Staying Fit After 50

Wednesday, November 19, 2014
One thing we can't deny in life is getting older. And as we age, we often lose flexibility, strength, and balance, which can make staying fit after age 50 a challenge, even for the most determined of Baby Boomers. But just because you're getting older, doesn't mean you have to stop exercising all together. In fact, the more you can get out and move around, the better you'll be feeling, for decades to come. Remember, if you don't use it, you lose it!
Here are four of the best types of exercise to practice as you age.

Strength Training
Remember to relax and keep breathing, keep motions smooth and steady, and avoid locking your joints. 

Bicep curls to strengthen upper-arm muscles
- Sit in an armless chair and keep your feet flat and even with your shoulders
- Hold your hand weights at your sides, arms straight, palms facing forward
- Slowly bend your elbows, lifting the weight toward your chest
- Rotate your palms to face each other while lifting the weight
- Hold the position for 2 counts and slowly lower back down
- Repeat 10 times

Knee flexion to strengthen muscles in the back of the thigh
- Stand straight and hold a chair for balance
- Without moving your upper leg, slowly bend your knee as far as possible so your foot lifts up behind you
- Hold for 5-10 seconds and slowly release
- Repeat with other leg and continue alternating for 10 reps on each side

Stretching should involve slow, steady movements to help your muscles stretch naturally. Never bounce into a stretch.

For flexibility in your legs, try the legs in v pose:
- Sit on the floor with your legs comfortably spread apart in a V shape.
- It doesn't matter if the V isn't that wide to begin with; it's more important to stretch comfortably.
- Gather some firm pillows and place them in front of you.
- Lean forward, keeping your neck long, and use the pillows to support your upper body.
- Breathe six times, allowing yourself to feel the stretch along your legs.

The seated forward bend will help reduce blood pressure. 
- Sit on a chair, keeping your knees together and your feet flat on the floor. The chair helps to avoid stress on your back.
- Inhale, then as you exhale, bend forward, rounding your shoulders and bending your back forward one vertebra at a time.
- Let your arms hang freely by your sides and hold the pose for three deep breaths.
- Your chest should make contact with your thighs, and your forehead should be near your knees.
- As you gain strength and flexibility, you can remove the chair and execute this position as a standing forward bend.
- Use caution if you have a bad back.

Always do these exercises near a table or chair so you can grab on if you feel you are going to lose your balance.

Hip extension to strengthen your buttock and low back muscles
- Stand 12 to 18 inches from a table or chair with your feet slightly spread
- Bend forward at the hips at about 45-degree angle; hold on to the table or chair for balance
- Slowly lift one leg straight backwards without bending your knee or upper body
- Hold for 5-10 seconds and slowly release
- Repeat with other leg and continue alternating for 10 reps on each side
- You can add leg weights once you are ready for a more challenging exercise

Enhance balance anywhere
These are quick and easy and can be performed anywhere, just make sure you have something to grab on to if you lose your balance.

- Walk heel-to-toe by positioning your heel just in front of the opposite toes each time you take a step. Your heel and toes should almost touch.
- Practice standing up and sitting down without using your hands
- Stand on one foot as long as you can, then alternate feet.

If you're just starting out you'll want to start slowly and build your endurance gradually. The idea is to get your heart rate up. Moderate cardio exercises include walking briskly, swimming, and flat surface bicycling. Once you are ready to move on, try stair climbing, snow shoveling, or bicycling up hills.

Always remember to start out slow with any new fitness activity. It's normal to feel a little discomfort when you're using new muscles, but intense pain should not occur and is a sign you're doing something wrong - you'll need to talk to a healthcare provider right away. Physical Therapists are experts in body movement and can show you the proper way to stretch, exercise, and work out. But it's important to know that it's never too late to start a new program, just make sure you start at a mild level and work your way up.

Do Pedometers Really Get You Moving?

Tuesday, November 04, 2014
Fitness gadgets are all the rage these days, and with so many to choose from, do you really think something as small as a pedometer will affect your overall health? The research is pointing to yes.

