Load management principles are used daily in high-end strength and conditioning/sports settings and are critically important in measuring relative injury risk and determining optimal load.
However, the concept of load management may not be limited to high-performance sports or training settings. There are principals of this concept that are applicable in non-sporting settings (eg. day to day activities, work, and leisure). Exploring the wider contexts to which load management principals can be used may assist in reducing overuse/chronic injury risk for the general population.
Let’s Talk Science
A concept developed based on the idea of an ideal training stimulus having the capability to maximise performance through the use of appropriate training loads while limiting negative training consequences (injury and fatigue). The ACWR describes two workload zones, the ‘sweet spot’ and the ‘danger zone’ which represent the likelihood of subsequent injury.
The ‘sweet spot’ is represented in the graph below as a ratio range between 0.8 and 1.3. The ‘danger zone’ is represented as a ratio greater than 1.5.
Calculating ACWR & Load: Acute vs Chronic
In a training setting, this is typically calculated over a 7-day block (average of daily acute workloads). Measures of the sessional rating of perceived exertion (sRPE) times by the duration of the training session would represent the acute load for a day. Example: If sRPE (perceived difficulty) of a 100-minute session is 5 this would equal 500 arbitrary units (AU) (5*100 = 500 AU).
The chronic load can be calculated as an average of the acute workloads.
Week 1: 500 AU
Week 2: 700 AU
Week 3: 600 AU
Week 4: 300 AU
Chronic Load: (500 + 700 + 600 + 300)/4) = 525 AU
ACWR: Acute Load (Week 5: 700AU)/Chronic Load – (700 / 525) = 1.3
To give some commentary to the above equation: If the acute workload for week 5 was to be 700 AU then the ACWR for that period would be 1.3. A value of 1.3 would represent the top end of the “sweet spot” bracket, meaning that the subsequent injury risk for that week is relatively low. If that acute load was to change to say 900 AU then the ratio would be 1.7 and the injury risk would be relatively greater.
Application to YOU
Both internal and external load is inevitable in the workplace, there is no hiding from the fact. The table above displays the application of the ACWR as a load management tool for individuals across a wide range of occupations. As you can see all scenarios have the capacity to create positive or negative outcomes. The outcome is primarily dependent on the preparedness of the individual to that specific task.
Looking specifically at the receptionist, the increase in acute load may come from working longer days during a busy period or working more days in the week to cover for a colleague who is sick for example. These factors can drive up the acute load, inherently increasing injury risk (eg. overuse injuries, such as a repetitive strain injury), leaving the individual unable to work.
However, this doesn’t only apply to occupational tasks…
Simple scenarios such as going for a 10km bike ride after just dusting your bike off from a 10-year absence of use or going on an overseas holiday where you may be walking over 10km per day while being lucky to clock up 2km at home during a normal day; both are examples of a spike in acute load far beyond that of the chronic load.
Take Home Points
- Ensure that you are prepared for any task you will be completing; whether it be walking, running, cycling, gardening, working, playing sport.
- Be mindful of what your body is used to and try to avoid the spikes in acute load for any given task; should you want to reduce the risk of developing any injuries.
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
Do you sometimes feel tight or stuck in particular parts of your body? Perhaps from being in a certain posture for too long? I have five gentle yoga postures for you (and they’re even based on scientific research).
What a pain in the… back!
In a world where we spend so much of our time seated at a desk. or in the car. or on the couch… it’s no wonder most of us experience some kind of non-specific musculoskeletal pain at some point. As an exercise physiologist, I hear a lot of complaints about back pain, and more specifically, lower back pain… and I’m going to talk about this in a blog all of its own next month; keep your eyes peeled for ‘Low back pain is a tug-of-war between your abs and hamstrings’!
Why do I get back pain?
The short of it is this: when we’re sitting down, the muscles at the front of our body are in a shortened position, whilst the muscles on the back of our body are typically in a lengthened position. Our bodies are really, really smart organisms that want to adapt to make our life easier. So if we sit for 8-9 hours a day, then our body is going to adapt to this shape by adding adhesion to the muscles around our hips and chest, and it’s going to ‘tune-out’ from the muscles on our back body, since we don’t really activate these much *cough, glutes*.
