Most of us accept stress as a necessary evil that is a part of the American lifestyle. But living under stress day in and day out can lead to heart disease. According to the American Psychological Association, prolonged stress can contribute to high blood pressure and circulatory problems, and if stress makes you angry and irritable, you are more likely to have heart disease or even a heart attack.
Around 20 million people in the US are pressing heels and down-dogging on their yoga mats, trying to gain as many health benefits as they can. Of course, yoga is a great physical activity to improve endurance, strength, and flexibility. This ancient practice helps reduce stress and anxiety.
Most people practice yoga to maintain heart rate, lower blood pressure, and boost metabolism and even fight obesity. But if not done correctly, yoga can be harmful.
The pulled shoulder is one of the most common problems associated with yoga. Since yoga focuses on improving balance, it includes various poses that involve shoulders. Shrugging, for instance, is all about how the shoulders are moved and compressed, which if not done correctly can cause muscle injury.
Finding Relief for Pulled Shoulder Muscle
A pulled shoulder muscle can be painful. The wrong postures can pull muscle fibers in the wrong direction or to the extent that’s beyond capacity. This causes small tears, which leads to pain.
So how do you find relief if you get a pulled shoulder muscle during yoga?
Besides seeking professional help to master all poses, the following tips can help you get rid of the pain and treat your muscles in time.
Stop Right Away
As soon as you realize a muscle injury, stop what you are doing right away. Discontinue the pose and see a doctor before you resume yoga. Continuing exercise with an injured muscle can double the damage and make recovery more challenging and time-consuming.
The first step is to protect it by realizing the problem and finding a solution for it. Avoid doing anything stressful with that shoulder until you see a doctor.
The Icing Method
In case you cannot get an appointment right away, use the icing method to stop blood flow to the injured muscle. This helps with swelling and mitigating the pain. If you are outdoors, get home and grab an ice pack and apply to the affected area. You can even use a bag full of ice cubes to have the same effect.
Also, remember to always use a medium to apply ice to avoid direct contact with skin. Start with applying ice for twenty minutes every hour in a day. If the pain persists and the swelling doesn’t reduce, rush to the hospital immediately.
Compress the Shoulder
The next top is to wrap the affected area to control swelling and pain. A pulled muscle naturally weakens the joint and causes pain if pressure is applied. Using a wrap to compress your shoulder will provide support to the joint and make pain bearable.
Wrapping, in this case, will differ greatly from how you would’ve wrapped your ankle. In fact, to provide the right support, wrap it around the bicep to create the anchor effect. Use the bandage to cover the chest and the opposite arm.
Bring the bandage up again and cover the injured shoulder and around the same bicep once again. Do not make it too tight but make sure it compresses the affected shoulder to avoid swelling.
Take Maximum Rest
In case the injury is not severe, your shoulder should heal after you are done with icing and compressing. But if you allow your shoulder to come under any impact of pressure again, it could disrupt the healing process.
Continue with icing and keep the shoulder wrapped for at least three days. Avoid lifting weights or stretching your arm to grab something out of your reach. It is best if you keep your arm and shoulder elevated and close to your chest. Avoid sleeping on the side of the injured muscle.
Keeping the severity of your injury in mind, it could take up to eight weeks for your shoulder muscle to heal completely. Even when you don’t feel the pain anymore, avoid overstretching or pressurizing your muscles. Start with your regular, slow-paced activities and only indulge in gentle stretches if you continue with yoga.
During your yoga session, avoid pulling too hard on your shoulders and do not overstretch. When in the posture, keep your shoulders straight and held back from the ears. If you find a certain pose difficult to practice, do not hesitate in asking for help from a professional.
Even after you have completely healed, avoid doing intense shoulder stretches for a while. This could be the culprit for shoulder pain and injury. In fact, placing the neck incorrectly and applying pressure can also damage the cervical vertebrae, which leads to severe joint issues and can even cause loss of neck flexion.
If you need, use props to help elevate your shoulder and neck away from the floor to avoid extreme pressure.
