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The Most Dangerous Jobs: A Chiropractic Perspective

The Most Dangerous Jobs: A Chiropractic Perspective

It’s no secret that some jobs are just more physically demanding and more dangerous than others. Some of the most challenging ones are obvious—combat roles in the military, fire and rescue, heavy construction and deep sea fishing are just a few that come to mind. However, when it comes to non-fatal musculoskeletal injuries, the statistics tell a very different story about occupational health and safety and about who’s most likely to get hurt on the job.

Because chiropractic physicians are experts in treating conditions that involve the musculoskeletal and nervous systems (including many common workplace injuries), we have a unique perspective on why they happen, how they can  be prevented and the best ways to treat them.

Musculoskeletal Disorders by the Numbers

Let’s start with a long-term trend that’s good news for the nation’s workers but that doesn’t get much media attention. The number of reportable occupational injuries and illnesses has declined steadily across the past decade from 50 cases per 1,000 full-time workers in 2003 to 33 cases in 2013. So progress is clearly being made, even if it doesn’t grab the headlines.

That said, musculoskeletal injuries continue to be among the most common on-the-job injuries, and they can require significant recuperation time. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says that musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) “are injuries or illnesses affecting the connective tissues of the body such as muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, or spinal disks.”

A very high percentage—about one-third—of 2013 workplace injury and illness cases that required days off from work involved the musculoskeletal system.  Plus, workers who sustained musculoskeletal injuries required more time to recover before returning to work—a median of 11 days to recuperate compared with 8 days for all types of workplace injury and illness cases. In 2011:

  • The back was the primary site of MSD injuries in 42% of all cases across all occupations, requiring a median time off of 7 days to recuperate.
  • Although it accounts for only 13% of all MSDs, the shoulder was the area with the most severe injuries, requiring a median of 21 days off of work to recuperate.
  • Injuries and illnesses due to repetitive motion involving “micro-tasks” (such as typing) accounted for only 3% of all occupational injury and illness cases. However, those workers with this kind of injury required nearly 3 times as many days away from work to recover as those with all other types of injuries and illnesses—a median of 23 days.


As we mentioned earlier, though, MSDs are not distributed evenly across all industries and occupations.

  • In 2013, the highest MSD incident rates were found in transportation and warehousing (80.3 cases per 10,000 full-time workers), healthcare and social assistance (50.2 cases per 10,000 full-time workers), arts, entertainment and recreation (46.5 cases per 10,000 full-time workers) and construction (41.9 cases per 10,000 full-time workers).
  • In 2011, six occupations accounted for 26% of all MSD cases: nursing assistants, laborers, janitors and cleaners, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, registered nurses and stock clerks.
  • In 2011, those with the greatest number of median days spent off from work in order to recuperate from an MSD were heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers (21 days).

So it’s clear from the numbers that the dangerous jobs featured on reality TV shows (think about Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers) aren’t necessarily the ones that result in the most MSD-related visits to the chiropractor or general practitioner.

The Role of Chiropractic Care in Prevention and Treatment

Over the past several years, companies of all sizes have become increasingly interested in occupational health and wellness programs. Chiropractic physicians have a special interest in working with employees and business managers alike to help prevent job-related injuries and to encourage a healthy, productive work environment. If you’d like to learn more, we encourage you to call or visit our office today.

Chiropractic care can be one of the most effective ways to treat musculoskeletal pain and accelerate recovery.  Dr. Oblander has the training and experience necessary to successfully diagnose and treat a wide range of workplace injuries, and he’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have! So if you or someone you care about has recently been hurt on the job, please give us a call at 406-652-3553 or stop by either of our Billings chiropractic offices. We have an office located at 3307 Grand Avenue and an office at 410 Wicks Lane in the Heights  and we’re here to help!




Tips and Precautions for Winter Exercise

Tips and Precautions for Winter Exercise

cold-weather-jogging-200-300For many people, colder temperatures outside—whether at home or while traveling over the winter holidays—can mean big changes in exercise routines. Some will move their workouts indoors or hibernate during the winter months. Others, though, will decide to work with the seasons and find ways to be active outside. If you’re one of those people, this article is for you.

