eat a heart-healthy diet, you improve your chances for feeling good and staying healthy — for life!”

The AHA nutrition recommendations aren’t anything new: Focus on fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, and chicken and fish, and avoid foods and drinks that are high on salt, fat or sugar – and low on nutrients. If you’re trying to change your habits, Harvard Medical School recommends adding one extra fruit or vegetable a day, or eating a handful of nuts as a snack in the afternoon.

 

  • Stop smoking.

 

Smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your health. It can lead to cardiovascular problems like stroke and coronary heart disease; respiratory illnesses like emphysema and chronic bronchitis; and cancer, not only in the lungs, but also throughout the rest of the body.

If you want to quit smoking, it can be hard to do it on your own. The AHA has plenty of resources to help you quite successfully.

 

  • physical therapy walking on treadmillLose weight.

 

While we know losing weight sounds easier than it usually is, it has been shown that having extra pounds on your frame causes stress on your heart, lungs, bones and even blood vessels. The good news is that by following the guidelines mentioned above — eating healthier foods, lowering your blood sugar levels, and, yes, exercising — people often lose weight.

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Working out while on the road

with advice from Richard Baudry, PT, DPT, OCS,
Yousef Ghandour, PT, MOMT, FAAOMPT, and Brian Klaus

Working out while on the road

With Memorial Day behind us and Independence Day quickly approaching, many of us have plans to travel in the next couple of months. If you’ve been trying to stick to an exercise regimen, here are some ideas for how to continue working out when you leave your regular routine behind.

“Exercise that doesn’t require bulky equipment or a lot of space is best while traveling,” advises Brian Klaus, the Vice President of Stretchwell, Inc. (a PTPN preferred vendor that offers a variety of progressive resistance products). Why take up space in your luggage with heavy weights or bulky equipment?

Physical therapist Richard Baudry, the founder and CEO of Baudry Therapy Center (a Physiquality member in New Orleans), agrees. Richard reminds readers that walking is the easiest exercise to do while traveling. “Make a point to stand tall, take long strides and swing your arms,” he adds.

Make exercise a daily family activity.If you’re worried about taking time away from other activities, says Richard, get up an hour earlier to go for a walk or jog – the fresh air will give you almost as much boost as a cup of coffee. You can also make it a daily family activity. If you’ve traveled to a scenic site, walking is a great way to explore your vacation location; you can plan a different walk for each day you’re there. Or if you’re traveling with a little one and he or she goes to bed early, plan your workouts for after bedtime; check out our post on working out while baby is sleeping for a sample workout that will get your heart pumping quickly (and quietly).

If you prefer using resistance when you work out, think about bringing resistance tubing, a set of bands that include a door anchor, or a portable weighted pulley system. A set like this one from QTEK Products (a Physiquality partner), created by physical therapist Yousef Ghandour, is easy to pack and won’t take up a lot of room in your bags. Yousef notes that you can use any hotel or household items to add weight to the system, which allows for shoulder, back, hip and knee exercises by attaching the system to your hotel room door.

Richard suggests weight lifting using items you’re already planning to bring, like your purse or a backpack, for arm curls or overhead presses. (Just make sure to securely close your bag first.) Or book your stay at a hotel that includes a gym with workout equipment that you normally use at home; look at the list of amenities when making your reservation to see what types of equipment is available. Some may even offer fitness classes like yoga or Pilates.

Use technology to remind yourself to work out.Lastly, Brian reminds readers to take advantage of the technology many of us already own. Use the reminders or calendar on your phone to set times for those daily walks or your gym time. Pay attention to your watch or FitBit when it notes that you’ve been sitting too long. Or have Siri remind you that a body in motion stays in motion!

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How does physical therapy help after a cast comes off?

How does physical therapy help after the cast comes off?

The adult human body is made up of 206 bones. (We’re born with 270, but over time, as we grow, some fuse to give us 206 around the time we turn 30.) Unfortunately, many of those can break or fracture, leading to a cast in order to heal. So what happens after the cast is removed? What is necessary in order to return to normal activity?

A variety of factors will affect the length of time needed to heal, as well as how physical therapy will help you regain your pre-injury range of motion and level of activity.

The American Physical Therapy Association, or APTA, points out that there are several levels of bone fractures. The simplest is defined as a non-displaced fracture. This means that the bone may be broken, but the pieces are still properly aligned within the body.

There are several levels of fractures.From there, more complex fractures range from fractures that only include one break but are not properly aligned (displaced fractures), to a bone having multiple fractures, the fracture(s) affecting the soft tissue around the break, or even the fracture piercing the skin. The more complex the fracture, the longer it will take for the bone to heal, which will mean activity will be curtailed for a longer time, increasing the possibility that physical therapy will be necessary to regain function.

