Can I Exercise While I am Pregnant?

A simple answer is yes, exercising while pregnant can be very beneficial to expecting mothers. There are certain instances, such as high risk pregnancies, where your doctor will likely tell you to avoid non-essential physical activity, but for most pregnant women it is recommended. Below are some guidelines and tips on how to exercise safely while you are expecting. 

  • Talk with your doctor – make sure you are aware of any restrictions or guidelines your OB-GYN wants you to follow. 
  • Pre-pregnancy activity levels should equal pregnancy activity levels – being pregnant is not the time to go from couch to 5k if you were sedentary previously. Performing very strenuous exercise such as running a marathon or playing contact sports is not recommended. If you are unsure, always contact your physician.
  • Adjust as necessary – as your body changes, your physical activity may also change; be sure to listen to your body and make good/safe choices. 
  • Avoid exercising on your back – as the baby grows, it can place more pressure on major blood vessels if you exercise on your back for a prolonged period of time.
  • Avoid excessive stretching – to help with the birthing process, a woman’s body produces hormones that increase the flexibility of your ligaments. This is something to be aware of while exercising since it puts you at a slightly higher risk of injury.
  • Remember to breathe – while it is always important to breathe throughout an exercise, it is particularly important while exercising when expecting. Holding your breath causes increased pressure in your abdominal cavity and can decrease the amount of oxygen being brought to the placenta

Benefits of Physical Therapy for Arthritis

Physical Therapy is a great option for patients with arthritis. Physical Therapists will evaluate your joints that are affected by arthritis to determine your baseline level of motion and strength. Physical Therapy will help to ease your symptoms associated with arthritis by improving your strength and stability through prescribed exercises. With increased muscle strength supporting your joints, it will decrease joint stress and improve overall function. Physical therapist might also recommend certain modalities along with exercises to help decrease your discomfort. Examples of these modalities are heat, massage, and electrical stimulation. The most common joints that are affected by arthritis are the hands, knees, hip, and spine. The good news is all these joints can benefit from physical therapy.

It’s a Bird. It’s a Dog. It’s a Bird Dog!

The bird dog is a simple exercise that enhances core strength, provides stability, aids in neutralizing spine position, and reduces the onset of low back pain. 

The bird dog:

  1. Improves spinal and core stability by stiffening the musculature and enhancing muscular endurance.
  2. Improves hip extension by increasing glute strength and aids in differentiating low back extension and hip extension. 
  3. Improves shoulder stability by loading the joint with your body weight to help maintain stability throughout the exercise.
  4. Improves balance and coordination by engaging in contralateral muscle movements while maintaining proper positioning.

If this exercise is too difficult to perform with contralateral movements – try performing one limb at a time until your balance and stability improves – progress as tolerated!

Focus on Strength Training as You Age

Photo from Harvard Health

Aging is inevitable; losing your strength and ability to perform daily activities doesn’t have to be. Sarcopenia is a term used to describe the age-related progressive loss of muscle mass and strength. The process begins in your 40s and ramps-up between the ages of 65 and 80. While age-related strength loss is normal, sarcopenia speeds up the loss of muscle mass and can reduce your muscle mass by 8% each decade. Factors such as insulin resistance, obesity, loss of mobility, and inactivity contribute to the progressive loss of muscle mass in older adults and as a result increase the risk for falls and make daily activities difficult to perform. 

Sarcopenia is often diagnosed with the following mnemonic:

S – strength (loss of strength)

A – assistive device (use of a device for walking)

R – rising from a chair (difficulty standing from a chair without use of hands)

C – climbing stairs (difficulty with stair climbing)

F – falls (presence of falls in the last year)

Aging might suddenly sound daunting, but it doesn’t have to be as long as you stay moving! Improving your strength and staying active reduces your risk at developing sarcopenia and also improves your quality of life. Strength training alone can improve your ability to complete daily activities, protect your joints from injuries, improve your balance, and reduce your risk for falls. It can also enhance your thinking skills, improve bone density (to reduce risk for osteoporosis), and help manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and depression. 

