Woman doing bridge

Add These Bodyweight Exercises To Your Routine

If you are a stunt enthusiast, you may have seen 25- year- old Scott Walker execute a handstand complete with leg extension on the edge of a 40 -foot high -rise in Shanghai without the use of a harness of safety gear. Likewise for the unnamed, but in no way less impressive YouTube star who demonstrated his skills by supporting his body weight with one hand on the edge of a Hong Kong skyscraper or perhaps you viewed the daring young man who showed off his penchant for body curls from a pole located 65 stories above the ground.

Body weight exercises are often celebrated for their ability to be done almost anywhere without the use of equipment. However, some take the interpretation of anywhere more literally than others. If you are one of the many who prefer your workout a little more down to earth, here are some exercises you can add to your routine without the risk of vertigo.

Bridge
Start in a sit -up position with hands behind the ears. Place palms downward with fingers pointed toward the legs. Push with the back and arm muscles until the body forms a lowercase ‘n’ shape with the spine convex and the limbs straight. You can increase the difficulty by entering the exercise from a standing position and gradually bending backward into the bridge.

4-Count Bodybuilder
Count 1: Drop to a squat from a standing position. Place hands on the floor. Count 2: Thrust legs back into push up position. Count 3: Return legs to squat position. Count 4: Return to standing position.

Woman doing seated dip

Seated Dip
Begin with feet on the floor, legs outstretched and hands placed on a level surface between waist and knee height. Straighten arms with shoulders above the hands and then lower the body until the arms are bent at a 90 -degree angle. Raise body into starting position.

L-sit
Sit in L- position, with the upper body perpendicular to the ground and the legs out straight and parallel to the ground. Place the hands beside the gluteus. Then use the arms and hands to push the entire body, legs included, upwards off the ground with the legs remaining parallel, creating isometric tension.

Lunge
Stand on a flat surface. Step forward with one leg and bend down until the knee is bent at a 90-degree angle. Bend the back knee so that it almost touches the ground. Return to the starting position by pushing back with front leg and stepping back to bring both feet together.

Rocking Chair
Begin in fully extended plank or push up position. Push body forward six to ten inches, keeping arms straight and then returning to the starting position.

Woman doing lunges outdoors

Shove Offs
Stand in front of an elevated surface with a ledge sturdy enough to bear your weight. Tilt your body forward with your hands and arms extended, holding your back and legs straight. Allow your body to continue to fall forward until you catch your weight on the elevated surface with your palms down and arms bent. Extend arms to push body into upright position.

Dive bomber
Place feet on ground a few inches apart, holding legs straight. Bend over at the waist, placing hands on the ground a few feet in front of the toes so that body forms an inverted ‘v.’ Swing chest and shoulders down in an arc so the chest almost touches the ground. The shoulders and head should be curved in as high an arc as possible, fully arching back, keeping head face forward with pelvis a few inches off the ground. Reverse the motion with shoulders and chest moving through the hands until the body is back at its starting point with arms in line with the back.

What body weight exercises do you do in unusual, or not so unusual places? Let us know how you stay in such great shape. We want to know!

Woman measuring her dress size

What It Takes To Drop Two Dress Sizes

You just got an invite to your high school reunion. Great, right? You’ve stayed chummy with all your old friends through social media; now you’ll get some time to catch up face to face. There’s only one problem. The picture on your Facebook page is about two years old and you’ve gone up about two dress sizes since you took it. What are you going to do? You can’t possibly show up looking like you spent the last ten years channel surfing with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s! You need to drop two dress sizes and you need to start now! What can you do?
Well, Khloe Kardashian did it, Jennifer Hudson did it, and Oprah Winfrey did it, several times! Here’s what you need to do to drop two dress sizes in a few weeks time.

