The following draws upon personal experience that I hope can resonate with one during uncertainty and adversity. You’ll know the premise behind good hygiene and social distancing. Paradoxically, the premise behind your physical and mental health during uncertainty and adversity mustn’t be disinfected. As isolation looms, structuring plans to maintain physical and mental health need to also take precedence. I wish to share with you’ll how I managed my physical and mental health through my fathers ALS (Motor Neuron Disease) which I feel, may add context to what we’re currently facing without trying to overemphasise COVID-19.
Here we go!
June 2016 my father was diagnosed with ALS. My father statistically had three-years to live. I knew, to be able to work full-time, continue studying, exercise regularly, keep my mind somewhat at peace as well as keep my social connections and family obligations, I would need to be at my absolute best. I needed to implement plans (FAST). One could could call this a physical and mental first aid kit.
So what did I do?
Exercise! Especially incorporating aerobic, anaerobic and strength training was my solace to make an abundance of excellent molecules to improve my mood, resilience to stresses and a neat distraction.
Psychotherapy: Organising a mental health care plan. Check-in’s with my psychologist was super helpful to ‘talk it all out’. I had pre-booked appointments. Which made sure that I had helpful resources to utilise. Without allowing chaos and disorder to disrupt my routine which was crucial to maintain.
Meditation (ambiguity): Meditation really grounded me. I could label my emotions. Allow my emotions to be there non-judgmentally. I could control my sympathetic nervous system. This improved my ability to be more present. Lastly, my sleep improved greatly.
Journal writing/Poetry: Just as I was talking it all out, I was also scribbling and dabbling it all out. Writing in my own journal and creating poetry enabled me to release and let go constructively. I could draw onto my creative side. And the process was incredibly therapeutic.
Friends: Being vulnerable with my closest friends enabled me to feel safe and loved. This increases all the feel-good hormones involved with bonding and feeling connected.
My father passed-away August 2019. Drawing on my physical and mental first aid kit enabled me to ride the waves, navigate the give way signs and most importantly, accept what is. This is the main message of my meditation. Accept what’s coming. However, I strongly recommend that you invest in your own physical and mental first aid kit. Myself, and the team here at iNform can still greatly assist you with your physical and mental health. We’re still operating! And also have an online platform to assist you with home-based exercises!
I hope my experience. And how I made plans before things went awry motivate you to do the same.
About the Author
In my previous blog I discussed incidental physical activity and all the interrogatives that one needed to know. This blog is going to further discuss physical activity. In particular, it will look at a consensus on physical activity and aging (Copenhagen Consensus Statement) that leading researchers from around the world have recently developed.
Some empirical data for you
Higher social-economic country’s are more prone to inactivity. This is partly due to the high demands commercialism places on individuals as well as advances in technology. Furthermore, there is poor access to physical activity. Whether this be bike paths/lanes, parkland’s on-route to work, outdoor equipment and so forth, this can lead to more sedentary behaviors.
Easy access to high-processed foods at the touch of a button have an impact on the current obesity epidemic.
You get the point!
Collectively, the aforementioned points increase the risk for any one of the nine known co-morbidities that ‘we’ are currently facing (hypertension, type II diabetes mellitus, chronic pain just to name a few). It is of the utmost importance that the human population ages and flourishes well. With advances in medicine & technology ‘we’ are living longer lives, there is no doubt about it. However, some are aging with co-morbidities which decreases quality of life, whilst burdening our medical system. There is also more evidence that being physically active between the ages of 15-45 decreases the chances of a bony fracture later in life. Also, having a robust plastic cardio-respiratory system decreases the risk of dementia and cardiovascular disease in later life.
I could go on!
The Copenhagen Consensus Statement
The Copenhagen Consensus statement discussed earlier. Has four themes. Which provide evidence for the benefits of physical activity and ageing (1). I will briefly discuss the four, whilst also providing the reference for further reading if you wish.
Theme 1: Functional Capacity and Health.
Adults that are physically active over inactive adults: are less dependent, have fewer musculoskeletal issues, have improved immunity, increased cognitive function and are less likely to have cardiovascular diseases.
Theme 2: Brain Health and Cognitive Function.
Neurodegeneration (such as Alzheimer’s) can be slowed or delayed in physically active adults; according to longitudinal studies.
Theme 3: Behavior Change, Intention and Habits.
“Physical activity is an individual behavior that is influenced by interpersonal, environmental and policy factors”. (1)
Theme 4: Sociological Perspectives.
