The power to move you around through space is supposed to come from the outer butt muscles, and often people are relatively weak through them. The gluteus medius and minimus muscles help to keep your pelvis level, and then allow you to swing your leg through with walking. You can work on these directly (with balance training too!) by simply standing on one leg, as seen here.
If you’re sitting or standing, your arms should come up by your ears when you move them overhead. If your neck and upper back are rounded forward, then you can see that you can’t fully raise your arms up. If your upper back is stiff and you don’t have full mobility there, then that could lead to shoulder pain over time. Here’s how you can improve mobility in your upper back.
- Wear comfortable and supportive shoes, and make sure they fit your feet well. This is probably not your time to break in new shoes– stick to the tried and true.
- Keep moving in different ways: your body is really meant to move, so your back, legs and feet can gets stiff and sore if you’re standing still for sustained periods. You can delay this with shifting your weight side to side, or bending your knees up, or coming up and down on your toes repeatedly. Just try to keep your body moving around consistently.
- Consider compression hose/ socks: these socks can help encourage blood flow back up your legs toward your heart, and prevent pooling of fluid in your feet and ankles.
- Stand on a cushioned mat or carpet if possible, as a softer surface can be helpful to delay soreness in your feet and legs.
- Try to sit when you can: this ties in with point number two, to just change your position. When you’re taking a break or having lunch, try to sit– just putting your body in another position can be very helpful!
In, life– every singe day– we spend so much of our time with our spine rounded forward: brushing our teeth, stting on the toilet, washing our feet, reaching in the fridge, loading the dryer. Even looking down all the time to read, or cook, or do just about anything. Here are some nice moves to get out of that position and get your spine to move in the opposite direction! These should feel pretty good and should not be painful– if they are, you might need to modify. Speak with your physiotherapist about how to make it appropriate for you!
It’s important to prepare your muscles before any activity, and dynamic stretching prior to hiking can warm up your muscles for carrying the weight of a backpack while walking on uneven terrain. Here are key reasons why it pays to take the time to do these stretches before hiking:
- It helps to improve your range of motion- your muscles like to get to their end range, and we don’t tend to do this in life very often… but they will respond if done consistently
- Dynamic work lubricates the joints and muscles, because motion is lotion, as they say
- Dynamic stretching brings blood flow to the muscles that are about to work
- As a bonus, not that you need one, dynamic stretching helps to prepare the whole body for the work that it is about to do– it elevates your heart rate!
Rules for Dynamic Stretching:
- move through the full range of motion, but keep control; don’t allow momentum to take over with you “flinging” your legs; make sure you are keeping your trunk fairly straight and the movement comes from your hips/ legs
- you will feel tightness at the ends of the movement in both directions, but it should never be painful
- start with slower movements, and progress to faster movement through the whole range of motion of the joint; do 10-15 reps, then switch sides; you may find yourself slightly out of breath as you keep going– it’s going to elevate your heart rate
Check out this video on dynamic stretches to do before hiking, or any of our other “One Minute Wellness” videos on our YouTube channel at Elevation Physiotherapy & Wellness.
Deep squats are the best squats– they recruit more muscle, burn more calories, and really help to build a strong butt. It used to be thought that doing deep squats is harmful for the front of your knees, but research has shown that isn’t the case. In fact, deeps squats could actually increase knee stability. Studies have shown that the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments– which really help to stabilize the knee joint– have less force through them when the knee is bent more fully.
It is also much more efficient strengthening, in that parallel squats with more weight are less effective than deeper squats with a lighter weight to build up your booty and thighs. Your gluteus maximus is over 25% more engaged with a deep squat than a parallel squat.
That said, if you have a history of knee issues, there is nothing wrong with parallel squats, and speak with your physiotherapist to safely progress to deep squats as your mobility or strength allows.
Check out this video and others on our YouTube Channel, Elevation Physiotherapy & Wellness, for our One Minute Wellness tips on strength, mobility and balance.
