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Tasting Australia? Try tasting your lunch first!

Tasting Australia? Try tasting your lunch first!

I was reading about the upcoming Tasting Australia Festival in the Weekend Australia on Sunday- I must add whilst drinking a 2007 Adelaide Hills Riesling and eating an ashed chevre, also from the Hills. Sundays should be filled with such acts of hedonism. Amidst my indulgence though, I realised that I wasn’t really tasting either the wine or the cheese. I mean, I could taste them, but I wasn’t really engaged in them to the extent they deserved. Rather I was pouring them at such a gluttonous pace they would have been better served in a trough, together.

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Pause….for Parkinson’s

Pause….for Parkinson’s

Yesterday marked ‘Pause for Parkinson’s’ day. A day to recognize and show loving kindness and compassion to ones who suffer this debilitating neurodegenerative disease.

When we think of Parkinson’s disease (PD) , Michael J Fox who sadly was diagnosed  in 1991 at the tender age of 30 usually comes to mind. To be diagnosed at the age of 30 is very rare, with most Parkinsonian disorders becoming of age within 1% of individuals older than 60 (http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1831191-overview). 

Parkinsonian is categorized into two components Degenerative and non-degenerative (Dickson, 2012). Degenerative speaks for itself, and I will touch on the neuropathogenesis (causes) to appreciate the complexities and again to show an abundance of loving kindness and compassion that patients go through on a daily basis.

I have used the term ‘parkinsonian’ for the reason that there is a combination of disorders associated with PD. And each PD patient will differ with their symptoms. BUT, the two main pathological issues seen in PD is the protein Alpha Synuclein and destruction of the Nigrostriatal pathway. Now please don’t let me scare you with the above (insert scary emoji here) I will simplify the two.

Alpha Synuclein is a membrane bound protein found in the brain which is involved in signalling chemical messengers (neurotransmitters). This is normal, and needed. But the complexity of the human organism. Normally functioning proteins such as alpha synuclein in the PD patient goes through a complex aggregation pathway (I fast forwarded things here) resulting in Lewy bodies, which are a neurotoxic protein. Neurotoxic proteins like lewy bodies develop inside nerve cells and subsequently kill off the dopaminergic signalling which leads us into the Nigrostriatal pathway.

The nigrostriatal pathway involves the projection of the neurotransmitter dopamine that we are all familiar with. The dopaminergic neurons are involved in areas (pathways) that involve movement. The main area that looses it’s vital dopaminergic neurons is the Substantia nigra. The substantia nigra is rich in dopamine and a lot of the motor symptoms you see in PD patients such rigidity and bradykinesia are a result of the substantia nigra loosing it’s vital dopamine.

(Nigrostriatal pathway)

So that wasn’t all to fun was it? Let’s talk about what is promising. The brain’s way of healing by Norman Doidge M.D. Is a wonderful book that brings light into the growing evidence that the brain is ‘plastic’ or neuroplasticity. Norman’s book discusses a patient who suffers from PD, who was debunked by neurologist’s because his symptoms improved by conscious walking or neuroplastic remodeling. By consciously paying attention to gait and how plastic the brain is. The patients symptoms improved and continued to improve as long as physical activity was maintained. WELL! what do you know? physical activity is neuroprotective. Who would have thought…

Well that was a eyeful.

I hope you all learn’t something new about PD. And have some more loving kindness towards PD sufferers. This was simplified for many complex reasons so happy to give out more information.

 

Author: James Smith

Parkinson's

Stressed out? Mindful exercising may be your cure!

Stressed out? Mindful exercising may be your cure!

I am sure that you will agree that in today’s modern society, we are all constantly physically and mentally stretched to our limits. Stress, anxiety, multi-tasking and non-stop days where we feel like we are on auto-pilot are the norm for most. Take one of my closest friends for example. She is a 29 year old mother of two beautiful but tiring toddlers and a Staffy who seriously needs to be walked daily otherwise destruction will ensue. Add to that, she works part time in a hospital, works full time as a domestic goddess, plays hockey at state league level and is a committed friend and family member. I constantly wonder how she can complete all of her day to day tasks without losing sense of herself (and her hair).

When I asked her how she does it, she explained that when she is at hockey, she is able to be in the moment. She focuses on only what is happening there and then. She doesn’t think about what’s for dinner, or what clients she will see tomorrow. She allows herself time to think about her own body, her movements, how her running technique feels and how satisfying it feels to hit a little white ball awfully hard. What she didn’t realise is that this is the definition of being mindful. Whilst it’s a buzzword at the moment, the mental training technique is both simple and powerful.

