übertherm: Cold Compression Therapy Done Right

Not only do I eat frozen vegetables, but on a regular basis I use them (still in the package, of course) to relieve the chronic, nagging pain in my elbow – – on the medial epicondyle, to be exact.

I shared this problem with my readers in an article describing tendinosis some time ago. For over two years now it has been a reason for restructuring my workouts and always trying to ice after doing any kind of elbow flexion movements.

From time to time I receive product review offers and have always respectfully declined.

But this time was different.

When I received the invitation from übertherm to try their compression wrap, I informed them that it would be an honest and straightforward evaluation, and I hoped for something good.

The wrap is big. It covers the area of my arm from mid-forearm to just inches from my shoulder. The sensation of cold is not too intense due to the soft inner lining. Because of the wrap’s thickness, I am able to rest my elbow comfortably on the solid arm of the chair. Nice!

Given that my time of use is limited, I can’t speak to the long term durability issue. I can say, however, that the stitching and materials are excellent. The large velcro closures provide plenty of surface area for grip. Instructions indicate that it’s not to go in the washer or dryer.

As you can see from the instructional panel above, it’s a simple and easy to use wrap that you’ll be happy to have when it’s time for cold compression therapy.

Thanks, übertherm!

Steven,

The Senior Health and Fitness Blog by Steven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

“Exercise Improves My Immune System?”  

Yes, it does! And this vital link between exercise and our very important first line of defense is seldom discussed, so let’s take a closer look.

Our skeleton friend shown above is modeling his lymphatic system for us, featured in a dramatic green tone so it will be easy for you to see. Since it could be easily confused with the circulatory system, he’s going to show you the difference below by revealing his arteries in red and his veins in blue…

(lymphatic and circulatory systems)

I agree, he really does look amazing! And he hasn’t even put on his nervous system yet.

An Incredible Filtering System

It’s easy to understand the function and value of a filter. They’re all around us; cleaning our drinking water, keeping the lint off the clothes in the dryer, extending the useful life of the oil in our car–they’re everywhere. And when we neglect to clean or replace these filters, things get disgusting, right? Fortunately for us, our lymphatic system just keeps doing what it’s supposed to do without us even thinking about it, just like all the other amazing things inside.

Just The Basics…

Let’s take a look at how the lymphatic system functions so that you appreciate the unique importance of movement to its proper functioning.

Essentially, the lymphatic system absorbs and transports cellular waste and toxins from the surrounding fluids. It accomplishes this without a pump and moves the fluid, against gravity, toward the neck. The filtering process takes place at hundreds of nodes throughout the system. The spleen, tonsils and adenoids are also important parts of the lymphatic system.

Two major transport forces are at work here: the lymphatic vessels themselves utilizing contraction; and the movements of the surrounding muscles effectively moving the fluid upward. This movement of the skeletal muscle system throughout the body is critical to the healthy functioning of the lymphatic system!

update 10/03/2017: Rediscovering the amazing brain connection – –

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171003111111.htm

The fact that this entire lymphatic system–our ‘first line of defense’–is so closely linked to our bodies in motion should speak clearly and emphatically to us as to the nature of the healthy lifestyle; movement is life!

Are you listening?

Steven

The Senior Health and Fitness Blog by Steven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0

My skeleton friend wanted you to see him with his nervous system showing (in yellow).

Stretching: Ignored, Boring and Misunderstood… It’s Much More Important Than You Realize! 

(A slow movement core exercise from a stretch position)

How It Started

Thirty years ago, in my mid thirties, when I experienced my first episode of debilitating back pain, it scared me to the point of fear.

I will never forget simply getting up from the couch and feeling like I had been stabbed in the back and crumbling to the floor in pain. With the passage of time bringing relief, I concluded that it was simply my first exposure to the idiosyncrasies of nerves channeled between the movable bony structures called vertebrae.

“Kill it or cure it” was my plan. How can I train differently so that my body, and especially my back, is uniquely challenged?

Weight training had always been my consuming interest, even though I never was exceptionally strong or athletic. It was a difficult decision to give it up entirely for something else. And yes, it was a vanity issue, to a large degree.

I decided on Shotokan karate. It would demand of me a completely different mindset and toss me far from my comfort zone. Perfect. You’re thinking that the two disciplines could coexist; weight training and martial arts–Not in my mind. Not at that point in time.

The first step for me, knowing that high kicks (and all other movements), depended on flexibility that I did not possess, was a dedicated focus on range of motion training; stretching.