Eating
Leading naturopath Max Tomlinson says, “You need to be clever with your diet to see optimum results, especially within a relatively short time frame. Crash dieting or starvation will only lead to weight gain down the line,” These are some of the suggestions Max recommends:

Eat Regularly
If you skip meals, your body will store the food you eat rather than burning it as a source of energy. Regular eating will kick start your metabolism and help you lose weight. Breakfast is the most important meal for raising metabolic rate and ensuring that the body uses food effectively for the remainder of the day.

Control Portions
Try to reduce food intake by 45 percent. Try to consume 1,000 calories per day to lose weight without slowing metabolism.

What to Eat
Avoid empty calories and make sure to eat food that is nutrient rich. Plan a menu consisting of foods such as organic fish, eggs, poultry, lean meat, brown rice, quinoa and oats. Satisfy the RDA with two servings of fruit and three of vegetables, sticking to leafy greens and avoiding peas and sugar rich roots vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes.

What Not to Eat
Steer clear of junk food and saturated fats. Restrict dairy intake, or cut it out completely, and replace it with goat milk and soy cheese. Limit treats like cakes and chips and don’t drink too many fluids. Many people up their liquid intake when they diet, but water can be taxing on your kidneys causing poor digestion and bloating.

Training
Tomlinson says, “When you diet without exercise, at least half of your weight comes for lean body mass. (muscle and non-fat tissue.) This slows your metabolism, setting you up for weight regain as soon as you increase your food intake.” Here’s one of the exercises Tomlinson suggests for his celebrity clientele.

Pile Squats
Stand with your feet a hip-width apart with your feet turned out holding dumbbells in each hand with your palms facing inward. Put your weight on your heals and squat, curling arms to your shoulders and keeping your elbows tucked in. Hold squat, and push your arms up, locking your elbows. Lower arms and come out of squat. Repeat 20-30 times.

Let us know your tips for keeping slim and, if you ever dropped a dress size or two, we’d love to hear how you did it! Let us know!

Woman meditating on the beach

What To Expect From A Transcendental Meditation Course

In the 1960’s an endorsement by the Beatles was priceless. Anything the Fab Four did was sure to be imitated by thousands of young adults around the country, becoming an overnight sensation. In the 1990’s the same could be said of Oprah Winfrey. The daytime talk show host was said to have the “Midas Touch” when something earned her approval, taking the virtually unknown into superstar status. So, what happens to something that gets the thumbs up from both Oprah and the Beatles?

When the Beatles first sat down with the Maharishi in India in the 1960’s, Western attitudes about Indian spirituality would be forever changed. Since then, celebrities and common folk alike have been seeking the comfort of transcendental meditation. If you are pondering taking up a transcendental meditation course, here is a little of what you can expect.

What is Transcendental Meditation?
The transcendental Meditation technique, or ™ is a form of mantra meditation devised by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It involves using a mantra and should be practice 15 to 20 minutes a day. and is one of the most commonly practiced and researched meditation techniques rooted in Hinduism and considered a religious practice toward self development

Practice
The Maharishi believed “bubbles of thought are produced in a stream one after another” and transcendental meditation involved experiencing “a proper thought until its subtlest state is experienced and transcended. Practices include “unstressing” and teachers will instruct students to ignore random thoughts and “attend” to a mantra.

Mantra
Transcendental meditation consists of repeating a mantra while sitting with closed eyes and without assuming a yoga position. The mantra is known as a vehicle which frees the attention of the individual, allowing him or her to travel to a less active state of mental function.

Course Description
The technique is taught in a seven- step- course in a six -day period. It is taught in private or group instruction by a certified teacher. It begins with a one hour introductory lecture which discusses social relationships, health, and the promotion of inner and outer peace. The next part consists of a 45 minute preparatory lecture discussing the transcendental practice and its origins. During the third step, a private interview takes place in which the student and teacher get acquainted and questions can be asked and answered.

The next day, the student begin his first of three 90 to 120 minute teaching sessions. It occurs in a group setting and provides information about correct meditational practice for the individual student based on personal experience. On the third day, the focus is on development of higher stages of human consciousness, outlining the potential of mental growth. Meditators new to the program attend follow up classes to make sure they are practicing properly and to provide a chance for one on one contact with the teacher.