It is best to see a doctor if you suspect severe injury. However, mild ones can be treated at home with a little help. Before you are back to your routine, it is best to check with a physician to get a green signal. Sometimes, you may need to briefly work with a shoulder surgeon or physical therapist to get you back to your normal shoulder movements.
For over a decade, I have been researching the effects of yoga for people with arthritis. As many people envision, this includes a lot of modifications, adjustments, and extensive use of props. We work with students to find versions of each asana that remain true to the essence of the pose, working within any movement limitations without creating pain or joint discomfort.
But when we teach yoga to people who have arthritis, we don’t strive for a magical asana sequence that will address arthritis in a particular body part.
Yoga is a holistic process. When we make the mistake of thinking about yoga as if it were physical therapy, we lose what makes yoga a unique therapeutic process. Instead, yoga can go hand-in-hand with modalities like PT, as complementary processes.
Researchers lose something when looking only at an asana sequence and its effect on the joints.
Instead, our job is to get the joint issues out of the way, through support, use of props, compassion and awareness, so that yoga can work its magic on the whole person- body, mind, and soul.
Just as yoga can improve overall physical fitness for healthy individuals, it can improve fitness for people with arthritis. But with this population, the stakes are even higher. Yoga can improve balance, which prevents dangerous falls. Yoga practice can enhance flexibility, which allows individuals to maintain mobility over time. Improved strength means greater joint stability. Improved strength means a reduction in the muscle loss that accompanies some forms of arthritis. Improved strength means an increased ability to participate in everyday activities that can be challenging as joints deteriorate.
But a yoga practice has the potential to bring much more to the lives of people with arthritis. Yoga allows those with a chronic, disabling disease to realize what their bodies CAN do. It fosters a connection to their bodies which may have been lost during years of disease progression and reduced activity. Yoga can teach students to be present in the moment, and to adjust to their bodies needs on a particular day, without judgment. Arthritis changes every day, and this skill serves our students every day, even if they don’t get on the mat.
Yoga also helps our students to relax and to be mindful. Having a chronic disease is stressful, and stress can exacerbate that disease. The relaxation and meditation practices of yoga can break the cycle of stress reactivity.
Yoga classes connect people with arthritis to others who are striving and thriving… people who are living a full and active life, whatever journey they have taken to arrive at that place.
And yoga changes other behaviors. When people start to feel connected, they want to do other things in the name of self-care. They eat healthier foods, go for a walk outside, make time for themselves, and some even make an effort to be more adherent with their medical care.
When we think about bringing the tools of yoga to the arthritis community, let’s be sure to look beyond the modification of asana as a goal. Our goal is to make the asanas possible, so the totality of yoga can come through to our students, safely and effectively.
Reprinted with permission from Dr. Steffany Moonaz.
Dr. Steffany Moonaz is a yoga therapist and researcher and serves as Assistant Director of Academic Research at the Maryland University of Integrative Health. Dr. Moonaz is working to bring yoga to people with arthritis in communities around the country, as well as educating yoga teachers and yoga therapists about the unique needs of this population. She currently leads Yoga for Arthritis teacher training programs nationwide and serves as a mentor for several emerging researchers who are working to study the effects of yoga for various health conditions.
Hey! Did you know that all pain is all in your head? It doesn’t mean you don’t have real pain when something to cause pain happens, or that chronic pain is not real. Feelings of pain are very real and are initiated by the brain for a very important basic reason…to keep you safe.
The study of the neuroscience of pain has changed considerably in the past 10 years. It is now believed that the sensation of pain is a necessary function that warns the body of potential pain or of actual injury. The process starts with the nociceptor detecting a potentially painful stimulus from the skin or an internal organ. Neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) transmit the signals through the nervous system and spinal cord to the brain. In essence, how the brain processes the signals causes an appropriate or inappropriate pain response.
One example is a child falling and skinning his knees. He gets up and continues to play as if nothing happened. Then another child or adult reacts to the blood running down his legs, he looks, his brain responds differently to the neurological stimulus, and suddenly there is pain. Initially the brain did not register the experience as painful, however the next time the child falls, he will probably immediately register the skinned knees as painful. Experience plays a role in the pain response.
