The Best Workout to Keep Your Body Young for Life
Last Updated: Dec 30, 2015
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Boy riding a mountain board in a park
When it comes to youthfulness and longevity, bamboo may be the best teacher. Bamboo isn’t too large in size, but it’s sturdy enough to endure all kinds of weather. It’s flexible yet stable, mobile yet deeply rooted. For a life of vitality and good health, it’s important to think of strength extending past the size of your muscles or the amount of weight you can bench and instead focus on the ability to move each joint through its full range of motion with control. Your joints must first work independently in order to be integrated into more dynamic movements so you can move how you were designed to move -- multidimensionally. As Cody Storey, movement and mobility specialist and owner of Storey Fitness in Los Angeles, says, “Many people are overstressed, overworked and sitting all day. It’s a recipe for dysfunction. We need to reprioritize the way we think about fitness and movement. We need to not just move more, but more specifically, more mechanically and more intelligently.”
Pain, painful, painfulness
HOW MOBILITY AND STABILITY KEEP YOU YOUNG
Movement specialist Cody Storey specializes in functional range conditioning (FRC), a system that helps people regain mobility and lost ranges of motion while simultaneously training the nervous system to control the movement, creating stability. By performing the prescribed controlled articular rotation (CAR) for the neck, shoulders, spine and hips daily, you can release the stiffness and aches and pains that seem to haunt most people as they age. Most importantly, it helps build awareness. “Awareness is the first step in keeping one’s body young,” says Robert Bates, a chiropractor in Manhattan Beach, California. “As we get older, we think we’re supposed to have pain,” he says. But prevention is the best medicine for pain. These nine moves can help keep you pain-free and feeling young as you move through life.
Related: 9 Moves You Can Do Every Day for Better Joint Mobility
Young woman drinking water by the swimming pool
Before you can move dynamically or even through the controlled articular rotation exercises, it’s important to know how to stand with proper posture. Not only will this help you look and feel more confident, but it puts your body at ease as well. Standing with joints stacked and weight evenly distributed ensures that muscles and tissues are well oxygenated and receive nutrients for proper function. HOW TO DO IT: Katy Bowman, biomechanist, author and natural-movement expert, recommends first aligning the outside edges of your foot with a straight edge (like a book) to ensure the subtalar joint (a joint in your foot below your ankle) is in good working order -- otherwise, you can be unsteady and put excess strain on the muscles of the lower leg when walking. Next, make sure your feet are hip-distance apart. Press all four corners of your feet into the ground. Make sure your pelvis is over your heels. Engage your thighs to lift your knee caps, squeeze your glutes, keep you chest lifted but bottom ribs tucked in and keep your head in a neutral position with chin slightly tucked. Practice the stance whenever possible.
Related: How to Fix the Worst Posture Mistakes
FLAT-FOOTED DEEP SQUAT
Have you ever watched a toddler move? They can perform a textbook deep squat, and some even prefer to play with their toys in that position. Somewhere along the way, you may have been taught that you were only supposed to squat to the point where your thighs were parallel to the floor. If that’s the case, you’re missing out on the power from your glutes and hamstrings. HOW TO DO IT: Start standing with your feet directly under your pelvis. Maintain a neutral spine as you press firmly into the ground, contracting your legs and glutes. Slowly begin to descend, bending at the hips and knees, as if you were sitting in a chair -- but don’t stop! With control, continue down as far as possible with weight in your heels, core tight and spine long. To begin to work toward more depth, use a bench or stool. Maintain the activation of your muscles, move slowly throughout the entire range of motion and practice driving back up through your heels with control.
Related: Is Your Core as Strong as a Toddler’s?
For all further movements, it’s important to actively (with tension and control) move toward the outer limits to increase range of motion and communicate to the brain that you can control the range of motion. But go slowly. It should feel like you’re moving through quicksand. Radiate tension throughout the rest of your body in order to move the target joint through its full range of motion independently of all other joints. Notice where you encounter stutters in the movement and where you carry more tension. Always be mindful to go to the point of tension, but never through it. Due to constant cellphone use and working at a computer all day, many people get stuck in forward head posture. “Forward head posture puts a lot of pressure on the nerves that feed out into the shoulder and mechanically doesn’t allow the shoulders to open up, which can lead to problems like carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic rotator cuff strains, neck problems and headaches,” says chiropractor Robert Bates. HOW TO DO THEM: First, assume the stance (see exercise 1), keeping your muscles engaged and shoulders rolled down the back. Drop your chin toward your chest. Slowly and with control reach for the outer limits as you circle your head to the right. Perform three to four circles in each direction.
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HOW TO DO THEM: Begin in the stance (see exercise 1). Hold your arms straight out in front of you. Radiate tension throughout your body so just your shoulder blades can move through their full range of motion. Reach your arms forward, and then slowly elevate the shoulder blades as your shoulders come up by your ears. With control, squeeze the shoulder blades together for retraction, and then lower the shoulder blades for depression. Continue to move slowly through this range of motion, keeping your spine neutral. Be aware of sticky points, clicking or cracking. The motion will help coat your joints with synovial fluid and wash away calcium deposits and toxins. Aim to complete three to four circles in each direction.
