I love broccoli, it is my favourite food! I love it so much, it is all I eat- breakfast lunch and dinner. And it’s healthy hey, lots of vitamins and minerals. So yeah, just broccoli for me thanks.
Obviously this is ridiculous. I don’t think you need a degree in Dietetics to appreciate that we need diversity in our diet so we get all of the good stuff that our body needs to maintain health. Broccoli fits within a balanced diet- it is not a diet in itself.
What the heck does this have to do with exercise?
Behold, The Ten Domains of Fitness
In an ideal world, you would challenge these fitness domains on a regular basis to create a diverse range of stimuli to promote adaptation and optimal physical health. Do you?
What if you are a real Yoga devotee. That is all you do, and you do it regularly and you love it. Fantastic. You would be well honed in flexibility and balance and scratch the surface on strength and coordination.
What about if you are a runner? You run 10km every single day, awesome! You are challenging CV endurance and stamina, but probably very little else (in a meaningful way).
For the gym-junkies who just love to lift big weights? Strength. That is about it.
As an Exercise Physiologist, it is my hope that everyone can find a form of physical activity that they truly love and do on a regular basis. But if you are committed to becoming the best version of yourself that you can be, you need to challenge the other fitness domains regularly to give yourself a more balanced exercise diet. This can sound daunting- how the hell do I fit all of that into my already-busy schedule? This is how I do it.
I do a nice long run and/or mountain bike ride once per week. This takes care of CV endurance and stamina, as well as balance, coordination and accuracy (on the Mountain Bike).
I do one hill-rep running session per week which I do on some tricky, narrow, rocky trails around Burnside. This challenges power and speed on the way up, and agility on the way back down.
I do two gym sessions per week, where I always include strength work, power exercises and balance exercises.
Finally I like to stretch and foam-roll in the evenings when I am watching tv (ad breaks are great for this!).
Someone else may achieve all of these fitness domains in a week by playing netball, going for a hike up Mount Lofty, lifting weights at the gym and doing a Yoga class or two. It can take any number of different forms.
Our body thrives on a diverse diet of physical challenges. And our body (and mind) will adapt in amazing ways if we regularly nourish it with these challenges. iNform’s Exercise Physiologists are here to help you diversify your Exercise Diet and help you become the best version of yourself you can be.
It’s natural and normal to feel depressed at times, particularly and especially when, life throws you a curve ball. Whether it’s the ending of a relationship, a death in the family, the loss of a job, or even just adjusting to different circumstances. Depression is a mood state, just like happy, excited or sad. Across the spectrum of symptoms, there are distinctly different types of depression. From not being able to eat or sleep, to eating too much and feeling too fatigued to even get out of bed. If depression was a colour it would come in all shades, in all colours.
Exercise and Depression: Nature’s Anti-depressant
A recent meta-analysis found that engaging in physical activity could reduce your chances of developing depression by 17%. We also know that typically exercise has a large effect on reducing symptoms of depression, and this includes activities like resistance training, yoga, bouldering (rock climbing), cycling, swimming and running. A well known study done in 1999 at Duke University even concluded that exercise was as effective as medication in relieving symptoms of depression!
Luckily exercise and physical activity also comes in a full spectrum of colours, too. From walking to work in the morning, or going for a run in your lunch break, to signing up for a yoga class or going to a boxing session with a mate. There is a type of exercise for everyone, and every type of exercise can be adapted to the intensity which you like best! You can exercise alone, or with a friend, or with a bunch of strangers. You can exercise indoors or outdoors. You can literally make it whatever you want!
I say all of this because I think the words ‘exercise’ or ‘physical activity’ bring to mind images of stereotypical types of exercise, like being in a gym or being outside running, which can put a lot of people off straight away. A better term to use would be movement. And our bodies were made to move, our physiology and particularly our neurophysiology (our brain) NEEDS us to move in order for us to feel good. (If you want to read more about this, read my stress blog).