The pain response can also be overridden by the brain in circumstances that are life threatening. For example, a soldier who runs to safety with a serious gun-shot wound. The brain, due to past experience, can conversely register the event as much more painful or life threatening than necessary. For example, someone who was bitten by a poisonous snake may brush it off as being scratched by a stick, until they realize they have a life-threatening injury. But the next time they get scratched by a stick, they may respond as if they were bitten by a poisonous snake.
According to Elliot Krane in his Ted Talk “The Mystery of Chronic Pain,” after an injury or surgery, the nervous system can sometimes get what is going on wrong. Approximately ten percent of the time, the nerves and glial cells (play a vital role in modulation, amplification, and distortion of sensory experiences) that interact in the pain response develop into a feedback loop that can become distorted. This altered feedback can make chronic pain become its own disease.
Dr. Maria Sykorova-Pritz in her course “Application of Water Exercise for Pain Management” describes how chronic pain is not simple, but very complicated. The body, mind, emotions, and behavior can become entwined in the chronic pain cycle. Pain medication is often prescribed for chronic pain. Rampant prescription of pain medication is believed to play a large role in the opioid epidemic in the United States. Although pain medication is often prescribed for chronic pain, it does nothing to unravel the combination of physical, emotional, and behavioral factors that are now believed to cause chronic pain.
There is growing evidence that chronic pain is caused by multiple factors including cognitive, physiological, and behavioral factors. If you are working with clients or interacting with a family member with chronic pain, it is important to understand that it is not just simply a physiological response to pain. It is important to effectively influence a client’s attitude, cultural background and belief system-which influences social norms and perceived behavioral control. To achieve the highest positive health/fitness results among the chronic pain population, it is important to know and understand your client as a whole person.
As we start to look for alternative ways to deal with chronic pain and its aftermath, a combination of physical therapy/exercise and emotional/behavioral counseling is emerging as the tools of choice. Using the practice of yoga and water therapy/exercise to relieve and even cure chronic pain are proving to be viable and more effective alternatives than pain medication. Statistics from the Institute of Medicine indicate that more than 100 million Americans suffer with chronic pain, thus creating a viable niche for those wishing to work with clients with chronic pain. Now that more is known about chronic pain, its potential causes, the chronic pain cycle, and how to treat it effectively, education is key to working with this population in need. Proper treatment and compassion for chronic pain sufferers can help end the opioid crisis and help people beat chronic pain to live pain free lives without addiction and suffering.
For more information about the psychology and treatment of chronic pain management, see Dr. Maria Sykorova-Pritz’s continuing education course “Application of Water Exercise for Pain Management.”
Compiled by June Chewning. June M. Chewning BS, MA has been in the fitness industry since 1978 serving as a physical education teacher, group fitness instructor, personal trainer, gym owner, master trainer, adjunct college professor, curriculum formatter and developer, and education consultant. She is the education specialist at Fitness Learning Systems, a continuing education company.
- The Mystery of Chronic Pain. Elliot Krane. Accesses 8/2018. https://www.ted.com/talks/elliot_krane_the_mystery_of_chronic_pain
- Sykrorova-Pritz M. 2018. Application of Water Exercise for Pain Management. Fitness Learning Systems. FitnessLearningSystems.com
April is National Stress Awareness Month!
Fortunately today, there are many tools to help individuals cope with stress. The first step is to acknowledge that you are stressed and to know what is stressing you. Once you are aware of your stressors, you need to make a stress management plan to follow. The journey may not be perfect but it is a work in progress. Most individuals aren’t going to know how to develop a plan or where to start. A trained individual such as a certified personal trainer can help to formulate the best plan for each client and make changes as the client achieves each milestone in the process.