If you recently upgraded to the iPhone 6 you may have noticed that among the new features is a built-in pedometer. A small gadget or an app that counts your steps is a novel idea, but how does it really get you up and moving? Well, the answer is simple. It's a motivational tool that's always there, reminding you to keep moving. And if you have even an inch of competitiveness in your body, you're going to want to reach (and even exceed) that goal each day.

Simply start by setting a goal of walking 10,000 steps each day, which equals approximately 5 miles. Yes, it sounds like a lot and if you're not there yet, keep track of how many steps you are taking and try to increase the amount each day. You'll find that eventually you can easily walk the 10,000 steps without even trying because of certain habits that have evolved over time.

Easy ways to contribute to the 10,000 step goal
- Clean the house: I recently clocked over 6,000 steps just by cleaning my house and garage
- Park further from the store
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Break it up by taking 3 power walks throughout the day
- Invite a friend for a walking lunch date
- Pace while on the phone or watching tv
- And the most obvious choice - get out and go for a walk!

Fitbit has many options to choose from

If you're not sure where to start when it comes to getting the right pedometer, you can begin with something simple like an app that you download on your phone. Runtastic is a great option, and it's free. The downside to using an app is that you have to have your phone with you at all times to track your steps. The Fitbit is also a great choice, and recommended by many of our therapists. Because it's worn on your wrist, it's a constant reminder to get up and walk around. Fitbit also makes it easy to see how close or far away you are from your daily goal.

Benefits of walking include
- Regular walkers have fewer heart attacks and strokes, lower blood pressure, and higher levels of healthy HDL cholesterol than couch sitters do
- Lower chances of diabetes
- Burn calories
- Reduced stress, increased energy levels, and a better mood all the way around
- Boosts your immune system
- Strengthens your bones
- Improves your balance and coordination

Walking is an easy and inexpensive way to help you get in shape, and it can be fun if you invite a friend. If you really want to dig in and make the most out of your walks, we offer gait analysis tests that will check your stride and form, orthotics that will help with balance and comfort, and personal training sessions to establish a routine just for you. But the most important thing to remember is to get up and walk. 

What Are the Benefits of Stress Balls?

Thursday, October 30, 2014
When was the last time you sat down and thought to yourself "Hmm...I have nothing to do..." Ha! It's been a while, hasn't it? Between shuffling kids to school functions and sports practice, work priorities, and social commitments it's no wonder we feel stressed at times. And let's not forget what time of year it is - the holidays are right around the corner so you can add baking, shopping and entertaining to the list.

Wouldn't it be nice if in times of chaos you could just get a little bit of stress out, in a quick and healthy way? Have you ever tried a stress ball? They work well on days when you want to squeeze the life out of something too - they always bounce back!
A Quick Fix
Stress balls, or Eggsercizers, are small egg shaped objects, filled with a malleable gel, that fit perfectly in the palm of your hand. Repeatedly squeezing the egg releases tension and in turn, helps to relieve stress. In addition to the mental benefits, stress balls also boost blood circulation and help with the treatment of carpal-tunnel syndrome and arthritis -- and they're used as a tool for meditation too. Because they're so small, they're convenient to store in your purse or bag - pull them out whenever you're on the verge of feeling stressed.
How Do Stress Balls Work?
Lowering levels of stress and tension can help to improve your quality of life by promoting better sleep habits, warding off illness and increasing a general feeling of well-being. Squeezing the egg activates the muscles of your hand and wrist, then releasing the grip allows the muscles to relax. The repeated pattern of gripping and releasing helps to alleviate tension and stress.
Great For Hand Injuries Too
The muscles in your hands and wrist can become weak or strained from daily overuse, arthritis or a fracture or sprain. Squeezing a stress ball or Eggsercizer can help to rehabilitate and strengthen your hand. Simply hold the ball or egg in the palm of your hand and squeeze it as tightly as possible; hold the grip for five seconds and release. Repeat 10 times.
If you have any questions on hand exercises, stress relief techniques, or hand injuries, feel free to contact us at 616.997.6172 or via e-mail. We'd love to help!

