6 habits for a healthier heart

Most of us know that exercise improves your cardiac health — you get moving and your heart pumps more, which helps your heart remain strong. But what else can you do to improve your heart health?

A few years ago, the American Heart Association, or the AHA, created Life’s Simple 7: seven ways to improve your cardiac health. One of those seven is exercising more. Your PT can help you create an exercise regimen to help you get moving, in the best way for your particular body. Use our locator to find a Physiquality therapist in your neighborhood.

Here are the AHA’s six other ways to make your heart stronger and healthier.


  • Manage your blood pressure to keep your heart healthy.Manage your blood pressure.


High blood pressure, or hypertension, can put you at risk for a variety of health problems, especially heart and kidney failure, stroke and vascular disease.

It’s important to know in what range your blood pressure falls, as well as whether it’s consistent over time. Talk to your doctor about your blood pressure and whether it falls into a healthy range under the new hypertension guidelines that the AHA published with the American College of Cardiology last fall. If it doesn’t, while there are medicines to take for hypertension, your doctor will most likely advise some lifestyle changes to improve your blood pressure first: lower your sodium intake, eat more fruits and vegetables, reduce stress, and exercise more.


  • Control your cholesterol.


In the past, patients were simply told to watch their cholesterol levels, as it can lead to blocked arteries and stroke. Now we know that LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) is the type that leads to these build-ups, while “good” or HDL cholesterol actually cleans your arteries of plaque and build-ups. When your doctor runs blood tests, you usually get a report on both types of cholesterol, with the hopes that your HDL levels are higher than your LDL levels.

If you have high levels of LDL cholesterol, you may be able to lower it simply by eating a low-fat diet and monounsaturated fats, like olive or canola oil; others may need help with medication. Speak to your doctor about what cholesterol range is right for you, and how best to achieve it.


  • Lower your blood sugar levels.


Lower your blood sugar levels to help your heart.Your blood sugar level is literally the amount of sugar, or glucose in your blood. High glucose or blood sugar levels can be a sign of type 2 diabetes and can lead to nerve damage, kidney or eye problems, heart disease and stroke.

As with cholesterol, there are medications that can regulate your blood sugar, but for most people it is better to start by changing your eating habits. Eating more fruits and vegetables, drinking fewer sugary drinks, and filling up on high fiber foods are easy ways to reduce the amount of sugar you’re consuming.


  • Eat better.


The AHA notes, “A healthy diet is one of your best weapons for fighting cardiovascular disease. When you eat a heart-healthy diet, you improve your chances for feeling good and staying healthy — for life!”

The AHA nutrition recommendations aren’t anything new: Focus on fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, and chicken and fish, and avoid foods and drinks that are high on salt, fat or sugar – and low on nutrients. If you’re trying to change your habits, Harvard Medical School recommends adding one extra fruit or vegetable a day, or eating a handful of nuts as a snack in the afternoon.


  • Stop smoking.


Smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your health. It can lead to cardiovascular problems like stroke and coronary heart disease; respiratory illnesses like emphysema and chronic bronchitis; and cancer, not only in the lungs, but also throughout the rest of the body.

If you want to quit smoking, it can be hard to do it on your own. The AHA has plenty of resources to help you quite successfully.


  • physical therapy walking on treadmillLose weight.


While we know losing weight sounds easier than it usually is, it has been shown that having extra pounds on your frame causes stress on your heart, lungs, bones and even blood vessels. The good news is that by following the guidelines mentioned above — eating healthier foods, lowering your blood sugar levels, and, yes, exercising — people often lose weight.

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Sarcopenia and loss of strength

with advice from Daniel Butler, CEP

Sarcopenia and loss of strength

Sarcopenia, the loss of skeletal muscle mass, is a part of what has been called “the slippery slope of aging.”

As people age, they often start to experience sarcopenia, as well as osteopenia and osteoporosis. Having weaker muscles and bones, plus the arthritis caused by years of wear and tear, can make movement more difficult and painful. The pain leads to less activity, which contributes to weaker bones and muscles, making it even more difficult to move. And so on.

Doctors and scientists are still not quite sure what causes sarcopenia, but they have linked a number of factors to its development, according to the Mayo Clinic: age-associated hormone changes, physical inactivity, inflammation, and diseases like cancer and diabetes. Because inactivity can lead to sarcopenia, doctors encourage older adults to exercise more to build muscle mass.