Having strength in your upper body is important for more than just opening the jar of olives. It can be hard work to get these muscles strong, but your chest, back and shoulder muscles are what attach your arm to your trunk, and they are all used when you reach, push and pull. They tie in directly with your core muscles, as you move your body around through space.
Here are 4 reasons to keep these muscles working, then a video to show you some upper body work to start:
- building strength helps your bones: as we get older, our bones start to lose density. Resistance training can help, because muscles/ tendons pull on bones and makes them stronger
- it can help prevent injuries: research shows that strengthening through your pecs, lats and rotator cuff muscles can help prevent injuries through your upper body
- it can improve your overall posture: strengthening through your back muscles and upper body is never a bad thing, even if it just gives you confidence to know what you can do physically. It can give you energy to better hold yourself upright, and it can train your brain to better connect with these muscles
- it just feels good: getting strong feels good in the body and the mind. It doesn’t have to be push ups and pull ups, it can be tennis, rock climbing, throwing a frisbee or ball.
See our You Tube Channel “Elevation Physiotherapy and Wellness” to see various One Minute Wellness videos on building upper body strength at home.
We have previously mentioned how important it is to build strength through your core, as it acts as a canister that connects your upper and lower body. As you more your arms and legs, these movements either start in your core, or move through it. Relative weakness through this canister can affect how well your arms and legs function. If you are properly strengthening through your abs and the rest of the core muscles– including the pelvic floor– it jacks up the power that can be generated when you move. f you’re looking to build a stronger core, you’ll have to focus on more than just your six-pack muscles.
Your obliques, which are along the sides of your trunk, are very important stabilizers of your body– they help to bend your body to the side, help to rotate your torso left and right, and also act to resist your trunk from rotating. You need these muscles to be strong. Here’s how.
The “core” that everyone talks about is made up of the abdominal muscles on the front, your obliques on the sides, and the deep back muscles. Think of the core as a canister that connects your upper and lower body. As you more your arms and legs, these movements either start in your core, or move through it. Relative weakness through this canister can affect how well your arms and legs function. If you are properly strengthening through your abs and the rest of the core muscles– including the pelvic floor– it jacks up the power that can be generated when you move. A strong core also improves balance and stability through your body, so it can help prevent falls or injures in sports.
A strong, flexible core is important in everything that you do:
- bending forward to put on shoes
- turning to look behind you
- reaching for something
- golf, tennis, swimming, running– you name the sport, they are all powered by a strong core
- housework, gardening- bending, lifting, twisting, vacuuming, mopping
A plank position is a great exercise to help build strength and endurance through your abs and the whole of your core. Like every exercise, form matters! Once you have your form down, make sure you’re performing this consistently to build strength. It can get monotonous to do the same exercise all the time, so check out these plank variations below.
Balancing is a fundamental aspect of any movement we perform. It is one more of those things that you don’t realize its importance until you don’t have it. You need balance in every day movements like standing up from sitting, or to lean forward and reach for something, and certainly to dance!
You work stabilizing muscles to balance, and it also challenges stability in our joints and our vestibular system. Here are 6 more reasons to work on balance:
- You start to lose balance with aging: your brain, your muscles, and your inner ear are all coordinating together to balance. If you don’t practice balance, the integration between these systems can decline over time, making it harder for you to stay upright with good posture. Practicing balance activities keeps everything working much more smoothly and prevents much of this age-related loss.
- You can help prevent falls: with better balance comes the ability to more quickly react to unexpected slips. Knowing that you are adept to react to sliding or uneven terrain can help with the confidence needed to leave the house in winter!
- Make your body do something different! As adults, we live in the forward/backward plane of movement, and don’t regularly do movements side-to-side or rotations. Over years, this can make our joints and muscles stiffer or tighter when we do have to get out of our usual positions. Balance exercises make our bodies react, engaging different muscles and working our joints in new ways.
- Balance can help you recover faster from injury: not only have balance drills and exercises been shown to help prevent injuries, research shows that balance exercises in rehab can help you recover faster from injuries in the leg and foot.