Saturday, October 22, 2016

Fitness and Strength

[The chair on the left is for chair yoga. It is designed to keep you sitting up tall and straight. It works. It is the most uncomfortable thing I have ever sat on other than a bicycle seat. I no longer have the padding down there to be comfortable. We play tai chi in the stuffed chair with arm rests. Some people almost go to sleep. Similar chairs are used in the dining and activity areas.]

The fitness program at Provision Living at Columbia has now developed into physical therapy, tai chi, chair yoga, and strength training in free daily classes and open gym with an instructor. Individual workouts can be done in our apartments and the gym after necessary instruction. (The staff from the paid physical therapy and occupational therapy conduct part of these classes.)

I have learned some common rules that make exercising safe and productive over the past three years. There is no need to waste time and money on activities that are not productive and can even be harmful.

This all started for me on an early spring day in Walmart before we were gardening. I squatted down to see something on a bottom shelf and could not get back up! I called for my wife to push the cart over so I could climb up on it. I then invented an exercise that mimicked standing up from the floor with the aid of a support. In just a couple of weeks, I could stand again without the support. Walking a mile a day seemed to have no effect here; different muscle groups.

Physical therapy classes practice muscle groups needed in common body movements with an emphasis on fall prevention.

Tai chi and yoga are stretching exercises that start with your present abilities. If an activity hurts, stop. Don’t make matters worse. Hold the position for your body to “catch up” (stop hurting) and then relax.

Strength training is a scaled down version of the “grunt and grown” we all associate with gym exercises. Now the emphasis is on maximizing strength rather than growing muscle mass (slow relaxation rather than maximum effort).

All four approaches to fitness involve stretching selected muscle groups. Physical therapy practices common body movement. Tai chi and yoga can select one muscle group at a time including those we rarely use.

It was with tai chi and yoga that I discovered muscle groups that were the cause of my severe back pains. Then stretch to the maximum or until it hurts. Stop for a few seconds. Relax. Repeat 3-5 times. Go to the next exercise.

[The key to success is to fully stretch without hurting, pause several seconds, and relax. Just gliding through the motions does not work.]

We do not learn to play the piano by repeating the same 4 notes endlessly. We learn by playing music. Tai chi and yoga have hundreds of exercises imbedded in stories (music) with strange sounding and impossible to remember names.

It still amazes me how effortlessly these movements can produce the effects they do. I can now do most of these (stretch) until my muscles tremble without hurting. In the past week my back pain has been reduced to a numb spot on the lower right side. That is how this back pain event started about five years ago.

Strength training should increase my strength and reduce the muscle trembling. Residential care eliminates the exercise found in normal daily household and gardening activities. Periodic practice in open gym and in our apartments should replace these activities with an activity that also fills time for many people.

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