What drives our behaviours? Why do we do the things we do? The different reasons for motivation have been long reviewed. One in particular is whether motivation arises from inside (intrinsic) or outside (extrinsic) the individual.
Different types of motivation
Intrinsic motivation is the desire to carry out a particular behaviour for its own personal reward. You are performing an activity for its own sake rather than the desire for some external reward. E.g. going for a swim because you just enjoy swimming or hiking because you like a challenge and find it exciting.
Whereas, extrinsic motivation is being motivated to perform a behaviour or activity to earn a reward or avoid punishment. E.g. playing a sport to win trophies/medals or lifting weights cause your crush like guys with big arms.
Why is it so important for me to know what is motivating me?
Researchers have found that whether a behaviour is intrinsically or extrinsically motivated can differ in how effective it is. By offering excessive external rewards for an already internally rewarding behaviour can lead to a reduction in intrinsic motivation (known as the over-justification effect). While most people would suggest that intrinsic motivation is best, in certain situations it’s not always possible. There are situations where people simply do not have any internal desire to engage in a particular behaviour/activity. For example, completing a project at work/school. Here extrinsic motivators can be a useful tool.
In actuality, there is always a mixture of intrinsic and extrinsic factors that motivate someone to behave, achieve, learn and react in a certain way. By understanding the distinction between the two, you can have a greater probability of motivating yourself and others. On top of this, having an understanding of the cause of your behaviour and motivating factors is the key to changing or improving your outcomes.
Osteoporosis is a global disease in which the remodelling process (replacement of new bone for the old) results in an excessive loss in bone mass. This issue here is that it leads to an increase in our fracture rate (and severity), musculoskeletal impairment and mortality.
Why should we care about Osteoporosis?
By 2022, it is estimated there will be 6.2 million Australians over the age of 50 with osteoporosis or osteopenia. That is a 31% increase from our 2012 figures! Improving our lifestyle factors such as eating a well balanced diet, not smoking, minimising alcohol consumption and engaging in regular exercise are the easiest and most cost effective treatments in reducing our risk. Although osteoporosis is determined primarily by genetic factors, our environmental and lifestyle choices can modify around 30% of ourbone mass,
Women have higher risk of osteoporosis than men. Why the gender gap?
Did you know that women start with a lower bone density than their male counterparts. This becomes especially evident in postmenopausal women due to the decreased levels of estrogen production. This is because estrogen helps regulate a woman’s reproductive cycle as well as plays a role in maintaining bone density.
So what is actually happening in our body?
Human bones are constantly changing, our old bone cells are being replaced with new cells. The removal of old bone is controlled by cells called osteoclasts, while the formation of our new bone is controlled by cells called osteoblasts. Like a simple mathematical equation, bone growth is achieved when there is higher activity of osteoblasts. This is present in children up to early adulthood, where it peaks by 20 years of age. From our 30’s this process starts to reverse, which is why it’s so important to maintain bone strength through proper diet and physical activity.
The role of exercise in osteoporosis is well known, especially in promoting calcium intake, maintaining bone mass and strengthening the functionality your bone. Regular exercise is believed to be the most important factor to increase or maintain bone mineral density (BMD). Basically the mechanical forces placed in the skeletal system when you exercise stimulate bone size, shape and strength.
So what about Osteopeania then?
Osteopenia refers to a decreased BMD, but not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis. Having osteopenia means that there is a greater risk that you may eventually develop osteoporosis.
Well the good news is that osteopenia is reversible. A balanced diet and regular resistance based physical activity will help slow the loss of bone density and delay or better prevent osteoporosis. So lift some weights, get some sun and eat healthy to give yourself the best chance of maintaining a healthy BMD and decreasing the risk of fracture.
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
In the month of September there will be approximately 70,000 Australian participants agreeing to walk, run, swim, cycle the equivalent of 10,000 steps per day for 28 days. The event, ‘Steptember’ which is ran by the Cerebral Palsy Alliance is aiming to raise awareness and funding for services and research for people of all ages suffering from Cerebral Palsy.