As many as 20% of people experience depression in their later years
A stress management prescription is also needed for aging adults since the mind and body become slower to adaptations. The stress response lasts longer and seniors experience different symptoms then younger adults. Some key symptoms can be: crying, overeating, wounds taking longer to heal, heart palpitations, anxiety and depression. As a trainer, you will most likely be working with the client’s doctor who is treating them for these symptoms. There is a myriad of modalities that you can use to help your client drastically reduce their stress levels while they heal. As a fitness professional, incorporating meditation, exercise, yoga, Pilates, and many other techniques can help your client’s symptoms improve mentally and physically. The question is can we do more than telling clients to take a class? The answer to this question is an emphatic yes!
The causes of stress for this population are also different and depend on which decade in life they are in. Some examples are: loneliness, being institutionalized, fear of having enough money for retirement, loss of independence and many other causes. The problem is that many people can’t asses their own stress level and don’t know where to turn for answers. Chronic stress is harmful in many ways, but can be minimized once the individual becomes aware of their stress level and knows there are stress management professionals who can help.
Today, 53% of Baby Boomers are using complementary approaches to try and relieve stress and help with other conditions such as: anxiety, depression, chronic pain, stress, and hypertension. Complementary approaches are not limited to but include; exercise, nutrition, yoga, Pilates and Tai-Chi. Research conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health shows that meditation can help to relieve symptoms for example chronic pain. As a fitness professional it is important to realize that these modalities must be used in conjunction with conventional medicine.
When training clients, it is important to see them as a whole person through the dimensions of wellness. As people, we have many things going on mentally and physically that are very complex. A stress management plan helps to streamline what can work best for your client and their current needs. The plan can evolve and most likely will depending on what is going on in your client’s life at the time. When you can assess and classify your clients you then know which complimentary approaches will work better for them. This will in turn, will help to keep your client engaged and on track with their goals.
Robyn Caruso is the Founder of The Stress Management Institute for Health and Fitness Professionals. She has 18 years of experience in medical based fitness. Become a Stress Management Exercise Specialist today!
Yoga offers many of benefits to the body, but one, in particular, is that it can help facilitate weight loss. Many experts will agree that doing yoga is one of the best ways to lose weight.
While it is true that yoga is not as fast-paced as some cardiovascular exercises, yoga poses can help in promoting body detoxification at a certain level. There are also some poses, specifically vinsaya flow and power yoga, which combine the benefits of both strength-training and cardio exercises.
How Often Should I Do Yoga to Lose Weight?
Now that you know that yoga does offer plenty of weight loss benefits, you may be wondering how much yoga you should do to reap weight loss benefits. How often should you do yoga to lose weight?
The truth is, you can do as much yoga as you want. At least, as much your lifestyle will allow you too. Some people do 30 to 60 minutes of yoga 3 to 5 times a day. But this is not the magic number. You can do 10 to 20 minutes of yoga every day if that is more suitable for your schedule.
Aside from practicing yoga on a regular basis, what other things can you do to make the most out of the weight loss benefits of yoga? Well, it seems like there are plenty! These are as follows:
Prioritize the mind/body connection.
The main purpose of yoga is to establish the connection between the mind and the body. It is also one of the reasons yoga can help people lose weight. It is only through maintaining a balance and connection between these two that you can make the most out of your workouts, curb your unhealthy cravings, and practice mindful eating.
So, before you focus on doing more difficult and more calorie burning poses, it’s important that you practice meditation first.
Do poses that use large muscle groups.
Yes, yoga is not as calorie burning or as athletic as some exercises are. But you can boost the calorie burn in your yoga sessions — choose poses that utilize large muscle groups. Aside from increasing the calorie burn, it can also improve the fat burning, muscle toning, and fitness benefits of the yoga session. Examples of these poses are lunges, warrior one and two.
In addition, you can also try the Vinsaya flow which requires you to be constantly on the move. To help you focus more on the core, you can also try the boat pose.
Try gentle and restorative yoga from time to time.
While it is true that Vinsaya yoga may be the first option for weight loss with yoga, there are also times when gentle and restorative yoga can also support weight loss.
This type of yoga can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. As a result, the digestive and respiratory systems are regulated. In fact, even the hormonal balance in the body is maintained. Once the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, you can easily control your hunger pangs and unhealthy cravings.
