Don’t Hurt Yourself Decorating For The Holidays

Tis the season to decorate!  In addition to all the delicious food, this is the time of year when most people pull boxes of holiday decorations out of storage, and spend some serious time giving their homes a festive holiday makeover.

While it’s true that the results of those efforts often look amazing, it’s also entirely possible to hurt yourself while you’re busy transforming your home into a holiday wonderland.  Here are a few simple tips to help you avoid injury:

Simple Mindfulness

We’re listing this one first because while it’s obvious, it’s also something that’s easy to overlook.  Pay close attention to your surroundings as you’re un-boxing all those holiday decorations. Be aware that when you’re carrying an armload of goodies, your vision may be obstructed, so move with care and deliberation.

In addition to simply watching where you’re stepping, be mindful of your posture and be sure to use good lifting habits.  When picking up a box, always squat and let your legs do the lion’s share of the work, as opposed to bending and lifting with your back.  Your spine will thank you!

Warm Up First!

While mindfulness and deliberation are important, don’t overlook the value of spending a few minutes warming up and stretching before you start doing any strenuous lifting.  As with any form of exercise, spending a few minutes warming up is a great way to prepare your body for the exertions that lie ahead.

Make Smart Use of Technology

Here, we’re not talking about cutting-edge technology, but rather, some simple, old school tools you can deploy to minimize your risk.  The two biggest and most obvious are a good back brace and a ladder.  Don’t stretch any more than you have to, use your trusty ladder to extend your reach and rely on a back brace to give you extra support!

The bottom line is it’s easier to prevent an accident than it is to deal with the aftermath of one.  If you take a few simple precautions as you go about decorating your home for the holidays, you’ll go a long way toward minimizing your risk of injury.

Is It OK To Exercise In The Cold Weather?

The question that serves as the title of this piece is an excellent one, and something we get asked on a regular basis.

For some reason, people tend to be strong advocates for either “hot” or “cold” workouts, with very little meeting in the middle.

The short answer to the question is yes, exercising in cold weather is fine, but the details in a more in-depth answer might surprise you.

Advantages to Cold Workouts

There are two key advantages to exercising in the cold.  The first is the fact that your body is better able to regulate its temperature, which enables you to work out for longer periods than you would normally be able to during the hottest months of the summer.  A longer workout equates to more calories burned, which is always a good thing.

There’s also evidence that exercising in the cold helps your body convert unhealthy white fat to healthy brown fat, which provides a strong secondary benefit.  As you’ll see in the next section though, there are advantages to working out in the heat as well.

Advantages to Hot Workouts

As with cold weather workouts, there are two advantages to exercising in the heat.  The first is improved blood blow, which sends more oxygen and nutrients to every part of your body.  That’s undeniably a good thing.

Second, and this is the part that might surprise you, working out in the heat can help you perform better when the weather starts turning cold.  In fact, a recent study indicated that people who worked out in hot conditions and then shifted to cold workouts performed 6 percent better than people who worked out exclusively in the cold.

Ultimately then, the answer is this:  Don’t use the cold weather as an excuse not to exercise!  Stay active all year long if you want to reap the biggest benefit.  Your body will thank you.

Fact or Fiction: Does Weather Affect Pain?

Do you suffer from arthritis?  If so, you’ve got plenty of company.  According to the CDC, more than 52 million Americans have the dubious honor of dealing with some form of arthritis, including nearly half a million people under the age of 18.  It’s a club with an expansive membership.

If you have (or know someone who has) arthritis, you’ve probably heard that changes in the weather cause the pain to intensify.  There’s tons of anecdotal evidence to support this, but is it true?

Unfortunately, there have only been a limited number of studies on the issue. The findings of the research to date has been inconclusive, with some studies confirming what most arthritis sufferers believe, and others finding no correlation.

Even so, both the Arthritis Foundation and the Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons link weather changes to an increase in arthritis pain.  The Arthritis Foundation cited barometric pressure changes as the cause, and the AOS linked it to rain and/or the onset of colder weather.

Although these agencies acknowledge a correlation, there’s no evidence to support that moving to warmer, drier climates will provide you with any significant long-term relief from your arthritis pain.

Unfortunately, people living in sunny Florida and the dry southwestern states still suffer from the disease.  There’s no cure, and it’s going to run its course, no matter where you live.

In other words, don’t pack your bags.  While you may experience a temporary increase in discomfort when the weather changes, moving isn’t really going to help. Since there’s no cure, the best you can do is continue to treat the symptoms with heating pads, cold packs (and ideally a combination of both), with medications to help you control the inflammation.

Also consider engaging in regular stretching exercises to increase your range of motion and exercise in a swimming pool as often as you’re able to.

Does Massage Increase Blood Flow?

Science has confirmed what massage therapists have been saying for years.  Not only does a massage feel great, but it improves blood flow and reduces pain levels whether you exercise regularly or not.

This most recent bit of research comes to us from the University of Illinois, Chicago, and provides the best evidence yet.

In the study, the research team broke participants into three groups:

  • Group one used a leg press machine until their legs began to get sore. Afterward, this group received a Swedish massage.
  • Group two used the same machine until their legs began to get sore, but at the end, did not get a massage.
  • Group three did no exercise, but still got a massage (this would have been the group to be in!)

The group of study participants who did the exercise but didn’t get a massage reported continued pain in their legs for up to twenty-four hours.

The group that did the exercise and got a massage reported no pain whatsoever approximately 90 minutes after their massage was completed.

In addition to that, the two groups that received a massage had better blood flow than the group that exercised but did not get a massage.

Nina Cherie Franklin, a researcher and lead author of the study had this to say about their work:

“Our study validates the value of massage in exercise and injury, which has been previously recognized but based on minimal data.  It also suggests the value of massage outside of the context of exercise. The big surprise was the massage-only control group, who showed virtually identical levels of improvement in circulation as the exercise massage group.  The circulatory response was sustained for a number of days, which suggests that massage may be protective.”

In fact, the team discovered that the benefits of massage lingered for three full days, which is huge.

The bottom line is, if you’re looking for a simple way to feel better and improve your circulation, massage is the way to go!