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Updated: Mar 8, 2021

How a few small doses of a simple marching movement can help you bring a little spring in to your step

As we move in to March it seems logical to make mention of the humble Marching Step and some of the benefits that incorporating it in to our daily movement can bring.

(Plus, of course, Mother's Day is in March and that's Suzi's 85 year old Mum, 'M', in the picture above. M's totally 'on it' when it comes to getting her daily exercises done and she loves a good march!)

Apart from it's simplicity, Marching can be considered a fantastic movement because:

  • It delivers a multitude of benefits - in fact if you could only pack a handful of movements in an imaginary ‘movement bag’ to take away with you when you go anywhere, marching would definitely be one we would recommend

  • It’s convenient - you don’t actually have to pack anything at all to be able to march anywhere you go! All you need is your body….plus of course a sufficient amount of motivation to get yourself rolling out of inertia and in to a bit of movement

  • It’s accessible - anyone and everyone of any age (providing they have some degree of voluntary limb movement) can find a version of marching to suit them

  • You need very little space - if space is limited, marching can be done on the spot. As long as you have enough room to stand (or sit), lift your knees and move your arms, you’re good to go

  • You can adjust how you march to suit, maintain or advance your fitness level - apart from just doing more or less, or going faster or slower, you can make marching harder when you're ready with the addition of weights, a twist through the torso, lifting your knees higher, adding a step to step up on to, or even ‘marching’ on your back on the floor in a ‘hip bridge’ pose! Or if that sounds a little out of your league (or maybe just exhausting!) make it easier by keeping your knees lower, just using your legs and/or holding on to the back of a chair for support, or ‘marching’ whilst sitting on a chair (using just your arms or your arms and legs)

This is also a great exercise or movement because you really don't need specific guidance on how to march.

Everyone pretty much knows how to do it and there’s really not too many places you can go wrong with marching.

If you do feel you need more details, check out our TEN TOP TIPS below.

Or join a class (either in person when you can, or online) like our MOVEDtoMOVE FITFlow GOLD Class, or any of the many other classes especially designed for older adults, and get marching along with others to add in an extra boost of motivation, social contact, instruction, safety and fun.

Why march?

Short 5-10 minute ‘bursts’ of marching throughout your day are a great way to:

  • get stiff joints moving (for example if you’ve been sitting still for a while or have been stuck in one position for a long time, like kneeling whilst gardening)

  • warm up your body any time you’re feeling cold

  • warm up before starting any other exercise

  • strengthen leg muscles to improve knee function, reduce knee pain and keep active

  • improve balance

  • create strength and stability through the front and back of the hips

  • increase core stability

  • help reduce shuffling to help prevent falls

  • get your heart-rate up

  • boost your mood

Not only that, but:

A study published in 2018* showed that progressive low to moderate intensity marching on the spot, combined with ‘sit to stand’ practice (total time: 20 mins per day over 12 weeks) was effective in improving functional movement and daily living activities amongst frail older adults.

A 2012 study** demonstrated that walking on the spot for an hour burned an average of 258 calories (compared to roughly 304 calories/hr for people who walked on a treadmill).

Increase walking to marching and add in some ‘high knees’ and it’ll be more!

And the same (2012) study also found that just by walking on the spot during TV advert breaks over an evening’s viewing added up to an average of 148 calories and 2,111 steps over a total of 25 mins.

So if you like to indulge in a little something of the chocolatey or biscuity kind alongside a bit of viewing, marching during the commercial breaks can, at the very least, offset the minute or so it takes to consume the 150 calories of 1 and a 1/2 Tunnocks Teacakes, or 1 and 3/4 McVities dark chocolate digestive biscuits, or whatever your favourite treat is!***)

Surely that in itself has got to be good enough motivation to get going with a bit of marching if we haven't managed to convince you to give it a go already?

