Tag Archives: Abdomen

Five for Fitness

Most of us are born healthy and usually remain so with minimal effort till around 20. After that, our body starts to fall apart — like an old, unserviced machine — unless some effort is made to maintain the inherent fitness levels.

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The recommendations vary from walking an hour daily (ideal) to 30 minutes three days a week (just about enough to scrape along). Despite doing this, people develop stress, bad posture, arthritis, diabetes, abnormal lipid profiles, hypertension and heart attacks. That’s because they are unaware of the other components of an ideal fitness regimen, the need to simultaneously develop “core strength”, flexibility, strength training and balance.

People are bombarded by adverts of gyms and expensive exercise equipment. The latter may target specific muscle groups to produce a six-pack abdomen and bulging biceps. Most people do not, however, have the time to go to a gym regularly. As for fancy equipment, it usually starts to gather dust after a short period of activity.

Corporate gurus talk about maintaining core strength, and employees take to meditation, religion and prayer as they try to maintain their inner fortitude. Actually, in fitness terms, strengthening the “core” means exercising the muscles deep within the torso, the abdominal muscles, those of the back and pelvic floor. The core is a group of muscles, so a balanced approach is needed to work them all. All body movement is powered by these muscles. A strong back and fit abdominal muscles are needed, or else it results in poor posture and back problems. These muscles work together to support the spine when we sit, stand, bend over, pick up things and exercise. In sum, they are the body’s epicentre of power and balance.

Dancers and yoga practitioners do exercises that give them strong core muscles. They are thus fitter, have better postures and more energy than their peers in old age.

Core training can be done at home. It requires just 20 minutes thrice a week. The exercises are regularly taught as part of yoga and Pilates. CDs and books are also available. Proper demonstration will enable you to do them correctly.

A simple, effective core workout routine which covers all the basic muscles includes the plank exercise (balancing on the toes and forearms), the side plank (where you balance on one arm and leg), push-ups, squats, cycling in the air and lunges. All movements need to be held for 20 seconds at a time. Repeat five or six times.

Strength training does not involve heavy weight lifting. The muscles of the arms legs and lower back can be effectively trained using 1kg weights. This can be done with an iron or aluminum baby dumbbell (available at sports shops). You could even fabricate one by filling a 1-litre plastic bottle with water. The movements are similar to those in a school PT drill. Doing this regularly will slowly and surely build up muscle power.

People often do not give enough importance to flexion training of the muscles. If you don’t do anything more stressful than slow walking, your calf muscles may contract and eventually become tight. They can then restrict the range of motion at the knee and ankle resulting in eventual injury. All the groups of muscles in the body need to be stretched to their limit but there should not be any pain. Stretching is taught in yoga. The exercises are also demonstrated on the Doordarshan sports channel. If you discontinue the activity, benefits are lost in three or four days.

Balance becomes more and more important with age. Training for balance involves standing on one leg at a time with the arms stretched out. Once you are able to do this with ease, try doing it with your eyes closed.

A common misconception is that exercise tires you out. On the contrary, it improves stamina and the ability to perform day-to-day activities. Several studies have shown that it reduces cortisol levels and therefore improves mental strength and reduces stress.

To be effective, exercise training needs to balance the five elements of good health. The routine should include aerobic activity, muscular fitness, stretching, core exercise and balance training.

Sometimes fitting in an exercise schedule with all these components becomes difficult. Try getting up half an hour earlier in the morning to complete the routine. Regular exercise will improve balance and posture and reduce the risk of injury, lifestyle diseases and arthritis, leading to a long, healthy and happy life.

Source : The Telegraph ( Kolkata, India)

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A Little Plank Movement Does a Lot of Work

If you are familiar with performing a traditional elbow plank, try this new variation for an extra challenge to your core muscles. Just remember to make your movements very small in order to keep it safe and effective.

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Begin on all fours. Position your elbows directly below your shoulders and place your hands and forearms flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Straighten your legs behind you. Balance on your toes and forearms as you bring your hips down to shoulder level. Keep you knees straight and press your heels back. Pause for two breaths.

On an exhalation, contract your abdominals and use your core muscles to raise your pelvis a few inches higher. Pause, continuing to hold your abs firm to support the weight of your pelvis. Slowly lower your hips back down to shoulder level and pause. Repeat this small movement three to six times. Release by bending your knees and sit back on your heels to rest. Repeat the entire exercise one more time.

Source : Los Angeles Times

 

Some Health Quaries & Answers

When mamma is at work …..
Q: I am a working woman. I recently had a baby and would like to continue to feed her breast milk. Can I store the milk in the refrigerator?

A: Expressed breast milk (EBM) can be safely used for your baby. It is safer and healthier than cow’s milk or tinned formula. Wash your hands and collect the milk in a sterile plastic bottle with a tight screw-type lid. Label the bottle clearly, with the date and time, so that the oldest milk is used first. Place the bottle at the back of the refrigerator or in the freezer. Do not mix used leftover milk with fresh milk and use it for the next feed.

EBM can be warmed or thawed by placing it in a bowl of warm water. Do not use a microwave for this. Do not boil it. After warming it, do not refreeze and use again. EBM can be stored in the refrigerator for five days and in a freezer for two weeks. Otherwise, it can be kept in a cool place for six hours.

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Stiff hands
Q: I am 55 years old and drive an hour to work. When I reach my office, my fingers become stiff — fixed in a claw-like position — and can’t be moved easily. I also get “catches” in my leg and chest muscles.

