Healthy Exercise and Stretch From How You Move In Everyday Life - Fitness as a REAL LifestyleCopyright © Jolie Bookspan MEd, PhD, FAWM
What Is Fitness as a REAL Lifestyle?
- Fitness as a Lifestyle does not come from going to a gym or doing "sets and reps" of exercises. It is how you bend and reach and move in all your regular daily activities at home, at work, and everywhere.
- How you move and bend all day every day during all you already do does more to prevent pain and train useful stretch than sets and reps of exercises in a gym or rehab setting.
- Moving, sitting, living, exercising, and working in bad posture and injurious joint positions all day is why most exercises and rehab and PT don't fix injuries, and why people don't get all the strength and ability they could - they are missing the most important time to use healthy movement - real every-day life.
- Good movement and body mechanics are a powerful prescription for health and fixing pain. Functional Fitness, which means using healthy movement habits for actual daily activities, adds strength, mobility, injury prevention, awareness, stretch and other benefits that would otherwise be missed every day. It stops common causes of injuries, and helps you get the healthy movement you need to fix existing injuries. For these same concepts as they apply to your mental and emotional fitness, see my Spirit page. For using all this for healthier nutrition, see the Nutrition page.
Welcome to my work to fix pain and get health, strength, mobility and purposeful exercise during your everyday life activities. This is one page on my large free web site DrBookspan.com. This page, and others on this site, come from my work as a research scientist in physiology and medicine. See me for private appointments, over an online private consult to answer your questions, in fun group and private classes, and my books. More about me in Adventures.
SITE MAP. At the bottom of this page (and every page) are main navigation links, including a set of fun essentials that you can teach to groups of kids or adults, called Bookspan Basics. Plus buttons to SHARE, TWEET, and LIKE. Have fun.
On Mar 21, 2017, at 8:35 AM, Michael Mullervy wrote:
"Thanks to your work stopping pain, I have played more with my kids the last 5 days than in the last 2 years doing PT, sad to say. Thanks for the enlightenment."
Meet SPOT THE ANOMALY! My Teaching Dog
My two fun teaching characters are Backman! and Spot The Anomaly!
Backman! is the human in the drawing that should show at the top of this page. He demonstrates concepts in my books, articles, classes, and other works in hundreds of examples. My readers had a contest to name him. Winners were Paul Jenkins and Krishnamohan Jayakrishnan. The fun story is on the Academy page.
Dog helped behind the scenes until the contest to name him was won by a reader who often sends in great ideas, and wanted to remain anonymous except for first initial. Congratulations Anonymous J for letting us know that dog's name is - SPOT The Anomaly!
I have been drawing SPOT The Anomaly! for teaching materials and quizzes where students need to assess movement, sitting, and gait, and are learning to SPOT The Anomaly! He pops up from his hiding SPOT to help when needed. He is our new star.
Healthy Movement Is A Built-in Free Gym
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
- Paying to go to a gym to burn fuels to power machines to give you exercise is obscenely backwards. Instead, you can burn calories and strengthen using healthy movement during your hundreds of movements daily for ordinary activities, to clean your house, your neighborhood, and make a better world. No gyms, gimmicks, trainers, PT, or devices needed.
- Paying to go to physical therapy to fix pain, and going back to the injurious body mechanics and movement habits that caused the injury, or using habitual poor mechanics to do your PT (because it's what you know) is counter-productive, ironic, indefensible, preventable. Instead, we use healthy mechanics to prevent pain and let existing injuries heal.
- Study of posture rules, exercises, and devices has shown they have made as much or more pain and damage as slouching, and do not create healthy movement. They are also no fun. Instead, first learn a few simple healthy movement habits. Then all daily movement builds-in healthy comfortable fun strength and range of motion.
- The movement skills on this page are basics - minimum abilities - that give you healthy pain-prevention during daily life, while building mobility and strength at the same time. They are for everyone.
- For lifestyle fitness for your mind and spirit - see Emotional and Mental Training.
On May 30, 2001, Green Beret Lt. Col. R. Kelly Kill, Jr, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.C.S.M. wrote:
"Your carefully developed, fact-based system should be a natural for use by physicians, therapists, trainers and others in our field, just as it has been for so many you have already helped with this work."
Why Fitness as a Lifestyle?
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
An injury survey by US military revealed that 62% of American military injuries in Iraq were occurring in the gym (disease non-battle injuries DNBI). The same is happening at home. How can this be? Several things are happening. Just as not every medicine is healthy, not all exercises and stretches are healthy.
Just as smoking "works" for weight loss, but is not a smart or healthy way to do it, many exercises "work" for cosmetic results, but result in long-term injury and promote bad movement habits. Other common exercises don't work your body the way you need to move in real life, resulting in strains and injuries when going about daily activities.
1. My work shows you hundreds of simple ways to change your exercises, stretches, and daily movement, to make them fun, healthy, and the way you really need to move for healthier daily life.
2. Instead of repeating what others claim about health, I do original research - laboratory research in human physiology and my sports medicine clinical practice,
3. I see patients and students every day who are hurting and unhappy, despite all the exercise and fitness they do. Many of my patients are yoga teachers, physical therapists, and Pilates teachers with back pain, hip pain, and neck pain. I see personal trainers with herniated discs and knee pain. I see body builders with back pain, despite all the abdominal exercises they do. I see patients, including fitness instructors, who aren't getting more flexible no matter how much stretching they do. I see people who are stressed, tired, achy, and not in shape, even though they spend hundreds of dollars a month on supplements and pills, gizmos, equipment, trainers, and classes.
The answers are simple, and you can make your fitness not only more effective, but fun and healthy. Get started with the next article, below - "How To Start Fitness as a Lifestyle."
Paul gets his muscles outside a gym. Paul also teaches Home Repair and Karate classes. See our Class page. Photo of Paul Plevakas, Contractor and Karate Sensei is © copyright Dr. Bookspan.
Asking if it is possible to get exercise outside of a gym
is asking if you can be a good person when outside a church.
Fitness as a lifestyle is for anywhere. Everywhere
How To Start Getting Fitness as a Lifestyle
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
To many people, fitness means stopping your "real life," changing clothes, driving somewhere else, and doing uncomfortable things without similarity to movement in daily life. Then they go back to "real life" - slouching, bending wrong, walking heavily, sitting rounded, leaning back to carry packages, taking elevators, and avoiding movement.
1. At the gym, people do squats with a trainer, paying to learn proper form and upright back, then bend over wrong to put the weight down when they’re finished.
2. They do proper lunges for their legs in exercise class, then bend over wrong without using their legs to pick up their things when they leave. They work with weights to isolate arms but never learn how their entire body stabilizes a weight, then hurt their back opening a window at home.
3. They work on a treadmill or elliptical trainer but sprain their ankle when out walking because they haven't trained balance and stabilization. They sit hunched in bad posture waiting for exercise class to start. In modern life, exercise is something you go and specially "do," then destroy and ignore your health the other 23 hours a day. Fitness has become “fast food” – stripped of value, sweetened up, and mass produced, even when unhealthy.
Changing your real life into healthy movement is a big and inspiring area of rethinking and retraining.
Instead of sitting slouched then stopping to stretch because your back hurts, sit and stand well so that you do not get stiff and sore in the first place. Instead of lifting packages, babies, groceries, laundry, and everything else wrong all day, then stopping to do back exercises because your back hurts, lift properly. You get built-in exercise, strengthen your knees, and save your back.
Examples of Personal Lifestyle Exercise and Fitness include healthy bending (mechanically healthy neutral spine squat and lunge with upper body right, not hinged over forward) for reaching and stooping to clean your living spaces, pick up clothes laundry and children, sweep floors, and reach for things like your own feet. Use neutral spine for standing and running and overhead reaching for functional abdominal muscle training and use all day. Lying down and crunching forward and tensing muscles is not how you use abdominal muscles for real life.
Examples of Lifestyle Stretching occur during good bending with a functional squat for crouching for all the many things you need to reach every day gives you built-in Achilles tendon and lower back stretch, in addition to hip and leg strengthening. Using neutral spine gives a built-in lower back stretch and prevents shortening and compressing the lower back during standing, overhead lifting, and running. Built-in functional shoulder stretch occurs when using neutral spine during overhead reaching so that range of movement comes from the shoulder rather than leaning back from the lower spine.
Examples of Lifestyle Injury Rehab and Prevention for your discs and spine are good bending with healthy squat and lunge instead of bending over at the waist or hip to pick up any weights or objects. To fix and prevent pain and compressive injury to the lower spine, use neutral spine for standing, running, walking, and overhead lifting. For stopping shoulder impingement, keep neutral neck position and keep shoulders from rounding (or overly pulled back/ retracted) during arm movement. Functional knee pain fix and prevention is healthful knee position in all planes during bending, walking, and running. Many more examples to learn in classes.
Examples of Community Lifestyle Exercise and Fitness are bending right to dig gardens with healthy neutral spine squat and lunge to feed communities and elders, healthy squatting to clean the floors, shovel snow, and pick up litter, lifting boxes of food to give to the poor, neutral spine when carrying things for people. Health care practitioners use healthy standing, sitting, bending and lifting mechanics with patients, leading musculoskeletal health by example.
Lifestyle movement (using real function) during real life is the same healthy movement patterns needed for healthy exercise. Using functional movement all day practices, and is a solid base for, much of your sports movements, built in to things you already do.
