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Why Everyone Over 50 Should Do Resistance Training

To the 43 million Americans who have low bone density, putting them at high risk of osteoporosis, there is great news for you… Exercise is good medicine. But not just any exercise – weight-bearing, muscle-strengthening exercise.

As people get older, bone density certainly becomes an issue for many people (women more than men), which can lead to unexpected falls, broken bones and even the onset of osteoporosis. But studies have proven that doing regular, weight-bearing exercise like jogging, walking, aerobics, dancing and resistance training can actually strengthen your bones. It’s a true ‘use it or lose it’ scenario.

And while this benefit of strength training for older adults is a powerful one, it’s simply just one in a list of proven reasons why seniors should make strength training a part of their lifestyles and fitness regimens.

While a reduction in strength is often considered an inevitable part of getting older, it is important that people of all ages should feel empowered to take charge of their overall health (including strength training) as they age. Along with diet and regular check-ups with both a physician and a physical therapist, an exercise regimen that includes elements of strength and resistance training can help slow some of the effects of aging – this, while also allowing one to maintain a high quality of life through activity and independence.

Here some of the many proven benefits of weight-bearing and resistance exercise:

Rebuilding Muscle: People do lose muscle mass as they age, but much of this can be slowed and even reversed through strength and resistance exercise. And of course, a stronger body has a direct impact on issues related to balance, fall prevention and independence.

Reducing Fat: We also tend to more easily put on weight as we get older. Studies show, however, that while older adults gain muscle mass through strength training, they also experience a reduction in body fat.

Reducing Blood Pressure: Studies have also shown that strength training is a great (and natural) way to reduce one’s blood pressure, even for those who “can’t tolerate or don’t respond well to standard medications.”

Improving Cholesterol Levels: Strength training can actual help improve the level of HDL (“good”) cholesterol in the body by up to 21 percent, while also helping to reduce to levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

Strengthening Mental Health: This goes with all exercise, including strength training. Maintaining a high level of fitness can combat anxiety, depression, issues with stress, etc. Exercise is also great for memory!

Whether walking, jogging, hiking, dancing, etc., we recommend 30 minutes of weight-bearing activity every day. It’s also necessary to set aside another two to three days of strength and resistance training each week, which can include free weights, weight machines, Pilates, yoga, and so on.

Why Knee Surgery is Not the End of Physical Fitness

Being the largest joint, the knee is one of the most important features in the human body. It is made of different bones, cartilage, ligaments, tendons and muscles. Aside from a complex anatomy, the knee also absorbs the weight of our body and the shock from our movements, making it very vulnerable to injury.

As we pointed out on Kinetic Physical Therapy & Wellness, damaging the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the most common injuries. A Grade 1-2 sprain will recover through a regimented physical treatment but a Grade 3 sprain or a complete tear of the ACL will not heal without rebuilding the ligament through surgery. The same holds true for other ligaments, with the medial collateral ligament (MCL) the second most commonly injured. One athlete that comes to mind is NBA player Kevin Durant, who suffered a Grade 2 sprain to his MCL last year. Since it was a partial tear, no surgery was required, and physical rehabilitation helped him achieve a full recovery.

Another anatomical feature that commonly gets injured is the meniscus. Each knee has two menisci, the medial and the lateral. A meniscus is a cartilage that acts as padding that protects the ends of the bones and prevents them from rubbing together. Dr. Nina Jullum Kise explains that performing surgery on a patient with a meniscal tear depends on whether it is degenerative or traumatic in nature. Degenerative tears normally occur with age, wear and tear and conditions such as arthritis. In this case, Dr. Kise states that exercise is a preferable treatment for patients to minimize further complications. She references a study that found physical therapy showed more success in reducing pain and improving strength and mobility than patients who underwent surgery.

On the other hand, surgical treatment is recommended for traumatic knee injuries caused by playing sports or accidents. Many well-known athletes have sustained injuries to their menisci and required surgery to recover. In 2016, Roger Federer announced his withdrawal from major tournaments due to a torn meniscus. The irony is that his injury happened at home in the bath and not while playing tennis. Nonetheless, the tennis pro underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and made a full recovery. It didn’t take long for the Swiss ace to reclaim his rank as #1 in the world, and Federer enjoyed a resurgent 2017 which also earned him the title of the highest paid tennis player that year. It’s a difficult decision for a professional athlete to take a long break from sports, but as you can see from Federer’s case, it is one that paid off in the long run.