Is transcendental meditation for you? Let us know what you think? Could Oprah and the Beatles have it wrong?

Happy optimistic woman

Optimism, Health, and Longevity

“There are only two things I love in this world: everybody and television.” This is a quote from Kenneth Parcell, the character played by Jack McBrayer on “30 Rock.” Every TV sitcom has its optimist. The against- the -odds type who insist on seeing the good side of every situation. On “Modern Family”, it’s Phil Dunphy, the lovable, if naive, father who says, “When life gives you lemonade, make lemons. Life will be all like ‘what?!'” Then there’s Ellie Kemper’s character who plays Erin on “The Office” who thinks disposable cameras are meant to be thrown out before the film is developed and throws the camera in the bin with a smile on her face. Laugh at them though we might, it seems like these charmingly oblivious characters may be on to something. A longer life.

Optimism and Longevity
Researchers at Harvard University have found that a having a highly optimistic outlook may lead to a reduced risk of an early death from heart disease, stroke, and cancer. According to co-author Eric Kim, there are three possible explanations for the connection. ‘The first is that optimistic people just tend to act in healthier ways and there are a lot of studies showing that optimists eat healthier, they exercise more,” said Kim.

Another theory has to do with coping abilities. Optimists tend to accept disagreeable circumstances more easily and adapt accordingly. They are also more likely to seek support from friends and family.

The third, and perhaps most interesting, reason is that optimism has a direct impact on biological function and is associated with more antioxidants and less inflammation. The 2004 Nurses’ Health study measured the optimism level of 70,000 women by asking them questions about subjects including expectations, relaxation, and social activities. They found that the more optimistic ladies had an almost 30% lower risk of death from major diseases than the other women.

Can We Control It?
Researchers say that about 25% of our optimism is genetic and the rest is up to us. Kim says, “Some of it is within our control; some is not…” and, “some people just don’t want to be more optimistic-its a preference and I think we should respect that. I don’t think we should push it upon people.”

Increasing Optimism
If you are sworn to cynicism, you are not alone. After all, we all identified with Garbage singer Shirley Manson when she crooned about only being “happy when it rains.” However, if you want to take a page from the books of the Phil Dunphys among us, here are some ways to keep optimism in the forefront.

  1. Take some time before going to bed to think about everything you have to be grateful for.
  2. Keep a list of the kind acts you’ve performed.
  3. Separate the different aspects of your life; friends, family, job, relationship and jot down your version of the best expectations you have from each of them.
  4. Spend 20 minutes a day imagining what your life would look like if all these aspects lived up to those expectations.

If you are a real life optimist, we would love to know how you do it. Please send input and advice! We love to hear from you!

Woman sleeping

Addressing Chronic Sleep Problems

Staying awake all night. It’s been glamorized in rock and roll, pop, hip hop, rap and every other sort of music in between. Doing the walk of shame, showing up bleary-eyed to work the next day, all proudly displayed badges of honor for surviving a night worthy of the wildest of wild men and women throughout the course of history. But if you’re getting the morning after feeling without the experience of the night before, it may be worth taking a closer look.

Sure, staying up all night can be great and looking and feeling unwell may be par for the course after a night of fun, but not if a good night’s sleep was intended. If you are finding yourself suffering from sleep trouble, don’t just shrug it off; it may be a symptom of a medical sleep disorder and treatment may be available.

Sleep Problems
First, it should be acknowledged that there is a distinction between the terms “sleep problem” and “sleep disorder” Sleep problems are often the result of bad habits, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, eating a large meal or exercising heavily before bed. Sleep can also be disturbed by environmental factors such as psychological stress, or jet lag. These problems can usually be solved by eliminating the causes. However, sleep disorders fall under a separate category and usually require medical treatment.

