Exercise and cancer: Move it or lose it!

Exercise and cancer: Move it or lose it!

Trying to put cancer into words is beyond difficult. It is more than just a series of statistics; it is a ruthless disease is something that has devastated us all in one-way or another, whether we have personally been affected or we have seen loved ones go through the battle.
In stark contrast, the aim of exercise is to build up the human body and make it more resilient to what life throws at it. It can increase our aerobic capacity, strength, endurance, immunity, mental health, metabolism, and the list goes on.
So, why is there is a still a longstanding misconception that once diagnosed with cancer that individuals should generally rest and recover?
Research and clinical practice have both proven unequivocally that appropriately prescribed exercise is safe during and after treatment. Much more than that, appropriately prescribed exercise can be used to make treatment more effective, decrease adverse acute side effects, and minimize the long-standing consequences of the brutal regimes it is put through.
In fact, 62% of people with cancer are sedentary. 75-90% of those with cancer don’t perform any strength based exercise. It is important to caveat this blog with the understanding that side effects of treatment can leave the body unable to do what it used to. But! And here is the big BUT! As Robert Newton (a leading exercise oncology professor) states “some activity is better than none, more is better than less.” Patients may not be able to go for that 6 km long hike or run like they used to, but what ever stimulates change and growth within the body will be effective.  More importantly, it gives people the chance to do something positive with their bodies rather than just constantly be broken down!
This blog begins a series of cancer specific articles taking an in depth look at the how’s and the why’s exercise oncology, so keep a look out! If you ever have any questions or queries, please feel free to have a chat with me.
My final thought is this… Exercise has now been proven to be a drug, which should be prescribed appropriately and individually in those undergoing cancer treatments… so why are we not using it!

 

Can AFLW, WBBL and W-League influence women’s health?

Can AFLW, WBBL and W-League influence women’s health?

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.
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Relieving the pressure: How does exercise affect your blood pressure

Relieving the pressure: How does exercise affect your blood pressure

Before we begin, I just wanted to pop these stats in front of you….

·         34% of Australians (over 18) are have high blood pressure (BP) – that’s about 6 million people

·         4.1 million Australians have uncontrolled or untreated hypertension

So, let’s answer a few commonly heard questions around iNform:

1)
 How does a bout of exercise affect my BP?
A single episode of exercise is able to reduce BP post exercise. The magnitude (−2 to −12) and duration (4 to 16 hours) vary considerably between individuals as the environment, exercise prescribed, duration of exercise and genetic components can all affect change.

Let’s get scientific for a second:
Systolic BP (the first number) refers to how much pressure goes through the arteries as the heart is contracting. We would love it to be around 120.
Diastolic BP (the second and typically smaller number) refers to the arterial pressure during the relaxation phase of the heartbeat. The recommended value is approximately 80.

When we begin exercising our systolic BP increases because we need to pump more blood around the body to deliver oxygen and get rid of waste products. Our heart rate increases and the overall amount of blood moving through the arteries increases.  Therefore the pressure the blood creates on the arteries also increases. However BP does not usually fly off the charts because our arteries dilate to allow the extra blood through and as such the resistance (and the pressure) decreases. Think of it like opening doors wider to allow more people to shop during the post-Christmas sales.  So we would tend to expect a gradual increase in systolic BP until we hit a plateau at our exercise peak. Interestingly our diastolic does not often change much except in static exercises like wall sits.

How does it work?
This happens through a variety of ways including increased hormonal activity, decrease in heart rate and nerve activity (sympathetic  – due to decrease in circulating catecholamines).

However, given the many factors in our body that help regulate our BP, it is still proving difficult to identify a single mechanism for this drop. What is important though is the beneficial effects on the body!

2) Can regular exercise help me control my high BP
The big new is yes! Regular physical exercise has been recommended for the prevention and treatment of hypertension. We have had a range of clients who begin to exercise regularly, decrease their BP and thus the decrease or even cease the medication they are on (based on GP’s clinical decision).

3) What exercise is best for individuals with high BP?
Decrements in BP have been widely found in a majority of aerobic exercise including walking, running, cycling. Resistance training is a little more controversial is it tends to exhibit greater BPs during the exercise, however it does exhibit post exercise BP decrements. Each training mode produces different effects on the body so it highly encouraged to completing both modes.

4) How long should I exercise for?
The acute decrease in BP has been observed after as little as 10 minutes and as long as 170 min of exercise, although the majority of studies have used exercise lasting between 20 and 60 min. So if time is a factor, you still gain benefits from a short bout of exercise.

To make long term changes, research shows that there seems to be a positive association to 3-5 days of exercise for approximately 30-60mins at greater than 65% intensity levels. However, just remember any type and duration will have a positive response when compared with no exercise.