However, injuries that require a total knee replacement (TKR) will most likely force you to choose a gentler form of exercise. It’s most commonly performed in people with knee arthritis where symptoms become too severe and painful that they affect a person’s mobility. Very Well Health lists down low-impact activities such as cycling, swimming and calisthenics that people who’ve had TKR can still do. On the other hand, sports such as basketball, football and jogging are not recommended.

It’s natural for athletes or active individuals to ask whether they’ll be able to return to an active lifestyle after a knee surgery. Depending on the type of injury and appropriate surgery, there are positive chances of making a full recovery. With time and care, you will be back on your feet and have the chance to rebuild yourself.

 

Blog post for kineticptgreenville.com by Millie Miles

Three Reasons Movement Matters

You don’t need Physical Therapy just for rehabilitation from injuries alone. Physical therapy also impacts people’s lives to help people move and live better!  That’s what people deserve right?

When it comes down to it, physical therapy is all about experiences. It’s about making it possible for people to live and experience life to the fullest. Movement – not just exercise, but the overall ability to work, play and LIVE WELL – just so happens to be at the center of so many of our greatest life experiences.”

And with October being National Physical Therapy Month, Jones and other physical therapists across the country are highlighting the many ways physical therapists are uniquely positioned to improve lives and experiences for people of all stages in life.

Physical therapists are highly educated medical professionals who are trained and licensed to help people both improve and maintain the ability to move optimally and with reduced pain. Often, physical therapists can help people do this without the need for surgery or prescription medication.

This includes people who are hurt, injured or who have had surgery, of course, but this also includes athletes looking to improve performance and avoid injury, older adults looking to remain active and independent, workers who want to improve production and comfort while on the job, women who are pregnant … all the way to people who simply just want to be healthier and less sedentary so they can better enjoy the things they love.

And, while strength, cardio health, balance and flexibility are critical for maintaining functional abilities throughout life (i.e., walking, climbing stairs, lifting, reaching, getting out of bed), the ability to move optimally and be active, is something that can equally benefit the body, the mind and the soul.

Why does movement matter?  Well here are some great ways that movement will help you:

Reduced pain – It’s no secret that being active and exercising regularly can benefit the body in seemingly countless ways, from improving cardiovascular health to reducing the incidence of chronic disease. But beyond maintaining great health, specific exercise as prescribed by a physical therapist can benefit people in numerous ways, from helping reduce chronic pain to strengthening bones and joints in older adults. Don’t get caught in the cycle of pain, then less movement, then more pain from not moving.

Improved focus and memory – Multiple studies have shown that regular exercise can sharpen and improve memory. But for those with mild cognitive impairments, exercise can also help slow the rate at which                people with such impairments decline. Exercise has also been linked to greater focus, improved learning for children and adolescents, and a reduction in anxiety and stress.

Overall Happiness – Research has also shown that those who exercise regularly tend to be happier and more social than those who live a more sedentary lifestyle. Not only that, but maintaining a stronger, healthier body with an eye toward optimal movement helps remove barriers that may stop someone from experiencing life to the fullest, whether that includes exploring new places or trying new things.

The best part about being a physical therapist is helping people get to a place in their lives that they thought was either in the past or was unattainable. Whether it’s helping a person complete their first 5K or making sure someone’s able to still pick up and hug their grandkids, our job as a PT is to help people experience life and be the greatest possible versions of themselves – all through better, more optimal movement.

Why the Pool is Good For You All Year

While drinking plenty of water is critical to life, health and healing, simply submerging your body in water (i.e., a pool) opens up opportunities for relief and fitness for those who otherwise may have difficulty exercising.

Although many of our athletes and runners love the pool, this is also especially important for aging adults and those with chronic conditions.

When our bodies are submerged in water, such as in a pool, we become lighter. This, coupled with the natural resistance water places on movement, makes water exercise ideal for many people who deal with issues related to strength, flexibility, balance, sore joints, pain, and even chronic conditions like arthritis and osteoporosis.”

The buoyancy of waist-deep water, for example, can support around half our body weight, while neck-deep water can reduce body weight by up to 90 percent. Such reduction in weight and impact on the joints can help people who may experience difficulty standing, balancing and exercising on land to move more freely – and often with less pain.