Strength training as you age doesn’t have to be difficult. Research shows that exercising even just 2-3x per week can enhance muscle mass and strength. Ideally, 2-3 sets of 1-2 exercises for each major muscle group should be performed. If the “ideal” situation doesn’t exactly match your lifestyle, try starting small and just get moving! Any physical activity is better than no physical activity, because even small steps lead to big changes. Try walking more often, getting up out of your chair repetitively to build leg strength, lifting small weights, or joining a fitness class at your local facility; make the change to live a longer healthier life! 

Tips for Staying Active this Summer

Summer is just around the corner and with COVID-19 restrictions continuing to be lifted and the weather getting nicer, more and more people are headed outside to get some fresh air and exercise. While summer comes with more consistent warmer and nicer weather, it can also pose some challenges to daily workout routines. Here are some tips to stay safe and stay active this summer!

  1. Stay Hydrated– As temperatures continue to rise, remember to keep drinking water before, during and after your workouts. If you are engaging in more vigorous workouts, be sure to not only drink water, but also sports drinks to help replenish your body’s essential electrolytes (however, be sure to buy sports drinks low in added sugars).
  2. Save Your Skin– While you are moving around and not just lying in the sun, you are still at increased risk of getting sunburnt. Be sure to apply sunscreen prior to participating in any outdoor activity and reapply as necessary. For additional sun protection you can also add in wearing a hat and/or sunglasses to help protect your body from the sun’s rays.
  3. Time is Key– If your schedule is flexible, try working out early in the morning or later on in the evening to avoid increased exposure to the sun and the heat. If you do end up exercising in the middle of the day, be sure to take the above steps as well as listen to your body if it needs a break. You could also opt to take your workout indoors and do a circuit or a workout video.
  4. Plan Ahead– If you know it’s going to be a hot one and you are still planning on adventuring into the outdoors, be sure to be prepared and plan ahead. If you are taking a hike or going on a picnic, be sure to bring extra water, food and sunscreen with you. If you are going on a walk or a run, try to plan a route that has a lot of shaded areas, access to water, or even bring water with you.

Take a Dip– Planning on hitting the pool this summer? If you do, try doing a pool workout! Almost all exercises you can do on land you can also do in the pool. Advantages of pool workouts include increased buoyancy and availability of graded resistance. Be careful not to overdo it. Exercises in the pool can feel easier than on land so you may be tempted to do more, so be sure to progress yourself as tolerated.

Written by: Dr. Taylor Ryan

How does Movement Help Injuries Heal? Cushion for the Pushin’.

If you’ve ever been to a physical therapist, you know that exercise is usually prescribed as the primary treatment for a number of injuries and conditions. Clearly exercise has numerous benefits, but it can sometimes seem counterintuitive to place resistance or load through an injured area — doesn’t it need time to rest and heal? The short answer to that question is generally yes, especially immediately following the injury; however, the right amount of movement and exercise can actually promote healing and recovery from injury. This is where PT comes in.

My goal is to help you understand just how exercise helps restore normal functioning of injured body tissues. This article is part of a series that will discuss how various types of tissue depend on movement to recover. Today’s subject is cartilage, specifically the type that protects your joints from impact and is implicated in the onset of osteoarthritis. This type of cartilage is called articular cartilage. The scope of this article is how exercise helps a joint that is painful due to age- or activity-related changes, not acute articular cartilage injury due to trauma.

Articular cartilage covers the ends of bones where they connect to each other at joints. For instance, there is cartilage covering the end of your femur and the top of your tibia (shin bone) where they meet to form the knee joint. Over time, a loss of thickness in this tissue is normal and not always associated with pain. However, for many people, particularly those who aren’t very active, the loss of tissue can become painful and inflamed. This is termed osteoarthritis. It may seem counterintuitive that something often referred to as “wear and tear” is most common in people who don’t move very much and thus aren’t exerting much wear or tear on their joints. However, there is a distinct explanation for this phenomenon.

