July 13, 2024

Develop a Healthy and Graceful Body by Marc Reisman

From a physical therapist’s perspective, the secret to physical grace is to keep and maintain as much joint range of motion as possible, maximize muscle strength, improve cardiovascular endurance, and at the same time stay upright, keeping your balance. Here are several tips:

Move daily. For all joints, move them daily in every possible direction to the very end of range. Here’s an easy exercise for the shoulder joint. Sit on a stool with your hips, low back, shoulders, and head as flat as possible against the wall. If no stool, use a kitchen chair and straddle it. Now slowly move your arms over your head as far as possible. Do not arch your back. Hold for a few seconds to stretch, and then move your arms to the side in a circle to bring them down. Repeat this several times for 20, 30, or 45 seconds.  Don’t be surprised if the arms don’t make it to the wall. Motion will improve bit by bit.

Build strength. Strength exercises that are also functional are best. For example, find a comfortable chair with arms. Slowly, stand up from a sitting position (use your arms to push up if necessary), and then slowly sit down. Repeat multiple times for 20, 30, or 40 seconds. Try going very slowly. This is a terrific way to strengthen thigh, buttock, back, and abdominal muscles.

Do cardio. Cardiopulmonary exercise involves an activity that will elevate heart rate to a safe target, while also working the lungs. Walking, dancing, jogging or using exercise machines like a stationary bicycle or elliptical machine will do this safely. 
Improve balance. As to balance, the basic exercises involve narrowing your base of support (moving your feet closer together) while also moving your center of gravity. The best place to start is facing out from a corner of the room. Here, you have the walls behind and to the sides to protect you from falling. Safety is primary when practicing balance exercises. While in the corner, march in place. Then slow the steps down so you are standing for several seconds on one leg while trying to maintain balance. Use the walls for support as necessary. Vary this by placing your feet heel to toe and holding your balance. If you don’t need the corner for safety, simply practice standing on one leg, or walking heel-toe down the hallway.

It is always recommended to check with a health professional before beginning a new fitness regimen.

Marc Reisman is a Physical Therapist at the Human Performance Center, an outpatient physical therapy clinic in Santa Barbara, California. For more information about HPC or about other exercises for your physical health, contact us at www.hpcsb.com.

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