Are You Getting 150 Minutes per Week of Moderate-to-Vigorous Intensity Exercise?

You have heard it so many times that the message now sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher, move more and eat less.  Easy to say, a lot more difficult to do.  Over one-third of American adults are classified as obese by the CDC, that does NOT include those people who are overweight.  Let’s be honest, fat parents usually raise fat kids.  How does the future look?  Not real promising for the American population. 

Are you a couch potato?

The internet and social media are full of trendy gimmicks, pills, and workouts to lift your ass cheeks.  Do they work is another story for another day, but they do make money.  In 2018 the CDC wrote their second edition of physical activity guidelines, this time including the cognitive benefits of exercise.  For this blog, I’m talking about the weekly minutes of physical activity you need to have for basic health.  My guess is most of you who read this blog are not getting these minimum requirements:

  • 150-300 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity per week, or in conjunction with
  • 75-150 minutes of vigorous aerobic physical activity per week, and
  • 2 days per week of moderate or greater intensity muscle and bone strengthening activities

At the most basic level spread out in a “payment plan”, that is about 21 minutes a day of moderate physical activity, seven days per week.  I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is yes, you can combine muscle and bone strengthening activities into an aerobic session thus killing two birds with one stone.  To stay in line with the CDC’s obesity stats, one in three who read this are obese, and at least half are overweight.  With those facts in mind, you are very likely not meeting these minimum standards for basic health.

I’ll explain more about the intensity levels to help you understand if you are achieving them or not.  Moderate means your breathing is labored, and you can have a conversation with another person.  Vigorous means your breathing is harder and you cannot maintain a conversation.  Taking a stroll around the block while easily chatting with your friend or on the phone is not at the moderate level.  Many adults and older adults give themselves a break by saying they are active because they walk daily.  The truth hurts, and they are not at the moderate level the CDC states is needed to reduce health risk factors and improve cognitive function.

The best news is you can achieve the 150 weekly minutes in any way you want!  There are many options you can enjoy elevating your heart rate using all your body parts, and they are all correct answers.  Combining resistance training with aerobic training is the best bang for your buck.  Can you workout to hard?  You do not want to injure yourself of course, the answer is still no.  The more intense and longer duration of your physical activity the better for every aspect of your physical and mental health. 

So, you’re still holding on to the excuse of the gym not open, or not open at full capacity.  These requirements are still in effect 365 days of EVERY year, including 2020.  Even more so with a pandemic because stronger immune systems are directly associated with higher levels of fitness.  If reading the stats of mortality rates and health risk factors relating to COVID-19 has not changed your mind on being physically active, then death at an early age is what you are rightfully earning. 

Your living room can be a great workout studio if necessary

Use these straightforward guidelines for what they are, guidelines to help you make good decisions on how much exercise you need each week.  Color in the template using whatever crayons you want.  The artwork looks good on the refrigerator door regardless of the color combinations.  Pledge to yourself on achieving the minimum 21 minutes a day of moderate exercise.  Oh, and you can break that time up into smaller bouts of even five minutes, four or so a day.  BOOM!  I just blew your mind and pulled the excuse rug out from underneath you.

Email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com, and I can help you set up a program.  Go to my website, mattpeale.com, and download my video series and free report to help you use exercise to overcome chronic pain.  Buy my book while on my website as well to improve your knowledge.  Just because you are over 40 does not mean you are exempt from being healthy, active, and happy!

If You Know, or Are a Man Over 40, Read This Blog! Tips to Help Celebrate National Men’s Health Month

Muscularly Enlarged Neanderthals aka Men.  Well, maybe that is not what men stands for, but it’s damn sure close!

Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

We are testosterone based which makes us hairy, more muscular than females, and often times hard-headed when you try to reason with us.  As teens, we are true assholes that know everything and are indestructible.  In our twenties, the brain finally forms fully, and we begin to calm down with life’s responsibilities.  I’d say Neanderthal characteristics are still in effect during this time because the sense of immortality still lingers until we hit 30.

