Posture Modulates Action Perception

Have you ever wondered if your posture influences your actions?

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Marius Zimmermann, Ivan Toni, and Floris P. de Lange did, and published a paper on the subject of “Body Posture Modulates Action Perception” on 3rd of April 2013.  It is a fascinating read on the effects that our posture has on our brain and our ability to take action.

“Recent studies have highlighted cognitive and neural similarities between planning and perceiving actions. Given that action planning involves a simulation of potential action plans that depends on the actor’s body posture, we reasoned that perceiving actions may also be influenced by one’s body posture. Here, we test whether and how this influence occurs by measuring behavioral and cerebral (fMRI) responses in human participants predicting goals of observed actions, while manipulating postural congruency between their own body posture and postures of the observed agents. Behaviorally, predicting action goals is facilitated when the body posture of the observer matches the posture achieved by the observed agent at the end of his action (action’s goal posture). Cerebrally, this perceptual postural congruency effect modulates activity in a portion of the left intraparietal sulcus that has previously been shown to be involved in updating neural representations of one’s own limb posture during action planning. This intraparietal area showed stronger responses when the goal posture of the observed action did not match the current body posture of the observer. These results add two novel elements to the notion that perceiving actions relies on the same predictive mechanism as planning actions. First, the predictions implemented by this mechanism are based on the current physical configuration of the body. Second, during both action planning and action observation, these predictions pertain to the goal state of the action.”

The full paper is available at the link below.

Body Posture Modulates Action Perception

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Is Sitting Harmful to Your Health?

Modern lifestyle has forced us into spending much of the time in a sitting position. Most of us sit a lot through the day. We sit to eat breakfast, travelling to and from work sitting in a car or train/bus, resting on the chair while working. After we have finished our day giving the best at work we come back and have a deserved rest in comfortable couch in front of the TV or relaxing with a computer.

All of this is accumulating to about 15hr of sitting. This is an awful lot and it definitely is not good for our health. But what is actually happening when we are sitting for long time and why this is bad for us?

  • Lack of stability provided by our hips position via glutes and torque from lower limbs while we stand, is creating an unstable base for the spine when sitting, and results in two possibilities while sitting. Flexion (hunching over) or extension (leaning forward) position in the search for stability.
  • Due to the lack of stability our body is starting to compensate in an attempt to keep our torso upright, tightening one of the quadriceps head (rectus femoris) in the effort to bring the pelvis forward and it becomes isometrically loaded and results with time in shortening that muscle,
  • Next muscles to help with the compensation are the hip flexors (Iliacus and psoas) which are running from the front of our spine to the pelvis and pelvis to thigh bone, tensing and shortening in order to support the stability of the spine.

This shortening of the muscles will reduce our mobility in the hips not allowing us to stand up properly and resulting in further compensations by the extending lower back which might cause back pain.

Reducing our time spent in a chair is a great way to help preventing this process, so we should move around and stretch every 30 minutes, also the way we sit can reduce the stress on these muscles. We can learn how to sit more efficiently from people who meditate in the lotus position on the floor, as this set up is creating far more stability for our spine than the European way of using a chair.

  • By taking the lotus position we are we are providing more stability to our pelvis through activating the hip capsule in the end range of flexion and rotation of thigh bones,
  • Rotating our hands palms up (supine) we are creating stable position for our shoulders providing a neutral positioning for our head.
  • This set up is providing support through the pelvis and lumbar region.

It is not always possible to sit cross legged at work or when traveling to and from, but we can use this position relaxing at home after work, helping our body to get out of the shortening pattern. This is not the solution to the modern day office worker problems. The best way is to keep moving as we are not designed to sit for so long.

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About the author: Les Bubka is an experienced martial artist, personal trainer and therapist who specialises in posture, mobility and Karate.  Les works with a wide variety of clients including martial artists and athletes as well as those suffering with postural dysfunction or those who wish to improve their fitness and wellbeing.

Kettlebells training and shoulders

I often meet clients who have problems with shoulder pain due to the misalignment of the shoulder joint.  This misalignment leads to pain in the shoulder or a shooting pain down to the elbow or even numbness of the fingers.  This pain is generally caused by bad posture at work and/or a sedentary lifestyle.  A lack of exercise makes our muscles weaker and slouching when sat in a chair causes the stretching of only one group of muscles around the shoulder, which leads to instability and enables this misalignment to occur.13775517_1077329549010191_3538635373911155626_n

After realigning the joint I recommend that my clients work on bringing stability to their shoulder by training the weak muscles and stretching the shortened muscles.  One of the best ways to do this is via kettlebell training.  Kettlebells are a simple tool that provides us with dynamic strengthening and stretching of the muscles whilst enforcing stability to ensure that we do not drop the weight.  Kettlebell training is also inexpensive as it does not require much space or equipment and is relatively easy to learn.

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I would recommend reading this article (link below) about the benefits of kettlebell training by Braking Muscles.

It beautifully explains in detail seven kettlebell exercises and their effect on your shoulders. I hope you enjoy the read and look forward to seeing you at one of my kettlebell sessions.

http://breakingmuscle.com/kettlebells/7-exercises-to-optimize-shoulder-health-with-kettlebells

Thank you and keep Standing Tall!

