Pump up your workout with added push-up power

Push-ups may be a pain, but don’t eliminate them from your workout routine just yet! Not only do they increase upper body strength, but push-ups also reinforce the core including the back, abdominal, and hip stabilizers (if done in full plank position). Push-ups also increase muscle tone which helps burn more calories even when you are at rest. Additionally, they help strengthen the shoulder stabilizing muscles, which can prevent shoulder injuries down the road.

Push-up #1: Push-ups offer all of the benefits of completing a bench press, but also provide additional core stabilization. It requires no equipment and can be modified to any skill level. To perform a full push-up:

  • Your body should be lifted by your arms. Do not compensate with other areas of the body– like using your stomach to lower your body.
  • No swaying of the hips as you perform the push-up. Keep your body in a straight line.
  • Lower slowly to the ground, then use the arms to push back up

Push-up #2: To perform a modified version of the push-up, you have a few options. The first is the most commonly known: perform the push-up but keep your knees on the ground. Keep your hips in line with your body– do not bend at the hips!

Push-up #3: Another option is to hold the plank position without the actual push-up. You are still getting arm and core strengthening with this exercise! You can complete both #2 and #3 to get the full benefit of the push-ups.

Push-up #4: This can be performed for people who can almost complete a full push-up or people who can complete push-ups and want extra strengthening.

  • Start at the full plank position
  • Very slowly lower yourself to the floor– try and count ten full seconds during this exercise
  • Slowly lowering is called eccentric muscle control—muscle strengthening occurs more quickly with eccentric muscle control. So– always complete exercises with a slow and controlled speed for the most benefit!

Push-ups require a strong line from the head to the feet. This requires muscles to work throughout the entire body. Although sit-up and crunches are good for toning the abdominal muscles, maintaining a strong core with all exercises is so important because it mimics what we all do everyday– stabilize our core while lifting, reaching, and moving! It is important to have a strong core to prevent injury during daily work and home tasks.

Make sure that your “plank” position is strong and you feel like someone could push down lightly on your shoulders, hips, or back and you would not break this position.

Now that you know how to execute a push-up, put yourself to the test:

Workout Option #1:

  • Complete three rounds of 10 push-ups or push-up variations
  • 10 box squats (see Kylie’s other blog post “No Excuse Rainy Day Work Out” for information on the box squat!)

Workout Option #2

  • Complete as many pushups/push-up variations as you can in one minute
  • Rest one minute
  • Repeat 4 times

 

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No Excuse Rainy Day Workout

Rainy weather makes us all want to forgo the gym and pop in a movie complete with pop corn, soda and leftover candy from the holidays (you couldn’t throw it out, could you?). But that’s no excuse! 

We all know that fitness is good for us physically; it reduces stress and keeps us at a healthy weight. But sometimes it can be hard to know where to start and how to progress your fitness level. Fitness includes many areas: cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speech, agility, balance, coordination and accuracy. We have the ability to increase any of those areas!

But, who has time? Here are a few short workouts at home that require little to no equipment. Everything can be modified so that all fitness levels can increase in just minutes a day.

Note: Before starting any of these listed below, check with your doctor to make sure that your heart is healthy enough for exercise. If you have knee pain, check with your physician before completing this exercise.

Exercise #1 Box Squats

Background: I love box squats because the nature of the exercise makes your body perform the squat correctly. I believe the most important exercise to do regularly is the squat. This variation of the squat can be performed at home and all you need is a stable chair. This is also an exercise that beginners and athletes can perform to strengthen knee stabilizing muscles and control at the bottom of the squat.

To perform: Start with feet close to chair or surface you are sitting on to. The chair should rest about the height of your knees.

  • Pull your arms parallel to the floor.
  • Lower your hips and sit them as far back as possible.
  • Keep your back straight and weight on the heels.
  • Look straight in front of you and keep your arms up and parallel to the floor.
  • Once fully seated, stand up while keeping the knees pointed outward with arms fully extended in front of you.
  • Do not use your arms to push off you knees – make your legs do the work!

Option # 1: Complete as many box squats in 5 minutes as possible. This one is easy to do during commercials or while watching the news.

Option # 2: Complete 30 box squats, take a 2 minute break, then complete 20 box squats. After taking a final 2 minute break, complete 20 box squats. Done!