Exercise increases hormone levels, builds muscle mass, and contributes to weight loss.Daniel Butler, a personal trainer and clinical exercise specialist who works at the Take Charge Fitness Program, a wellness facility run by Clinton Physical Therapy Center (a Physiquality network member in Tennessee), is an expert in helping people avoid age-related physical problems. He points out that exercise not only builds body mass, but it also releases some of the hormones that start to dwindle as we age, like testosterone and growth hormones.

In addition, it can help older adults lose weight, reducing the pain associated with arthritis; having more weight on your frame can exponentially increase the pressure on your joints. So activity increases hormone levels, builds muscle mass, and contributes to weight loss. Win, win, win!

If you haven’t been very active and don’t know where to begin, says Daniel, go for a walk. Walking doesn’t take any special skills, and in many areas of the country can be done outside year-round. If it’s too cold outside right now, he adds, there are several places to walk indoors, like shopping malls, commercial gyms and community centers.

Daniel notes that water exercise is a great alternative. Just like walking, it can be done indoors or outside, and the resistance provided by the water is enough to strengthen bones and muscles.

If you’re hesitant about trying a new activity on your own, talk to your physical therapist — PTs can create a walking or exercise program to build muscle mass at a rate that you are comfortable with. Use our locator to find a Physiquality therapist in your neighborhood.

It's important for seniors to avoid frailty.The key to aging well is avoiding frailty, the last step in the “slippery slope.” Daniel recommends keeping an eye on your bone density through DEXA scans, and then taking steps, such as proper diet and exercise, to maintain strong and healthy bones. He also notes that regular balance screenings can detect loss of equilibrium. If loss of balance is present, there are exercise and physical therapy protocols that can help restore balance.

The last point Daniel makes is that it’s important for seniors to be social. Meeting up with friends outside the house, whether you’re going for a walk or seeing a movie together, gets you off the couch and moving — and the more you move, the better you’ll feel.


Daniel Butler, CEP Daniel Butler, CEP, has been a personal trainer for more than 10 years at the Take Charge Fitness Program, a wellness facility run by Clinton Physical Therapy Center, a Physiquality network member in Clinton, Tennessee. A former Marine, Daniel holds certifications from the American College of Sports Medicine as a clinical exercise specialist and the Arthritis Foundation as an aquatic instructor, and he completed his B.S. in health administration in 2012.

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Five ways to beat fatigue and have more energy

Winter is coming. As December begins, so does the holiday whirl. Office parties. Family get-togethers. Late nights spent trying to put together toys that have instructions written in a foreign language.

It can be easy to get overwhelmed, and feeling tired will make it more difficult to get through the month. So here are five ways to beat some of that fatigue, giving you more energy to face whatever is on your calendar.


  • Eat healthier food more often.


Most people understand the essentials of healthy eating: Eat several servings of fruit and vegetables every day, plus servings of grains, dairy, and a variety of proteins. Reduce fats, sugars and sodium.

But another way to evaluate how you eat is to look at how often you eat. The National Health Service in the United Kingdom notes that “a good way to keep up your energy through the day is to eat regular meals and healthy snacks every three to four hours.” This helps to keep your blood sugar levels more consistent, rather than spiking after large meals.

Just remember that if you’re eating more frequently, your meals should be smaller. Your daily intake should still remain around 2,000 calories, regardless of how it is eaten throughout the day.


  • Drink up.


Hydration is a key component of your diet. While you may not reach 64 ounces of water a day (and most doctors agree that eight 8-ounce glasses of water is a bit much for most people), drinking fluids throughout the day is essential. Not only can dehydration cause fatigue, it has also been shown to impair activity, alertness and concentration.

Don't drink your calories!If you’re drinking more than water (and most of us are), try to remember this mantra: Don’t drink your calories! Drinks can add up to a lot of additional calories throughout the day, particularly if you are drinking sodas or specialty drinks from the corner coffee shop. Aside from the additional calories, drinking sugary drinks may initially give you a spike in energy, but it is often followed by a crash, where you may have less energy than before.