Our TEN TOP TIPS for Starting Out Safely and Having Fun with Marching:

  1. Watch how much ‘load’ or impact you’re adding as you put your feet down. Our recommendation is keep this low, and start out start light (e.g. don't 'stomp' or bounce), especially if you’re not wearing shoes, you have problems with your pelvic floor muscles, or you have a specific ankle, knee or hip problem and have been told by your health professional to go easy with this type of movement

  2. Keep your body as upright as you are comfortably able to with your eyes looking forward towards 'the horizon' if you can (rather than looking down at your feet)

  3. Move your opposite leg and arm forward at the same time i.e. if you're lifting your left knee forward, it's your right arm that's swinging or pumping forward (and your left arm that's moving back)

  4. Unless you're very used to working out without shoes, or whilst wearing 'minimal footwear', wear plimsoles or training shoes with a bit of support and cushioning whilst you march

  5. If you're marching on the spot, have a chair next to you so you can hold on to the back of it if you need help with your balance

  6. It's so easy to hold our breath when we're concentrating! Remember to breathe and march outside in the fresh air if you're able to (providing you some have even, non-slip ground available and the weather allows)

  7. Add some of your favourite upbeat music to march to for an extra feel-good-feeling

  8. Use the 'Talk-Test' to make sure you don't overdo it: it's fine to get a little out of breath, but you should still be able to hold a conversation (even if only with yourself if no-one else is with you!) whilst you're marching

  9. If you have health condition, or are new to exercise, only start any new exercise programme (including marching at home) with the consent of your doctor or other health professional

  10. Build up gradually, don't overdo it, rest if you need to and stop if you feel at all dizzy or unwell.

Have fun!

Will you be marching on in to March to find a bit of Spring in your step?

Did you enjoy reading this blog? Did you find it useful?

Do you want to Move More Easily and Get More Active so you can Enjoy Life More?

If you'd like to receive regular tips and updates to help you:

  • stay Motivated to keep fit & active

  • find out about getting more Movement in to your life

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* Effects of a 12-week marching in place and chair rise daily exercise...

** Energy Cost of Stepping in Place while Watching Television Commercials

*** 10 Chocolate Treats Under 150 Calories

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Updated: Jan 30, 2022

Get Moving and Start your Day as you mean to go on before you even get out of bed!

Ever feel 'old and creaky' or 'stiff and achey' (or just plain tired and uninspired) when you wake, or get, up in the morning?

Perhaps that slight (or heavy) drag of an internal struggle and a thought that goes something along the lines of, 'Ok (....sigh...) here we go again,' are things that are becoming all too familiar, especially during this wintery part of year and at this particular time in our history?

It doesn't have to be 'Blue Monday', the name given to the third Monday of January (Monday January, 18 in 2021) in the UK that's purported to be the most depressing day of the year!

Given the reluctance we know many people are facing about even getting out of bed on these darker winter mornings (we're considering amending our primary business objective to that of a simple alarm service, rather than helping people move more easily and get more active, as 2021 has rolled in and several of our members have started telling us that one of the major roles our online classes are actually providing - along with all the other benefits of getting together for group movement practice - is that they give them a reason to get up in the morning!), and knowing some of the benefits of movement, how about setting up a new Morning Movement Habit any day to help?

Getting your body moving a little before you get out of bed with some In-Bed Morning Movement might be the answer!


Well, firstly 'stacking' habits together can make them easier to stick with as our brains like to lump different behaviours together to make things more 'automated' (e.g. 'I'm doing...., so therefore I will do......' or 'I'm going to do...., so first I'll do.....').

Secondly, the movement can help to ease out aches and stiffness to make your body feel better and make you feel mentally more positive and energised. This might not only help you get up and out of bed but could also serve to set you up with a more proactive and enthusiastic mindset for the rest of your day.

2 minutes is all it needs to take (though you might find it feels so good you want to do more!)

Start by choosing just three of the following (one from each section, lower, upper, whole body).

You should be able to do these in 2 minutes or less, which according to many is a good rule for starting and setting a new habit effectively. More than this and it begins to feel like a chore which definitely dampens motivation. After time, if the habit sticks then the chances are your 3 exercises may lead to 6, your 2 minutes may lead to 5 etc.