Another factor is where your fracture has occurred. For example, with a wrist or elbow fracture, it may be easy to walk around, but you will most likely have to limit the use of your wrist and arm. Your physical therapist can be of great help even while your arm is still in a cast, adapting your exercise regimen to remove any stress to the affected bones.

After the cast is removed, says the APTA, it’s normal to have some pain and stiffness in the affected area. Physical therapy can help you to regain strength and range of motion, allowing you to return to your previous level of activity.

Lower extremity injuries take longer to heal.Lower extremity injuries, i.e., fractures below the belt, are more difficult to come back from — when you have a cast on your leg or even a walking boot, your mobility is more limited. Once you have been fitted with your cast, your physical therapist can teach you how best to move around given the limitations of your cast.

When the bone is fully healed and the cast is removed, your PT will work with you to start putting weight on the affected leg, building up to a regular walking gait with your full weight on both legs. Physical therapy will include a strengthening regimen to regain any muscle that was lost while the bone was healing. Eventually, this will lead to a release from PT and a return to your pre-injury levels of activity.

Keep in mind that every fracture and every patient is different. Be sure to follow the directions from your physician and physical therapist carefully in order to recuperate safely. And if you have any pain for an extended period of time, whether while in a cast or after it has been removed, talk to your doctor about what might be the cause.

 

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Cycling for better health

How are those resolutions coming? Are you cooking more at home? Have you seen your dentist (or at least made an appointment for your annual cleaning)?

If you’re looking for a way to increase your activity, cycling or bike riding is a great way to be active.

Anna Dark, the Fitness Director of the Take Charge Fitness Program (a wellness facility run by Physiquality member Clinton Physical Therapy Center in Tennessee), says that cycling has many health benefits. Cycling is an aerobic activity, which is great for your heart and circulation. Going for regular bike rides also increases muscle strength and flexibility, while also improving joint mobility and bone strength.

Cycling offers mental and emotional benefits that help you cope with stress.Like most exercise, cycling offers mental and emotional benefits that help individuals cope with stress, even when you’re on a stationary bike. “And cycling is a great way to enjoy the great outdoors, which in itself can help individuals feel better emotionally!” Anna adds.

If you’re serious about committing to regular bike riding, Anna recommends going to the local bike store to choose the proper bike. Consult with the staff about the type of bike that might be best for you, a road bike, mountain bike or a hybrid, based on where you’re planning to ride. And, adds Anna, they will make sure that your bicycle is properly fitted to your body.

You must have the proper equipment for bicycling.Anyone new to cycling must have the proper safety equipment if they will be riding outside, as they’ll be sharing the streets with cars, pedestrians and other bicyclists, reminds Anna. Your bike should be fully equipped with safety features like reflectors and flags in order to be visible, especially at night. Check the air in your tires regularly in order to keep them fully inflated. And make sure that you have the appropriate gear to protect yourself, including a helmet, reflective vest and gloves.

When you’re going out on the road, says Anna, be sure to choose a route that you’re familiar with. This will give you confidence while riding, making the ride less stressful. Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings, especially other motorists and traffic. And make sure to use hand signals to let others know where you’re going.

Lastly, have fun! Cycling allows you to enjoy the scenic route while bettering your health. And that’s something to celebrate.

5 resolutions to make for 2017

We all get into bad habits in our life, in one way or another. Perhaps you don’t talk to your grandmother enough. Or you eat too much fast food. Or you stopped working out. Setting resolutions for the new year is a good way to try to work on these bad habits.

There are many habits that can be damaging to your health, but here are five resolutions you can make for the new year to improve your health.

  1. Evaluate your eating habits.

Evaluate your eating habits.Have you been skipping breakfast? Snacking constantly instead of sitting down to dinner? Picking up food on the go instead of cooking at home? These are all habits that can cause us to gain weight and damage our health. Take a look at the latest guidelines recommended by the Department of Agriculture and Health to compare to your eating habits.

If you feel that a complete overhaul is too challenging, change one habit at a time, like making sure to eat breakfast, even if it’s a smoothie or a cup of yogurt. Or pledging to not buy any afternoon snacks for the pantry. Or cooking at least one healthy, sit-down dinner per week; you can always find a recipe that will make leftovers to cover your family for another dinner or two.