When fatigue is a concern, the NHS recommends cutting two kinds of drinks: those that contain alcohol and caffeine. Even though a glass of wine or a pint of beer may help you relax in the evening, you won’t sleep as well after drinking alcohol, which means you’ll be more tired during the next day. And, like sugar, caffeine can cause spikes in your energy, leading to crashes afterward, making you feel even more tired.


  • Get moving.


It may seem counterintuitive, but if you’re feeling lethargic, taking a walk or doing some exercise is a great way to have more energy. WebMD points out that “Even a single 15-minute walk can give you an energy boost, and the benefits increase with more frequent physical activity.”

Yoga in particular may be especially helpful in increasing energy. A study done in 2009 found that after doing yoga once a week for only six weeks, the subjects had more energy and confidence that those that did not do yoga.

Exercising more may also help you lose weight, another factor in fatigue. “If your body is carrying excess weight, it can be exhausting,” notes the NHS. “It also puts extra strain on your heart, which can make you tired. Lose weight and you’ll feel much more energetic.”

If you’re struggling to fit exercise in during a busy season, here are some tips to fit exercise into your daily routine. You can also talk to a physical therapist about creating a safe and effective exercise plan. As musculoskeletal experts, physical therapists can evaluate your fitness and discuss what you should target to grow stronger and healthier. Search our clinic locator to see if there is a Physiquality PT near you that can help you develop a personalized fitness plan.


  • Make sure you're getting enough sleep.Catch some ZZZs.


Most of us don’t get enough rest to keep going — adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night to be well-rested. In addition, pay attention to your habits. If you get up and go to bed at the same time every day, and allow yourself some time to relax before bedtime, you will feel better and have more energy.

If you do fall short on shut-eye, the doctors at WebMD recommend a brief afternoon nap. They explain that “a 10-minute nap is usually enough to boost energy. Don’t nap longer than 30 minutes, though, or you may have trouble sleeping that night.”


  • Talk to your doctor.


Finally, WebMD reminds readers that fatigue may be a sign that something is wrong, particularly if it comes on suddenly or lasts for a long time. They note, “It is a common symptom of many illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, anemia, thyroid disease, and sleep apnea.” Fatigue could also be a side effect of medications. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you feel unusually tired, and make sure to tell her about any new medications if a different doctor prescribed them.

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What are the benefits of aquatic physical therapy? Consider getting wet in order to get better.

with advice from Kelly Lenz, PT
and Blair J. Packard, PT, MS

 What are the benefits of aquatic physical therapy?

When most people think of physical therapy, they probably think of treadmills and stationary bikes, hand weights and elastic bands — plus the medical tables on which patients can be treated. Without getting wet.

So why might aquatic physical therapy be just as beneficial, or even better?

“Aquatic therapy allows a gravity-reduced environment in which to exercise,” explains Kelly Lenz, a physical therapist and co-owner of Clinton Physical Therapy Center, a Physiquality network clinic in Tennessee. “This allows a variety of patients to move more freely without undue stress on their body.”

Buoyancy can be used to assist, support or resist motion. Image used with permission from East Valley Physical Therapy.This is possible because of one special property of water: buoyancy. Because of buoyancy, the gravitational forces on the body are reduced, giving some patients immediate pain relief. “Buoyancy can be used to assist, support or resist motion,” says physical therapist Blair J. Packard, the co-owner of East Valley Physical Therapy, a Physiquality member in Arizona. “It also opposes gravity to provide spinal and joint unloading.”

There are other benefits to doing therapy in a pool as compared to on land:

  • Patients who are only able to do traditional exercises for a short period of time are often able to exercise for longer periods of time, with more intensity.
  • Patients with poor balance do well in the water as the water helps support them — and if they do fall, the water slows down the fall.
  • Patients with edema often see a reduction in swelling, as the water pressure increases venous return to the heart.

Aquatic therapy is especially helpful for patients with lower extremity injuries or issues. Image used with permission from Clinton Physical Therapy Center.Aquatic therapy can help a variety of patients, but Kelly notes that it’s especially helpful for those with lower extremity injuries or issues — arthritis in the knees or hips, leg fractures where patients are just starting to put weight on the bone again, or pain in the lower back or lumbar spine. It’s also been shown to help patients with disorders like Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. And the American Physical Therapy Association points out that a pool is the perfect environment for aging individualsthat have the normal degeneration that occurs with aging.