Sleep Disorders

Apnea
Sleep apnea is characterized by an actual cessation of breathing for periods of a few seconds, followed by gasping for air. The sufferer may not be aware of anything unusual occurring until he or
she wakes up feeling hungover with a dry mouth or headache. These symptoms may be accompanied by loss of memory, concentration, and focus. Sleep apnea affects about 7% of the population and is a risk factor for high blood pressure

Treatment
Continuous positive airway pressure CPAP is the most common treatment for sleep apnea. It consists of a face mask or nasal plug which blows air into the nasal passages, allowing air to flow freely.

Surgery
Surgeries can be performed to open the airway be removing tissues that obstruct it, such as tonsils or nasal polyps. However, these are not without risk and the side effects and outcomes can be unpredictable.

Nonspecific Therapy
This addresses behavioral aspects which may be responsible for sleep apnea. Nonspecific therapy commonly involves weight loss, the avoidance of medicine, and adjustment of sleeping position.

Restless Leg syndrome
Restless leg syndrome affects about 15% of the population. It is characterized by a “pins and needles feeling” in the legs causing an irresistible urge to move the legs to relieve the feeling. RLS makes falling asleep difficult and may also force the sufferer out of sleep. People with RLS may also suffer from periodic limb movement disorder characterized by repetitive muscle twitches or jerking movements in the toes, knees, or hips. RLS and PLMD have both been associated with other medical conditions, such as anemia.

Treatment
When it comes to treatment of RLS, medications are usually recommended. The three classes include: dopaminergic agents, which produce dopamine in the brain, benzodiazepines, and opioids.

Narcolepsy
Narcolepsy is usually indicated by the tendency to fall asleep spontaneously. It is often linked to cataplexy, a sudden weakness brought on by laughter, or intense feelings, sleep paralysis, a situation in which one is half awake and unable to move, and hypnagogic hallucinations, which are intense dreams at the end of sleep. Narcoleptics may also engage in automatic behavior, in which they perform routine tasks without later memory.

Treatment
Behavioral treatment for narcolepsy includes avoiding heavy meals and alcohol, and shift work and making sure nighttime sleep and naps are regularly timed. Medications usually consist of stimulants to increase alertness and antidepressants.

Do you think your suffering from a sleep disorder? If you do, you may not have to deal with it. Go see a medical expert and explore your options. Let us know how it went.

Woman working at desk

The Downside Of A Desk Job

For artistic Gen Xers, the desk job was the ultimate sign of failure. The death sentence. Rebellious rock and rollers and artists would claim that suicide was preferential, much to the dismay of their concerned parents. If those Gen Xers know how dangerous desk jobs were, they might have been more kindly disposed toward them.

You may have heard the currently circulating slogan, “Sitting is the new smoking.” Suddenly, every activity associated with excessive sitting, desk jobs included is labeled as not only unhealthy, but also dangerous. Rebellious Gen Xers may have a legitimate excuse! However, if you consider the new mantra, a little bit of an over exaggeration, judge for yourself.

Side effects of sitting for an extensive time period may include:

Organ Damage

Heart Disease
While you are sitting, your muscles are burning less fat and blood flow is slowing down, allowing fatty acids to clog the heart. Sitting too long can cause high cholesterol and blood pressure and chronic sitters are twice as likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease than more active people.

Over-productive Pancreas
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that carries glucose to cells, providing them with energy. When cells are idle, they don’t respond as well to insulin, causing the pancreas to produce more which can cause diabetes, among other diseases. In fact, according to a 2011 study, insulin response begins to decline after just one day of sitting.

Muscle Degeneration

Abdominal muscles
When you slouch on a chair, your abdominal muscles go unused. That along with tight back muscles can create a condition called hyperlordosis, or swayback.

Tight hips
Your hips help you to keep balanced, but sitting calls for such few opportunities to stretch hip muscles, that they become tight, limiting range of motion.

Upper Body

Brain Fog
You need to move your muscles to get blood and oxygen to your brain and trigger the release of mood-enhancing chemicals.

Neck Strain
Craning your neck forward to type on a computer keyboard or cradling a phone while you type, while can strain your cervical vertebrae and causing posture imbalance.

