How a Minimal Exercise Program Can Offer Maximal Gains

Published: 02nd March 2007
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As a wellness doctor, I always talk to my patients about the importance of exercise. More often than not, I am met with the same response of "But Doc, I don't have the time to exercise."

This excuse has been used so many times that it is akin to "the dog ate my homework." There is always time. It might not be 30 or 60 minutes in a row, but I am positive a person can find at least 5 to 10 minutes somewhere in the day.

If you can perform a few exercises or postural patterns a few times a day and stay consistent for one week, you will have accomplished at least 35 to 70 minutes worth of exercise.

There are many people who suffer with headaches, neck pain, and back pain due to negative cumulative effects of sitting in front of a computer with poor ergonomics (poor sitting posture in relation to the computer monitor, keyboard, and mouse height) and/or for long periods of time, driving for long periods of time, and/or lack of exercise.

There are a few movement patterns that can be performed in a short period of time (5 to 10 minutes) that may help to manage or relieve tension, headaches, neck pain, or low back pain.

Exercise 1: The Kegel exercise. The world-renowned gynecologist, Dr. Arnold H. Kegel, developed this exercise named after him. This exercise is prescribed for patients who suffer from a weakening of the pelvic floor muscles, which may occur as a result of pregnancy, childbirth, or obesity. The goal of this exercise is to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, specifically the pubococcygeus muscle. This exercise is prescribed to both men and women. Aside from helping with urinary incontinence (involuntary loss of urine during physical exertion such as jumping, running, sneezing, or laughing), it also helps patients who suffer with lower back pain. It's simple to perform. Just contract the muscles you would use to prevent yourself from urinating. Hold for a few seconds, release, and then repeat. Perform 3 to 5 repetitions.

Exercise 2: Shrug-relax maneuver. The shrug-relax maneuver is designed to decrease stress in the body and decrease neck pain and headaches caused by tension. Raise both shoulders to your ears (as if you are shrugging and saying, "I don't know"), hold for 3 seconds, and relax. Perform this exercise 3 to 5 times.

Exercise 3: Neck range of motion (ROM). The goal behind this maneuver is to decrease neck and upper-back tightness. Hold each stretch for 3 seconds. Simply let your chin fall to your chest and hold, then return to your starting position; look up to the sky and hold then return to your starting position; turn your head in one direction, as if you are looking over your shoulder, and then, after 3 seconds, turn in the opposite direction; and the last ROM is to lean one ear towards the same shoulder for 3 seconds, and then repeat this exercise on the other side.

Exercise 4: Abdominal hollowing. This exercise helps strengthen your core, which is made up of your deep trunk muscles that support your back, abdomen, and pelvis. Slowly withdraw your stomach muscles back to your spine as if you are sucking in your stomach. Hold for 3 seconds and relax. Repeat this movement 5 times.

Exercise 5: Abdominal breathing. This very simple movement promotes relaxation throughout the body. It is a calming movement that relieves tension in the neck, upper back, shoulders, and chest. It helps to strengthen the abdominal muscles as well. Close your eyes and take a deep breath, attempting to fill your abdomen with air. This is where it gets kind of tricky. When most people take a deep breath, they usually fill their chests. Think of your stomach as a balloon; you are slowly inflating it with air (your breath). After you inhale, slowly let out all the air and repeat. Perform this maneuver 5 times.

That's it, and it's only five movements in 5 to 10 minutes. These exercises can be done anywhere, anyplace, and anytime. In fact, I usually refer to this workout as the "Red Light" workout because these movements are so simple, you can do them at a red light. You can even do these same maneuvers during commercial breaks while watching television. The idea is to perform these exercises every day-twice per day, if possible.

Remember that performing these exercises will not only help to relieve headaches and tightness in the neck, upper back, and lower back, but will also reduce your overall tension.

You can take this same principle and apply it to any exercise routine. Remember, just performing 10 minutes in a day will add up to more than an hour by the end of the week. This will provide you with over four hours of exercise in a month. Should you stop here? No, you should not, but it's a start. To learn more about health, wealth, and happiness, visit me online at

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