Don’t worry if you don’t know how to swim — therapy in a pool is used to improve function, mobility, strength and balance, not actual swimming. Most pools are fairly shallow in order to allow the patients and therapists to stand and walk in the water. For example, Blair points out, the depths in the pool at East Valley PT range from three and a half feet to five feet. And if patients are still uncomfortable with the water, special adaptive equipment will help them keep their head above the water’s edge.

Not all physical therapy clinics offer aquatic therapy, and even if your physical therapist does offer it, it may not be the best treatment for your condition. But if your PT suggests getting into the pool to become stronger and improve your health, consider getting wet in order to get better.

How to play hockey safely

How to play hockey safely

Hockey may not initially inspire thoughts of the world’s safest sport. With a reputation for brawls on the ice and toothless grins, parents may be understandably cautious about signing up their kids for the community hockey league.

However, with the proper precautions (and protective gear), the game can be played safely while those on the ice reduce their chance of injury.

Hockey is a unique sport, says Mark Salandra, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and the founder of StrengthCondition.com (a Physiquality partner program). “It incorporates speed, agility and strength in ways that no other sport tests the body,” he explains. As with any sport, injuries can be caused by a variety of factors, including the level of participation, player position, protective equipment, violent behavior, and personal susceptibility due to pre-existing injuries and style of play.

Hockey leagues have been studying concussions seriously over the last few years.The most dangerous injury that hockey players are susceptible to is the one most difficult to avoid, notes Mark. Given the fast pace on the ice, collisions with other players, as well as the rink walls, are inevitable, and such hits can lead to concussions. As with football, hockey leagues have been studying the injury seriously, advocating a variety of measures designed to reduce concussions, particularly among younger players.

USA Hockey, the organization that oversees amateur hockey associations in the U.S., advises all players young and old to protect the head by wearing a helmet when playing. They have posted tips and created training, for both parents and coaches, on how to keep players safe. Most importantly, they explain how to look for signs of a concussion: Looking dazed or confused, being unable to remember post-injury events, having problems with concentration or balance, or even simply irritability. Should a parent, coach or athlete notice these symptoms, particularly if the athlete is showing more than one symptom, it’s time to talk to a doctor.

Be screened before the hockey season begins by an experienced physical therapist or physician.Most hockey injuries involve the soft tissues, like bruises, muscle strains, ligament tears, and cuts, Mark notes, but serious injuries are possible, and players should avoid dangerous tactics. To prevent injuries, hockey players should:

  • Be screened before the season begins by an experienced physical therapist or physician. This should identify existing injuries and uncover deficiencies.
  • Participate in a sports-specific conditioning program to avoid physical overload.
  • Wear high-quality equipment that fits well and is not damaged, worn-out, or undersized.
  • Play by the rules. Players and coaches should always demonstrate sportsmanship and mutual respect for their opponents and the officials.

Mark suggests that hockey players focus on four areas in order to improve their abilities and reduce injuries: the core, leg strength, upper body strength, and flexibility.

Core strength is very important because hockey players are constantly twisting and turning, and getting up off the ice onto their skates. Key core strengthening exercises that hockey players can do are crunches, planks and Superman exercises. Mark advises tightening your transversus abdominis during these exercises (that’s the deepest abdominal muscle, the one you feel contracting when you cough).

By incorporating such exercises as lunges, squats, leg extensions and calf raises, hockey players will increase leg strength and reduce their risk of leg injuries.While it shouldn’t be surprising that leg strength is key to a sport that involves skating on a slippery surface, Mark points out that ice hockey is different in that athletes have to go from start to stop, and stop to start, very quickly with explosive power. By incorporating such exercises as lunges, squats, leg extensions and curls, and calf raises, players will increase leg strength and reduce their risk of leg injuries.

Between swinging a hockey stick and colliding with other players (and walls), upper body strength is essential to reducing injuries. A comprehensive strengthening program should include such upper body exercises as bench and shoulder presses, biceps and wrist curls, triceps extensions, and rotator cuff exercises like doorway stretches and lawn mower pulls.

Given the various directions that hockey players move in during a match, flexibility can help improve a player’s mobility. Mark recommends doing a warm-up, as well as stretching, before any activity, and reminds athletes to stretch only to the point of resistance, not pain. All stretching should be done slowly and carefully, particularly if you’re on the ice. And stretching after activity can help your body recuperate faster.