  1. Calculate how much television you watch.

A study published last year found that watching more than three hours of television a day correlates with lower levels of mental acuity. Other studies have found that extended hours in front of screens can lead to heart disease and high blood pressure. And if you’re watching with your kids, it’s been shown that children who watch more television at a younger age develop language more slowly and have more problems connecting socially with their peers. If you want to escape into another world, consider picking up a book.

A study found that reading stimulates the brain over time — the excitement you feel when sympathizing with a character lingers for days. Samantha Olson at Medical Daily notes, “Researchers believe this prolonged and measurable brain boost, which was found in the region associated with language and sensory motor skills, could improve brain connectivity over time. It brings using books as an escape to a whole new level.”

Of course, both reading and television are sedentary activities, which leads us to resolution number three:

  1. Increase your daily activity.

Increase your daily activity.We all know the benefits of activity: Being more activereduces our risk for a variety of diseases, keeps our weight lower and makes us feel better. The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, or 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

It might sound like a lot, but they do point out that if you went to see a movie, it would take the same amount of time. And you don’t need to do it all at once; even 10 minutes at a time is better than nothing. If you’re trying to start a new habit, find a friend to do it with you — it’s been shown that if you schedule a class or walk with a friend, you’re much more likely to stick with it. And you get the added benefit of social activity, which improves your mental health. It’s a win-win!

If you’re anxious about starting to work out after a long drought or injury, consult with your physical therapist. A PT can do a wellness evaluation to determine if you’d need to adapt any physical activity, and some even offer fitness programs within their own clinics. Look for a Physiquality member near you with our clinic locator.

  1. Take care of your teeth.

The American Dental Association recommends visiting the dentist for a cleaning and check-up at least once a year, if not twice. You should brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily in between those appointments.

So you’re brushing your teeth and flossing regularly. You don’t have any pain. Why should you go for a check-up? Because dentists can catch problems before they turn into something painful, both as physical pain and economic pain. Look at it this way: Filling a cavity is much less expensive than a root canal.

  1. Get more sleep.

Get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.Most adults need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep a night, but many people don’t get nearly that much. A lack of sleepcan affect your mental and physical health. It is associated with increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and system-wide inflammation. Lack of sleep can also affect our immune system, our cognitive abilities (i.e., our mental capacity), and our mood and mental health. By getting a good night’s rest, your body can recuperate from a hard day’s work, giving you more energy to get up and get going in the morning.

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How Pilates and PT help you stay active as you get older

How Pilates and PT help you stay active as you get older

As we grow older, our bodies change. While it may sound counterintuitive, staying activeis the best solution when our joints start to ache and our energy starts to fade. (Isaac Newton probably had no idea he was also talking about the human body when he explained that a body at rest stays at rest, and a body in motion remains in motion.)

Two ways to remain in motion as we age are physical therapy and Pilates. As we’ve pointed out in the past, physical therapy helps maintain and improve your health as you age. “Therapy helps to promote an increased awareness of your body,” says physical therapist Rachelle Hill. At Moreau Physical Therapy (a Physiquality member in Louisiana), Rachelle and her fellow PTs apply therapy to improve posture and reduce back pain,evaluate gait to make walking more efficient and less painful, and improve balance toreduce the risk of falls, she explains.

If you're exercising incorrectly or compensating because of pain, you're at risk of doing more harm than good.In addition, if you’re exercising incorrectly or compensating because of pain, you’re at risk of doing more harm than good. “Doing the wrong exercise or doing an exercise incorrectly can result in more pain or even joint damage,” notes Kristina Holland, a physical therapist assistant at Clinton Physical Therapy Center in Clinton, Tennessee. Physical therapist Jessica Loncar agrees. She points out that exercise in a safe, controlled environment under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist goes a long way toward improving quality of life. A STOTT PILATES® Certified Instructor and Instructor Trainer for MERRITHEW™ (a Physiquality partner), Jessica reminds us that physical therapy is good for improving strength, balance, mobility and overall fitness.

Pilates exercises are designed to restore the natural curves of the spine and rebalance the muscles around the joints, with a focus on core stability, pelvic and shoulder girdle stabilization, neutral alignment and breathing. Pilates and physical therapy go hand in hand in teaching efficient movement patterns, which will keep us healthy as we age, explains Rachelle. Because Pilates focuses on proper back alignment and strengthening and lengthening the spine, she says, the back becomes stronger, preventing early wear and tear and reducing pain, as well as the risk of injury. This is key to staying active as one ages, as back pain often causes people to quit exercising for fear of further pain.