Into our 30’s men learn what being a father and husband means.  Our friendship circle changes from only college and high school friends to couples’ outings if we’re married and hanging out with coworkers.  We go to bed earlier, wake up earlier on purpose!  Hangovers hurt more and something happens with our waistlines and hairlines, one gets bigger and the other smaller in the wrong directions.  Domestic stresses of home ownership, honey do lists, and shuttling kids around to dances and sports.

I can only speak of what I know, and that knowledge stops in the 40’s decade.  Sedentary life begins to take affect from a lack of exercise the previous 10-12 years.  Extra weight stays on and doesn’t come off through half-hearted attempts at dieting or doing some fad exercise program for a week.  Our testosterone levels begin to dip, and we don’t feel as strong anymore.  It takes us a few minutes to warm-up and aches and pains linger past where we think they should.  College expenses are for real and maybe a Brady Bunch family happens after divorce and a second shot at marriage.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

The constant through all of this is the accumulation of poor health habits that lead to serious health risk factors into our 50’s and beyond.  June is National Men’s Health Month and when we have Father’s Day to celebrate one of our major achievements of raising offspring.  One of the best features of the human body is its resiliency.  Regardless of how bad you treated it in the past, there is opportunity to completely change the future.  No, you can’t naturally grow back your hair without weaves and potions.  You also can’t recover quickly from a hard night of drinking anymore.  What you can do is make small daily changes that add up to major positive outcomes in 90 days or less.

Look at your father and his health, what kind of picture is he?  Remember, the beer can doesn’t fall far from the trailer, so if you do not want to follow in those footsteps, the time is now to make those edits.  Here’s how:

  • Cut down the alcohol to weekends only and find more ways to drink water daily
  • Meal prep for taking lunch into work and better choices at dinner (also saves $$$)
  • Get 150 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous exercise (21 minutes per day)
My client Neal Hightower and I

Life is a process, and the results of these actions will not all become apparent until a few months down the road.  Changing a habit, good or bad, takes 60-65 days, so this will be a challenge with ups and downs.  Nowhere did I mention bench press 300 lbs, run 10 miles a day, or eat only tofu.  Stop making up bullshit excuses like these.  Any man can adapt to these changes over time and turn their lives around.  Your LIFE DEPENDS ON IT AS WELL AS THOSE WHO RELY UPON YOU.

If you need help, I am here for you.  Go to my website and look at my online course to help you overcome chronic pain.  Order my book and get expert insight into your health.  Listen to my interviews from around the country.  Get my free video series and report about back pain.  Let me be your guide to a healthy and active lifestyle.  You only live this life once, invest in yourself and you are guaranteed a 100% ROI!

Do You Know the Biggest Muscle on Your Body & How to Engage It?

What is the biggest muscle on your body?

  1. Pectoral muscle (chest)
  2. Gluteus maximus (butt)
  3. Latissimus Dorsi (back)

I’ll answer that question shortly in this blog post.  Giving it away now defeats the purpose of reading and building anticipation! 

Let’s look at the function of each muscle and see if you can figure it out.  The pectoral muscle is used to extend your arms horizontally in a pushing motion.  The latissimus dorsi is used to lower your arms from an overhead position and helps to bring them back from a fully extended horizontal position also.  The gluteus maximus is used for hip extension.  If you workout regularly, hopefully you are using all of the muscles equally throughout your weekly routine.  If you don’t workout at all, lack of use is a direct cause of pain and weakness.  Any clue yet to the answer?

If you guessed B. Gluteus maximus, you won!  And no, J-Lo is not the only person to enjoy this biological feature.  Every person needs to have strong glutes for lifting objects with their legs, not their low backs.  Incorporating the biggest muscle on your body for squats, deadlifts, and lunges is paramount for power and strength.  Surprisingly enough, doing squats, deadlifts, and lunges does not specifically work your glutes unless you have learned to activate them.  Even the most active gym goers out there typically sit all day at their jobs, much less those that abhor any type of exercise.