While there’s certainly no rule against venturing out into the cold for a little bit of exercise, it’s important to be smart about how you do it. Remember to protect yourself from frostbite, hypothermia, and injuries that can come with freezing temperatures. To help you do that, we’ve put together a short checklist that you can use to exercise outdoors safely this winter.

Remember that Cold Weather is Often Dry Weather. Winter weather is often associated with precipitation. However, as the temperatures drop to dangerous lows—close to freezing and below—the opposite is often true regarding humidity. The air will get drier, and even if you don’t sweat as much, you can still lose valuable moisture. When exercising in the cold weather, remember to drink plenty of water, even if you don’t really feel thirsty or sweaty.

Understand the Real Temperature Where You Plan to Exercise. Look up the weather on a website or app before you head out into the cold, but understand the numbers you are looking at. The general weather conditions can differ greatly from place to place locally, even in the same region. Pay especially close attention to wind chill numbers, since the combination of wind and your own movement may lead you to experience lower temperatures. The thermometer may say it’s 35 degrees out, but the wind chill may mean it feels closer to 20 degrees in certain areas.

Dress Appropriately. It may be tempting to bundle up when going out in the cold to work out, but this comes at a cost. Thick, warm clothes will make you sweat more easily, and that sweat can leach heat from your body and allow your temperature to drop to unhealthy levels. The key, as cold weather experts know well, is to dress in layers, starting with a thin synthetic layer of wicking material, then a fleece and finally a thinner waterproof coat. The added benefit to this clothing strategy is that it’s flexible. You can always take off layers if you get too hot.

Warm Up the Extremities. When exercising in the cold weather, pay particular attention to your extremities, which are more vulnerable to frostbite. It’s especially important to cover your fingers and head. If the air is very frigid, cover up your nose and mouth, too: That cold air can damage your lungs and freeze your nose.

Fuel Up. A source of energy is vital to keeping up your metabolism and keeping you warm when out in the cold. Eat a healthy amount of complex carbs and proteins before you go out, and if you’re going to be out for a few hours, then bring a snack along, too. Stay away from sugars and other less dependable sources of energy, if possible.

Start Slow. Stretching and warming up will both make injury less likely and help your metabolism pick up until you are ready for more strenuous work. Always warm up before going out into the winter weather, particularly if you are planning on an intense session with lots of running or heavy exertion. Otherwise, joint and muscle injuries could result.

Know the Danger Signs. Hypothermia and frostbite can creep up on you if you’re not careful. You can defend against the cold better if you recognize the signs. Frostbite occurs on exposed skin like your cheeks, nose, ears, and hands, especially below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Hypothermia occurs when shivering cannot keep up your core body temperature and your heart and brain begin to shut down. Watch for intense shivering, sudden weariness, slurred words, and trouble with coordination.

Billings and our surrounding areas have had lots of severe cold and snow thus far this winter; be sure to be smart about going outside and take care of your health!

Use it or Lose it: Five Tips for Maintaining Your Sense of Balance Beyond Middle Age

Use it or Lose it: Five Tips for Maintaining Your Sense of Balance Beyond Middle Age

yoga on the natureIf you are middle-aged (40-60, by some definitions) or older, here’s 15-second self-test for you. Do you often find yourself needing to sit down or steady yourself against a table when putting on your shoes or stepping into pants? Do you increasingly need to use the armrests of your chair to “push off” when getting up? Do you generally hold on to handrails whenever you go up and down stairs? If you stand with your feet close together, do you feel unsteady and unable to balance yourself properly?

If you’ve answered “Yes” to any of these questions, you might want to start giving a little bit of thought to your sense of balance, and how important it is to you. It’s easy to take good balance for granted—most people don’t give it a first or second thought until after they’ve experienced a fall. However, the behaviors we asked about in our self-test are actually “early warning signs” that your sense of balance may be starting to deteriorate. Your balance is controlled by an area of the brain called the cerebellum, which works in coordination with your vestibular (inner ear) system, your visual system (your eyes, and their ability to perceive whether you are standing upright), and your proprioceptive system (your body’s sense of position in space).

