Category Archives: Exercise

Ten Ways to Manage Baby Boomer Back Pain

As a famous Aunty Acid cartoon says: “It’s bad news when you get to the age where your back goes out more than you do.”

Back PainThat’s for sure. Fortunately, I haven’t had a lot of back issues during my lifetime, but recently that’s changed. My lower back pain has become chronic and can’t be ignored any longer.

Of course, I’m far from alone. According to statistics, four-fifths of Americans have back pain.

My back problems probably have something to do with my age. But I don’t want to accept that. Isn’t it cooler to think my lower back hurts because of my vicious racquetball games with hubby? Yeah, that’s it! (I swear, old age creeps up on you like underwear.)

If you’re in the same boat, what should you do?

According to research, people who don’t pursue extreme treatment have fewer complications. So before you rush out to get an MRI or x-ray, ask for epidural or cortisone shots, start popping pain pills, or thinking about surgery, try the following recommendations:

Be Patient

At this point, I’m not hopeful my back pain will resolve itself without taking some kind of action and I’m not very good at being patient. However, according to Prevention’s website, as many as 90% of back-pain episodes resolve within six weeks, whether they’re the result of an injury or due to a structural or nerve problem. It doesn’t hurt to give it some time to see if the back pain gets better on its own.

Use Anti-inflammatory Drugs

Oh, I hate to admit it, but me and hubby are both popping Aleve pills like Pez candy lately. We keep a huge bottle in our nightstand. But the fact is, ibuprofen (such as Motrin or Advil) or a naproxen (like Aleve) can help ease the pain. Research shows these types of drugs usually give you better relief than acetaminophen (Tylenol). The downside: Over long periods, NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal problems, so don’t take them for more than 10 days without consulting your doctor.

Stay Active

You may just want to give in to the pain and lie down, but the general advice is to keep moving. Studies show that people with short-term low-back pain who use bed rest to try and solve the problem may feel even more pain. Simple, low-impact exercises like walking, cycling, and swimming can be helpful. If you sit for long periods of time at a desk like me, experts suggest getting up every 20 minutes or so to walk around and stretch a bit. I just started trying some exercises I found on Mayo Clinic’s website to help gently stretch and strengthen my back and supporting muscles. I’ll let you know if it helps.

Improve Your Posture

Research shows that most people with poor posture put unnecessary strain on their backs. That means no slumping at your desk (guilty as charged) which makes it harder for your back to support your weight. Makes sense. I should have listened to my mother when she told me to stand up straight. Never too late to change, right? Also, be careful of your posture when lifting heavy objects. Never bend over from the waist. Instead, bend and straighten from the knees.

Use Ice and Heating Pads

You probably already know this, but it’s a good reminder. If your back hurts due to an injury or strain, use ice the first 48 hours for 20 minute sessions several times a day. This can reduce swelling and relieve pain. Then switch to 20 minutes with a heating pad which loosens tight muscles and increases circulation.

Focus On Your Feet

This was interesting to me. Women whose feet roll inward when they walk might be particularly susceptible to lower-back pain, according to a recent study in the journal Rheumatology. Inserts may help if this is a problem. Hey, honey, watch me walk. Am I strolling a bit wonky?

Get a Massage

See, it’s not all bad news. You now have a great excuse to get that relaxing massage. One study showed that people who had regular messages had substantially less pain and disability after 10 weeks. Osteopathic and chiropractic therapies have been shown to work too.

Try Acupuncture

I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat about the needles, but studies have shown many patients with low back pain found more pain relief with acupuncture than those receiving conventional care. I’ve heard from several people that this can help. Maybe one day I’ll get desperate enough to brave the needles!

Watch Your Weight

Oh, it had to be said. We all know it’s true. Being overweight puts excess stress on your spine and joints. So, try and keep your weight within a healthy range for your age and height. Okay, lecture over.

Stay Calm

Back pain becomes worse if you start stressing about it. Accept that you have pain and try taking some of the steps I’ve outlined above to help manage it. Deep breathing may help calm you. Resist delving into a sea of negativity and hopelessness. To make the pain more tolerable, try doing three things that make you feel good each day. In other words, find a bit of baby boomer bliss! Enjoy a soothing cup of tea or coffee, write in a journal, call an old friend, or enjoy a candlelit bath.

And take some comfort from a quote I saw from Joe Morgan: “If you don’t have a bad back by the time you’re 60, then you haven’t done anything in your life.”

Image courtesy of saphatthachat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

Why Dancing Makes You Happy

I love to dance. When I was younger and my husband and I were dating, we took ballroom dance lessons and had an absolute blast.