Yes, your glutes are needed for many activities besides sitting on them for 8-10 hours a day.  If you like landscaping and gardening around your house, you need them to lift bags of mulch, flats of flowers, and pavers for a new walkway.  Similarly, if you enjoy remodeling and redecorating houses, you need your glutes to pick up heavy furniture and boxes.  Your glutes are responsible for helping you maintain good posture and be able to get up out of a chair without using your hands.  None of these activities are done in a gym or for anything athletic, these are activities of daily living that require the biggest muscle on your body to be functional.

From a biomechanical standpoint, your glutes are the primary mover for hip extension.  Hip extension is involved in standing up, walking, running, and proper posture.  When your glutes are weak from sitting, the muscles in your quadriceps and low back take on their role, leading to low back and knee pain.  Again, none of these motions are specifically for sports or in the gym.  Here are three exercises you can do to strengthen your glutes, and they can be done by men and women!

Bird Dog
  1. Bird dog – get on your hands and knees with a straight back.  Extend the opposite arm and leg simultaneously.  Keeping your fully extended and raise your leg as high as you can using your glutes to lift it.  Do not rotate or tilt your body to compensate.  Repeat for the opposite side.
  2. Romanian Deadlift/Straight leg deadlift – start with no weight or light weight depending on your experience.  With your feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly flexed, hinge at the hip and push your hips back.  Keeping your back straight and head aligned with your spine, lower your torso down to parallel to the ground.  Your weight is on your heels and toes may raise slightly.  Feel the stretch in your hamstrings as you go down.  Focus on using your hamstrings and glutes to contract as you raise back up to the starting position.
  3. Glute bridge – lay on your back with your feet flat on the floor close to your butt.  Push through your feet and raise your hips as high as you can, then lower them down slowly.  Your arms are relaxed next to your torso with palms up.  You can do this with both legs or one leg at a time for added difficulty.  You will feel a stretch in your quadriceps and hip flexors and your hamstrings working.
Glute bridge
Romanian deadlift with dumbbells

Regardless of your athletic ability and workout experience, including these moves will help you activate your glutes for all of life’s activities.  Low back injuries are reduced, proper postural alignment can be achieved, and increased enjoyment of the activities you like most are all possible when you practice these basic movements.  If you are wondering do I include these movements into my normal routine, the answer is a resounding yes!  I practice what I preach.

For an all-inclusive workout, learn about my course Overcoming Chronic Pain Through Stretching & Strengthening.  I guarantee it will work for you or your money back.  You can also order my book and read about why your having pain.  Pain is not normal, and you do not have to live with it.  Go to my website, mattpeale.com, and find free videos and a report that can change your life today!

3 Tips to Choosing a Fitness Professional For Your Exercise and Health Goals

What makes a fitness professional worth the investment?  Working out on a few machines every week isn’t that difficult right?  Adjust the settings to your size, figure out a weight to do 10 reps with for a couple sets, and you transform into a fitness model in 30 days or less guaranteed!  That’s what social media and advertisements have you to believe.

Since I was a early teenager I have been attracted to working out.  Even though I played soccer most of my life along with other sports growing up, weight training was something I knew I needed for better athletic performance and because I had little self-confidence as a thin kid.  As most teen boys wanted, I also had the desires to bulk up and look HUGE!  All I needed was to lift a bunch of heavy weights, read some bodybuilding magazines, and instant massive physique! Wrong.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Finally, at the age of 18 I received my first gym membership after working out in my room with a curl bar and doing push-ups and pull-ups.  Unfortunately, I still had no idea what I was really doing until I studied for and became a personal trainer in 2008.  I went 15 years of bumbling along reading only the same bodybuilding magazines as a guide.  Let me guess, you have done basically the same thing with some kind of magazine and now YouTube sensation to guide you.  I’m willing to bet a large sum of money you also are still clueless and have not achieved what you want regarding your athletic performance and overall health.

