Physical Education Under Pressure: A Note to Parents

Chiropractor in Burke, VAAt many schools, a renewed focus on “back-to-basics” academic performance and recession-era budget cuts have curtailed recess, physical education and athletics (both intramural and competitive) over the past few years. While there’s no doubt that school districts are being forced to make some very tough choices, it’s also very clear that high rates of childhood obesity and chronic health conditions among young people make physical education a cornerstone priority.

Why We Need PhysEd Now More Than Ever

Studies have shown that children who get sufficient amounts of regular physical activity each day are not only less likely to become obese, but show better attention and concentration in the classroom, behave better, and score higher on tests. However, the sedentary lifestyle of many adults has now trickled down to our kids, who are by and large less likely to be physically active at home than prior generations were. Not surprisingly, this is affecting their overall level of fitness. The effect becomes more pronounced as children get older and really comes into focus when they reach high school. A recent story that appeared on the U.S. News and World Report Health website (“U.S. Teens’ Cardiorespiratory Fitness Has Dropped in Last Decade: Report”) noted that “The overall percentage of fit teens went from 52.4 percent in 1999 to 42.2 percent in 2012, according to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

The report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention paints a grim picture. Perhaps the most telling statistics are the ones that highlight just how little physical activity most children get by the time they become teenagers. Here’s the situation by the numbers…

About Participation in Physical Activity by Young People:

  • “In a nationally representative survey, 77% of children aged 9–13 years reported participating in free-time physical activity during the previous 7 days.”
  • “In 2013, only 29% percent of high school students had participated in at least 60 minutes per day of physical activity on each of the 7 days before the survey.”
  • “15.2% percent of high school students had not participated in 60 or more minutes of any kind of physical activity on any day during the 7 days before the survey.”
  • “Participation in physical activity declines as young people age.”

About Participation in Physical Education Classes:

  • “In 2013, less than half (48%) of high school students (64% of 9th-grade students but only 35% of 12th-grade students) attended physical education classes in an average week.”
  • “The percentage of high school students who attended physical education classes daily decreased from 42% in 1991 to 25% in 1995 and remained stable at that level until 2013 (29%).”
  • “In 2013, 42% of 9th-grade students but only 20% of 12th-grade students attended physical education class daily.”

It’s also worth mentioning that there’s a very large gender gap in high school when it comes to both physical activity and participation in physical education classes:

  • In 2013, boys were more than twice as likely (36.6%) to be physically active for at least 60 minutes per day than girls (17.7%).
  • In 2013, boys were significantly more likely (34.9%) to attend daily physical education classes than girls (24.0%).

What Should Parents Expect From a PhysEd Curriculum?

As important as physical education is for a child’s development, the federal government has set no binding physical education curriculum standards and does not mandate the amount of time children must spend in physical activity. The government leaves it up to individual states and local school districts to decide on an appropriate physical education curriculum. Needless to say, this leads to a patchwork of approaches, some of which are naturally more effective than others.

The government suggests that children get at least 60 minutes of physical exercise each day to maintain optimal health and establish good exercise habits that will hopefully continue throughout adulthood. However, only 74.5% of states require physical education in school from elementary school through high school. In addition, 28 states allow physical education exemptions and waivers, and schools are required to allot a specific amount of time for physical activity in only 22 states. Only New Jersey, Louisiana and Florida mandate the suggested minimum of 150 minutes per week of physical education in elementary school. And for high schools, only West Virginia, Utah and Montana mandate the recommended minimum of 225 minutes per week of physical education.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stresses the importance of children having access to high-quality physical education. The national standards can be found in the book by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE), Moving Into the Future: National Standards for Physical Education. NASPE suggests that a basic physical education curriculum should incorporate the following 6 standards:

Standard 1: Demonstrates competency in motor skills and movement patterns needed to perform a variety of physical activities.

Standard 2: Demonstrates understanding of movement concepts, principles, strategies, and tactics as they apply to the learning and performance of physical activities.

Standard 3: Participates regularly in physical activity.

Standard 4: Achieves and maintains a health-enhancing level of physical fitness.

Standard 5: Exhibits responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others in physical activity settings.

Standard 6: Values physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression, and/or social interaction.

