Author: Sarah PURCELL
Like so many women, I received my Osteoporosis diagnosis over the phone and it was a huge shock. It was so much to take in! Being a fitness professional, I felt embarrassed and devastated.
My doctor immediately offered me medication, which I declined because I wanted to do some research first. Sure enough, once I looked into it, I knew that I didn’t want to take medication.
From what I studied, I knew I wanted to take a two-pronged approach to my osteoporosis diagnosis: focusing on exercise and nutrition.
I looked at my alignment so that I could see why the exercise that I had been doing wasn’t working. Then I approached nutrition in a similar way—although my diet was healthy, I was still having digestive troubles. My sister advised me to begin with an elimination diet, which helps you find out which foods you are sensitive to.
Finding out that you are unable to eat certain foods is hard. It’s a big adjustment and can be very disappointing. But when you realise how much better you feel…no more headaches, lethargy, digestive problems…it is so worth it!
So I suggest you start by really getting to know your gut health. Try an elimination diet and then you will be working from a position of strength.
Here are some resources on elimination diets that I found helpful:
I tried a 30-day elimination diet—that was enough for me! I thought the signs were pretty clear. I’ve eliminated a lot of foods and I’ve learned to not to miss them. An interesting thing is that there are people who say that for instance they crave sugar. But it’s actually your gut bacteria that crave the sugar. Once your gut bacteria is cleared of sugar, you will no longer crave it. It’s not good bacteria, and it uses sugar for its energy. It will die off and it will be cleared when you get rid of the sugar. There are herbs and probiotics you can take to support this process.
So, yes, I still eat fruit! But I’ve vastly eliminated all the sources of refined sugar. Not to say that I don’t have some dark chocolate. In fact, I have a little bit of dark chocolate every day.
After I cleaned up my gut by altering my diet, I decided to start with probiotics.
Rather than going the route of reading all of the various suggestions on probiotics that you can buy, I decided I was going to make my own! I bought bottles and I started making my own kombucha; it’s really easy to make. You can find the instructions and the recipes online, and you can even buy a scoby, the little kombucha starter online. I love the recipes and tips on this website. I am not an affiliate, I just like the site.
Then my husband decided to make sauerkraut! It’s also full of probiotics. So, again, it’s super simple, it’s just a lot of chopping. Or you can even purchase bags of pre-chopped cabbage. My husband used a darker cabbage and ginger to get just the right flavor.
Now I feel great about what’s going on in my gut!
The next step was to start looking at how to get the nutrients that I need, through diet.
The facebook group Osteoporosis Natural Remedies was a big help with food and supplements.
I highly recommend that you do not take anyone’s word for it when it comes to what you should and should not supplement. I made my own decisions based on getting advice, being pointed in a direction, and then reading the research myself. It is only after all that work, that I chose my supplements. For example, I do not take calcium. After reading the most current research, I decided to get my calcium from food. It is interesting to note that a 2019 Harvard Medical School Newsletter outlines why the 1200mg RDa for post menopausal women is likely too high.
If there’s anything I’d like to impart to you, it’s to take your time and do your research. I know the fear is real but you do have time, you do not have to rush.
When you are comfortable with the gut and nutrient side of things, then you may want to think about a fitness approach. Exercising with weights is a recommended and proven natural approach to bone growth promotion that makes sense for many women. Many of us need to address our core strategies before we embark on a progressive loading weightlifting experience. Additionally, many of us are interested in core strength and mobility for the lifestyle benefits they provide.
I’ve developed a system for finding core stability and strength while improving whole body mobility that is not a chore, but a fun journey of discovery. This process lives as a community online in the Short & Sweet with Sarah Membership. We open the membership four times a year. If you’re interested, you can read more about it here!
Chair Exercise for Your Arms and Cores that Works for Strength Building
Are you concerned about how to exercise if you have poor balance or can not get up and down from the floor easily? This is an exercise solution for you!
To prevent muscle atrophy as we age, it is important to continue to activate our muscles even if we are not able to move around a lot. I recommend this short routine as a movement break.
Find Your Sitting Posture for Effective Chair Exercise
You will need a towel, yoga strap, belt, or tie.
The unfortunate thing about chairs today is that most of them encourage us to slouch and sit on our sacrum. The sacrum is the triangular-shaped bone that forms the link between your spine and tailbone. Sitting on our sacrum is one of the culprits in low back pain and SI joint pain.
To find your ideal sitting posture, start by finding your sitting bones. Those are the bony protrusions at the bottom of our pelvis. Rock side to side in your chair and back and forth a bit. You should be able to locate those bony landmarks. Now that you have found them, try sitting right on top of them. Push down through your feet as you lengthen the top of your head to the ceiling. Do not reach your nose to the ceiling, but rather, think of the back of your head getting taller.
