Exercise for the Risk Averse: choose to be active!

Exercise for the Risk Averse: choose to be active!

images-2We have all heard about that uncle that didn’t smoke or drink, and went to bed early, and died of a heart attack while going for his morning run, right??!! Why would we even bother?!!

Well, there’s some truth to that fear, as your risk of injury and other negative health events certainly increases somewhat WHILE you are exercising. Think about it, your car is much more likely to rattle, overheat, or have a tire blow out while driving at high speeds, than while it’s parked in your garage, right?! A wise colleague of mine once said at a presentation on the matter:

I have never seen anyone get injured while standing at the front of a shop while window-shopping!

and I have to agree, neither have I. And the more extreme the exercise, the greater the chance of a negative outcome. Take Mountaineering for example, which is 50-100 x more risky than your regular structured exercise, with a 1 in 400 chance of dying in any given year!!

BUT, here is the catch: Doing nothing is 20x more risky than moutaineering!!

It is  very clear that being sedentary and sitting for prolonged periods of time is extremely dangerous for us. So much so, that when compared to the rightly criticised smoking, which takes 11mins off your life expectancy per cigarette that you smoke; one hour of sitting watching TV takes 22 mins off your life!

Sitting for 10 hours a day is equivalent to being like an average smoker (20 a day). Both of which lose 1.5 years for every 10 years of the habit.

So how do we reverse this increasing level of risk? The clear answer is to obviously move more! Make sure that you aren’t sitting for an hour without having gotten up. In addition good health (FESS) behaviours reduce the risk of premature death by 65-84%

One other thing to watch is stress. Those that report being “Much more stressed than usual” are at a similar level of risk as those that smoke 20 cigarettes a day!! So, how can you combat this? We know that hobby activities reduce risk by 27%; that relaxation exercises reduce risk by 23%; and that simply ‘enjoying’ life reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by 38% in men and 11% in women

Ok, time for me to get up and do a few squats!

Have you got a baseline??

Have you got a baseline??

baselineI hope I haven’t got any musos falsely excited based on the heading… but if I have, then you might as well just tune in (ah, see what I did there…ha…ha…ahhh….ok…I’ll get on with it…).

As we near the final development and exciting launch of our MovementScreen, I’ve been spending a lot of time talking to people about the initial ‘evaluations’ they go through when starting exercise. This is something I believe in incredibly strongly, as a very important undertaking to ensure safety and success of an exercise program. As a business owner I’m also very interested in those initial evaluation and planning stages of any project, as they are so critical to the success of the project. Interestingly however, when it comes to business projects, I get excited and jump head first into it.

If the entrepreneurial spirit were a disease, I would have been diagnosed as being in its terminal stages! The issue with this, is that often I end up walking into roadblocks and diversions, that, if I had spent more time in the planning stages exploring, I’m sure I would have been more successful, with a lot fewer bruises! I would have been a lot happier at re-evaluation stages.

A wise friend of mine once said to me as I excitedly asked when we are going to implement a project: Max, a good project devotes a third of its time to planning! Wow, the patience required for this! Needless to say, this project delivered very good outcomes for the relevant association because we went through that process.

So if this Project Planning 101 lesson is obvious to you (add I’m painstakingly learning it myself), then let me encourage you that, by looking at it from my professional perspective, this also applied to your health and exercise endeavours:

  • Make sure that you plan what you want to do and achieve
  • very importantly, have someone help you identify barriers to your success. these could include past injuries, movement limitations, lack of specific knowledge, etc.
  • implement these things into some initial testing/evaluations, that will help you objectively measure your success!

These evaluations could include an understanding of your current body composition – rather than just what the scales tell you; or a movement score; or a measure of pain; or an objective fitness test. All of these can help you plan and guide your health journey.

Good luck!

Do your kids see you sweat??

Do your kids see you sweat??

overweight teenagerLast week I saw a report on the ABC about the growing prevalence of overweight or obese kids in Australia, and it sparked a lot of angry thoughts! As one my areas of passion is seeing healthy active kids!

The stats, as you can imagine, are scary: Back in 2000, approximately 20% of teenagers were overweight or obese, now its 25% and a study conducted by the Victorian Dept of Hman Services predicts that this number will increase to 33% by 2025 (Future prevalence of overweight and obesity in Australian children and adolescents, 2005-2025 Department of Human Services, March 2008)

The consequences are sad and cruel: greater prevalence of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 Diabetes, a whole range of cancers, and mental health issues.

