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)
- 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
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.”
Top of the list again this year. If you love the outdoors, Bay Nature Magazine is a gift that gives all year long.
If you have a skeleton, Dr. Lani’s Bone Health book is a must read. I waited to read Susan Love’s Breast Book until AFTER I was fighting breast cancer. Please DO NOT wait for a diagnosis of osteopenia or osteoporosis to read this book.
|Click here to order Bay Nature|
Eating on the Wild Side: This life-changing (but badly named) book will help you make better, more nutritious choices. Learn how to buy, store, prepare fruits and veggies in order to make more nutritious choices, save money and shop smarter. More info and great pod cast – click here.
Once again this year – if you have feet – these massage balls will help them stay healthy. If you have a HINT of Plantar Fasciitis (or know someone who does), get them – don’t wait!
With Dad dying this year and mother-in-law failing, I’m aware that many of us are helping or dealing with an older adult who is at fall risk. This simple, high quality bed rail helps stabilize at one of the most risky times – getting out of bed. This is the one you want! Also, I carry a Handy Bar for helping clients get out of the car, it’s a great stabilizer as well as a seat belt cutter and window smasher. I hope I never need to use it for that!
What gift guide would be complete without a plug for POLES? Consider gifting a class (if you’re in Northern CA) or a video (for hiking or mobility) and or a new set of poles. To learn which poles best fit a person (and will help him/her achieve her goals), just complete the consultation form on this web page. I have some poles that are discontinued, so my stock of high quality poles is selectively available for special needs (like extra tall people, wrist or shoulder issues, etc).
For locals (Bay Area Residents), anytime tickets to the Mountain Play are a great gift. We go every year and the anytime tickets enable us to go when the weather is what we want (not hot). They are only on sale for a short time in December.
Happy & Safe Holidays!
When I teach a POLES for Balance & Maintaining Mobility class, I work to achieve TWO goals:
- Helping people experience the freedom of movement possible when using poles for walking
- How to improve mindfulness
We do exercises for balance, ROM (range of motion), gait, etc. I use the sit-to-stand exercise to help improve mindfulness. We break this (very complicated) movement down to its individual elements. Here’s an excerpt from an article which discusses one of the MANY benefits of this exercise:
… 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….
Some of the benefits of the sit to stand exercise (done optimally and progressively):
- Leg Strength
- Core Strengthening
- Low Back Healing (it’s true!)
How are you feeling? OK? Fine? Good? And what ON EARTH do those mean? (they’re called fuzzy words)
I work with many people – some of whom have mobility and balance challenges. If a person says – I’m OK, maybe s/he is, or perhaps I’m reading something else in his/her form. I use a simple Zero to Ten scale to help us both communicate endurance.
- Zero means – if I don’t sit down, I’m going to fall down – I’ve got nothing left.
- Ten is the tippy top of my endurance. Remember Bo Derek? The perfect Ten!
Another example: We’re walking along and my client communicates a Five. It’s probably time to turn around or rest – certainly not go farther.
If you have a partner/friend/buddy – consider using this method of communicating. It’s helpful for you, BUT it’s also extremely helpful for the person with mobility challenges. S/he will start to be more aware of the need to rest or slow down or turn around.
All kinds of things drain or energize people. Just when you think someone has gone from a 5 to a 3, they communicate a 6. They’re having fun!
Remember that this is very subjective. A person’s “number” is just the first number that leaps into their consciousness. It can change and refine as s/he becomes more self aware and this simple tool helps people to become more self aware.
This lever fits easily in the car door latch (when open). It’s an ideal gift for anyone who has trouble getting in and/or out of a car. Universal fit, portable, supports up to 300 lbs, lifetime guarantee. It’s really cool!
I keep one in my car stashed so I can reach it easily. When I transport an elder or someone who has trouble getting out of the car, it’s so easy to position it so that my buddy has excellent support – a sturdy handle to assist rising.
From Consumer Reports onHealth newsletter (excerpted): Knee replacements are on the rise. The rate among adults 45 to 64 more than doubled between 1997 and 2009…and the numbers will probably keep climbing. …predict that 6.5 million adults will be diagnosed over the next decade with knee osteoarthritis, the main reason for the surgery.
- Use POLES! Stay strong and active.
- Avoid using a cane which puts you into a seriously uneven gait and can cause compensation injury. Use a cane if you need to, but using poles provides a much more natural, fluid gait.
- You might find you can delay surgery; I’ve known people who have avoided the “let’s put you under the KNIFE ” diagnosis by using poles and getting significantly stronger and more mobile.
- Prepare! Learn optimal use ahead of time. You’ll notice an unweighting of the challenged knee joint because your upper body is helping in a healthy way.