Lifelong physical activity habits and experiences, influence participation in later life. “When physical activity is meaningful to them, older adults are more likely to continue participation”. (1)
As you can gauge from the aforementioned. Physical activity is not just about going to the gym. Having access to open environmentally friendly spaces such as parks with safe equipment, bike paths that lead into the CBD, scenic views that increase awe and enjoyment and lastly, promotion and investment from the government are all going to increase adherence to move more, and more frequently.
So whether if you are in your 20’s or 50’s. find ways that resonate with you to move more. The Exercise Physiology team here at iNform Health can safely guide you through your movement. Enabling you to feel safe, adept and confident to tackle any bike path, or hike.
About The Author
Bangsbo J, Blackwell J, Boraxbekk C, et al
Copenhagen Consensus statement 2019: physical activity and ageing
Br J Sports MedPublished Online First: 21 February 2019. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2018-100451
Who would have thought that an anxiety-provoking sprint after the bus could illicit, and even add to your physical activity?
Some neat new research into Incidental Physical Activity has eluded some unsuspecting findings that I will elaborate on in this blog. First and foremost, I will provide a definition of what incidental physical activity is.
What is incidental physical activity?
Incidental physical activity is any form of activity of one’s daily living that is not associated with the purpose of health nor a sacrifice of one’s time (1). Examples include: walking a short distance to the bus-stop, taking flights of stairs at work (notice the suffix is stairs) and riding to and from work. As mundane as these repetitive tasks may be there is a great opportunity to utilize more energy. For any nerds out there, ATP!
In a editorial published in the reputable journal: British Journal of Sports Medicine, Stamatakis et al, took two sedentary healthy groups. The active group was asked to walk three flights of stairs, every four hours of his/her working day, three days per week for two weeks. The control group remained sedentary for the two weeks of the short study. The independent variable was measuring cardio-respiratory fitness which we have good evidence is a strong predictor for mortality. Findings from the aforementioned found that the active group’s cardio-respiratory fitness had a significant statistical improvement over the control group.
Now there are limitations to this study (age cohort, duration of study). However, to mandate incidental physical activity as a genuine form of physical activity is great. I hope to see incidental physical activity implemented, along with the physical activity guidelines. The guidelines are: 150 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity a week; along with two resistance sessions per week.
So what is the punch line?
Intensity will also contribute to overall cardio-respiratory fitness. There is continuing evidence that short bursts of high intensity exercise, lasting 5-10 seconds is extremely beneficial to the power-house of the cell: Muscle Mitochondria Biosynthesis (1). Climbing a few flights of stairs with a little vigor will nicely spike the heart rate for a short period. It may even help with an adrenaline release, if one is on their way to an important meeting.
So now that i have given you the gist of incidental physical activity, what would this look like in a typical day?
For example: 5 minutes walk up-hill to the bus stop (am), 1 minute walk up the stairs to work (am), Brisk walk home from the bus stop- 3 minutes (pm), playing with your children/participating in their physical activity 15 minutes + (pm), carrying the shopping into the house 1+ minute (pm). As you can see, there are ample times in the day to increase one’s heart rate, utilize strength, and fast-twitch muscle recruitment.
Have a good think about what resources you have access to. Make a conscious effort to utilize your resources. And have a good go! Of course. Always consult with your GP and Exercise Physiologist when increasing your level of physical activity.
About the Author
- Stamatakis, E., Johnson, N., Powell, L., Hamer, M., Rangul, V. and Holtermann, A. (2019). Short and sporadic bouts in the 2018 US physical activity guidelines: is high-intensity incidental physical activity the new HIIT?. British Journal of Sports Medicine, pp.bjsports-2018-100397.
It would be rhetorical to say: that your body is special. And you would only want the best to be guiding you through your health and well-being safely. And yet, one can still be suggestible- picking up dodgy anecdotal tips from ‘that guy’ on the lat-pull-down machine.
I have personally experienced the exercise benefits, being safely loaded, and moving with confidence with one of my colleagues. Leaving my body and surrendering to an expert has given myself a deeper appreciation of the importance of finding an expert in human movement. The pain management clinic I visited helped me get rid of all the unnecessary physical pain I was feeling due to the stress caused by travelling long distances every day. I have always been on the other side to what I have been accustomed too- and as bias as it sounds: my colleagues here at iNform health really know how to manage and care for their clients.
Here are three reasons why you should be exercising with an expert.
1. Your tissues need time to adapt to load.
Your tissues, all the way down to the extracellular matrix- are for ever adapting to stressors and making proteins. Prescribing appropriate load- will ensure ones tissues will safely adapt; which will add a host of benefits to ones neuromuscular system. Reduced risk of tendonopathies, appropriate motor learning and myonuclei growth (muscle hypertrophy). On the contrary, excessive loading that exceeds the capacity of the neuromuscular system can induce the contra effects to the aforementioned. Tendon pathology, disorganised motor learning due to inappropriate load and systemic inflammation (abnormal prostaglandin levels) due to poor tissue healing.
