For many of us I am sure we associate exercise with a certain location or facility such as the gym, netball court, footy oval, usual running or walking loop, or community pool. We develop a relationship in our mind between exercise and the need to go to a particular place for certain amount of time in order to for it to be worth our while.
I worked with a client last year who was seeing me regularly for exercise sessions. She suffered from multiple sclerosis and found general day to day life challenging however she was determined to maintain her function to the best of her ability. Each time she would leave the gym after her sessions she would say ‘goodbye, I am going to my world gym now’. It always made me think of how true it was that for her, negotiating the terrain of the Adelaide landscape, roads, curbs, stairs, uneven surfaces, was the best possible way for her to challenge her abilities and maintain her function and fitness. She had a gym at her fingertips all day long, and the fact is, so do the rest of us!
Although I am the first one to vouch for the importance of supervised tailored exercise, stories like this make me wonder how many of us are neglecting the opportunities we have day to day in our usual routine of work, home life and leisure time to challenge ourselves and work towards our goals.
Take a look at your ‘World Gym’ today and see what opportunities you might be missing. Can you be inventive?
Happy Valentines day to all the Romeo & Juliet’s out there!
Valentines day is the day to make up for the other 364 days of the year…oops, I mean everyday is a day to connect with your monogamous partner right? Well I don’t want to be all up in your face with cheesy Casanova one liners. I want to ‘twist’ up Valentines day by redirecting the attention on oneself.
The motivation to turn the tables of gratification to ourselves is based on some reflection over the past weeks…. .Why is is it so easy to give? But so difficult to receive? Or even so, to put ones needs first. Well, unless you’re a narcissist; and then I’ll have to throw the DSM-5 at you! Receiving can often be associated with guilt. With all the co-morbidity’s floating around, one has been really delving deep into why one doesn’t feel intrinsically the worth to put one’s health first?. Now, I just opened up a whole can of complex issues that Sigmund Freud would be rubbing his hands to get to the bottom of. However, I want to stick to the issue of putting your health first.
Here is a scene that has really influenced this blog.
Cameras rolling…and ACTION!
Two Italians ladies accompany each other at the gym on a regular basis. This is a mother daughter combo. With the mother being in her nineties. And the daughter being in her sixties. As I do my thing on the cross trainer I hear them both laughing away on the treadmill & speaking Italian (on a consistency). Now what is so heart felt about these two is not only the bond & connection (as a mother and daughter do) between them both. And there is wonderful research to back up connection with improved immunity, decreased risk of mortality et cetera. It is the intrinsic and reciprocal want for them both to have there needs met; to be well, healthy and thriving.
Now that’s a 24/7 valentines moment right there!
In light of late last weeks Facebook link on “auditing” or keeping track of your daily/weekly exercise. I really encourage you all from the bottom of my Valentine heart to make your health a priority. Regardless of the extrinsic’s going on in one’s life. In deep reflection. If we set healthy boundaries. Show an abundance of loving kindness and compassion. And lastly, give on a daily basis (without expecting anything in return). Don’t we then thus deserve all of this back intrinsically with humility?
I do hope, or if not me; the wonderful mother & daughter combo give you the strength to be vulnerable and to have YOUR needs met.
I sat glued to my television tonight watching the first ever women’s AFL game. I am in awe! Awe of the strong, fast, resilient women who have worked exceptionally hard behind the scenes to put this spectacle on. Awe in the spectators who have come out in their thousands to watch the game and even awe in the AFL (who I have ragged on, on many an occasion) for getting the league up and running. I will add that this is also the feeling when I watch the WBBL and the netball leagues.
Now I love sport and everything it brings but I also realize sport can be perceived as just a competition where people either chase the ball or each other to win (usually just for sheep stations). For some people, sport is not very interesting (crazy, i know). But I view this momentous moment as more thatn just another game of sport. Why?
Well let’s skip forward a little bit…
Currently as it stands only 9 per cent of girls aged 12-14 year old reached the minimum daily physical activity guidelines (which is less than half of the 20 per cent of boys reaching the standard.) This decreases to 6 per cent of 15-17 year old girls. NOT GOOD!