You don’t need to go to a gym; Move, balance, and reach in healthy ways to go about your real life. Instead of thinking you must stop your life to get health and exercise, fill your life with built-in healthy movement.
My Black Belt Hall of Fame seminar students class of 2014.
Piggy-back photograph: National Cancer Institute, Linda Bartlett (photographer)
Photograph of Black Belt Hall of Fame seminar 2014 students © Dr. Bookspan
Mireille Harmouch, Student, Academy of Functional Exercise Medicine writes:
"This article changed my perception of fitness. I never looked at exercises performed in gym or aerobic class as healthy moves to be used in our everyday life.
I used to train because I feel happier when training and I enjoy changing the way my body looks, and I never thought of my work as a trainer in a way that I can help people not only feel more satisfied with their looks but to teach them how to live healthier and retrain them to move healthy and pain–free in real life.
Thinking in this way made fitness more exciting, more fun & sort of self-rewarding for I will be able to help people moving in a healthier way throughout their daily real life not just during one hour in gym."
Bending Right Is Fitness As A Lifestyle
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
Readers asked for more pictures of healthy bending around the house and workplace during daily life. They've been getting excited about the idea that daily life is the way to physical ability and health, instead of stopping life to do a bunch of exercises. People spend time and money for endless treatments and gadgets for back and knee pain and tight Achilles tendon. Healthy bending prevents the commonest sources of all of these.
Dr. Bookspan's Academy student Jessica Lattouf demonstrates healthy bending is for all you do.
- A major predisposing factor of knee and hip arthritis is weak thighs.
- A major risk factor of hip osteoporosis is lack of weight bearing exercise.
- A major risk factor of falls is weak legs and poor balance.
- The Achilles tendon gets a natural stretch with each time you bend right with heels down. Without daily good bending, it loses this continual normal source of stretch.
- The most important contributor to making a lumbar disc degenerate, or slip out of place (herniate), and press on nerves causing sciatica, is bad bending forward.
- The biggest contributor to upper back and neck pain is keeping the upper body rounded and bent over forward.
If you would like to reduce risk of falls, osteoporosis, bad discs, sciatica, achy upper back, and arthritis; get a built-in Achilles tendon stretch; and get strong shapely legs all at the same time; simply use your legs with good body position for daily healthy bending using a partial squat.
Why go to the gym or to physical therapy to do knee bends to strengthen your legs, then spend your "real life" not using your legs and degenerating your lower back discs with bad bending, and say, "I don't have time to exercise."
You will get free built-in exercise by ordinary healthy movement in real life. My friends and family in Asia are astonished when I tell them I teach Americans how to bend to look in the refrigerator, and that Americans tell me it is too much work to bend right to load dishes in a machine that washes for them, then they pay money to go to a gym or buy equipment to exercise their legs.
Here is a fun way to change mind set to exercise as a lifestyle:Count how many times a day you bend, and with that, how many times you can choose to harm yourself or help yourself.
If you would like to try "fitness as a lifestyle," good bending is the best place to start. Think of using good bending instead of bending over:
- when bending to make the bed,
- to pick up laundry,
- look in the refrigerator,
- load and unload the dishwasher,
- to pick up your shoes,
- open a lower cabinet,
- lift a child or pet,
- feed a child or pet,
- pick up things from the floor,
- pick up hand weights to do exercise,
- put down weights after exercising,
- many daily activities.
Going to physical therapy or doing back exercises for back pain does not help if you go back to bad bending all day at home. A few squats in the gym cannot do as much for strengthening and stretching as the many dozens or hundreds of comfortable good bending you would do for real life in an ordinary day.
Drawing of BackMan! (tm) copyright © Dr. Bookspan
Photo set of good bending for cooking / baking by Jessica Lattouf, student of Academy courses of Personal Trainer and Healthier Nutrition
"To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except exercise, get up early, or be respectable."
How Often Should You Be Healthy?
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
A reader sent in the photos below to help others recognize unhealthy bending. She asked, "It just seems so uncommon to think to squat while loading the dishes. What is your advice when someone is having to bend to put dishes in the dishwasher?"
1. There is no better time to bend in healthy ways than your real life.
2. The whole point of fitness as a lifestyle is that your daily life is healthy movement - not to change clothes to do squats at a gym three times a week, then change clothes again, go home, and bend wrong all day.
3. Healthy bending is for every time you bend. How often is that? My article "How Good Would You Look From 400 Squats a Day - Just Stop Unhealthy Bending" showed how we estimated that active people wind up bending up to 400 times every day for ordinary activities. Even sedentary people are over 100 bends a day if they do things around the house like pick up the paper, feed pets, and reach in dishwashers and refrigerators. Why harm your back and miss free exercise for your legs hundreds of times a day?.
Most people know and repeat, "bend your knees" if you quiz them on healthy bending. Bending knees slightly, as in the above photos, does not make bad bending healthy. Bending over forward pressures your lower back discs, whether your back is rounded (photo above left) or straighter (above right). You are still bending over and the leverage point is your lower spine. Many people will do unhealthy things to their knees when bending. There is no need to hurt the knees to help the back.Good bending is good for both knees and back.
Bending right is simple:
- With feet side-by-side, comfortably apart, bend knees, keeping your torso fairly upright - as if not wanting something to fall from a shirt pocket (right drawing).
- Keep both heels down and shift your weight back to your heels.
- Pull your knees back over your heels. Don't let them droop forward under your body weight. When you shift your knees back, you will feel the effort shift away from your knee joint to your thigh muscles.
- Don't exaggerate the lower back inward curve. That is not neutral spine. Too much inward lumbar curve compresses the spine joints. Use neutral spine. It is not true that you must push your backside far back. Bend knees so that your backside comes downward, instead of leaning over with the backside far in back
Unless you are moving in healthy ways for your real life, it is not a lifestyle and it is not healthy. Healthy bending is easy and life changing. It is free exercise and injury prevention. When should you do it? Each time you want your daily life to be healthy.
Drawing of BackMan! (tm) copyright © Dr. Bookspan
Thank you Fixa U Academy Director Peggy Santamaria for the shovel, help with the drawing, and the shoveling snow success story.
Tweet your successes to us at https://twitter.com/thefitnessfixer
Are You Making Your Exercise Unhealthy?
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
Most people know that sitting badly at your desk, as in the left-hand photo below, is unhealthy. The right-hand photo is also:
- It is easy to see that he is rounding his back forward at the desk. Can you see the same for the person on the bike? It doesn't become magically healthy.
- Ear is far forward of his shoulder (even with shoulders so rounded that the shoulders are forward too).
- Jutting head and chin forward while pinching the rear of the neck backward at an uncomfortable sharp angle.
"SPOT The Anomaly" - the teaching dog - reminds you to SPOT and fix these things that aren't helping you.
Unhealthful body ergonomics of rounding forward is a common cause of upper back and neck pain, often mistaken for "stress," even contributing to pain down the arm as you slump the weight of your upper body on nerves that go down the arm, compressing them. The forward bend to the spine squeezes your discs of your neck and lower back, gradually degenerating them and forcing them outward, which is called herniation.
Look at the right-hand photo of the bicyclist. The rounded-forward positioning is the same as the unhealthy sitting. Sitting badly does not magically become healthy because you are calling it an exercise. It is just as unhealthy whether you are at your desk, on a stationary or real bicycle, on an exercise ball, motorcycle, or in the car. Also that you are practicing a rounded spine for so much of the time, at work, at play, during exercise, for so much of the time.
What to do instead is simple. You don't need to overly-round your back to sit or do exercise. Are you rounding forward reading this right now? How to start fixing it - get the concepts, not rigid rules of angles and placement.
When correcting forward spine curve, watch for the common mistake of overdoing the opposite - arching the lower spine inward too much. Both too much inward lumbar curve and too much outward curve hurt.
Some simple things to help at the desk or in a vehicle:
- Pull your chair in close to the desk.
- Put your hips and backside all the way back to the seat back.
- Many seat backs are rounded outward (concave) so that you sit rounded if you rest your back against them. For those kinds of chairs, use a small soft cushion as a spacer in the lower back of the chair.
- Most commercial spacers, sometimes called "lumbar rolls" are too big, or made of uncomfortable hard materials, or are an uncomfortable shape. If it hurts, it does not help you. Instead of an expensive commercial product that hurts, use a small soft cushion or loosely rolled small towel or shirt. The size you need varies according to how bad the chair is.
- Don't push your lower back against the seat back or the lumbar roll. That makes the useless to stop back pain.
- Lean your upper back against the seat back.
- Notice if your shoulders and chin are tilting forward. Often that is because the upper spine is slouching and rounding. Unround (straighten) your upper back to bring your neck more upright, instead of forward.
- At a desk, move your chair far enough in to rest your hands and part of your forearms on the desk. Don't crane your wrists to type. I will write more about wrist pain in another article. There should be no pain when keeping arms comfortably on the desk.
- More about fixing your sitting in the Healthy Sitting article.
No need to tighten and strain to sit with healthier position. It is common to be so tight in the chest and shoulders from a lifestyle of forward rounding that sitting straighter is not comfortable. Do the chest (pectoral) stretch in Fixing Upper Back and Neck Pain, then use the wall test in the same article to check if the stretch worked. On a bike, unless you are in a high level race, straighten up. It is simple. Healthy.