In addition, water offers 12 times the resistance of the air around us. Because of this added resistance, movement and exercise while submerged in a pool can help build overall strength and stability in the body.

This makes pool exercise, and even aquatic rehabilitation (physical therapy in the pool) when needed, ideal for the aging adult whose goal is to simply maintain a strong, stable and healthy body, ensuring they’re able to keep up with their active lifestyles outside the pool.  A warm pool can both soothe muscles and joints while simultaneously keeping you strong and in optimal health.

One study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise back in 2007 showed that older women who regularly participated in a pool-based exercise program performed better in daily tasks than others who exercised similarly on land. The women in the study, for example, improved their walking speed by 16 percent, their agility by 20 percent, and their ability to walk stairs by 22 percent.

Even when people suffer from common chronic diseases like arthritis and osteoporosis, water exercise can help improve the use of affected joints while decreasing overall pain.

This can also be applied to people who are recovering from injury or surgery.  With the guidance of a physical therapist, the pool can be an effective rehabilitative tool for helping people recover while improving strength, confidence and function.

Those who feel pool exercise or aquatic therapy may help them improve fitness levels or overall functional abilities should first contact their physical therapist for professional guidance.

 

The Way To Prevent ACL Injuries

High school athletes account for about 2 million injuries and around a half-million doctor visits each year according to the CDC, but few of these injuries are as costly to a student-athlete and his or her family that a torn ACL.

An ACL tear in the knee will often lead to surgery and months of rehabilitation. Often, I’ll see many of these student-athletes during post-surgery rehabilitation, but I’d much rather see them before that – when our goal is preventing this all-too common injury from happening in the first place.”

One of four major ligaments in the knee, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a band of tissue that connects the thigh bone to the shin bone. An estimated 200,000 ACL injuries are reported in the U.S. each year, most commonly among athletes.

According to studies, women and girls are most susceptible to an ACL injury on the soccer pitch, while men and boys are more likely to experience an ACL injury while playing football. Despite occurring so often within aggressive contact sports, most ACL tears are non-contact injuries.

You have a student athlete plant their foot to quickly change direction, then bam, the ACL tears.  Basically, their knee turns one way and their body goes the other. You’ll see this in soccer and football, but also sports like basketball, gymnastics, skiing, and so on.

Over the years our physical therapy team at Kinetic Physical Therapy & Wellness have worked with countless athletes post-surgery whose rehabilitation has led to successful outcomes. But we would rather stress the importance of taking steps to prevent such injuries from happening in the first place.

Here are four things to consider for athletes of all ages:

Stretching: The flexibility of hamstrings, quads and gluteal muscles is beneficial in preventing knee injuries.

Strength: Having not just strong, but also balanced muscle integrity, especially in the hips and thighs, can put an athlete on a good track toward preventing such injuries to the knees.

A Good Warm-Up: It’s well-known that the lack of a good warmup can lead to injury, and this is certainly the case with ACL injuries. Without the right amount of blood flow, the muscles can’t react quickly enough when an athlete cuts of pivots, opening the door to injury.  In particular, we are a big fan of and teach the PEP program for prevention of ACL injuries.

Exercise Balance: In terms of exercise, it’s important athletes focus on all aspects of training: strength, endurance and flexibility. Remember to move in more than just straight lines.  Cutting and change of directions is critical for training.  Focusing on all three equally creates optimal stability in your body.

Physical therapists are specifically trained to identify weaknesses and imbalances in the body, then correct them with an eye toward both injury prevention and optimal athletic performance. If you are already having knee pain or have had an injury in the past, make sure you don’t wait until it’s too late to have a PT evaluate your movement.

 

Thinking About Getting a Dog? Read This First

It turns out our furry friends have more to offer us than companionship and unconditional love.  Multiple studies actually show that dog owners are generally healthier and more likely to meet national fitness benchmarks than non-owners.

How likely? According to the American Heart Association, dog owners are 54 percent more likely to get the recommended level of physical activity each day.

In general, pet ownership has proven to lead to a number of great health benefits associated with happiness, reducing stress and lowering blood pressure. But dogs are special. Because they need exercise and often demand it from us, they have a persistent way of urging us onto a path toward more exercise and better health.”

A 2013 study published in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health showed that dog owners take an average of 2,760 more steps per day compared with those who don’t have dogs. This amounts to 23 additional minutes of moderate exercise per day. Another more recent study published in 2017 by BMC Public Health backs these numbers.  I don’t know about you, but my Fitbit loves those added steps.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (i.e., brisk walking) each week. And of course, achieving such benchmarks help individuals improve and maintain long-term health – both physical and mental wellness.