Spine Stiffness
As we move, discs between the vertebrae contract and expand soaking up nutrients and fresh blood. However, when we sit, these discs are squashed into uneven positions causing collagen to harden around ligaments and tendons.

Legs

Poor Circulation
Long periods of sitting slows blood circulation, causing the fluid in the leg to pool, resulting in everything from varicose veins and swollen ankles to dangerous blood clots.

Soft Bones
Physical activity that incorporates the lower body stimulates hip and lower body bones to grow stronger. Hence, lack of activity can lead to decrease in bone density, and has even been attributed to cases of osteoporosis

What can we do?

If you are destined to sit behind a desk for long periods of time, there are some things you can do to keep from ending up hunched and unfocused. Here are some expert recommendations.

1. Sit on something wobbly. Sit up straight on an exercise ball or backless stool with your feet flat on the floor.
2. Stretch hip flexors. Once a day, three minutes easy side
3. By walking during commercial, couch potatoes can burn twice the calories of sitting, even at a pace of 1 mph.
4. Alternate between standing and sitting at your desk or workstation, or stand up and walk at regular intervals.

What do you think? Is sitting really the new smoking? Let us know! And tell us your strategies to give up the sitting habit.

Peaches and Plums

Foods For Breast Health

We ladies sure seem to obsess about out breasts. We enlarge them, reduce them, push them up, plunge them down, stick adhesives on them, pad them, powder them, rouge them, pamper them and scent them with perfumes and after bath sprays. We even do exercises at the gym to keep them at their peak. But do we make sure they are getting proper nutrition? Maybe not.

We owe a lot to our breasts, and we know what can happen if we don’t take care of them, and usually that care entails a lot more than just picking the right bra. Cheryl L. Rock, Ph.D, RD, professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of California says, “A woman can cut her chance of cancer by as much as two-thirds with good nutrition and weight management.” If you are concerned with the health of your breasts, here are some foods that might help you out with that.

Peaches and Plums
According to researchers at Texas A and M, peaches and plums have levels of antioxidants that pose a threat to the celebrated superfruits known as blueberries. The two p’s contain two varieties of polyphenols, antioxidants that may help to destroy breast cancer cells while leaving healthier cells intact.

Walnuts
Research in the Nutrition and Cancer Journal suggest that walnuts may help to impede the spread of breast cancer. Studies on mice found that the rate of tumor growth in walnut -eating mice was half of that in a group that was not fed walnuts. Experts believe that it is the anti-inflammatory properties in walnuts that give them the ability to fight tumors.

Broccoli
Broccoli contains sulforaphane, a compound shown to reduce breast cancer stem cells in mice, according to the University of Michigan. Although it is unclear whether the amount found in broccoli is sufficient enough to have the same effect, make sure to get the most of it by eating broccoli raw or steaming or stir frying. Boiling can lower the level of sulforaphane.

Salmon
Fish oil supplements are known for their cancer fighting characteristics. Ten years of regular consumption can shrink risk the of ductal carcinoma, the most commonly found type of breast cancer. Omega-3 fats in fish oil prevent inflammation, a known contributor to breast cancer. However, if you eat about 8 ounces of fish like salmon daily, you can skip the supplements.

Coffee
Need another reason to go to Starbucks? A May 2011 study in Breast Cancer Research finds that drinking two twelve oz cups a day can lower great cancer risk. According to study author, Jingmei Li, Ph.D, “One possibility is that coffee’s antioxidants protects cells from damage that can lead to cancer.” However, these findings are not confirmed, so you may want to wait until you become a fixture at your local coffee house.

Beans
You know what they say about beans- the more you eat…. the more your risk of breast cancer decreases. A new report from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that increasing fiber intake can lower the likelihood of great cancer. The research found that eating 10 grams of fiber a day (about 1/2 cup of beans) decreases risk of breast cancer by 7%.

So the next time your spending money on your lovely assets, you may want to do it in the grocery store. Let us know what you’re doing to support your breast health. We love to hear it!