Solution 1 – Increasing neuromuscular connection
By waking up some of these ‘sleeping’ muscles, we increase our brains ability to communicate with that muscle and it’s surrounding muscles so that we can utilize them for movement. A great example of this is our glutes. As I hinted at above, many of us sit on our bum all day long and as a result of this we actually really struggle to consciously activate and squeeze our glutes on our own command. Try it now, lay down on your back and see if you can squeeze your glutes one at a time! (and you’re not allowed to let your hamstrings switch on!). It’s really hard for the majority of people! Our glutes should be the biggest and strongest muscles on our body, these guys are really important and their main job is to stabilise our pelvis, which gives rise to our spine – and that’s a pretty important structure! If we can’t recruit our glutes then other muscles have to do the work that they should be doing, and this is how and why we often get tightness in our back.
If glutes don’t work, then these muscles here (see below) do the brunt of the work when we’re walking, stabilising, leaning, running, reaching, bending over, standing up, climbing the stairs etc.
Solution 2 – lengthening the myofascia
Just as importantly, we need to lengthen the muscles, and more importantly the fascia that are have adapted to be short, tight, and a bit sticky from our lifestyle of habitual sitting. This is where these yoga postures will come in handy! I recently read a research article about a yoga study that showed 96% of people in the yoga group experienced significant reductions in musculoskeletal pain (compared to 36% in the control group) with just a single session of five yoga poses! This builds on existing evidence that regularly attending yoga may improve pain and reduce pain medication usage. So below is a short, evidence-based yoga program that absolutely anyone can do at home to help ease back pain or discomfort!
Aim to hold each posture for about 4-5 minutes. When you’re setting yourself up, you don’t want to go past 60% stretch; this is important as if we go past this point we typically start to see the central nervous systems automatic response to protect our muscles and joints kick in and the muscle will actually be holding on to protect you! So a gentle, light sensation is okay – but nothing strenuous. And lastly, try to pay attention to your breath – particularly noticing the length of your inhale and the length of your exhale and trying to make them smooth, steady and even – this helps put our nervous system at ease and will allow the tissue (muscle and fascia) to ‘soften’ a bit more.
Forward fold, foot to thigh
Great for the hamstrings, the glutes, the fascia that all our back muscles insert into across our sacrum and our adductors (inner thigh muscles). You can use a pillow, a rolled up blanket, or anything really to support your forehead so the stretch isn’t too intense.
Half pigeon pose
This accesses the hip flexors of the leg behind you, if you can, play with gentley engaging the glute and seeing how that changes the sensations at the front of the hip. Chest can stay up, or you can fold forwards onto a pillow. Note: the knee should be out wider than your hips, and if this doesn’t feel great in your knees – don’t do it.
Bound angle pose
This is a favourite. Feet together, knees out wide. Hands can be out like cactus arms, on your belly, or above your head – whatever feels good for you! If it’s too intense, pop a rolled up towel under each knee.
Make sure your knees are relatively even (the top knee will try to crawl back), and then twist from above your navel. It doesn’t matter if both shoulders aren’t on the ground, as you relax into the pose they may head in that direction. Your arm can be outstretched or you can pop the hand behind the head.
Legs up wall
This can be done with or without props. Definitely recommend elevating the hips either on a yoga block or on a rolled up blanket. Arms out (as pictured) is a nice way to open up the fascia in the chest area. If it feels like a struggle to keep your legs up, you can pop a belt/strap around them… and then relax into this juicy pose.
Now let’s be honest, there’s definitely more than 2 solutions. There’s probably hundreds! But increasing your bodies neuromuscular connections, and lengthening out the myofascia that surrounds our muscles can only be a great place to start! Your body is unique, and your discomfort and pain is unique to you, so if you experience back pain and it doesn’t want to go away, or if you’ve nailed the first two steps in this blog and now you’re ready to start loading up the musculoskeletal system to get nice and strong (the ultimate pain preventative); it might be time to see one our Exercise Physiologists.
What should you do now?
- Check in with your glutes daily. Once that’s easy, it’s time to challenge them with some load.
