Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Stress No More

I was browsing through the www.TOPS.org website recently when I noticed they had stress balls for sale (I had never noticed that particular item before).  I suffer from repetitive strain in my right hand and although a wrist brace has done wonders for pain and mobility, I thought working a stress ball would help as well.  I thought the fruit inspired stress balls were cute and at only $2 each, a good buy as well.  Instead of just ordering one for me, I ordered the whole set of seven thinking that I could use them individually as small prizes for some of the contests we do in our group on a regular basis.  Stress balls are foam or gel-filled balls that provide some resistance to pressure – can reduce stress, with immediate benefits.   www.TOPS.org is an amazing resource tool for TOPS leader as far as meeting ideas and inspiration is concerned, and also a great site for members to check out regularly for new, updates and encouragement.

When my June 2013 issue of TOPS News arrived it included an article on using the stress balls for health.  The article is by Amy Goldwater, MS and contained some useful information, so I decided to use it as the topic for my meeting this week.

“According to traditional Chinese medical theory, a person’s fingers and hands are connected to all the vital organs of the body.  Strain from repetitive actions – particularly phone and computer use – can create muscular soreness and stiffness from the fingertips to the shoulders” read the first part of the article.  Tell me about it, I thought.

The article goes on to say, “Typing, test messaging, playing sports, and even cooking and driving can wreak havoc on the small muscles of your fingers, wrists and forearms.  Eventually, wear and tear may lead to more serious conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome.  Stretching and exercises designed to strengthen these areas can help prevent injury and speed recovery when damage does occur.

Many doctors recommend the use of stress balls for more than just stress reduction.  They are also an excellent way to promote stronger wrists.”

I have heard of using stress balls and another foam tool (one that looks a lot like a pool noodle) to do stress free exercises to help thing like migraines, shoulder strain, back and hip problems and, leg issues.  Recently there was an author on “Breakfast Television” promoting her wellness book discussing this very thing.  I have been trying to come up with name of the book, without much success, but if I find it I will definitely mention it in a follow up post.

The article also quotes a July 2007 study in the Journal of Hand Therapy focused on using stress balls to combat symptoms of osteoarthritis.  The study noted an increase in grip strength and dexterity and also a decrease in pain, among those who used stress balls in physical therapy.

“As always”, the article noted, “be aware, be sensible and be careful!  Hand or wrist strain with swelling and inflammation, severely impaired basic function, or pain along the entire side of the body may be signs of serious medical conditions that require professional attention.  As with any exercise equipment, use stress balls in moderation.”

The article also suggested a meeting idea that sounded informative and fun at the same time.  It was a simple
game of toss using one of the stress balls (or a tennis call would do as well).  Members would toss the ball to each other and when someone dropped the ball they had to answer a healthy eating question.  And, WOW, they weren’t fooling around, some of the questions were tough … especially with the 10-second time limit imposed.  I threw in a couple of general trivia questions, just for fun and to catch people off guard.

Some examples of the TOPS suggestions were:
·         Name five green vegetables
·         Name five blue or purple fruits or vegetables
·         Name five benefits of exercise
·         Name four ways you can add more exercise to your day
·         Name four ways to get motivated
·         Name four ways to cut 100 calories
·         Name four things you can do to help a discouraged member feel better

Some of the general trivia questions I added (for fun) were along the lines of:
·         What did Kate and Will name their new baby
·         Name three current television reality shows
·         Who made the song “Danke Schoen” famous

I’m sure you get the idea.

We are not a large group to begin with and since it’s summer and some members are on holiday it was even smaller this week.  My group did really well with both the toss and catch (I think some of them definitely played softball in their youth) and with the questions (which was nice, since it meant they were actually listening at meetings and reading their own TOPS magazines).  By the end, the two remaining members were standing across the room from each other hurling the orange shaped stress ball through the air.

The winner was allowed to keep the stress ball as a prize.

If you organize any kind of meeting this was fun, and the idea could certainly be adapted to all kinds of meetings, not necessarily only weight loss groups.  I am keeping one of the stress balls at my desk at work ... who know when I might need to relieve a little stress, and squishing a foam apple is better than eating a chocolate bar!

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