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Dr. Kestner: Spring ... can your ol’ bod handle it?

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Remember the great weather we had just two weeks ago … that Sunday warm-up that sent us all scrambling outside?

It seemed like everyone was enjoying the outdoors. The trailheads for the Greenway were packed with walkers, cyclers and dog-walkers. The hardware stores bristled with business as shoppers gathered materials and tools for their outdoor chores. I don’t think there was a single motorcycle left in a garage in Tennessee.

We have all been cooped up so long the opportunity to get outside was irresistible.

For the next two weeks my office phone was ringing constantly with patients calling in with reports of strains and other symptoms of overdoing it or being unprepared for the sudden burst of activity. It seems that the enthusiasm of the day was too much for some folks to handle physically.

Whether you find your springtime pleasure in running, hiking, cycling, travelling, raking, shoveling, trimming, or just cleaning up around the house, the physical demands of the coming season can be substantial. By taking the time now to assess your situation and begin conditioning, you are less likely to incur injury.

Start by taking this test. (As always, do not try this or any home test if you have any medical condition or suspect you may have a medical condition that might affect your heart, balance, or ability to perform the test without injury. If you have any concerns about your health it is always best to seek a professional healthcare evaluation.)

Squats: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.

If necessary hold on to a counter or fixture for support and balance. Slowly and carefully squat down to the point where you feel you need to stop.

Now slowly stand up. Now repeat the exercise a dozen times. How low can you comfortably go?

Did you have to stop before counting to 12?

Lunges: Stand with feet pointing straight ahead and near a fixture you can use for balance or support.

With one foot firmly in place, step forward with the other foot and lower yourself down until the forward knee is bent. Slowly stand up and step back into the original position.

Step forward again with the other leg and bend the knee. Repeat 12 times for each leg.

Again, how low can you go comfortably? Can you do both legs 12 times without stopping? Did you lose your balance?

Step test: Stand in front of a stair or a step stool about eight inches high.

Make sure a railing or similar support is within reach. Step up with one foot, then the other, then back down again. Repeat until you feel out of breath. How many minutes can you continue until you are gasping for air?

Sit-ups: Sitting on the floor with some sort of padding under you and with knees bent, lie backwards until your shoulders are on the floor and your arms are crossed in front of your chest. Now sit up just by contracting your abdominal muscles.

Return to the lying position. Repeat until you feel difficulty. How many can you comfortably do?

Overhead reach: Obtain a couple of five- or 10-pound dumbbells, or similarly weighted objects. (If this weight is too much, adjust the instructions to fit your needs.)

Stand in a comfortable position and raise the weight in one hand over your head, lower it, then raise the other. Repeat 12 times with each arm. Were you able to do all 12 cycles? Could you have used heavier weights?

There is no specific scoring guide for this test.

Some readers will find the test laughable because they are in such excellent condition.

Others will be intimidated by the very idea of trying it.

The idea is to test your strength and stamina in the security of your home now to see whether you need more conditioning before beginning more vigorous spring activities. 

Don’t wait until you are in the middle of a yard project or on a mountain trail to discover that your body is simply not up to the task.

Next week: Getting your money’s worth.
Read more from:
Dr. Mark Kestner, Living Well, Voices
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