“It’s easy for you, you’re a personal trainer”

“It’s easy for you to be fit and healthy, you’re a personal trainer!”  Erm, not so much.  I often hear this statement used by my clients who believe that being fit comes easier to fitness professionals.  However, let me just explain my reality and how I became a personal trainer and therapist in the first place.

In a nutshell, it all happened as a result of me trying to resolve my own injuries and imperfections, but let’s start from the beginning – my right ankle.

When I was a young boy I was (apparently) a promising goalkeeper at one of my local football clubs and had the potential for a career as a footballer.  Unfortunately this dream was cut short as a result of a cycling accident.  I had been riding around my neighbourhood and fell from my bike, spraining my ankle.  It was pretty painful, but after a quick visit to A&E it had seemed to be on the mend, or so I thought.  After two weeks in a cast the pain was unbearable.  I was in tears and it felt as though the cast had been shrinking, squashing my ankle.  My dad decided to take the cast off to release the pressure and then take me to the hospital.  To our horror, my ankle was now yellow and had swelled to be three times the size of my other one.  We went off in a panic to the hospital where the doctors took me straight into theater to operate as it transpired that my ankle had started to rot and had turned into a huge abscess.  As a result I had to spend two months over the summer holidays in hospital following the removal of over a glass of rotten fluid and some fragments of my ankle bones.  Along with parts of my ankle, my hopes of becoming a footballer had been taken away from me.P7200059.JPG

To this day the consequences of this accident still give me problems.  My right ankle is weaker and less mobile than my left and the lack of stability of the ankle joint forces my calf muscle to compensate, causing me stiffness in my lower leg as well as knee pain.

Moving onto my shoulders…  When I was 15 I developed an interest in weight training.  All of my friends had started building muscles and so I too dreamt of becoming a body builder.  Being a teenager it is natural to be rebellious and alas I was no different.  So when the gym instructor said to start training with smaller weights we were all of the opinion that this was just a waste of time, after all, we wanted to be big and strong now!  So instead we went for the maximum weights that we could lift.  This approach worked very well – until a few years later.  Over these initial few years my strength grew significantly and whilst I only weighed 55kg I could bench press 105kg.  In hindsight I now realise that I really should have stuck with small weights as to this day if I try and perform a bench press with a significant weight my shoulders just say “no!” and I get a pain that feels like someone is trying to rip my arms off.  I still enjoy weight training today, but I now train with moderate weights and have switched to functional training with kettlebells, which reduces the pains and aches in my shoulders.

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Then there is my beloved left knee.  During my time training at the gym I discovered my biggest passion, Karate, which I am still actively engage in both training and teaching.  As young students we did not have much understanding of body mechanics and how to train smart, all we wanted to do was to train hard and nonstop.  This resulted in me pulling one of my tendons (ACL) in my left knee.  After consultation with a doctor he suggested I have an operation to fix it.  Given my previous ankle operation experience I was less than keen with this approach and so decided to seek opinions from a variety of other doctors.  I came across a sports doctor who advised me to keep walking for as long as I can on the knee as it is and to avoid the operation.  That was 14 years ago.  I still have problems with my knee, but I have created my own strength programme and mobility workout that helps me get along and enjoy a largely pain free walking existence.  Although occasionally I take a wrong step and my knee just collapses, taking the rest of my body with it.  These situations make me focus more on the postural aspects of my training.

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Lower back pain, yet another issue.  At a similar time to when I damaged my knee I started to experience lower back pain.  Going back to the doctors again I was faced with a now familiar story – we need to operate as we have diagnosed that you have narrow nerve channels in your lower back.  I was like “what?”  There was no way I was going to risk my ability to walk to get rid of this pain.  I would rather be in pain than bed bound.  After many visits to different doctors it turned out that there was a simple solution to my problem, which maddens me even now to think that so many doctors were so keen to operate!  One of the doctors I saw simply looked at my gait and told me to invest in a good pair of shoes that will stabilise my ankle and hold me upright.  Et voilà!  After buying a decent pair of shoes my lower back pain eased off.download (1)

Finally there is my upper back problems.  Being an experienced martial artist I decided to broaden my skillset and joined a Wrestling club, which I still visit whenever I can.  Wrestling is full of acrobatics, which is awesome when it goes right…  However, with me being confident that I was invincible and could perform any stunt I decided to prematurely try to perform a back flip without assistance.   I had been warned that I might get hurt as I was too inexperienced, but I knew better so I tried anyway.  I failed big time!  I landed on my head and it felt like my spine had been crunched and was falling apart.  When I got up I had troubles with breathing, lifting my arms up and moving my head.  It felt like I had been interrogated by a medieval inquisition.  Surely someone had just put a metal band around my chest with two spikes pointing at me and had started to tighten it!  Another visit to the doctors, but following an x-ray that did not show up anything I was told to rest for a few days, take some pain killers and all will be fine.  Well, all was not fine and I spent seven years in pain whilst doctors told me to get used to it as there was nothing wrong with me.  Nothing wrong?  I could barely move my arms above the height of my shoulders, how could this be normal?  I had lost hope that I would ever have this issue fixed, but by chance I met a martial artist, who is now a close friend, who used his Chinese massage therapy on me and within a week the pain was gone.  I was so grateful and so intrigued by his methods that I decided to become a Therapist and to help others like me who are being told to just get used to the pain.download

All of these injuries and experiences have led me down the path of becoming a Personal Trainer and Therapist, not in the search for riches, but in a search for self-help.  Through my experience I feel driven to help others and can empathise with what my clients are going through.  It is not always easy to find a fix.  My battle with my own body has been ongoing for more than 30 years now and along the way I have tried a range of conventional and nonconventional methods and am able to appreciate what has and has not worked for me.

