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Exercises To Help You Strengthen Your Back

Many people who spend much of their day at desk jobs tend to suffer from back pain at some point. Any back pain is really hurtful and makes it hard to sit at the desk for hours. The best way to prevent back pain from occurring is to exercise regularly. Simple, regular exercise strengthens the muscles, protects the spine and supports the back.

But not just any exercise would work – to combat back pain, you will need to choose the right exercises that strengthen the back muscles and increase flexibility. There are three types of exercises that help fight back pain more effectively.

Cardiovascular Exercises: Cardiovascular exercises build up muscular strength and stamina and help with your overall fitness. However, it is important to do this right, so that the back doesn’t get hurt. So, it’s better to stick to simple cardiovascular exercises such as walking, jogging, swimming and cycling.

Exercise that Strengthen the Core Muscles: There are exercises such as Pilates and yoga that strengthen the core muscles, especially those around the stomach, hip area, back and leg. These exercises support and protect the spine; keep the back strong and prevent back injury.

Stretching Exercises: Stretching exercises improve the back’s flexibility. The key to these exercises is to stretch slowly and to avoid any unexpected movement. Never push the body harder or faster than what’s needed.

There are several other back strengthening exercises as well, which you should make a part of your daily exercise routine. Let’s look at 3 of the most effective ones.

Hip Bridge

This exercise is recommended for those who spend a lot of time sitting at their desk, which puts excessive pressure on the spine.  This exercise stretches the hip flexors, stabilizes the spine and strengthens the abdominal muscles. To perform a Hip Bridge, lie on your back, with your feet flat on the ground and hip-width apart. Keep your arms relaxed and knees bent. Now, squeeze your buttocks even as you lift your hips at the same time, creating a straight line from the shoulders to the knees. Hold in the position for a count of 3 and then lower yourself slowly. Do 10 to 12 reps.

Bird Dog

Bird Dog improves muscle balance and coordination. It stabilizes the spine, tones the glutes, hamstrings and the upper back and tightens the abs. To perform this exercise, be on all fours, with knees wide apart and under the hips, with hand flat and shoulder width apart. With the spine completely neutral and avoiding arching the back or rotating the hips, extend the right leg back and left arm straight forward. Hold for a count of 3 and repeat on the other side. Do 6 reps on each side.

Side Plank

Side plank is one of the most effective exercises for the back that builds great strength and endurance in the core. It offers excellent support to the lower back and helps to keep it stable during physical activities that require movement in the hips or the back. It is easy to perform this exercise, just lie on your right side, while maintaining a straight line from the head to the feet, and rest on your forearm. Your elbow should be directly under the shoulder. Now, slowly contract the abdominal muscles and lift the hips off the floor at the same time, while maintaining the straight line at all times. Hold the position for around 30 seconds and then lower. Repeat the same on the other side. Do 3 reps on each side.

Before getting started with any back exercise, consult with a doctor or a physiotherapist, and ask them to create a training routine that’s suitable for your needs.

Why Walking On Your Lunch Break Can Help You Get Through Your Day

An afternoon slump in enthusiasm and focus is common in all workplaces.  People hate working after having just had their lunch. They would much rather be somewhere else.

One way to combat the drop in enthusiasm in the afternoon and to get through the rest of the day with renewed vigor is to take a quick walk during the lunch break, just after lunch. This is an idea that always works. Hard to believe that something so simple could be more effective?

Well, there are studies that prove how a gentle mid-afternoon stroll after lunch can improve people’s moods and help them handle the stress at work better. There’s nothing new in this – everybody knows what a great activity walking can be. In fact, any exercise is a great activity, including walking. People who exercise and are physically active are calmer, sharper and happier than those who don’t.

You just have to walk 30 minutes during the lunch hour break. Just try it and experience the change in your mood. Let’s consider a study that was published in the Scandanavian Journal of Medicine that proves this point. The study investigated the immediate effects of walking in the lunch hour on people, specifically, rather than the positive effects of walking in general.

Participants were first asked to participate in a 10 week walking program during their lunch hour break. They were asked to walk for 30 minutes after lunch, 3 days a week. Immediately after the walk, they were asked to report their mood by answering a series of questions on a smart phone app. There was a different group of participants who were asked not to walk during the lunch hour at all.