5) What is the best way to work out my BP response to exercise?
Here at iNform, if we feel it is required we measure BP pre and post (sometimes during). This happens over a course of sessions and allows us to monitor the responses to the exercise prescription. It also allows us to change intensity, duration and mode to see how these effect individuals. We find different individuals respond better to different modes so we take an individual approach to determining it.

6) What risks are there of exercising with high BP?
Both aerobic or resistance training can increase systolic BP, so ensuring that this rise does not exceed approximately is important. If systolic BP rises greater than 250 mmHg and/or diastolic BP >115 mmHg during exercise, the training session should be terminated.

Ways to decrease risk:
a) Ensuring steady breathing during exercise is important to decrease build-up of pressure in arteries. This is especially evident in resistance training
b) Completing dynamic movements rather than static exercises (such as wall sits) are important to decrease risk of excessive BP
c) Upper body exercises tend to lead to an increase BP when compared to lower body exercise, however this is not saying no upper body exercise (just be mindful).
d) Ensuring a progressive build-up of intensity during warm up and slow down when cooling down to reduce risk of sudden drops or increases.

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Need motivation to move? Woof Woof!

Need motivation to move? Woof Woof!

Recently, my partner and I embarked on one of life’s biggest events (well in my eyes anyway). We took the leap and became the proud parents to a bouncing baby Border Collie, Lulu. Every time I tell some this (as I shove a million photos of her in front of their face) they give me the same look and say “wow… they have a lot of energy. Good luck!”. They are right on that one. Border Collies (like many dogs) usually need at least 15-20 mins of running or brisk walking or they become restless, bored and generally destructive. So why did we get this breed?
Apart from the gorgeous eyes, happy personality, we wanted something to motivate us to exercise. Motivation is a very interesting internal process, as everyone has different ideals/goals that drive us to achieve our current desires. These motivations ebb and flow as we move through life. They are never set in stone.
When discussing the drive to exercise with clients, they often are told by a health professional, family member or even the TV that they should move or lose weight. This is called “extrinsic motivation”. It comes from outside. On the flip side, intrinsic motivation is the drive within you to accomplish a goal or task. You choose to complete a task because it has personal meaning for you and gives you pleasure or satisfaction. In simple terms, “you want to” rather than “you feel like you have to.” Intrinsic motivation has been shown to have a greater long term effect on exercise retention. We need to find our real “why!”
I have never been a runner or walker for no reason. I don’t have that deep love of it; I would rather play team sports. I have that “have to” approach to running and long work days tend to result in an exercise-less day and I feel dreadful (and generally not as happy).
This is where Lulu, the border collie, comes in! Buying a dog means that if we want to have a happy “fur-baby” and keep our garden in one piece, exercise is the way to go! She will be our little personal trainer. Motivating us by the wag of the tail, the joy she gets from running and the possible holes we want to avoid in the backyard. How can you say no to this face!
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Now I’m not saying go out and buy the most active dog you can find, but having a dog can really be a win-win situation.

 

Are ‘YOU’OK?

Are ‘YOU’OK?

One is in awe of all the Facebook love; to promote the awareness of mental health. ruokWith all the ‘likes’, sharing and so forth (bless our nucleus accumbens!). The second Thursday of September 2016 marks  “Are you OK day?”. One doesn’t need to  explain the definition.

But; Perhaps flip the coin, directing attention on the self. Why the self?. When was the last time you got in touch with your inner meta-cognitive dialogue? I will touch on reaching out at the end….However, placing emphasis on the self first, can then enable the opportunity to reach out to others.

Three words…

Vulnerability

Shame

Compassion

To be vulnerable, one must surrender shame. When shame is surrendered, one can be ready to show compassion. When feeling numb, self cannot connect, because self is dis..connected. The same can be said with mental health. Mental health is much more than depletion of neurotransmitters & a lottery of SSRIs & MAOIs!

To further delve, please do follow the links above to find out more…

Let’s say that self is ready to reach out to others in need. Trying to say/think of the right words can be incredibly difficult, especially if the topic is sensitive. However; listening, reading facial expressions, feeling ones pain (without taking on the burden) and touch (within respect), are all powerful non-verbal tools, which can assist the compassionate empath…YOU!

My dream for the future, is that humanity won’t need a day of recognition to remind us all to be self compassionate, emotionally intelligent, empathetic… Friend, husband, wife, brother, sister, colleague and neutral.

As Donald Hebb once postulated…

“neurons that fire together, wire together”

Repetition, repetition, repetition!

However; it is wonderful to see so many organisations getting behind mental health & starting the conversation.

Be well, be kind & BE compassionate🙂

James Smith

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