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Posts for: September, 2016

By Dr. Doug Williams
September 20, 2016
Category: Healthy Aging
Tags: Healthy Aging   Mobility   Stability  

Going Up to Get Down

As you probably already know, this month, we are working on how to improve your ability to get up and down off the floor without using any help, or at least as little help as possible.

The first article in this series discussed a cool study that showed that your ability to get up and down off the floor with as little help as possible was directly related to how long you were going to live! The second week, we learned how to start training some of the muscles that will help propel you up off the ground by looking at the mechanics of a "chair squat." Last week, we slowed the whole process down in order to isolate and work on weak spots.

However, before you can really go down to the ground  we need to work on how to go upstairs first!

Have you ever tried to move a dog that was crashed out on a bed or the floor? How about trying to lift up a toddler who fell asleep on the couch? Do you ever wonder why it is so hard to move someone who is totally relaxed? In a word: TONE.

Consider this example: Let's say, one of your friends sat down in a bean bag chair and asks you for a hand pulling them up and out of the chair. How hard is it to help them if all they do is grasp your hand and you both pull? Pretty hard, huh? Now, try it again with your friend not only grasping your hand, but stiffening their whole body, especially their mid section. How hard is it now? Much easier right?

A firm structure is one with tone and it allows for an efficient transfer of energy, whether or not the force acting on the structure is from the outside (you helping your friend up) or the inside (you helping yourself up off the floor).

It is the difference between trying to nail a box of jello to the wall and nailing actual jello to the wall!

One of the unique things about muscles that are responsible for maintaining tone in your body is that they do not necessarily require a large load for them to get stronger and more efficient. They actually, more often, require a lighter load! That makes muscle training less like straining and more like activating.

Think of it like this: sitting and inactivity tend to shut off the muscles that maintain tone in your body - taking them offline, if you will. Turning them back on with a low load, but frequently throughout the day, can help to increase the firmness of your torso and make it easier for you to get off the floor and move about!

Try not to be distracted by the famous person in the picture to the right. Instead, let's focus on breaking down the simple exercise he is doing that can activate the tone muscles of the body.

  1. Start with your butt and head against the wall, and feet shoulder-width apart and 10 inches from the base of the wall.

  2. Keep your feet flat, stiffen your body like a board (tighten your glutes) and push your pelvis forward. This will cause your body to rise off the wall until only your head is touching (shoulders should also be off the wall).

  3. Hold for a slow count of 30-60 seconds.

  4. Repeat 10 times per day!

Start to combine last week's exercises with this week's exercise and you will really be on your way! Next post, we will finally start moving our way down to the ground. Stay tuned and remember: consistency over time is the way to go!

Doug Williams, D.C.
Care Chiropractic
Lafayette, Indiana

By Dr. Doug Williams
September 13, 2016
Category: Healthy Aging

I Feel the Need for Speed

If you are just joining us, we are in the middle of a blog series about living longer through having a stronger butt. Though that may sound kind of weird, there really is science to back it up! In week one, we referenced a study that showed your ability to go from standing to sitting down on the floor and back up again with the least amount of touches or support could predict your likelihood of death. More importantly, it showed that improving your ability by just a small amount could pay big dividends on reducing your mortality risk. Last week, we started breaking down the process of strengthening your butt, back and hips by changing how you get out of a chair. You can read that post here.

If you have been getting out of the chair by:

  1. Sliding to the edge of the chair and pressing your heels into the floor,
  2. Standing straight up from the hips, keeping your back straight and pushing your behind forward and up,
  3. Tightening your glutes and squeezing your shoulder blades together when you get to the top,
  4. And sitting down the same way, weight through the heels, back straight...
Good Job!

If you have been doing this intentionally and consistently, you may be getting bored and feel like Maverick: "Doc! I feel the need for speed!"

There is an adage in sports training and rehabilitation: "Speed Hides Need." If you really want to see where someone is having trouble with movement, you slow them down! Our brains are very interesting things: once you have a target in mind - mental, emotional or physical - it will pretty much do anything it has to in order to achieve that goal. Sometimes that is good, like in cases of emergency or danger. However, if you are constantly "cheating" to achieve a movement multiple times in a day, not only are you reinforcing abnormal movement, but you are accumulating damage along the way! Slowly but surely, your brain figures out that you can't be trusted with the movement so it starts to take it away from you. Over time, you can no longer get up and down without moaning and groaning, let alone get off the floor!

So let's try the chair exercise again, only a little different:

  1. Slide to the edge of the chair and press your heels into the floor.
  2. Stand straight up from the hips, keeping your back straight, pushing your behind forward and up, while slowly counting to four, reaching the top at the four count.
  3. At the very end, tighten your glutes and squeeze your shoulder blades together, while slowly counting to four.
  4. Sit down the same way you came up, weight through the heels, back straight, while slowly counting to four hitting the bottom of the chair at the end of the count.