Option # 3: If you want to progress the exercise, stop just before touching the seat and hover for a few seconds. Or, complete the exercise with dumbbells resting on the shoulders or a barbell on the back. Another way to increase the difficulty is to try 10 minutes of reps or 2 rounds of 5 minute reps with a short break in between.

Four Reasons Squats Rock:

  1. Squats work not only the legs; but the hips, back, abdominal muscles, and calves. It’s a while body workout with one easy movement.
  2. Keeping your arms raised maintains correct positioning of your back while also working the shoulder and arm muscles.
  3. Building muscle will burn more calories throughout the day, even when you are not being active.
  4. Toning the muscles that support the joins will help decrease pain in the knees, hips, back and help prevent injuries down the road.

 

 

Tummy Time and Your Baby’s Development

tummy time graphic

Tummy time plays a large role in your baby’s overall health and development. But when should you start? And how long should your baby spend on his or her belly each day? Ozarks Community Hospital/Advantage Therapy physical therapist Jennifer Witt shares specifics below and offers tips to help make tummy time more enjoyable for baby and mom.

“Tummy time.” If you are the parent of an infant, you probably hear this phrase all the time and you probably have questions. Why? When do you start? How long? What if they cry/get mad? These are questions I deal with frequently and here are some of the answers I give parents.

Why Practice Tummy Time

There are too many babies that sit in car seats, cribs, and lay on their backs for too many hours of the day. Needless to say, there are numerous reasons to implement tummy time into your infant’s daily routine!

  • It helps babies achieve developmental milestones (i.e., holding head up, rolling, sitting).
  • It strengthens muscles of the neck and back when infants have to hold their heads up against gravity.
  • It prevents flat spots on the head and allows for proper head shape development.
  • It allows infants to explore their environment from a different perspective.

When You Should Start

Tummy time should be started as soon as possible; even as soon as you get home from the hospital. The earlier you implement it into their daily routine, the less likely they will be to fight against it.  Place your infant on their tummy for short periods of time initially, gradually building up the amount of time they are spending in that position.

Need for Tummy Time Increases with Age

Tummy time should be a daily activity for infants. Again, this routine should be started as soon as you bring your baby home from the hospital. Here is a guide for how long babies should be spending time on their tummies.

  • First couple of weeks: 5 minutes per day
  • 1 month old: 20 minutes per day
  • 2 months old: 30 minutes per day
  • 3 months old: 60 minutes per day
  • 4 months old: 81 minutes per day

Sometimes babies cry during tummy time. Usually, I tell parents not to pick the infants up, unless there is some harm to the little one. I recommend setting a timer for 5 minutes and then the baby can be picked up when the timer goes off.

Making Tummy Time Fun

Nothing makes my little ones cry more than placing them on their bellies! Some babies do great, others, not so much. Again, tummy time should be started as early as possible to get them used to being on their bellies. Here are some ideas for keeping it fun.

  • Get down on the floor with them! It encourages engagement and bonding between the two of you.
  • Place fun toys around them so that they have fun stuff to look at and eventually play with!
  • Use mirrors (baby-proof, of course)! Every baby knows they’re super cute, so they really enjoy looking at themselves in the mirror.
  • If your infant has reflux, try propping them up on a pillow or boppy to take pressure off their tummies.
  • Place the baby on your chest while you’re lying down. This way, they can “talk to you” and still get tummy time.

Jennifer works at OCH/Advantage Therapy in Springfield, Missouri and at OCH Christian County Clinic in Nixa. She received both her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Missouri State University. She has experience in inpatient, outpatient, home health and pediatric  settings. Her primary interest in physical therapy is pediatrics, specifically the 0-3 age group covering a variety of diagnoses. To contact Jennifer, call OCH/Advantage Therapy at (417) 777-4749. For more information about OCH/Advantage Therapy visit www.advantagetherapyonline.com

Deadly Desk Job: Health Risks You & Your Co-workers Should Know About

Working behind a desk offers a fairly low risk job (unless you are a bit clumsy, and in that case everything is risky), but there are a few “under the radar” risks that pose a threat to your long-term health. If gone unchecked, your everyday desk-job habits have the potential to affect long-term eye, back, wrist and overall body health. OCH/Advantage physical therapist, Jennifer Witt offers a few tips to keep you at your peak while on the job and behind your desk.  