Speaking of recuperation, don’t forget the most important part of your activity — rest. The more rested you are, the better you’ll perform on game day. “It is only after your workout, when you are resting and replenishing your body with protein and other nutrients, when the body heals and gets stronger. This is why I live by the motto, ‘Train hard, but rest harder,’” says Mark.

Your local Physiquality physical therapist is an excellent resource for athletic training, injury prevention and advice and treatment if you do sustain an injury. Use our therapist finder to locate the professional nearest you.

Mark Salandra, CSCS Mark Salandra, CSCS, is the founder of StrengthCondition.com, one of Physiquality’s partner programs. Mark educates and trains athletes young and old in strength and conditioning, with the goals of better fitness and lower rates of injury.

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Running away from injury

Running is a common way to stay fit — in theory, all you require is a good pair of running shoes. But running can also lead to a variety of injuries. Our experts talked to us about the most common running injuries and how to avoid them.

According to Jeff Rothstein, the Director of Sports Enhancement for the PT Center for Sports Medicine, a Physiquality clinic in Akron, Ohio, the most common running injuries are to the foot, knee and back. Jeff notes that having the right running shoes is essential for avoiding injury.

Lori Francoeur, a physical therapist at Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy Center in Arizona, agrees. She explains that runners should wear a “good supportive shoe that will provide adequate support and cushioning for your arch and heel.”

For runners, back and knee injuries are often a result of weak muscles.Back and knee injuries are often a result of weak muscles, says Jeff, as many runners focus on running without strength training. He advises that runners strengthen their glutes, hamstrings and core to support the body while running. Otherwise, runners can be prone to imbalanced muscles, which can lead to a poor gait and possibly injury. (If you’re worried about your gait, many physical therapists do gait evaluations to help runners improve their form.)

A running coach and marathoner, Lori cautions runners to take a slow and steady approach to progressing distance. She advises any new runners to not start with more than 1 – 2 miles at a time, not necessarily running the entire time – just plan to be moving the entire time, whether you are walking or running at a slow pace. Keep track of each run’s distance, and don’t increase your mileage by more than 10% per week. There are plenty of ways to measure your distance these days, whether by using an iPhone or Apple watch, or a sports-specific monitor like those from Physiquality partner Polar.

Most runners don't stretch enough.Jeff also points out that most runners don’t stretch enough. “This will lead to progressive shortening of the major muscles involved in running,” he says, which can limit your joint’s range of motion and put you at a greater risk for injury. While stretching can be done before or after your run, Lori notes that stretching should be done when your muscles are already warm, making it better to stretch afterwards. This post-run stretch regimen from Polar lengthens your glutes, hamstrings and calves, and opens your hip flexors, all key muscles for running.

And don’t forget the importance of rest. Rest allows our muscles and joints time to recover from the pounding we endure from running, says Lori. As we’ve previously noted here, It is only after your workout, when you are resting and replenishing your body with protein and other nutrients, when the body heals and gets stronger.

Finally, any runner should listen to his body. While starting a new activity typically comes with muscle soreness and some aches and pains, notes Lori, an intense pain, or a pain persisting for multiple days that does not subside with rest, is one you should have checked out. Physical therapists are a great resource; many outpatient orthopedic physical therapy clinics offer free injury evaluations. A PT will be able to listen to your complaints and complete an assessment to determine what the problem is. Then she can create a strengthening and/or stretching program for you to perform to resolve the problem.

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Working out while on the road

with advice from Richard Baudry, PT, DPT, OCS,
Yousef Ghandour, PT, MOMT, FAAOMPT, and Brian Klaus

Working out while on the road

With Memorial Day behind us and Independence Day quickly approaching, many of us have plans to travel in the next couple of months. If you’ve been trying to stick to an exercise regimen, here are some ideas for how to continue working out when you leave your regular routine behind.

“Exercise that doesn’t require bulky equipment or a lot of space is best while traveling,” advises Brian Klaus, the Vice President of Stretchwell, Inc. (a PTPN preferred vendor that offers a variety of progressive resistance products). Why take up space in your luggage with heavy weights or bulky equipment?