All of these systems begin to deteriorate once you pass the age of 40, as do the muscles they control. Worse still, this process of deterioration can become accelerated if you lead a sedentary lifestyle (which growing numbers of Americans do). And although you might not think of balance as a health issue, falling is the leading cause of injury for people over the age of 65. In the U.S., someone from this age group is treated in an emergency room for injuries resulting from a fall every 17 seconds.

So how do you improve your sense of balance, and protect yourself from dangerous falls? Simple—use it! Balance is to some extent a learned skill, so if you practice a few simple exercises that isolate these components of balance, you can actually make your sense of balance better. Experts on aging suggest performing a few exercises to improve your balance each day, starting in middle age, before the systems that control your balance have begun to deteriorate.

For example, just avoiding the use of handrails on stairs or the poles in buses and subway cars forces your body to work harder to maintain its balance, improving reflexes, increasing coordination and strengthening your muscles. Other exercises you can perform include creating an unstable surface at home (such as a board placed on wobbly pillows) and then practicing standing on it with one foot, or improving your coordination by standing on one leg with the opposite arm extended and then swinging the other leg back and forth. Office workers can improve their balance—and get a refreshing break at the same time—by practicing getting up from their chairs ten times in a row without using their hands. Each of these simple movements shifts your center of gravity, causes your muscles to react to changing positions, and improves your balance.

Just walking in a small circle around your living room or your backyard can be good for your balance, because walking along a curve is more difficult than walking in a straight line. When you’re out for a walk, try to choose uneven surfaces rather than smooth pavement because this also exercises the muscles in your back and legs that are essential for good balance. Or place cones or other objects in a line on the floor in front of you and then weave between them while walking. You can strengthen your hips, which are very important for balance, by holding on to a table or a kitchen counter and then swinging one leg forward, to the side, to the back, and then up to your chest with your knee bent. Do this ten times, and then switch to the other leg and repeat. Yoga, Tai Chi, martial arts, and other forms of exercise that emphasize flexibility can also improve your balance.

So if you are concerned about protecting yourself against falls as you age, the important thing to bear in mind is the phrase “use it while you’re young, or you’ll lose it as you age.” The more healthy exercise you get in your 30s and 40s, the more healthy – and safe – you’ll be in your 60s and beyond.


Standing More Often: A Prescription for Better Health?

Standing More Often: A Prescription for Better Health?


It seems that almost every day we see new research coming out about the perils of inactivity and sitting too much. We’re becoming a sedentary nation, and it’s taking its toll on us, causing or contributing to epidemic levels of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cardiovascular problems. So it’s interesting to look at some of the research that’s being done on the “opposite of sitting”. And no, that’s not necessarily exercising—it’s standing. Some studies are indicating that simply standing for a few more hours per day may be even better for your health than joining a gym.

While this type of conclusion may be startling at first, it’s much less shocking when you stop to consider the number of hours that we actually spend sitting each day. One recent study found that most Americans spend up to 12 hours a day sitting. If you add in the hours we spend sleeping, that means that most of us spend up to 20 hours a day being sedentary. One sad result of all this physical inactivity: Those who sit all day long live an average of two years less than those who are more active. Even regular exercise doesn’t seem to completely offset the effects of sitting all day.

So how could standing more help? Well, for one thing you burn about twice as many calories while standing as you do while sitting. For another, standing improves your circulation and tends to prevent the numerous vascular disorders linked to sitting for prolonged periods of time.

The first scientific studies linking standing more often to improved health were done in the 1950s in Britain, comparing bus drivers (who sit) with bus conductors (who stand). The resulting study, published in The Lancet, indicated that the conductors had about half the risk of developing heart disease as the drivers.

More recently, a large research project conducted in Australia as part of The 45 and Up Study examined 194,545 participants and asked them to self-evaluate their overall health and quality of life using a 5-point scale. The amount of exercise the participants got was rated using a standard scale, while the number of hours spent sitting were self-assessed. The results, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that prolonged sitting reduced muscle contractions and shut off the activity of lipoprotein lipase, which helps to turn fat into energy. As a result, there was more obesity in the inactive group, and they died earlier than their counterparts who sat fewer hours per day. Women in the study who spent more than 11 hours per day sitting had a 12% increase in all-cause premature mortality, and the sedentary group also had increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and cancer. Men in the study who spent more than five hours a day outside of work sitting were 34% more likely to develop heart failure than those who spent no more than two hours a day sitting, regardless of how much they exercised.

