FITNESS

Stand up to get into shape

Posted April 25, 2011, at 3:47 p.m.
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Are you in shape to get in shape? Seems like a silly question, huh? Well, you would be surprised how many new clients come to me unable to get up out of a chair without their knees caving in and their core muscles wondering what the devil they are supposed to be doing. They may not be able to walk up stairs without knee or back pain, or to get up from a seated position on  the floor. Let’s not even talk about having the upper-body strength to perform a modified push-up.

I’m not talking about elderly folks here. I’m talking about adults in the prime of their lives — in their 30s and 40s.

It is mostly our sedentary lifestyles that are to blame. But whatever the cause, many people need a little TLC before they can be thrown into an exercise regimen so they don’t end up on the injured or “this-hurts-too-much-to-continue” list.

Here’s one of the most important exercises you can do: get up out of your chair. A lot. Over and over again. Repeatedly.

While this is pretty good advice for life — as in, don’t become a couch potato and sit around all the time — it’s also imperative that you keep getting up out of your chair so that you can get up out of your chair for years to come and not end up putting your chair up on risers to make the job easier, something clients have told me they were actually considering before they began working out. I remember mentally applauding Dr. Oz when he was on Oprah, talking about body-weight squats being among the most important exercises we can do just so we can keep mobile as we age.

Sit down in a sturdy, not cushiony, chair that has your knees at about a 90-degree angle when your butt is on the seat. Your feet should be about hip width apart, flat on the floor, facing front. Now, stand up. Sit down. Do it again. Look at your knees – are they buckling inward as you do this? Are your heels lifting from the floor? Sit down and get up a few more times. Next, raise your arms straight up so that your upper arms are by your ears. Get up and sit down a few more times. Do your arms collapse forward? Does your chest land on your knees because you are forced to lean forward? Does your lower back complain? Can you stop just short of actually sitting on the chair, without collapsing onto it, and come back up to standing, with ease?

If you find yourself having more trouble than you imagined, I’m not surprised. The good thing is, it doesn’t take long to rebuild strength if you’re deliberate about it.

Lots of times I have clients put an inflatable pilates ball (measuring about 9 to 10 inches in diameter) between their knees as they do this exercise to help create stability and stop the knees from buckling. Then, after a session or two, I’ll have them hold a light (10 pounds or so) weight close to their chest as they do the exercise – a few sets of 15 to 20 reps. It’s not long before they stop having to collapse onto the chair, and are able to support their body’s weight.

Give it a try, and see how you do. And then do your legs and body a favor and keep your butt out of the chair for a little while today – go for a walk or do something fun so that you can keep doing those things for the rest of your life.

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