But I digress…
Even though women started playing competitively in the 1920’s, this game has always been regarded as a ‘man’s game’. Up until 2004, girls could play in boy’s team until 12 years of age but then that was it. They either transitioned to open women’s games or they didn’t play. Now with AFL being the biggest sport in Australia participation wise and easily the most visible in the media, saying to girls you can’t play anymore is a pretty big negative.
Now if we have the most influential sport discouraging women to stop moving, it is not surprising that research shows that girls lag behind boys in their movement skills, balance and physical activity and that the gender gap only widens as girls get older. Then those women have children and those young kids see their mum’s being inactive and the vicious cycle continues. We previously discussed this in our previous blog Do your kids see you sweat.
So yes! AFL, SOCCER, cricket, netball, softball, hockey can all help us lead the way in teaching our girls that as females sweat and strength is great. It is something to be proud of rather than embarrassed about. As parents, we need to encourage it. Whatever movement our kids want to do, aid them in anyway you can. This can help build behaviours of physical and mental health.
These exercises have been a mainstay of physical conditioning routines for as long as physical conditioning has been around. We all know that one person that starts their day off with a hundred (or other arbitrary number) sit-ups or crunches. We’ve been told for countless years that the best way to train your ‘abs’ is to do sit-ups or crunches in any number of different varieties…. but is it really that simple?
Let’s look at the exercises themselves. At their heart, sit-ups and crunches are built around the action of flexion of the spine. When we lay supine (facing up), we are using gravity to provide resistance against this flexion action. This places load on our rectus abdominis (commonly referred to as the ‘abs’) and to a lesser degree, the obliques (1). With this in mind, we can correctly draw the conclusion that these exercises can be used to strengthen or condition the ‘abs’ (dependant on rep ranges etc), and even cause hypertrophy (increased muscle size) of the ‘abs’ if the load is appropriate. So far so good, right? But is repeated flexion necessary, or even healthy?
For a number of years now, a large number of trainers, strength coaches, and physiotherapists have been moving away from prescribing or recommending these exercises to clients. The driving reason behind this change is the research conducted by spine biomechanist Dr Stuart McGill and his team at the University of Waterloo, Canada, who used in vitro testing of pig spines (which are very similar to human spines) to demonstrate that repeated flexion of the spine is highly likely to lead to disc pathologies (1). McGill’s findings were that high numbers of flexion movements in the spine ultimately lead to disc injuries such as herniation.
Not all health and fitness trainers have subscribed to McGill’s findings. His major opponents consider his use of porcine cervical spines with no active muscular attachments as not being representative of the moving spine in a living human. One of the major threats to disc health during movements, is the compressive force created by the contraction of muscles acting on the spine. As the muscles pull the spine in various directions, the compression on the intervertebral discs shifts, and becomes uneven which can lead to disc herniation. Biomechanical modelling predicts that up to 18% of this compressive force can be offset by the presence of intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) during spinal flexion (2).
These arguments are for the most part theoretical however, with no conclusive clinical evidence to support them – leading us to the conclusion that right now, the best research we have on the effects of repetitive flexion of the spine is Stuart McGill’s. Factoring in McGill’s research, alongside the correlation of genetics and spinal degeneration (3), it’s difficult to justify the prescription of crunch type exercises when lower risk, more practical training approaches exist.
Some organisations (such as the ADF, Police Departments etc) have a requirement for members to perform sit-ups or crunches in workplace fitness assessments. Our advice in this situation would be to only program the required number of sit-ups/crunches required to get you through your fitness test, and ensure you have prescribed exercises to train your spinal extensors to balance out the number of flexions you are performing (deadlift variations are a great way to do this).
As always, having an experienced professional to develop your training programs is the best way to ensure you are keeping a balance in your exercise prescriptions, and performing the safest possible exercises to address your needs.
References: (1) McGill SM. Low Back Disorders. Champagne, IL: Human Kinetics, 2002 (2) Stokes IA, Gardner-Morse MG, and Henry SM. Intra-abdominal pressure and abdominal wall muscular function: Spinal unloading mechanism. Clin Biotech (Bristol, Avon) 2010 (3) Battie ́ MC and Videman T. Lumbar disc degeneration: Epidemiology and genetics. J Bone Joint Surg Am 88(Suppl 2), 2006