7 Myths About Physical Therapy

Wednesday, October 29, 2014
People everywhere are experiencing the positive effects physical therapy can have on their daily lives. In fact, as experts in the way the body moves, physical therapists help people of all ages and abilities reduce pain, improve range of motion, and stay active and fit throughout their entire life. But there are some common misconceptions that often discourage people from visiting a physical therapist.

Today we're here to debunk 7 common myths about physical therapy:

1. Myth: I need a referral to see a physical therapist.
Fact: Starting January 1, 2015, residents of Michigan will no longer need a referral from their physician to receive physical therapy treatment....this is big news! In fact, Michigan is the last of the 50 states to jump on board so this is a long time coming. We know you'll have questions regarding insurance and the process so we'll be putting together a list of everything you need to know in the near future. In the meantime, feel free to call our office at 616.997.6172 with any questions you may have.

2. Myth: Physical therapy is painful.
Fact: Physical therapists seek to minimize your pain and discomfort—including chronic or long-term pain. We work within your pain threshold to help you heal, and restore movement and function. We often find that people who have never visited a physical therapist think physical therapy is painful, but that number significantly decreases among patients who have seen a physical therapist in the past year.
Amanda, Corey, and Janeen at the massage expo

3. Myth: Physical therapy is only for injuries and accidents.
Fact: Physical therapists do a lot more than just stretch or strengthen weak muscles after an injury or surgery. We are skilled at evaluating and treating potential problems before they lead to more serious injuries or disabling conditions—from carpal tunnel syndrome and frozen shoulder, to chronic headaches and lower back pain, to name a few.

4. Myth: Any health care professional can perform physical therapy.
Fact: Although 42% of consumers know that physical therapy can only be performed by a licensed physical therapist, 37% still believe other health care professionals can also administer physical therapy. While many healthcare professionals (physical therapists included) work in the area of rehab, only a physical therapist is properly trained and certified to perform physical therapy. Because of our expertise in rehabilitation, injury prevention, movement, and fitness, we are able to provide our clients with specialized treatment plans to ensure the best outcome. In fact, many of our physical therapists have also pursued board certifications in specific areas such as McKenzie treatment for back pain, orthopedics, sports injuries, and women’s health.

Janis Kemper, PT and NPT co-owner, participated in the Geek the Library campaign

5. Myth: Physical therapy isn't covered by insurance.
Fact: Most insurance policies cover some form of physical therapy. In fact, physical therapy is considered one of the Essential Benefits required of all health plans in Michigan. Beyond insurance coverage, physical therapy has proven to reduce costs by helping people avoid unnecessary imaging scans, surgery, or prescription drugs. Physical therapy can also lower costs by helping patients avoid falls or by addressing conditions before they become chronic.

6. Myth: Surgery is my only option.
Fact: In many cases, physical therapy has been shown to be as effective as surgery in treating a wide range of conditions—from rotator cuff tears and degenerative disk disease, to meniscal tears and some forms of knee osteoarthritis. Those who have recently seen a physical therapist know this to be true, with 79% believing physical therapy can provide an alternative to surgery.

Our therapists help with hand and wrist pain too!

7. Myth: I can do physical therapy myself.
Fact: Your participation is key to a successful treatment plan, but every patient still needs the expert care and guidance of a licensed physical therapist. We will leverage our specialized education, clinical expertise, and the latest available evidence to evaluate your needs and make a diagnosis before creating an individualized plan of care.

If you have any questions on physical therapy and how it can help you, we'd love to talk! Feel free to contact us at 616.997.6172 or via email so we can get more information about your areas of discomfort.

Celebrating Northview Schools and the Fitness Center

Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Northview High School held an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony to show off their new facilities to the public. The school looks amazing, but what we were most excited about was the chance to welcome people into the new fitness center.

Gina and Bridget are ready to get people in shape!

With state-of-the-art equipment, fitness classes, weights, and so much more, we're certain this is going to be the place to work out. The center is located at Northview High School, but it's staffed and managed by us, and open to the public. You can read more about that exciting news here.

Our Director of Fitness & Aquatics, Jason Smits (left), is all smiles for this event.