So the facts seem to be in. Standing more often seems to be good for you. How to achieve this is a more difficult question, because so many offices are designed around the idea of sitting at a desk most of the day. But many forward-thinking companies are either installing “standing desks” for those who ask for them or, like Google, instituting required “stand up and walk around” breaks every hour. No matter how you choose to do it (even if it’s resting your laptop on an ironing board so you can stand while you work), try to avoid sitting as much as possible for greater health and longevity.


How to Turn Raking Leaves into a Healthy Workout

How to Turn Raking Leaves into a Healthy Workout

rake-in-leaves-200-300One of the most effective ways to get and keep getting physical exercise is to make it an enjoyable job. While raking leaves may not be at the top of your list of fun tasks, that attitude can change with a few tips. Fall is here, and for many people, that means lots of leaves in the yard. They aren’t going to rake themselves—so why not make this seemingly dull chore into a fun, healthy workout? Here are a few tips that can make raking leaves into a workout you can be proud of.

  1. Chart Your Fitness Progress. “Raking leaves is considered moderate physical activity, similar to a brisk walk”, according to Barbara Ainsworth, an exercise epidemiologist at San Diego State University. “It helps build upper-body strength, as well as core strength. As you’re raking, your core (or trunk) is working to stabilize your body while your arms are moving, says Ainsworth. A 135-pound person could burn about 240 calories raking leaves for an hour.” Keep track of your workout time so you can be proud of how many calories you’ve burned—not to mention how many bags of leaves you raked.
  2. Enjoy the Outdoors. Autumn is a wonderful time to exercise outdoors—the air is crisp, the leaves are turning lovely colors, and the smell of chimney smoke can be almost intoxicating. Take the time to enjoy your surroundings by noticing the movements of birds, squirrels, and other animals gathering food for the winter. Enjoying nature can be extremely beneficial for your mental health as well as your physical health, so give it a shot—you may end up loving it.
  3. Listen to Music. Bring a radio, CD player, or digital music player and listen to some of your favorite music. For a more rigorous workout, chose fast-paced music with a beat you can rake to. After a while, if you really get into the music, it won’t even feel like exercise—and don’t forget that endorphin rush. Try doing 20 minutes of moderate raking, then take a break and drink some water. Then continue raking. If you feel your enthusiasm start to flag, try switching the song—sometimes that’s all you need to boost your workout.
  4. Take Before and After Pictures. Studies suggest that it is very mentally beneficial to see the product of work you’ve done with your own hands, so why not take before and after pictures of your yard to remind you of the good work you’ve done? It may inspire you to rake your lawn regularly—at least until winter comes along.
Fitness Around the World

Fitness Around the World

women doing fist pushups
women doing fist pushups

People in the US who are interested in staying in shape tend to favor running or working out at the gym to maintain fitness. But how do people in other parts of the world stay fit? And what might Americans learn from them? Following is a summary of how people in some other countries keep in shape.

The Netherlands and Scandinavia – The number one form of physical exercise in these countries is undoubtedly the bicycle. They use it to do everything from getting to and from work and school to shopping for groceries and cycling someone home from a date. There are dedicated bike lanes in every city, and many that stretch from one side of the country to the other. From small children to the elderly, everyone cycles as a matter of course, and their overall fitness shows how beneficial it is to their health.

China – You may have seen people in public parks around any major city (or any community with Chinese immigrants) performing a series slow, precise movements. Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese form of martial arts that is good for conditioning not only the body, but the mind as well. It is especially good for seniors, as it improves balance and overall mobility, increases strength in the legs and reduces stress.