Woman exercising

Get A Handle On Your Health

When it comes to health, are you a Felix or an Oscar? Maybe you remember an episode of the original Odd Couple where the two protagonists order room service. Oscar, the wild man, typically orders a rare steak with a baked potato and fried onions, while the mild-mannered Felix opts for sand dabs, cottage cheese, and weak tea. Where do you fall in? Are you the one drinking a smoothie and wielding a yoga mat headed for the nearest gym, or the one at the donut shop peering out from your stained napkin.

If you are the Oscar, you might be noticing a proliferance of healthy people out there and you may even be starting to feel that you are in danger of being run over by the relentless human race. But, buck up, you too can get a handle on your health by taking some simple steps.

To Do List for Healthy Living
Go see your doctor. Even if you’re feeling great, its always a good idea to make sure everything is running smoothly. Get yourself screened and immunized and get the answers to all of the nagging questions that may be on your mind.

Keep tabs on your height and weight and make sure you are getting in enough physical activity. The CDC recommends that adults get a minimum of two and a half hour of moderate aerobic activity and 15 minutes of more intense aerobic activity each week, plus muscle training exercises at least two days a week.

Nutririonist Kathianne Sellers Williams, MEd, RD, LD tells you to, “Keep track of what your eating – all of it. The idea is to write it down without judgement. You can’t change what you’re not aware of or don’t acknowledge.”

Check your relationships and evaluate your mood and energy levels. Make sure your surrounded with people that enrich your life; get adequate sleep, and monitor yourself for signs of depression.

Exercise More
Not the exercise type? No such thing! Dr. Williams says there’s no need to stick with the dreaded cardio: find something you enjoy and keep track of what you’re doing. Put big Xes on the calendar on days when you exercise. A visual record will Keep you motivated. Set weekly goals rather than daily ones, so you have greater day to day freedom. That way, you can forgive yourself if you miss a day, so long as you make it up before the weekend.

Improve Your Diet
It’s all about taking back the power over food. Says Williams, ” Instead of,’I should be eating more fruits and vegetables,’ it’s, ‘I choose to eat more fruits and vegetables,’ or, ‘ I choose not to, It shows your in control, you’re making the choice. Stock the kitchen with healthy foods, so you have a healthy strategy for when cravings hit. Slow down and enjoy your food. According to Williams, “You’re much more likely to feel psychologically satisfied,'” and shoot forgive to nine servings of varied vegetables and fruits per day.

Cut Down On Stress
When it comes to handling stress, Williams has two suggestions. Routine maintenance entails the development of coping skills, like meditation or yoga to keep your stress level down. You can also breakthrough stress, by finding ways to handle stressful situations when they pop up. For example, you might run up and down the stairs to quell aggravation after a stressful encounter.

Sleep More Soundly
If sound sleep is a problem for you, Lisa Shives. MD has a few tips. The doctor advises avoiding the stimulation of computer and tv two hours before bedtime and recommends a light reading lamp that doesn’t shine into your eyes directly. She warns against vigorous exercise near bedtime and taking a hot bath to relax yourself mentally. Shives also stresses the importance of maintaining a regular sleep schedule and making good sleep a priority saying sleep is, “just as important as diet and exercise.”

Sound doable to you? Of course it does! Let us know how you’re getting a handle on your health in the New Year. We love to hear it!

Woman smoking

Smoking Makes You Look Terrible

We all know that while smoking may make you look cool in the moment, it can make you look terrible for the long term. If you are finding yourself seduced by the allure of the cigarette, here are some facts which may make you change your mind.

Bags Under Your Eyes
If you think bags under the eyes is a good look, keep smoking. According to a study by John Hopkins University smokers are four times more likely to feel unrested after sleep than nonsmokers. Scientists have speculated that it may be the overnight nicotine withdrawal keeping smokers from resting peacefully.