The fitness center officially opens on November 3 and we're ready to roll out a full schedule of classes after the 1st of the year. In the meantime, a big thanks to everyone who came to the open house to check out the new facility. We're looking forward to welcoming the Grand Rapids and Northview communities into the Northern family.

Check out the rest of the new facilities in this video, courtesy of Tower Pinkster.

5 Ways to Eliminate Stress

Wednesday, October 22, 2014
You might think illness is to blame for your nagging headache, frequent insomnia or decreased productivity at work. But what if we told you that the cause just might be stress. Between taking care of the family, responsibilities at work, upcoming holidays, and life in general, it's easy to see how quickly stress can take over. We've got 5 simple ways to reduce stress levels when they hit a high and get you feeling good again.

Treat yourself to some silence
Silence can mean different things to different people. The early hours of the morning, the serenity of the countryside, the few moments after you turn off the motor of your car, or even the simplicity of a clean and tidy room. Do your best to seek out this kind of silence and take a moment to notice - and enjoy it - at least once a day. You deserve it.
Do one thing at a time
Contrary to popular belief, only about 2.5% of people have the ability to effectively focus on more than one task at a time. So for the other 97.5% of us, multi-tasking makes things harder, not easier. Give yourself a break -- focus on one thing at a time and you'll be crossing items off your list faster than you thought you could.

Get Moving 
Virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to hiking to yoga, can act as a stress reliever. If you're not an athlete or even if you're downright out of shape, you can still make a little exercise go a long way toward stress management. Even five minutes of aerobic activity can stimulate anti-anxiety effects. So go for a quick walk around the block, take the stairs up and down a few flights, or do some stretching exercises like head rolls and shoulder shrugs.

Learn how to meditate
Just a few minutes a day can help ease anxiety and alter your neuro pathways, making you more resilient to stress. To get started, simply sit up straight with both feet on the floor. Close your eyes. Focus your attention on reciting -- out loud or silently -- a positive mantra such as “I feel at peace” or “I love myself.” Place one hand on your belly to sync the mantra with your breaths. Let any distracting thoughts float by like clouds.
Remember the blue sky
When you get in a plane and rise above the clouds, you see that incredible bright panorama of blue sky. The mind is no different; thoughts are like clouds, and although they may build up and even look stormy, the blue sky is there all along. Just remembering this is enough to help you get a little more clarity.

What are your go-to ways to reduce stress? We'd love to know.

10 Superfoods that Fight Stress

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Boost immunity, eliminate stress, and feel great... here are 10 Superfoods you should have on your grocery list each week.

1. Blueberries
These low sugar super fruits are packed with antioxidants, vitamins C and E, magnesium and manganese, making them great stress relievers. Research has shown that eating blueberries regularly can also help ease depression, insomnia and other mood disorders that can be triggered by or contribute to stress.

2. Almonds
Almonds provide high levels of vitamins B2 and E, magnesium, zinc, selenium, and healthy oils that provide stress reducing benefits. Enjoy a handful a day - raw or roasted. And don't forget to toss almonds in your desserts and baked goods. In addition to almonds, walnuts and pistachios lower your stress hormones, reduce your blood pressure and boost your energy level.

3. Spinach
Dark green vegetables like spinach are rich in vitamins A, B and C. Spinach also contains high levels of calcium, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus that help reduce stress hormones in the body and stabilize your mood. One cup of spinach each day can have relaxing, calming effects on the body. And, there are so many ways to include spinach in your diet - add it to your wrap, omelet, sandwich or salad.

4. Avocados
Fiber, potassium, healthy fat, minerals, protein, and vitamins C and E - all found in avocados and all nutrients that help regulate stress hormones by keeping your nerves and brain cells healthy. Eating one-half or whole avocado daily can significantly lower your blood pressure level and reduce your stress hormone level. Avocados are great  plain, on salads, sandwiches, or in smoothie.

5. Salmon
Lots of omega-3 fatty acids with strong anti-inflammatory effects make salmon a great superfood. Omega-3 fatty acids boost brain chemicals like serotonin that help maintain that happy feeling and regulate stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. And, omega-3 fatty acids help the brain function at a higher level. Try two or three servings of salmon per week.