Cartilage receives most of its nourishment from nutrients being diffused or pushed into it from the fluid inside the joint. It does not have a very good blood supply like most of our other tissues. Therefore, it is reliant on movement to provide it with a fresh supply of nutrients; if you don’t move often, it doesn’t have a chance to receive adequate nutrition and degenerative changes can take place. The cushioning ability of the cartilage in terms of thickness and strength depends on frequent movement! Therefore, your PT will often address pain related to osteoarthritis using a graded exercise program.

Look out for the next article in the series about tendons and ligaments.

Written by: Dr. Scott Newberry

Making an Exercise Routine Fit Into Your Lifestyle

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently updated their exercise guidelines for adults to include 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity exercise and/or 75-100 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise. While this is the gold standard recommendation for maximizing the health benefits associated with staying physically active – and there are many such benefits – 2.5-5 hours of exercise per week can prove to be an intimidating prospect for many who don’t have a history or habit of hitting the gym (or home gym) on a regular basis.

I thus want to provide a less intimidating message for you to kickstart the habit of exercising on a regular basis: anything is better than nothing! The fear of failure associated with committing the time and resources associated with the WHO’s recommendations can foster an all-or-nothing mentality. This ultimately results in exercise “kicks” and burnout for many people, even when they have the best intentions of staying committed to fitness. I thus offer you an out: start small. Recent research has found even 30 seconds each of pushups and squats in the morning can yield benefits when it comes to strength and aerobic fitness. If you establish a routine this simple, you can gradually begin adding more exercises over time. Before you know it, it’ll become an embedded part of your day much like brushing your teeth or taking a shower. With time, you may even find yourself incidentally adhering to the WHO guidelines. No better day than today to get started!

Written by: Dr. Scott Newberry

Three Exercises to Decrease Back Stiffness

Stiffness and pain in the middle and upper back is a common issue seen by physical therapists. There can be multiple causes of this including postural deficits, decreased strength, increased muscular tightness, and decreased mobility in the thoracic spine. There are many different exercises that can help to directly address these deficits. Here are a few that you can try at home.

1. Side-Lying Book Openers

Lie on your side with your knees bent. Keep your hips still while rotating your upper body. Follow your hand with your head. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times on each side.

2. Cat-Camel

While on your hands and knees, sink your back toward the floor and lift your head up. Next, tuck your head in while arching your back up. Hold for 10 seconds in each direction and repeat 10 times.

3. Child’s Pose Stretch

Sit back on your heels while reaching your hands as far out in front of you as possible. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 5 times.


Written by: Dr. David Reymann

Stretching 101

To get the most out of stretching to prevent injury and muscle soreness, dynamic stretching should be performed before your workout and static stretching performed after your workout.  If you perform a static stretch before you workout, there is more potential to tear a muscle due to the lack of blood flow at the muscle.

To get the most benefit out of static stretching, make sure you hold the stretch at a point you feel a pull within the muscle. The stretch should be held between 15-60 seconds.  Perform 2-3 repetitions of each stretch on both sides of your body. If a stretch is painful, you should decrease the range of motion of the stretch.

If you are unsure what muscle groups to stretch in association with your workout, contact Harbor Physical Therapy.  Our physical therapists can create you a customized stretching program.

Six Reasons to Start Walking This Summer

While walking may seem like an obvious form of exercise, most people do not walk enough for exercise. The American Heart Association recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week. The good news is that brisk walking falls under this category. Walking is a great form of exercise because it is easy to fit in your schedule, it can be done anywhere, and you don’t need any fancy or expensive equipment to do it. Here are just a few of the many health benefits of walking:

  1. Walking makes you stronger. Walking is a good way to get your muscles activated and helps to improve muscular strength and endurance.
  2. It is good for your heart. Walking helps to improve cardiovascular and pulmonary health and can improve your endurance for all of your daily activities.
  3. It can help you to maintain a healthy weight.
  4. It decreases your risk for many health conditions and diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
  5. Walking can help to improve your mood and decrease stress.
  6. Walking is a weight-bearing exercise that helps to build strong bones. Maintaining good bone health will decrease your risk of osteoporosis.

Written By:
Dr. David Reymann
Staff Physical Therapist at Harbor Physical Therapy