Saturday, July 20, 2019

Mindfulness prevents falls

This is the exercise I teach at all my mobility classes because it encourages and enhances mindfulness.  Mindfulness is the syncing of the brain with the body.  As our body slows and our brain speeds ahead at its “regular” rat-race pace, this imbalance puts us at increased risk for falls.  When using poles for mobility, this mindfulness enables you to take a moment to remember to take your hands out of the straps.  Remember, never stand up or sit down with your hands in the straps. 

MODIFIED SQUAT:  This one simple exercise is excellent for slowing the brain down as well as improving:

  • leg strength (great for balance)
  • circulation
  • improved function (what’s more functional than standing up/sitting down?)
  • core strength which can significantly relieve back pain/discomfort/strain
  • plus it “tunes” the vestibular system  **  (see below)
  • excellent for posture and posture awareness (again, when done optimally)

The key to this exercise is the breath.  Learn and practice pursed lip breathing (also known as Pilates breathing)

  • Inhale fully thru your nose
  • Exhale thru pursed lips as if whistling
  • Notice the feeling in your tummy muscles (rectus abdominus) – the tightening (engagement/contraction/recruitment) of these core muscles is what helps your back

Starting Position:

  • Standing in front of a chair, feel the front of the chair at the back of your legs
  • Neutral Spine (see elsewhere on this blog for tips on optimal posture)
  • Feet and legs approx. hip width apart, keep parallel
  • Knees aim in same direction as feet (either straight ahead or slightly out – not in)

To Sit down:

  • Inhale and stand tall, feel front of chair at back of legs
  • Pursed lip exhale as you Slowly lower into chair, hinging at the hips (stick your bottom back – this is where you think of a public toilet)
  • Use arms if needed
  • Don’t “plop.”  Plopping Impact is really bad for the back
  • Use an arm chair if necessary – it’s the same amount of effort, but redistributed
  • Keep knees aligned (weakness in legs often brings knees together as a compensation)

To Stand:

  • Inhale while seated, elongating spine
  • Pursed lip exhale to rise, exhale throughout the entire standing process
  • Shift weight forward and rise. (as rising, lift from hamstrings, push forward with gluts and press in to feet – as in a dead lift)
  • Pause standing, check your balance
  • Squeeze gluts as you stand
  • Use an armchair if you tend to “hoist” yourself up.  This use of momentum often involves the low back vs. using the breath and the core

Return to seated position with legs also wide apart and knees pointing same direction as toes.

  • Each one of these is a rep (short for repetition)
  • Do up to 10 reps at a time until fatigue.
  • No pain!  Nothing should hurt even a little.  Use a sturdy arm chair if your knees complain.
  • When this is easy, slow them down .  Slower is harder and works (strengthens) the legs more.  Follow your breath.

FREE DO-OVERS

  • If you stand up without good form, you didn’t forget – you remembered late and you get free do-overs for life!
  • Called public toilets because as you sit down you stick your bottom out as if you don’t want to touch the toilet
  • Really focus on your body mechanics on this exercise.
  • This highly functional exercise will strengthen your legs.
  • Do these more slowly as you progress
  • Progress to arms crossing chest as legs get stronger.  You can also reach arms forward as you rise

**How to create healthy new habits that improve performance & safety.  Going the Distance, Article in 12/29/13 Parade Magazine by Bruce Grierson

“Simply standing up more is the best thing sedentary people can do to start becoming healthier, maintains Joan Vernikos, Ph.D., the former director of Life Sciences for NASA and author of the book Sitting Kills. The painless act of rising from your chair pumps blood from the feet to the head, and tunes the vestibular system, which helps maintain blood pressure and keeps you steady on your feet.”

Comments

One Response to “Mindfulness prevents falls”
  1. Ellen says:

    This post is really timely and I’ll put it to good use because…

    I’ve been invited to go on safari in November! That’s right THIS November! I know what you’re thinking- “that’s not a lot of time” – but I have a goal and, by damn, I’ll get there. Carpe Diem!

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