Why exercise in unhealthy ways? Watch people at the gym and in life. Notice how often fitness publications ask you to practice being bent over forward. Instead, get free built-in back muscle exercise and prevent strain and pain simply by sitting with healthy positioning.
Clipart.com and Creative Commons own the copyright for photos -
my copyright is for photo composite of the two together only
Lifestyle Balance and Stretch -
Stand To Put on Shoes and Socks
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
In my sports medicine practice, I regularly see yoga and Pilates teachers as patients for back, knee, and neck pain. That is because several common moves are not good for anyone - just as not all food is healthful. Many moves are fine, but other traditional poses injure joints, even when done "right" (or especially when done right), like bending over from a stand or a sitting position, whether the back is rounded or straight, as shown in the above articles on this page. We omit those moves and use others that are better stretches without the degenerating forces on the lower back and neck discs, for example, Healthier Hamstring Stretching in my healthier stretching article on this site. You don't have to injure yourself to get exercise. Fitness is supposed to be healthy.
In the yoga classes I teach, my students learn that the poses themselves are not what gives good posture and focus. We learn what healthy positioning is, practice that for poses, and apply it to how to move for daily life after walking out of the class.
In my yoga classes, I teach a fun, effective hip stretch. We stand on one foot and reach for the other ankle crossed over the bent standing knee (drawing at right). When we do this, we practice the daily healthy position of keeping the upper body upright and straight, neutral neck (chin not tipped up or craned forward). One new student was not happy with my class. She was used to sitting on the floor in classes she ordinarily took. She was peeved that we did so much standing. Although people call yoga "mind and body" she didn't like that we used the body. Although people frequently say that yoga is about understanding and light, she whined and complained and cursed me under her breath for most of the class. She wanted to know why I was making everyone do an extreme and bizarre movement.
I told the class it was healthy and happy to do this move every day. I pointed to my crossed foot and spoke the name of this ancient move - "Putting on shoe."
I hope you will try this too, to get a normal and healthy stretch for most of the hip and lower back, and better balance everyday just from dressing yourself. Remember that most of the world stands to dress - the ones lucky enough to have shoes. Stand up now and try it. You will get built-in balance, healthy hip and back stretch, and leg strengthening every day from daily life. When you get good at this fun move, keep your ankle crossed and bend the standing leg enough for you to reach to the floor to retrieve your other shoe or sock. Keep your chest up and your back straight to prevent practicing unhealthful rounded position. Even though this one bends over, it does not transfer the pivot force to the lower discs for several reasons.
Have fun adding new healthy movement to your life every day. Write your stories and take photos of how you make your life better by fixing your fitness to be functional and healthy. Send me the photos, or a link to your photo sharing site of your examples, and I can put you up in lights as a role model for healthier life.
Below is our friend Joe Blatt demonstrating getting balance and posterior hip stretch with the "Shoe Stretch." He is not leaning against the door. I know because I took this photo myself:
Get built-in balance and stretch for the posterior hip every day by dressing yourself using the "shoe stretch"
It is a sad irony to see students of yoga classes do all their moves, claim yoga fixes posture, then sit slouched to put their shoes and socks back on after class, missing the point and benefit of learning real life.
Below are two photos summarizing a common problem with so many yoga devotees. This student came to my class for the first time having done years of yoga elsewhere, stating she believed yoga fixes her posture. She was impatient with all I explained about healthy position for real life, how important it is, and to be aware. She refused to use healthy positioning during poses in class, and slouched while sitting to get dressed after class:
Immediately after my entire yoga class devoted to teaching healthy position for all you do, not rounding the back or bending over, and with lecture and practice of a healthy way to put on shoes standing up (described earlier), the above photograph shows how this student put on her shoes after class.
The above photo shows how she bent badly to get her things, hard on the discs and with the right knee twisted inward in relation to the foot facing outward. This was after an hour class talking and practicing how and why to transfer healthy body positioning of back and knee used during class to daily life activities.
Below, a GIF movie should load of standing to put on shoes and socks. David Demets of Belgium made this video for us. He was a frequent contributor to my Fitness Fixer column:
If the above movie does not load on your device, click directly from my Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thefitnessfixer/16985671656/
Drawing of BackMan! (tm) copyright © Dr. Bookspan
Photo of Joe Blatt © Dr. Bookspan
Video by David Demets of Belgium
Household Fitness As A Lifestyle
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
Fitness as a lifestyle at home is using healthy movement and body positioning as you go about all your daily activities.
Two biggest built-in health and strength things you can do are:
1. Bend right when crouching down for things
2. Stand with neutral spine instead of swayback for all standing and reaching overhead
Making the bed.
Ivy from New Zealand uses a half squat instead of bad bending (bending over) to functionally strengthen her legs and prevent back pain. Ivy read my Fitness Fixer blog and fixed a lot, then wrote us many helpful and fun success stories.
Feeding the dog.
How often do you bend around the house in a day? Do you bend over putting weight and leverage on your discs, or bend the knees with upper body upright. heels down, getting built in strength and stretch. The more you use it, the more you get the practice, strength, and stretch you need to do it.
This is David from Belgium. He read my Fitness Fixer, designed healthier yoga programs that don't practice already over-rounded spines, and without the disc injuring bends and twists, and sent several success stories.
Vacuuming with a good half-squat.
Vacuuming with a good full squat.
For more on knee strength and injury prevention squatting see my knee pain article
Good lunge with front knee over foot (not tilting forward). Gives stretch and strength for legs and is good for knees.
Good bending helps fix knees. Avoiding good bending deprives your knees of the built in movement and strength they need for doing and enjoying daily life activities.
Full squat for chores with feet facing the same direction as knees, and both heels down.
Good full squats, done right, can be healthy for both back and knees. Lower back gets a wonderful stretch without bending over, and then knees can go through range of motion without harm when you use good mechanics, as above - feet facing the same direction as knees, both heels down touching the floor.
In my Academy Healthier Nutrition course, students learn that healthier nutrition includes how you choose, cook, and prepare food. Jessica Lattouf demonstrates swayback (hyperlordosis) at the sink in the left photo, and stopping that painful common habit on the right. You can stand at your work with healthy comfortable non-painful position.
Academy student Ohan Shidanian made us this photo-instruction on changing craned neck and swayback (lower photographs) to comfortable neutral spine and neck for reaching overhead (top image).
A Thai villager sits straight, gets good hip stretch, and keeps ankles straight
It is common to bend the ankles to cross legs when the hips are tight. Keeping ankles straight shifts the stretch to the hip where it is needed, and stops overstretching the outside of the ankles, where is is not needed or healthy.
Gardening and washing dishes.
Our friend Kunyai (Grandmom) Pon sits straight and comfortably in full squat to get things for dinner from her garden, then to wash dishes in her kitchen in her home. We do the same when we help. She is the aunt to the Abbot of the Muay Thai Monks on Horseback near the border of Myanmar (Burma). We visited with her and the famous horseback monks. See that story on the syllabus page for my Kickboxing classes.
Our friends, elder Thai ladies, sit straight while they watch a parade
A hill tribe mother stands straight without rounding forward or leaning backward from the weight of her baby -
Healthier positioning while carrying gives you free ab exercise and stops pain. More about this is in my article on lifting and carrying.
A villager takes his children for a fun ride, while sitting straight.
Sitting straight to wash the kids.
Two friends sit with good position and balance for their commute together
I gave these villagers soap bubbles for their baby. They played for hours.
Photos of themselves by David from Belgium, Ivy from New Zealand, Jessica Lattouf and Ohan Shidanian.
All others © Dr. Bookspan
Holiday Health as a Lifestyle
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
If you think you won't have time to exercise over the holidays, here is good news. This post will show you how to move in healthy ways so that you have healthy exercise built-in to all the cooking, shopping, furniture moving, and social interactions. Here is more good news. You don't have to go to a gym to work off the stress and eating too much from the holiday. Life is not supposed to be a poison that you deliberately take, then need an antidote to offset.
Here are four of the healthiest, quickest ways to make your holiday preparations and participation into fitness and health as a lifestyle:
1. To pick up chairs, babies, and grocery bags, to move furniture, and for lifting things from the floor, bend your knees, keeping your knees over feet, weight back toward your heels, and your body upright - upright enough to keep things from falling out of a shirt pocket.
2. To carry chairs, babies, grocery bags, furniture, and any loads in front of you, don't lean back. It is a common bad habit to lean the upper body backward, increasing the lower back arch. Leaning backward shifts the weight of the load off your core and arm muscles and onto your lower spine. Get free, built-in exercise for your abs and arms and save your back by standing upright, not slouching back. Don't lean and arch backward to carry things.
3. Notice all the times you round and hang forward over things that you can easily reach by standing upright. Check your upper back positioning when standing over counters, sinks, grocery bins, vacuum cleaners, cribs and baby-changing tables, and when setting food tables. Don't let your body weight hang forward or your upper back rounded. Stand upright, chin not lifted up and not strained and yanked inward to force "good posture" - just as unhealthy as slouching. Too look downward, tilt your head instead of pushing it forward to see what you are doing. Relax shoulders downward. Smile. Breathe.