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HOW TO DO THEM: Begin in the stance (see exercise 1), contracting your glutes and drawing your navel in toward the spine. Make a fist with your right hand. Keep shoulders level as you send your left arm straight out in front of you with fingers extended. Raise your arm up to your end range -- the point where your spine doesn’t rotate, ribs can stay down and shoulder stays in the starting position. Then begin to wring out your shoulder as you rotate the pinkie-side of your arm around as you reach back. When you reach the hip, move the arm back behind you to find the end range. Once you hit the end range, slowly begin to wring out the arm again and feel the sensation in the joint capsule. Continue to reach forward with palm facing in toward the midline of your body with the thumb up and the pinkie finger down. Repeat for three to four circles on each arm.
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Balancing on one foot is challenging for a lot of people. If the joint is not working correctly, it can’t fire information to the brain about the surrounding environment and stabilize the body in that position. If you need to, hold on to a chair for support in order to stand tall and keep your spine in alignment instead of compromising form. It’s important to build the proper neurological pattern and strengthen the muscles around the joint. HOW TO DO THEM: Start in the stance (see exercise 1). With control, lift one knee in toward the chest. Flex your toes back toward your shin and imagine you’re squeezing a small ball behind the back of your knee. Maintain this tension throughout the movement. Externally rotate your leg out to the side. When you reach your end point range of motion, lift your lower leg to be in alignment with your knee. Maintain the tension by squeezing your hamstrings as you send your leg back behind you. Complete the circle to come back to the start position slowly pulling your knee in toward your chest by using the lower abdominal muscles. Complete three to four repetitions on each leg.
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Your spine houses the central nervous system, which sends messages to all parts of your body. Proper curvature in the spine provides structure and function to the body and acts as a shock absorber for motion. “If a segment of the spine is stuck, it’s not allowing proprioception to be generated, nutrients can’t flow to brain and throughout the body and stress hormones are produced, says chiropractor Robert Bates. HOW TO DO IT: Begin on your hands and knees in a neutral spine position. Exhale as you fully round out your back, pull the belly button in toward your spine and tuck your chin toward your chest. Starting at the tailbone, release one segment of your spine at a time, relaxing through the lumbar spine, thoracic spine (mid-back) and, finally, your cervical spine as you lift your chin upward into full flexion. Then, starting at the tailbone again, reverse the motion until you come back to the starting position. Be aware of what segments feel stuck. Breathe into these spaces, and remember to move slowly.
Related: The Best Yoga Moves for Your Back
EXTERNAL HIP ROTATION
If your hips aren’t mobile and functioning as they are designed to, your body destabilizes the lower back or the knee in order to compensate for the lost range of motion. When performed diligently, consistently and correctly, the next two exercises can release years of built-up stress in the hip joint. HOW TO DO IT: Start seated with spine long, as if there’s a beam behind you. Place your hands behind you (or, for a more advanced version, send arms straight out in front of you at shoulder height, forming fists). Spread your legs wide, bend your knees, flex your feet, pull your toes back toward your shins and press your heels into the floor. Slowly and with control, as if there are hands inside your hip sockets externally rotating your legs, drop your knees over to one side, bringing both legs into a 90-degree position. Keep your sits bones down as you allow the knees to move toward their end ranges of motion. With control, rotate at the hip as the knees return to the starting position, and then move over to the other side. Do three to four repetitions on each side.
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INTERNAL HIP ROTATION
HOW TO DO IT: Start seated with the spine long, as if there’s a beam behind you. With legs spread wide, knees bent and feet flexed, pull your toes back toward your shins. Keep your sits bones down as you bring one knee in toward the floor, rotating internally through the hip. Find the end range (sits bones should remain on the floor), and then slowly return to the starting position. For more activation, press your heel down, but be mindful if you experience any knee pain. If you do, back off. Do three to four repetitions on each side.
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A FINAL WORD ON MOBILITY AND STABILITY
“It’s essential to be honest with yourself about where you,” movement specialist Cody Storey says. Oftentimes, we want to jump into more advanced movements before addressing our foundational structure. But, like bamboo, you can spring back into motion with awareness and diligent practice. Just remember, undoing the damage and movement compensations we’ve accumulated over the years is a process, not a quick fix. Chiropractor Robert Bates recommends you take the following steps in order to keep your body looking, feeling and moving young. “First, realize that you can be a lot better, be responsible for your health and take action. Get someone to teach you to be aware (and supply you with exercises to offset impairments from daily movement patterns), practice (it takes time to re-educate the nervous system), recheck and assess, note your progress.”
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WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Do you have pain in any of your joints? Would you like to move with more ease and less strain? Give these exercises a try by applying them to your morning or evening routine or any time you’ve been sitting for a prolonged period of time. Then tell us: What did you think of these exercises? Did you feel better? Are there other moves you do to keep your body young and healthy? We would love to hear how you’re moving more freely and restoring function to your body! Leave your reply below in the comments section.
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