Everyone has done very well this winter with getting outside to walk, run, x-country ski or even cycle on a regular basis! Well done! This is so good for everyone’s mental health as well as their physical health. Just getting outside for 20 or more minutes on a regular basis helps one’s mood immensely. The heart, lungs, bones and muscles of the legs also all benefit greatly from these activities. This is so great! But now what are you doing to maintain or improve your overall strength, especially of your upper body and core? Are push-ups in your weekly plan?
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One of the easiest exercises you can do will benefit your health in as many as 10 different ways. It’s an activity you can do almost anywhere, anytime that suits you best and without the use of any special equipment, except perhaps a good pair of athletic shoes . What is this miracle exercise? It’s walking. That’s it. Plain and simple walking. If you can manage 10,000 steps each day your health will benefit. That’s about 7.5 kilometers. The best part is you don’t need to do these steps all at once to get the benefit. You can spread it out over an entire day. “Sitting is the new smoking”. Spending too many hours in a chair can do your body more harm than smoking. After just 30 minutes in a chair, your metabolism slows down by 90 %. This means calorie burning significantly decreases. The body also becomes less sensitive to insulin, meaning blood sugar levels increase. Diabetes becomes a risk. Just getting up for 5 minutes of movement can get things going again. While exercise is excellent for us, one full hour of exercise will not negate the damage done by too much sitting. Continue to exercise regularly, especially if it is in addition to walking, but try to limit the number of hours spent in a chair.
So, what do you gain by walking 10,000 steps each day? Your cardiovascular health will benefit. That’s your heart and lungs. Heart health has always been at the forefront but a certain virus has made us think more seriously about our lung health. Walking increases your heart and breathing rates, which, over time will improve cardiovascular fitness. Making some of those daily kilometers a brisk walk, or a jog, if you are able, will elevate the heart and breathing rates a little further therefore improving things a little quicker. Consciously taking a few deep breaths throughout the day, walking or not, can also do plenty to keep your lungs healthy. Breath in slowly and deeply for as long as you can and then breath out at the same pace. Repeat several times. Take care of your lungs. Also a part of cardiovascular health, cholesterol and blood pressure may also be reduced through participating in activity regularly. However, these can also be hereditary and medication will be needed. But perhaps less dosage required the fitter you are.
Walking, because it is a weight bearing exercise. as opposed to swimming or cycling where you are not on your feet, will also improve your bone health. Combine any of these activities with some weight training and the benefit to bone density will increase. Be sure to start slowly, progress gradually and pay close attention to correct technique with weight training to prevent injury. Doing many different exercises will be the best benefit to your bones. The muscle will pull on the bone in a different way for each exercise that you do, thus causing the body to lay down more calcium in a variety of areas on the skeletal system therefore increasing bone density and strength. Those with strong bones have a lower risk of fractures. If a fall occurs, the risk of breaking a bone is less.
Type Two Diabetes is a very common, yet very preventable disease. Overeating combined with a sedentary lifestyle is the sure way to develop diabetes. Walking just 20 to 30 minutes a day can really help to prevent this disease that eventually ravages all parts of the body. If you have diabetes, start walking. Take a dog, a friend, a sibling, a child or a parent for company. Start slowly, in speed and time. Gradually progress. Not only will your body be using the excess stored glucose for the activity, it is now more sensitive to insulin. This means the body is more able to use the insulin naturally released by the body when blood sugar levels increase.If you are on a drug for diabetes, your doctor may be able to reduce the amount you take if you maintain your activity levels. DO NOT reduce ANY medication without first consulting your physician. After a few weeks of being active, try reducing your calorie intake somewhat. Make this your new lifestyle and watch your health improve. Your energy level will also increase.
Walking on a regular basis, outdoors, taking in and appreciating your surroundings, will also improve your mood. Activity is at the forefront when it comes to treating depression. Make walking a daily habit. So many things will improve for you. Why wait for Spring? Do it now!
Winter is the time to begin to get fit for golf. That’s right, especially if you are spending the winter here and counting the days until the course opens once again. Getting into the routine of a golf exercise program over the winter will keep your strength for the sport, improve your skills and have you enjoying the game at the very first game of the next season. Winter may not seem as long for you either.
Maintaining and improving strength and flexibility throughout your “core” will be the best thing you can do for your golf swing. The power for the swing comes from the core muscles. Any exercise that is rotational through the spine will be beneficial. It is important to engage the abdominal muscles while performing any rotational exercise however, to ensure that the lower back is protected. A simple ab, core strengthening exercise that can be used as a warm -up is to stand with the feet shoulder width apart, knees relaxed while holding a golf club or broomstick in front of you at shoulder height. Pull the abdominal muscles in as though you were getting ready to accept a light punch to the stomach. Do not allow the knees to move as you twist the upper body slowly from side to side. Gradually increase the range of motion of the twist. This will improve flexibility as well as strength. To take that exercise to a level higher, do it from a seated position on the floor or on a bench with the feet elevated and holding a weight. Lean back slightly, concentrating on keeping the abs engaged, and perform the twist. If there is lower back discomfort while doing this, do not lean back. Focus on as much rotation as comfortably possible. Make the waistline do the work, not the arms. Keep the shoulders relaxed. Use a weight that is challenging but not extreme. 10 to 12 repetitions is good.