4. Preparations and family interactions are no excuse to do unhealthy behaviors out of habit, like smoking, overeating, and arguing, then blame it on stress. The bad habits are even more stress on body and mind. If something is wrong, see about fixing it in a good way. Don't suffer in silence with people telling you that you have to be happy because of a holiday. Make your home healthy for yourself. There is no place it matters more
Get exercise cleaning the house of junk and clutter. Take the extra clothing, toys, and household items to a shelter. Carry the bags with healthy positioning to the people who need it.
Make a healthy meal with family or alone, without television or phone. Carry the meals to shut-ins and isolated elderly in your neighborhood, and the homeless on the street.
Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Do grocery shopping, cooking, and vacuuming for those who are too sick or disabled or alone to do it for themselves. If you think you don't have time because you have young children, take them with you to help carry things and to teach them healthy ideals, and how thankful they can be for the home you provide.
Don't smoke, drink soda (diet soda is just as unhealthy) eat junk food (even if it has marketing words like "organic" on the label), or undo the health benefits of fruit and vegetables by junking them with cream, sugar, and cornstarch. Add up all you spend on cigarettes and junk food that degrade a healthy body into one with health problems. Take the money and give to the poor. With what you save on prescriptions and treatments for all the pain and jitters you cause yourself, you can feed a village and still take a vacation.
When you eat the holiday meal, say thankful things. Taste your food. Turn down seconds. Breathe. Smile. Help clean up. Shoulders back. Enjoy the roof over your head. That is health as a lifestyle
Drawings of BackMan! (tm) copyright © Dr. Bookspan
Don't Confuse Exercise With Real Fitness
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
One of my readers, Dr. Zoe Eppley, e-mailed, "I have been trying to apply your "bending right" approach to my daily activities. I find my tight leg and hip muscles seriously limit my ability to squat. Could you please recommend some stretches that will help?"
I receive this inquiry often. People are realizing that they are too tight to move in healthy ways for normal everyday life. I hear it from instructors of aerobics, yoga, Plates, personal trainers, and many others. This is an important epiphany. If you are too tight to move in healthy ways, then it is likely that you spend every day of your life moving in tight ways that create pain and perpetuate tightness.
The good news is you do not need to "do" stretches and exercises. Keep bending right and you will get exactly the stretch and strengthening you need. My most important message that I stress in all my work about exercise is not to "do exercises" but get crucial, functional, effective exercise by moving in healthy ways during normal everyday life.
People spend fortunes on treatments for pain, gadgets, potions, pills, prescriptions, adjustments, and ongoing medical scans and tests. Tightness and body pain is often made to be a mystery because it persists even after surgery and exercise programs. The reason is that they don't stop the cause. My successful techniques for fixing pain, even the most resistant back, neck, knee, and other musculoskeletal pain, emphasizes that you don't "do exercises" but simply stop the source of the injury by stopping unhealthy injurious movement patterns, and using healthy ones. Many people do ten repetitions of an exercise and hold each stretch for 30 seconds, then go back to unhealthy moving, sitting, bending, walking, exercising, and everything else that caused their pain and tightness in the first place.
If you are too tight to use your legs to bend down and get back up without using your hands or getting help, you need the hard realization that you lack normal function. It may be common in Western society to not be able to lift your own body, but it is dangerously unhealthy weakness.
Dr. Zoe e-mailed me a second time and mentioned watching an Indie-pop movie. She noticed the healthy posture and flexibility of the actors and how easily they squatted. She wisely reflected that she had probably lost much flexibility by not using normal bending and from "spending my life in chairs." Keep bending right with your heels down, knees back, and your body upright. You will stretch your Achilles tendon and hip, and strengthen your thighs and knees hundreds of times a day - every time you bend.
One fun way to greatly help your bending is not a specific stretch or exercise but another normal daily activity: apply the same healthy positioning to ascending any set of stairs. I will write more about stairs, as it is interesting and enlightening. Until then, any time you go up stairs, notice if you tilt forward and let your heels lift. Instead:1. Keep your heel down as you step up,
2. Keep your knee over your ankle as you step up, instead of letting your knee slide or tilt forward,
3. Keep your body more upright, rather than leaning far forward, while making sure you can easily see the steps.
Use healthy positioning for both bending and stairs and you will quickly gain functional and healthy strength and flexibility.
Fast Fitness - Achilles Tendon Stretch Built-In To Daily Life
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
Get a free, built-in stretch for the Achilles tendon in the way your legs need to stretch during normal movement:1. Every time you crouch to pick something up, use the good bending half squat, as described above and shown in the right-hand drawing below. In summary: keep both heels down on the floor (right drawing) instead of raising heels (left drawing). Keep your body weight over the whole foot, not toward the ball of the foot. If needed, shift weight back toward you heels.2. Every time you bend for things with one leg in front of the other, sometimes called a lunge position, keep the front heel down and knee over the heel, not shifting forward toward or past the toe. good lunge to crouch with one foot in front of the other is described above and shown in the left drawing below. Feet don't need to be this far apart. Use for normal daily bending as well as built in stretching.
.3. When ascending stairs, step up on your entire foot including the heel, down on the step, not only the ball of the foot.Many people stretch their Achilles tendon while holding still. Is it such a mystery to get a pull during movement? Prepare your body how to stretch during movement. This normal daily life activity practices lengthening under body weight during normal movement.
Why do a few seconds of Achilles stretch then go back to shortened, tight position in real life. Get hundreds of free stretches built in to your day in a way that gives free muscle and bone building exercise too.
Cardiovascular CleanUp - Good Bending for Housework
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
Reader Robert Davis has been enthusiastically sending in success story after success story. His first story of fixing a painful back injury from weightlifting was: "Fixed Injuries, Got Strong, With Functional Exercise." It ran on my former Healthine column, The Fitness Fixer.
Since getting the idea of using healthy movement habits instead of injurious movement during daily life and exercise, Robert stopped causes of his injuries. He has rapidly been getting strong using fun lifestyle exercise. I enjoy getting his mails, videos, and photos of how he experiments with each thing, and sees and understands how they work so he can incorporate healthy movement into all daily movement, not just going thorough separate motions at a set time of day and calling it exercise.
Watch how he uses a healthful squat for real life, not just 10 times in a gym. Robert made a page to store visuals for us so you can link and see them. Start with:
If you don't see the short movie above, try: http://www.flickr.com/photos/35939272@N05/3362661515/
Robert writes:"Make a mess and pick up only one item at a time via a squat. If you need to clean the house only pick up one item at a time. The constant up/down motion of the squat etc should get the heart rate up for a good cardiovascular workout. Why not kill two birds with one stone? Tired of the stationary bike? Do this for a half hour:"
Good bending is natural built-in cardiovascular exercise, leg strength and stretch, Achilles tendon stretch, hip strengthener, warm-up for stretching, and back pain prevention, since it stop one major cause of back pain - bad bending (bent over at the waist or hip, described in the several articles above). Done properly, good bending strengthens knees and does not cause knee pain.
Rising From the Floor - Normal, Needed, Built-in Health
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
Being able to rise easily from the floor is normal in many places around the world by people even in their oldest years. Using this as a daily natural lifestyle activity builds mobility, balance, leg and hip strength, flexibility, and independence. It also has been found to be an important predictor of your overall health.
Lightly sit down on the floor and get up again without your hands.
My martial arts student Ms. Han demonstrates in the short gif below.
See this and my other short movies, with more instructions, on my FlickR account TheFitnessFixer: http://www.flickr.com/photos/39972966@N03/8315546611/
I taught this skills for years in all my classes. I explained every day about how and why it is necessary and normal movement at a basic level. Exercise students groaned, even though it was good exercise. Martial arts students thought it was some strange ritual. Even yoga students complained it was too advanced.
In 2007, I took the movie that should appear above, and used it for one of my "Friday Fast Fitness" articles from my column Fitness Fixer (tm) which ran from 2006 to 2010. The company removed the article.
Then in 2012, a study made big news that:
"Ability to sit and rise from the floor is closely correlated with all-cause mortality risk." In their video, they show how to medically score ability to sit and rise from the floor.
Being able to sit down without hands and rise from the floor with minimal trouble or need for support, can and should be a normal part of how you sit and rise so many times all day every day. Build this normal baseline of health into your ordinary day. Don't lose your ability then need supports and PT. Get it free and built-in as normal, baseline, everyday health.
Video © copyright Dr. Bookspan
Healthy Ankles As A Lifestyle -
Reduce Sprain Risk With How You Move All The Time
by Jolie Bookspan, M.Ed, PhD, FAWM
When you want to see or reach something, you may stand on "tip-toes" also called half-toe and "standing on your toes" even though it is not standing on your toes, but the ball of the foot.
Notice your ankle positioning.
Notice if you allow your ankles to tilt rather than holding straight and vertical. Not knowing about controlling ankle positioning is a main factor in sprains.
The following GIF movie shows one of my student demonstrating - first, allowing ankles to tilt when rising to the ball of the foot, then repeating three times with control and upright positioning.
Learn how to prevent your ankles from rolling without control:
This GIF shows unhealthy ankle position (red frowns), compared to healthy ankle position (green smiles) by holding straight. Practice this to prevent sprains from allowing unhealthy ankle position when stepping down, jumping, running, hiking, and more.
Every time you rise to the ball of the foot, use your own leg muscles and conscious control of ankle position.
Use healthy ankle position control, holding straight, not allowing outward sway, every time you rise to half-toe (tip-toe), every time you step up stairs and down stairs, and when you walk on surface, especially uneven ones.