Physical therapist Richard Baudry, the founder and CEO of Baudry Therapy Center (a Physiquality member in New Orleans), agrees. Richard reminds readers that walking is the easiest exercise to do while traveling. “Make a point to stand tall, take long strides and swing your arms,” he adds.

Make exercise a daily family activity.If you’re worried about taking time away from other activities, says Richard, get up an hour earlier to go for a walk or jog – the fresh air will give you almost as much boost as a cup of coffee. You can also make it a daily family activity. If you’ve traveled to a scenic site, walking is a great way to explore your vacation location; you can plan a different walk for each day you’re there. Or if you’re traveling with a little one and he or she goes to bed early, plan your workouts for after bedtime; check out our post on working out while baby is sleeping for a sample workout that will get your heart pumping quickly (and quietly).

If you prefer using resistance when you work out, think about bringing resistance tubing, a set of bands that include a door anchor, or a portable weighted pulley system. A set like this one from QTEK Products (a Physiquality partner), created by physical therapist Yousef Ghandour, is easy to pack and won’t take up a lot of room in your bags. Yousef notes that you can use any hotel or household items to add weight to the system, which allows for shoulder, back, hip and knee exercises by attaching the system to your hotel room door.

Richard suggests weight lifting using items you’re already planning to bring, like your purse or a backpack, for arm curls or overhead presses. (Just make sure to securely close your bag first.) Or book your stay at a hotel that includes a gym with workout equipment that you normally use at home; look at the list of amenities when making your reservation to see what types of equipment is available. Some may even offer fitness classes like yoga or Pilates.

Use technology to remind yourself to work out.Lastly, Brian reminds readers to take advantage of the technology many of us already own. Use the reminders or calendar on your phone to set times for those daily walks or your gym time. Pay attention to your watch or FitBit when it notes that you’ve been sitting too long. Or have Siri remind you that a body in motion stays in motion!

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Sitting pretty: Proper sitting posture


Most of us spend more time at the office than we do at home, which is why it’s so important to consider how our behavior at the office can affect how we feel at home. If you sit at your computer for several hours each day, are you sitting pretty?

Before you look at yourself in the mirror, reflect on your desk and workspace. Specifically, says Alan Zovar, a physical therapist that works at Dandelion Dreams, Inc., (aPhysiquality partner), you should think about the angles in your body as they interact with your desk. Your eyes should be approximately 18 inches away from your computer screen, he says, and they should align with the middle of the screen, to avoid looking down or up too much, which could cause neck strain in the long run. In the same manner, your chair should be centered with the monitor to minimize twisting the head in order to see the screen.

Take a look at how you sit in your chair: Click to enlarge.Take a look at your chair now, and how you sit in it. Adjust the chair’s height in order to be able to rest your elbows at about a 90-degree angle on your desk; if the chair’s arms get in the way, it’s probably better to remove them, Alan notes.

Your forearms should be parallel to your desk and your wrists should be as flat as possible. Alan suggests using mouse and keyboard supports to maintain this posture. And your knees should also be bent at a 90-degree angle. If your feet don’t reach the floor, you can use a foot support in order to properly support the weight of your legs.

Once your desk is properly set up, you can think about your sitting posture. Lumbar support is essential to support the back and reduce back strain. If your office chair is not supportive enough, you can purchase a back support like the Kiss My Back! support from Dandelion Dreams, Inc. The back support will reinforce the natural curve of the lumbar spine. In turn, this straightens the neck, shoulders and upper back. When you’re sitting at your desk, your torso, neck and head should all be upright, without any slouching or straining.

Frequent phone users should use a headset to avoid balancing the phone between their shoulder and ear.Other office behaviors are just as important, reminds Richard Baudry, a physical therapist and the founder of Baudry Therapy Center, a Physiquality member in the New Orleans area. He cautions workers to keep their desk — and the space underneath it — clear of clutter, in order to enable easy movement around your workstation. Frequent phone users should use a headset to avoid balancing the phone between their shoulder and ear, which can create neck and back pain. And frequent movement is key — stand up once an hour to stretch your back or take a walk to the building cafeteria to grab a drink.

If you’re concerned about your workspace, use this OSHA worksheet to evaluate how your desk is set up. Or contact a physical therapist near you to evaluate your entire office, ensuring a healthier — and happier — team.


