Thursday, March 29, 2012

I Love My Stability Ball!

It sometimes feels strange to say you love an object but the plain simple truth is I love my stability ball. I first purchased an exercise ball I because my physical therapist recommended it for stretching my back. I was having back pain and hip pain and I could not find the source of what was causing it. I don’t lift heavy things and although I work out I don’t do strenuous exercise so I just could not figure it out. Physical therapy helped but I could not keep that up forever. The point of therapy is to help improve your function or pain. Then therapists are supposed to teach you how to get results at home. 

Having a therapy ball to use every day made a huge difference for me. At first I just used it to stretch my back and work my core with basic abdominal exercises. With a few minor adjustments I had a lot of exercises to do so I could vary my workout so I did not get bored. Using a therapy ball helped my back a lot. Just having it to stretch out would have been enough but the added benefit of core strength and postural stability was a bonus I really didn’t expect. 

Despite all these benefits to my body a few weeks into my new routine I realized that my hips still hurt every day after work. I talked to my physical therapist and after a few discussions we realized that my pain came after long periods of time at my desk. She recommended I use the ball at work which I never thought of before. I thought she meant stretching at the office which would not work for me at all but she was actually recommending using it instead of my chair. At first it just sounded too radical. I had a mental picture of my exercise ball rolling around the office or me falling off and my legs flying up in the air. In the end desperation prevailed and I decided to give it a try.

Before committing to potentially looking weird work I did some research to see if there was any information online about using a ball as a task chair. Apparently using a therapy ball as a chair is not that uncommon. Occupational therapists even have a term for it. They call it dynamic seating. By sitting on something in motion it keeps your core engaged, provides a cushion for your bones and joints, and promotes improved posture. The bottom line is it might be a solution to ease my discomfort and that is what I was looking for.
Although it seemed that was a good idea it did not change my fears about the ball rolling away while I was on it. Here my research came in handy. I had found that there are balls with feet to keep them steady or inflatable ball rings to keep balls in one spot. Although the balls would not roll away these abll supports still allowed enough movement to promote dynamic sitting. There are even ball chairs that have a sturdy frame on caster wheels so it looks more like a task chair.  I even found that there were seating discs I could use on my regular chair that simulate the feeling of being on a ball.

Since I already had a ball I chose to try the ring first to see how it worked. It did not take long. I noticed the difference the first day. My hips were not as tight and back hurt less. It is not a miracle but it is a definite improvement which is really what I was looking for. To avoid having to take my ball home every day for my stretching routine I purchased a separate ball for work. 

Before this process I had no idea that the exercise balls I use in my Yoga and Pilates classes could be used as a chair. Purchasing a stability ball was supposed to be a simple way to stretch my back when I was alone at home. Instead it turned out to be a life changing solution to a major issue. I used to hate sitting at my desk because I had to get up to stretch too often. I am so much more productive now which makes me feel better about myself and that makes me a happier person too. I really do love my therapy stability ball.

Monday, March 26, 2012

3 Simple Ways to Motivate Your Kids to Exercise

Motivating your kids to stay active is more important than many parents realize. The truth is that there is a childhood obesity epidemic going on in the US as we speak. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than tripled over the past three decades! As of 2008, over 33% of children and adolescents were classified as overweight or obese.

If you want to beat the statistics and keep your kids healthy, it’s important to stay active as a family. You can start by setting a good example as a parent by spending more time with your kids outdoors, riding bikes, walking, or playing with the family pet.

But sometimes encouraging your kids to go to the playground isn’t that simple… How are you supposed to keep your kids motivated when they’d rather stay inside and watch TV or play video games? To get the ball rolling, check out these three simple tips to encourage your kids to exercise - while still having fun.

1.    Explain the purpose of exercise. If you can help your kids to understand that staying active is good for their body and overall health, this is a fact that will stick with them into adulthood. Even exercising or going outdoors to play for 15 minutes a day can make a serious difference in keeping your kids at a healthy weight, regulating metabolism, and even triggering healthy sleep cycles at night.

