Exercise can be easier and less expensive than you might think.
One of the things I try to do with patients is help them find ways to improve their balance, strength and flexibility. By increasing your strength and flexibility, you improve your health and lessen your chances of injury. Better balance means less chance of a fall.
In my office we have a rehab room equipped with some specialized fitness devices, but I like to help patients learn that they don’t need special equipment to perform what I call “home rehab.” Please note that if you have any current injury or disability, you need professional rehab guidance. If in doubt, do not attempt to perform any of the exercises mentioned in this article.
Many of us can benefit from a few simple exercises that can be done at home with no equipment at all. One of the biggest deficits I see routinely is lack of leg muscle strength and balancing ability. A very simple exercise called the lunge will improve these conditions. It is possible to feel noticeable improvement within a week or two.
Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart. Pick up one foot and step forward. Lower your body into a squat until the forward knee bends as far as comfortable. There is no need to strain. Push off with the forward foot and step back into the original position. Repeat with the other foot stepping forward. This simple exercise can often reduce mild knee pain, lower back pain and significantly reduce the chances of stumbling or losing your balance.
Another exercise to help reduce mild shoulder and upper back discomfort is a doorway stretch. Stand in an open interior doorway. Raise your arms until your upper arms are horizontal at shoulder level with elbows bent upward. Place the front of your elbows against the door frame. Gently lean forward until you feel a mild stretch in the upper arms and shoulders.
Most people work with their hands in front of them all day, at a keyboard, driving, writing or performing some other similar task. The front chest and arm muscles become shortened and the back muscles become stretched. This causes the shoulders to begin to roll forward over time. This stretch opens the chest wall and shoulder joints. Be careful and do this gently.
To creatively and inexpensively add some resistance to your home workout, make a visit to your local hardware store. There are tons of items found in every hardware store that can be used for physical training.
For example, an ad hoc set of dumbbells can be created by filling PVC pipes with sand. The PVC comes in many diameters and can be cut to any length. Simply add sand, seal the ends with duct tape, and for a couple of dollars you have a custom-made weight set. These tools are just as beneficial as the pricier weight bars available in sports stores.
One patient told me about his version of the popular kettle bell workout.
“I bought an inexpensive 10-pound sledge hammer for a few dollars, wrapped bubble wrap around it so it wouldn’t scar my floors, and then started working out,” he said. By changing his hand position on the handle of the hammer, he discovered that the leverage of the tool added a great deal more resistance than 10 pounds.
One female patient told me that she used water for her fitness routine. She used a full gallon of water for some exercises, and a half-empty jug for others. (Be sure the lid on the container fits securely.) When she walked or jogged, she carried a bottle of water in each hand. She had found a particular brand of bottled water that was easy to grasp. This routine was her version of using the popular hand weights. It also provided hydration when she needed it.
With some creative thinking, you can discover many ways to stretch and strengthen at home inexpensively. As always, be careful and think about the safety of performing any exercise. If you have an injury or chronic condition do not attempt any exercise without professional guidance.
Dr. Mark Kestner is a licensed chiropractic physician in Murfreesboro. His office is at 1435 NW Broad St. Contact him at mkestner@DrKestner.com.