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MASTER CLASS: Check status — breathe — to gauge health, wellness

by Matt Parrott | October 10, 2022 at 1:54 a.m.
Kickboxing instructor Gabriel Coleman demonstrates the Lateral Foor Touch exercise on the weight floor of Little Rock Athletic Club, where he is a personal trainer. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Celia Storey)

Ferris Bueller said, "Life comes at you pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

This hilarious '80s flick "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" included plenty of memorable quotations, but this one resonates for me because it's absolutely true. If we don't stop and look, personal health is one of those life areas that can easily get away from people as the years go on.

This week, I'll discuss a few ways to take stock — breathe — and evaluate health and wellness. Plus, I will introduce an exercise that helps provide a mobility baseline.

Most people like routines. They make us feel in control, comfortable and safe. When arranged well, routines create efficiency and predictability. At the same time, routines can make time pass quickly. Days turn into months, and months into years. Surfacing for air allows one to gain perspective, understand the trajectory and adjust the path if needed.

Vacations and time off provide a great opportunity to do that. They tend to be big events that usually spell the routine and allow people to connect with the world in a different way. I would suggest that mini-breaks are even more important.

Sometimes a little course correction in our nutrition or exercise routines can make all the difference.

I recommend monthly "status check" exercises that provide information on how the body is doing. Think of these exercises as plot points on a graph that spans a lifetime. The type of exercises involved in a status check will vary, but there should always be a mobility component. Shoulder mobility, hip mobility and pelvic mobility are a few suggested areas for inclusion.

The wall crawl exercise is one I've used for years, as it helps one assess range of motion at the shoulder joint. While standing, place one hand on the wall with the arm outstretched. Crawl up the wall with your fingers and walk toward the wall as your hand reaches higher and higher. Ideally, the arm should rise straight overhead with the feet against the wall.

The wall crawl is often used in post-operative physical therapy during the recovery process, but it's the type of evaluation that helps people understand their ongoing joint mobility.

This week's exercise is another of my favorites. The Lateral Floor Touch provides information on hip mobility, lower back mobility and overall core strength. It looks simple, but receiving a passing score is definitely a good indicator of overall biomechanical function.

[Video not showing above? Click here to watch:]

1. Stand with your feet just beyond shoulder width apart.

2. Allow your arms to extend down at your sides naturally.

3. Squat down and touch the floor just outside your right foot, but keep your chest facing forward. Once you touch the floor, stand back up.

4. Now, repeat this movement with your left hand on your left side.

5. In both cases, you'll need to lean a little to the right or left with your torso but try not to bend over.

6. Perform two sets of 12 by alternating from the right to the left.

If this exercise cannot be performed as written, don't be discouraged. That's the point of the exercise, and a failed attempt would indicate a few things. First, improve flexibility in the lower back and hips by stretching every day. Second, work on leg strength with squats, leg presses and other resistance training.

Incorporating these activities should allow one to inch closer to a passing score on this movement, and I'd love to hear about readers' experiences. Let's do this one together!

Director of business development and population health solutions for Quest Diagnostics, Matt Parrott began this column 20 years ago at Little Rock. He has a doctorate in education (sport studies), a master's in kinesiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.

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