In addition to that, gentle and restorative of yoga can help to slow you down mentally. As a result, it would be easier for you to prevent eating caused by emotions.
If you are a newbie, this is also the perfect kind of yoga to start!
Do it regularly.
It takes commitment before you can experience results. It’s important to invest time in doing yoga on a regular basis. No matter how effective poses, if you don’t do it regularly, you won’t see the desired results.
Don’t forget your diet.
Keep in mind that diet and workout go hand in hand; it’s a must that you pay attention to your diet too. Luckily, practicing yoga can help you make healthier food choices!
For decades, we have known that yoga comes with plenty of health benefits — not just physically, but mentally and emotionally.
With the tips mentioned above, you can surely be able to reap the fat and weight loss benefits that yoga is known for. Try out these tips, and for sure, you can be able to get rid of that excess weight and fats in no time!
Emily Brathen is founder of BodyShape101.com, a blog where she and her associates talk about exercise, fitness, and yoga. Their aim is to help people like you to achieve perfect body. BodyShape101 is concentrated on exercise & fitness tips, and making the most out of it. She is also a mother of one and she tries to find balance between her passion and her biggest joy in life.
A chronic pain diagnosis can sneak up from nowhere, throwing our lives into a whirlwind. You might feel overwhelmed, depressed or even terrified. Perhaps you’re uncertain of where to turn for help coping with your symptoms.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Hundreds of millions of people live with chronic pain. In the United States alone, tens of millions of individuals suffer from fibromyalgia – just one of many conditions which can cause long-term pain. If you have fibromyalgia, chronic pain or any associated conditions, keep reading for some ideas for how to improve your quality of life.
Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the simplest – yet quickest – ways to manage chronic pain and other troubling symptoms of fibromyalgia. Simply put, when you feed your body wholesome, nutritious foods, you’re giving it the fuel it needs for healthy organ function, fighting off illness, and even healing. Enhancing your diet with a few select superfoods can help with fibromyalgia pain, and you probably already have many of them in your kitchen! Red grapes have a compound called resveratrol that helps keep muscle tissue strong, ginger and cherries have natural pain-fighting properties, and fish rich in omega-3s gives your brain the boost it needs to send relief to tender spots when they send pain signals. Similarly, there are lots of foods that have anti-inflammatory properties – like whole grains, leafy greens, tomatoes and olive oil – which should replace all or most of the processed foods consumed by fibromyalgia sufferers. That’s because the additives in processed foods may increase pain sensitivity, making physical discomfort feel even worse. If you’re enduring chronic pain, it’s critical that you take a look at your diet, and choose nutritious, natural foods over unhealthy, high-processed foods as often as you can.
Despite our best efforts to take care of ourselves, when your health starts to feel out of control, you might find yourself frustrated with your physical body and your life. During these difficult times, experts say it can be helpful to refocus your mind.
Author and transformational coach Sean Meshorer recommends redefining the things that make us happy. Meshorer can speak to the power of the bliss method from his own personal experiences living with chronic pain. This allowed him to develop “the bliss method” which completely focuses on finding happiness, contentment and peace – all without depending upon external factors.
By refocusing our minds to search for happiness within ourselves, we can better cope with our chronic pain. These techniques also help ease the depression, anxiety and fear that can come with our diagnosis, and help keep us from practicing harmful coping methods – like turning to our prescription pain pills – for comfort. In fact, you may be able to ease up some of your pain naturally via vitamins B, C, and D. If you aren’t already taking a vitamin supplement, it is worth looking into. There are several trusted brands, such as Ceregumil Vitamix Plus, which are great for joint pain.
Dr. Joseph Christiano, ND, CNC, agrees. “Refocusing the brain, using mental imagery, and practicing [breathwork],” he says, “are a few of the many techniques used for managing chronic pain in order to thrive while moving closer to pain-free living.”
Once you begin shifting your attention to the positive aspects of your life, you’ll find it easier to tap into your own potential for happiness. This is a skill that can be learned. Start by getting a piece of paper and a pencil, and creating a list of all the enjoyable things you can still do despite your chronic pain diagnosis.