Dancing HappyAlthough we’ve forgotten how to do some of the dances like the rumba and cha cha, we still remember the steps to the swing. At weddings, we’re the couple who rush out every time they play Rock This Town by Stray Cats or Glenn Miller Orchestra’s  In The Mood. And at parties we still get out there and boogie down.

You too should shake your booty as often as possible. Why?

Whether you choose to do ballet, salsa, ballroom, Zumba, tap, or simply rock it out to some fun music, dancing is one of the often overlooked tickets to happiness and good for your health to boot.

Studies show that dancing can help you:

  • Lose weight
  • Reduce stress
  • Improve flexibility
  • Make friends and increase social skills
  • Improve heart and lung health
  • Reduce depression
  • Increase muscle tone and strength
  • Improve balance and posture
  • Increase energy levels
  • Lift your spirits

Need more motivation? For baby boomers like me reading this, according to a study in The New England Journal of Medicine, dancing may boost your memory and prevent you from developing dementia as you get older.

Hooray for dancing!

Of course, you should see your doctor for a check-up if you’re older, overweight, or have a medical condition before proceeding.

Once that’s done, what are you waiting for? Even though it’s winter right now, that’s no excuse since dancing is usually performed indoors. So join a dance school or check out what your community offers. Most fitness clubs offer dance classes. Go line dancing. Check out an instructional or fitness dancing DVD at your library or simply dance around the house. Get your heart pumping and keep your body moving. Your butt will thank you later!

If you need a few songs to inspire you, here are five dance songs I can’t resist:

“Shout” by The Isley Brothers

“Happy” by Pharrell Williams

“Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift

“1999” by Prince

MC Hammer, “U Can’t Touch This”

Okay, it’s your turn. What kind of dancing do you enjoy and what have you found to be the benefits? What dance songs make you get up out of your chair and start moving? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How Exercise Makes You Happier

stretching_and_exercising_205630Want to find your bliss? We can’t discuss happiness and not talk about the importance of regular exercise. You knew it was coming sooner or later, right?

True, 20 minutes on the treadmill doesn’t solve all of life’s problems, but endorphins produced by exercise can help you feel happier by reducing stress and anxiety and lessening feelings of sadness or depression.

Being active and feeling strong naturally helps you feel more self-confident and sure of yourself which can help open doors to all kinds of possibilities.

Exercise helps increase metabolism and builds muscle mass, helping to burn more calories. Who doesn’t want that? When your body reaches a healthy weight, your overall wellness and outlook on life improves.

If all that weren’t enough, a healthy, active lifestyle can help prevent or substantially slow down a number of health issues that pop up as we age such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, hypertension, cancer, osteoporosis, as well as muscle and joint pain.

So you would think us baby boomers would be all over this exercise thing, right? After all, our generation of bell bottoms and tie dye isn’t taking old age lying down. We’ve all seen commercials of those ambitious, fit, gray-haired boomers pedaling bikes uphill, lacing up their sneakers and heading to the gym, jogging, and shooting jump shots.

Not so fast. What is a surprise is how many boomers are not physically active. While we boomers have our share of active go-getters, they do not make up the majority. Not by a long shot.

A whopping 78% of men and women over 40 do not have a consistent fitness routine. In fact, in spite of medical advances, members of the baby boomer generation are actually in worse health than their parents were at the same stage of life, according to research reported in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Shocking, isn’t it? Not exactly how we want to think of ourselves.

Oh I know, us boomers have a million excuses, myself included. We have demanding jobs, discouraging health problems, a slowing metabolism, and hormonal changes. Some of us are caring for aging parents, raising teens, or dealing with our young adult children who are moving back home due to the economy. We’re concerned about injuries or falls. We’re just plain tired.

Before you throw in the towel though, let’s talk about how much physical activity we need to stay fit.

We’re not talking about hours of pumping iron in a gym or running a marathon to achieve the benefits I listed above. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity five days a week (or 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity three days a week) Add a muscle-strengthening activity two days a week for a complete package.

Okay, so visualize a life where you can easily travel, play with your grandchildren, and participate in sports, hobbies, and interests without the restrictions of chronic illnesses brought on by being a couch potato. Picture a life without swallowing cholesterol and high blood pressure pills every day and saving money on medication.

Since study after study shows that staying fit is the key to an energetic and fun-filled life during our 50s, and beyond, don’t you think that type of freedom, independence, happiness, and adventure is worth just 30 minutes a day five days a week?

Okay, so there’s your pep talk. It’s time. Get off that couch and get moving!