Walking is one of the best physical activities nearly anyone can do, and, taking a dog out for a walk often makes the activity more enjoyable and feel less like exercise – less like a chore.

Approximately 54.4 million U.S. households own at least one dog, based on stats from the Humane Society of the United States.

Pets require lots of love, care and responsibility, and simply having one isn’t going to immediately make you a marathon runner but, if you love animals and could use some added motivation to get outdoors, dogs have a way of pushing you in that direction.

 

Why Your Shoulder Pain Isn’t Going Away This Time

Shoulder pain in older adults often appears suddenly, as if caused by a sudden trauma or injury. But for many shoulder injuries can often the result of musculoskeletal conditions directly associated with wear over time and, more specifically, weakening posture.

Some people may think ‘I slept on it wrong’ or ‘I pulled something in my shoulder, but the truth might point to something more long-term. The pain might be something that’s been developing over time, perhaps due to taking on a tighter, less upright posture as they age.”

According the National Institutes of Health (NIH), anywhere from 44 to 65 percent of all complaints of shoulder pain can be attributed to a condition known as shoulder impingement syndrome – also known simply as “shoulder impingement.”

Shoulder impingement is the result of chronic and repetitive compression of the rotator-cuff tendons in the shoulder, causing inflammation, pain, weakness, and a decreased range of motion in the joint. The condition can be caused by repetitive overhead movements such as those performed by golfers, swimmers and racquet sport athletes.

Changes in posture over time – tightness in the back and neck coupled with an arching of the spine – can create conditions ideal for the development of shoulder impingement.  This can cause the rotator cuff to start to fray and tear, which can lead to tendinitis and even tears in the rotator cuff.”

The key to preventing shoulder impingement is regular mobility – moving and stretching your shoulders daily in order to stay loose and counteract the effects of declining posture. To do so here are some exercises to include as a part of your regular exercise regimen.

Back Extension/Shoulder Flexing Stretch: Sitting in a chair, hands clasped together, reach your arms high above your head and slowly reach backward, extending your head and hands behind you. Hold for a few seconds, relax, and then repeat.

Backward Shoulder Extensions: Standing upright, your fingers interlaced behind your back, slowly lift your arms away from your buttocks and toward the ceiling. Lift as high as you can. Keep an upright stance, hold for a few seconds, release, then do it again.

Up-Back Shoulder Reaches: Reach one arm behind your back and, palm facing out, slowly reach up the small of your back toward the space between your shoulder blades. Hold for a few seconds, release, then do the same with your other arm. Repeat one time each.

Down-Back Reaches: Reach your hand behind your head and down your back. Hold for a few seconds, release, and then do the same with your other arm. Repeat one time each.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE EXERCISES

Maintaining a healthy shoulder and preventing the onset of shoulder impingement translates into staying active, playing with the kids, comfortably reaching that top shelf in your cabinet, and even sleeping more comfortably.

Do these exercises but if it’s still not working, of courese a physical therapist can help you get there – or stay there – by thoroughly evaluating your condition and setting you on a personalized path toward pain-free motion.

 

What to Know about Chris Paul’s Hamstring Injury (and yours)

Everyone is going wild over the competition of the NBA Playoffs.  It’s nice to see some close games in the post season.  Can you even imagine the potential of the NBA finals without Lebron?

As much as we love the post season, it is often a common time for injury.  After all, players have played up to 82 games, not including practice, scrimmage, and workouts.  By the time of the postseason, those small regular season hiccups can build up to eventual injury.

Chris Paul was just officially pulled (no pun intended) from game 6 of the Warriors-Rockets Game due to a right hamstring strain.  The big questions is, will he return if there is a game 7?

Well, here’s what you should know about the hamstrings.  It is a huge muscle.  If you’re being fancy, the hamstrings actually consist of 3 muscles together (the semimembranosus, the semimembranosus, and the biceps femoris) It connects from your hip to your knee and is responsible for stabilizing the hip and the knee.

Without the hamstrings working at full capacity, the ability to bend the knee and extend the hip to stand tall (as when moving from a crouched or defensive position) becomes very difficult or painful.  The same movement is needed for sprinting as well, so you must to have them working to make that fast break on the court.