Now for some people, 10,000 steps per day (which is the minimum recommended by the World Health Organisation), for 28 days in a row may be quite difficult. If this is you and you’re struggling to find motivation half way through the challenge it is important to remember why you agreed to sign up for the event in the first place. Cerebral Palsy is a horrible condition that affects a sufferer’s movement capability. There are different forms and severities however for most sufferers there will be some abnormality with their movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflexes, posture and balance (Refer to the picture below to see how the different types can affect the body)
Despite the impact that this disease can have on a sufferer and their families there is still no cure. To make matter worse there is an alarming number of people with the condition with a child in Australia born with Cerebral Palsy every 15 hours. This equates to 1 in 500 children suffering from the condition.
To make sure that you complete your equivalent of 10,000 steps per day have a look at some tips below:
Walking to and from work – It’s spring, the weather is warming up. Start and finish your day with some exercise, vitamin D and fresh air. If you are unable to walk the whole way, then look at alternatives such as parking a few km from work or getting off at an earlier stop when using public transport.
Team up with a friend – Make the exercise a social outing
Mix it up – your steps do not have to be around your neighbourhood. Try a new walk in a new location.
Be mobile at lunchtime – take a walk before you eat your lunch to increase metabolism and refresh for the afternoon.
Spread out the steps – You are far less likely to complete all 10,000 if you knock off work at 5pm and have 8,000 to go. Make sure you get a significant amount completed before the afternoon.
For more information or to find out how you can donate. Visit:
This week is Health Bone action week…. So why do we need a week about Bones?
4.7 millions Australians over the age of 50 have Osteoporosis or poor bone health (Osteoporosis Australia, 2014). It is also alarming that the prevalence of bone disease has continued to increase in recent years. Good bone is essential as it is the tissue that provides the structure for muscle to attach, protect our more delicate tissues and act as a reservoir for both calcium and phosphorus (really important in blood cell formation). Healthy bones week is a good opportunity to reflect on whether we are taking as much care of our bones as we could.
As we age the human body increases its fragility which is a somewhat inevitable process due to ageing.
On the contrary, a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle will delay the changes associated with ageing. Along with maintaining a balanced diet, regularly exercising as we age is crucial to prevent bone deterioration. The literature has found that weight-bearing exercise can trigger a response in the body that increases bone formation. To put it in really simple terminology, muscles pull on bone, and to protect itself the bone gets stronger. The increases in bone mineral density when the body is put under significant load is important in fighting Osteoporosis (which is caused by decreased bone mineral density).
So what exactly is weight bearing exercise? Exercise that requires you to experience the force of gravity is considered weight bearing. Examples include weight training, walking, running, ball sports or pretty much anything where you are on your feet. Exercise such as cycling or swimming, while excellent for cardiovascular fitness, will not elicit enough strain on the bone to strengthen them.
Exercise prescription for improving bone mineral density Research by Turner & Robling (2003) provided evidence that is is better to do more sessions with more load/intensity more often with less duration for bone strength. A practical way of looking at this would be performing weight bearing exercise twice per day for 20 minutes each time rather than one 40 minute session. In the same article it was stated that proper exercise can reduce the likelihood of damage to the bone even without having a significant impact on the bone density. This is especially important later in life as by improving balance and postural stability the risk of falls decreases. (Turner & Robling 2003).
Quick tips to increase bone strength:
Exercise outside where safe to increase exposure to vitamin D
Ensure adequate calcium consumption
Perform a combination of weight-bearing exercises regularly
“Old age is like everything else. To make a success of it, you’ve got to start young” – Fred Astaire
For more information, please visit: http://www.healthybones.com.au/
References: Turner, C & Robling, A 2003, ‘Designing exercise regimens to increase bone strength’, Exercise And Sport Sciences Reviews, vol. 31, no. 1, pp. 45-50.