What Parents Can Do

If you have school-age children (especially in middle school or high school), it’s important to understand the physical education curriculum and to encourage them to participate actively. This is particularly true if they aren’t involved in athletics or other physically demanding activities at home. Paying attention to the grade they receive in physical education classes and getting meaningful feedback from their physical education teacher can help you learn how your children view physical activity and whether they are developing attitudes and habits that will serve them well over their lifetime.

NOVA Chiropractic & Wellness Center
8992 Fern Park Drive BurkeVA22015 USA 
 • (703) 912-7822

The Strong Core-Healthy Back Connection

Chiropractor in Burke, VAUnless you’re either very, very young or live on a remote desert island without TV, radio, Internet or print media, you’ve probably heard the term “core strength” before. Serious athletes and exercise enthusiasts talk about it at the fitness center, and so do their coaches and trainers. But did you know that chiropractors and physical therapists talk about it too? So what exactly is core strength and why do some kinds of healthcare professionals care about it so much?

As you might guess, chiropractic physicians have a particular interest in the musculoskeletal system, the complex structure of bones, muscles and connective tissues that support the body’s frame and allow it to move. We’ve recognized for a very long time that the core muscles play a major role in stabilizing this frame and promoting correct posture when the body is at rest or in motion. In particular, strong core muscles contribute to a healthy back by holding the spine in proper alignment, supporting a portion of the body’s weight and absorbing many of the stresses and impacts we all experience when we walk and run. When your core muscles are doing their job effectively, your spine is protected. You can think of this as the “strong core-healthy back connection.” Let’s talk about it in more detail…

In human beings, the majority of movement originates from the lower part of the torso (the lumbar spine and abdomen). This is the part of the body that tenses first and keeps the body balanced during running, lifting, twisting and other normal day-to-day movements. Strength in this region is a basic building block from which to develop power in other areas of the body and (as we mentioned earlier) is fundamental to maintaining good posture and spinal alignment.

Anatomically speaking, the core region of the body consists of the lower back, abdomen, pelvis and diaphragm. The main muscle groups include the transversus abdominus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis and erector spinae. It is these muscles that often need strengthening due to the fact that on a daily basis most of us are far less active than our ancestors who worked at more physically demanding jobs.

Instructors across a wide variety of athletic and exercise disciplines have known about the importance of core strength for a long time. Yoga and Pilates teachers, martial artists and qi gong practitioners all move from the same center of gravity and balance in the core region and view this area as the nexus of human power and energy. They stress the importance of strengthening the core through breathing exercises and meditation as well as physical movement. Since the core region of the body contains the diaphragm, ease of breathing is both a sign and result of good core strength. Back pain, on the other hand, may well be a sign that core strength needs to be improved.

For those who practice sports, proper alignment is particularly important to prevent injuries during physical exertion. If the core muscles are not strong enough to support the spine during movement, then other muscle groups will be used to perform the action with a much greater risk of damage. The rest of us also need to be conscious of our core strength since we all engage in strenuous action at various points in our lives (lifting boxes, running to catch a bus, playfully swinging a child, etc.).

While chiropractors are always willing to help patients in need of treatment, the ultimate goal of chiropractic care is for everyone to have the best possible spinal health. Good core strength definitely contributes to that, whether you are otherwise healthy or have an ongoing postural problem. If you want to improve your spinal health and posture and reduce your chance of injury, working on core strength through a balanced program of exercise is a very good—and very inexpensive—way of going about it.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can improve the strong core-healthy back connection, call us today (703) 912-7822 or visit us at Chiropractor in Burke, VA.

Short on Time During Your Workout? Don’t Skip the Stretching!

Chiropractor in Burke, VA

Chiropractor in Burke, VA

Why is stretching the part of our workout regimen that so many of us tend to skip? We might tell ourselves it’s because we’re sort on time, that we’re impatient or that (deep down) we believe stretching is really pointless. But however we rationalize it, skipping the stretching is a BAD idea!

It’s probably obvious that our joints were designed to be able to move in various directions with a certain degree of freedom. But as our bodies age, we become stiffer and lose the flexibility we had when we were young. In fact, chances are (unless you happen to be a dancer or gymnast), that process will start even before you reach your 20th birthday. However, it’s never too late to regain some of that youthful flexibility by becoming more serious about stretching. Combined with strength training, proper stretching can help prolong our mobility and independence—allowing us to perform basic day-to-day tasks well into our senior years. Reaching that high shelf, bending to pick up a dropped object, and accessing that hidden switch behind an awkward kitchen cabinet are all great examples.