The big question is “how bad was the strain?” Hamstring strains can be grade 1, grade 2, or grade 3.

Grade 1 strains are mild and usually just a few muscle fibers have been damaged.  With a grade 1 strain the athlete can usually still bend their knee normally and typically are able to walk fine and maintain their normal power and endurance.  They might be sore the day after the injury still.

Grade 2 strains are moderate in nature and the athlete typically feels pain when the knee has to bend or the hip has to extend against any resistance. This usually makes sprinting pretty difficult.

Grade 3 strains are severe.  This means most of the muscle fibers are ruptured.  I don’t think Chris Paul has to worry about this. If he did, the announcement of the strain would have read, “Chris Paul Out For Remainder of Postseason”

So, what will happen in the short term to get him back on track?  Most likely his rehab team will explore the use of things like massage, ice and or heat, taping, dry needling, cupping, electrical stimulation (maybe a little prayer) to get him back on the court in the case of a game 7.  Don’t be surprised if you see him on a stationary bike courtside to keep his muscles warm when he returns.

Long term in the offseason, he will have to look at a rehab and prevention program that consists of eccentric muscle training (a muscle is holding a contraction while it lengthens) such as is done with Nordic Hamstrings Exercises.   Rehabilitating the entire lower extremity for coordination of his lower extremity muscle groups, balance, and agility will get him ready for the next season.

So, the big question is, can he return to play.  Well that just depends on how bad the strain was.  My bet is that considering the circumstances, his potential impact, and the fact that he was at least able to walk off the floor after the injury, they will figure out a way to get him back in the game.

Remember though, that is just for Chris Paul (you know, NBA star Chris Paul).  If you just suffered a hamstrings strain and a playoff series is not at risk, how about letting it rest just a little before getting back.

#kptwellness #livingwell #kptgreenville

 

A Great Way to Keep Your Child Healthy

Did you know that kids will most of the time imitate their parents when it comes to activity level? If you’re an active person who goes for walks, bike rides, spends time outdoors and plays with them regularly, your kids are going to learn that’s what life is all about – moving around and enjoying the world.”

And in a country where more than one in six kids between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese, and just one in three are physically active each day, making movement and exercise a daily part of life is a critical habit to help kids form at a young age. Why?

Active kids are more likely to become healthy adults. Being healthy and active as a youth can lead to a reduced risk of developing a number of serious health conditions later in life – obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and even cancer.

Strong evidence also exists tying activity with greater academic and social achievement in children. It also helps ward off anxiety and depression at a young age.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all children and adolescents ages 6 to 17 should participate in one hour of physical activity each day … at a minimum.

That may seem like a lot to squeeze into an already full day of school, work and other commitments, but this is really a modest goal especially since the average American kid might spend up to 7 hours a day in front of a screen. So, they definitely have time for play and exercise.

So, what are eways you can help?

Play with Your Kids: Be a leader when it comes to activities with your kids by, first and foremost, making it fun! Starting at a young age, take them outdoors for a game of tag, building forts, playing catch, or to raking up a ile of leaves for jumping. Keep in mind that if you have fun being active, they’ll no doubt imitate the positive vibes.

Go On Adventures: Simple walks and bike rides are fun, but turning them into adventures can give the activities some staying power. Turn the walk into a scavenger hunt, go geocaching instead of just hiking or cycling, or turn a swim in the lake into a rock-collecting and/or skipping competition.

Provide Options & Choice: From toys and games to different parks, facilities and even clubs/leagues, when you give children variety, they’ll be more eager to actively participate in their activities of choice.

Be the Support System: As a parent, be active in helping your child sort through options, connect with others with similar interests (i.e., friends and teammates), and offering the support they need to participate and be successful. Having mom and/or dad on the journey can go far in motivating a kid to stick with and enjoy new activities.

The $67 Billion Problem for Seniors

$67.7 billion.  That, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will be the total cost for fall injuries experienced by older Americans (65+) in the year 2020. Medicare and Medicaid will cover about three-quarters of these costs.

This is a shocking amount of money, but the burden felt by older Americans goes beyond the pocketbook. Fall-related injury is a quality of life issue that affects people more and more as they age due to factors related to aging – factors like loss of muscle tone and strength, slower reflexes, less coordination, eyesight issues, and even the side effects of medication.