Your personal reasons to stay positive might include having a warm, loving relationship or finding creative, new ways to serve humanity. Write down your favorite show to binge on Netflix. Be sure to include relaxing in bed with high thread count sheets, if that’s your ideal day. Whatever it is that brings you joy, write it down – and don’t be afraid to get creative. These are the things that will give you hope each day.
Many people also find a sense of calm, purpose and well-being by helping others. For some of us, that could mean blogging about our illness, with the underlying hope that others with chronic pain will realize they’re not alone. If you’re not a writer, you can still help others by donating to your favorite charity or finding other ways to help those in need.
Why are these techniques so powerful? The answer might have something to do with cortisol, the stress hormone. Many doctors now screen chronic pain patients for cortisol levels. Cortisol levels can be naturally reduced through lowering environmental stress factors. Activities such as yoga, meditation and massage also help by stimulating a calming neurotransmitter in the brain.
As you can see, there are various ways to cultivate hope and happiness, even with a chronic pain diagnosis. From yoga to bodywork, from acupuncture to meditation, try a variety of practices until you find something that works for you. As always, check with your doctor before trying any new activity or holistic treatment method. You’ll want to make sure it is safe for your personal condition, and that it won’t contribute to further pain or illness.
If you have a chronic pain diagnosis, you can still live a blissful life. Don’t give up; use the tips above to train your brain. Keep searching for things that bring you joy. Your body and mind will thank you for it.
Henry Moore is the co-creator of FitWellTraveler. The site blends two of his favorite subjects (travel and health) to provide readers with information about how to get the most out of both.
Pregnancy can be a joyous time for women and it is also a period where the body experiences many significant changes. Since exercise can be beneficial to the mother in managing stress and staying healthy, it is important to for every pregnant woman to get clearance from their physician for both starting a new exercise program and/or maintaining her existing one.
Before becoming pregnant, I led a healthy and active lifestyle and continued to teach classes until I was ready to deliver. During the first trimester I had to change all strenuous workouts to low-impact workouts with lots of self-care such as taking frequent breaks to hydrate. This article can help women in all stages of pregnancy assess value of low-impact exercise during pregnancy and postpartum.
What is low impact exercise? Low impact (LI) basically means maintaining movement with one foot always on the floor. We do this when we are walking, doing yoga, dancing and strength training.1 Low impact exercises have several benefits such as maintaining healthier joints, weight and heart.
Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy
A combination of low impact dance classes, strength training and stretching during pregnancy helped me maintain my sense of self and self-esteem as my body changed drastically both anatomically and physiologically. There are several documented benefits of exercise during pregnancy including: improved circulation, sleep, digestion, as well as muscle tone to support joints, increased energy and endurance; improved body image and self-esteem.2
ACOG recommends that pregnant women get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly. Moderate intensity means that you are moving enough to raise your heart rate and sweat and you can talk normally, but you cannot sing.3 If you are new to exercise it might seem daunting to get a 20 minute work out every day, but you can start out slowly and gradually increase your activity. For example, you can start with 5 minutes a day and add 5 minutes each week until you can stay active for 20-30 minutes a day. If you were very active before pregnancy, you can continue doing the same workouts until the third trimester, when a logical reduction in activity is recommended.2
Regardless of fitness level, one commonality between pregnant women is the release of Relaxin, the hormone that is responsible for softening the ligaments and joints during pregnancy and childbirth. Having relaxin in the joints can lead to wobbly, unstable joints and a loose pelvis so women should take extra precaution while choosing or continuing a fitness regimen.4