Ankle stability can, and should be, under your muscular control, without needing bracing, shoes, boots, or orthotics.
Want Weightlifting? Plant A Garden
by Jolie Bookspan, M.Ed, PhD, FAWM
For weightlifters who enjoy Olympic lifts, rows, cable cross-overs, curls, and all the other good stuff with endless heavy weight, you may like growing vegetables. We have been tilling a vegetable garden from a rocky field at my Mom's. Seems her home was built on landfill. We had to sledge-hammer and pry concrete slabs - prodigious squatting, levering, clean-and-jerking, and hundred pound medicine ball throws over the just-built garden fence into a pile.
Then lifting and hauling them out of there. Hours of repetition-maximum (RM) hoeing gives a harder abdominal, arm, and gluteal workout than it looks.
Carrying sand, earth, rocks, weed bales, tree branches as heavy as you can lift, over uneven rocky hilly earth back and forth from the truck, the field, and the new compost pile a hundred feet away for hours. Good bending, healthy lifting, over and over, built in to healthy productive real life.
Over the winter while visiting home in Asia, my husband Paul and I went to a workman's shop. The store-keeps remembered us and smiled. The first time we went there years ago, they were so sure we were lost tourists, they took our shoulder and gestured at a restaurant. In the best Thai I could manage, I explained that Paul is a carpenter, has done forge metal work, and loves old-world tools, strong bamboo handles, and hand-hammered metal. They smile each year we return. In the US, we live in a crowded urban area with minimal bricked exterior in deep shade from surrounding buildings. Vegetable gardens don't grow. Paul wanted to plant my Mother's field - a brambled overgrown area.
In the Thai tool store, I explained with the Thai words I knew, that Paul was looking for a specific Thai tool, shaped like a backward shovel, that you use in overhead action like a mattock (flat bladed pick) and that my husband wanted them to help my mother. Word quickly, excitedly, went from the store-keep, to her friend in the next shop, to the next, and next - "Man who good to Mother of wife!" The "coconut telegraph" (word-of-mouth system) was happy.
We bought two heavy tools, called "job" in Thai. Both had thick lovely bamboo handles. One was close to 6 feet long for Paul, the other, a little shorter for me. Fun getting them through flights and US customs.Mom had asked a local man what it would take to clear her field, and he told her a blowtorch, a machine plow, three men, and a week. Paul and I cleared it in one day in early April with a digging stick and the Thai hoe-shovels. The ground was half frozen. Six, or so hours massive exertion - first clearing brush and tall grasses, then hours of half-squats to seize handfuls of stalks, standing back up to pull them with grip strength. Then excavating slabs of concrete and discarded materials with a pry bar, the Thai digging tools, and bare armed weight lifting.
The packs of seeds we had scattered in assorted flowerpots, pans, shoe boxes, and containers sprouted over just a week into tiny plants - broccoli, cabbage, pea, hot and sweet peppers, strawberries, eggplants, and assorted spices. We have been learning about complementary planting - plants, just like people, who are better and healthier with specific other kinds of plants so that chemical fertilizer isn't needed. We are learning about plants that repel pests, instead of using insecticides.
We got a rain barrel to reduce water bills. We attached an old broken hose. The holes made it a natural soaker hose. We poked more holes and arranged it around the garden for drip irrigation. We don't know the water quality of either the rain or from the tap.We will send six dollars and a soil sample to an agricultural university for testing. Maybe other toxic things are in that landfill that we don't want the vegetables absorbing. Maybe commercial food factories have the same problem. Many things to learn.
Weeks pass squatting and sitting well to plant seedlings, still hitting buried rubble. More lifting and hauling. Each night we are too tired to worry or think anything bad. We are barely were able to lift hands and feet. I consider what people for thousands of years have been doing just for subsistence farming, day after day, year after year.
We thought we planted everything, then found a half pack of pea seeds left. Paul mentioned we didn't have one more container for them. I laughed, "we didn't have a pot to pea in."
- If you're a tough vital strong person, or want to be, dig a garden.
- If you don't have anywhere to dig one, hook up with some nice elder who wants one, a community group, Habitat for Humanity, or someone who doesn't want to exercise like this but still wants a garden.
- Contact your community to see about organizing parents and children out in sunshine for functional exercise doing good for all.
- If you only want one hour a day of hard total body fat burning muscle building exercise, only plant a small vegetable garden.
No need to buy fancy tools, use what's handy.
- If you don't want to exercise so hard, try a single pack of seeds in some potting soil in almost any container on a sunny windowsill. A chance to get the vegetables and herbs you like. Fancy individual peat pots and seed starters aren't essential; a simple pack of seeds can get you a pan full of fragrant oregano, said to be very healthful. It gives a gasp of wonder (to me) when seedlings actually sprout.
Before the 2008 US Presidential election, a video appeared by Roger Doiron. I don't know him, just liked the video. He asked the next President to grow a garden. It did come true. (Now that administration has left and we don't know if the First Family Garden will continue or if they will have programs will continue to teach people.) Here is Doiron's video of getting your own garden started, showing various bending, occasionally good:
I tried to embed the movie in two different ways to accommodate mobile devices. Hopefully it appears at least once, if not twice. If the movie does not appear, click YouTube video URL
"Gardening is cheaper than therapy
and you get tomatoes"
Watch this page as I add more on healthy gardening for real life fitness - strength & health of body mind and world. Add your stories of how you use this on my Twitter page @TheFitnessFixer.
We spent Halloween working in the garden. In the above two photos, I am dressed as a Scarecrow on Halloween. (Many cultures over centuries have used a decoy dressed as a raggedy human in their fields to try to scare away crows and other birds from eating the crops).
Handstands Are For (Just About) Everyone
by Jolie Bookspan, M.Ed, PhD, FAWM
My student Dennis, Olympic medallist in wrestling, demonstrates the easy-to-learn handstand in the short GIF below - by putting feet up on a wall:See this movie and others directly from my Flickr account: https://www.flickr.com/photos/39972966@N03/15765573098/
Handstands For Health
Being able to move in various ways and planes is healthy (with exceptions of high eye pressure, high blood pressure, or other problems). Handstands are good for mobility. Good for baseline flexibility and arm and upper body strength. Handstands strengthen bones of the upper body and wrist, two important sites for osteoporosis prevention. Also, an often missed part of real life function - they are fun.
Standing on hands has many health and strength benefits and can be easily practiced around the house and most other places.
How To Try Your Wall Handstand
If you are timid to start handstands, assure yourself by first trying a pushup position with both feet up on a chair behind you. In that way, you can feel that you can support your weight on your arms.
Use the drawing below to understand how to safely try a handstand. Get more healthy fun in your life. Be safe.
- Stand two to three feet from a wall, facing away from the wall. Crouch to put both hands flat on the floor (avoid slippery surface)
- Put the bottom of one foot (ball of the foot) as high up on the wall as you can. Feel that you can hold your weight on your hands, then lift the other foot up too
- To get down, step one foot back down, then the other.
Use Handstands To Practice Neutral Spine
In the short gif below, Dennis demonstrates the same wall handstand PLUS, changing swayback to neutral lumbar spine
1. First he steps each foot back and up on the wall for an easy wall handstand,2. Red arrow and frown shows the unhealthy swayback lower spine. Spine joint compression and lack of abs use.3. Green arrow and smile appears when Dennis tucks the pelvis to reduce the lumbar curve to neutral spine. Healthier for spine, plus more exercise for core.
If the movie doesn't load, try it from my Flickr Account: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thefitnessfixer/17003384442/
Thank you Steve Kramer PhotoEnvisions (http://seatraveler.com) for arrows and faces indicating teaching points.
Kids Love Handstands
In the photo below, taken by his three-year-old child, Michael Mullervy does a wall handstand with two of his kids. He read this page before his class on Healthier Stretching with me, and came to class already trying handstands and fixing sources of pain.
Get Leg Stretch Too
In the photo below, my patient Yash adds leg stretches to other handstand benefits:
While you are in handstand position, bend elbows to lower to any amount and press back up. Handstand dips are a great way to get more arm strength. They give more than military press, are better for your back, and don't need equipment. As you improve, you can dip lower and do more.
Reader Robert Davis, who did the movie for Cardiovascular Cleanup a few articles above, demonstrates handstand dips (also called handstand push-ups. Robert calls them "wall-ups"). Two videos should load here, one above, one below.
If the short movie doesn't load on your device, try directly from my Flickr account: http://www.flickr.com/photos/35939272@N05/3409818688/
More Strength and Balance
My student Geoff adds to handstand benefits with shifting weight for balance, arm strength, and overall good body exercise.
Use being able to shift weight from hand to hand to get ready for Handstand ROWS - exciting healthier way to do rows, NEXT:
Ready for More? - Handstand Rows With Hand Weights
Have a hand weight ready when you do a wall handstand.
Shift your weight to stand on one hand.
Lift the weight up and down like up-side rows.
In the photo below, my student Annie (part of our Math for Fitness program) bravely shows her first try at handstand rows below. She is using a 10 pound weight. You can use any weight right for you to start.
In class one week later, Annie tried a 20 pound weight:
Still Think Handstands Are Not For You?
