Sunday, September 1, 2013

Exercises to improve your quality of life – Part I

As Kennedy’s Disease progresses, my exercise program has also had to change. Heavy weights and the use of a treadmill are no longer part of my routine. Lighter weight and more repetitive exercises have replaced several of the routines that I was performing in my 30s and 40s. When I perform standing exercises, I use a grab-bar or countertop to support me. All of my other exercises are performed while sitting down.

Even more interesting are the exercises that I have added over the last ten years to stimulate muscles and muscle groups that most people will never have to perform. Yet, these exercises become more important every year.

I have often been asked how I find the time to do all these exercises. Well, I add many of these exercises to my daily routines. For example, when I sit on the ‘throne’, I do a few of the breathing and swallowing exercises. When I let the dogs out in the morning and they are doing their business, I do some of the other face, swallowing and neck exercises. When I take the beagle for his walks, I do some of the other exercises. And, while watching the news or reading the paper, I do some more.

Over the next week or two I will publish five more posts giving examples of exercises you should consider adding to your daily exercise routines. Find at least two-or-three within each category that you are comfortable with and practice them daily. As always, consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

Lungs and Diaphragm

clip_image002As you become more sedentary, your breathing becomes shallower and the lungs and heart suffer. You might find yourself ‘huffing and puffing’ with the littlest exertion (bending over to tie your shoes, for example). Or, when you come down with a cold or the flu, you might find it difficult to clear your lungs of phlegm. For these reasons and many more, it is very important to practice breathing every day. Why practice something that you do naturally every day? Just because you are breathing, doesn’t mean you are getting enough oxygen into your blood and exercising your diaphragm.

  1. Sniff: While sitting upright (straight back) breathe through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Take a long and strong sniff. Focus on the sniff – breathing into the abdomen (diaphragm) – so that you can feel your abdomen expand. Exhale … expelling all of the air using your diaphragm muscle to empty your lungs. Practice this exercise at least once a day for about five minutes. I recommend early in the day because your muscles and mind need the oxygen.
  2. Cough: Use the sniff above to fill your lungs and then cough hard trying to expel everything from your lungs at once. Practice this for about two minutes, twice a day. This is a great exercise that will help bring up phlegm if you get a cold or pneumonia. It is also helpful in clearing out your throat should food become stuck.
  3. Abdominal Breathing: When in bed, place your hands on your stomach. Spend a few minutes inhaling comfortably through your nose focusing on expanding the stomach (stretching the diaphragm as you fill the lungs with air). When the lungs are full, hold your breath for a few seconds. Slowly exhale the air through your mouth until your lungs feel empty. Breathe this way for five to ten minutes. This exercise is especially good in the evening and will help you relax.

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