Being mindful is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensation. hockey 2

Sounds interesting I know, but this practice takes one away from autopilot. Research has showed that it is effective in reducing stress and undermining destructive emotive and cognitive processes which can lead to anxiety and depression. But what I find amazing is that research has actually shown positive physical changes. Mindfulness practice can lead to a decrease grey matter in the Amygdala (the brain’s centre associated with fear and stress). This in turn leads to thickening in the pre-frontal cortex. What results in an improved higher order functions within the brain such as concentration, decision making and overall awareness – pretty powerful stuff.

One of things I love focusing on in training sessions with clients is the neural connections created with attentive movement. For example, trying to feel glutes contract when completing a single leg deadlift. This allows a better quality of movement, decreased compensations and overall better muscle recruitment. The upside of this for me is, to achieve this, you must be solely focused on the present. You cannot practice quality movement without attention, and accepting the sensation created with movement. And ladies and gentlemen, this is the definition of mindfulness!

Get That Monkey Off Your Back!

It’s 2016, the year of the Fire Monkey in regards to the Chinese Zodiac. People born in the year of the Fire Monkey are characterised as being ambitious and adventurous, but irritable. In Australia, we see the monkey as being cheeky and mischievous. What can we take from this Chinese Zodiac that could help our health and fitness? Read on….
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Being ambitious and adventurous are superb characteristics and I feel they can help lead to a healthy and active lifestyle. Being adventurous might mean you like to try new things, like mountain biking, going on walking holidays or buying a new plastic kayak for the summer. Being ambitious will only help to drive you to succeed in these new pursuits. Being irritable? Well, we all get irritable from time to time, what better way to cure irritability than to get out on an adventure!

“Research has shown that increased sedentary time is associated with a decline in health”

In Western culture we have a common term, ‘get the monkey off your back’. This can be used in relation to many scenarios where there is an issue or situation that continues to be problematic. One that comes to mind is barriers that prevent people from getting their daily and weekly exercise.

Why is this important?
Research has shown that increased sedentary time is associated with a decline in health. You may have heard the term ‘Sitting is the new smoking’.

There are many excuses that are often used in place of regular exercise. Common examples are a lack of time or being too tired, needing new shoes or new equipment. Whatever it is that is preventing you from getting into a regular exercise program is a barrier, and that barrier is a monkey on your back! Find a solution, break down the barriers and give the monkey a flick. Don’t let it weigh you down, let it drive your ambition and sense of adventure.

Get out there, enjoy nature, enjoy life.

 

Exercise and Pregnancy: Should you train for Labour?

Would you run in a marathon without preparing and training?

It’s a question I ask my pregnant clients. A majority of marathoners wouldn’t dream of it. They would focus on preggers 2their preparation, strengthen their bodies and minds so they can remain injury free in the lead up, perform the race of their life and recover well afterwards.

So if that’s the case with an endurance event like running, why don’t we think about natural childbirth in a similar light? The body begins changing as soon as conception occurs with changes in hormones like oestrogen and relaxin, blood volume. Then, as the pregnancy develops, the centre of gravity changes, body weight increases, ligaments increase in laxity and even the feet change. This means the body needs to be able to be strong, fit and mobile to prevent occurrences of lower back pain, acute injuries, gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia. We then turn our heads to labour would be physically harder and require more endurance and strength than a marathon. The body needs to deal with strong muscular contractions for 6 to 14 hours (on average). Vast amounts of oxygen are required for the working muscles and it becomes a long distance cardiovascular workout. What’s more, unlike a marathon, there is no set finish line. Quitting isn’t an option. We just have to keep working until we receive our ultimate prize (which is also way cooler than a medal).

Just like strong fit marathon runners, mothers with a good cardiovascular and muscular strength background also have been shown to recover from the childbirth event quicker. Physiologically, muscles which are constantly put under the strain of a work out become efficient at recovering through increased blood circulation and the cellular repair response to trauma is heightened.

But isn’t exercising risky?
Now before you start thinking that exercise is risky for both you are your baby, it’s important to recognise that researchers have busted many myths about exercise and pregnancy. Rather than becoming sedentary (never a good option), the evidence shows that both aerobic and resistance training can help increase the health of your baby and manage pregnancy issues such as weight gain, lower back pain, muscular cramps and fatigue.  Now, if you weren’t squatting 60kg prior to becoming pregnant, you would never start lifting heavy. Resisted exercise can include different body weight or weighted actions, an increased focus on endurance and quality of muscle contraction.

Are you unsure where to even start?
Exercise should be individualised to your goals, body type, conditions, previous fitness levels and experience by a qualified trainer. There are certain changes in prescription, which should be taken into account when it comes to exercise and they change over the course of the pregnancy. It is best to start this discussion with a women’s health exercise physiologist, physiotherapist and general practitioner.

Here is the big take home message….
You must realise it won’t be easy. There are days where you will feel tired, heavy, & nauseous. However, in the long run, just like in marathons, prior preparation will deliver a better performance.

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