Tuesday, July 30, 2013


When you compare folks who participate in regularly scheduled physical activities, with their classmates who don’t exercise at all or very little, you usually can quickly see there is a very distinct difference between the two groups.  The difference can be as subtle as simply how well the active folks move and complete everyday tasks, or as dramatic as an actual perception that they appear to be 10-20 years younger (posture, skin and muscle tone, balance, walking stride, brighter eyes, etc) than their less active peers.

On top of those very positive benefits, researchers are now convinced that getting into motion (no matter your age) carries many more very real life-enhancing and extending benefits.  It has now been determined that exercise not only helps lower high blood pressure, but also reduces high cholesterol levels.  Moving more also reduces your risk of getting (and even reversing type-2) diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer. 

There’s also great news that rather than making things worse, when done properly, exercise will reduce and sometime eliminate aches and pains attributed to arthritis and other joint issues. Folks who are active tend to sleep much better and process foods more easily. And for those concerned about other possible consequences of aging, the research is telling us that becoming more active may even prevent, postpone, or even possibly reverse the onset of symptoms related to Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease! 

When I talk about “exercise” what I really mean is getting into the cycle of simply moving more than you currently do, which will help you become stronger and allow you to move even more. This is the total opposite of what we see in so many cases today, where folks get into the negative cycle of moving less and less, spiraling into dependency on mobility assists like canes, walkers, and eventually wheel chairs. I’ve worked with folks over the years that were well into their senior years, burdened with all sorts of health and structural issues that were able to “reverse the clock” and regain much of the independence they thought they had lost forever.

Of course when most folks think about “exercise” they immediately get visions of having to throw heavy weights around, intimidating pieces of fitness (torture) equipment, running on endless treadmills until they’re ready to drop, and expect to experience so much soreness the next day they will be unable to move!

That’s not the kind of “exercise” that I recommend for most folks, especially those who have allowed themselves to really get out of shape and are just wanting to regain some of their “lost youth”.  What I am suggesting is getting more active than you currently are by starting simply and safely.  

Many folks like the idea of joining a fitness center with Certified Personal Trainers that are qualified  to analyze where the new exerciser is physically starting from, help them plan out activities to help reverse the individual issues that they face, and then teach them how to accomplish the activities with confidence,  effectively, and safely on their own. Some Personal Trainers specialize their focus on helping those who are new to fitness, and those coming to fitness with health, pain, balance, and structural issues.

If a fitness center is not currently in your budget or within your comfort zone, you may want to try a few things just to help get back into motion on your own: 

(1) A really great place to start is for every hour you sit, get up and spend 10 minutes moving around…dusting, watering plants, dancing (or if at work, make some phone calls or filing while standing, or visit a co-worker rather than text or email them). 

(2) To help create daily goals for moving more, purchase an inexpensive “pedometer” which is a little device you clip on your waistband that counts your steps during the day, working your way up over time to around 10,000 steps per day (sedentary folks will average walking about 2,000 steps a day, though honestly many folks nowadays get nowhere near that many). (You can pick up a pedometer at most sporting good stores or chain department store for $10-$20). It’s a good way to challenge yourself to get a little more active each day. 

(3) Then for regaining some lost strength and endurance, work on the movements and activities you are beginning to find challenging such as getting out of chairs or cars, climbing stairs, carrying items such as groceries. Most folks are really surprised at how quickly they regain those “lost” abilities!

Honestly, in the 8 years I’ve been doing personal training I have yet to meet anyone who, with a moderate amount of self-commitment, was not able to increase their strength, reduce health issues and pain, and get more enjoyment out of their lives no matter their physical age!

Remember to always check with your Doctor before beginning or restarting any fitness type activities!
Bobby Morrow is a certified personal trainer with over 8 years in the fitness field and his main focus is on those new to fitness, and those with health issues and physical challenges.

This article was printed in The Dispatch newspaper, Lexington, North Carolina

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Joint pain…”Old Age” or simply Old Habits?