One out of every four Americans 65 and older experience falls each year, says the CDC, leading to more than 2.8 injuries which span a spectrum from bumps, bruises and sprains to broken bones and head trauma.

Just the fear of falling as you age, in fact, can result in limited activity, which only perpetuates that problem. The lack of activity leads to a loss of muscle tone, good balance, and bone density, which can actually increase the risk of falls.

But people of all ages can vastly reduce the risk of falling through exercise that focuses on both strength and balance. In fact, multiple studies show that training which focuses on both strength and balance can most effective lead to a reduction in falls among older adults. Taking physical therapist-led group exercise classes has specifically been shown to reduce the risk of falls while increasing balance and improving quality of life.

This is great news but it is important to keep in mind that all effective fall-prevention efforts should include the following components:

Fall Screening: If fall prevention is the goal, an assessment of an individual’s personal risk of falling is an ideal place to start. A thorough fall screening with take look into a person’s strength, balance and coordination, as well as other factors such as vision, medication, medical history, footwear, and even home safety.

Balance Training: A key to preventing falls is to maintain and improve balance. Doing so means continually challenging your body’s balance through personalized (and safe) exercises — single-leg stands, for instance.

Strength Exercises: Maintaining good lower-body strength has been specifically cited as another key factor in fall prevention. A physical therapist can assess a person’s individual strengths and weaknesses and create a program that specifically addresses muscle groups that can improve balance and gait.

Environment Assessment: A fall prevention strategy must always include specific suggestions on how to improve one’s environment for the sake of safety. Decluttering walk spaces, securing loose rugs, creating non-slip surfaces in the shower or tub, and even improving footwear can all go far in preventing falls.

So let’s save a little money and invest time in fall prevention because the year 2020 is just around the corner.

Why Kids Shouldn’t Specialize in One Sport

Most medical experts in agreeing that young athletes generally remain mentally and physically healthier, achieve greater success, and learn to enjoy a lifetime of physical fitness when they opt to play multiple sports.

Specializing in a sport is fine, but we should be aware that allowing youth to specialize in a sport year-round can lead to burnout, a greater risk of experiencing overuse injuries, and less long-term success.

While this path has worked out for some, these stories are very rare and overlook the fact that the risks of specialization far outweigh the rewards, especially when it comes to youth athletics.

It’s been estimated that up to 60 million U.S. youths ages 6 to 18 years participate in some form of athletics. More than 5 million of these athletes experience an injury each year. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, at least 50 percent of athletic injuries are related to overuse, the types of injuries for which one-sport athletes are particularly prone.

An overuse injury happens when a bone, muscle or tendon has been put through repetitive stress without being given a sufficient amount of time to heal or repair, leading to microtraumatic damage.  Think sore pitching arms or pain in a swimmer’s shoulder that doesn’t go away, possibly keeping the athlete from competing.

The same repetitive motions year-round can, in other words, lead to such overuse injuries as strains, sprains, stress fractures, and even tears in muscles, tendons and ligaments. Playing multiple sports, in contrast, allows young athletes to challenge their bodies in different ways, developing new sets of physical traits and skills and that offer more universal performance benefits.

To help young athletes reduce the risk of developing overuse injuries and overall burnout here are a few things for parents and coaches to consider:

Encourage Diversity: Especially at an early age, encourage kids to try out and play different sports throughout the year. Some of the most successful athletes (up to 97 percent of the pros) believe being a multisport athlete was beneficial to their long-term success.

Seek Rest: Young athletes should take at least one to two days off from practice and/or structured sports participation each week. Some experts suggest limiting weekly practice to the age (in hours) of the athlete. Long-term, athletes should take 2 to 3 months off a particular sport each year to help refresh the body and the mind.

Specialize Later: Wait until at least high school age – better yet, around the ages of 16 or 17 – before considering specializing in any individual sport. At this point, the body is more prepared for such rigors.

Watch for Signs: If a young athlete complains of nonspecific problems with muscles and/or joints, physical fatigue, or grows concerned about poor performance, visit a physical therapist, who can fully evaluate the issue and offer treatment (if needed) for any potential injuries or deficiencies.

Two Fitness tips we learn from the Winter Olympics

While we watch Alpine skiers speed through difficult downhill courses and figure skaters bound balletically across the ice during these Winter Olympics, I can see the importance of two oft-overlooked elements of good fitness and training routines: of balance and flexibility.

