Tag Archives: Physiology

October in National Spinal Health Month – The basics of Posture

Posture is the way you hold your body while standing, sitting, or performing tasks like lifting, bending, pulling, or reaching. If your posture is good, the bones of the spine — the vertebrae — are correctly aligned.

4 steps toward good posture

You can improve your posture — and head off back pain — by practicing some imagery and a few easy exercises.

  • Imagery. Think of a straight line passing through your body from ceiling to floor (your ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles should be even and line up vertically). Now imagine that a strong cord attached to your breastbone is pulling your chest and rib cage upward, making you taller. Try to hold your pelvis level — don’t allow the lower back to sway. Think of stretching your head toward the ceiling, increasing the space between your rib cage and pelvis. Picture yourself as a ballerina or ice skater rather than a soldier at attention.
  • Shoulder blade squeeze. Sit up straight in a chair with your hands resting on your thighs. Keep your shoulders down and your chin level. Slowly draw your shoulders back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for a count of five; relax. Repeat three or four times.
  • Upper-body stretch. Stand facing a corner with your arms raised, hands flat against the walls, elbows at shoulder height. Place one foot ahead of the other. Bending your forward knee, exhale as you lean your body toward the corner. Keep your back straight and your chest and head up. You should feel a nice stretch across your chest. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds. Relax.
  • Arm-across-chest stretch. Raise your right arm to shoulder level in front of you and bend the arm at the elbow, keeping the forearm parallel to the floor. Grasp the right elbow with your left hand and gently pull it across your chest so that you feel a stretch in the upper arm and shoulder on the right side. Hold for 20 seconds; relax both arms. Repeat to the other side. Repeat three times on each side.

Practice these imagery and posture exercises throughout the day. You might try to find a good trigger to help you remember, such as doing one or more of them when you get up from your desk, or right before scheduled breaks and lunch. Soon it will become a habit.

Adapted from Harvard Med School’s newsletter, HealthBeat


Active body, active mind

The secret to a younger brain may lie in exercising your body

It is widely recognized that our physical fitness is reflected in our mental fitness, especially as we get older. How does being physically fit affect our aging brains? Neuroimaging studies, in which the activity of different parts of the brain can be visualized, have provided some clues. Until now, however, no study has directly linked brain activation with both mental and physical performance.


As reported in the latest volume of the journal NeuroImage, an exciting new study led by Dr Hideaki Soya from the University of Tsukuba in Japan and his colleagues show, for the first time, the direct relationship between brain activity, brain function and physical fitness in a group of older Japanese men. They found that the fitter men performed better mentally than the less fit men, by using parts of their brains in the same way as in their youth.

As we age, we use different parts of our brain compared to our younger selves. For example, when young, we mainly use the left side of our prefrontal cortex (PFC) for mental tasks involving short term memory, understanding the meaning of words and the ability to recognize previously encountered events, objects, or people. When older, we tend to use the equivalent parts of our PFC on the right side of the brain for these tasks. The PFC is located in the very front of the brain, just behind the forehead. It has roles in executive function, memory, intelligence, language and vision.

If you are an aging woman, you will be wondering if these results can be applied to your female brain. Both aging sexes might also wonder whether increasing aerobic fitness later in life can increase mental fitness. The results aren’t in, but I’m heading off for a brisk walk just in case.

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Tsukuba. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Kazuki Hyodo, Ippeita Dan, Yasushi Kyutoku, Kazuya Suwabe, Kyeongho Byun, Genta Ochi, Morimasa Kato, Hideaki Soya. The association between aerobic fitness and cognitive function in older men mediated by frontal lateralization. NeuroImage, 2015; DOI:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.09.062

METs for Formal Exercise



METs for Sports and Leisure Activities

metabolic.equivalent.sports.leisure (1)


The Body is Amazing!


Moderate versus Vigorous Activity, part 2

How do I know if I’m exercising moderately or vigorously?

Moderate intensity aerobic exercise is where you’re working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break into a sweat. You’re working at a moderate intensity if you’re able to talk but unable to sing the words to a song.

Vigorous intensity aerobic exercise is where you’re breathing hard and fast and your heart rate has increased significantly. If you’re working at this level, you won’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.

We’ve talked about using the RPE scale to gauge difficulty, you can also use the Metabolic Equivalents Task scale (METS)

One metabolic equivalent (MET) is defined as the amount of oxygen consumed while sitting at rest.  Also known as your “Resting Metabolic Rate” (which is different from you Basal Metabolic Rate.).  We can use the 1 MET to express the relative energy cost of physical activities as a multiple of the resting metabolic rate.


From wellspan.org

Using the METs scale, moderate activity is defined as 3.5 – >6 METs; vigorous activity is <6 METs

Here are some other common activities from the Harvard School of Public Health:

Light <3.0 METs*
Moderate 3.0–6.0 METs*  Vigorous >6.0 METs*
Walking—slowly = 2.0 Walking—very brisk (4mph) = 5.0; Walking/Hiking (4.5mph)= 7.0

Jogging at 6 mph = 10.0

Sitting—using computer = 1.5 Cleaning—heavy  = 3.0–3.5

(washing windows, vacuuming, mopping)

Shoveling = 7.0–8.5
Standing—light work = 2.0-2.5

(cooking, washing dishes)

Mowing lawn = 5.5

(walk power mower)

Carrying heavy loads = 7.5
Fishing—sitting = 2.0

Playing most instruments = 2.0–2.5

Bicycling—light effort (10–12 mph) = 6.0

Badminton—recreational = 4.5

Tennis—doubles = 5.0

Bicycling fast (14–16 mph) = 10.0

Basketball game = 8.0

Soccer casual = 7.0

Tennis—singles = 8.0


Moderate versus Vigorous Activity

To improve overall health, the American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week – or a combination of the two for adults.

But what exactly do moderate and vigorous exercise mean and how do you know if you’re working out at the right intensity?

There are a couple different ways to measure the level of intensity, from “wearables” (heart rate monitors to more advanced spirometry and O2 saturation devices), but the easiest one is:


Perceived exertion is how hard you feel like your body is working. The RPE is based on the physical sensations you experience during physical activity, including:

  • increased heart rate,
  • increased respiration or breathing rate
  • increased sweating, and
  • muscle fatigue.

There is a high correlation between a person’s perceived exertion rating and their  actual heart rate during activity.

During your workout, use the RPE Scale to assign numbers to how you feel. Self-monitoring how hard your body is working can help you adjust the intensity of the activity by speeding up or slowing down your movements.


Click here for more info about the Borg RPE scale

Through experience of monitoring how your body feels, it will become easier to know when to adjust your intensity.

  • Moderate-intensity physical activity is defined as – physical activity done on a scale relative to an individual’s personal capacity, moderate-intensity physical activity is usually 11-14 on a scale of 1 to 20.
  • Vigorous-intensity physical activity is defined as – physical activity done on a scale relative to an individual’s personal capacity, vigorous-intensity physical activity is usually 17-19 on a scale of 1 to 20.

Over the next few weeks, I will put up some infographics about the Metabolic Equivalents of Tasks (METs)to help you gauge your level of activities.

Now, go and get sweaty!