Category Archives: Fitness

  1. I Stand Corrected! 5 Common Fitness Myths

    When only one in three adults get the recommended amount of physical activity their bodies need each week (according to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition), it’s difficult for we as physical therapists to find fault when an individual is making an effort to exercise … even if the effort’s slightly misguided.

    But since October is National Physical Therapy Month, and physical therapists are the medical community’s preeminent experts in movement, fitness, and musculoskeletal function and injury, we view this month as an opportune time to correct what we see as a few common misconceptions about exercise.

    Good Intentions

    Some of the more common personal goals people make revolve around health, fitness and weight loss, and we as physical therapists are dedicated to supporting these goals through a number of individualized services.

    In doing so, though, it’s important to us that people work toward these objectives in a safe and healthful manner – one which most efficiently moves them toward their goals.

    In this spirit, here are five exercise myths we finds to be common among many fitness-minded people:

    1) Stretching Before Exercise Prevents Injuries

    Perhaps surprisingly, research suggests there’s no connection between pre-workout stretching and injury prevention. In addition, stretching before an activity or competition can actually weaken performance.

    So instead, warm up dynamically before a workout by walking, jogging, doing lunges and leg/arm swings, etc.

    Stretching is still incredibly important, but do your stretches independent of your workouts.

    2) The More, the Better

    For the more goal-driven crowd, a pedal-to-the-metal approach to fitness can seem the quickest and most efficient way to better health.

    However, it’s critical workout intensity and length remain in line with one’s current fitness levels and limits.

    It’s also important to schedule recovery, or off-days, into your routine. Failing to do so can increase your injury risk as well as the risk of burnout.

    3) Cross Training is for Athletes Only

    Cross training is simply working activities into your regimen that differ from your preferred or usual activities. The goal is to improve your overall fitness level by challenging your cardio, strength and balance in different ways.

    Such “training diversification” will help maximize your workout potential while helping to prevent overuse injuries and burnout, so everyone should do it.

    4) Aerobic is More Important Than Strength Training

    Whether it’s because some are concerned about too much “bulking up” or they feel spending their limited time on ellipticals and stationary bikes will maximize their efforts, cardio is often a focus for those seeking to improve health.

    It shouldn’t be the only focus, however.

    Muscular fitness is just as important as cardio for such issues as weight management, bone health, injury prevention, and so on.

    5) If Sore or Injured, Rest is Always Best

    Wrong again.

    While rest has a long history as a go-to response to soreness, pain and injury, research now suggests movement and “active recovery” can actually speed up the healing process, specifically when guided by a physical therapist.

    If pain or injury is keeping you from getting a full dose of exercise and physical activity each week, visit a physical therapist.

    Highly educated and licensed health care professionals, physical therapists like those at our clinic are experts at helping people reduce pain, improve/restore mobility, and ultimately lead more healthful, active lives.

  2. To Stretch or Not to Stretch? Tips for Optimizing Flexibility

    Many have grown up with the understanding that, whenever you’re about to work out, compete or otherwise push your body, it’s important to stretch immediately before the activity in order to prevent injury and perform your best.

    Yet, despite these long-held beliefs – and perhaps surprisingly – there’s little evidence to support this theory.

    Today’s evidence suggests that there’s no connection between injury prevention and stretching – static, or reach-and-hold-type stretching – before a workout. Performance-wise, there’s also no consistent connection, with some studies even suggestions that stretching before an activity or competition can actually weaken performance.

    For example, research released by Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism in 2011 found that the vertical jump heights of young and middle-aged men actually declined when participants stretched beforehand. In contrast, the same study found heights increased after warming up dynamically, or using dynamic stretching.

    Dynamic stretches can best be described as a lower-intensity version of the exercises and movements you plan to perform during your activities or while you’re competing.

    A light jog, some leg swings, lunges, high-knees, arm and shoulder rotations … all these movements can be part of a dynamic stretching routine, depending on the activity you’re about to do.

    Such dynamic warm-ups help you break a sweat, sure, but it does so much more. It ensures your muscles are well-supplied with oxygen, promoting optimal flexibility and efficiency.