- Do these five yoga poses at the start and/or end of each day, and see what differences you notice
- Set little reminders throughout the day to get up, sit up straight, elongate your spine, pull your shoulders back, squeeze your glutes, stretch, or whatever works for you!
If you would like to join our Clinical Yoga classes, you can click the link below and we’ll contact you with more information shortly!
About The Author
Yoga is an ancient and complex practice, rooted in Indian philosophy, that originated several thousand years ago. Yoga began as a spiritual practice, as a way of reaching enlightenment, but in Western culture it has become popular as a way of promoting physical and mental well-being.
Although classical yoga also includes other elements, yoga as practiced in the West typically emphasizes physical postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation (dyana). Popular yoga styles such as hatha, iyengar, bikram, and vinyasa yoga focus on these elements. Several traditional yoga styles encourage daily practice with periodic days of rest, whereas others encourage individuals to develop schedules that fit their needs.
What do we know about the effectiveness of yoga?
- National survey results from 2012 show that many people who practice yoga believe that it improves their general well-being, and there is beginning to be evidence that it actually may help with certain aspects of wellness including stress management, positive aspects of mental health, promoting healthy eating and physical activity habits
- Yoga may help relieve low-back pain and neck pain
- There’s promising evidence that yoga may help people with some chronic diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life
- Yoga may help people with diabetes control their blood sugar
- Growing evidence indicates that yoga may help women manage both physical and psychological symptoms of menopause
- Yoga may be helpful for anxiety or depressive symptoms associated with difficult life situations
- Yoga may help people to manage sleep problems
- Yoga may be helpful for people who are trying to quit smoking
- Yoga-based interventions may help overweight/obese people lose weight
What do we know about the safety of yoga?
Yoga is generally considered a safe form of physical activity when performed properly, under the guidance of a qualified instructor. Serious injuries are rare, however, as with other types of physical activity, injuries can occur. (One of our honours students, Zoe Toland, is currently working with one of our EPs, to investigate the most common forms of yoga injuries as reported by physiotherapists, yoga teachers and yoga practitioners – we’ll keep you updated with the results!).
The most important thing to remember, as with any exercise, is to listen to the feedback your body gives you and modify and adjust what you’re doing accordingly. We want to push ourselves, and whilst feeling some level of discomfort is okay (think muscle burn and high level of challenge), but pain is our bodies way of saying ‘probably best to not do this’.
People with certain health conditions, older adults, and pregnant women may need to avoid or modify some yoga poses and practices. These individuals should discuss their specific needs with their health care professional/yoga instructor and may be better suited to more clinical yoga classes.
What happens in a yoga class?
Sometimes the biggest thing that stops us from trying something new is not knowing what to expect and fearing we’ll be the awkward newbie! So let’s go through what you can expect from a yoga class (or at least ours!)
- Yoga mats and all the props you will need (a block, a strap, a bolster, a towel) are provided, but you can always bring your own if you would prefer!
- The teacher will introduce themselves and talk about what the focus of the class will be; this could be a range of things from a certain postural focus, or an attention focus, or it could be a focus on the pace of movement
- Classes start with slow, controlled, warm-up type movements and typically move into some more challenging series of movements; you can expect challenges that target strength, balance, range of motion, focus, stability, control and your attitude toward the practice
What you won’t get…
- Spiritual-talk. We’re not dissing the spiritual talk, but we prefer to focus on your physical and mental alignment in class
- Chanting. We get it, it feels a bit weird.
- Basically, anything that’s not evidence-based within the scientific literature, won’t be included in our classes (e.g., chakras, lifestyle choices)
How often should I practice yoga?
The recommended frequency and duration of yoga sessions varies depending on the condition being treated. In general, studies examining yoga have included weekly or twice weekly 60- to 90-minute classes. For some studies, classes are shorter, but there are more classes per week. So whilst the research evidence is inconclusive, we think that any form of exercise that is challenging strength through range of motion, and providing you with a form of mindfulness is a great addition to your weekly activities!
Our recommendation: as much or as little as suits your body’s needs and fits in with your weekly schedule.
iNform’s NEW Clinical Yoga Classes!