A fitness professional is an investment, no doubt.  Remember that fitness professionals also made an investment in themselves by spending $400-$500 on a certification, sometimes multiple certifications.  Plus, they have continuing education credits to maintain that certification, which are also a financial investment.  Fitness professionals are not just the biggest guys and hottest girls in the gym. 

How do you know who to invest in for your health and fitness goals?  I’ll share with you three characteristics of a good fitness professional.

  • Relationship oriented: they show a true interest in their clients beyond taking their money.  You truly matter to them beyond the 30 or 60 minutes a couple times per week.
  • They are a product of their product: they “look” the part and enjoy being fit.  A fitness professional doesn’t have to be the biggest, fastest, strongest, and best looking, they do need to exemplify a healthy, active lifestyle. 
  • Their own workouts are similar to what you enjoy: fitness professionals train others similarly to how they workout, it’s being human.  Watch them and see if you gravitate to their style.

Not all clients stay with the same professional, and that is fine.  Work with a few until you feel comfortable.  Ask them questions about their experiences both in fitness and life overall.  If you’re a 55- year-old male, a 27-year-old female may not understand what’s going on in your stage of life.  The relationship has to be win-win.  Fitness professionals are also counselors because our clients are in a vulnerable state and they feel comfortable sharing about their lives.  Being able to trust each other is crucial for maintaining a long-term relationship.

You are investing in their knowledge and expertise to get you where you have not been able to go.  If you’re health is worth it, then hiring a fitness professional is worth it.  Just like having a CPA.  Sure, you can do your own taxes, is it worth the risk of fines, penalties, and levies if the job isn’t done right?  Only you know the answer to that.  Your health is the same risk assessment.

For questions about my experiences with clients, email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com.  Go to my website and learn how to be on the Athlete in the Game of Life Team to receive a FREE copy of my book.

What is the Best Kind of Cardio Workout?

I’m often asked what the best exercises for a variety of body parts are, and for cardiovascular workouts.  In keeping with American Heart Month in February, I’ll discuss the cardiovascular workouts in this blog.  The number one secret nobody will ever tell you about establishing a true healthy lifestyle for heart health, do whatever you like the most!

Photo by Mary Taylor on Pexels.com

“But, Matt,” you say, “running is the best because it clears my head.”  If running indeed clears your headspace, then run.  For me, running makes me angry and I hate it, so not going to happen.  The only way human beings stick to anything that requires a little work is if there is a modicum of happiness that accompanies it.  This is why diets fail 90% of the time, because they are about deprivation with an ending point.  When the diet is over, you go back to your old ways of eating and gain all the weight back if not more.

The best cardio exercise is the one you have some kind of enjoyment during the process.  This is why people play tennis, racquetball, and adult basketball leagues, they have fun and don’t do it consciously thinking about the benefits to their heart.  The heart will beat faster and pump blood to the needed muscles whether you run, cycle, play soccer, or swim, it does not know the difference.  Your brain knows what limbs are moving and how to initiate nerve impulses that go with the physical activities.  Your heart cannot think and therefore just does its job of beating and keeping you alive.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

There are methods to maximize the time you spend doing cardiovascular training.  In my blog last week, I talked about one called Tabata.  The principle behind Tabata is interval training, where you do short bouts of intense movement followed by rest or slower movement.  The CDC says even five-minute bouts of moderate-to-intense exercise are beneficial for the heart and brain in their 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Report found on their website.  The interval training concept focuses on how quickly you can recover from an intense bout before going back to that higher intensity.  Benefits of interval training:

  • Can be done in shorter amounts of time than steady state
  • Any type of exercise can be used (walking, running, swimming, weight training, etc)
  • Doesn’t need any extra equipment
  • Mimics all sports involving a cardiovascular component

Using the FITTE method is how personal trainers work with clients.  So, here’s your free insight!  Frequency Intensity Type Time Enjoyment.  There’s that enjoyment piece again.  FITTE is how you can adjust the variables for maximum efficiency and enjoyment!  Interval training uses all aspects of FITTE to ensure you get the most bang for your buck, which is time spent on the activity. 

