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Getting Back Into Routines: Tips While Shopping

Shopping is something everyone has to do at some point. Whether it be an annoying chore or a fun chance to socialize, shopping is a small way that our bodies can get moving. There are several movements that people commonly do while shopping, without even realizing it, which, over time, can either help or hinder the body. Here's a short list of some of those movements:

1) Lifting heavy items. Many people have to crouch down to get that heavy bag of pet food, cat litter, or those 24 packs of water. As long as you're strong enough to lift such weights in the first place, then lifting these items are good for you when done properly; it forces the body to use more force, to face a challenge, and to move. These are good for muscle growth and health. However, it can be harmful to the body if the load is too heavy, which could strain muscles, or promote wear and tear to joints when done with poor form. Remember to squat down, not bend over, when something is lower down and to use your legs to lift instead of your back. Keeping your back straight and using your arms to hug the item close to the middle of your body will also help. And remember, there's no shame in asking for help if you need it!

2) Reaching for high items. Everyone at one time or another has cursed that little canned item at the back of the top shelf while trying to imitate a giraffe to reach it. Stretching and reaching can be beneficial by loosening muscles and working out kinks. When done too far, however, it can have the opposite effect and possibly make you lose your balance. Stretching for an item isn't a bad thing, just remember to place your feet in a sturdy stance so you won't lose your balance. Also, listen to what your body is telling you, if you start going too far with the stretch the body will say so. If a stretch is uncomfortable then the body doesn't want to go any further, and if it's starting to hurt then you've gone too far. So if things are uncomfortable while you're stretching for that can, one of your feet are coming off the ground and/or you're starting to feel like a pretzel trying to get that item, you're probably going too far. At that point it's best to ask for help, it's part of the staff members' jobs to help and they'll be happy to. You can also politely ask a taller patron of the store, these options will not only help you get your item but avoid unnecessary strain or injury to your upper body.

3) Twisting. Like many movements, whether twisting is helpful or harmful depends on how fast you do it and how far you do it. Small twists like stopping in the isle beside an item and twisting that 10 degrees to get it are fine, we have muscles that can twist the torso from side to side, and like any other muscle, they should be worked to stay healthy. Plus, moving joints (like the ones in your spine) help to lubricate them as well. When you pass an item in the store and do that nearly-turning -around-backwards twist in order to reach it, or start adding bends to your twists, that is when you need to pay attention to what you are doing. Just because the body CAN move in certain ways, doesn't mean it should (or wants to). When twisting, if you start feeling a strain in your side, that's your body saying it wants stop, it's only so flexible. You could probably go further, but your body doesn't think its a good idea and the body generally knows what it's talking about. So if you ignore the body and go further then you're going to start putting unnecessary strain on not only your spine and its joints, but all the soft tissues in there as well. Plus, the more often you do it, and the longer you do it, the harder it's going to be on the body and the more potential damage you'll be doing. This is especially true when both bending AND twisting or when you add a heavy weight to the mix. Please don't do big twists to pick something up, chances are much higher of hurting yourself when adding heavy weight to the equation, and even more so if you do it at an odd angle. It can be surprisingly easy to hurt your back, even if young and healthy. So, instead of turning yourself into a pretzel to get that item you passed, move a foot back along with your twist. That way your hip moves with your torso and you turn that big twist into a half step with a small twist, which puts much less stress and pressure on your spine and soft tissues. Another option is to back up to get the item, which works too.

So remember, pretzels are for eating, not imitating. Make your shopping trip one your body will thank you for!

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