It is easy to assume that people who are currently fit are able to achieve/maintain this state easily, but you never know what their story is.  It is very difficult for me to keep motivated to do workouts and mobility drills and present a cheerful character at all times, but whenever I slack and slow down my body starts to fall apart.  That is quite a good motivator for me to continue to study and complete my workouts.

Best wishes from a self-fixing Personal Trainer and Therapist.

The kettlebell, a lump of metal with a handle, is a tool that was originally used in Russia and Eastern Europe as a measure of weight of goods.

13775517_1077329549010191_3538635373911155626_n Now they are popular exercise equipment that offers lots of benefits and exciting programmes, providing a great range of exercises with just one tool.  Below are a few reasons why I think kettlebells are a great workout option.

  • Kettlebells are cheap to buy and for your own training not many are required. Those that you do use will not take up much space in your home or gym.12032989_920001121409702_8068011744656368947_n
  • The movement pattern is more functional and natural than barbells or machines. The whole body is engaged in moving the weight, which involves balance, coordination and the cardio vascular system.12038469_919828461426968_8663445653634720322_n
  • When correctly used, kettlebell training can help with back pain and should instability/mobility. If you spend a lot of time sitting (for example in an office) kettlebell training will help you to stand tall as a lot of the techniques engage the back and shoulder muscles, which will help to reduce slouching.12003164_900478936695254_7874755332325664916_n
  • They are great to use as a part of different training methods like HIIT, Tabata or just strength training – these bells can get you exhausted in minutes.11753654_875390812537400_1651106829045295122_n
  • Building overall strength rapidly. As kettlebell workouts involve the whole body you can quickly see improvements in strength, not just for specific muscle groups but also for the core and overall strength.  This makes kettlebell training a superb tool for athletes as well as anyone who is looking to get fit.12036414_909775542432260_5713195938980107215_n

If you have never tried kettlebells I urge you to give it a go as it is a great way to have interesting workouts with notable health benefits.  Who knows, you might like it!

Unexpected friends

Doing my diploma in Personal Training and specialisation in posture with preparation for starting my own business gave me some free time on my hands. Spending all that time thinking about how to make my company grow was driving me to frustration and stress.

After few days of thinking how to deal with this situation, stress is not helping me to be creative, I figured that some voluntary work should occupied my brain. I started to search for a charity that I could help. The best would be to use my skills and help people with back problems and health issues. I did not know how hard it would be to find a charity willing to get volunteers. On several occasions I have been advised that the best thing would be to give donation, maybe for them but not for me as I was skint only what I could give was time and skills. I was losing hope that I would find anything local, but then by coincidence I came across website Streetlife, where local communities post events, adverts and requests. One of these was message from Julie, asking if someone could help her and Barry to run a Walking for Health group, as it was five minutes away from my house I have joined the walking group.

10177935_922460987830382_9145627927276009621_nOn first meeting all of us were shocked, walkers, Julie and I as the age difference was quite noticeable. I got the impression that members of the group were a bit suspicious about me, why would such young person join their group.

12187848_921674601242354_8937600398097010802_n At the beginning conversations were a bit dry, but week by week it got better. Chatting to members of the Fairlands group is fascinating, so many stories, experiences and adventure. Since I started to walk with this group half a year ago it has grown to over thirty members. What is different about this particular group is the leadership of Julie and Barry who decided to create sub groups for people with different abilities.

At the moment there are three types of walk:

– Hourly fast walk for with a distance around two miles

– Medium speed one mile walk

– Short walk for people who are slower or less mobile which I have the pleasure to support and attend.

All this is possible due to relentless work of Julie and Barry, here I have to mention Rokers Café and their staff who are providing us with space and drinks for our sometimes loud group. I have to say that management and staff at the Rokers are most helpful!

Those collaborations with Julie have lead us (Christine and I) to become qualified walk leaders in the Walking for Health organisation. It was a very interesting experience and gives us a chance to known each other.

11705126_923101504432997_5242777228160645236_nChristine is volunteer as well and we both securing short walks providing one to one support. She is one of the kindest people I have met for a long time.

This experience of joining the walking group surprisingly has opened other possible opportunities to me including teaching martial arts as therapy. Even now when I am getting busy with my business I always have Wednesday 10 am booked for walking with my friends. More about Walking for health scheme you can find at www……

It is always a good idea to get out of your comfort zone, life is rewarding brave ones!