Find 360-Degree Breathing
Now that you have your sitting posture, place your hands on your lower abdomen. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Notice your belly move out into your hands on your inhale while sitting down for an effective chair exercise.
On the next breath, see if you can make that expansion happen in your rib cage instead of your belly. If this is extremely difficult, do not be discouraged. Just having this new awareness is the perfect place to start.
Now that you are aware of the fact that you can move your inhale into your ribcage, try practicing your breathing this way. Imagine that your chest is full of little holes and as you inhale, air flows into your lungs through all those holes. The air fills your lungs as if they were a sponge. The sponge of your lungs expands into the rib cage and the bones of your rib cage move outward.
Practice this as often as it occurs to you. It’s great little workout for your ribcage as well as your internal pressure system. Over time, you will notice that you have a more evenly distributed inhale—and that will help you with core stability and strength.
Grab a towel or strap and hold each end.ull the strap back across the front of your upper shins or your knees while you grow your spine taller. Make sure you exhale as you pull the strap. Remain tall in your seat and exhale as if you are blowing out 100 birthday candles while you pull on the strap.
Do you notice the backs of your arms turning on? If not, try having your thumbs forward and your pinky fingers pointing behind you and try again. Do this 6 to 8 times.
Now let’s do a little walk with our hips! We will not be leaving the chair but we will shimmy our hips forward and backward in our seat. Remember to stay tall and keep your spine straight as you move your right sitting bone forward and then your left. Return your right sitting bone and then your left. Next time reverse that order. Keep going back and forth without tucking your tail or arching your low back.
Working Your Arms During Effective Chair Exercise
Now we will do an exercise called pull-aparts. Take the ends of your towel or strap and hold them directly in front of your chest. If holding your arms parallel to the ground at chest level hurts your shoulders or neck, just hold your hands lower. You will have your hands in an overgrip on the strap. We will pull the ends of the band apart 6 times. Use an exhale and grow tall with each pull. Reverse your grip to underhand and repeat the exercise. Where do you feel each one on your arms?
Next, we will do the Bow and Arrow exercise. You are still holding your towel or strap. Imagine that the strap is a bow with an arrow in it. Take your right hand to your right armpit while your left hand out to the left and a bit forward of you. There is not a right or wrong for your arm and hand placement. Switch from side to side and see if you can find a rhythm of right to left and find the positioning that feels good in your body. Your arms can be as high or low as you want. This is about the movement, not about how it looks.
More into the Arm Workout
Put your towel to the side and pick up your block, ball, or any object that you can comfortably hold in one hand at a time. Hold the object in your left hand and pass it to your right hand in front of you. Be curious and see if you can take the object behind your back and pass it to your right hand. If this is not possible, it’s ok. Pass the block from hand to hand in front of you. Maybe see about holding the object higher or lower or changing the speed of the transitions. We are going to do this for one minute at a time followed by a 30-second rest and another minute of activity. It is your choice to pass the object behind you or in front of you.
When you are done, put your object down and let your hands come to your lap. This is the end of your upper body workout in the chair. At this time, take a moment to notice your breathing. Can you focus on breathing into all of the lobes of your lungs as if they were a sponge? Fill the entire spongy lobes of your lunges and slowly blow the air out as if blowing out 100 birthday candles. Repeat this activity 4 times and then return your breathing to normal.
Take your right ear toward your right shoulder and breathe. Slowly take your head back to the center. Take your left ear to your left shoulder and then slowly return to the center. Repeat this 2 more times to each side.
Notice your arms and torso. Hopefully, you feel more energized and alert with this effective chair exercise. Let me know in the comments how you feel!
If you enjoyed this mini strength workout in a chair, join me next month for a leg workout in the chair.
Improving Tight Hips without Passive Stretching
Tight hips are a common complaint among post-menopausal women. Hydration, sleep, and stretching is often recommended as helpers in the fight against tight hips.
I also believe that if we are going to alleviate chronically tight hips, we have to stop sitting so much and start moving more.
It’s all about movement for tight hips without passive stretching
When you experience muscle tightness, the solution is to work on increasing your mobility. Scientific advancements have revealed that the sensations we feel are not direct inputs from our muscles.
Rather, they are inputs from nervous system sensors on temperature, blood flow, inflammation, etc. The brain interprets this data and creates a feeling of tightness, pain, numbness, instability, ease, or something else.
Oftentimes, the sensation of tightness has a lot to do with your nervous system putting on the brakes and not allowing you to perform a certain action because it is an unfamiliar movement and your nervous system senses you do not have the muscle control or strength for the move.
A good example is the hamstring tightness. If a person is unable to touch their hands to the floor (not a goal I suggest to my clients) in a forward fold because a tight sensation stops them, they assume that they need to “stretch” to change the situation.
More into the movements to help tight hips without passive stretching
What if I told you that your nervous system is accustomed to you sitting much of the day and knows you do not have the hip or hamstring strength for that move? That your healthy nervous system might put on the brakes and stop you from going too far?