The reasons are both staggering, yet unsurprising:

The study reported on by the ABC was conducted by the Cancer Council and National Heart Foundation, and it revealed teens were spending too much time in front of the television with 58 per cent of students having at least three televisions in their home and 40 per cent with video games in their bedrooms. 75% of teenagers were spending more than two hours in front of screens (for school work or entertainment). A huge 82% are not engaging in more than 60 minutes of physical activity per day.

So what are we going to do about this sad state of affairs? All this takes me back to a paper I was privileged enough to co-author a few years ago. It showed that not only are both adults and children under active, but that the association between parents and their kids’ physical activity is decreasing. So the behaviour modelling strength of parents’ activity is influencing kids less! While the reason why is unclear; my guess is that its due to our changing behaviour patterns. We just don’t see as many families going for walks or bike rides together. You don’t see as many dads kicking the footy with their kids. Now we go to the gym or social sport on the way to or from work, and we are ‘done’ by the time we get home. So while we may be active, our kids don’t see us being active, so they don’t learn from our exercise behaviours!

So lets get out with our kids more. Even when I’m being active on my own, I try to make a point of telling my kids how much I enjoyed my run or bike ride around Adelaide’s beautiful trails!

Martin M, Dollman J, Norton K, Robertson, I. (2005) A decrease in the association between the physical activity patterns of Australian parents and their children; 1985-1997, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 8(1): 71-76.

The Perfect Training Program

Earlier this year, I acquired a new personal trainer.

I have utilised the services of numerous trainers in my health and fitness journey, and they have been very good. However, my current trainer has drawn me back to the joys of my childhood.

Her programming model is raw and instinctive. It’s a refreshing change from the empirically driven and rigid protocols that I’ve used in the past (rightly, a necessity in clinical settings).

She gives me no leeway in getting everything done when we train. She always drags me outside; and sessions are generally impromptu. They are never excessive in length, and may occur more than once in a day.

There are no set rest intervals, little predictability, and without fail, I am left puffing, sweating, and smiling.

And I’m yet to suffer an injury. (more…)

Another Year Older, Another Year Wiser?

This year I decided that I want to exercise more, but not because I want to lose weight! I hear many resolutions at the beginning of a new year to shed unwanted kilos. These are made with the notion that effort will be required, with resolve for active pursuit. There’s a good chance that you know someone who began the year with this goal, and their plan of attack may well have included exercise. I’m not writing with any advice on maintaining this resolution into the new year, but instead am wanting to put a new spin on why a sustained exercise regime may be important to you over the coming year.

I’m interested in enhancing my ability to absorb and retain information. This doesn’t come through as a common resolution, particularly in relation to an exercise program. As in the title of this post, accumulation of wisdom is often assumed to be resultant from being around for a while! Yet even though we have embarked on a new year with fresh expectations to change our world, reality is that most of us return to surroundings of familiar stimuli, generally in the form of routine. On the whole, routine is a positive aspect to lifestyle – it affords us proficiency and efficiency in what we do. However, too much routine also has the potential to rob us of learning capacity through understimulation of the brain’s learning centre. This may be the product of carrying out days and weeks fulfilling familiar tasks that do not challenge the mind with enough stimulus to form growth of new brain cells.

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a protein found in the brain with the role of building the circuitry of cells by which the brain functions. It is responsible for ensuring adequate storage space for any new information that is to be taken on board. In the absence of BDNF, new information is rejected from the brain in the same way that items are rejected from an overflowing storage locker. It simply won’t fit! Deficiency of BDNF causes cellular breakdown within the brain, which brings about a scattering of messages and a reduced ability to focus.

Clinical evidence is now showing us that exercise not only increases the presence of BDNF in the brain, but that there is a close correlation with the accumulation of exercise. Higher exercise levels (frequency and duration) are associated with higher levels of BDNF in the Hippocampus – the long term storage area of the brain where memories are filed – effectively creating more storage space in the brain via the addition of new storage units. So the essence of learning is much the same as the resolution to lose weight – effort is required to make yourself smarter! Don’t leave it to chance through the ticking away of another year in the hope that time on earth will bring about wisdom. Exercising is a proactive approach to build and fill brain cells with new information that will ensure you end the year wiser than you began.

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