Many physical therapists often incorporate Pilates into their rehabilitation programs because of how it can be used to strengthen the body and improve flexibility with low-impact exercises. Mika Yoshida, a Pilates instructor at the Take Charge Fitness Program atClinton Physical Therapy Center, notes that this is especially beneficial after an injury or joint surgery, when one often loses range of motion in the affected joint. And while some of her students blame their lack of flexibility on their age, Mika reminds them that incorporating Pilates exercises into their daily or weekly regimen can improve their flexibility, regardless of their age.

Pilates is an excellent way to ease back into a more active lifestyle.If you’re dealing with joint pain or haven’t exercised in a while,Pilates is an excellent way to ease back into a more active lifestyle. A certified instructor like Jessica will know how to adapt exercises for your specific body and work with you to grow stronger. And if you take a class at a physical therapy clinic, you may end up with a physical therapist like Rachelle teaching your class. This means that she’ll zero in on any musculoskeletal weaknesses you have, and, if you need it, recommend coming into the clinic as a patient.

Practicing Pilates, says Mika, is like maintaining your car: You get an oil change for your car so that it can run for another 5,000 miles. You practice Pilates so that your body continues to move efficiently for years!

 

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Stress and back pain

We’ve written in the past about a variety of causes for back pain: poor posture, improper ergonomics at the office, even straining to lift heavy items like a baby improperly. But did you know that stress can also cause back pain?

The experts at Physiquality partner Kiss My Back! point out that any stress — from the home, the office, or the family — decreases oxygen to potential areas of discomfort, like the neck, shoulders and back. If you have a pre-existing condition or a history of chronic pain, this can exacerbate the problem.

Back pain often leads to less activity, which can increase the pain even more.To make it worse, “when someone is experiencing back pain,” says Laureen Dubeau, “they often decrease their activity level,” which leads to weaker muscles and joints — and more pain. A certified strength and conditioning specialist and MERRITHEW™ Master Instructor Trainer specializing in STOTT PILATES®, another Physiquality partner, Laureen cautions against letting the deep stabilizing muscles of the spine to weaken. If these muscles stop working to stabilize the spine, she says, the larger, superficial muscles become tense and overworked, which increases the pain (even more) and restricts movement.

If your stress leads to postural changes, like hunched shoulders, this will add to your muscular tension throughout your back. And if you start to lose sleep because of the stress, not only will you be crankier during the day, but your body won’t have the chance to recuperate and heal overnight, leading to… tense muscles and more pain.

So how can you break this cycle of stress and pain? Your physical therapist is an excellent resource for the best methods. In addition, being mindful of what is causing the stress and how you are handling it is vital. Kiss My Back! reminds readers that a lot of stress is caused by lack of or miscommunication. Talk to your colleagues or your family about what is creating the stress, and discuss ways to reduce the problems that are causing it.

Using a mind-body exercise like Pilates or yoga can allow you to strengthen your internal focus on your body, which calms the mind.Making time for exercise can also reduce both stress and pain. Laureen notes that increased activity will strengthen the muscles that support your back, while producing endorphins and increasing oxygen flow in your body, reducing pain in your back and elsewhere. Using a mind-body exercise like Pilates or yoga can also allow you to strengthen your internal focus on your body. This calms the mind, which improves your ability to deal with stress. In addition, she says, “the focus in Pilates on restoring ideal posture and reducing the force on joints can help restore a sense of support and control.”

Physiquality partner PowerPlay points out how important it is to be aware of your environment. Pay attention to how your desk is laid out at work, and make sure that it’s ergonomically correct. If you sleep on your stomach, consider sleeping on your side or your back, as it’s better for your back muscles, or read through these tips from the Mayo Clinic on how to improve your sleep posture when you have back pain. You may also need a new mattress or one that is more firm; if you haven’t bought one in the last 10 years, it’s time to start shopping. And don’t forget to think about what you wear every day — supportive footwear and a bag that is worn cross-body vs. over one shoulder can affect your back muscles as well.

In the short term, cold therapy, or even cold + compression therapy, can help to relieve pain, reminds Shawn Hickling, a physical therapist assistant and the founder of ActiveWrap, another Physiquality partner. If the back muscles are spasming, heat therapy, or a combination of heat and ice, may be better. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, known as NSAIDs, may also help to relieve pain, but beware of using them over a long time due to their side effects.

 

Challenge your office to be healthy

Did you know that May is Global Employee Health and Fitness Month? Created by the National Association for Health & Fitness (NAHF), a network of state-based councils and groups that promote healthy living, the group encourages daily physical activity and quality physical education in our schools. Through Global Employee Health and Fitness Month, the NAHF asks employers to create a workplace environment that promotes healthier living.