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Exercise trends: Rucking

Have you heard about rucking? The word “ruck” is short for “rucksack,” a military backpack that soldiers use to carry supplies on their back. Rucking, or ruck marching, refers to walking over paved or unpaved terrain with a loaded rucksack for the purpose ofimproving your fitness.

The military often uses rucking to measure physical fitness. Many units require a soldier to complete a timed ruck march in order to qualify for the unit. For instance, the U.S. Army Special Forces requires potential recruits to be able to ruck 12 miles in 2 hours with a pack that weighs 65 pounds in order to be eligible for Special Forces Selection. Even after leaving the armed services, some veterans continue to use rucking as a way to remain strong and build social ties while exercising.

Rucking with even a modest pack strengthens the legs, back and core muscles, while improving your cardiovascular health.For most everyone else, rucking is a great way to add diversity to your training, regardless of whether you’re in or planning to join the military. Rucking with even a modest pack strengthens the legs, back and core muscles, while improving your cardiovascular health. And because you’re walking, it’s usually considered lower impact than running. Those who backpack or hunt in the wilderness can also benefit from rucking, as it provides a very functional way to train for such activities.

So how do you ruck? It’s pretty simple: Load a backpack up with some weight (not too much!) and go for a walk. It can be down the sidewalk or along the trails at the local park. Start with short trips — less than 30 minutes — and work up to about an hour. Then slowly increase the weight in your pack until you can do about 30% of your body weight.

The number one concern regarding these types of workouts is overexertion. Even with a lightweight pack and a short workout, this is still a very tough form of exercise.Dehydration can be a factor, as much of the time these workouts are performed in thewarmer months. Lower body injuries are also common with rucking, including such ailments as shin splints, knee pain, plantar fasciitis and ankle sprains. And don’t be surprised to you feel soreness in the shoulders and neck, as these muscles aren’t used to carrying a heavy load.

West Point rucking. Photo by Mike Strasser, West Point Public AffairsAs with any form of exercise, it is important to listen to your body. Start slow and build up your “ruck” stamina over time. Add weight and time gradually, and spread out the workouts with other activities — and rest. And if those aches and pains don’t go away within 48 hours of your rucking workout, talk to your physical therapist to discuss your exercise regimen and whether you may have an injury that needs to be treated.

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Cycling for better health

How are those resolutions coming? Are you cooking more at home? Have you seen your dentist (or at least made an appointment for your annual cleaning)?

If you’re looking for a way to increase your activity, cycling or bike riding is a great way to be active.

Anna Dark, the Fitness Director of the Take Charge Fitness Program (a wellness facility run by Physiquality member Clinton Physical Therapy Center in Tennessee), says that cycling has many health benefits. Cycling is an aerobic activity, which is great for your heart and circulation. Going for regular bike rides also increases muscle strength and flexibility, while also improving joint mobility and bone strength.

Cycling offers mental and emotional benefits that help you cope with stress.Like most exercise, cycling offers mental and emotional benefits that help individuals cope with stress, even when you’re on a stationary bike. “And cycling is a great way to enjoy the great outdoors, which in itself can help individuals feel better emotionally!” Anna adds.

If you’re serious about committing to regular bike riding, Anna recommends going to the local bike store to choose the proper bike. Consult with the staff about the type of bike that might be best for you, a road bike, mountain bike or a hybrid, based on where you’re planning to ride. And, adds Anna, they will make sure that your bicycle is properly fitted to your body.

You must have the proper equipment for bicycling.Anyone new to cycling must have the proper safety equipment if they will be riding outside, as they’ll be sharing the streets with cars, pedestrians and other bicyclists, reminds Anna. Your bike should be fully equipped with safety features like reflectors and flags in order to be visible, especially at night. Check the air in your tires regularly in order to keep them fully inflated. And make sure that you have the appropriate gear to protect yourself, including a helmet, reflective vest and gloves.

When you’re going out on the road, says Anna, be sure to choose a route that you’re familiar with. This will give you confidence while riding, making the ride less stressful. Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings, especially other motorists and traffic. And make sure to use hand signals to let others know where you’re going.

Lastly, have fun! Cycling allows you to enjoy the scenic route while bettering your health. And that’s something to celebrate.

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