Tag Archive for: bonesmart pilates

One of the most significant changes to the landscape of our work environment has been the direct result of the COVID 19 pandemic. A study published in the International Journal of Exercise Science found that people are sitting an additional 7.8 hours per week – since the pandemic started. More people than ever in history are now working from home even after restrictions were lifted. Working at home involves many challenges, including protecting your spine while hunched over a laptop or scrunched on the couch. Fortunately, there are many ways to protect your back and your productivity. Support spine health while you work with these tips from BoneSmart Pilates.

Take Steps to Reduce Stress

Stress can wreak havoc on your life, but it can also make chronic pain more challenging to manage Stanford Medicine points out that easing stress will reduce pain, so taking steps to de-stress is worth the effort. Eliminating work-related stress starts with creating a comforting and inviting home office space. De-stress your workspace by cleaning up clutter, storing scattered paper records, and adding natural lighting. Having a space that is clean and organized supports clear thinking and productivity.

Take Walks to Reduce Stress Further

Step away from your computer or to-do list at lunch or quitting time. Taking a walk is a great way to relax and clear your head. If you have a pet, it’s an even better reason to keep you and your buddy healthy and your bonds strong. Consult a Walk Score map of your community or the area near your office to find the best walking spots.

Though your work setting is one factor that creates stress, getting enough sleep, exercising like the walks I mentioned, and mental stimulation are also critical.

 

 

Work on Proper Posture

Protecting your spinal health means more than avoiding injury; maintaining proper working posture protects your back.  For good posture, stand tall with your shoulders positioned back and down in a relaxed manner and your chin parallel to the floor. While seated, aim for a 90-degree bend at your knees and elbows with your spine long and straight.  A healthy spine position reduces strain on your muscles and joints and can even make you appear taller and more confident.

 

 

 

 

Make a Reminder Poster

Using a free online tool to design a poster or vision board, like the one I created above, is a fun and effective way to remind yourself of good postural habits and practices.

These tools offer a range of templates you can customize to suit your preferences, allowing you to add your own text and photos. You could include tips for maintaining proper posture while sitting or standing, exercises to strengthen posture-supporting muscles, or even inspirational quotes to encourage mindfulness about body alignment. Place the poster in a prominent spot where you spend much of your time, like your workspace or living area. This visual cue reminds you to adjust your posture, cultivate healthier habits, and reduce the risk of discomfort or strain.

Invest in Creative Furniture

If your current office setup is not conducive to good posture, consider changing things up. An ergonomic chair, or even a desk with adjustable height, can make a world of difference for your seated posture. Many work-at-home professionals swear by standing desks. My son even installed his own. This could help you avoid the effects of “soft tissue creep” that occurs with sitting for prolonged periods in a slumped posture.

Try sitting on a physioball as an alternative to a chair. It promotes movement and better posture, which is great for your spine. It’s also easy to shift forward and drape back over the ball to relieve back strain, as seen
in this stretch here.

Perform Spine-Safe Exercises

Strengthening your spine is one way to improve posture and prevent back pain. Dr. Stuart McGill is a renowned Canadian spine expert who has developed the Big 3 top exercises to prevent back pain, which I demonstrate in this video. I look forward to advancing my spine assessment skills by immersing myself in coursework with him this spring!

Other activities that strengthen your core muscles can also minimize pain. Swimming and cycling are excellent examples of low-impact exercise that is spine-safe and healthy; however, if your goal is improving bone density, don’t let swimming or cycling be your primary choice. They don’t build bone.  Walking and hiking are excellent options for building strength, maintaining or building bone density, and promoting healthy circulation. Practicing BoneSmart Pilates can improve your strength, mobility, posture, balance, and bone density while relieving chronic stress and tension.

Enjoy Regular Movement Snacks

Our bodies crave movement. One of the worst things we can do to our body is sit unmoving for prolonged periods. Something known as “Soft tissue creep” occurs. That’s when our connective tissue reshapes and adapts to that cashew posture position you’ve been adopting. The body erroneously thinks it needs to “stabilize” you in this new faulty posture by adapting and reorganizing connective tissue.  Studies show that “movement snacks” – bite-sized spurts of exercise throughout the day – can be just as effective as lengthy sweat banquets.

 

In addition to reducing your risk of health complications, consider these perks:

  • Better sleep
  • Bursts of mood-enhancing endorphins such as dopamine and serotonin
  • Increased longevity
  • Clearer thinking, learning, and judgment

To prevent prolonged sitting, set a reminder on your computer every half hour and enjoy a regular 5-minute movement break.  Even hourly will help!

