It is common knowledge and widely accepted that exercise is beneficial to our health. Every week there is a “new” study released explaining one of these benefits. Getting started with exercises however can be difficult for many. Besides creating our own mental road blocks for trying to get physically healthier, many just do not know where to begin. There are many types of exercise out there and constant promotion of different workouts to strengthen and sculpt different areas of the body, and it can get really confusing. The purpose here is lay out some principles of exercise first then discuss some specific activities to get you started.
The foundation to our bodily health and movement is our nervous system. One of the biggest inputs to our nervous system is our spinal function, this includes the joints, ligaments, and muscles. Therefore creating good movement and stability in our spine is crucial to our daily health, function, and well-being. It is also necessary to be able to perform more complicated and dynamic movements and exercises. Thus exercises that focus on spinal mobility and strengthening should be the starting point for anyone getting into exercise, as well as recovery from musculoskeletal conditions, and generally incorporated into weekly workout routines.
Neurological Tricks to Enhance Exercise
When performing exercises it is wise to take these neurological principles into consideration in order to maximize the beneficial impact of the activities. For more information on these principles see discussions on neuroplasticity and neuromechanics.
- Frequency is better than Duration – doing things multiple times per day and per week has a greater impact on improving mobility, stability, endurance, and strength. Doing a few repetitions multiple times per day is more beneficial than doing a bunch of reps once.
- Specificity of movement – performing activities slowly, especially at first, aids in refining the movement patterns and motor programs of our brain and muscles.
- Goal setting – having attainable goals is important in both motivation but also in creating long term change
- Self compassion – Exercise should be enjoyable, and so if a particular activity or repetition goal is difficult do not let it deter you. Do less or modify the exercise position, return to the activity later in the day or week. Being patient with oneself is crucial in obtaining health goals
- Variety – Do not feel you have to do every exercise every day. Our brain thrives on variety and novelty. As exercises become easier and more routine then changing the position, direction, or adding resistance is great for keeping your brain focussed
- Feedback – in order to refine movement, having ways in which to provide your brain with feedback about how you are performing an exercise or activity is helpful. For any particular activity there are many ways to do this. Visual feedback can be done with a mirror or camera in order to help ensure you are utilizing the targeted muscle groups and desired movement. Partner up – a friend can provide feedback and also boost motivation
- Breathe – controlling our breath helps improve blood flow and oxygenation. Breathing through our nose and with our diaphragm allows for maximum oxygen intake
Exercises to Get You Started
I personally use the exercises listed below to help maintain my body for the activities/sports that I love to do, as well as training my body to allow me to help others through chiropractic. The list is not exhaustive but will provide ideas about different movements and activities for different parts of the body. I focus on the movement and strength of the neck, back and legs as they are the ones that allow us to resist gravity. In doing so it helps maintain posture, and provides a constant stimulation to the brain (one of the basic needs for healthy function).
Neck: Neck retractions (butterfly) with 5 second holds; neck rotation/side bending/forward and back bending while inhaling on movements moving back and exhaling on movements moving forward
Mid back and shoulders: Shoulder blade movement while holding arms in Y/T/W/A for 1-2 second holds, Wall Angels, Push-up plus, Cat-Cow, Quadruped with twist
Low back: Glute bridges, Quadruped cross-crawl, Superman cross-crawl, Superman extension
Core: Front plank, side planks each for only 8-10 second holds; Half crunch, Oblique crunch
Legs: Ball squeeze between knees for 10 second holds (changing position between knees bent to 90 degrees and legs straight), Eccentric calf raises with the raise being quick and the return slow; Walking lunge, Wall Squat building up time and changing angle of knees, Nordic eccentric hamstring increasing hold times before falling to ground
Balance: Single leg stand, Single leg partial squat with swinging opposite leg and arm, Single leg ball toss
For a more personalized approach for injury recovery or to determine your exercise needs please consult a professional. Follow the instagram accounts of our Chiropractors and Personal Trainer, click on the account names for videos to the exercises mentioned and to discover more ways to add exercise to your life: @laurasophiechiro, @drnatebogedaindc, @berkochiro, @gregharveypt
Dr, Nate Bogedain is a chiropractor with a background in functional neurology and sports medicine. He has been assisting others achieve their functional health goals since 2014.