India – Most people are surprised to learn that the physical practice of yoga as we know it is not actually ancient. Yoga in India was traditionally a mental and spiritual practice that incorporated special breathing techniques while in a sitting or standing posture. The type of exercise that comes to mind when we think of the word “yoga” (incorporating different postures called asanas, in combination with measured breathing) was not developed in India until the early 20th century. Nevertheless, yoga is now practiced very widely in India and all over the world as a way to promote overall mind-body fitness. It strengthens and stretches the muscles, increases flexibility and reduces stress.

Japan ­– Radio Taiso is a program of simple calisthenics set to music that is broadcast several times a day and is used by schools and many companies to help keep people fit. There are three official versions. One is a general fitness program for people of all ages, one is specifically designed to increase physical strength, and one is geared toward the elderly and disabled, who can perform the exercises while sitting down.

Brazil – An energetic form of dance that is taking off elsewhere in the world as well, Capoeira is a combination of dance, martial arts, acrobatics and music. It improves balance, coordination and rhythm while strengthening all the muscle groups. It will also improve your reflexes and help increase concentration.

Middle East – Belly dancing was originally developed as an exercise to aid women in childbirth. But belly dancing has many additional advantages. It particularly targets the “core” muscles, which are the ones responsible for keeping us upright and which have all too often become weakened by sitting for long hours at a desk. By strengthening your core muscles, you reduce your risk of suffering a back injury or chronic lower back pain.

Short on Time During Your Workout? Don’t Skip the Stretching!

Short on Time During Your Workout? Don’t Skip the Stretching!

Little ballerinas
Little ballerinas

Why is stretching the part of our workout regimen that so many of us tend to skip? We might tell ourselves it’s because we’re sort on time, that we’re impatient or that (deep down) we believe stretching is really pointless. But however we rationalize it, skipping the stretching is a BAD idea!

It’s probably obvious that our joints were designed to be able to move in various directions with a certain degree of freedom. But as our bodies age, we become stiffer and lose the flexibility we had when we were young. In fact, chances are (unless you happen to be a dancer or gymnast), that process will start even before you reach your 20th birthday. However, it’s never too late to regain some of that youthful flexibility by becoming more serious about stretching. Combined with strength training, proper stretching can help prolong our mobility and independence—allowing us to perform basic day-to-day tasks well into our senior years. Reaching that high shelf, bending to pick up a dropped object, and accessing that hidden switch behind an awkward kitchen cabinet are all great examples.

One reason it’s really important to stretch before working out is that we are likely to use muscles and connective tissues that are normally inactive. Without flexibility, the risk of getting hurt goes up. However, stretching can help prevent (or even treat) some common types of musculoskeletal injuries if it’s done correctly. Plus, it can feel good! Stretching can be a great way to start the day or to wind down after work.

Preparing the body for exercise by warming up the muscles (increasing blood flow) and stretching is easy and need not take up much of your time. Simply begin moving the various muscle groups in a deliberate way, with slow stretches of the joints towards the end of their range of motion. As you do this, you should notice a gentle “pulling” sensation and hold the position for up to half a minute. Then stretch the alternate side or move on to other muscle groups. Not only does stretching prevent injury, but it also improves the mechanical efficiency of your body. Stretching prior to exercise means muscles and joints are able to move through their full range of motion with less effort when exercising , improving performance.

Other benefits of stretching include improved circulation, less pain and faster recoveries following workouts, and better posture. If you find yourself arriving home stiff and achy from sitting at a desk all day and then commuting—try stretching. You might find that you’ll feel better almost instantly!

Remember—good health is the result of lots of little day-to-day things, including your nutrition, exercise and sleep habits, as well as your healthcare choices. As chiropractic physicians, we’re experts in diagnosing and treating disorders of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. We’re also experts in prevention and performance. If you’re interested in any of these things, we encourage you to call or visit our office today!

Chiropractor vs. Physical Therapist: Which Type of Doctor Is Better for Treating Back Pain?

Chiropractor vs. Physical Therapist: Which Type of Doctor Is Better for Treating Back Pain?

chiropractic-physical-therapy-200-300If you’re suffering from acute or chronic back pain–whether it’s been caused by an injury or some type of medical condition–chances are that you’re more interested in finding relief NOW than learning about the many different types of doctors who are part of the healthcare community. But the simple truth is that different types of doctors tend to approach their work in particular ways because of basic differences in their training and clinical experience. This means that it’s worthwhile for a back pain patient to understand at least a little bit about how a physician’s chosen discipline can influence his or her perspective and priorities when it comes to treatment.