I created my own simple routine. Place my favorite record album (about 15 minutes per side in those days) on the turntable and slowly, gently put the necessary tension on my body to get the results desired. Fifteen minutes every day of constant, even pressure applied to my joints diligently over time got my hips, knees and feet where they needed to be.

And thirty years later, with little effort, most of what I accomplished then from stretching still remains today. Of course I have minor pains in a few joints and I have the same issues with bursitis around the shoulders that my father had.

But I never thought I would feel this good at 65 when I imagined old age from the perspective of my thirties! And much of it is the result of the flexibility training I focused on at that time.

The Big Toe says “NO”

Although enjoying above average range of motion in some ways, aging has imposed limitations that I adapt to in my training and daily life.

The range of motion in my right big toe is severely limited now due to arthritic changes. Last week, while participating in group ‘resistance training aerobics’ class, it was time for lunges with the lightly loaded bar on the back shoulders. What I absolutely can’t do is step back with my right foot and bend the big toe enough to touch with the ball of the foot. I knew I was in trouble when the instructor called out the exercise, but I stepped back, attempted to plant the right foot and immediately had to adjust for the pain. My form was awkward and unstable, so I put the weight down and slowly did what I could with body weight only.

Training as you age means accommodating these inevitable changes by discovering alternative exercises, different tempos, and smooth movements utilizing good form.

The instructor, in her twenties, could have little opportunity to understand how much pain that toe, when quickly bent beyond its age-changed range of motion, could generate.

Major Takeaway Points
1. Stretching ‘cold’ is perfectly fine, but you must go lightly and slowly when you do. The best opportunity to work on improving your range of motion is after you’ve done at least 10 to 15 minutes of light to moderate movement. My routine was always in the morning at the beginning of my day. Your guide is the feedback your body gives you (proprioceptors) by signaling with a slight pressure, moving to discomfort, and then pain. Never go to pain and stay within the discomfort that is tolerable. Hold whatever position you’re using for 30 seconds then increase range slightly by adding very minimal pressure and hold another 30 seconds. If, starting out, you find that too much, go for 10-15 seconds.

2. The best warm up for any exercise is not stretching, it’s a lightweight version of whatever exercise you’re going to do. Warm up for heavy squats by doing bodyweight only squats. You’re engaging and preparing exactly the muscles, tendons and ligaments you plan to stress.

3. Aging (especially as you approach 60) demands that you lighten the weight, slow the tempo, and focus on your internal feedback

4. As your range of motion is compromised by aging and lack of use, every aspect of your movement changes, beginning with your feet. And every change of angle in the movements of your feet alters everything connected above.

To Your Flexibility and Safety,
Steven

The Senior Health and Fitness Blog by Steven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0

Walking: Should You Consider It Exercise? 

Of all the activities that are recommended to us as part of a healthy lifestyle, walking is very high on the list. Because it’s already a learned skill, requires no equipment, and is doable everywhere, walking is a great activity for everyone. 

Let’s take a look at what produces the significant changes to our body systems when we engage in exercise. What causes our cardiovascular and respiratory systems to improve and our muscles and bones to become stronger? 

Answering these questions will bring us to a conclusion as to whether or not you should regard walking as an exercise tool. 

THE BODY’S RESPONSE TO POSITIVE STRESS

We don’t ordinarily regard stress as something positive, but in the case of exercise, it is exactly that. 

It was discovered over a hundred years ago that our bones respond to increased load forces over time by becoming denser and stronger. The actual inner architecture of the bone is transformed. It’s this fact that elevates resistance training to the top slot for combating the regressive bone tissue changes associated with aging. There is no osteoporosis drug available that can produce the results achieved from consistent resistance exercise. This form of exercise systematically stresses the bones by using them to move through greater forces than normal. 

The same type of responses take place within the cardiovascular and respiratory systems when subjected to the positive stress demands of exercise.  

Consider the latest lesson from our ventures in space. After spending significant time in an environment of weightlessness, our astronauts returned to Earth slightly taller and having developed a new source of back pain. They returned taller because their spines became straighter in the absence of gravity. One might imagine that in the context of being weightless, the aches and pains associated with the spine would disappear given the lack of gravity’s downward pull. On the contrary–without the normal gravitational pull experienced on Earth, the spine and its supporting components degenerated for lack of normal stresses.

