Fit facts: Energize with exercise

Avoid a sprain

If sprained ankles have become a regular part of your workout routine, you don't have to take it lying down. Researchers from the University of Connecticut have found that the inability to balance on one leg with your eyes closed can indicate susceptibility to ankle sprains.

Check your susceptibility: Stand barefoot on one leg with the other bent off the floor and your hands at your sides. Focus on a single spot. Close your eyes and try to stand still for 10 seconds. If you find yourself wobbling, try these resistance-band exercises to help strengthen the ankle and reduce painful tumbles. Perform both while seated in a chair with one leg extended to the front and do 10 repeats on each leg.

  • Wrap a band around the instep of your foot, then roll your foot inward and outward pushing against the band.
  • Wrap the band around the ball of your foot and extend your foot forward, pushing against the band. Hold for 10 seconds.

Energizing exercise

It may seem hard to believe as you drag your tired butt off the treadmill, but that grueling workout may help you fight fatigue. After examining 70 studies involving 6,807 people, University of Georgia researchers found that regular exercise plays a key role in increasing energy and making you less tired over the long haul. Almost all groups studied, from healthy adults to those with chronic conditions and diseases, saw beneficial boosts in energy.

The finger factor

What's your athletic potential? A new study from England says your fingers may hold the answer. An examination of 650 women found that those whose ring fingers were longer than their index fingers were more likely to excel in running and sports including soccer and tennis. Researchers aren't exactly sure why this is but theorize that finger length could indicate factors from testosterone levels to athletically gifted genetics.

Relax the back

The best predictor of back pain is psychological stress, according to Tufts University Health and Nutrition Newsletter. The article found a major link between levels of psychological stress and anxiety and the eventual development of back pain. Possible causes are stress-induced changes in the nervous system, which lead to painful muscle tension and spasms.

Unfortunately, this back pain-stress combination can make an individual less likely to engage in physical activity -- one of the best ways to manage stress, as well as strengthen the back to help stave off pain. Avoid this vicious cycle by exercising regularly and managing stress through techniques like meditation and massage.

Try this

Pigeon pose

Great for cyclists, this pose increases range of motion by stretching the hips, butt and lower back. Start out in downward dog (bent over on all fours with your back, arms and legs straight). Bring your right knee forward, crossing your leg in front of you so that it rests on the floor with your right ankle under your left hip. Keep your left leg straight and toes flat. Then, lift your torso and look directly ahead. Hold the pose for five breaths and repeat with the opposite leg.

Freelance writer Frank Claps is a certified strength and conditioning specialist who operates Fitness For Any Body, a personal training service in the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania.

By Frank Claps, C.S.C.S.

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