6. Yogurt
Yogurt is loaded with calcium, protein, vitamins and good-for-you-bacteria known as probiotics. It can help decrease the risk of osteoporosis and contains 20% more protein than milk per serving. But, you have to stick with organic or Greek yogurt in order to take advantage of all the benefits.

7. Green Tea
Green tea contains powerful antioxidants such as polyphenols, flavonoids and catechins - all of which have a calming and positive effect on the mind and body. Green tea also contains an amino acid called theanine that promotes relaxation and improves focus and attention. Try substituting green tea for your morning cup of coffee and see if you can feel the difference.

8. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate contains theobromine which is a natural mood elevator, and magnesium which helps fight stress, fatigue, depression and irritability. Research has shown that eating about an ounce and a half of dark chocolate a day can greatly reduce the level of stress hormones in the body. Organic, raw chocolate will be your best choice.

9. Oranges
The perfect snack, oranges boast a wealth of nutritious benefits and they provide over 100% of the daily value for vitamin C making them an immune-boosting superfood. Oranges are a good source of B1 and folate for proper brain development, potassium to maintain electrolyte balance, calcium for healthy teeth and bones, and over 170 antioxidants. The vitamin C and antioxidants help boost immunity and fight free radicals, which are increased with the presence of stress.

10. Brown Rice
Brown rice contains generous amounts of B vitamins, which are important for maintaining cells, tissues and organs. They work as natural mood stabilizers and help in biochemical reactions involved in brain function, healthy red blood cells, immunity and cardiac functioning. When you get an adequate amount of B vitamins, you’ll be better able to fight off stress and other mood disorders.

BIG Announcement :: NEW Fitness Center and Physical Therapy Clinic in Grand Rapids

Tuesday, October 07, 2014
We've had a hard time keeping this one quiet, but we're finally ready to break the silence and shout from the rooftops.

Drumroll please . . .

We're opening a sixth physical therapy clinic and it's going to be in Grand Rapids! But if that wasn't news enough, there's more excitement to be had. The new clinic has a giant fitness center attached, and it's open to the public!
That's right folks...big news! It's been 11 years since we added our fifth clinic and while continuing to expand the business has always been in the back of our minds, we had to wait for the right time and the right opportunity. And we're SO excited to finally announce that the time is now. After nearly a year of planning, our hard work is finally paying off and we can hardly contain our excitement!
Our new operation will be located in the fitness wing of Northview High School, 4451 Hunsberger Avenue NE in Grand Rapids. The new fitness center, which will be open to the public on November 3, is owned by Northview, but when the opportunity came along for us to run and manage it, we knew it was going to be a great fit. Our goal has always been to help people feel their best and fitness is such a big part of that. The new center features state-of-the-art workout equipment and multiple areas for fitness classes and events, which thrills us beyond belief. We've been expanding our fitness class selections over the last 3 years and we now offer yoga, HIIT, boot camp, 20:20:20, and pool fitness classes at some of our five other locations. Having this large fitness center, which is open to the public, right at our fingertips gives us the opportunity to offer an even wider variety of classes. We've got a great lineup of new classes in the works right now and we'll be ready for signups in early 2015.
The physical therapy clinic, which is also open to the public, is located inside the fitness center. This is an ideal situation because we so often do a variety of exercises and stretches with patients and here we'll have an incredible amount of equipment to make physical therapy even more fun and dynamic. The PT clinic will be open for business early in 2015 (maybe even a little sooner...fingers crossed!)

If you want to get a sneak peek of the new facilities, Northview High School will be holding an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, October 23 from 5-8pm. To celebrate, we'll be offering a special discount to people who sign up that night - buy a 3 month membership, get the 4th month FREE! You'll also want to watch your inbox because Northern will be hosting a big open house for the facility in early 2015. We can't wait to show you our new digs! For more information on the fitness center and all it has to offer, click here.

What to Eat Before and After a Workout

Friday, October 03, 2014
Looking for a way to stay energized during your workout? Would you believe that diet is the single most important element to develop and maintain those energy levels throughout your workout? 