    Dynamic stretching, however, can only optimize your current level of flexibility. Static stretching is still vital in maintaining and improving your body’s level of overall flexibility … just not right before an activity.

    So, when’s the ideal time to maintain and improve flexibility through static stretching? Consider the following guidelines:

    Stretch Daily: Just as you should try to get a certain amount of exercise in each day – both cardio and strength training – it’s also important to dedicate 10 to 15 minutes to daily static stretching. Typical static stretches are held for anywhere between 15 to 60 seconds at a time, with each movement repeated two or more times.

    Experts suggest setting time aside for stretching either first-thing in the morning or just before going to bed.

    Stretch During Cool-Downs: Cooling down after an activity helps the body transition from a higher intensity to a resting or near-resting state. While slowed-down exercises (similar to those during dynamic warm-ups) may be included as part of a cool-down, this is also a great time for static stretching.

    As consistent tightness in the muscles and joints can put one more at risk of pain and injury, those who regularly exercise or compete have an annual physical therapy exam. During a PT exam, weaknesses in flexibility, strength and movement can be identified and properly addressed before they manifest into injuries.

  3. 7 Fitness Tips for Summer Vacation Travel

    It’s vacation season, and for many that means visiting faraway friends, exploring new places and possibly even crossing some things of the ol’ bucket list.

    Unfortunately, traveling often also means lots of sitting, interrupted sleep patterns due to time zone changes, unhealthy eating, and workout routines that are sporadic, if not nonexistent.

    But, travel doesn’t have to be synonymous with unhealthy habits and a lack of exercise. Vacations are a time to reboot mentally while reconnecting with friends and family, but this doesn’t have to happen at the expense of your health.

    With just a little forethought and planning, you can stay active and healthy throughout your trip, whether it lasts a few days or a few weeks.”

    So, for the purpose of planning, here are seven tips for staying fit and healthy while traveling:

    Plan Around an Activity: Don’t just plan your vacation around a place. Consider making one or a series of activities central to your agenda. For instance, plan to go on some hiking tours, try snorkeling for the first time, or make vacation a family camping trip.

    Keep Moving En Route: Whether you’re flying or driving, you’re going to likely do a lot of sitting and waiting during the front and back ends of your trip. So, capitalize on breaks in your trip to go for short walks, do some stretching, or warm the body through some dynamic exercises (i.e., lunges, light jogging, arm/leg swings, etc.)

    Explore on Foot/Bike: Once you’re at your new destination, resolve to explore the area on foot, either by jogging a new route each morning or taking regular walking tours of the area. Or, see the sites from the seat of a rented bike.

    Strength Train Using Body Weight: Even though you’re likely to be in an unfamiliar place with little to no gym access, don’t let that keep you from strength training. Whether in your hotel room or at a local park, your body weight provides ideal resistance while doing lunges, dips, push-ups, planks, and so on.

    Stay Hydrated: When you’re out of your element and distracted by new people and places, hydration habits can go awry. Carry a reusable water bottle with you at all times as a reminder to hydrate continually throughout the day, and consume sugary and/or alcoholic drinks in moderation.

    Mind Your Diet: A disrupted or inconsistent schedule, coupled with a desire to try the local cuisine, can cause your good eating habits to go out the window. Continue to try new things, but do so with a plan. If you’re expecting a big dinner out one night, eat a lighter, healthier meal earlier in the day … and vice versa.

    Don’t Skimp on Sleep: While you may be tempted to trade sleep for a few more hours of sightseeing and new experiences, it’s not a trade worth making. Getting a good night’s sleep while on vacation will keep you more alert and active while improving the overall experience of your trip.

    And as you’re planning your trip, if you have any movement, discomfort or pain concerns that you feel may keep you from having a fun, relaxing time, visit a physical therapist before heading out.

    After a full assessment of the issue, a physical therapist can provide you with some treatment options and travel and/or exercise tips that can help you maximize your vacation’s enjoyment.

  4. Tips for Keeping the Weekend Warrior Healthy, Injury Free

    A “weekend warrior” is someone who, due to the hectic nature of a typical workweek, opts to cram most of her or his exercise into weekend workouts, activities, games and/or competitions.

