In the age of fitness gimmicks and equipment that promise to produce staggering results in 2 minutes or less of use per day, most of us “more” informed people have become weary of the fitness equipment industry. Yet one simple piece of equipment that has literally stood the test of time and is generally accepted by all health and fitness professionals as being effective, is the stability ball. The stability ball is also called a yoga, Thera-, exercise, fitness, or Swiss ball and regardless of the name given, it is an air-filled heavy-duty plastic ball that comes is a variety of sizes to better fit individual users. The stability ball is an inexpensive piece of equipment and because of the fitness benefits that they offer it is a must for all exercises to have in the home and office.
Although many people think of the stability ball as a relatively recent invention, they have been around since the early 1900’s. Originally they were developed for use in rehabilitation by physical therapist and continued being used in physical therapy and sports medicine fields today. Stability balls are very durable and generally have a weight rating of 600-700 pounds, so there is little reason to worry about them popping during regular use.
Among the health benefits offered by the stability ball, the fact that they assist in stretching and flexibility gains is paramount. Many people that suffer from chronic back pain have found that they are able to stretch the muscles in the back using the stability ball because of the back support it offers. Stretching while standing or lying on the floor offers little to no back support, and therefore make it impossible for back pain suffers to effectively stretch those muscles to improve mobility. The stability ball supports the entire length of the spine when you lie over the ball on your back. Even for those of us that do not suffer from back pain, because of the support of the stability ball, we are able to stretch much more deeply, and can increase range of motion and mobility.
Fitness trainers began using stability balls in their training programs as a result of the core strengthening benefits they offer. Even just sitting on a stability ball requires that we engage the core muscles (the muscles in the abdominals and lower back) in order to maintain balance. Abdominal exercises on the stability ball are more effective in that exercisers must constantly engage the core while on the ball. Also, any weight training exercises that you perform on a bench can be performed with dumbbells on the stability ball. Again because of the need to maintain balance on the stability ball, users increase the strength of stabilizing muscles that would not otherwise be worked by the same exercises, if performed on a traditional weight training bench.
Stability balls can help users to improve their posture. Using a stability ball helps to improve alignment of the natural curve of the spine. Having a stronger core also improves posture. Using a stability ball in place of a desk chair at work is an easy way to improve posture, while also burning additional calories throughout the day resulting from maintaining balance and keeping the core tight. Stability balls also introduce an element of fun for users, so if you are using one in place of a chair, you are much more likely to rock back and forth and bounce around during the day which burns calories. If using a stability ball in place of a chair, it is important that you use the correct size ball. Find a ball that allows your thighs to be parallel to the floor when seated. We here at PRANA Chiropractic and Wellness Center also use yoga balls when helping folks recover from disc bulges and conditions.
To learn more about the benefits of stability balls and exercise in general, contact us to set up a FREE consultation.
In Wellness and Love,
Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices known to man, dating back to 2,700 BC according to both Chinese and Egyptian texts. Cinnamon is a small tree grown in Asia and South America, and is produced by taking the bark from the tree and drying it. It is then typically ground into powder for consumption. There are 4 different varieties of cinnamon, but the most common type found in grocery stores is Cassia cinnamon.
Cinnamon offers a good deal of health benefits including regulation of blood sugar, relieving pain associated with arthritis, improved memory and brain functioning, anti-clotting and blood thinning effects, helping with cold symptoms including a stuffy nose, reducing flatulence and nausea ,and can help with painful menstrual cramping. Cinnamon also contains important nutrients including manganese, iron, calcium and fiber. The combination of calcium and fiber is particularly important in that it has been linked to a reduced risk of colon cancer. Both calcium and fiber bind to bile salts and bile salt has been scientifically linked to colon cancer. Cinnamon has also been demonstrated to reduce both cholesterol and blood pressure. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition confirms that cinnamon reduces blood pressure.
A 2003 study published in the medical journal Diabetes Care reported that after 40 days of cinnamon consumption, test subjects presented a 18 to 29% reduction in fasting blood glucose levels and a reduction in total cholesterol by 12 to 26%. Before using cinnamon to reduce blood glucose levels, consult with your doctor, especially if taking medications for diabetes.
Cinnamon has an anti-microbial effect and therefore has been shown to help treat yeast infections. Cinnamon stops the growth of harmful bacteria in the stomach and intestines.
Cinnamon is also high in antioxidants (see my earlier blog on antioxidants). Antioxidants help to reduce free radicals in the body, which are damaging to cells.
In Wellness and Love,
Two of my favorite things in life are working out and music. So why not combine them and get the best of both worlds! In all seriousness, listening to music while working out can increase your ability to train and in that way, help to boost results. If you take a second to think about it, it isn’t really hard to see how music can help you increase the intensity of your workouts.
Throughout history, music has been used to illustrate and illicit emotions and to create moods. Choosing music that creates the mood for the type of training that you’ll be engaging in is important. For heavy weight lifting or sprinting workouts, it makes sense to choose a powerful, face-paced type of music. For yoga or meditation, go with light and expressive instrumental type music. They even make waterproof MP3 players these days, so you can listen to music while swimming! http://www.amazon.com/Underwater-Audio-Waterproof-Swimbuds-Bundle/dp/B00CELMZG0 Pretty cool indeed!
Music can help us to block out the distractions that often times cause us to lose focus during our training sessions. Whether it’s the pain associated with exercise, or it’s the chatter from others in the gym, distractions are ever-present in our environment. Music can help us to eliminate these and help us to be able to really focus in on the workout.
The only consideration that I suggest you keep in mind is to never listen to music while exercising near traffic or in an environment that you need to be aware of and hear your surroundings (such as road biking). Most races do not allow competitors to use headphones during events for this very reason.
So go out and buy some upbeat tunes to crank through the ear buds during your next workout. Use this as a motivator to get in your workouts. If you make it through a couple weeks of training, reward yourself by purchasing a new playlist’s worth of music to listen to for the next couple of weeks. Have fun coming up with different playlists for different types of workouts. I have a different playlist for my runs and my weight training workouts, and the music really helps me on days that I am dragging and lacking the motivation to step foot in the gym. Like the Doobie Brother’s sang “music is the doctor, makes you feel like you want to.”
In Wellness and Love,
Dr. Christopher Weaver DC, PAK is a Doctor of Chiropractic and Professional Applied Kinesiologist. He's published two books on health and Wellness.