When we work to prepare our bodies for a certain activity, or simply for the rigors of living an active lifestyle, we shouldn’t only be focusing on strength and cardio. It’s a good start, but if your balance and flexibility are below par, performance will be limited and the body will be more susceptible to injury.

Few things highlight this more than winter sports and activities, such as those featured during the Winter Olympics because they provide the ultimate challenge to balance and flexibility.  Both balance and flexibility work together to keep these athletes upright while they adapt to new terrain, changes in position, etc. The importance of this is obvious on snow and ice, of course, but the same concept applies in everyday life.

Whether your personal goals include competing better athletically, getting outdoors more for hiking, cycling or (yes) skiing, or simply feeling safer and more confident playing in the backyard with the kids, good balance and flexibility are key.

To help improve balance and flexibility in your life check out these three tips.

Take an Exercise Class: Yoga, Pilates, step classes … they all strive to strengthen your core muscle groups, which are essential in achieving good balance. Plus, these classes often complement indoor cardio and resistance training – training that may do little to help with your balance.

Stretch Every Day: Take 10 to 15 minutes each day to stretch, either in the morning or just before bed. A stretch right before an activity will do little to help you out unless you’ve worked to establish a higher level of flexibility over the long term.

Perform Single-Leg Balance Exercises: Get your body accustomed to relying on one side at a time. Practice standing on one leg while tilting your body forward, back and sideways. Place your hand on a wall, countertop or piece of furniture if you need help balancing. Other single leg balance ideas include ball bounces, standing on a foam pad, and practicing with eyes closed … all in a safe setting, of course.

For a more individualized approach of our course, a physical therapist can help but in the meantime, give one of the tips a try.

6 Dos and Don’ts for Fitness Apps in The New Year

Did you know that more than 325,000 health apps were available to consumers in 2017 (Research2Guidance). Wow! These include popular apps like Strava, Lose It!, Couch to 5K, FitStar Personal Trainer, etc. – apps available to help people achieve goals related to weight loss, healthy eating, and improved fitness. As more people continue to turn to health apps on their smartphones to help achieve goals related to exercise and weight loss, it’s important to use such tools with an element of wisdom.

The emergence of health and fitness apps is definitely a positive development in the health care world because they can be successful in engaging people and empowering them to take on a greater personal role in their health care journeys.  That said, even the best fitness apps can’t address everything that’s important when it comes to safely and effectively achieving personal goals.

The missing ingredient…

Fitness apps don’t know you – your medical history, your current strengths and weaknesses … how to get you to your goals in a way that’s safe and which takes into consideration the limits and abilities of your body and current fitness levels.  Many of these apps are great for helping people track their fitness goals, holding them accountable through reminders and tips, and often providing an online support system as well. But the app’s user is the key to the entire equation.”

With this in mind, here are a few things to keep in mind for effectively using health apps:

DO use apps to track your goals. Whether it’s tracking distance, calories consumed/burned, workout times, etc., this is one of the most effective uses of health apps. And tracking progress only helps in the achievement of goals.

DON’T use apps to set your goals. Running a 5K, for instance, may seem like a great goal. But based on current fitness levels, injury history, movement limitations, etc., perhaps it’d be better and safer to start more slowly (perhaps first running a mile) or trying a different exercise (i.e., cycling, hiking or swimming).

DO use apps for motivation. Being we’re attached to our smartphones throughout the day, apps serve as great motivational tools when trying to stick to a workout regimen. Apps can even connect the user with others for added encouragement.

DON’T let apps push you too far. Listen to your body over your app. If something’s not feeling right, it’s OK to skip today’s Couch to 5K workout. Through pain or discomfort, your body may be telling you to rest, or perhaps get checked out by a physical therapist or physician.

DO use apps to help you explore new activities. Apps can certainly make you feel empowered, serving as motivation to try new things – new yoga poses, new core exercises, new activities like running or cycling, etc. But…

DON’T forget to seek professional medical advice before starting something really new. As with any new physical activity, it’s important to get assessed by a medical professional, such as a physical therapist, to ensure your body’s equipped to handle the rigors of said activity.  Be safe and injury-free when pursuing your goals.

How to Give New Year’s Resolutions Another Try

A typical New Year’s resolution is doomed to fail – that is, if you believe in statistics alone.

Did you know that around 80 percent of people who make resolutions on the first of the year have already fallen off the wagon by Valentine’s Day. That includes two of the most popular resolutions made throughout the U.S. each year: to work out more and to lose weight.