If You Need Some Encouragement
Within certain health considerations, you can do handstands, with help from letters from my reader Liz:
Readers say they enjoy hearing how to do things, but often remain reluctant to try them. Here is a fun story of success trying a wall handstand for the first time.Reader Liz first wrote how she fixed her lower back pain using my work. I enjoyed getting her organized intelligent e-mails showing how she paid attention to why things worked and how to apply them. I asked her if she did the wall handstand - for fun, and to strengthen in functional ways.Liz wrote:"I read your reassuring posts about this but it still looks scary. I'm just not used to being physical, being raised to be "Ladylike" although I'm trying all the time to push my boundaries. I liked your description of you leaping up from your desk and doing a handstand. That marvelous description has stuck in my mind. One day I shall try it, you are very inspiring."
I replied to Liz with some short movies and diagrams with reassurance, "All you do is put your hands like a pushup on the floor and step your feet up on a chair or wall behind you.
"I shall try it! First I must visualize myself doing it a few times, and watch the video a bit more too. When I watched it I tried to feel my own arms and legs doing the same movements. I find that helps when I attempt something very new. Also I like the idea of trying it on a chair first, or perhaps I'll work my way up a wall, low at first.
"And after all that I just did it. Felt very odd, never felt like that before. My head full of blood, my arms wobbly (working on the upper body strength) all my tummy and thigh muscles working very hard to keep me straight. I had a few false starts and tried it with each leg, very badly. I'm not strong enough to do it very close to the wall, when I get better at it I expect I will be able to."
I was so happy. I wrote to Liz: "I am thrilled with you (again). Thank you for your faith and trying this. Quick, just snap a photo - a camera phone photo e-mailed to me is fine - anything so that I can throw this up on the Fitness Fixer success stories.
" I never knew that so many people were just not trying the handstands. They write, and sigh, that it is for other people, not them. I am writing this all precisely for them - the very people who need it most - to build the strength, body knowledge, and self confidence that modern fitness removes. Enjoy this. Grab bunches of photos. I'll do the work of sorting them out."Liz replied:"Hello Dr Jolie, "I found a clear spot, in the hall, where my husband could get a clear shot of me doing a handstand. I was concentrating really hard, and my face was bright red from all my blood pooling in my head, so no smiling face for the photo I'm afraid! I did a downward facing dog first to get comfy with the top down bottom up feeling, then up I went and I held it for a good 25 seconds too!"
I wrote to Liz that I was proud of her for trying things that build the strength, body knowledge, and self confidence that modern fitness with arbitrary artificial movements and little sets and reps removes.Liz replied:"So true, I felt very proud of myself! I'm going to do it again right now!"
The photo above shows reader Liz trying her first handstand ever
Tweet your successes and photos to me at https://twitter.com/thefitnessfixer
To e-mail own photos and success stories of trying this - instructions on the Projects Page.
Video © copyright Dr. Bookspan
My "Isometric Abs" In a Very Functional Way
by Jolie Bookspan, M.Ed, PhD, FAWM
This fun drill is fully described on my Fixing Swayback page. The movie below is so good that it belongs here on the Functional Lifestyle page. It is a well-done functional use of my Isometric Abs retraining drill.
Most people think of core and abdominal muscle training as something you stop your real life to do, change clothes, and lie on the floor to round your back or other bending of body or hip.
Healthy core training is not doing a bunch of exercises to strengthen the core. That is a large myth. The way your core works, if you use it, is to deliberately hold healthy spine position without allowing your lower spine to slouch inward (swayback / hyperlordosis). You do not need stronger abdominal muscles to move your spine to healthy position. You need the knowledge and practice of what movement to use your abdominal muscles to do. Strengthening does not make movement or teach you healthy ways to move.
In this short movie, David Demets of Belgium and his first new baby Aiko demonstrate my "Isometric Abs" drill to retrain neutral spine against load (lower spine does increase inward angle away from the floor).
Turn your speakers on for what my readers call, "The Most Charming Fitness Video Ever Made."Notice he sits at beginning, and stands at the end, without using arms to balance or push off the floor:If this video does not display on your device,
Thank you David and Aiko for making the video, and Renilde for making Aiko
To Learn Air Pushups, Practice It!
by Jolie Bookspan, M.Ed, PhD, FAWM
At the time the photo above was taken a few years ago, Giuliano was a 5 year old Romanian boy living in Italy, trained by gymnast father. He is doing "air pushups" - doing pushups while using your muscles to hold both feet in the air off the floor.
I used to teach air pushups in my yoga classes. In every class, I gave opportunity to see, try, and learn, step by step. I'd coach, encourage, even lift the students' leg, if it helped them try it, or feel the leverages needed.
Were students excited? Inspired? Did they get strong and focused?
They might have if they tried it.
Instead, they whine, stall, pout, refuse, and complain to management that my class is haaaard, and they had to connnnnnn-centrate. They didn't want any of that.
Each week new students arrive in my yoga class, holding expensive yoga equipment. Some are yoga instructors. They explain to me that yoga cures all back pain. I ask why there have come and they tell me all about their back pain that they have for many years. and they do yoga every day (not curing anything evidently). They say they do yoga all the time and know all about it and how it gives you peace and love and concentration and good posture and strength and balance. Then they sit in terrible posture waiting for class. They get indignant when I tell them to sit well. They correct me that "class hasn't started yet." In the first minutes of class I teach standing on one leg. They topple over and refuse to try again. I have them stand on the other foot and they are flabbergasted that we are doing it again when they just spent all that time insisting to me that they can't (instead of trying). We do simple planks and they sag their back and lock their elbows. When we start hand balancing to learn the basics of air pushups, some of these yoginis have thrown full-out tantrums.
Then the next week, a new crop of students comes to class explaining to me that yoga gives you love and acceptance and peace and good posture. So I teach them air pushups.
How To Start Learning Air Pushups
Use everything already shown above:
First learn neutral spine plank.
Then a simple wall handstand.
Add upside down dips while still in handstand.
While you are doing those, learn to use your core to hold your spine in position using my neutral spine simple positioning. For review, use my web page on Fixing Back Pain Using Neutral Spine and What Abs Has To Do With It.
Keep working to learn, practice, get stronger.
Stop whining. See next article below, All the More Reason To Try - Exercise to Overcome Each Difficulty.
All the More Reason To Try -
Exercise to Overcome Each Difficulty
by Jolie Bookspan, M.Ed, PhD, FAWM
E-mails and questions pour in -
"I am weak from a recent bout of flu, will strengthening help me?
I never had strong legs, should I bother doing leg exercise?
My shoulders do not stay straight, they just become round when I let them, does that mean that I cannot have good posture?
My ankles tilt toward each other when I stand up, does that mean that I should not stand straight?
My balance is poor, why should I do balance exercise as I will just have a hard time of it.
I have multiple sclerosis and it is tiring to stand up, should I try?
I am overweight and have health problems from it, will I get any benefit from not eating so much?
My toes are all tight from tight shoes, should I stretch my toes?"
These are real inquires. The answer to all is yes, you need the exercise even more than the person without these difficulties. Yes, work to overcome, to change what is hampering you, to regain function.
Hear it phrased this way:
"I earn less than the rest of my office, would getting a raise make a difference?"
"My car veers to the left ever since I hit that pothole, should I try to hold the wheel straight, even though it seems so natural for the car to swerve uncontrolled?"
"I just have a natural temper, why bother controlling it?"
When things are tough, you need to control it all the more.
If you like to run or swim but are slow, you need to work harder at speed, not omit speed work. You have to work to get results.
There is a Thai saying "If the sword is not sharp, use a heavy handle." If you are not good at something, you need to work harder.
Sunlight Needed for Health
by Jolie Bookspan, M.Ed, PhD, FAWM
For the last 30 years and more, each summer has brought warnings to stay out of the sun, practically zero tolerance for light exposure, urging hats, sunscreens, dark glasses. There also seems to be a sharp rise since then in incidence of serious diseases usually not seen in the young - soft and porous bones, depression, chronic body pain (fibromylagia and related), diabetes, and others. Even needing glasses for myopia - nearsightedness - in the young is greatly increased and has been directly linked from lack of sunlight in early years.
Sunlight seems to have several effects, one of which is helping the body produce Vitamin D. Lack of Vitamin D is now known to be directly linked to higher risk of lung cancer, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, high blood pressure. Vitamin D is available in food sources, however you can also take a prudent approach to getting the several different beneficial effects of the sun, many of which cannot not be gotten though a vitamin supplement. Here are some search results of real studies, directly linking lack of sunlight to the "boom" in young people needing glasses for myopia - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=sunlight+myopia.
In 2008, Scientific American published a survey finding, "Americans are losing interest in going outdoors." As health providers, we need to see if part of that problem is from the practice of telling people that staying out of the sun is necessary for health. We also tell kids to finish everything on their plate and sit still - two more practices, that on examination, translate into, "Practice and learn to be sedentary and overeat."
For everyone, of all ages:
- Try to go outside every day, even if cold (within reason), even if ill (within prudent parameters), it will help get well (and well-being in the meantime). Bundle up, if you have to.
- Get a little outdoor light in your eyes every day. This does not mean to stare at the sun and induce cataracts or any other eye injury from too much exposure, but to get sunlight in healthy ways for the several different crucial mental and physical benefits. Check with your eye doctor. Have your complete eye health checked regularly
- Take babies and toddlers outdoors in safe fun ways. Encourage and teach young children how to develop safe fun play outdoors on a daily basis.