But what if you gained strength in all the ranges of motion that your hips and legs can naturally accommodate? Would that make your body feel more comfortable with end range movements like a forward fold?
I have seen my clients gain a greater range of motion through strength and mobility work than years of stretching classes have done for them.
If you want to experiment with this, try all or a portion of these seven moves daily and see how you feel in a few weeks.
Standing Psoas Release
Put your right foot on a block. Your heel needs to be solidly on the block so that you can make sure your weight is more in your heels. Make sure you have support nearby, like a wall, and use it for stability.
Swing your free leg forward and back without trying to use your hip flexors to move. Allow a bit of momentum to keep your leg swinging and your hip flexor on the swinging leg relaxed. Feel as if the weight of your leg is 100 pounds and it is being pulled toward the floor as it swings.
Standing Hip Glide
Find a counter or table that reaches hip height. Hinge at your hips and place your hands on the table. From the hip hinge position, move your hips from right to left with as little waist cinching as possible.
Move your hips a little bit to the right without a twist and hopefully you will feel sensations in your left inner thigh. Keep both legs straight as you do this. Then move to the other side. Go back and forth slowly. If you think you are going slow, move even a little bit slower
Standing Hip Circles
Stand with your left side to the counter. With your left hand touching the counter for stability, bring your right knee up to hip height as if you were marching. Externally rotate the leg bone at the hip so that your knee is now pointing out to the right.
Now for the difficult part. Without using your low back muscles, internally rotate that very same leg, which will swing your lower leg out. With your mind’s eye at your knee, take that knee behind you as it sweeps back to its home base parallel to the left knee.
Complete this circle 3 times and then reverse the direction. Watch this video for an in-depth look at hip circles and how much they have helped my clients with SI joint or low back pain.
Windshield Wipers Redefined
Sit on a chair with your heels on the floor and placed wider than your hips. Your knees are probably out to the side in external rotation. Keeping your heels where they are, rotate the leg bones internally (your knees will move towards each other). Continue this internal and external rotation in a lazy fun way.
Shake that out. Starting back in external rotation again put your hands out the outside of your knees. Press your hands into your knees and your knees into your hands.
Feel that resistance and after lightening up on your hands create the internal rotation again with a focus on the resistance your hands can create going in both internal and external rotation. Think of this as a deliberate deep cleaning for your hip joints while also working your inner and outer thighs.
Stand with your left side to the counter. Your right leg is extended straight in front of you and the right heel is resting on a block. Hinge at your hips until you feel sensation in the back of your right leg.
Hold there and draw your right toes toward your face. Remember to breathe as you feel the sensations. Repeat 3 or 4 times.
Standing in neutral now with your weight in your left leg, lift your right heel off the block while keeping your torso still and your hips steady and neutral. Lift 5 to 7 times. Only lift as high as you can go without your hips, spine, or shoulders shifting. It may be that you barely lift off the block and that is fine.
Repeat on the other side.
Position your legs wider than your hips with your legs hip-distance apart. Take a little squat with your rear traveling behind you. Look down at your knees and notice where they are.
Come back up and this time makes sure your hips are traveling behind you and your knees do not migrate towards each other. If your knees come forward a bit it is not a big deal, but do not let your knees collapse in.
As you squat, imagine you have racing stripes on your pant legs and push into the racing stripes to keep from collapsing in.
We will take 8 slow squats counting to 4 to go down and counting to 4 to come up. Resist the down using your glute muscles as brakes. Press through your heels and use your glute muscles as elevators.
Prop your hips up on a block, bolster, or a few firm pillows. Your feet will be placed on the ground about hip distance apart. Your pubic bone is higher than your hip bones and they are both higher than your waist.
Begin to breathe slowly. Imagine that the whole front of your legs and hips are relaxing and letting go. The muscles are just sliding down off the bolster toward your navel. Continue to breathe as you see in your mind’s eye that your hip flexors are relaxing into your body. Stay here as long as you like.
Everyday Movement to Solve Tight Hips without Passive Stretching
There is a sweet middle road where we can strengthen and lengthen our muscles to create more ease in our bodies. Short and tight muscles are essentially weak muscles. Oftentimes, that weakness is related to the fact that you do not give your muscles experience in a variety and diversity of positions on a daily basis.
The movements above are a nice routine to add variety and diversity while bringing an element of strength to your muscles. I always tell people that change needs to be easy to fit into your routines or the chances of success are low. So, start small.
Maybe choose only one of the ideas here and try doing it at the same time every day. Tack it onto something you already do every day, like making your coffee.
What is your range of motion at the hips? Do you feel tightness that brings unease in your movements? What do you do to interrupt your sitting time? Which of the movements shared for tight hips without passive stretching above looks like something you’d be able to start doing right away?