Working Out Depression
Are you sure exercise is going to make me feel better…? (Yep!)
Exercise releases endorphins (anti-stress hormones), 40 types of them to be exact. One of the effects these have is that they calm the brain and relieve muscle pain during strenuous exercise (hence why Superman can lift cars up!). Exercise also regulates all of the same neurotransmitters targeted by antidepressants.
For starters, it immediately elevates norepinephrine, waking up the brain and getting it going. As well as improving self-esteem, which is one component of depression. Exercise boosts dopamine, which improves mood and feelings of wellness, and jump-starts the attention system. Dopamine is important because it is all about driving motivation and attention, that’s why they say getting started is the hardest part!
Exercise also increases BDNF which protects neurons against cortisol in areas that control mood, including the hippocampus. It encourages neurons to connect and grow, and it vital for neuroplasticity and neurogenesis (keeping our brain young and adaptable)!
In addition to feeling good when you exercise, you feel good about yourself, and that has a positive effect that can’t be traced to a particular chemical or area in the brain. We know that norepinephrine and serotonin, which are both boosted with exercise, act on the limbic system (the amygdala, the hypothalamus and the hippocampus) which is responsible for things like how we perceive and regulate our emotions. Even small doses of exercises are effective at improving peoples quality of life and psychosocial functioning.
The best exercises for reducing/preventing depressive symptoms are:
A recent study suggests that exercising between 3 and 5 times a week for 30-60 minutes is associated with better mental health, and team sports, cycling, aerobic and gym exercise came in at the top for types of exercise associated with better mental health.
Resistance training has also shown to have a large impact on reducing depressive symptoms, particularly when supervised by a health professional and lasting shorter than 45 minutes. You can read more on this in James’ blogs here and here.
If you’ve been feeling down and you start to exercise and feel better, the sense that you’re going to be OK and that you can count on yourself shifts your entire attitude. The stability of the routine alone can dramatically improve mood. So next time you feel flat do the smart thing, the thing that future you will appreciate, and move your body (even if it’s just out of the house!). And if motivation or accountability is the issue, why not train with an Exercise Physiologist or another qualified health professional?
Exercise is not an instant cure, but if you move your body your mood basically won’t have a choice!
It’s important to keep expectations reasonable
Exercise outside, or in an environment that stimulates your senses
Exercise with somebody
Something is better than nothing!
Try to form an exercise routine – this adds to feelings of stability
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”.
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.
Working with clients on a day to day basis, and of course also having multiple other conversations about health topics with other people, I get the privilege of hearing people’s beliefs about health and exercise. Experience over two decades as a health professional has given me multiple opportunities to see the link between our beliefs and health outcomes. I know this is nothing new, and I hope you don’t glaze over when I start talking about ‘beliefs’…! But I do wonder how often we stop and take stock of the things we believe… and about the actions we take, as these predispose the outcomes and results we see.
For example, consider comments like the ones outlined below, and lets consider the beliefs that may give raise to them, and then the results they may lead to in regards to changing and improving health:
I get all the Exercise I need by walking
I’m scared to lift weights because I’ll injure myself
I was told Running is bad for my knees
And there are many others, influenced by the latest diet fad or new exercise modality.
The issue with most of these beliefs, is that most of them are received from people who give advice with good motives, but often without the appropriate education, experience, or scientific rigour that extends beyond n=1.
This is exactly why we created iNform!! We could see that people are often influenced by multiple sources of information, and as we all well know, these are not always factual.
The Link between Beliefs and Health Outcomes
Why is this conversation important? Because your beliefs will determine your actions. And your actions will determine the outcomes and results you get!
If you are mathematically minded this looks something like BELIEFS x ACTIONS = OUTCOMES
Most of the health advice we read focuses on changing our actions to affect our outcomes/results. This is clearly an important part of the process, after all, the majority of people fail to create change because of lack of actual action! But for those that have the motivation to start, and even start to implement good behaviours (actions), why is it that for most those behaviours don’t last? I would suggest that it is because their behaviours are not married to their beliefs. If there is a disconnect between what you believe, and what you have been externally motivated to do, those behaviours are unlikely to last.