Read more about it here:

http://www.theverge.com/platform/amp/2016/10/25/13392824/astronauts-back-pain-health-space-spinal-muscles                                 
What we can conclude here is that normal activity is necessary simply to prevent regression. This is not news, but an additional confirmation of the often cited ‘use it or lose it’ truism.

So let’s respond to the question posed in the title–is walking really exercise?  I recommend that you consider walking as normal activity necessary to maintain normal functioning. Being active is definitely better than not. 

If you use your walking to challenge your current fitness level by walking faster or going uphill and– your body is responding with an elevated heart rate and your breathing is at a faster pace —your body is being stressed in positive ways and, over time and with consistent effort, you will become stronger and your body systems more efficient. 

It is at this point of adding additional stress that walking becomes exercise. Until then, like the astronauts and the gravity on Earth, walking is simply business as usual and necessary to stay even. 

This distinction is critical for your progress. If you are taking the time to walk, make the slightly greater effort that will result in life-changing results through your consistent discipline! 

To Your Health and Wellness, 

Steven
The Senior Health and Fitness Blog by Steven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 Senior Health and ven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0

Aging, Exercise, and Your Contentment With Life

Looking back on my assumptions about what life would be like in my sixties, I must say that I am pleasantly surprised.

It’s about how great I feel at this age!

When contemplating how I might feel as a senior citizen from the vantage point of my young adult years, I imagined a life lived within the confines of a worn out aching body constantly reminding me of my years.

Thankfully, that just isn’t so!

I share this with you not from a sense of superiority, but with a purpose of encouragement.

It’s not too late to begin your lifestyle journey that includes proper nutrition, exercise, and a focus on wellness.

Challenging the assumption that people over 65 are generally a happy group, a 15 year study just released cites depression as a pervasive reality for many. “Key factors in these increases (of depression) include levels of physical impairment, the onset of medical conditions, particularly chronic ones, and the approach of death.”

(http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151113115607.htm)

My emphasis here is on the preventable status of ‘levels of physical impairment’ from which so much misery arises.

Your investment in your physical well being directly effects your happiness!

Contrast that gloomy outlook on living with what proactive looks like in this article from the Washington Post: ‘You can be a high level athlete whether you’re 20 or 70.’
https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/proof-that-old-age-and-high-level-athleticism-arent-mutually-exclusive/2015/11/10/d7a3c3b8-7cdb-11e5-beba-927fd8634498_story.html

(Please take the time to click on the link above and read it)

Make the decision to take charge of what you can change, and give yourself the gift of better health and more contentment along the way!

To Your Health and Fitness,

Steven Siemons

The Senior Health and Fitness Blog by Steven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

The Joy of Fitness Training With My Mother-In-Law

image

The Gold’s Gym in central Florida where I was training at the time was one of my favorites. It became special to me, as well, because it was my first time training with a lady of seventy six years… my Mother-In-Law.

She is a spirited and adventurous soul. She speaks a little English, I speak a little Spanish. Of course, before we decided to embark on this exercise/linguistic experiment, I confirmed her state of overall good health. She, in fact, amazed me with her ability to begin a journey to the United States from Sweden, travel for twenty four hours on trains, planes and automobiles, and look beautiful and be positive until retiring for the night in her bed in our home.

I was not worried about her being intimidated by what might be encountered at the gym, and neither was she. What happened in the days and weeks that followed amazed me… and her.

The main focus she shared with me (through the interpreted discussion before we started) was concerning the use of her shoulders and arms. Her diminishing strength and ability to reach overhead saddened her. She was somewhat depressed, as well, because she had been diagnosed with osteoporosis and, of course, felt intimidated by it.

The first day was simply getting a feel for what was there. She watched, I demonstrated. She learned quickly and joyfully. After seeing me do seated close-grip pull-downs, she was anxious to try.

Cuidate (be careful)… Suavemente (smoothly)… Ay dolor? (is there any pain?)

These are the words I spoke most frequently. But always upon hearing “muy bien” (very good), Mom got the biggest smile on her face! At that point, I knew she was hooked.

My normal routine was three days a week, one day resting between workouts. After three weeks of gradual but noticeable increases in strength and range of motion, Mom insisted on going every day that she didn’t have something special happening!

Mom is in her eighties now and no longer has the stamina and confidence to do battle at the airports. We no longer are able to train together. During my years of working out, I’ve had the opportunity to train together with some accomplished athletes.

It all pales in comparison to the joy of saying, “Muy Muy Bien, Mamita.”

To Your Health and Fitness,

Steven Siemons

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