It’s great to go to the gym or to run 30-60 minutes a few times a week.
But that is not enough activity to keep the blood flowing freely through your blood vessels and to keep your endothelial lining in good health.
That’s especially true if you spend most of the rest of your days sitting in front of a computer or lying on the couch.
Long periods of sitting and low activity are the new smoking.
You need to spend your days moving more, but, of course, that can’t mean working out intensely.
This chronic lack of simple movement – and a wide range of movement – is causing us pain and premature aging.
Here’re three exercises to help you maintain a functional body.
1. Chin Slides
This exercise is especially important for everyone who spends much time with their head lowered to view a smartphone or computer screen – which is almost all of us.
For every inch you hold your head forward, that’s the equivalent of 10 pounds of stress on your neck.
One recent study x-rayed the necks of teenagers and young adults. It found they had bone deterioration equivalent to people 20 years older.
This exercise is designed to combat the damage.
How to Do It
Sit up straight.
Keeping your head level while you look straight ahead, move your head back and forth – so it moves only horizontally. Keep your chin.
You don’t move your head up or down – just forward and back.
You’re not nodding your head, you’re sliding it back and forth.
You can also get some extra stretch backward by placing your hand on your chin and gently pushing your head to the rear.
There’s no set number of repetitions. The goal is to maintain flexibility and good positioning, not to build muscle.
Do it as often during the day as you can.
You may feel self-conscious doing it in front of others. But do five or so reps whenever you look up from your computer or phone screen and whenever you just sit in the car, especially when stopped at a light.
2. Hanging by your hands
Modern life boxes us into a small span of physical movement. Over time, that reduces what doctors call our “range of motion.”
One of the major joints affected by this is our shoulders. We’re meant to throw, lift, pull, climb and move our hands and arms a lot – but modern life is constricting us.
When was the last time you reached for something above your head? Putting bags into airplane overhead bins is about the only time most of us do so – and it makes our shoulders sore.
As we age, torn rotator cuffs and frozen shoulders become common. Doctors want to prescribe pain pills, ice, and surgery – everything except the one thing that actually prevents and reverses shoulder pain – hanging by your hands.
I cured – and I use this word deliberately – myself of shoulder pain years ago by hanging by my hands.
(I’m not a doctor, but I had chronic shoulder pain until I began hanging every day. Gradually, the pain grew less severe – and finally stopped. And it hasn’t returned, after 8 years. Take that for what it’s worth.)
How to Do It
Find or install a horizontal wood or iron bar – or even a tree branch you can reach. I used the crossbar of a low swing set.
Grab the bar with your palms facing forward, as though doing pull-ups (not chin-ups).
Hold your weight 20-30 seconds.
Rest. Repeat up to five times every day.
If you don’t have shoulder pain now, you can do this occasionally to keep your shoulder bones in proper alignment, preventing a painful condition.
If you have already have shoulder pain, prepare yourself mentally. The first time I tried to hold my weight, the pain was the most intense I’ve ever felt – and I’ve had kidney stones. I had to immediately let go.
However, if you persist, the pain does decrease. The longer and more often you hang, the faster you’ll get rid of it.
3. Static back
Probably the most common painful condition for modern adults is low back pain.
This procedure shouldn’t even be called an “exercise” because there’s no work involved, only resting.
It helps your spine and other structures, including your hips, relax into their proper positions.
How to Do It
Lie on your back on the floor with your legs up on a chair or block or box with a flat surface.
Your thighs go straight up. Bend your knees at a 90 degree angle. Rest your calves on the chair so they’re straight and horizontal.
Your abdomen and your thighs form a right angle at your hips.
Your thighs and calves form a right angle at your knees.
Rest your arms and hands on the floor, below shoulder-level, palms up.
Lie there 5 to 10 minutes, breathing through your nose. Just rest and relax, allowing gravity to position your back and hips into their optimal positions.
If your lower back forms a small arch, let it relax until it’s pressed flat against the floor.
The only hard part of this “exercise” is not falling asleep.
Incorporate these procedures into your daily life, and you’ll feel better and have less pain.
Most of all, no matter what you do – move more, move more often and move in more directions.