A: You need a check up to see if you are suffering from diseases such as diabetes or hypertension. If so, they need to be tackled. If you are overweight, try to reach your ideal body weight. Walk briskly for an hour and do stretches for 20 minutes before going to work. Yoga, particularly suryanamaskar, is ideal. While stretching, concentrate on the hands. Eat four to six helpings of fruits and vegetables daily. Take calcium supplements. If all this does not help, consult a physician.

Hernia problem
Q: My doctor said I have an intestinal hernia. What does it mean?

A: Hernias are of many types. An umbilical hernia occurs at or just next to the umbilicus. Incisional hernias occur at the site of a previous surgical scar. Inguinal hernias are commoner in men and occur in the groin area. If the abdominal wall is lax, the intestines can appear to lie just under the surface of the skin, a condition called divarication.

A weakness or deficiency in the abdominal wall present from birth can’t be repaired except through surgery. Incisional hernias and divarication can be prevented by not gaining weight and maintaining abdominal muscle tone with regular exercise.

Pricking ears
Q: My ears are always pricking. Cleaning them brings out fungus, which forms again becoming worse.

A: The secretion may not be fungus but discharge owing to an infection, allergy or impacted wax. Fungus in the ear causes pain. Allergic or seborrhic dermatitis is more likely to cause pricking or itching.

You need to consult an ear-nose-throat surgeon to make a diagnosis. Using inappropriate over-the-counter antimicrobial eardrops may make the condition worse. Cleaning the ears may rupture the skin, aggravating the pain and pricking.

 

High BP
Q: What is BP? How can I diagnose and prevent it? What’s the treatment?

A: BP is short for blood pressure. It should be below 140/90. If it is higher, the person is said to have high BP or hypertension. For most adults, there’s no identifiable cause of high BP. It tends to develop gradually over years. Sometimes, high blood pressure can occur as a result of tumours, defects in the blood vessels, kidney diseases or certain medications.

High BP occurs with increasing age, particularly if one or both parents have hypertension. It is commoner in overweight individuals. Smoking or living with people who smoke also increases the BP. Drinking excessively damages the heart and raises the blood pressure.

If you have high BP, stop smoking and drinking. Do regular exercises, combined with yoga and meditation, and reduce your salt intake. Your doctor will be able to prescribe appropriate medications if it does not fall with these simple measures.

The pill
Q: I take pills for diabetes, hypertension and chest pain. I find it hard to have sex. Can I use Viagra?

A: Viagra is a trade name for Sidenafil citrate and is used for erectile dysfunction, which is probably what you have. It is contraindicated in persons with hypertension, stroke or coronary artery disease, and chest pain due to angina.

It is better to discuss the issue with your physician and see if the medicine is advisable for you. He would also advise you on the dosage and time. Relying on the neighbourhood medical shop for supply and advice might be dangerous for your health.

Source:The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

 

Take a Deep Breath

Adults take anywhere from 17,000 to 30,000 breaths a day, on average, most of the time without even realizing they’re doing it. Breathing is so natural that we usually take it for granted; that is, until something happens that threatens our ability to breathe.

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When you’re swimming underwater, you’re focused intently on breathing; namely how long you can hold your breath. Strenuous exercise is another good example; the more fatigued you get, the more you become conscious of your breathing, usually because it becomes heavier and more labored.

Many people actually don’t breathe correctly, at least not on a consistent basis. “Correctly” means breathing that maximizes oxygen exchange in the lower lobes of the lungs. More oxygen equals more nourishment for cells.

A structure called the diaphragm separates the heart, lungs and ribs (the thoracic cavity) from the abdominal cavity. As we inhale, the diaphragm contracts, enlarging the thoracic cavity and helping the lungs fill with oxygen. As the diaphragm relaxes, we exhale, forcing carbon dioxide out of the lungs. This is why correct breathing technique is referred to as diaphragmatic breathing.

In more simple terms, ideal breathing is known as “abdominal” or “belly” breathing; it should engage the belly button, rather than the upper chest. Visually, if you’re breathing properly, your lower belly will rise more than your chest.

There are many reasons why healthy people don’t breathe correctly; everything from stress to fear to holding in your stomach to make it look tighter. Doing any of these things consistently will lead to shallow breathing, which will impair oxygen exchange.

So, how are you breathing? Find a quiet place and take a few slow, deep breaths, concentrating on letting your abdomen expand fully with incoming air. Place one hand just below your belly button; it should rise and fall about 1 inch with each breath. If you’re breathing incorrectly, practice doing it the right way; proper breathing can aid in relaxation, reduce blood pressure and heart rate, and of course, help deliver the most oxygen to body tissues.

Source:to your Health. July, 2010 (Vol. 04, Issue 07)

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Roller Puts the Work in the Abs

You’ll feel this exercise more in the abdominal muscles — and less in the hip flexors — by gripping a roller with the backs of your thighs. That’s because recruiting the backs of your legs will prevent you from overworking the front of your legs and hips. The result is an intense workout for your abs.

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Lie on a mat or a padded surface. Cross your ankles and hug a 36-inch roller by squeezing your heels toward your hips. (Hold the roller behind your ankles, not behind your knees.) Place your hands behind your head. Inhale.

On an exhale, contract your abdominals and, without dropping the roller, raise your tailbone and hips slightly off the floor. Simultaneously roll your head, shoulders and upper back off the floor, moving your body into a tight ball. Pause at the peak of the contraction, then slowly release down to the starting position. Repeat 12 to 16 times. Rest, change the cross of your legs and repeat for another set.

Source : Los Angeles Times

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