Countdown to better habits
What physical therapists want you to know — and do
Woman warms up (Tinroof, Getty Images)
In the gym, you should do more pulling exercises than pushing exercises. Most injuries and painful conditions are caused by weakness of the muscles in the back of the body. That's because the typical gym program focuses on stretching the "glamour" muscles in the front of your body and those you see in the mirror. Pulling exercises include lateral pull-downs, low rows and hamstring curls. Pushing exercises include bench presses, biceps curls and leg extensions.
— Robert Forster, Los Angeles-based physical therapist to 38 Olympic medalists and member of the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness
You need to stretch daily. The connective tissue structures of your body — the tendons, ligaments and fascia — will shorten naturally every day if you don't stretch. Stretching is important in the morning to get your body ready for the ergonomic stress related to daily activities. You should also stretch before and after all workouts to prepare your body for exertion and recovery. Finally, stretching at night will reduce stress and improve rest.
— Robert Forster
2. Extend yourself
We perform forward-type activities all day long, such as sitting, squatting and walking. This allows the muscles and joints in the front of your body to tighten, and the muscles in the back of your body to become weak, leading to poor posture and pain. So it is important to perform extension tasks to combat this, such as arching your back while standing with your hands supporting your lower back.
— Jennifer Szymanski, physical therapist with Sports Physical Therapy of New York
1. Lie down — correctly
Lying on the sofa or propped up in bed will damage ligaments and discs in your spine. Sitting with good back support that maintains the natural curves in your spine is the most critical thing you can do to protect your joints from the stress that builds up and damages joints and ligaments. The best position to avoid damaging your spine while watching TV or reading is in a recliner, which maintains your spine's natural curves. If you don't have a recliner, then try lying on your side instead of your back.
— Robert Forster
Be smart with your smartphone
Phone finger tendinitis is becoming a big problem, notes physical therapist Robert Forster.
Avoid the problem by stretching your thumb flexor tendons before you get started each day, and during breaks from heavy use. That tendon lives in the large fleshy tissue at the base of the thumb (the outer aspect of your palm). Rub there as a warm up, and pull the thumb across the back of your hand toward your pinky finger to stretch it.