2. Assessing the capacity of the neuromuscular system before undertaking load is paramount- and if neglected, your ‘health professional’ is going in blind.
If there is a muscle inhibition due to de-conditioned tissues, or a previous pathology that was poorly rehabilitated, would you feel safe to be loaded? Or if you were unable to co-contract your gluteus maximums, or have adequate lumbo-pelvic control? And yet, you may still be subjected to axial loading in your first session…! A thorough musculoskeletal assessment can identify any red flags and give your health professional valuable subjective/objective information to prescribe appropriate exercise correctives. This will then ensure more complex movements are performed safely.
3. Co-care is so important in addressing the whole individual.
Here at iNform, our clients are closely monitored by a wonderful internal/external team of allied health professionals; ranging from: GP’s, physio’s, osteo’s, chiros, pod’s and psychologist (without exhausting). All working and communicating together for the greater good of your physical and mental health. Co-care leads to better clinical outcomes, a proper working diagnosis, and the right form of treatments that benefit you the individual.
So, next time you are wanting to move with confidence. Be interrogative with your research. Find an evidence based approach that doesn’t involve a lecture from ‘that guy’ wearing a weight belt with a skimpy muscle singlet (stereotyping much?).
About The Author
Cardiovascular risk factors are well known to increase one’s risk of a stroke, and or vascular dementia. There is a lot one can do to prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD), stroke and maintain great heart health. I am sure you would like to know the evidence based risk factors for the aforementioned?
What are the risk factors for CVD and stroke?
In a recent paper published in the journal JAMA: Williamson et al used modifiable, evidence based risk factors in young adults (18-40 years) whom without any known evidence of cerebrovascular disease. To investigate using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), if subjects brains were showing early signs of cerebrovascular disease. Cardiovascular risk factors that were measured ranged from: body mass index <25, cardiovascular fitness, alcohol consumption >8 drinks/week, non-smoker >6 months, blood pressure >130/80 mm Hg, cholesterol and fasting glucose.
What were the findings?
Each of the aforementioned risk factors were assigned a rating of 1, in a 8 point scale (8 separate risk factors). Scoring higher was inferred as having a low risk of cerebrovascular disease. Subjects that had more clinical risk factors (< 2 points), did show some early signs of cerebrovascular disease on MRI (1). Researchers found white matter hyperintensities, which are lesions contributing to demyelination of important neural fiber tracts in the central nervous system in subjects with <2 points. What does this mean? less connectivity = slower brain processes (executive functioning, working memory et cetera). For 18-40 year olds showing clinical signs this early- intervening with evidence based modalities would benefit the individual greatly.
So, how do I reduce the risk of developing cerebrovascular disease?
First of all- DON’T PANIC! although published in a reputable journal, the paper was a preliminary study, with further longitudinal studies required with a larger sample that is ethnically diverse. HOWEVER, all of the mentioned cardiovascular risk factors can be modifiable. The following 5 key points will get you in the right direction to good heart health!
Aerobic exercise: following the physical activity guidelines with 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week. If you are sedentary >8 hours per day: aim for 75 minutes of accumulated physical activity per day.
High intensity interval training: 1-2 sessions per week, following an evidence based protocol, with guidance from your exercise physiologist and GP. Three 7-10 second sprints with a balanced work to rest ratio is suffice according to the literature.
Strength Training: 2-3 strength training sessions a week with accordance of the Exercise Sport Science Australia guidelines, with guidance from an accredited professional.
Sleep: although I am not a sleep physiologist, there is ample evidence relating poor sleep <6 hours/per night with CVD and insulin resistance. Sleeping 7-8 hours per night with optimal sleep hygiene is recommended by experts.
Nutrition: again, without being a nutritional expert: following evidence based guidelines (CSIRO), will ensure targeted bloods are met and there is less plaque build-up (atherosclerosis).
So there you go peeps! So many preventative ways you can keep your brain tissue myelinated! And your cardiovascular system in good “heart health”.
About the Author
- Williamson, W., Lewandowski, A., Forkert, N., Griffanti, L., Okell, T., Betts, J., Boardman, H., Siepmann, T., McKean, D., Huckstep, O., Francis, J., Neubauer, S., Phellan, R., Jenkinson, M., Doherty, A., Dawes, H., Frangou, E., Malamateniou, C., Foster, C. and Leeson, P. (2018). Association of Cardiovascular Risk Factors With MRI Indices of Cerebrovascular Structure and Function and White Matter Hyperintensities in Young Adults. JAMA, 320(7), p.665.