Frequency is how many times per week.

Intensity is your heart rate percentage related to your maximum rate.

Time is how long are you doing the activity.

Type is whatever activity you choose to do.

Enjoyment is purely subjective based on your happiness.

Example A using these variables for a 20-minute cardio session:  twice per week on the assault bike doing intervals of 1 minute all out, 2 minutes slower pace.

Example B using these variables for a 30-minute cardio and weights session: three times per week broken into four, six-minute circuits with a minute rest between circuits.

Your heart doesn’t know the difference between the examples.  It loves the process and results either way.  Get off that hamster wheel of a treadmill unless you really LOVE it.  Adapt and adjust the variables to what gives you the most enjoyment.  I guarantee you will stick with it once you practice the adjustments to help achieve your goals!

For more help, please email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com.  My coaching programs are also available on my website.  Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

10 Minutes a Day Keeps Heart Disease Away. WFH Tip for Simple Home Workouts

How many 10-minute blocks of time do you waste mindlessly scrolling through social media platforms daily?  And at the end of that 10 minutes, nothing productive happened except you are a little dumber now than before.  In that same small amount of time, you can reduce your risk of hypertension and cognitive decline all from your living room office.  Not to mention feel and look better.

Photo by mikoto.raw on Pexels.com

I’m sure you heard of Tabata, 20 seconds of activity followed by 10 seconds of rest then repeat in four minute circuits.  It fades in and out of being trendy, and always stays effective.  A full Tabata workout is 16 minutes (4 circuits of 4 minutes each), you can add or subtract to that time based on your fitness level and available workout time.  No special equipment is needed, just a little courage to try something new and a timer.

With connectivity up two more hours working from home than at the office, taking a few minutes for physical activity is essential for physical AND mental health.  If your gyms are closed, you only have at home indoor options.  The CDC says bouts of activity lasting little as five minutes have beneficial effects on the brain if they are moderate-to-vigorous.  Boom! You’re winning the mental health battle already! Your heart benefits automatically when you elevate it from exercise, regardless of the type, another win.

Photo by Alexy Almond on Pexels.com

People tend to complicate exercise by thinking it has to be elaborate moves with multiple equipment types.  If you ever worked on a farm, you know how heavy the workload can be and not a barbell to be found, yet your body is put through the ringer.  A Tabata workout is similarly effective.  I jokingly call these types of workouts “prison style” because it’s just lifting your body weight various ways.  If you were stuck in an 8×8 cell, you can do the following workout:

Circuit 1: 4 minutes, do the exercises consecutively 20 seconds of work 10 seconds rest, then repeat for 2 total circuits.

  • Body weight back row pulling yourself towards the bars
  • Squat jumps
  • Push ups
  • Bicycle crunches

Circuit 2:  Same as circuit 1 flow

  • Pike push ups
  • 2 leg glute/hamstring bridges
  • 2-foot hops
  • Mountain climbers

Total time with even a brief rest between circuits, 10 minutes.  No equipment provided in jail.  At home you could hang underneath your dining room table and do the body weight row, everything else can all be done with a small floor space.  Sure, working from home may seem prison-like now after almost a year, so I get it.

Most music apps have a Tabata playlist which includes the timing for start/stop.  If you have dumbbells and/or a resistance band, now you’re really in business!  There are no wrong answers for exercises, just make sure every part of your body is worked at least once.  If you’re a newbie, one round may be enough at this intensity.  If you’re a novice, two rounds are great.  10 minutes, three times per week can make a major positive impact on your health.  Give it a try!  As you gain experience, add more circuits throughout the day.  Compared to wasting an hour daily on social media with no physical and mental benefits, you have now changed your outlook on life.  Congratulations!

For questions about Tabata, feel free to email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com.  Go to my website and order my new book, The Athlete in the Game of Life, to learn how exercise impacts the brain.  Plus listen to my interviews from radio stations all over the country.  I promise you will learn more than you imagined!