Any of these movements will start to get circulation going, ease movement through your joints, get muscles firing, stretch you out a little and help you become more 'connected' to, and in touch with, how your body feels today....before you get out of bed and ask it to 'carry load' (i.e. lug your body weight around) or do any work (i.e. normal everyday movements...and maybe more).

Lower Body

  • Wriggle, scrunch and spread out your toes (all together, one foot at a time or each toe separately). Spend 30 secs or more with your feet this way, they often get forgotten!

  • Alternately point your toes away from you then press your heels away (both feet together, one at a time, or each going in the opposite direction to the other i.e. one foot pointing whilst opposite heel presses away). Repeat x 5 (both feet in both directions)

  • 'Wave' your toes from side to side pivoting at the ankles (as if your feet were windscreen wipers). Repeat x 5 (each direction)

  • Slowly tilt your pelvis first one way (towards your belly by 'tucking your tail' under) then the other (away from your belly as if sticking out your 'duck tail'). Repeat 3 to 5 times

  • Bring one knee up towards your chest and your hands behind your thigh (of the lifted leg) and gently hug your thigh in towards your chest for 3 to 5 secs. Repeat with other leg and/or both together. Do each leg 2 or 3 times each

  • Lying on your back, legs out long and 'hip hike' by drawing first one, then your other, hip closer to your ribs by pulling it up and in to your body as if you're trying to shorten your leg (knees stay straight and pelvis moves like a steering wheel turning towards and away from your chin). Repeat x 5 (each side) in a sedate 'walking rhythm'

Upper Body

  • Clench and squeeze your fingers and hands to make a fist then stretch fingers, thumbs and palms out wide. Repeat x 5 (clench and stretch)

  • Interlace your fingers (i.e. both hands together), turn hands away from you and press palms outwards. Unlace your fingers, shake out your hands and wrists for 5 secs then repeat (palm press and shake out)

  • Open your mouth wide and stick your tongue out and down as far as it will go. Close your mouth then repeat twice more

  • Lying on your back, wrap your arms around your chest and give yourself a hug (can you touch your shoulder blades with your hands?). Relax out then repeat two more hugs

  • Lying on your back, with your arms by your sides, bend your elbows so they rest on the bed and your forearms and fingers point up towards the ceiling. Now press your elbows down in to the bed and squeeze your shoulder blades towards each other. Relax and repeat a couple more times

  • Roll on to your side, knees bent (legs relaxed down on to your bed) with both arms out straight along the bed in front of you, palms together. Now reach your top hand away from your body as if you're trying to push something away from you (feel a stretch across the top of your back). Now bring your hand back the other way (towards you) by drawing your fingers lightly back over your lower palm, along the inside edge of your lower arm (bending your elbow as you go) all the way over your chest and the front of your shoulders, then open your arm out behind you to stretch across the chest and twist the upper torso (take it easy and support yourself with a pillow under your shoulder as you 'open' out if you need to, as this can create quite a strong stretch around your chest and shoulder). Repeat and then turn over and repeat on your other side

Whole Body

  • Lying on your back, with both knees held up towards chest (as above), or feet flat on bed with knees up, gently rock your legs from side to side creating a small and easy twisting motion through your back (gently turn your head in the opposite direction if it feels good). Do as many as feels good

  • Lie on your back, make a star shape and take a full body stretch (stretching out as wide and as far as you can with each limb). Relax and repeat

  • In any position briefly (just two or three seconds is enough) tense as much of your body as you can, then relax as fully as you're able to. Repeat twice more

  • Pandiculate: that delicious, sleepy, yawny sort of stretching that seems to happen all by itself (think cats and dogs when they wake from a nap). If it's not happening, encourage it by just stretching your body out in a way that feels good. Like both yawns and laughter, with pandiculation, it's possible to fake it until you make it!

One Final Exercise

  • Regardless of which three movements you've chosen from all the above: Now get out of bed!

And Remember... breathe (it's common to hold our breath when we're concentrating on things) and only move within your comfort zone. Plus a few deeper breaths can really help us feel better and ready for our day.

....And this is designed as a simple Wake Up, not a Work Out! Enter in to your movement in the spirit of ease, comfort and enjoyment (you might even see it as a celebration of being in a body that wakes up each morning!), rather than a challenge or a chore.