- Increasing studies are finding that melanoma skin cancer is not confirmed from lack of use of sun screen or from exposure to natural sunlight alone (other kinds of skin cancers are, so be smart). I have a recipe that I hope balances needed benefits of sunlight and stops enough of the unwanted negative effects.
- Open your windows (where safe). Avoid constant artificial lighting. Get actual sunlight and fresh air inside the house and your vehicle. Sunlight filtered through glass is not full spectrum and does not transmit the rays associated with tanning and sunburn but also formation of Vitamin D. People spend much time losing full spectrum light because they cannot get it through window glass including auto windshield glass, eyeglasses, sunglasses, and many brands of contact lens.
- I am not a researcher in radiation or light spectrum or effects on the body. I have been taught that ordinary glass transmits a proportion of UVA rays and blocks UVB which has some benefits. Repeating what you have heard elsewhere is not science, but here is my prediction: Why do people allow so much time for exposure through glass missing proportions of the spectrum, then put on sunscreen to go outside where they could get the rest of the spectrum they need? Perhaps we should keep the sunscreen mostly for indoors and get prudent amounts of full spectrum light when outdoors? Another conjecture - in hyperbaric oxygen treatment, no matter how helpful oxygen is, too much for too long is seriously unhealthy and treatments use 5 minutes "breaks" breathing regular air. Maybe sunlight exposure can also be gained using breaks (at least to turn over). Just ideas at this point. Interesting to be able to test this.
Sunlight is needed for not only physical health, but mental health. See the Emotional Fitness page for more about sunlight and effects to counter depression and dementia, and lift mood.
Sun Cats photo from Break.com
How To Start Healthy Functional Movement Programs
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
Reader Stuart Wood knew that the way to healthier communities is getting up and teaching it. He wrote me several impressive notes of using my work to fix his own injuries, then for his Boss, then requesting if he could use it formally to teach community projects. I awarded him an Academy Appointment for Making Community Projects Healthy.Stuart writes this update:
"After months of reading your Fitness Fixer blog, I have become inspired to teach some of your information to whoever is willing to listen. I think the health and fitness situation in our country can benefit from your work and after trying it out and seeing results, as well as helping my friend to fix his bulging disc, I thought that the information you provide on your web sites and in your books needs to reach more people. I read your blog regularly and have always loved the inspirational stories that your readers have supplied. The writings between you and "Inspirational Ivy" really helped to make me realize that I could be healthy and strong for many years to come as well as the posts of the Thai women in their 80's going strong! I think it is so unfortunate that aging and weakness are commonly believed to go hand in hand. I think the problem needs to be addressed when children are young and before they ingrain bad health and movement habits.
"My co-workers have been receptive to your ideas and they have helped me greatly in thinking about and learning how to effectively explain your technique.
Today I taught for the first time in a semi-formal setting. I had a friend who had helped fix his own back pain (bulged disc) take pictures for me. The first thing I learned is that I have much improvement to make in my own movement, I suggest (like you have said) that everyone have a friend take candid pictures of them to test their progress. The group of kids I'm teaching are at the Archer Center in Tucson, AZ. They are part of the CATCH after school program and I wanted to teach them some good movement habits to benefit them in their daily lives as well as in sports and play-time.
"I was not sure how to start or what to teach exactly and time was limited for each group (only about 20 minutes) so I went to the Functional Fitness Friday posts and the (main) stretches like the side-stretch (done well at right, using wall for straight placement) and chest stretch and lunge. It was quite the learning experience! The first group of children were between 8-10 or so and their attention spans were short and I couldn't achieve much with them in the short time. I think the best thing would be big exercises like push-ups with neutral spine and lunge and activities full of movement because they seemed most interested in those things. The second group of kids were older and they were very focused and interested. I taught them the side and chest stretches, emphasizing relaxation and making it feel good. I had them do the wall test and then stretch and see if they found a difference. Some did and some didn't. I realized that teaching these age groups would require multiple sessions broken down into different sessions and incorporated into games.
"What I realized most was how interested the instructor was, he felt the difference at once between improper and proper techniques. I think in addition to teaching children I would like to teach the instructors because they are the primary source of information for the children. I am also very inspired to keep at it myself because I want to be effective in my demonstrations and be a model student myself.""My teaching from today is listed under "Teaching to CATCH program" which is an after school health and wellness program.
See the first photos of Stuart's Stewards projects at http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuartw.
Stuart is working on two other community programs so far, including a wellness Pilot program and a water harvesting project for his dry city of Tucson, with stories to come.He summarizes:
I went to the Parks and Rec Aquatics Supervisor and asked if I could teach and take some pics. The city of Tucson is starting a wellness pilot program in early January because of the high rate of strain related injuries. Because my friend (the one who I helped fix back pain) talked about the good your work had done for him with the aquatics supervisor at a recent wellness meeting for city employees, he already knew a little about what I was up to and is going to work with me to incorporate your method into the wellness program to teach employees at district meetings city wide!
"I just graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelors in anthropology. I would like to pursue graduate school but not sure in what field."Thanks for the graduation present, couldn't have asked for better!" ;)
Happy Graduation Mr. Wood!
Photos © copyright Stuart Wood, Academy of Functional Exercise Medicine Community Projects
Natural Hard Exercise - Stuart's Community Health Stewardship Continues
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
One of my readers, Stuart Wood, did a magnificent thing. He took charge and started teaching my work to reduce the high rate of strain-related injuries in his community for projects ranging from school health to senior health to water harvesting in his arid city of Tucson.
"The second group of pictures in the set (previous article) are from a water harvesting project run by the Water Management Group here in Tucson. We spent 5 hours digging and bending and planting. The structures make use of street run-off in a way that reduces road and water pollution while at the same time "greening" the street by providing the plants with water which will eventually shade the side-walk and street and reduce the "heat-island" created by all the asphalt and concrete that attracts and absorbs sunlight/heat.
"This was my first time volunteering with them and I didn't get a chance to teach but I did figure out how to dig and bend correctly myself. It was a work-out and felt really good. I have dug in the past for long hours with improper bending and what it a difference it makes! Soon I hope to teach the other volunteers so that in addition to being good stewards of the community they can also be good stewards of their health.
"The watershed admin is thinking the best thing for me to do would be to teach the various instructors so that they could then oversee the volunteers throughout the city.
"I was looking at your web site (DrBookspan.com/Academy) and seeing the part about scholarships for Native Americans and the elderly, that intrigued me a lot. There is a large reservation just south of town for the Tohono O'odahm Indians, I have been thinking about how neat it would be to teach some of them.
"Recently there has been a wellness program implemented by the City of Tucson to reduce work-related strains and injuries. They have not been exposed to your work yet but they have been exposed to stretches that are potentially damaging at worst and ineffective at best! My friend spoke kindly of me and how your blog and my advice had helped him so, when I talked to his supervisor, he was more than helpful in suggesting ways in which I might be able to teach city workers in various settings and occupations."
More work is in progress. Reports to come. Join us. You can create your own projects through my Academy of Functional Exercise Medicine. Here is my Academy web site of this, and related work: www.DrBookspan.com/AcademyStudents
Photos © copyright Stuart Wood, Former Academy of Functional Exercise Medicine Community Projects Director
Employment Programs for Developmentally Disabled Using Lifestyle Exercise
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
Another reader has Fixed the Fitness for a community in a program so beneficial and potentially far-reaching that I have given her an Academy Appointment.
Peggy Santamaria is bringing my healthy daily life techniques to developmentally disabled adults. She has made a new program to transition developmental disability to Developmental Ability.
She had previously written me a success story of her own using good bending for shoveling snow all day without pain. I put her success story up on my Fitness Fixer blog with step by step instructions so others could do it too.
"Thanks. Cool to find that this morning on Fitness Fixer. I would like to work with job coaches at a local agency that trains and finds employment for developmentally disabled adults. Snow removal is one of their big programs. I hope I would have your permission to use Fitness Fixer techniques to help prevent injuries for these trainees. I am on the board of directors for the agency and really support the program.
I wrote back asking if she could start before the snow season ends, which was soon, and that when the snow season ends, what activities and healthy movement retraining could she bring to them?
"Just spoke with program director at Appalachian Crossroads. I will meet with his job coaches and staff on Monday afternoon to talk about healthier movements while on the job shoveling snow, landscaping, vacuuming, etc. This is their web site if you want to check them out, www.appalachiancrossroads.com/"
I am pleased to announce her appointment through the Academy of Functional Exercise Medicine (AFEM) as Director of Developmental Ability. We are working on better names - write in your ideas in the comments for a good title for this program for the disabled to develop their abilities. Peggy has been working hard developing the program. She drew the shovels for me for the Backman!™ illustration, and has been drawing and developing more teaching tools.
Our plan is for participants to gain skills and healthy work, reduce injury and pain risk, and be proud role models. The community gains important improvements in ways that are healthy for all. We hope our program with Appalachian Crossroads becomes a model for programs all over the nation like it.
Peggy wrote back:
WOW!!! That's all I can say. Off to teach a class. I have read a gazillion of your fitness fixers (they are like peanuts, you know). I just don't get any housework done. But I will be well-armed to begin this task
"My daughters and grandchildren are very proud. (They) said it was "awesome" and "Go Grandma Peggy!""
Join The Fun - Join in this work, and do the same for your own local world. Send in your own ideas and stories. See my Academy page - www.DrBookspan.com/Academy.