Examples of some exercises that you can do safely while you are pregnant are walking, water workouts, stationary bicycling, yoga and Pilates. Walking is a good option for many pregnant women because it is easy on the joints and muscles and it also gives a total body workout. If however you have low back pain you might consider wearing a pregnancy support belt and/or water workouts to reduce stress on the back. The water supports your weight so you avoid injury and muscle strain. For those who like bicycling and want to continue, stationary bicycling is a great alternative to avoid falls. Modified yoga and Pilates are great for reducing stress, improving flexibility, and focused breathing. Keep in mind that balance poses/exercises can be challenging due to a shift in the center of gravity caused by a growing belly, so it is okay to modify to accommodate this change. Pregnant women should also avoid poses that require them to be still or lie on their back for long periods.3
Benefits of Exercise After Pregnancy
The postpartum experience is different for every woman both emotionally and physically. My postpartum experience brought a mild-depression and weight-gain due to nursing (yes, many women gain weight during early nursing). Like many women, I waited 8 weeks before starting an exercise routine (most women are given a time period of 6-8 weeks for healing). Getting back to exercise helped me gain a sense of control over my body and helped cope with depressive episodes. According to ACOG, exercising after your baby is born may help improve mood and can help you lose the extra pounds that you may have gained during pregnancy.3 Additional benefits of exercise for postpartum women are that it helps strengthen abdominal muscles, can regulate energy level, can promote better sleep and relieve stress.3
Like the exercise guidelines during pregnancy, ACOG suggests that the duration of exercise for postpartum women, after physician approval, is at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity. Working out after having a baby is different for every woman and it is a good idea to go at your own pace, listen to your body and gradually increase intensity. A key point to remember is that since relaxin can stay in the body for up to six months postpartum,4 it’s a good idea to choose a workout that is not too jerky in movement and stretching is controlled. Doing a good warm up prior to the workout and a good cool down after the workout are essential. ACOG suggests aiming to stay active for 20–30 minutes a day and trying simple postpartum exercises that help strengthen major muscle groups, including abdominal and back muscles. It is also a good idea to prepare for your workout by wearing clothing that will keep you cool and wear a high-support bra. Hydration is key, and it is okay to take water breaks as you need during your workout. For those mothers who are breastfeeding, it will be important for you to either nurse your baby or express your milk prior to working out to avoid the discomfort of engorged breasts.
Although the pregnancy and postpartum experience is different for every woman, and each stage of pregnancy brings unique challenges, maintaining a low-impact exercise program can be very helpful to the mother in managing stress and staying healthy.
Richa Jauhari is a fitness instructor, personal trainer and proud new mother based in Los Angeles. She has a passion for seeing individuals strive for their best and achieve their goals. Her personal weight loss experiences, pregnancy journey and working with senior populations have helped her understand the value of believing in oneself, balance, healthy eating and regular exercise. Visit her website at richajfit.wixsite.com/richaj
- Schwecherl, Laura. “21 Low-Impact Workouts That Are More Effective Than You Think.” Greatist. Greatist, 27 Mar. 2017. Web. 15 June 2017. <https://greatist.com/fitness/take-it-easy-21-unexpected-low-impact-workouts>.
- Yoke, Mary M., and Laura A. Gladwin. “Special Populations.” Personal Fitness Training: Theory & Practice. Sherman Oaks, CA: Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, 2010. 320. Print.
- “Women’s Health Care Physicians.” Exercise During Pregnancy – ACOG. The American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, May 2016. Web. 2 July 2017. <https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Exercise-During-Pregnancy>.
- Flashenberg, Debra. “8 Steps to Easing Back into a Fitness Routine After Birth.” Fit Pregnancy and Baby. Fit Pregnancy and Baby, 03 Apr. 2017. Web. 10 May 2017. <https://www.fitpregnancy.com/exercise/postnatal-workouts/8-steps-easing-back-fitness-routine-after-birth>.
Like sleep, exercise is a free, relatively easy-to-access fountain of youth—especially for those of us who are more or less able-bodied. If you are one of between between 50 and 70 million American adults who chronically suffer from a sleep disorder, take heart. Among the many tricks that add up to a healthy sleep hygiene, you can harness the power of exercise and find that as a result you are getting more rest at night.