Fortunately, statistics don’t control the success or failure of any life change. Medical professionals across the spectrum agree that success comes through methodical goal setting that helps you ‘see the change.

One way to achieve “revolutionary success” is to mirror the process of goal setting and achievement long held by the disciplines of physical therapy and rehabilitation. Why?

Physical therapy is a health profession that’s results-driven based on processes that depend on setting individual goals that are specific, clear and personal to each patient.Even the most earnest and motivated person can fall into the trap of setting goals that are too vague. So in physical therapy, we opt for and practice a method of goalsetting that focuses on being incredibly specific.

The method (maybe you’ve heard it before) is the SMART method of setting goals.

A simple acronym, SMART advocates for the setting of goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic/relevant, and timed. Here’s how each step breaks down:

Specific: Don’t just throw out a general goal; be sure to include all the important W’s in your goal: who, what, where, why and why. Rather than saying, “I’d like to lose weight” be more specific by stating, “I want to lose 30 pounds by summer so I can go backpacking without experiencing joint pain.”

Measurable: Always set concrete marks that allow you to measure your goal. Include a long-term mark (e.g., lose 30 pounds by summer) as well as benchmarks along the way (e.g., lose 8 pounds by the end of January, 13 pounds by the end of February, etc).

Attainable: Your goal shouldn’t be easy to achieve, but you must have the attitude, ability, skill and financial capacity to achieve it. Starting with a solid foundation, attainability is something that can develop over time.

Realistic/Relevant: Anyone can set a goal, but are you willing and able to work toward this goal? In other words, are there any irrefutable road blocks that can and will hinder your progress? Typically, if you believe it, then it’s more than likely realistic.

Timed: Don’t just set your goal for “whenever.” Set a challenging yet realistic timeline, be it to lose a specific amount of weight by your sibling’s wedding or to be in shape by the spring’s first 5K race. Make your goal tangible.

Along with utilizing the SMART method, share your goals, benchmarks, successes and failures with others. Surrounding yourself with a circle of support can help you stay the course and battle through difficult stretches.

I believe this will be the year that you meet your goals.  Remember to Live Well, Move More, and Hurt Less!

The Annual Checkup That You Are Missing

We all know that visiting your physician for an annual physical is critical in maintaining long-term health, just as dental exams twice each year helps ensure oral health throughout a lifetime. But what about annual checkups with a physical therapist?

Annual physical therapy checkups provide the third critical (and often overlooked) piece in long-term health and preventative care.

The primary focus of a physical therapist is the musculoskeletal system – the bones, joints, muscles and connective tissues that make it possible for you to not just move, but experience life independently and on your terms. As a physical therapist, our job is to ensure this system is in optimal shape so few limitations stand in the way of a person’s quality of life.

This includes identifying weaknesses, limitations, defects and other factors affecting one’s musculoskeletal system – issues that could lead to discomfort, pain or injury. Based on the results of a physical therapy “check-up” examination, a physical therapist is able to provide clients with individualized treatments and/or programs meant to help prevent future, movement-limiting issues.

This indeed helps keep people moving and helps ensure a high quality of life for those who wish to stay active. However, staying ahead of possible musculoskeletal issues is related to much broader issues related to overall health. Movement is medicine, and being able to stay physically active – staying away from pain, injury and other barriers that can keep people from moving – plays a huge role in disease prevention, the management of chronic conditions and, overall, taking greater control of your health.

During a preventative check-up, a physical therapist will evaluate such things as:

  • Movement/injury history
  • Balance
  • Aerobic capacity
  • Functional strength
  • Flexibility
  • Quality of movement (for any activities you do regularly)
  • Pain

In addition, a physical therapist will work with each person to address any personal limitations, weaknesses, pain or other impairments that may be holding them back from reaching their lifestyle and movement goals.

We recommend that, just as with their personal physicians, people should see a physical therapist for a check-up once each year.

Other times to consider a physical therapy checkup are:

  • Whenever you experience pain, discomfort or strain when doing an activity you enjoy
  • Whenever you are considering a new fitness or training program, or starting a new sport
  • After you’ve completed post-surgery rehab, and you are trying to resume normal or a new activity
  • After any surgery or condition that has led to bed rest.

Although physical therapists can help you recover from an injury, to get the best benefit, consider a checkup before one occurs.