One reason it’s really important to stretch before working out is that we are likely to use muscles and connective tissues that are normally inactive. Without flexibility, the risk of getting hurt goes up. However, stretching can help prevent (or even treat) some common types of musculoskeletal injuries if it’s done correctly. Plus, it can feel good! Stretching can be a great way to start the day or to wind down after work.

Preparing the body for exercise by warming up the muscles (increasing blood flow) and stretching is easy and need not take up much of your time. Simply begin moving the various muscle groups in a deliberate way, with slow stretches of the joints towards the end of their range of motion. As you do this, you should notice a gentle “pulling” sensation and hold the position for up to half a minute. Then stretch the alternate side or move on to other muscle groups. Not only does stretching prevent injury, but it also improves the mechanical efficiency of your body. Stretching prior to exercise means muscles and joints are able to move through their full range of motion with less effort when exercising , improving performance.

Other benefits of stretching include improved circulation, less pain and faster recoveries following workouts, and better posture. If you find yourself arriving home stiff and achy from sitting at a desk all day and then commuting—try stretching. You might find that you’ll feel better almost instantly!

Remember—good health is the result of lots of little day-to-day things, including your nutrition, exercise and sleep habits, as well as your healthcare choices. As chiropractic physicians, we’re experts in diagnosing and treating disorders of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. We’re also experts in prevention and performance. If you’re interested in any of these things, we encourage you to call us at (703) 912-7822 or visit us at Chiropractor in Burke, VA.

How Long Does it Really Take Muscles to Recover After a Good Workout?

Chiropractor in Burke, VA“Working out,” as fun as it can be, is also…uh…work.  Whatever your chosen form of exercise, your muscles don’t really get any stronger unless you actually work them. Interestingly enough, though, it’s not the actual time you spend working your muscles that enables them to grow and become stronger—it’s the recovery period between workouts that increases strength.

During the workout itself, you stretch and work your muscles and break down muscle tissue. Then, when you rest afterwards, a biochemical repair and synthesis process allows the muscles to rebuild themselves, and thus become both larger and stronger. Your body needs this recovery period. The truth is that if you exercised every day, with no rest between workouts, it wouldn’t work as well, and you would actually make less progress than by resting between workouts.

So how long is enough rest between workouts?

This is actually a much more complex question than it appears to be. The answer will vary depending on a variety of factors—the nature of the workout, which sets of muscles are being exercised, your nutrition, your age, and your sleep cycles—just to name a few of the big ones. In the following sections we’ll give some general guidelines for how much recovery time to allocate after your exercise sessions.

  • Recovery after running. We’ll start with running because it uses the same basic muscles and sets of muscles in every session. The variables that determine how long you should rest between runs therefore depend on other factors, such as intensity (how fast or hard you ran), duration (how long you ran), surface (did you run on grass, sand or concrete?), and topography (was the surface flat or hilly?). Beginning runners should probably rest a day between runs, but with experience you can safely run every day. However, running either uphill or downhill puts more stress on your muscles and requires more recovery, as does running hard, for example during a marathon or other competition.
  • Recovery after lifting weights. Recovery time depends on the muscle groups used, and your weight-lifting schedule. In general, large muscle groups (such as thigh muscles used during squats) require more recovery time than smaller muscles. Many bodybuilders alternate their workouts by focusing on upper body one day, then lower body the next, etc., but sports physicians suggest that if you’re really working your muscles hard, resting for 48 hours before working that set of muscles again is a better idea. Our advice is to take it easy and err on the side of more recovery time , because overtraining can lead to injuries.
  • Nutrition matters. The length of recovery time can be profoundly influenced by your diet—how you “feed” and “fuel” the muscles you’re exercising. While exercising, you really need to make sure to drink enough fluids and electrolytes, along with carbohydrates if it’s an extended workout. Afterwards, it’s good to drink even more fluids and eat a high-protein meal to ensure your body has the “building blocks” it needs to rebuild muscle tissue.
  • Despite what you might like to believe, your age matters, too. Young muscles recover faster after exercise than older ones. Period. If you’re past your 30s, respect your body and give it more time to recover after each hard workout.
  • Finally, if you want to maximize the health and fitness benefits of your workouts, get enough sleep. Many people report that they fall asleep more quickly, sleep more deeply, and feel more rested after a good workout. There is a reason for this—the harder you work out, the more sleep your body needs to recover afterwards. Two possible signs of overtraining and not getting sufficient rest between workouts are insomnia (which can happen due to overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system) or daytime sleepiness (the result of poor quality sleep).