  •  Watch that monitor. Try to keep it at a distance of 24-inches (or arms length away) to reduce eye strain. Also, make sure your monitor is at eye level. If it isn’t, stick a ream of paper underneath to boost it to the proper height.
  •  It’s all in the wrists. Keep your keyboard at the edge of your desk to avoid hurting your wrists. Excessive pressure over an extended period of time may lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. If you find your wrists resting on your desk, ask your manager for a gel pad to set them on.
  • Catch the mouse. Don’t let your computer mouse drift far away. Reduce your arm strain by keeping it within easy reach. The same goes for any frequently used item: the closer the better. Smaller movements mean less strain on your arms. 

 

  • Keep it at 90 degrees. Employees who sit with their hips, knees and ankles in a 90 degree angle have better posture and less back pain. For all you math nerds out there: slouching is not “acute.”  
  • You’ve got to move it. If you work at an office, chances are the only time you move is when the clock strikes noon. Try to break yourself away from your diligent work habits and move around at least once an hour. After all, what are water coolers for?
  • Don’t be macho. Save the heavy packages for the heavy lifters. If something looks too big to handle, call for assistance. It’s not worth the strain. If a box or package is manageable, try breaking it up: using your back and legs for support to lift the box to a chair. Then, lift the box to the table.
  • Sorry Elle Woods, no “bend and snap.” If you happen to drop something on the floor, kick back your leg in ‘golfer stance’ to maintain the “S” shape in your back. This will help prevent pulling something, or future back pain.

Jennifer works at OCH/Advantage Therapy in Springfield, Missouri and at OCH Christian County Clinic in Nixa. She received both her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Missouri State University. She has experience in inpatient, outpatient, home health and pediatric  settings. Her primary interest in physical therapy is pediatrics, specifically the 0-3 age group covering a variety of diagnoses. To contact Jennifer, call OCH/Advantage Therapy at (417) 777-4749. For more information about OCH/Advantage Therapy visit www.advantagetherapyonline.com

Six Ways to Avoid Being a Victim

Let’s face it: bad guys are out there. And statistics say one in five women are likely to be assaulted in their lifetime. Are you prepared to fight back? If not, start reading! Chuck Renner, OTR, CHT of OCH Advantage Therapy has six tips to help you keep yourself out of trouble and brush off the bad guys.

  1. Pay attention to your surroundings. You heard ’em ladies, get off the phone! The more aware you are of your surroundings, the more likely you will be able to see a potential assailant before he attacks.
  2. Stay with people, go with people. Crowds are your best friend. If you are in a public setting, you have a better chance to make a scene and escape. Remember, your attacker doesn’t want an audience.
  3. Keep a barrier between you and the bad guy. It’s one more obstacle for your attacker to have to go through. The more you have between him, the better.
  4. Attract Attention. Scream as loud as you can, for as long as you can (even if your assailant tells you not to). if you make noise, you become a burden for your attacker. Bad guys want easy, quiet targets.  
  5. Control his hips and hands. If your assailant starts to come towards you, put up your hands. Nothing fancy, just raise ’em up and hold ’em steady. This simple gesture puts a block up and prevents your attacker from getting a clear shot to your face. Plus, you can keep screaming the entire time.
  6. Use your strongest weapons against his weakest targets. Your hands, elbow and knees against his eyes, neck and groin. It’s a no-win situation if you try to fight his strength; go for the areas he can’t “train.”

OCH Employees practicing some of Chucks’ techniques during a self-defense class.

And of course, always fight like a girl! Your goal is to get away, alive. Fight enough to allow yourself a window of opportunity to escape, and then scram. If you’re out, don’t forget to let someone know where you are (if you don’t know who to call, leave yourself a message on your answering machine). Every step you take, is one more step away from being a victim!

Chuck is OCH/Advantage’s Director of therapy services. He received his Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy from the University of Kansas in 1984. He has practiced martial arts for 32 years.  In addition, Chuck is a second degree black belt in Tenshi Goju Ryu Karate and a fourth degree in Aikido. He serves as head instructor of the Springfield Aikido School. Chuck became a Certified Hand Therapist in 1991. He has certifications in these treatment techniques: Active Release Techniques, Total Motion Release, ASTYM, and Manual Lymphatic Drainage/Complete Decongestive Therapy and a level II provider of Primal Reflex Release Therapy. His professional organizations include: American Occupational Therapy Association, American Society of Hand Therapists, International Association for the Study of Pain, Past President of Southwest District Missouri Occupational Therapy Association, and The Missouri Chapter of the American Society of Hand Therapists.