2.    Exercise as a group. It’s difficult to expect your kids to stay active if you want them to go out and play alone. If you don’t have time to exercise as a family, at the very least, get your kids involved in some type of community sport or activity. Once your kids realize that they can have fun as part of a team, exercise will become a staple of their childhood to keep them at a healthy weight.

3.    Use technology. You can also cater to your child’s love for technology and video games when it comes to staying fit. If you have an Xbox, you can use a device like the Kinect to encourage your kids to play interactive video games that require physical activity to work up a sweat indoors when the weather is bad outside. Since this is the age of technology, many kids may feel more comfortable staying active while playing a video game; using a Kinect workout game will help your kids to learn regular exercises that they can use to stay fit without feeling intimidated in a group setting.

Bethany Ramos is a full-time freelance writer that co-owns her own e-commerce website, The Coffee Bump. The Coffee Bump specializes in a wide variety of Bunn coffee machines and assorted coffee and espresso products.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

5 Fun Activities to Keep Kids Happy During Spring Break

Spring Break is here and it's the perfect time to give your kids a breather from school work. Some families take this opportunity to travel. For others, staying around town is more their speed. Especially with gas prices sky high! Either way, kids need something to do. Letting them spend their whole vacation in front of the tv, online or with a phone in their hand is not the best way to engage their minds and bodies.

Staying at home in Spring Break doesn’t mean kids have to have a boring vacation. There are a lot of  activities that parents can do with their children that are fun and keep kids busy and entertained. Here are some of those:

1.    Arts and Crafts. After the dull and boring color of winter, spring is all about colors and new life as we see the flowers blooming again. This can inspire and bring out the creative side of a person and so this is a good opportunity to do some craft works with your kids. There are a lot of Spring Craft ideas that you can check online for inspiration. You can decorate an Easter egg with your kids, make paper flowers, learn paper folding, basic drawing skills, and many more. Designate a wall for your kids art work. This will inspire them to create more masterpieces. Remember to rotate often as a reward for their work.
2.    Go out on a Picnic. Families just stayed indoors most of the time during the winter season to keep them warm and so people are eager to go out and enjoy the sun when Spring arrives. Take this time with your kids to go to a nearby park for a picnic. Pack some healthy foods, blanket, and toys and enjoy a day at the park, under the sun with your kids. Kids can freely run around and do activities like kite flying, digging in the sand area, and exercise on the play equipment. It might be a good idea to invite a friend for each child in case your kids tend to bicker like ours.
3.   Check out activities in Community Centers. Your nearby community center may be offering different classes that your kids can try while on vacation. Check out the activities lined up for the month like concerts, shows and the like that you and your kids can attend. Most families never know about the free shows and festivals that happen around their town. It's amazing what you can find with a little research.
4.    Indoor Fun. If you are looking for a fun and education way to spend time with your kids on Spring Break, take them to museums, the planetarium and even the local library. There are a lot of good museums that are free or low cost. Kids really don't get a chance to see dino bones, giant art work or great pieces of sculpture in person. These types of trips may just inspire your child to learn more about what they've seen. 
5.    Organize a Party. Invite your kids’ friends over for a small party. Some great party ideas include:
·        Spa Party - Buy supplies from a local store and invite the moms too so they can give their child the pampering that they deserve after working hard in school.
·       Pajama or Sleepover Party - Kids love to spend the night with their friends because this is something that they don’t normally do on ordinary days. Prepare popcorn, DVD of their favorite movies for one exciting night that the kids will surely enjoy.
·       Gaming Party - Bring out those video consoles and invite friends over for a video game contest. Keep them off the couch with dancing or sports games. 
·    Pool Party - Barbecue, inflatable, water toys and more. I am sure the kids missed dipping in the pool during the cold winter months so they will really fell excited over a pool party.

With a little creativity and research, who says you need to go out of town to get all these fun? These are just a few ideas that parents can do with their kids to make their vacation exciting, productive and memorable too.