So the first step I would encourage you to take is to examine your beliefs. What do you actually believe about health and fitness? for example, do you believe the eating well is important to you? Do you believe that to create physical change, you are likely to have to ‘step up’ the activities you do? Do you believe that physical pain is something that you can actually change? I would suggest that to take the next step you actually spend some time writing these beliefs down.
Once you have outlined your beliefs, we should explore as to whether these beliefs are based on evidence, to ensure that they actually lead to the changes you are after!
So are your health beliefs actually factual?
What I mean by the question above, is, are they supported by scientific evidence? Are they provided by professionals trained to understand scientific evidence and provide such advice? And importantly, is that advice tailored to your particular needs? Part of the problem with the example beliefs I outlined above is not that they are totally wrong… in fact, in some circumstances they may be right… But the fact that they can be right doesn’t mean that they are always right! They may only be right because of a combination of a number of other confounding factors, that may or may not apply to you. This is exactly where an educated, qualified and experienced health professional comes in. We can help you discern whether there is scientific support for your beliefs, and help you see clearly through the fog of popular opinion and unsubstantiated fads. We can help you work through pre-existing experiences, concerns and fears, to enable you to start positive action towards the sort of outcomes that will help you live the life you want! We are always happy to sit with you to work through this process with you. Please do contact us (or post a question below) if you feel this applies to you!
I’m writing this blog in light of an article I read recently on Daily Mail.com about exercise and pregnancy. It caught my attention because it was headlining that mothers should wait SIX MONTHS before running or doing strenuous exercise after child birth! Now, that is actually outrageous. For such a big media platform, this article is going to reach hundreds of thousands of people, and could very easily become an earnest belief for many pregnant women. Right in the middle of physical inactivity and health epidemic.
Why am I being told not to exercise?
The article stems from women’s health physiotherapists who often treat issues arising from high impact exercise done too soon after birth. Activities like running can play three times your body weight on your pelvic floor, which is in a vulnerable state after childbirth. If it’s not rehabilitated correctly (like when we experience any tissue damage), it can lead to a prolapse of the vagina, bladder and/or bowel. Women’s health physiotherapists have launched a campaign called ‘Pelvic Roar’ to raise awareness of pelvic health – which is the real issue here; awareness.
The exercise should change as you change, not stop
Our bodies don’t spring back from carrying a small human overnight. Our capacity to lift, contract, bend, stretch and even brace, will not be the same as it was before pregnancy. Hitting that pump class at the gym or bootcamp on Saturday morning’s probably isn’t a wise idea. Your body needs time to rehabilitate the muscles, tendons and ligaments that have all stretched to carry your little one. This takes specific and targeted exercises as everyone’s bodies will go through a different pregnancy journey, and will require different physical care. Exercises need to be modified and adapted as your body changes, and it’s hard to know how to do that on your own. It’s always a good idea to consult your doctor and when possible work with a clinically trained exercise professional.
Education of the effects, benefits and risks of exercise at all stages of pregnancy needs to be improved for all medical and health professionals who come into contact with new mothers. Hopefully then movement can be endorsed and embraced, with the emphasis on safety and individualisation.
5 reasons you SHOULD exercise while you’re pregnant:
If you like to consult the literature, like I do, and see what the science says; you will find a whole lot of positive evidence that supports doing exercise throughout and after your pregnancy. If you’re active before you fall pregnant it is safe to stay active during your pregnancy.