10 Ways to Maximize Outdoor Play

It’s time to shed your coat (but maybe keep those rain boots around for a bit longer) and embrace the sun! Take advantage of the great weather and spend some time outdoors with your kids. Not sure what to do with your cooped-up, crazy bunch? OCH/Advantage Therapy physical therapist, Jennifer Witt has a recipe for outdoor success:try one of these 10 activities to help promote healthy growth and brain development in your kids.  

Fingers crossed, warm weather is finally gracing us with its presence! It’s that time of year when the kiddos are bouncing off the walls after being cooped up all winter, and to tell you the truth, I kind of am, too.  That can only mean one thing; time to get outside and play! Here are 10 fun and inexpensive play ideas to promote fine and gross motor skills, strength, balance, and coordination in children.

  • Get to the Park: What kid doesn’t love to go to the park? Playground equipment provides an excellent opportunity to work on strengthening with all of the climbing that has to be done.
  • Make a Hopscotch Course: Draw out a course with chalk on an asphalt or concrete surface. Have your child help draw the course to promote fine motor skills and let them “decorate” it to encourage artistic expression. Jumping is a great activity for kids and hopscotch helps with balance and coordination.
  • Videogames, What?: In today’s world of DS’s and Play Stations, a lot of kids don’t know how to have fun with out a controller. Go old school and play games like “Mother May I?,” “Red Light, Green Light,” and “Simon Says.” These are great for learning to follow directions as well as encouraging motor skills.
  • Hoola Hoop: Nothing works on coordination more than trying to spin a hoop around your waist! Mix it up a little and try have your child spin it around their arms, or for older kids, spin it around one foot while jumping over it with the other.
  • Make an Obstacle Course: You can find all kinds of things around the house to use in an obstacle course. Jump ropes, step stools, brooms, books, toys, tunnels, pillows, etc. can all be used to make an obstacle course. Incorporate activities like jumping, standing on one foot, crawling over, under, and around objects, walking on a line, even push ups and sit ups. Make it even more fun by playing follow the leader or timing how long it takes to get through.

  • Be an Artist: Encourage fine motor skills by drawing with sidewalk chalk or take a coloring book outside and have your child lay on their tummy on a blanket. Tummy time is very important for babies, but is also important for toddlers.
  • Have a Zoo in the Backyard: Ok, not really, but have your kids crawl around the backyard like different animals! Do a crab walk, bear crawl, snake slither, frog hop, bunny hop, flamingo stance, any kind of animal. Make a game out of this; yell out different animal names, hold up signs, etc.
  • Have a Ball: Ball skills are important for hand-eye coordination. Have balls of different sizes available. Throw at targets, play catch, throw into baskets, play kickball, use empty water/pop bottles as bowling pins and knock them down by rolling the ball toward them.
  • Play Tug of War: This is great for upper body strength and tons of fun for kids!
  • Have Fun and be Safe: Kids have a great imagination, if you can provide them with props and a few ideas, they will usually think of games to play on their own. Just make sure to get them up off the couch and play! As always, safety is always important, so keep a close eye on the kiddos!

Content provided by Jennifer Witt, DPT. Jennifer works at OCH/Advantage Therapy in Springfield, Missouri and at OCH Christian County Clinic in Nixa. She received both her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Missouri State University. She has experience in inpatient, outpatient, home health and pediatric settings. Her primary interest in physical therapy is pediatrics, specifically the 0-3 age group covering a variety of diagnoses. To contact Jennifer, call OCH/Advantage Therapy at (417) 777-4749. For more information about OCH/Advantage Therapy visit www.advantagetherapyonline.com

10 Tips for Digging Yourself out of Snowpocalypse 2011

Sure, the snow was pretty while you enjoyed it from the comforts of your warm home, but now it’s covering your car, your driveway and all the streets in between. Unfortunately, unless you own a snow blower or can schmooze up to a friend who does, you’re stuck digging yourself out of this mess. But before you dive headfirst into the remnants of Snowpocalypse 2011, physical therapist Jennifer Witt has some advice.