The back and neck are very complex structures, and it can sometimes be difficult to identify the specific source of a patient’s pain and treat it effectively. This is why it is common for general practitioners to refer patients who are experiencing back problems more complicated than the typical muscle strain to physicians who specialize in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal disorders. Depending on the circumstances, your general practitioner may recommend a chiropractor or a physical therapist. Some cases may also benefit from a multidisciplinary or integrated care approach that draws on the expertise of multiple specialists. So, in what ways are chiropractic physicians and physical therapists similar? And how are they different?

The Chiropractor

A doctor of chiropractic diagnoses and treats disorders of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems, and works with patients to prevent disorders from occurring. This type of healthcare professional will attempt to identify the underlying cause of back pain and treat it using a variety of techniques that realign the spine to relieve pressure, restore stability and improve function. Chiropractic treatments are usually referred to as “manipulation”, “adjustment” or “mobilization”. They involve applying varying degrees of highly-targeted force (either manually or with the help of specialized instruments) to move vertebrae back into their proper position.

When a patient is experiencing acute or chronic back pain and/or has lost function, a chiropractor will also use manipulation and mobilization techniques on the joints and other soft tissues in the affected area to increase range of motion.

The Physical Therapist

A doctor of physical therapy also diagnoses and treats back pain, though most often in connection with a specific injury or following surgery. His or her goal is usually to help a patient regain normal function by building strength and stamina, increasing balance and flexibility, and improving coordination.

Back pain that results from injury, disease, general wear-and-tear or other environmental factors can prevent a person from being able to lead a normal life by limiting their mobility. Day-to-day activities like walking, climbing stairs and getting into or out of chairs can become difficult or impossible. For athletes, the impact can be particularly profound–limiting their ability to train and compete. A physical therapist considers how the individual’s condition is impacting their ability to move and develops a therapy program intended to improve their condition. Where the chiropractor will often use manipulation and mobilization techniques as the foundation of a treatment plan and reinforce these with structured stretching and exercise programs, the physical therapist will tend to focus more on supervised exercise.

For patients with debilitating injuries and those who have recently had surgery, both chiropractic care and physical therapy can be very good options. Well-trained and experienced doctors will provide customized treatment plans designed to help patients recover as quickly and completely as possible. The diagnostic and treatment techniques each type of doctor uses (as well as their general philosophy) may differ to some extent, but there is also substantial overlap. Both kinds of physicians use non-invasive, hands-on treatment techniques as well as high-tech therapies such as low level laser therapy (LLLT) and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) to relieve pain, reduce inflammation and accelerate healing.

When the time comes to make a decision to see one type of doctor or the other for back pain, patients often make their choice based on referrals from their primary care physician or on reviews from other patients. But the most important thing to remember is that you DO have options, and that having the RIGHT doctor matters just as much as having the right kind of doctor. We believe that our relationship with patients–especially the way we communicate–is just as important as our technical skills in diagnosing and treating your pain.

If you’d like to learn more about our approach, we invite you to call or visit our office today.

Top 5 Exercises for Increasing Range of Motion in Your Neck

Top 5 Exercises for Increasing Range of Motion in Your Neck

girafe réticulée 06Pain and stiffness can significantly reduce your neck’s range of motion. Although a decreased range of motion in your neck may not seem like a major problem, it can actually contribute to a number of unpleasant conditions, including headache, fatigue, irritability and sleep loss. Like any other part of the body, our neck can become stronger and more flexible through exercise. Following are some useful exercises that can help to increase the range of motion in your neck.

All these exercises should be done while sitting comfortably in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your neck in a neutral position. Your neck should be positioned right above your spine (in other words, be sure your head is not jutting forward or back), and you should be looking straight ahead. If you feel pain (rather than just discomfort) while doing any of these exercises, stop immediately and do not resume them until you have consulted with your chiropractor.