What should you do?  Play a favorite song and dance like no one’s watching.  Do some squats, heel raises, or counter push-ups.

Enjoy a BoneSmart Burst™, a 5-10 minute curated movement snack, easy to incorporate into your day, that’s bone-safe, and will help prevent you from getting the dreaded Dowager’s hump, that exaggerated rounding in the upper back.

 

Seek Care for a Better Back

Severe back pain can impact your ability to work, no matter how many precautions you take or adjustments you make to your work-at-home routine. Be sure to seek medical guidance if your back pain doesn’t resolve. We want to rule out any underlying causes that might manifest as back pain.

Healthy Back for Life

Spine health is serious business. If you work from home, especially if you sit for long periods, you must take care of your back. Use the tips I’ve shared today to help your back remain mobile and healthy throughout your life.

 

In the comments section below, let me know which tips made a difference for you!

Do you have some tips that I haven’t mentioned?  Please share!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Depending on where you live the summer heat may be approaching or is already at its height. Staying active becomes a challenge, especially for people over 50. Exercising in hot weather requires additional precautions to ensure your safety.

My aim is to provide a comprehensive guide for my BoneSmarties over 50, offering tips and strategies for staying fit while minimizing the risk of heat-related illnesses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Stay Hydrated:     Hydration is crucial when exercising in hot weather, as your body loses water through perspiration. Older adults are more susceptible to dehydration due to decreased thirst sensation. To combat this, it’s essential to drink water before, during, and after physical activity. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages, as they can contribute to dehydration. Carry a water bottle with you and sip regularly to maintain proper hydration levels.  Consider infusing your  water with electrolytes or swap out for a sports drink.  Electrolytes help you replenish minerals  lost through sweat. That’s why water alone is not enough if you’re exercising outdoors in the heat.

  2. Time Your Workouts:    When the sun is at its peak, typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the heat is most intense. It’s advisable to plan your workouts during the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening. This reduces exposure to extreme heat and minimizes the risk of heat exhaustion or heatstroke.
  3. Dress Appropriately:    Wearing the right clothing can make a significant difference in staying cool during exercise. Opt for lightweight, breathable fabrics that allow air circulation and aid in moisture-wicking. Loose-fitting clothing in light colors reflects sunlight and helps in maintaining a comfortable body temperature. Additionally, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses protects against the sun’s harmful rays and reduces heat-related discomfort.
  4. Protect Your Skin:   Exercising outdoors increases exposure to harmful UV radiation. Individuals over 50 are particularly vulnerable to sunburn and skin damage. Choose a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher with broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or more frequently if sweating excessively. Seeking shade when possible or exercising under tree cover can provide additional protection from direct sunlight.

    You should always wear sunscreen when you go outside, but you should be even more diligent about it if you plan on being out during peak hours.

     

  5. Check the thermostat and your ceiling fans:  Most gyms/health clubs set their thermostats so the air conditioner runs often and keeps the humidity (and sweat) out of the air!    If you have your home A/C set to an economical setting, and you’re doing a high intensity class like HIIT – you may want to make sure your ceiling fans are on and lower your AC for the time it takes you to do a class.

Some people are either or people. I believe both have benefits for improving bone health.

When you add resistance to your routine, your muscles release calcium, magnesium, and other minerals that strengthen your bones. Your muscles don’t know whether the resistance comes from bands or weights.  Whatever you are more prone actually to do, that is the mode of choice. If you dislike weights, go for bands.
I personally like mixing things up.

Here’s the thing, though, you need to really challenge yourself for change to occur.

With resistance training, it’s too light if you can breeze through 20 reps of an overhead press. You’re building endurance, not strength. You should feel “worked” after 10-12 reps at a given resistance (whether it be weights or bands) with excellent alignment and good breathing technique.

I tell Pilates teachers to load up the springs on the Reformer for leg work for their clients with osteoporosis. If the springs aren’t heavy enough, they won’t gain strength or bone. (of course, ensuring proper form)

The other thing to remember is that your bone health is not only a reflection of your exercise. It’s also a function of your nutrition, supplementation, daily activities, or lack of…it’s difficult to tease out.

I believe your best shot at optimal bone health is doing weight-bearing resistance and impact exercises, dancing, walking/hiking, sports you enjoy AND also addressing other factors in your life that support bone health. When appropriate, medications may be the right choice.

Most people want a multifactorial approach to their bone health. I get that. In many ways, we are our own laboratory.