Morning Workout
Eat one to two hours before heading to the gym to give your body time to store the energy you need to push your muscles to the limit. A combination of a carbohydrate and a protein source is one of the best choices! The carb dilates the blood vessels so they can carry oxygen to the cells and remove waste products, and they'll provide you with a source of simple sugars that will fuel your body immediately, while the protein will stick with you and keep you from getting hungry too soon. Grab an orange or a banana and a ½ cup of Greek yogurt to provide a quick dose of carbohydrates that provide immediate energy and digest slower, and the protein will continue to provide energy throughout your workout.
Afternoon Workout
Complex carbohydrates are the best sources of long-term energy. This includes food groups like whole grain breads, pastas and beans. And don't forget the protein, which is the major building block for new muscles developed in the gym. The best sources of protein include fish, chicken, turkey, milk, cheese, yogurt, legumes and nuts.

Post Workout
You'll want to grab a snack or light meal within 30 minutes of your workout so your body doesn’t start burning muscle. Foods high in protein are wonderful options.

In addition, eat small meals every 3 hours throughout the day. Snacking on healthy foods like nuts, cheese, fruit or foods that consist of complex carbohydrates throughout the day is a great habit to develop. Supplementing your diet between meals with snacks will keep your body running at peak performance.
If you have any questions on pre and post workout diets, we'd be happy to go over your workout and meal plan with you, just give us a call at 616.997.6172.

5K Training Tips

Thursday, September 11, 2014
If you've never been a runner, completing a 5K might seem out of reach. But, with the right practice, you may find that training is easier than you thought, and it can be fun too.
Take it Easy
Don't advance or increase your mileage, terrain, or running form by over 10% per week. Pushing yourself too hard can result in injury. Remember - slow and steady wins the race. Give yourself 8 weeks to go from walking to running.
Walk, Then Run
Start with a 5 minute brisk walk to warm up. Begin running for 30-60 seconds, followed by a 2-3 minute walk. Gradually increase running time and/or decrease walking time. End with a 5 minute walk to cool down, followed by some gentle stretching. Progressively increase your total time. For example, start with a total of 15 minutes and work your way up to 40 minutes. 
Know Proper Form
Shorter steps with a “soft” foot strike will result in less fatigue and a more efficient run pattern. The ideal range is 170-190 steps per minute. Try counting as you begin to run.
Stretch Those Muscles
Do a slow 5-10 minute warm up, then stretch prior to your workout. Stretch again after a 5 minute cool down. You can choose to do either a traditional (static) form of stretching or a dynamic stretch. Static stretching involves holding the joint or muscle in a position that is minimally challenging for 30-60 seconds. This method is designed to relax the body part that is being stretched, allowing it to go further on its own.

Dynamic stretches involve continuous movement through the exercise in order to increase flexibility. Moving your legs and arms and gradually increasing your reach and speed of movement takes you to the limits of your range of motion. In dynamic stretches, there are no bounces or "jerky" movements. An example of dynamic stretching would be slow, controlled leg swings, arm swings, or torso twists.
Vary Distance and Speed
Don't run everyday, especially when you're starting out. 3 days per week is ideal and each week your schedule should include 1 long run, 1 workout run where you increase your speed to race pace or increase the number hills and run for a shorter distance, and finally 1 recovery run which is done at a slower than race pace. Muscles and joints need time to recover. If you push them too far you risk injury or recurring pain.

Go At It Gradually
Gradually progress your weekly mileage and long run distance so you can comfortably run at least 2.5 miles prior to racing. And always reduce mileage the week prior to the big race. 
Listen to your body
If you are waking up sore or feeling sluggish during your runs take a few days off and/or cross train. Cross train with strengthening and core exercises 2-3x weekly for best results.

If you're looking for a partner along the way, we like the app Couch to 5K. And always remember that you don't have to worry about time on your first 5K. Stay steady, stay healthy. And watch out, the running bug may bite you, and as you cross that finish line you may be planning your next 5K.

If you have any questions, our fitness trainers can offer running specific training programs to make sure you build the right muscles, call 616.997.6172. The right coach can help you stay injury free and make training fun.