Next - the results
Real Life (Functional) Fitness as a Lifestyle By Mail Room Workers
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
Peggy Santamaria wrote me that she was using my work, and my illustration Backman!™ to teach healthy movement to workers for a good day's work without injury and repetitive strain:."Hi Dr. Bookspan,
"Very excited to report that I met with the Appalachian Crossroads staff and the trainees of the Mail Room Service Unit. The goal is to connect developmentally disabled adults with a paycheck for good work done well.
"I had created some Backman!™ flash cards illustrating some of the daily work in the mail room. These were distributed to the trainees with explanations for the staff about our new program. Then I met with the trainees and talked more about functional fitness.
"We then practiced some of the healthy movements needed for their work day. We took pictures to document their great understanding of what we are working toward. I will make these photos into small posters that can hang in their workspace.
"They are all excited about what we are doing and are proud to be part of the Academy.
Here is Ms. Santamaria's update with the successful outcome plus great photos. I personally congratulate and thank each participant:
Hi Dr. Bookspan:
"Here is an update on Academy activity. As you know, I am working with staff and trainees at Appalachian Crossroads, a private nonprofit human service agency that primarily serves developmentally disabled adults in Garrett County, Maryland.
"One of the Appalachian Crossroads work units provides a "mail room" service to local businesses. The trainees in the mailroom provide support, expertise, and manpower to process everything from daily statements to sales catalogs to monthly newsletters. More than 1.2 million pieces of mail go through the hands of 18 employees each year.
"As the Academy’s director of Developmental Abilities I set about creating a program using your work and Fitness Fixer to help the trainees work in a healthy way and be functionally fit. I met with staff and trainees of the unit to hand out instructional flash cards featuring Backman!™ going through the daily functions required in the mail room.
"The Appalachian Crossroads folks were super. They got right to it. With the help of staff they were ready to work and demonstrate their functional fitness skills. I took pictures that I am making into small posters for their work area.
"I will continue to work with these men and women as well as others in the custodial service unit, the grounds crew, supported employment, and the day program. It is a privilege to be working for the Academy and sharing your fitness message.
This is a shining example of getting things done well, simply, and intelligently. Thank you Peggy! Thank you Appalachian Crossroads staff and mail room!
Readers, The Mail Room is teaching us how to keep things healthy and smart. They are role models and generous guides for all of us. Use what they have done, and send your stories of using this work for Good. Here is my Academy Web Site of This and Related Work: www.DrBookspan.com/AcademyStudents
Photos © copyright AFEM
Thank you Peggy Santamria Academy of Functional Exercise Medicine Developmental Abilities Director
and the Appalachian Crossroads Mail room team
Strengthen Independence, Save Money, Fix Pain, Get Fit Faster - Do It Yourself Personal Responsibility
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
Reduce reliance on gimmicks, medicines, potions, expensive paraphernalia, and repeated treatments for the same problem:
How long does it take to stop slouching, or stop herniating a disc, or stop paying money to eat food that is bad for your health? It takes as long as you want to continue injurious ways.
Reader Paul J wrote:
"A few days after you left for your conference, something in the news caused me to start thinking you should be in the news…….
"In other news today, scientist Dr. Jolie Bookspan is prescribing doses of Personal Responsibility and Activity for various joint pain conditions. Her work along with regular doses of PR & A will result in curing many forms of back pain, knee pain and foot problems. She has also gone so far as to suggest its off-label use may cure non joint ailments as well.
"Since PR & A is neither a pharmaceutical nor a medical device, companies that normally engage in the distribution of free pens have not found the financial benefits of PR & A. "Many doctors have not seen PR & A in their patients or on pens, and therefore are not familiar with its indications. "
- It is up to the person's view of their own body - do they want to stop damaging themselves and do beneficial things, or must they have others change them with constant treatments, sessions, therapies, adjustments, "somatics," (etc). Get free exercise of body and mind by taking personal responsibility for your own slouching. How are you sitting right now? Do you slouch waiting for your pain treatments or back exercise class?
- Instead of causing common health problems, then spending time and money on drugs and treatments, stop causes and do good instead. Ongoing treatments are not short cuts, but a long, indirect route.
- If you throw trash, it is no mystery when the place is trashy. Stop doing unhealthy things and you feel better.
More on this topic is in my book, Healthy Martial Arts:
Easy Reminders How To Do It Yourself with my fun ideas on: www.cafepress.com
Somebody Please Do My Personal Responsibility For Me!
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
A couple was buying a house. The real estate agent told them a problem with the house was that it was near the train, rumbling noisily by every night. It would take the first two weeks to be able to sleep through it. "No problem, said the couple, we'll spend the first two weeks in a hotel."
At the beginning of the previous article (above) was the question, "How long does it take to stop slouching, or stop herniating a disc, or stop paying money to eat food that is bad for your health? It takes as long as you want to continue injurious ways.".
The letters came in. Some missed the whole point, hoping for magical externals to do it for them: " Can I use a posture brace until it works? … Is it until my shiatsu starts working? … My body worker says it takes 6 weeks for massage to make me aware of my body…My yoga teacher said the pain has to be worked through so I bend wrong to get used to it… OK, bending right does fix my pain, but every time I go back to bending wrong the pain comes back. I do the exercises 10 times. How long until the exercises work?… "
The "martyrs" blamed externals: " It is not possible to control how I stand or sit, I am fat/ weak/ large chested/ too thin to have muscles/ old/ young/ a person of privilege… You're wrong, the slouching just comes back by itself. … You're wrong I have gone to a chiropractor three times a week for years and I have to go or the pain comes back, that proves he is helping me…Another blog said to get a thousand dollar mattress and that will fix it… "
Some of the whining was comical: "You can't expect me to actually try to remember that… You're wrong, my body FORCES me to slouch… I have read all your posts and you didn't mention posture or answer readers when they asked (for new readers, you can fall over laughing at that)… Don't you know that it hurts my back to sit at a desk to read your book on fixing pain?
Excellent readers sent the brains: "You expect me to actually get free exercise using my muscles to make my own life better?? Congress will hear about this!… I can move my own body? Shocking!… Burn more calories, free, and be healthier and stop disc pain by sitting so that my back does not hurt? I won't, I won't, I won't !!!…"
- The moment you bend right, you will stop injurious forces on the discs and knees. Keep good habit and they can heal. Stop tensing your body and it will not be tight and tense any longer. Relax does not mean slouch. The moment you change to healthier sitting habits, you will be able to sit more comfortably.
- No exercises, no gadgets or clothing with straps, no pills, no mattresses, make you bend right and stand in the kitchen preparing meals with healthful stance, breathing not grunting, shoulders back, not hunched, smiling and contented instead of poisoning your body with stress chemicals that you generate yourself through hurtful behaviors.
- The method you choose to fix your injuries depends on your view. If you don't like to have it free, quickly, and in a way that uses your own body to get exercise as part of your life, then of course go to another method and comment there about your pain. It seems to be a 'sign of the times' to do pills and blame. Time for change to something healthier (if you want). This article and all my other methods are for people who would be embarrassed to whine, and want direct, intelligent ways to get their own life back. Be prepared to have fun and use your brain.
Where to Start (if you want a better life, no one is making you):
- Read Inspiring Stories from real readers who used my work. Not testimonials, but tutorials so you can do it too - Patient True Success Stories
Easy reminders to sit, bend, move well (you don't have to sit at a desk and read anything to use them):
- Dr. Bookspan's Backsavers - Link takes you to CafePress to see the fun.
All information in one place
- Books - Click this page to read the descriptions to find the right book for your injury or life goals.
Personality responsibility photo by kd7irj
"I object to intellect without discipline.
I object to power without constructive purpose"
- Said by Mr. Spock, speaking to the unprincipled Squire of Gothos
Above, a short movie should appear that I took several years ago of my student Leslie when she was only 67 years old.
By her 70th birthday she had added 10 more pushups to do 40.
If the video does not show up on your device, try directly from my Flickr site: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thefitnessfixer/
Bookmark this page and do your pushups with her every day until you can do more, and send in your successes (or if you can teach me how to write a web site where I can host and embed my own movies. Instructions are on the Projects page ).
One-year Update From A Student:
"I am 50 & feel fabulous! As I continue to use your methods, I'm truly getting "more bang for my buck"! As advertised, most of my fitness comes from living my life! I can lift and store luggage over my head without sway back and am finally able to read and study for long periods of time because I'm learning good sitting posture AND finally learning how to release the tension in my tight, clenched muscles. That has been such a constant in my life--good riddance! It's also becoming easier & easier to spot unhealthy movement in Zumba classes & videos. I just adapt & move on.
I heard from my friends that they've continued using your materials and have signed up for another one of your classes in April. That makes me happy.
Gotta go study! I audited a class with my husband & decided to go for the certificate now that I can sit long enough to do all the readings & course work without pain. Yipee!"
What To Do Next
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- Howard Aiken
That said, Be Healthy - Respect Copyright
Information, drawings, and photos are © protected copyright. To cite this article or any parts, put author Dr. Bookspan, and link to this site DrBookspan.com at the top and bottom of your reprinting. A suggestion to get my books is also nice. No Derivative Works License means no changes to content, wording or links.
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If this article fixes your pain, send it to a friend (the article, not the pain). "Make health contagious."
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