Joint pain…”Old Age” or simply Old Habits?
By Bobby Morrow
I've been doing Personal Training professionally for 8 years now, and learned early on that nearly everyone, no matter their chronological "age", brings some sort of physical (either "health" or "structural") challenge with them to fitness.  Even if they came in initially to "lose some weight", "gain more energy", "feel better", "reduce stress" etc, in many cases it’s those “oh, by the way” physical challenges that need to be addressed first!  For example, if you have “knee, hip, or back issues” and your primary goal is to drop some body fat, simply sticking you on the treadmill and cranking up the speed is not a smart way to start!!
Once I discover that a new client has painful joint issues, I dig a little deeper to see if they had any trauma to those areas like broken bones, sprains, tears, etc from accidents or falls. Sometimes they will report that their Doctor has told them they have knee ligament tears, or bulging discs, or arthritis which is also good for me to know. However, I’m discovering that in many cases even those issues may just be symptoms of something else that’s going on elsewhere in the body.
While educating myself over the years on how to help these folks reach “their goals” it quickly became clear that most of the painful joint issues we begin experiencing shortly after leaving our teens are not due to “old age”, but rather can be attributed to “old habits” or what I call “lifestyle-created posture preferences”.  If you’ve ever noticed a teenager while they’re texting (shoulders and back hunched over, head dropped forward and down), then watch their posture when they stop texting and walk away you’ll quickly realize that it’s not “old age” that’s causing many of our joint issues!
 In my opinion, as well as a high number of other professionals in the field, our bodies tend to fold themselves into the patterns that they find themselves in most of the time during our day (no matter the persons age), creating these “preferences”.  In other words, if you spend most of your day sitting at your desk (computer, car seat, recliner, etc) your body tends to form a preference for that “sitting position”…knees bent, hips flexed, chest dropped, shoulders and upper back rounded, arms rotated inward…by shortening (and tightening) some muscles, ligaments, and other tissues while at the same time lengthening (and weakening) others, making it harder and harder over time to straighten into a full upright posture.
What is happening is that because of our repeated daily habits, our posture is getting out of whack (most efficient alignment) placing undue stresses across those joint areas creating irritation, inflammation, soreness, and even pain when we finally do try to use them more than usual. Left unaddressed these issues could eventually lead to total deterioration of the joint requiring surgery or even replacement.
So what can we do? Well, working with a professional “Corrective Exercise Specialist” to help determine which muscles are weak and need to be strengthened, and which are short and tight that need to be released as well as teach you effective exercises to allow your body to make these corrections more permanent, can be very helpful.  Most CES’s are reasonably priced, require only a few sessions, and are definitely cheaper and less painful than surgery!
However, there are a few things you can begin doing right away that may help get you back on track over time (remember; if you spend 8-12 hours a day in a sitting position don’t expect to counteract that with just a few minutes  of exercises a day, especially if you go right back into those positions the next day!): 
(1) It seems like common sense but try to “sit less”! Even if your job “requires” you to be at a computer all day doesn’t mean you have to sit the whole time. Stand up for 10 minutes every hour. Stand while you are on the phone or sorting papers, files, etc. And as a bonus you will burn more calories while standing than while seated.
(2) Walk over to see a co-worker, rather than simply emailing, texting, or calling them (again, burns a few more calories too).
(3) During lunch or other breaks walk around a little and really loosen up those muscles.
(4) While standing (or seated) do some “rearward arm circles “ (with arms straight out to the sides at shoulder height, circle your arms rearward pulling with your back and shoulder muscles, then relaxing as you circle forward…do 10-12 circles) these are great for releasing those tight shoulder and neck stresses too.
(5) Rather than sitting in the recliner while watching your favorite shows, stretch out on the floor for a while, and during commercials actually “stretch” out your muscles (reaching over your head while pushing your heels away).
Even if you are not able to totally reverse all damage through exercise and better posture, there’s a very good chance you can reduce or eliminate the related pain, prevent further damage, and keep yourself out of surgery for many years to come.
Bobby Morrow is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer & Corrective Exercise Specialist