As I’m typing this, my back is sore and aching. I didn’t go to the gym for a marathon workout; I just shoveled some snow—for several hours.  Now, I’m not out of shape.  I do at least 45 minutes of cardio at the gym 5 days a week, lift weights 3 days a week, and am training for a 5K. However, with the recent snow, I haven’t been able to go to the gym, so I’ve considered shoveling my driveway my workout…and well, it’s worked.

Shoveling snow, however, comes with risk of injury. Thousands of people each year end up in emergency rooms, doctor’s offices, and therapy clinics secondary to injuring themselves during this wintery task. These can range from shoulder injuries to back strains, even heart attacks. Here are some tips to remain safe and injury-free while clearing the drive.

1.      Don’t Forget the Warm-Up

Shoveling snow should be considered a workout. Muscles need to be stretched and warmed up prior to tackling the task.  Reach up towards the sky, bend over and touch your toes, jog in place for a minute or two.

2.      No Need to Freeze–Bundle Up

Snow and cold weather go hand-in-hand. Just because you’ll be working up a sweat, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dress warmly. Hypothermia is a concern when out in the cold. Cover your ears, wear gloves, and dress in layers to insulate your body.

3.      Just Breathe

During strenuous activity, muscles require more oxygen to meet the higher demand of the task. In order to get this oxygen, you must breathe. Inhale while shoveling and exhale while dumping.

4.      Take a Little Bit at a Time

Here in the Ozarks, a lot of snow can fall in a short amount of time. There is no need to shovel all the way down to the concrete. Huge piles of snow on a shovel can weigh upwards of 10-15 pounds, which can translate to a tremendous amount of strain on your low back. Rather than tackling it all at once, take a few inches off at a time.

5.      Take Rest Breaks

There is no need to shovel the drive in one swipe.  Shovel small sections at a time and take frequent rest breaks. This not only keeps your muscles from getting fatigued too quickly, it also allows time to warm your hands.

6.      Push It

Who ever said that shoveling snow means you have to lift it? If at all possible, push the snow out of the way with the shovel.  If this is not an option, push what you can and shovel the rest.

7.      Don’t Twist and Turn, Your Back Might Burn

As with any time you are lifting a heavy load, twisting at the low back should be avoided at all costs in order to protect the low back from unnecessary strain and prevent injury. Instead of twisting to throw the snow over to the side, pivot with your feet in that direction, or take a couple of extra seconds to walk over to the snow pile.

8.      Keep That Load Close

It is very important when lifting anything, to keep the load close to your body. The further away the load is from your body, the further away your center of gravity is, which significantly increases the strain on your arms, and more importantly, your low back.

9.      Use Those Legs

You’ve heard it a million times…DON’T LIFT WITH YOUR BACK! The muscles of the buttocks and legs are much larger and stronger than those in your back. You know if you are using your legs if you are able keep a neutral spine, i.e., keeping an “S” shaped curve, not a “C” shape.

10.   When Hearts Attack

Heart attacks are a very real concern when shoveling snow. This activity is a genuine cardiovascular workout and can put too much stress on the heart, especially for people who have underlying cardiac problems.  The best thing to do if you are concerned about your cardiac health is to delegate snow shoveling to someone else. Even if you have to pay, it’s much cheaper than the expense of a hospital stay.

KNOW THE WARNING SIGNS OF A HEART ATTACK

  • Any form of chest discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain or discomfort in the upper back, either arm (especially left), or jaw
  • IF YOU EXPERIENCE ANY OF THESE SYMPTOMS WHILE SHOVELING SNOW, PLEASE STOP AND CALL 911 OR GET TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM IMMEDIATELY.

In short, be smart about what you are doing. You know your own body and what it can handle, so respond accordingly.  Happy shoveling!

 Content provided by Jennifer Witt, DPT. Jennifer works at OCH Christian County Clinic in Nixa. She received both her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Missouri State University. She has experience in inpatient, outpatient, home health and pediatric settings. Her primary interest in physical therapy is pediatrics, specifically the 0-3 age group covering a variety of diagnoses. To contact Jennifer, call (417) 725-8250.