We are super excited to be launching clinical yoga classes at the end of May, at our new Malvern clinic! Classes will run on Thursday mornings and evenings, for a duration of 45 minutes and will be run by our Exercise Physiologist and Yoga Teacher: Jacinta Brinsley. Jacinta is also completing a PhD in the area of yoga and mental health/mental illness.
If you have any questions, want further information, or want to book in for a yoga class – fill out this form
About the Author
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.
Everybody on the planet knows full well that exercise is damn good for them. But for some reason, they consistently fail to do enough of it.
Now don’t get me wrong – I certainly appreciate that life can get in the way. Things get busy, time becomes limited, and exercise is often (and unfortunately) the first thing to go.
But to be completely honest, this isn’t really good enough.
You owe it to yourself to keep active.
Exercising on the regular staves off disease, improves your cognition and brain health, and helps you manage your weight. It even ensures that you can function at a high level well into your golden years (whenever they may be).
In short, exercise is a must.
So the key question isn’t ‘should I exercise?’ but rather, ‘how can I get the benefits of exercise, with the smallest possible time commitment?’
Enter high intensity interval training (or HIIT, for short)
What is HIIT?
HIIT is a type of exercise that revolves around performing short periods of intense exercise, alternating with low intensity recovery periods.
Pretty simple really.
A HIIT session might have you on the rower for 30 seconds at a near maximal intensity, and then 60 seconds at a very low intensity. This protocol would then be repeated for a total of 10 or 20 minutes, giving you a solid workout in the process.
Just to be clear – these higher intensity periods are pretty tough. In fact, they have you working much harder than you would be if you chose to go for a long jog.
But that’s kind of the point.
Because you are working harder than you would under normal circumstances, a single HIIT session requires less time. So much so, that a typical HIIT session will only last about one third of the time of a traditional ‘low-intensity’ training session, and give you as much (if not more) benefit.
HIIT = lots of bang for your buck.
What are the benefits of HIIT?
As I have already alluded to above, HIIT offers you a myriad of benefits.
Firstly, it increases your energy expenditure during the session, and after the session is finished. This means it really helps with weight management.
It also helps lower blood pressure and blood sugar, and improve cardiovascular and metabolic health. This is important, as it lowers your chance of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes – two of the most common chronic diseases in modern society.
HIIT also impacts mental health.
A single HIIT session improves mood, and reduces stress and anxiety. Moreover, regular HIIT prevents against the onset of depression and anxiety.
Last but not least, HIIT causes vast improvement in fitness, and in a very short amount of time. It is even more effective than more traditional forms of aerobic exercise . This means that if you want to get as fit as possible as quickly as possible, then this is a good place to start.
So, in summary, heaps of benefit with minimal time commitment.
How can I do HIIT?
You know that HIIT offers a very simple way of getting all the benefits of exercise, and in a very short amount of time. Now I want to touch on how you can implement it.
With this in mind, I have outlined a few of my favorite HIIT protocols below. You can simply select one of these, pick your favorite mode of exercise (whether it be running, on the bike, or on the rower), and go for barney!
- Protocol 1: 30 seconds at 75% maximal speed, followed by 30 seconds are 40% maximal speed, for a duration of 8 minutes. Rest for 4 minutes, and then repeat once more.
- Protocol 2: 15 seconds at 90% maximal speed, followed by 15 seconds completely stationary, for a duration of 8 minutes. Rest for 4 minutes, and then repeat once more.
- Protocol 3 60 seconds at 75% maximal speed, followed by 120 seconds are 50% maximal speed, for a duration of 24 minutes.
- Protocol 4: 30 seconds at 85% maximal speed, followed by 60 seconds are 40% maximal speed, for a duration of 24 minutes.
I should also touch on the fact that HIIT is quite demanding. Because of this, it really only needs to be completed 1-2 times per week.
Obviously you are more than welcome to perform other types of exercise around this (in fact, I would encourage it). As such, it makes the perfect supplement to your weight training sessions, and any longer duration aerobic activity that you might choose to do.
Take Home Message
HIIT offers a really simple way you can get some effective exercise into your routine, in the shortest amount of time possible. With this comes a number of potent health and fitness benefits, that may even outweigh those seen with traditional endurance training.
So give some of the protocols listed in this article a go and get back to us – we would love to hear how you went!
About the Author