How did that feel? Was it harder? Did you find some places that were more difficult to control? Most of us never realize that we are not fully engaging our muscles through a given range of motion, we just get things done through momentum and work around! Slowing a movement down will bring out shortcomings quickly!

Now What?

Let's use this information to add another layer of mobility and stability to your butt.

If you have been working this exercise from an average size kitchen chair and found it harder when you slowed down to initiate movement and travel the first six inches up, and at about six inches away from the seat on the return trip, you just sort of fell onto the chair, that is very common!

Review and pick one of the two options below:

1. If you could complete the whole motion, but found it difficult (you didn't have to swing yourself out of the chair or just plop down at the end), do the following:

  • Get out of the chair and travel up until you feel it get easier, then, rather than continue to the top, start to lower yourself down. Time this out taking four seconds to get up and four seconds to get down. Remember, you are not going to the top of the movement!
  • Repeat five times and, on the last one, go all the way to the top and back down like normal. You don't need to do this every time you get up and down out of a chair, but try to do it at least two to three times per day.

2. If you could not complete the whole motion without modification (you had to swing yourself of the chair, use arm supports or plop down at the end), try one of the following exercise modifications:

  • Follow the instructions listed above, but use a chair that has arm rests. Gradually over time, rely less and less on the use of your arms until you can execute the movement without using your arms at all.
  • Move to a higher surface: A bed is often times higher than most chairs, as is the arm of a couch (be careful not to fall backwards!). Do the four-second count portion, but start a little higher than a kitchen chair. Once you have mastered the higher surface, start over again on the lower surface and go through the steps listed under option one.

Start working on this and, before you know it, you are going to see a noticeable difference in both your flexibility and stability (strength).

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about our ultimate goal of being able to get up off the floor with the least amount of touches, but sometimes you have to go backwards before you can progress!

Until next time,

Dr. Doug Williams
Care Chiropractic
Lafayette, Indiana

By Dr. Doug Williams
September 06, 2016
Category: Healthy Aging

Getting Out of A Chair

We started off the Blog Series Get Your Butt Off The Ground last time by reviewing an interesting study about the Sit To Rise Test. This test related the risk of dying to how easy you could lower yourself from standing to the floor and back up again. Essentially, you scored a perfect 10 if you could do the whole maneuver without using any assistance (touching anything) and you lost points for how much assistance you needed. The lower your score, the more likely you were to die sooner.  One of the interesting things about the study was the difference between scoring a 7 and an 8 (this is literally the difference between needing an additional touch in getting up or down but not both) - it was a 21% difference! Put a different way, if you could improve your score by 10%, you could reduce your risk of death by 21%! You can review the blog post here.

This week, we are going to start the process of improving your Sit to Rise Score. Don't worry, you aren't even going to have to try to sit down on the floor yet! We are going to start by learning how to get out of a chair the right way.

I know what a lot of you might be thinking: "Doc, I know how to get out of a chair, I do it everyday!" Granted, you do get out of a chair multiple times a day, but it may not be using your back and hips in the right fashion, and doing something the wrong way over and over just teaches a bad habit! Part of the reason people get out of a chair the wrong way is, in fact, because we do sit so darn much in our modern lives! We sit in big soft chairs at home, we get in big soft car seats to drive to work and then we sit in soft chairs at work all day, just to reverse the process on the way back to bed at night.

Sitting for long periods of time shortens the muscles in the front of the hips (psoas) and weakens the muscles in the back (glutes). When this happens, instead of pushing yourself up and out of a chair using your butt muscles (glutes), you start to use your thigh muscles (quads). This lends itself to having to flex the torso forward, and you walk all hunched over and stiff for the first five or six steps out of a chair.

Here is how to get out of a chair the right way and take the first step in improving your Sit to Rise Test:

  1. Slide to the edge of the chair and press your heels into the floor.
  2. Stand straight up from the hips, keeping your back straight, pushing your behind forward and up.
  3. At the very end, tighten your glutes and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  4. Sit down the same way, weight through the heels, back straight.

Get out of every chair this way. In addition, once a day, stand up and sit down continuously starting with a set of five, and work your way up (add one a day) to a set of twenty. 

Think about it for a minute, you have to get out of the chair anyway.  If you change how you do it, you can start the process of living a longer, healthier, less painful life. That is a pretty good return on investment!

I'd say that is worth getting out of the chair for!

Until Next Time,

Doug Williams, D.C.
Care Chiropractic
Lafayette, Indiana