I want to share this interesting study from researchers at the U. of Oregon demonstrating how training with resistance bands increases bone mineral density.

“It is sometimes difficult for sedentary people to change their habits, and going to a gym would be more difficult. But elastic bands offer an interesting alternative since they allow enough intensity to stimulate bone mass, and a multitude of exercises are possible. Regular practice of 2 weekly sessions involving work on the main muscle groups of the body will increase bone mineral density.”  Here’s the research study

 

 

Amy SmileyAmy Smiley, Age 62

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOU

I spent most of my life in California, with a short stint in Sweden in the 1970s. My degrees are in Chemical Engineering and I worked in the biotech industry once I got out of graduate school. I loved working in such a new field at the time. As the family grew, I decided to quit my paid job and stay home with the children. As time went on I realized I needed a creative outlet and took up Plein air painting (with the same fantastic friend who introduced me to Teresa’s classes!). After my family and friends, I love the outdoors, science, gardening, and art.

WHEN DID YOU BEGIN SESSIONS WITH TERESA?

I started classes with Teresa in 2012 and have continued with them ever since. Teresa’s Pilates classes are a priority for me because of the physical and mental benefits they provide. I have celiac disease, which causes any number of inflammatory problems and Teresa’s classes are essential to my ability to manage those issues. When something has to fall off my plate it won’t be Teresa’s class!

 

WHAT MOVEMENT OR PRINCIPLE HAS HELPED YOU THE MOST?

I’d like to choose just one movement or body dynamic principle that I learned from Teresa that has helped me but there are too many!  From ribs down to soup bowl to lifting your toes…I am always learning something new, even ten years later.  I think, for myself, as I continue to become more body aware, I continue to learn in each class.  And, as new issues develop as the years march on, I discover new fixes for them.  Everything that I have learned from Teresa applies not only in class but in other activities and my daily movement.  Not to mention that Teresa is so gracious with her time whenever anyone has a question about alignment or movement difficulties.  She always takes time to answer any questions and I learn from my questions and those of others.  What a fantastic tool!

 

Amy Smiley Testimonial for Aging Strong Pilates

WHAT WERE THE EFFECTS OF THE PANDEMIC ON YOUR MOVEMENT PRACTICE?

At the beginning of the pandemic, I dropped the gym and in-person classes.  Although we stayed active, I really missed the benefit and connection of group exercise classes.  I worried about how well I would maintain mobility and strength without the motivation and guidance that Teresa provides.  When Teresa opened her remote classes I jumped right in and was so grateful! Now that some degree of normalcy is returning, having the option of in-person and virtual classes is even better than before.

I absolutely love the energy and camaraderie in the in-person classes.  They are a tonic for the soul.  I can’t think of a single class where I haven’t had a good laugh for one reason or another.  I missed that tremendously until in-person became available again.  But it’s also great to have access to the class online if I can’t make it in person and to have the videos afterward.

 

Have you found navigating my online booking system challenging?
I created these short video tutorials to make everything easy peasy, crystal clear!
  1. First view the “Overview for All” before clicking the video for the category of class that interests you.
  2. Bookmark my scheduling home page BoneSmartPilates.as.me for easy access
  3. If you prefer using mobile devices, download the free app “Acuity Scheduling Client” from the App store. My sisters find it easy to navigate.
  4. Always Log In whenever you’re on the site. If  you haven’t created an account you can Create an Account Here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With over 80 active participants from several countries this virtual event was a resounding success!  Thanks to your support, we collectively raised $1,625 to benefit the national organization American Bone Health, a nonprofit that I’ve volunteered with for the last 8 years to increase community bone health awareness and fracture prevention.

It is with gratitude that I express to you my thanks for showing up, being engaged, and asking thought-provoking questions!

Two questions from the chat that I wanted to answer here are:

1) Is walking considered a bone-building exercise?
2) Should I use a weighted vest?

1)  Walking is not considered bone-building exercise but it is great for your heart if you keep up a good pace.   It’s also good for osteoporosis in terms of bone maintenance, helping to prevent further bone loss. So keep walking and if you can add hills and vary speed-even better. Keep in mind that we experience about 0.5-1.0% of bone loss yearly. The rate of loss due to menopause can jump to a 2-5% loss those 5-6 years post-menopause due to the dramatic drop in estrogen.  If your T score remains the same over time that’s a good thing, you’re preventing loss as what you’re doing is offsetting the natural 0.5-1% yearly loss.

(Palombaro KM. “Effects of walking-only interventions on bone mineral density at various skeletal sites: a meta-analysis.” J Geriatr Phys Ther. 2005;28(3):102-7.)

