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.

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Chiropractor in Burke, VAPlantar fasciitis (pronounced “plan-tar fash-ee-EYE-tis”) is also sometimes referred to as a heel spur. It’s a debilitating and painful condition that can make walking even a short distance difficult. The discomfort—ranging from mild to severe—is typically most pronounced near the bottom of the heel, usually toward the front, though it may also extend across the entire bottom of the foot. Plantar Fasciitis is usually at its worst first thing in the morning after you get out of bed and walk a few steps, or when you stand up after sitting for an extended period.

What exactly is plantar fasciitis?

The plantar fascia is a thick band of very tough, fibrous tissue that extends from the heel bone to the base of the toes and supports the arch of the foot. When this ligament develops micro-tears, pulls away from the heel bone or becomes inflamed, pain and bone spurs can result. The muscles in the foot may also be involved, especially if the pain occurs after long periods of standing or from chronic overwork, which causes the muscles to shorten, making them less resilient and more susceptible to micro-trauma.

What causes plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis can occur for a wide variety of reasons and it’s frequently difficult to isolate any one specific cause. That said, here are some of the primary culprits:

  • Standing for long periods of time
  • Wearing shoes with little support
  • Having flat feet
  • Having exceptionally high arches
  • Being overweight
  • A sudden increase in activity
  • Repetitive stress
  • Tight calf muscles
  • Overpronation (walking on the outsides of your feet)
  • Aging

What can be done?

Unfortunately, recovery from plantar fasciitis usually takes time and is prone to setbacks. However, there are some things you can do to help ease the pain and speed the healing process.

Rest the foot as much as possible. Applying ice to the area can help reduce the inflammation, as can taking an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen. Many people with plantar fasciitis find it helpful to wear Birkenstocks or other shoes that have good arch support. Custom foot orthotics and heal cups can also provide some relief. At night, wearing a boot that gently stretches the plantar fascia, Achilles tendon and calf muscles (not allowing the foot and toes to point) can help reduce morning symptoms. If you work in an office environment, rolling a baseball or lacrosse ball beneath the arch of your foot while sitting at your desk can help achieve the same thing during the day.

In the long-run, it’s important to address the cause of the problem so that it doesn’t become chronic or recurring. Fortunately, your chiropractor can help in that regard. Chiropractic physicians are experts at treating a wide variety of musculoskeletal problems—not only those that affect the back and neck, but also those that affect the extremities. To treat plantar fasciitis, your chiropractor may use a combination of therapies, including manipulation/mobilization, stretching, cold laser, and ultrasound. He or she may also recommend custom orthotics and useful exercises that you can do at home to gently stretch tight muscles and tendons. Since one common cause of plantar fasciitis is overpronation, a series of chiropractic adjustments can ensure your bones are properly aligned, allowing for greater range of motion and helping to take some of the strain off the overworked muscles and connective tissues in your feet.

Healing plantar fasciitis is a slow process that may take weeks or months. However, with good chiropractic care, conscientious at-home treatment and proper shoes, it doesn’t have to become a chronic or recurring condition. Have any questions? Please call us at (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.

Kids and Sports: Should Your Kids Specialize in One Sport?

Over the last twenty years, the landscape of youth sports has changed dramatically. It used to be that children would gather after school and choose (or invent) an activity or game to play until dinnertime. In this world of “free play,” the kids set the rules and managed themselves more or less independently. These days, though, it’s much more common for kids’ sports to be highly organized and stratified, with adults more heavily involved than they were even a generation ago.

The downsides of adult-led, year-round structure

Kids can sometimes be rough-and-tumble, and they can also be cruel. This means that free play can have its share of problems when seen through the eyes of adults who are most concerned about limiting safety and social risks. From their point of view, there are clear advantages to having a neutral adult coach providing instruction and “managing” play. Parents who view free play as an unstructured waste of time may also be drawn to what they see as the more targeted developmental benefits of organized sports, though for slightly different reasons.

It’s important to understand that this shift has come with a cost. Many child development experts now believe that adult-led, year-round structure has deprived children of important opportunities to practice innovation, independence and self-management—including social skills like cooperation and dispute resolution. They also believe it has deprived them of opportunities to learn where the boundary is between good-natured (even competitive) physical play and play that is rough enough to cause real harm. Learning where this boundary is requires live experimentation that entails some risk. This is how children learn how to read and respond to others and to different kinds of situations appropriately.

The up-or-out world of youth athletics

The shift to adult-led, year-round structure has also changed the nature of youth athletics, creating a two-tier system of “recreational” and “competitive” sports where recreation often gets short shrift. This can produce a high-pressure environment for many children, who automatically begin associating athletics with expectations of performance. This sort of environment has the potential to change the relationship between kids and sports in a few different ways. In some cases, it may encourage youngsters of 8 or 9 years (or their parents) to choose a single sport early in their “careers” and to commit to it for the entire year. Children who do not make this early all-or-nothing commitment (even very athletic ones) may find that their playing opportunities dwindle and that they’re stuck in the middle—somewhere between a competitive tier that may demand too much and a recreational one that may offer too little. In other cases, it may discourage children with less obvious talent or less drive to abandon sports altogether.

The impact on health and wellness

This isn’t about nostalgia. It’s about long-term musculoskeletal health and fitness. For earlier generations, sports were more seasonal and it was common for kids to play several different sports throughout the year. Since they didn’t specialize until later (if at all), they tended to become more well-rounded athletes and their physical development tended to be more balanced. And to the extent that different sports require different types of movement and emphasize different muscle groups, it was less likely for a young athlete to suffer overuse injuries. Today, physicians say they are seeing more juvenile athletes come in with repetitive stress injuries. For example, a recent study from the journal Radiology revealed that young baseball pitchers are at risk of an overuse injury of the shoulder known as acromial apophysiolysis, which can lead to long-term and even irreversible consequences as kids grow.

And what about children who opt-out of sports early because of performance pressure or burnout, or because they can’t “keep up” with peers who are developing before them? It may take these children years to rediscover sports. And they may miss out on exactly the types of physical activity that keep them fit and healthy unless they find some other alternatives.

A healthier, more balanced approach to athletics

Most medical doctors and chiropractic physicians would probably agree about the importance of variety when it comes to children’s musculoskeletal health and development. Even more broadly, variety is the key to achieving balanced physical, social and psychological growth. Plus, varying your activities is a great way to prevent boredom and increase enjoyment. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with competition or with working hard to excel at something, especially when it comes to sports and if it’s done for the love of the game. However, we adults should remember to let kids be kids, which means trying out different athletic activities, succeeding at some and failing at others, and learning to enjoy the process every step of the way.

To learn more please visit us at Chiropractor in Burke, VA.