If you're the kind of person who likes routine, create your own routine by making your own list from any (or all) of the above, keep it by your bed until you know if by heart, and do it before you get out of bed each morning.

Or if you err more on the side of spontaneity just pick and choose from what feels best for a new list, or routine, each morning.

Either way, if you can make in-bed morning movement a habit, and put 'getting your body out of bed' as the last exercise on your list, it should become easier and easier to get up and out of bed in the mornings. Even when it's dark. And even when it's cold.

Of course you do have to wake up in the first place and you do need to put a little effort into creating the new habit!

Setting your intentions the night before can help.

Either just by thinking 'Tomorrow I'll wake up ready to do my In-Bed Morning Movement', or by saying it out loud - to yourself or another - before you go to sleep.

Or by placing something next to your bed which, when you see it, will remind you of your intentions on going to bed at night and when you wake up in the morning. This could be anything: a picture of feet, a stretchy cat, or happy smiling person. Or some kind of object that holds meaning for you. Or set a morning alarm with a particular song or voice recording that will remind you that you want to wake up, get moving and feel good.

Another way of motivating yourself, if you share your bed with a partner or child is to ask them to join you. It's often easier to establish and maintain a habit together with someone else. It's fun to do things together. Plus you'll be doing them a favour by helping them feel better too.

Have nice day!

(And then a good sleep and another great morning.)

Did you enjoy reading this blog? Did you find it useful?

If you'd like to receive regular tips to help you:

  • get more Movement in to your life

  • stay Motivated to keep fit & active

  • keep up with what's going on about movement and health in the Media

  • exercise your Mind (as well as your body)

  • and hear about some of the things going on in our MOVEDtoMOVE Membership

you can sign up to our weekly 5 'M's for Mondays newsletter HERE

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Challenging the Facebook Challenges

We’re currently watching, or hearing of, people around Fb doing certain fitness challenges.

You will probably have seen them too. Or maybe you're even doing one now.

They're certainly not a new thing and they're often set up to raise awareness or funds for really good causes. But, with lots of people stuck at home over the past few months, lockdown seems to have brought out a new flurry of fitness challenges, especially on Facebook.

We don't want to be party poopers. But we're pretty sure we're not the only Soft Tissue Therapists - or other Injury Rehab professionals - and Fitness Instructors out there, who see these challenges as, well, challenging!

And, sadly, we're aware we're not the only ones working in Injury Rehab who get contacted by past clients who have re-injured themselves. Or new clients with minor musculoskeletal soft tissue (muscles/tendons/ligaments/fascia) injuries....

....experienced as a result of taking up one of these challenges!

We don't have anything against the challenges in and of themselves. In fact anything that motivates people to do more exercise is a good thing in most cases.

But some challenges are better (where 'better' means: having a lower risk for injury) than others.

One in particular that is proving to be particularly effective at seeing people either injuring themselves, or re-aggravating their previous injuries, is the 25 press-ups for 25 days Challenge currently doing the rounds on Facebook!

We've seen two different varieties, and in our opinion one holds decidedly less injury-risk than the other. We'll tell you more, and why, in a minute.

The main issues with any of these challenges - from our professional perspective - are that:

  • they often get passed from one to another via a friend

  • the recipient can easily feel pressurised to do the challenge even if they don't really want for fear of what people might think of them if they don't

  • they might not be suitable for your particular individual fitness or health level - but unless you're a fitness instructor, or someone used to a regular guided fitness or sports training programme - how do you know this?

  • they don't take account of your current fitness or training level

  • they rarely come with instructions for how to perform the 'form' safely

  • they aren't likely to include all the modifications (options) necessary to suit all levels

  • they aren't usually accompanied by exercises for whole-body support training (e.g. in the case of press-ups, what if your shoulders aren't currently strong enough for the job? Or what if you have a pelvic floor issue?)