There are a variety of reasons to do this as a business owner or manager, or for employees to suggest it to their bosses. For a start, the CDC points out that healthier employees take fewer sick days, incur lower healthcare costs and are more productive; in fact, one study found that by promoting physical fitness and regular check-ups, employer healthcare costs could be cut in half. In addition, wellness programs can be seen by some prospective employees as a great benefit. It shows that the company is willing to invest in its employees, leading to a more positive work environment, better morale and higher retention.

“When it comes to encouraging employees to be active,” says Stefania Della Pia, “the key is to make exercise easily accessible.” Stefania is the senior program director of education and a master instructor trainer for MERRITHEW™, one of Physiquality’s partners. She encourages employers to remember the many commitments employees will have outside of work hours. She suggests incorporating activities into lunch hours, or offering after- or before-work activities on a schedule so that people have time to plan for them.

Here are some of the activities she suggests:

  • Bring in an instructor for on-site express workouts like yoga or Pilates.Bring in an instructor for on-site express workouts during the lunch hour in whatever modality best suits the office environment, whether it be Pilates, yoga, or another form of exercise.
  • Organize a team sport that everyone can get involved in, such as ultimate Frisbee, soccer or scavenger hunts.
  • Sign up an office team for a local charity walk or run.
  • Encourage employees to walk, bike or jog to work by providing parking spaces for bikes, and provide access to showers for those who choose the sweatier route.
  • Partner with a local gym or Pilates studio to offer employees a discount to work out on their own time.

Another resource for office fitness challenges is your local physical therapist. As musculoskeletal experts, physical therapists are experts in how the body moves. Many PTs do fitness and wellness assessments. Why not partner with a local therapist to challenge your office to make healthier choices? The PT can come in on the first and last days of the month to assess each team member before and after the challenge, as well as weekly on-site visits for coaching or wellness presentations. “Using a health and wellness expert like a physical therapist might encourage employees or fellow workers to see how healthier choices can affect how they feel in and out of the office,” says Mitch Kaye, PT, PTPN‘s director of quality assurance.

These healthy competitions are a great way to encourage employees to support each other create a health-centered atmosphere.If your office challenge is made of up activities outside of the office, be sure to find ways to track people’s progress so it can be celebrated and rewarded. Fitness trackers from companies like Polar, another Physiquality partner, can be used to count numbers of steps or active minutes, calories burned or distance traveled. If everyone in the office has a Polar device, they can even create in-office challenges, where Polar works with the team leader to determine the challenge and teams. Or the entire office can sign up at the GEHFM website to compete against each other and raise money for charities. These healthy competitions are a great way to encourage employees to support each other in achieving fitness goals, and they create a health-centered atmosphere, notes Stefania.

Employers can offer a wide range of rewards to encourage these healthy competitions. Simple rewards can be gift cards (to a juice bar or sports equipment store) for the most steps in a month, or the most active team in the office. Stefania suggests recognizing the month’s winner by highlighting her accomplishment in a company newsletter or on social media, or host an appreciation breakfast or lunch at the end of the challenge to acknowledge everyone that participated. If you really want to underscore your company’s commitment to healthy and active living, she says, “every quarter, or every year, offer a substantially larger reward, such as a trip or a piece of fitness equipment, to keep employees interested in ongoing health and fitness initiatives.”

 

Working out while baby is sleeping

Any parent will tell you that taking care of young children can wear you out. They need constant care and attention, their schedule shifts from day to day and week to week, and their mood swings will definitely affect their parents’ demeanor.

While many moms (and dads) skip exercise because it’s too challenging to work into their schedule, as we’ve mentioned before, exercise can help parents lose excess weight, minimize depression and feel better.

“Finding time to exercise is one of the biggest challenges for parents,” says Rachelle Hill (a physical therapist at Moreau Physical Therapy in Louisiana), “along with finding the energy to get going.” She recommends setting goals to help you stick to a routine. Whether the goal is losing weight, improving your health, or getting rid of back pain, she advises posting goals in highly visible areas, like the bathroom mirror or the front of the refrigerator, so they are hard to miss.

As little ones settle into a sleep routine, parents can work out while they rest. To make the most of the time you have, says Rachelle, consider these options when building your regimen:

Challenge your core strength and balance to become a stronger parent.
  • Challenge your core strength and balance.
  • Exercises that involve your arms and legs at the same time will help work multiple body parts in a short period of time.
  • Utilizing a circuit training format will help keep your heart rate up and burn more calories than just performing isolated muscle movements.
  • Add challenges like plyometrics and interval training to increase your workout.

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