1) Neck rotations – Keeping your head level, gradually turn your head to the right as far as you comfortably can, looking over your right shoulder, and hold for 10 seconds. Then slowly turn your head to the left, looking over your left shoulder, and hold for another 10 seconds. Repeat 5 times.

2) Neck tilts – Tilt your head to the right, bringing your right ear as close to your shoulder as possible, and hold for 10 seconds. Do the same on the other side, tilting your head to the left, again holding for 10 seconds. Repeat 5 times.

3) Neck flexion and extension – This is simply bending your head forward and back. Beginning in a neutral position, gradually bend your head forward, letting it hang with your chin close to your chest, and hold for 10 seconds. Then slowly bring your head up and back so that you are looking at the ceiling. Repeat 5 times.

4) Half circles – Start by tilting your head toward your right shoulder as far as possible, then slowly swing it to the left in a fluid half-circle, moving your head forward and down until your chin is close to your chest, continuing until your head is tilted to the left with your left ear above your left shoulder. Then repeat the movement in the other direction.

5) Levator scapulae stretch – Tilting your head to the right over your shoulder, turn and drop your head slightly so that your nose is pointed toward your elbow, and hold for 10 seconds. You should feel the stretch in the muscle connecting the back of the left lower neck to your shoulder blade. Repeat on the other side.

Top 5 Low-Impact Aerobic Exercises for Winter Fitness

Top 5 Low-Impact Aerobic Exercises for Winter Fitness

snowboarder-grabbing-air-200-300Everyone knows that exercise is essential to maintaining your health. However, not everyone is able to perform the kinds of high-impact exercises that are hard on the joints. Whether your particular concern relates to aging, injury, or some type of chronic musculoskeletal problem, there are several low-impact aerobic exercises that can help keep you fit throughout the winter.

Walking—This simple activity costs absolutely nothing, requires no additional equipment and can be done in most any weather conditions. If walking seems too boring, then try different routes. Mix it up! If you have hills nearby, include them for greater aerobic challenge. Make certain you have good footwear before taking on anything other than flat terrain. If walking isn’t giving you enough of a challenge, add ankle weights or carry barbells. If you don’t have nearby hills, then take to the stairs. Your local high school or college likely has a stadium with steps that can increase your workout intensity.

Swimming—If you have access to an indoor pool, count your blessings. Swimming is not only one of the lowest impact exercises there is, but it may also be the best full-body workouts around. Swimming involves even less impact than walking, and merely staying afloat (without pool floats) requires far more energy than just standing still. Do laps. Time yourself. There are numerous swimming strokes available, plus aerobic activities and games that you can play in the water. Whether you bring friends or go it alone, swimming can give you just as much aerobic “bang for your buck” time-wise as any other activity, and maybe more.

Cycling—Whether you take to the cycle in your gym or take your bicycle out for a spin, this activity produces virtually zero impact and delivers lots of aerobic benefit. Going nowhere in the gym may seem tedious and even boring to some, so take to the bike lanes or walkways with your bicycle. Once you’ve built up your strength, climbing hills can give your legs a good burn. Inside, no helmet is required. Outside, always protect your head when cycling.

Dancing—This might well be the most fun, low-impact aerobic exercise you can do (at least in public). Of course, many dance routines require a partner, but that’s what makes it all so much fun. Don’t be afraid to go beyond the simple waltz. Try the foxtrot for a little variety. Or try salsa, tango and other more strenuous styles to test your timing, finesse and stamina. A good dance routine can get your heart pumping. Performed well, it can even be downright sexy. And if you don’t like being on the dance floor alone with a partner, there’s always line dancing. It’s a great opportunity to work on your timing and coordination while getting a low-impact workout!

In-Line Skating (Rollerblading)—Protective gear is essential for your safety, as is choosing the best path. Most sidewalks have bumps and imperfections that can prove challenging… or disastrous. An empty parking lot might offer a better alternative for beginners. Some parks also have paths that are perfect for this kind of low-impact activity. Taking to the blades can burn more calories than many other exercises. Until you get your balance perfected, you might want to squat down to keep your center of gravity lower to the ground. Take shorter strides when starting out. Don’t go too fast until you’ve perfected your ability to maneuver, slow down and (yes) stop!