  • they don't generally tell you what to do if something hurts (we'd hope that common sense would tell most people to stop if something hurts - but that old, out-dated 'no pain, no gain' myth is, unfortunately, still alive and kicking in many circles)

  • they don't provide support, back-up or anywhere to go if you injure yourself

  • a challenge is a challenge, right? Which, to many people, means completing it. Full stop. Whatever. Regardless of what happens along the way.

Even with of these considerations aside, as we said, there are two versions of the 25 Press-Ups for 25 Days Challenge that we're seeing on Fb at the moment.

Version 1: Do 25 Press-Ups. Every day. For 25 days.

Version 2: 25 Day Press-Up Challenge: Day 1: 1 Press-Up; Day 2: 2 Press-Ups; Day 3: 3 Press-Ups. Etc. etc. All the way up to Day 25: 25 Press-Ups.

The first one is is the equivalent of deciding to run a 10k (or marathon, depending on how fit you are to start with) without doing any training runs, or whole-body support or 'cross-training'.

There's no build-up, or progression to the 'set', or number of repetitions. There's no build-up to repeating this set for this number of days.

And there are no rest days in between.

Rest days are vital in any exercise programme as it is actually during these periods when our body adapts to the loads we're putting them under. They provide the essential 'repair and recovery' time our bodies require.

If we were purely interested in filling our clinic spaces with injured people, of course we'd be fully endorsing Version 1!

But we're not.

ISRM Soft Tissue Therapists (along with anyone working in Injury Rehabilitation 'worth their salt') would always rather educate and empower their clients, or anyone else, to promote awareness and practice of 'Prehab not Rehab', than be treating clients with injuries.

We want you to be able to enjoy being active, exercising safely at the right level for you, without getting injured.

(And most of us have had the opportunity to experience how an injury can really take the enjoyment out of exercise, activity, or indeed life!).

Summary: It's hard for us to like Version 1 of this type of challenge!

It's fine if you're in the high level fitness/athlete/high performance training category and your 25 press-ups a day for 25 days is part of your usual pre-training warm up.

(Although we'd have to question whether it's exactly a challenge for you in this case!)

If you're not, then Version 2 is better. Because:

  • you're less likely to experience injury as you're building up strength gradually (i.e. your body has a chance to adapt to the increased loads you are putting it under)

  • you're less likely to experience injury as you're more likely to notice if something hurts (before it's actually injured)

  • you'll be working at a level that gives you more control and less fatigue (optimal form decreases as fatigue increases; and this brings its own increased injury risk)

  • you're more likely to maintain motivation because it feels good (rather than being too much of a struggle, or maybe causing muscle aches and soreness, at the beginning)

  • you're more likely to finish the challenge because your goal increased a little bit every day

  • if you finish the challenge (safely, uninjured) you're going to have gained strength and endurance. And hopefully you feel good both physically and mentally at this stage. Which means you are more likely to continue enjoying exercising after the challenge (which most of us would agree is always a good thing?)

So by all means engage in these challenges. If you genuinely want to - and aren't led in to it by peer pressure, or ego - that is.

Ideally, we'd advise going with Version 2.

If you have a health condition, old injury, or are over 69, we'd always recommend checking in with your health professional whether the exercise/fitness challenge is suitable for you.

Also, find out - before you start, not as the result of an injury! - what you need to find out about 'form', as well as relevant modifications. Seek out a trusted professional source if you're not sure what you're doing.

(As Fitness Instructors/Soft Tissue Therapists, we often find ourselves watching some worrying form - we try not to call these 'accidents waiting to happen' because we prefer to practice positive thinking, but to be honest, some of them are just scary! - as people go about posting their Press-Up (or other) Challenge videos. And on occasion, it's these very same people who we get calling up to make a clinic appointment because they have an injury.)

Listen to - and be guided by - your body and how it feels.

Don't feel embarrassed or ashamed to stop if you need to. (Choosing to stop because it's best for your body right now, is not the same as 'giving up'!).

We seriously don't want to be party poopers, like we said.

But we seriously want you to have fun with your fitness challenges.

And we are pretty sure injuries aren't ever really fun.

Have fun! Feel good! And stay safe, So you can enjoy your challenge and celebrate your success!

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