Following on from my last post where I emphasised the importance of moving frequently, here I’ll be discussing how we can take a few further steps towards improving physical health.
First up is the importance of pushing, pulling or lifting something reasonably heavy which would include our own bodies. This means taking some time out away from our normal day to day activities to do some focussed strengthening exercise.
Some of the benefits are:
Build and maintain muscle mass and strength, important for everyday activities as well as to be able to take part in sports. Muscle helps move and protect joints from injury.
- Delaying the effects of aging, muscles start to waste unless we use them, we have to work harder to maintain them as we age
- Lean, strong muscle is metabolically active and with a healthy diet helps with weight management.
- Preserve bone density, independence, and vitality with age
- Reduce the risk of osteoporosis
- Reduce the signs and symptoms of numerous chronic diseases such as heart disease, arthritis, and type 2 diabetes
- Improving sleep and reduce symptoms of depression
Ideally these sessions need to be brief, intense while using as much of the body as possible. The more ‘functional’ the exercises the better. Functional exercises in essence help us perform better while interacting with our environment on a day to day basis.
PhysioPilates is a very effective way of strengthening which is why we offer regular classes for our clients. However, there are many ways to strengthen at home, in the gym or anywhere you can find a bit of space.
A word of caution, beware the very well intentioned and enthusiastic fitness instructor or personal trainer who may have you doing exercises which may just not be suited for your body, strengthening is supposed to prevent injuries not cause them. Furthermore too much strength training can result in a buildup of stress hormones which can have a counterproductive catabolic (muscle breakdown) effect. Rest and recovery is very important.
Every now and then, say every 7-10 days when feeling fit there is a benefit to doing a ‘sprint’ session. Now a sprint may mean different things according to athletic ability and the condition of the joints. It may be a fast run, a fast session on the spin bike, a very brisk walk uphill or a number of all out fast lengths in the pool. What’s important is that it gets your heart rate up and your lungs working harder assuming it is safe for you to do so. This triggers a shot of stress hormones which will then subside after the exercise session. The thinking is that sprint sessions trigger genes which enhance muscle mass, cellular energy utilisation and fat metabolism. You become more adapted to fast movement and so find it easier the next time as well as enjoying the other health benefits.
Well that’s it for this month. If you have any questions or would like some guidance in how to start an exercise programme, please come in for a consultation.
Seguin R, Nelson ME. The benefits of strength training for older adults. American journal of preventive medicine. 2003 Oct 31;25(3):141-9.
Mazzeo RS, Cavanagh P, Evans WJ, Fiatarone M, Hagberg J, McAuley E, Startzell J. Exercise and physical activity for older adults. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. 1998 Jun 18;30(6):992-1008.
Sisson M. The primal blueprint: reprogramme your genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health and boundless energy. Random House; 2012 Aug 31.