Using a pulley machine in the gym for torso rotations is great for golf training as well. If possible have the pulley handle at about chest height. Keep the shoulders down, upper back muscles engaged and allow the knees to move as you pull the cable out and across the body. 10-12 repetitions is good for this as well. This can also be done with the handle coming form the bottom of the pulley machine. Pull the handle up and across the body with rotation, allowing the knees to move as they would in the golf swing. Be sure to keep the shoulders down. Begin with light weight and increase over time. Pay close attention to good form.
Both external and internal hip rotation exercises will also benefit your golf swing. One internal rotation exercise for the hips is to stand with feet shoulder width apart using a broom or golf club in front of you for balance. Lift one leg, flexing at the hip and knee. While keeping the upper body centered and stable, rotate the leg across the body as far as possible. Perform 15 repetitions fairly quickly but paying attention to good form. Do not allow the upper body to move. Repeat on the other leg. To target the external hip rotators, lie on you back with your legs lifted, knees bent at 90 degrees. Put your two fists side by side between the knees. Press your knees into your fists as you press the feet as far apart as possible. You will feel this one in the outer hip (medial gluts) area.
Both Yoga and Pilates classes will be very beneficial to the golfer as they incorporate many balance, flexibility and strength moves. You can also hire a personal trainer to design a golf specific training program. Keep fit for golf this winter and improve your game in the spring.
Holly Vanderzwet, B.P.E.
Are you an active person who would enjoy the benefits of weekly or even daily massage appointments, but without the price tag that would go along with this luxury? Well this service can be within your budget through the regular use of a foam roller. While this therapeutic tool does not replace the skilled hands of a registered massage therapist, it will help lessen muscle soreness, let you recover from workouts more quickly and keep you flexible and injury free between massage appointments. Self myofascial release, or “foam rolling” has transformed from a once rather mysterious technique used by professional athletes, coaches and therapists, to a daily practise for people of all fitness levels. Fascia is a thin, tough, elastic type of connective that surrounds muscle. This tissue can become restricted due to a number of reasons. Pain, decreased range of motion even injury may result. Myofascial release techniques have been used by sports therapists for years but with the availability of foam rollers you can keep the fascia flexible yourself.
While warming up, cooling down and stretching (at the end of a workout or as separate workout session such as a yoga practice) are all still very important aspects of a workout, they alone are not always enough to release muscle tightness. Foam rolling can assist in relaxing muscle knots, breaking up adhesions between muscle layers, improving range of motion about a joint and restoring normal blood flow, all of which mean quicker workout recovery time. As you “foam roll” the muscles you can control the amount of pressure you apply. It will hurt, especially on those muscle groups that are particularly tight. That discomfort signals the areas that need attention. Focus the rolling on those areas but also roll the length of the muscle. If you foam roll daily the discomfort will diminish.
All of the major muscle groups will benefit from frequent foam rolling. A tight IT band is very often a cause of injury for runners. Rolling it will prevent that. As will rolling the calves, quads and hamstrings. Low back, shoulders, mid and upper back will all benefit as well. Leave no muscle group untouched. There are several sizes of foam rollers available and they come in different densities. There are also small hand held ones. A chiropractor, physiotherapist or personal trainer can help you choose one that suits your purpose. If you are an active person who wishes to remain active and pain free then foam rolling needs to become part of your workout routine.
Currently there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease. It is a chronic neurological condition that affects 100,000 Canadians, mostly in, but not limited to, those over age 60. There is reason to believe however that the symptoms of this disease can be slowed or changed through regular physical activity. It is known that on a day to day basis, people with PD who exercise regularly are able to move more normally than those who don’t.
It is known that in PD the brain cells that produce dopamine, a chemical that carries signals between cells in the brain and helps control body movement are damaged and lost. There is a lag time between when the loss of these cells begins and when the motor symptoms of the disease start to show. During this lag time the brain is actually changing to compensate for the loss of dopamine neurons.This ability of the brain to change is known as neuroplasticity and scientists believe that exercise may contribute to neuroplasticity, helping the brain to maintain old connections, form new ones and restore lost ones.
One study divided 67 people with PD into 3 groups. One group exercised briskly on a treadmill for 30 minutes at 70-80 % of their maximum heart rates. The 2nd group also walked on a treadmill but at 40-50 % of max HR for 50 minutes. The 3rd group did leg strength training with weights as well as stretching exercises. All groups worked out 3 times a week for 3 months. At the end of the study, all groups had improved but in different ways. Not surprising, the walking groups improved their cardiovascular fitness and the weight training group improved leg strength. What was surprising was that the group who exercised at the higher intensity on the treadmill did not improve in their walking speed as much as the other two groups. In all groups walking gait was improved, meaning less shuffling or freezing. The conclusion made was that both moderate cardiovascular and strength training on a regular basis are important for those with PD, just as they are for the general population.