The questions asked were designed to find out how the participants felt immediately following the walk  –  whether they felt stressful, tense, enthusiastic, mindful of their workload, motivated, exhausted or fatigued. There were questions related to work and life issues as well.

What made this study different from similar studies conducted in the past was that the participants were asked to report their mood or feelings in real time, immediately after the walk, using their smart phone app. In past studies, the volunteers were asked about their mood or feelings several hours or even days after the walk – which meant that there was a serious time lag, which affected the accuracy of their answers.

Now, the researchers asked the same questions to the group of volunteers who were asked not to walk during their lunch break. The answers of those who walked and those who didn’t were compared and the results were as you might have expected – the volunteers who walked were far more enthusiastic about their work, felt less stressful and able to take on the afternoon workload with a smile on the face!

Clearly, taking a quick walk during your lunch break would help improve your mood significantly and do wonders for your workplace productivity. The only issue was that many participants in the program were forced to quit midway as their managers were not appreciative of the fact that they went walking during the lunch break rather than staying behind at the desk.

In fact, the management in all organizations should be made aware of the benefits of walking during the lunch break and how it impacts the productivity in the workplace positively. It improves the mood and the general atmosphere at the office and employees would be looking forward to work with renewed enthusiasm. Perhaps the management should be told to take a quick walk during the lunch break as well!

Why You Need To Start Waking Up Early

To be fair, not everyone enjoys waking up early in the morning. It’s something we do when we have to – such as a fast approaching project deadline or an exam. But really, waking up early is something you should do more often, because it’s good for you. Let’s find out why!

Wake Up Early for Academic Success

If you’re a student, you will know (if you ask them) that the best students in your class wake up early. In fact, this is something that was confirmed by a study done by the Texas University. It was found that students who woke up early had better test scores and higher GPAs compared to those who woke up late. This helps them get into a more productive routine for the rest of the day. Well, now you know what to do for a better performance at tests – wake up early!

Wake Up Early for a Healthy Breakfast

Have you noticed that you often end up skipping breakfast when you fail to wake up in time? Many people prefer to get the extra wink of sleep during a busy week, so end up skipping breakfast or not preparing a sumptuous breakfast in their hurry to get to work on time. You need a healthy breakfast because your body needs all the nutrition it can get early in the morning. A healthy breakfast gives the body the energy it needs to get through the day. It keeps the mind focused and alert. So, clearly, you wouldn’t want to skip breakfast at all. That’s a good enough reason to wake up early, don’t you think?

Wake Up Early to Perform Better at Work

Most successful people are early risers. Why? The earlier you wake up, more work gets done. Waking up early is important for your productivity at work. There’s no better time to focus and set your goals for the rest of the day than at, say, 5:00 am in the morning. There are no distractions at this time and you won’t be interrupted by the kids, who’re likely to be sound asleep. Your brain would be fully charged and raring to go. Your efficiency will be at its peak, and you’re likely to make better decisions, plan and set better goals. You will be full of energy for the rest of the day.

Wake Up Early for Mental Clarity

One of the biggest benefits of waking up early is that it keeps your mind sharp, keeps the dark thoughts away and fills you up with renewed optimism for the rest of the day. You will be able to shake off the negativity that enveloped you the night before and feel a change in your attitude towards life. You will feel the cobwebs in your mind clearing up. Your mind will be clear, alert and focused. Studies have shown that early risers are less likely to succumb to anxiety and depression.

Wake Up Early for More Effective Exercise

The most important reason to wake up early is that you will have time to exercise. You can go on a quick 30-minute morning run, which would really clear up the mind. There is no better feeling than going on a run early in the morning, breathing in the oxygen, with the whole track to yourself. Exercise helps you snap out of early morning sleepiness as well. It energizes your body, burns calories and sheds weight.  It helps to fight lethargy as well.

Wake Up Early for Better Sleep

If you get into a habit of waking up early, you’re likely to sleep better as well. You will fall into a well established sleep routine and sleep soundly through the night. You won’t suffer from a feeling of restlessness that many late risers are known to have. Waking up early sets up your body’s internal clock in a way that is beneficial to your health and well-being.

We have given you 6 great reasons to wake up early. The time for excuses is over. Set the alarm at 4:30 am before going to bed tonight!