Moderation Examples, Not Extreme Behavior to Achieve Your Resolutions

Extreme right wing, extreme left wing.  Extreme heat, extreme cold.  Obesity, anorexia.  Overuse injuries, injuries from underutilization.

When it comes to new health and fitness goals, extremes are way to common for January resolutions.  Waking up at 5:00AM to run 3 miles when you never wakeup before 6:00AM and haven’t run since PE in high school.  Drop 40 pounds on a liquid diet in 15 days, and you barely drink 3 glasses of water per day.  What are the odds of success in these situations?  Not much.

Photo by Charlotte May on Pexels.com

As a fitness industry expert, I have personally gone through different extremes with my body.  None of these extremes have ever lasted long for many reasons.  The body and mind cannot deal with depravation and over training for long periods of time without injuries.  What has lasted is a moderation of healthy lifestyle habits and activities that I enjoy.  The lessons learned from training for a bodybuilding contest and elite level obstacle course races, helps me maintain a fitness level that works for my personality and body type.

  • “I need someone to be super strict with me or I’ll never lose weight.”
  • “I have to workout for two hours every day.”
  • “I’m cutting all carbs from my diet and eating only meat.”

Do any of these statements make you nod your head in agreement?  If so, has that thought process worked for you beyond the length of a program/diet/contest?  If the answer to the first question is yes, the answer to the second is no.  You have reverted back to your previous self and feel like a failure for doing so.  This cyclic behavior is self-destructive and why your resolutions never work every year.

Regardless if you started and stopped already, or haven’t started yet, try a new moderate approach to changing your lifestyle.

  • No alcohol Sunday-Thursday
  • Replace soft drinks with flavored mineral water
  • Join a group to try new physical activities like hiking or cycling

In an article on NPR about a Swedish study on factors that help keep resolutions, ones that are for pleasurable activities instead of depriving are more successful.  Moderation in your lifestyle can lead to better choices overall.  Look at choices about exercise and food changes with an “if I do x, then I adjust y”.  For example, you’re going to dinner with friends on Thursday night.  Adjust your breakfast and lunch choices to allow for anything you want at dinner.  You fully enjoy the outing without guilt and still on track for your goals. 

NPC Physique competition 2014

Life is meant to be lived, not constantly have the fun taken away.  For 6 years I have maintained body fat percentage around 10% or less.  I don’t skip meals, turn down alcohol, or workout excessively.  The hard work was done during the bodybuilding contest prep.  Since then, I learned that is not the lifestyle for me.  Overall, I don’t drink sodas, keep alcohol to the weekends, and don’t buy sugary foods at the grocery store.  Total calories I eat are more than most people daily, the food is just not processed and full of fat. 

2021 doesn’t feel much different so far than 2020.  What you can take into the new year is a more focused view on your health and fitness to strengthen your immunity and reduce risk factors for heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.  In turn, you will be happier and have more self-confidence to take on the challenges 2021 will bring you.

For help with your goals, feel free to email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com.  Join the Athlete in the Game of Life Team on my website and receive a free copy of my book!

Reject the Resolutions in 2021!

Reject the Resolutions for 2021!  Am I crazy?  Well, yes, I am to an extent.  At least I now have your attention!

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

Every January is like Groundhog Day for the same resolutions that go unresolved year after year:

  • Lose 20-30 pounds by February 2nd
  • Make 20% more income by March 1st
  • Run a marathon by February 30th

Why do we put ourselves through this process like a bunch of zombies who continue down the same road?  First it starts with a mindset of making small, weekly changes that are enjoyable.  If you don’t have enjoyment in some of the process, you won’t stick to the results.  Second, forgiveness of yourself if a day or two doesn’t go as planned.  You miss a day of exercise and have a piece of cake, so what.  Your resolution isn’t done and over, to wait for another year.  Tomorrow get back on your plan like the previous day didn’t exist.  Third, be a little vaguer in your steps to achieving a goal.  If you’re goal is to lose 20 lbs and you hate jogging and early mornings, don’t set the process to running at 5:30AM, four days per week.  Go hiking (an urban hike around your town also counts) with a friend twice per week at a time that suits your mood and schedule.