Other activities that have been shown to help those with PD improve their mobility are dancing, Nordic walking, boxing and yoga or Tai Chi. I think the message is that whatever the activity, if it is done on a regular basis as soon as possible after being diagnosed it will be of a benefit. Studies have also shown the sooner a PD patient gets involved in a “fall prevention” program the better. Risk of falling can be lessened a great deal through balance training exercises. Balance improves as does confidence which translates to a lessened fear of falling and fewer falls. Being told you have PD does not mean you should sit down and take it but rather get up and fight back.
One person, not that much older than me, said she wasn’t walking any more because she wanted to save her knees. I feel she is much too young to sit down and do nothing active, no health benefits to that. I have other folks, in their 80’s and 90’s who tell me they go to the gym regularly because it does more for them than any anti-depressant pill ever could. Many people I know would not be doing what they are capable of in the gym or at home if they didn’t exercise on a regular basis. Think arthritis for example. Everyone will develop arthritis eventually. Some feel the symptoms sooner than others, Some not at all. Injury and surgery in a joint will bring arthritis on earlier. Some high impact activities may do as well. If your usual high impact activity is causing you joint pain then switch to something less jarring. Cycling is the new running don’t you know? The joints need synovial fluid moving through them to keep cartilage healthy and the joints running smoothly. Moving the body gets this fluid flowing. Choose an activity like cycling, swimming or yoga that allows movement without impact.
Activity also strengthens the muscles around the joints. The stronger the muscle the less stress on the joints. This is especially true for the quads, hamstrings, and calf muscles in connection to the knees but also having strong core muscles will protect the spine. Engaging those core muscles while twisting or lifting will help prevent back pain. Keeping the upper body strong benefits the shoulders as well as the back. Strength training with weights or even just your own body weight can greatly enhance your joints. If you are unsure of what exercises and activities you should do to benefit your joints seek the advice of a physiotherapist, chiropractor or personal trainer to get you on the right track. Not only does exercise strengthen muscle, it helps you maintain a healthy weight. Less weight on the joints, especially knees, reduces a lot of stress on them and the resulting pain. Keeping flexibility around the joint as much as possible is also beneficial. A regular stretching program is a must.
Please don’t sit down and forgo exercise. Your body and your brain will go to mush. There are so many health benefits to be gained by exercising by anyone of any age that it must be part of your daily routine. The way to save your joints is to use them. Strengthen the muscles surrounding them. Keep them flexible. Exercise smartly. Keep fit and enjoy life!
Sunday September 15th is the 33rd annual Terry Fox Run. I’m sure many of you already know that Terry Fox was a very determined, young, man who having lost his leg to cancer, set out to run across our entire country to raise funds for awareness and research into that, often, devastating disease. Do you know all of his story?
Following a minor car accident in November 1976, Terry was left with a sore right knee. He mostly ignored the pain, since he was an athlete he was used to it, but when it continued into February of the next year he sought treatment and received painkillers. When the pain became debilitating in March of 1977 he again visited his family doctor who quickly diagnosed osteosarcoma. This is a cancer of the connective tissue and is the most common primary cancer of the bone. On March 9th, when he was only 18, Terry’s right leg was amputated just above the knee. The night before his surgery, Terry’s high school basketball coach visited him and not knowing what to say, he showed Terry an article about an amputee runner who had participated in the New York marathon. This planted the seed for Terry’s idea to run across Canada.More
We had about 35 people participate and logged in roughly 65 hours for the event! ~ Way to get out and play.
You can do a great circuit routine to benefit your fitness level outdoors at the park. Begin by walking, biking or running to the park as a warm-up. Do some triceps dips on a park bench. (10 to 20 is a good number). Try “step-ups” on the bench next. Step one foot up on the bench, bring the other one up to meet it then step down. Try 10 – 20 reps with one leg leading then switch to the other leg. Do some “mountain climbers” next. These are done from a “high plank” position with hands on the bench, elbows straight and the body in a diagonal line from head to toe. Alternate bringing one bent knee in towards the body, keeping the hips down and the abs engaged. Again 10 to 20 reps on each leg is good. Repeat the circuit then go for a short run.More
Last year the Heart and Stroke Foundation used “Make Death Wait” as their campaign slogan. A powerful statement that made us pay attention. This year they used “Make Health Last” as their slogan and ran a powerful television ad that also made us take note. It’s the ad where one side of the screen shows an older adult tying up running shoes and heading out for a bike ride. The other side of the screen shows the same older gentleman putting on slippers and being pushed in a wheel chair down the hallway of a nursing home. The message is, will you live your later years enjoying being active with family members or will you lead a lower quality lifestyle due to ill health. The ad states that the average Canadian will spend the last ten years of their life in sickness. The narrator encourages you to view makehealthlast.ca to change your future. I checked, they have plenty of good information there. This heart and stroke web-site shows us 5 ways to make health last. You will also see the cost in years off your life by not following these 5 rules to better health. Inactivity will cost 4 quality years. Poor dietary habits, 3 quality years. Excessive, unmanaged stress, 2 quality years. Smoking 2.5 quality years and excessive drinking 2 quality years. Individually doesn’t seem to bad. Add them up, total cost is 13.5 years.