Engaging in light resistance training and aerobic exercise in the second and third trimester showed no negative effects on the risk of pre-term labour, mode of delivery, gestational age or newborn health. In fact, exercising during pregnancy had some positive effects by reducing prevalence of hypertensive and gestational diabetes and helped control excess weight gain throughout pregnancy. Potentially these factors combined with the strength, endurance and overall muscle health that is maintained during pregnancy, exercising is associated with a shorter first stage of labour. Pre- and post-natal depressive symptoms are significantly reduced with exercise,
What’s the next step?
Closer collaboration desperately needs to happen between healthcare professionals such as GPs, nurses, obstetricians, physios, exercise physiologists and fitness professionals. We need to encourage, empower and educate women who are trying to get pregnant, are pregnant or are recovering from pregnancy to exercise. But to exercise right!
If you’re currently pregnant, trying to get pregnant, know someone who is pregnant or have recently had your little one, please ask your health professionals about how you can safely make exercise work for you – or give us a call! Every pregnancy is different, it is important to seek advice from your doctor and to train with an appropriately qualified exercise professional, such as an exercise physiologist.
What would you say if I told you that there’s a health component that is more important for healthy ageing than the COMBINED effects of smoking, obesity, and diabetes?? Yet, the average GP is unlikely to mention this to you, much less actually test it. Could they be missing one of the most important assessments they should be taking at your check up? and consequently, not giving you some of the best health advice you could be getting?? Ok, enough with the cryptic questions. This is going to be a short but powerful article, because I know you don’t have time to waste. The answer to these questions is aerobic fitness. That’s right, your aerobic fitness is your best health predictor and effector. Not sure how, or if, you should tackle this? Read on!
Aerobic Fitness is your best health predictor
The graph below shows the highly significant effect that cardio-respiratory fitness (CRF, or aerobic fitness) has on premature death, particularly with its effect compared to other more commonly discussed health issues. I am truly baffled that while this SHOULD be common knowledge to health and medical professionals, they rarely apply it as part of their assessment or targeted treatment!
Attributable fractions (%) for all cause deaths in over 53000 participants in the Aerobics Centre Longitudinal Study. This is an estimate of the number of deaths in a population that would have been avoided if a specific risk factor had been absent. That is, if all smokers were non-smokers or all inactive persons were getting 30 minutes of walking on at least 5 days of the week.
Effect of increasing fitness
Sure, you have been advised by your health professional that you should exercise more… that you should get out for a walk or two during the week. The graph below shows us two critical things about this advice. First is the obvious difference in protective effect of general physical activity vs fitness. You are busy, and ‘exercise time’ is hard to schedule, so the last thing we want is for you to not get the best possible return on your time investment! This data show the multiplied protective effect that increasing your fitness has on your health compared to just ‘being active’. While your low level general incidental activity is important, having a focused and safe approach to improving your fitness will reap huge returns on your investment.
Second, if you don’t know where to start, this data show that just getting underway will give you great returns. In fact, as the graph shows, even if you shift the needle from being very inactive or unfit, to being just in the lowest quarter of either ‘active’ or ‘fit people’ you achieve the greatest return on your investment! For example if you are in the lowest 10% of either ‘active’ or ‘fit’ people, you get very little protective effect; but if you move to the 25th percentile in activity levels, you get about a 10% protective effect, but a whopping 40% protective effect for being in the 25th percentile in FITNESS levels!!
Estimated relative risk of cardiovascular disease by fitness and physical activity. Williams, PT (2001) MSSE 33:754-761.
Let me summarise the point I’m trying to make: While being generally active (such as going for regular easy walks, etc) is good for your health, spending time getting FITTER will give you multiplied returns, in body composition, general capacity, and primarily in health, so you can get the most out of life for as long as possible! So if you are short on time, and have high expectations on your investments, then this makes a lot of sense. NOW, if you are concerned about increasing the intensity of your exercise due to health issues, or risk of injury, please get in touch with us. We have proven systems to improve your fitness in a safe and progressive manner.
I’d like to thank Associate Professor Lance Dalleck from Western State Colorado university for presenting to the iNform team and sharing his expertise on this topic.