Psoriasis
Although psoriasis can manifest itself in smokers and non smokers alike, your risk of developing scaly skin is a lot higher is you puff. A study done in 2007 showed that individuals who smoke a pack a day for 10 years increased their risk of psoriasis by 20% and those who smoked for 11-20 years increased the risk by 60%.

Yellow Teeth
Unless you want to spend a lot of time and money whitening your teeth, you should give up the smoking habits. Nicotine is known to stain those pearly whites, so if a great smile is important to you, make sure cigarettes aren’t.

Yellow Fingers
Don’t think your teeth are the only things affected by yellowing nicotine. Nicotine is infamous for its tendencies to stain fingers and nails alike. Of course, you can always scrub your fingers with steel wool and bleach them to restore your natural skin tone, but quitting might be a more civilized option.

Thin Hair
Here’s one that should cause you to drop the habit like its hot. Smokers not only have thinner hair than non smokers, their hair is also more likely to grey. Experts believe that the chemicals in cigarette smoke are capable of not only producing free radicals which cause cell damage, but also of damaging the DNA in existing hair follicles. In fact, a 2007 study in Taiwan showed that male smokers are two times as likely to lose their hair than their non-smoking counterparts.

Scarring
Nicotine causes blood vessels to narrow and limit blood flow to the face and other body parts.The result? Your wounds will take a longer time to heal and your scars will be worse than they would have been for a non smoker.

Smoking is also more expensive than you might think, the average person pays more than $1,652 a year for smoking. (source)

So smoking may make you look cool, but scars, yellow fingers and teeth and thinning hair probably won’t. If you were able to kick the habit, we hope you are looking prettier already, and if you’re still trying, we wish you luck! Let us know about your smoking experience and what you think about smoking and coolness.

Woman working out

Strengthen Your Back For These Health Benefits

There seems to be a lot less slouching going on. For Generation Xers, the slouch was the standard. It was a symbol of rebellion and rock and roll. It was the “guitar slouch,” modeled by rock gods Slash and Ace Frehley. However, with the emergence of a new millennium, the guitar has been replaced by “Guitar Hero” and pilates has improved the postures of the would be slouchers. While it may be with bittersweet sorrow and fond memories, it is high time to bid farewell to the sullen slouch and embrace the benefits of survival of the fittest, starting with the benefits of a strong back.

Get a More Shapely Body
Even though it may not be your first priority when you think of toning, the large muscles in your back actually have a lot to do with the shape of your body, The latissimus dorsi, which are the wing shaped muscles on either side of your back, should create an inverted triangle, lending width to the upper body making the lower body look smaller. If its a great butt your after, target the gluteus minimus, gluteus medius and gluteus maximus to shape the sides and back of your rear end.

Better Spinal Stability
Your back has multiple muscle groups including your traps, lats and core erector muscles along your spine. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, back strengthening exercises help build the strength you need to keep your spine in proper position and provide your back with adequate support. The National Institute of Health (NIH) recommends exercises such as squats, crunches, and back bridges done with your back against a wall.

Increase Flexibility
Stretching exercises can increase muscular endurance and range of motion, says the NIH. Whether or not you participate in athletic activity, a flexible back is important for turning, lifting and general movement. Even everyday chores require a flexible back. Having a full range of motion allows for a broader choice of exercise without the limitations of tightness in the back.

Improve Posture
Height commands respect. If you want to look taller, stand up straight.The erector spine muscles that line up along the spine help to improve posture and support the body. Try adding back flexion exercises to your regular routine to prevent hunching.

Reduce Back Pain
When it comes to back pain, sitting in front of a computer is a very common culprit. When your back muscles are as strong as the muscles in your abs and chest, it is easier for the back to support the weight causing less chance of discomfort. A Harvard Health Publication article states that exercise is essential for the healing and prevention of back pain. The NIH supports these findings, suggesting that the regular back exercise is the best way of avoiding back pain. It recommends a minimum of a combination of flexibility and stretching exercises for 15 minutes, three times a week.

How do you keep your back strong and pain free? What are your best back exercises? Let us know!