Exercise and Health

Breaking News….Exercise is Good for you …. Imagine That!

Jul 19, 2012
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Breaking News …. Exercise is Good for You … Imagine That!

In the news today new research is telling us that inactivity is responsible for almost as many deaths each year as smoking!  That’s about 5.3 million deaths worldwide per year.

We have always known that exercise is good for us.  Plato said “Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it”. But too often we hear excuses for not doing exercise such as not having time or enough money.

I suspect that also people have become scared of exercise, that is to say that when they think of exercise they think of gyms, Lycra and top class athletes that they must emulate.  They see themselves and think “I can’t be like them, I’m so unfit that I couldn’t possibly even get started!”

But we don’t have to run for miles, pump iron in the gym, join a triathlon club or buy a step machine.  If we look at the current health guidelines we should be doing two and a half hours of moderate intensity, aerobic and muscular strengthening exercise.  That equates to less than 26 minutes per day spread over the week.

Exercise can mean anything that raises the heart rate and gets you a bit out of breath.  Walking the dog, going up stairs, gardening, playing with children and even sex all count as exercise.  In fact for human beings exercise as we know it these days is quite an alien concept.  After all sitting still whilst driving several miles to the gym then running on the spot on a treadmill going nowhere for half an hour is completely nuts if you think about it!

According to the Lancet it is about using the body that we have in the way it was designed, which is to walk often, run sometimes, and move in ways where we physically exert ourselves regularly whether that is at work, at home, in transport to and from places, or during leisure time in our daily lives.

So let’s try to think about exercise in a different way.  What if you went for a walk in the evening for twenty minutes, ten minutes from the house and back?  Throughout the working week you would have done an hour and forty minutes exercise already.  Add to that walking up the stairs in the car park rather than taking the lift on Saturday afternoon in town and a bit of vigorous weeding in the garden on Sunday and you are just about there.

People often see exercise as a way to lose weight or get fit for the summer but let’s start to see it for what it should be – for health.  Exercise helps to make your heart stronger, helps to prevent many cancers, tones up muscles preventing back and neck pain and can really help to relieve stress and depression and ultimately helps you live a longer, healthier life.

So let’s all get outside a bit – especially if the weather is about to get better as they promise.  Make a small change and see the benefits – you can always make more changes later.  Let’s get healthier!

In Search of Fitness ….. TRX

Jul 5, 2012
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TRX

In Search of Fitness …. TRX
To be honest, I’d never heard of it either and I am told that TRX means Total Body Resistance eXercise (perhaps because its more snappy than TBRE)
I decided to attend the class on a Sunday morning at Phoenix Centre as I knew that the class sizes were small enough to get a good work out and large enough to hide behind others.  Patrizia was the instructor and she quickly got us warming up effectively with various movements and exercises.  After a few minutes of this I was about ready to head home as I realised that my usual running does not really provide a particularly rounded workout.
The TRX is effectively a scaffold with pairs of straps hanging off it.  Each strap has a loop on the end with padded handles.  The idea is that you use your own body weight and lift it to achieve the resistance required.  The good thing though is that by changing the angle or position of your body you can increase or decrease the weight you are lifting.
When I first saw the apparatus I struggled to think of many ways that I could suspend myself from the straps without causing myself some serious injuries but with clear instructions and demonstrations as we went along there were numerous exercise positions used.  These included holding the straps with one or both hands facing forwards, backwards and sideways as well as putting our feet in the straps and doing floor exercises.
Exercises that stand out in the mind are the bicep busting arm curls which involve holding the loops whilst facing the apparatus, leaning away from it and pulling your body upwards.  It feels quite good initially but by the end of the one minute set my biceps were burning with lactic acid.
Also, many people have experienced the Pilates ‘plank’ but imagine doing it with your feet suspended and hovering above the floor where they can swing from side to side!
After 45 minutes of high intensity exercise on the TRX with a period of circuit training in the middle to provide variation I was exhausted.  My muscles felt weak and my legs were most uncooperative when I asked them to allow me to stand up.  I felt muscle fatigue in muscles that I clearly hadn’t used in a very long time and I would happily have stayed lying on the floor for the rest of the day.  However Patrizia was handing around complimentary, freshly prepared protein shakes which would help to reduce the DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) and once I was walking around I began to feel much better, looser and a little smug for having done a really energetic, intense workout.
The next few days I felt some aching in my muscles but nothing too bad.  I found going up stairs felt like hard work but in a funny way it felt good, almost as if my muscles were responding to the workout and becoming fitter as a result.
I enjoyed the class and although it was hard work I did have the option to reduce the workload by altering my body position so I worked as hard as I wanted to.  The class had a really friendly feel and although music was played throughout it helped to keep the tempo of the exercise up rather than being uncomfortably loud.

I did not do this!

Would I do the class again?  Definitely, I feel like this class gives me a good, all round work out, much more than just running or cycling.  Impact is minimal and with guidance from an excellent instructor you know that nothing you do is dangerous.  The class was not daunting in any way and everyone was really friendly.  Anyone would be welcome regardless of their level of fitness or experience.
Booking can be done through the Phoenix Centre on (01403) 800321 and there are several TRX classes through the week to choose from (see www.phoenix-centre.com).  Give it a go – I might see you there.

Pilates and Back Pain

Apr 25, 2012
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PILATES AND BACK PAIN

Many people that we see in the clinic suffering from back pain, neck pain or any other musculo-skeletal ailment often have an underlying cause for their imbalance.  If the body is not capable of holding itself efficiently then it cannot function properly.  Pilates helps to address the underlying structural imbalances in the body.

We often talk to them about Pilates or Core Strength exercises and can guide them through some simple ways to improve their core strength.  This helps them back to optimal spinal health.

STRUCTURE OF THE CORE

The core is essentially defined by the abdominal wall, the spinal musculature, the pelvic floor and the diaphragm.  In other words, the area below the ribs down to the hips is your core.  There are many muscles that are essential for movement and good posture within this area and Pilates helps you to work on these.

POSTURE

People often talk about posture and think they have poor posture.  What they mean is their ability to align all of the different parts of their body properly.  Good function is more than this though because we don’t often stand still.  We need good alignment or good posture whenever we move.  We need a good dynamic posture.  This allows the body to function normally and allows it to perform daily tasks more efficiently.

CORE STRENGTH

The muscles which are largely forgotten are often the most important.  Many of us wish we didn’t have a flabby tummy but instead wish we had a flat “six pack”.  This leads us to hold our tummies in using our six pack muscles (rectus abdominis).  Unfortunately, the muscles we should be using are much deeper than this and cannot readily be seen. Developing core strength allows the correct muscles to be strong and work together well.  It allows them to work to their optimum level at the right time.

FLEXIBILITY

By increasing the efficiency of the body’s movement and reducing the strain on the spine and joints we give our body the chance to become more flexible.  It no longer has to work to hold you back from potential injury but can stretch confidently, in the right direction, supported correctly by the other muscles and can achieve better flexibility.

BACK PAIN

Because we sit for hours in front of computers or do lots of lifting in our jobs we put a great deal of strain on our body without providing it with the strength to be able to cope with those demands.  We also ask it to perform tasks outside of work that are totally different to the ones it is used to doing.  For example, commonly people sit at the desk all week then go and dig the garden at the weekend.  Consequently many people suffer greatly with back pain.

Pilates is a brilliant way to give your body the strength it needs so you can have the freedom to function efficiently.

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