 

2) A lot of people with osteoporosis ask about using weighted vests. Some designs are not suitable for those with osteoporosis including ones where the vest sits on the shoulders with the majority of weight in the upper trunk. This can put undue downward pressure on the spine promoting hyperkyphosis (an exaggerated rounding of the upper back) that puts the spine at risk of increased fracture.  Weighted vests should not be used by those with hyperkyphosis or spine fractures.If you are cleared by your healthcare practitioner to use a vest, make sure the vest has a snug fit, is weighted throughout the trunk with the majority of weight close to your hips. Start with a small amount of weight and make sure to use the spine sparing hip hinging technique we practiced in my Osteoporosis Do’s and Don’ts Workshop to avoid rounding your spine.Weighted vests with lunges, squats, step-ups, side lunges and small jumps 3x per week build bone in the hip according to Christine Snow’s bone research lab at Oregon State University.

 

(Long-term Exercise Using Weighted Vests Prevents Hip Bone Loss in Postmenopausal Women by Christine M. Snow, Janet M. Shaw, Kerri M. Winters, and Kara A. Witzke Journal of Gerontology: 2000, Vol. 55A, No. 9, M489-M491)

While there are no definitive studies on how much weight a vest should have, experts recommend anywhere from five to ten percent of a person’s body weight. This recommendation is based on studies on maximum weight allowances for backpacks. Too much weight can result in injury.

Back extension exercises are great for the spine.   

Remember that back extension exercises (lying on your belly lifting your chest and head slightly, improve the strength of the muscles in your spine and don’t carry the risks of a weighted vest. The pull of the muscles on the bone stimulates bone growth. A study by Dr. Sinaki from the Mayo clinic showed fewer fractures even 10 years after the study in the group that did back extension exercises vs the control group.

 

(Sinaki, M, et al. 2002. “Stronger back muscles reduce the incidence of vertebral fractures: A prospective 10-year follow-up of postmenopausal women.” Bone, 30 (6), 836-41.)

 

(Sinaki, M., et al. 1996. “Can strong back extensors prevent vertebral fractures in women with osteoporosis?” Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 71 (10), 951-56.)

 

Penny Eckert

I have a passion for helping people to age strong. That goal can only go so far if there isn’t follow through by the participant during the hours and days that occur outside of class. Penny (Penelope) Eckert is a distinguished linguistics professor at Stanford where she first took a class with me over a decade ago, then later with private lessons at my Mountain View studio.

What impresses me most about Penny is her commitment to her health and her drive and determination to apply the principles and exercises we work on in class, into her daily routine. She’s one of the clients who I design home programs for who actually follows through and does them. Because of her tenacity, she’s overcome various physical obstacles and I’m proud to say she is a great example of someone who is aging strong.

The following is an interview with Penny.

What’s your line of work?
I’m a professor of Linguistics at Stanford University.

What inspired you to try Pilates? 
I was having back pain and I’d been reading about Pilates. Then I sat next to a woman on a plane who did Pilates and raved about it, so …. I signed up for a Pilates class at Stanford. My back pain was gone by the end of the quarter. Then I signed up for a class with Teresa and it was a revelation. Her classes were an amazing workout and her eagle eye made sure every move was precise. I swear she can see under my clothes. I’ve been addicted to Pilates with Teresa now for fourteen years.

What was an AHA moment you had in Pilates?
I think the biggest AHA moment was when I realized I was in charge of my body, and that I knew what to do at every moment to keep it strong. 

What are the most potent movement principles that you apply to your daily life?
The key to well-being is making sure my core feels strong before I leave the house in the morning, reminding myself to sit and stand tall and relaxed (the key to keeping my shoulders down and released) throughout the day, and striding rather than walking in little steps. 

Which is your most challenging exercise and why?
At the moment my most challenging exercise is your Standing Clocking exercise.  It’s challenging because I seem to have pretty lousy balance but I love it. But then … the Iliotibial band stretch is challenging because It hurts and I HATE it!

Which is your favorite exercise and why?
Since the classic hundreds is not safe for me to do anymore, I enjoy the modified standing hundreds because it warms me up and gets my core firing.  I also love just about anything on the reformer and TRX. 

What is your greatest physical challenge and how have you addressed it?
My back pain came from a messy spine, and I’ve had two spinal fusions since I began Pilates. My surgeon told me that the success of such surgeries depends on the patient’s preceding physical condition, and there’s no question that having a strong core has made all the difference for me. My recovery was fast and once the fusion was complete, I went back to Pilates rather than doing regular physical therapy. I’m six months out from my second surgery and my back feels amazingly strong. 