Here’s an example of what changing your mindset to a healthy lifestyle looks like:

  • Exercise twice per week
  • Drink water when I’m thirsty instead of soft drinks
  • Join a group for running a 5K

These new plans are FREE, have wiggle room if you miss a day or two, and can have fun in the process.  You may look at this new list and think it’s very doable, that’s the point!  Think about your goals for 2021.  How can you create them to be enjoyable, vaguer, and attainable?  There are many right answers.

Photo by Nina Uhlu00edkovu00e1 on Pexels.com

In a study by Per Carlbring in Sweden, he analyzed two groups who made resolutions.  One group was specific and had support from friends and groups to achieve their goals.  The second group was more uncertain and received minimal to no support from groups and friends.  Believe it or not, the second group was more successful!  55% of the second group’s participants achieved their resolutions.  Another factor that led to a higher success level was trying something new instead of cutting something out, or deprivation.  When you try something new, more happiness is usually involved than depriving yourself of something that previously made you feel good, even if it wasn’t good for you.

Photo by Any Lane on Pexels.com

Make 2021 a year of happiness and enjoyment to becoming healthier and more active.  2020 sucked, we all know and are ready for its continuation to end.  Start today, you don’t have to wait until Monday to add a smile to your daily ritual.  Smiling takes less effort than frowning, remember, and it matches every outfit in your closet!

For more information on how to be healthier and active in 2021, go to my website mattpeale.com, or email me at athleteinthegameofife@gmail.com.  To register for an autographed copy of my new book The Athlete in the Game of Life, download my free report on back reducing back with tips your doctor doesn’t even know.

3 Moves to Relieve WFH Chronic Pain (Pain isn’t your new normal)

According to the U.S. Census Bureau as quoted by Monica Fike on LinkedIn, 37% of employees were teleworking in late October through early November, with the majority living in major cities.  Because numbers can be read in different ways, that’s about 74 million people, or one out of every three people you know.  This number does not reflect jobs that have pivoted to more teleworking as part of their usual routine, like pharmaceutical sales reps for example.  Do you think employers have invested dollars to help their employees with appropriate workstations at home?  The answer is very likely no.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

People are working at their dining room tables, on their couches and beds, and at small desks in guest rooms.  None of these are truly appropriate for 8-10 hours of sitting that being constantly connected creates in this WFH environment.  What is the big result on their bodies?  Remodeling to with weak low backs, rounded shoulders, and text neck (forward head position), all of which create chronic pain and discomfort.

As I am interviewed by podcasts and radio stations around the country, they all ask the same question, what can these workers do at home to counteract their ‘new normal’?  In this blog, I’m sharing three body parts to stretch and strengthen right at your makeshift office to help the 74 million people out there suffering in silence.

  1. Stretch your chest/Strengthen your upper back – put your arm at a 90 degree angle in an L shape, place your arm against the corner of a wall and lean forward.  Stand up tall with proper posture and activate your core.  Hold for 20 seconds on both arms.  To strengthen, hold your arms out straight in front of you at shoulder height.  Pull your elbows back like there is a string attached, keeping good posture with a tight core and your neck stationary.  Hold soup cans or light dumbbells if you have them, for added resistance.  Do this for 15-20 reps once or twice a day.
  2. Stretch your quadriceps/Strengthen your hamstrings – grab your left foot with your left hand in a runner’s stretch, use a wall for balance if needed.  Make sure to pull your left leg in line with your right leg and your upper body is erect, hold for 20 seconds, and do the same for your right leg.  Strengthen your hamstrings by lying on your back, knees bent like you’re doing a sit-up, feet almost touching your butt.  Push your hips up as high as you can, keeping your feet flat on the floor.  Slowly lower your hips and repeat for 15-20 reps.  If that is to easy, do one leg at a time.
  3. Stretch your groin/Strengthen your hip rotators – stand with your legs wide apart, toes pointed forward.  Shift your weight to one side keeping the other leg straight, and the knee your shifting towards directly over your foot.  Do not excessively lean forward, then shift the other direction.  Strengthen your hip rotators by getting onto your hands and knees with your hands directly under your shoulders.  Keeping the 90-degree angle in your leg, externally rotate one leg to feel the side of your glute contract.  Do not shift your weight while doing so.  Repeat 15-20 times per leg for a couple sets.

