Wellness in North County: Rolling your way to better health

As with most of you, my first introduction to a wheel of health was through a tricycle. From there, I graduated to two wheels. Then it was four, through skateboarding. While I recently gave up skateboarding, I have not stopped rolling on a bike, or using other rolling motions to keep me in the game.

I also have enjoyed improved health through circular motion that doesn’t provide transportation. The first item I ever employed was called a “footsie roller.” Based on a theory related to acupressure, this wooden peg employs the idea that stimulation through the feet will enhance circulation and enhance overall health. One thing is for certain: After a long day on your feet, these inexpensive wooden rollers (about six bucks) offer quick and lasting relief. I’m using one while I type this column, and it sure feels good.

The “Indo Board” was developed by surfers to help improve balance by simulating surf positions and engaging proprioceptors (muscle spindles that provide information about joint angle, muscle length and muscle tension to the brain).

The “Ab Wheel” is another simple device that is great for strengthening the core, and yet is a highly efficient workout tool, strengthening abs, arms, chest and thighs.

First introduced to me by my friend Dan and later my Pilates instructor neighbor, Patrick, the foam roller is the latest addition to my health tool quiver. Foam rollers come in various sizes, but all are designed to do the same thing — massage the body and work out the kinks. While I do yoga regularly, and employee various bodywork professionals from time to time, the foam roller works well to allow the body to stretch naturally. One of my favorite ways to relax and keep my spine limber, especially after a long day seated in front of a computer, is with a foam roller.

If you are in reasonably decent shape, and have no spinal injuries, try the following, basic exercise. First, find an area on the floor with ample space. Next, be certain you have removed any neck jewelry that might be binding. If you have long hair, be certain to put it up, so it will not get caught as you roll. Next, simply lay the roller beneath your neck, letting gravity take its course as it gently pulls your head toward the floor. With your knees bent, gradually extend your legs so that the roller moves beneath the spine, slowly, working one vertebra at a time. You will probably experience a gentle cracking as locked-up vertebrae are freed up. The foam roller is also great for deep-tissue massage, for those not adverse to a little muscle discomfort. Still, as with any exercise, stop if you feel any sort of unexpected pain.

As with any exercise, be sure to consult a physician before starting. Then, roll yourself into better health. It’s fun, inexpensive, and it feels oh so good.

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