It is important, however, to realize that the relationship between exercise and sleep is not as simple as the formula that says more exercise always leads to more sleep. The effect of exercise on sleep can vary from person to person and depend on the time of day, length of time from workout to bedtime, intensity of exercise, the type of workout (cardio vs. strength-training vs. yoga), food and drink consumed, and fitness level. And sometimes we have to deal with other exercise-related complications: If you, say, have the misfortunate of incurring a back injury from exercise, factors like the kind of mattress you sleep on suddenly matter a great deal.
All these variables notwithstanding, it is generally true that a physically active life tends to lead to getting more and deeper sleep on a regular basis. A meta-study back in the 90s found that for the general population, exercise improves the metrics of sleep quality. The length of deep sleep, amount of REM sleep, and total sleep time all tend to increase with exercise. And, at the same time, sleep onset latency (how long it takes to fall asleep) and sleep fragmentation (middle-of-the night wake-ups) tend to decrease. A study published in the journal Sleep found that increasing physical and social activities among older adults resulted in more of the higher-quality slow-wave sleep and showed improvement in memory-oriented tasks.
But, according to a study of sleep habits of adults in their 60s published in The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, effects of daily exercise on sleep habits might be more complicated than expected. Additionally, in the short run, sleep might have more influence on exercise than vice versa. One surprising thing that was clear is that if you sleep well tonight, you are more likely to get beneficial exercise tomorrow. The reverse causal relationship in the short run is not as clear. The study participants’ insomnia improved as a result of a moderate endurance exercise program that amounted to three or four 30-minute workouts a week—but only after four months. That’s when exercisers saw the benefit of sleeping more deeply and, on average, 45 minutes longer than before. One lesson, then, is that it’s worth it to keep at it with workouts for a few months in order to see a steady and lasting effect on sleep.
Too much exercise can, however, lead to sleep disturbances. Ultrarunners and triathletes can sometimes run into this problem. For one, running attracts the more active, type-A personalities who tend to get off on the runner’s high.
“I think with the general population, vigorous exercise leads to reports of better sleep quality,” says Amy Bender, a Calgary-based researcher at the Canadian Sleep Society who helps Team Canada Olympians fall asleep. But she notes that in case of elite athletes whose workout routines are extra intense, too much exercise leads to troubles sleeping. According to a study published by Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, insomnia is one of the symptoms of the overtraining syndrome. Most of Americans, though, are at risk for what might be called … the undertraining syndrome?
Another area of conflicting information when it comes to exercise and sleep is the timing of workouts. Some respected medical resources recommend keeping your workout away from bedtime. The National Institutes of Health, for example, recommends not exercising two or three hours prior to bedtime. The idea is that vigorous exercise, especially of the aerobic sort, can be too rousing and the resulting adrenaline spike does not promote sleep. Harvard University sleep experts, too, caution that “exercise stimulates the body to secrete the stress hormone cortisol, which helps activate the alerting mechanism in the brain.” As a result, they recommend planning to be done with workouts three hours prior to bedtime.
However, a poll conducted in 2013 by the National Sleep foundation found that people who exercise in the few hours before bedtime report sleeping just as well as those exercising earlier in the day.
“The timing of exercise ought to be driven by when the pool’s lap lane is open or when your tennis partner is available or when you have time to get away from work, not by some statement that has never been validated,” says Barbara Phillips, a University of Kentucky sleep medicine specialist who was one of the researchers working on the poll.
Our solution? Since we each know our bodies best, we can pay attention to whether or not exercising late in the day has effect on our sleep. If need be, tweak the time of exercise. If you find that exercising too close to bedtime winds you up, try saving the more quieting yoga or the more drowsiness-inducing strength workouts for the evenings and do aerobic exercise farther away from bedtime.
So long as you keep these tips in mind, along with the basic sleep hygiene guidelines, you are well positioned to draw from the two fountains of youth.
Agnes Green is a researcher for the sleep research community Tuck Sleep. She holds two master’s degrees in the social sciences from the University of Chicago and Northwestern University. She sleeps most soundly after a kettlebell workout done three hours prior to bedtime, on a medium-firm mattress, to the sound of a drizzle wafting in through a cracked window in Portland, Oregon.