You can do all three of these movements 3-5 times per week as you feel throughout the day.  It’s important to keep proper form to maximize the benefits of the stretching and strengthening.  Don’t worry if your range of motion and strength are limited at first, they will improve as you do these over time.  Your pain will subside, your energy levels improve, and your ability to do activities you enjoy, increase!  This is your PROPER normal, get used to it!

To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!

Text Neck: How to Overcome the New Pandemic in Neck Pain

Imagine a society where hardly anyone looks where their walking and is constantly staring down at an object in their hands.  They experience tension headaches and their bodies have remodeled themselves to look alien-like with their heads protruding forward and shoulders looking like Igor the hunchback.  Oh, that’s actually today’s current culture!

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

Pick up your head and look around.  Does your neck hurt just do that motion?  Do you find it difficult to hold your head up straight, ears lined up with your shoulders?  If you answered yes, then you have forward head position (FHP), which is also called “Text Neck”.  Spinal surgeons report an increase in young patients who are experiencing upper back and neck pain due to cell phone use (Cuéllar & Lanman, 2017). A new diagnosis, known as text neck, has been established to describe this condition (Cuéllar & Lanman, 2017). 

Muscles, tendons, and ligaments can be altered over time from postural malalignments and injuries.  The body adjusts its shape to compensate for how you move and don’t move on a daily basis multiplied by weeks, months, and years.  This action is called spinal remodeling, and can work positively to reshape yourself into correct position, and negatively, which is likely your current postural alignment. Spinal remodeling increases the risk for degenerative changes to occur in the spine over the lifespan (Pop, Mihancea, & Debucean, 2018; Stone et al., 2015). Similarly, adults can also develop pain and other musculoskeletal symptoms by maintaining poor posture when working at their desk or workstation for extended periods of time. For example, frequent computer users commonly experience pain in the cervical spine, shoulders, back, and wrist (Borhany, Shahid, Siddique, & Ali, 2018).

How does this affect you in these pandemic times?  People working from home are spending more time on their laptops and devices than ever before.  Work is stressful enough, and you may think that is the cause of your headaches.  Sitting with abnormal head and neck posture while using computers on a regular basis is also associated with higher incidences of headaches (Mingels, Dankaerts, van Etten, Thijs, & Granitzer, 2016).  Does this ring a bell for you? 

The more we rely on technology, the more we fall into these patterns I’m talking about.  The good news is you can overcome them without needing surgery and missing work in physical therapy.  An exercise prescription can be the best medicine, and it’s a whole lot cheaper than pills and potions!  Here are a few tips to help you deal with FHP:

Foam roll your upper back and shoulders (thoracic spine) 2-3 days per week.

Thoracic spine foam rolling

Stretch the muscles of your neck and trapezius by holding each stretch for 15-20 seconds in 1-2 rounds.

Stretching your neck muscles

Strengthen your scapula by practicing retraction movements.  Remodeling back into proper posture is not solely based on stretching.  Strengthening the corresponding weak muscles is critical.  Perform 2-3 sets of 15 reps with heavy enough weight that you can’t do more than the suggested reps.

Ball squat with scapular retraction

Whether you’re currently working out or not doesn’t matter to integrate these stretches and exercises into your lifestyle.  If you don’t belong to a gym, don’t worry about it.  Use what you have at home to do this simple routine.

To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!