- Recovery after surgery: Transition from a walker to your POLES (which you’ve learned how to use), not a cane. Why clump around when you can use both arms and your whole torso?
- Recover faster – because you’re stronger to begin with.
- Get fantastic exercise in your back and arms – this presumes you’ve learned optimal use.
There are so many other benefits, including:
- Achieve, Maintain, even Regain Mobility! – Help prevent injury & falls.
- Exercising the back muscles (bi-laterally) helps the spine stay strong, healthy & YOUNG – Yippee!
- Handle uneven terrain with more CONFIDENCE. What once was a non-event (like driveways or curbs) can become insurmountable obstacles.
I worked with Jeanne, a writer who at 79, could not step off a curb. Within a year she was hiking again. We met twice a week for many years and she was able to RE-OPEN doors she thought had shut forever. She loved her poles and loved getting outside walking around Foothills Park in Palo Alto, CA.
Determining which poles best suit a person’s issues and goals is an important part of the learning process. We use all 3 types of poles, helping participants figure out what works best for their structure (fit), their issues and their goals.
Take a look at this Article in the Pacifica Tribune this morning. We offer 3 levels of classes so anyone can learn great skills to more fully enjoy the outdoors.
- How to use POLES for Hiking & Outdoor Exercise
- How to use POLES for Balance, Mobility and Basic (Functional) Walking
- Walking Workout: Urban PoleWalking for Health & Fitness (Nordic Walking)
Regardless of your activity level, you can achieve many benefits from learning these skills. Your back and knees will thank you and you’ll feel taller.
Increased circulation to the brain is a good thing! Being outside, with your buddies, enjoying a full body experience is the triple win of poles!
Check our calendar for all class listings, including Rocky Mountain National Park!
I was initially very skeptical about using poles with wheelchairs.
Why? Because we teach people to use big pushing muscles – muscles in the back that support and elongate the spine. My concern was that the more fragile pulling muscles (like the anterior deltoid) might be used and therefore strained. Also, I thought some control of the chair might be compromised.
But Guess What? At the No Barriers Summit, I spoke with Liesl, the paraplegic pictured below, who said she loved them. Why? Because they’re great for cross training.
So like orthotics, or using poles or learning any new skill – weave it in gradually. Please don’t over do it. and…enjoy your poles!
Notice that Liesl’s straps are snug? This helps prevent hand strain, improves her power and allows her to use arm and back muscles for movement. Notice that her arms are relatively straight and close to her body? This helps recruit larger muscles in the back. Her good form is part of why she enjoyed this pole session!
Photos are compliments of Melanie at LEKI. As always, click on any photo to enlarge. Press the back button to return to post.
And, lest you even THINK of feeling sorry for Liesl, be advised that she is an airplane mechanic in Alaska.
Poles pictured are LEKI Corklite Aergon SpeedLock.
As we age, we can lose or reduce spine function. Using poles for walking and hiking enables us to use our upper body muscles to help preserve our joints. Spine function can be restored. This is done because, when we walk with poles, we appear to walk as we did when younger – with attitude. We are using muscles which support AND lengthen the spine. Walking with attitude – with purpose – is the natural walking pattern. It’s called reciprocal gait. It’s the diagonal pattern of opposite arm and leg. When this occurs, the spine is able to ROTATE. This spinal rotation feels good, looks good and is very healthy.
Walking with poles recruits core muscles, including the latissimus dorsi, lower trapezius and oblique muscles. These core muscles, when used, strengthen. When optimal posture and form are used, the spine lengthens. Gravity acts, the spine compresses, we get shorter. Using poles actually can reverse this process – the spine lengthens and elongates.
All of this assumes a natural arm swing. The arm swing is part of the spinal rotation and muscle recruitment. Learning optimal use of poles is key to achieving these benefits. Beware fads or techniques that involve elbow pumping. Repetitive movement of a joint can cause stress. Repetitive movement especially of an elbow joint can cause tendonitis. Anything that does not look natural or like walking “with attitude” needs to be approached with caution.
- As you walk, think of walking with purpose or focus.
- Think of a lovely sachet or of strutting.
- One lady said, “Oh you want me to walk Sassy!.” YES!
- Whatever works for you, know that you cannot rotate too much.
- It only looks like you’re walking YOUNG.
Regain the vibrancy of youthful walking – learn to walk optimally with poles and Enjoy the Outdoors!
I just created a new Facebook Page for people to use as a FORUM for asking questions, discussing how poles enhance their outdoor experiences and help them achieve their goals.
Please check it out and click the LIKE button to enjoy: FaceBook Page for Pole Walkers