What improvements and benefits have you noticed during your life outside of class?
I feel much stronger, balanced, and centered. I stand and walk taller. I’m pain free.

I was excited to present my workshop, Aging Strong Pilates® to Pilates instructors from around the world at the annual Pilates Method Alliance (PMA) Conference last week in Las Vegas. This is THE big Pilates event for instructors worldwide. I’ve had the honor of presenting my work at this conference over the last 7 years AND I’ve also enjoyed the opportunity to learn from other colleagues in the field and share their insights and knowledge with my clients.

In this short video clip, I’m teaching Dennison Laterality Repatterning, also known as Cross Crawl from Brain Gym® which draws on movement patterns learned in early life. This sequence integrates right and left hemispheres of your brain as it improves neuroplasticity (building new neural connections which we now know occurs across our lifespan), coordination, posture, core strength, hip and leg strength, and balance! Give it a try both fast and slow. Performed slowly it mirrors the qualities of Tai Chi. Peter Wayne, an associate professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School found that “across multiple studies, Tai chi appears to reduce the risk of falling by 20 to 45 percent and is considered one of the best exercises available for ambulatory older adults with balance concerns”.  For that reason,  I integrate this technique into all my Aging Strong Pilates classes.

For those reading this blog that attended my workshop, thank you for being so open, curious and engaged!  One question I received was why I use ½ tennis balls rather than a full round tennis ball, for the initial phase of myofascial release of the feet. Here’s my reasoning.  First, it’s more malleable and has more compressive give, which is helpful for those with sensitive feet or minimal fat pads on the balls of their feet, a common by-product of aging.  The second, and even more critical reason is that you could trip and fall on a round ball!  According to the National Council on Aging, people over 65 have a 25% risk of falling. For that reason, introducing a fall hazard like a round small ball would be a poor choice to have underfoot, particularly in a group class.

I welcome any questions you still might have that we didn’t get to. I’d also love to hear what components of the workshop resonated for you as a teacher and also what didn’t work. Please share below or email me.

For my dedicated clients/students at Stanford Univ, El Camino Hospital, private clients and BoneSmart Pilates® DVD users, I shared with the delegates the results of what you told me was important for you as an active ager in a Pilates class. The essential elements you shared included:

  • Safety (both physical and emotional)
  • Avoiding pain (use modifications, remain within pain-free ranges)
  • Humor
  • Music for the standing portion of class and for our closing meditation
  • Alignment corrections (it was important to you that you are seen and matter)
  • The use of vivid imagery
  • Branding: don’t ever call it a class for “seniors” or the “elderly” as that’s definitely an attendance deterrent.

Upon reading this, if there are other factors that you feel are important to be included in the survey results that are missing above, please comment below or email me. I’d love to know so I can include your input in future presentations.

Finally, I’ve had the opportunity to really explore for myself, what is at the core of my Aging Strong Pilates class, what makes it unique and why do I love teaching it so much? It hit me like a brick. Having a special needs daughter with autism has opened my eyes in wonderful ways, to the necessity of inclusion and connection and to the pure joy that comes with unselfconscious movement. I realize that my relationship with her is what informs really everything I do and who I am. It is at the core of my instructional focus on connection, acceptance, my integration of techniques that promote neuroplasticity, my use of inclusive circle formations for much of our standing work and at times, if I happen to have a small class, I even configure our mats like spokes on a wheel so we can all see and be connected with one another.

I’m blessed with my 19 y/o daughter who experiences life with unbounded childlike energy and joy. She is kind, does not understand the meaning of evil or a lie and is the essence of total innocence and love. Her existence makes the world a brighter place and the people she meets, kinder, better people. So I wanted to end with deep gratitude during this season of gratitude, for my special daughter Katelyn, my Thanksgiving gift, born on Thanksgiving Day, 1998.

Get rid of flabby upper arms with this toning exercise that also includes core strengthening, balance and a stretch for your pecs/front of shoulders! Presented by Teresa Maldonado Marchok, licensed physical therapist, PMA certified Pilates teacher and creator of the BoneSmart Pilates® method and DVD series. You can purchase the door anchor and resistance bands on our site www.BoneSmartPilates.com under the pull-down menu “Shop”, then select “PROPS”. Subscribe to our channel for more free videos and the latest updates!

 

In response to requests for streaming of my DVD’s, I am so excited to share that we have just launched our streaming offering of all 3 BoneSmart Pilates DVD’s!