By ALISON BURMEISTER
Special to Circling the News
Our bodies are amazing machines. Given the right fuel and proper maintenance we are designed to run for a long time. With the occasional tune up and a yearly “check under the hood,” these bodies of ours are pretty solid vehicles to cruise through life.
It’s fair to say that we might even take them for granted until we notice a problem: a screeching shoulder, a hitch in our giddy up and a clang in the lower back. If we are good, we recognize this right away and inquire how to fix it. If we continue to “drive” a bit longer, we might find ourselves stranded calling roadside service (doctor).
Before I was certified as a yoga instructor, I was a makeup artist for some of the top fitness and yoga instructors in Los Angeles. It was my job to watch other people work out. I grew increasingly interested in why and how we work out.
I found myself “tech-ing” for my clients, which basically meant counting their reps and checking their form and letting them know if they were out of alignment in any way. While they hired me to make sure their hair and makeup were in place, I soon found myself caring more about their form.
Just like a classic car, if taken care of, our bodies will sometimes drive better than some of the newer models out on the road. There are many modes to keep us moving, but the real challenge is, we must do it.
Sitting and watching others work out is not going to make us strong. Sitting and sinking into our couches, desk chairs and seats of cars are definitely not doing us any favors either. We must move.
In working with clients from 9-99 I notice a common problem: posture. No matter the age, everyone is on a phone, computer, or some sort of device. We are slumped over, chin down, rounded spine.
If ever there was a direct connection between form and function, it would be posture. When our bodies are in proper alignment, they function better.
One of the simplest and easiest ways to keep your spine healthy is using correct posture. This is especially important if you spend time sitting for long periods of time or standing throughout the day. The next time you notice your mood sinking, try changing your posture; stand up straight, and take deep breaths. Feel free to smile too while you are at it. You may notice a gentle boost in mood after doing so.
Sitting and standing with proper alignment improves blood flow, helps keep your nerves and blood vessels healthy, and supports your muscles, ligaments and tendons. People who make a habit of using correct posture are less likely to experience related back and neck pain.
STRETCH AND STRENGTHEN HIPS:
Hip stretching and strengthening plays a vital role in helping you stay physically active as you age. As we get older, our bones become weaker. That’s a normal part of “living.” But it means that a “more mature bone” can break more easily. Muscles and joints weaken, and range of movement deteriorates as we age.
The good news is that you can improve strength and flexibility in your hips, core and legs, which can help protect you from falls and fractures, or increase the likelihood of regaining as much mobility as possible if you do break your hip.
SIT/STAND AND SIDE TO SIDE:
The sit-to-stand transfer is an important functional movement that enables a person to safely move from a seated position to a standing position. This transfer is important for the essential activities like getting in and out of the car, out of bed and out of a chair.
That’s why the sit-to-stand exercise is probably the best of the mobility exercises for seniors. It is a functional exercise for that exact movement — and strengthens leg, core and back muscles. Those muscles are needed to increase mobility and independence as well as improve balance.
Once you are standing the next most important step is the sidestep. About 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by falling — and usually falling sideways.
The act of walking sideways occurs nearly every day. It uses a different set of muscles from the primary muscles used in walking straight ahead. Side-stepping exercises can strengthen these underused muscles while also improving balance, improving flexibility and increasing spatial awareness.
Any exercise is better than no exercise – seated or otherwise. If you find yourself sitting around the house a lot, make it your intention to increase your exercise from nothing to even 10 minutes a day. It will make a difference not only in your body, but your mind and spirit, too.
(Editor’s note: Alison Burmeister began her career 22 years ago in the beauty and fitness industry as makeup artist. She is a certified yoga instructor and teaches weekly classes both on-line and in person. She also works with individual clients, tailoring fitness workouts for specific needs. Originally from Chicago, Alison and her husband Mitch have lived in the Palisades for 21 years and have a daughter, who attends local schools. Visit: www.alisonburmeister.com.)