These are just guidelines. If you are committed to your exercise and workout program, work with your coach, trainer or sports chiropractor to find a training/rest schedule that works best for you. The American Council on Exercise recommends as a general schedule several high-intensity workouts per week, with at least 48 hours in between to give your muscles plenty of time to recover and rebuild. Lower-intensity workouts may require less recovery time, and you may feel comfortable with 24 hours of rest between workouts. But whatever you choose, bear in mind that the actual strength-building takes place during the rest/recovery periods, not during the actual workout periods.  If you have any questions please contact me at (703) 912-7822 or visit us at Chiropractor in Burke, VA.

Adding Variety to Your Resistance Band Workouts

Chiropractor in Burke, VAIn the TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation, “resistance was futile” against the Borg arch villains. But when it comes to exercise and staying in good shape, resistance is NOT futile, and can be one of the best ways to have a great workout—anytime and anywhere.

Resistance bands are the “great democratizer” of the exercise world. Sure, you could join an expensive gym and have access to their shiny exercise machines and racks of free weights. Or you can buy a set of resistance bands for about the same cost as one single month’s membership at the gym and effectively perform all of the same exercises (and more) any time you want and wherever you want to do them. With resistance bands, you can easily exercise at home without having to convert a whole room into a mini-gym to hold all the equipment.  And the bands are lightweight, so you can toss them in your luggage and take them with you when you travel. This makes it easy to exercise in your hotel room!

Ease of use is not the only advantage of resistance bands over weights and machines.

With resistance bands, you can perform pretty much all of the same exercises you can perform using free weights or specialized exercise machines at the gym. For example, by simply standing on one end of the resistance band and pulling upwards, you can do biceps curls. By securing the band at the top of a door jam, you can pull downwards to do pulldowns or triceps pushdowns. You can wrap the band around a vertical pole and perform the same motions as bench presses or butterfly presses to work on your chest. The possibilities are endless and limited only by your own imagination. You can even use your resistance bands in conjunction with other pieces of exercise equipment you have, such as stability balls, Bosu balls, steps, or wall mounts.

Another advantage of resistance bands over free weights or exercise machines is that you get to decide where the resistance comes from, and keep it constant during the full range of motion. With free weights, resistance is determined by gravity, so for example when you are performing biceps curls the resistance is stronger during the upswing of the curl (when you are working against gravity) than during the downswing of the curl (when you are being assisted by gravity). With bands, the resistance is constant, forcing you to use more muscle groups, and improving your coordination and balance at the same time you build strength.

The main benefit of bands, however, is the variety that can be built into a workout.

We could list dozens of ways to use your resistance bands in this article, but our advice is to just use your imagination to think up your own new ways to exercise using them. One quick Google search will give you dozens of “starter” ideas, but then (if you’re like most people) you’ll discover the fun of inventing your own workout routines and start inventing new exercises of your own to add variety to your workout.

And variety is essential for several reasons. First, it keeps you from getting bored with the same old routine and makes it more likely that you’ll develop an exercise habit that sticks. With resistance bands and a little creativity, you can have a different workout almost every day, and never fall into the rut that many people experience with their exercise routines at the gym. All it takes is a little creativity. Just for starters, you can change the anchor point of the bands and create resistance from wherever you want it—the side, overhead, below, wherever. If you play sports, you can also use the bands to mimic movements you want to strengthen, such as your golf swing or tennis serve. No machine in a gym allows you to do that through the full range of motion.

Resistance bands—especially the type with detachable handles that can be “mixed and matched” to produce different levels of resistance—are great for all fitness levels. You can benefit from them as a beginner, but if you use a little creativity you can benefit even more from them as an advanced exerciser. So go boldly forth and invent new exercises, because no matter what the Borg said in Star Trek, resistance is NOT futile. To learn more please visit Chiropractor in Burke, VA.