    And while most physical therapists would never fault anyone for getting exercise, most would also agree that weekend warriors should be particularly cautious as the sporadic nature of their workout schedule puts them at a greater risk of getting injured.

    Days of downtime followed by sudden bursts of activity over a day or two isn’t ideal, after all. By putting greater stress on the body over a shorter period of time, weekend warriors should be aware that they’re putting themselves at greater risk of acute injuries, such as strains, sprains or worse.

    That’s because inactivity throughout the week can lead to a general deconditioning of the body that may include muscle tightness and imbalances, along with reduced endurance and cardiovascular fitness. A more consistent workout schedule can combat such deconditioning.

    But if one truly does struggle to find time to achieve their expert-recommended 150 minutes of exercise each week without cramming them into just a couple of days, we offer to following tips for avoiding injury.

    Space It Out – Rather than packing your weekly exercise minutes into two back-to-back days at the end of the week, consider spacing these days out. This can help you avoid some of the deconditioning effects mentioned above.

    Warm Up, Cool Down – When the weekend arrives and it comes time to take the field, hit the trails or tee off for 18, always warm up first. Take 5 to 10 minutes for some light resistance and cardio exercises to get the blood flowing. And after you’re done, cool down with some stretching. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water throughout.

    Temper Your Intensity – When you’re packing your workouts into just a couple days a week, don’t overdo it. As you’re not exercising as consistently, stay on the safe side by pulling back slightly on your intensity.

    Mix It Up – Try not to fill your weekends with the same activities. Mix it up, perhaps focusing on cardio one weekend and strength another – or a variation thereof. This helps ensure your entire body remains balanced, reducing your chances of injury.

    Stay Active During the Week – Even if you don’t have time to hit the gym during the week, don’t use that as an excuse to be completely sedentary. Capitalize on brief moments during the week to move around, stretch, and maybe even do some exercising. Take the stairs, stretch during your breaks, stand at your desk, walk during meetings or after work, and maybe even fit 10 minutes of at-home resistance training into your evenings.

    Listen to Your Body – Always know your limits. And, if you feel aches and pains or suspect possible injury, stop exercising immediately and see a medical professional, such as a physical therapist. Don’t try to power through discomfort just so you can get through the weekend.

  5. Strength Training Critical for Active, Independent Aging

    To the 43 million Americans who have low bone density, putting them at high risk of osteoporosis, physical therapists have an important message: exercise is good medicine. But not just any exercise – weight-bearing, muscle-strengthening exercise.

    “Essential to staying strong and vital during older adulthood is participation in regular strengthening exercises, which help prevent osteoporosis and frailty by stimulating the growth of muscle and bone,” said David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D., U.S. Surgeon General from 1998 to 2002. “Strength training exercises are easy to learn, and have been proven safe and effective through years of thorough research.”

    And while this benefit of strength training for older adults is a powerful one, it’s simply just one in a list of proven reasons why seniors should make strength training a part of their lifestyles and fitness regimens.

    While a reduction in strength is often considered an inevitable part of getting older, people of all ages should feel empowered to take charge of their overall health (including strength training) as they age.

    Along with diet and regular check-ups with both a physician and a physical therapist, an exercise regimen that includes elements of strength and resistance training can help slow some of the effects of aging – this, while also allowing one to maintain a high quality of life through activity and independence.

    “The work of scientists, health professionals, and older adult volunteers has greatly increased our knowledge about the aging process and how we can maintain strength, dignity and independence as we age,” Satcher said.

    According to reams of medical research, the many proven benefits of weight-bearing and resistance exercise include:

    Rebuilding Muscle: People do lose muscle mass as they age, but much of this can be slowed and even reversed through strength and resistance exercise. And of course, a stronger body has a direct impact on issues related to balance, fall prevention and independence.

    Reducing Fat: We also tend to more easily put on weight as we get older. Studies show, however, that while older adults gain muscle mass through strength training, they also experience a reduction in body fat.

    Reducing Blood Pressure: Studies have also shown that strength training is a great (and natural) way to reduce one’s blood pressure, even for those who “can’t tolerate or don’t respond well to standard medications.”

    Improving Cholesterol Levels: Strength training can actual help improve the level of HDL (“good”) cholesterol in the body by up to 21 percent, while also helping to reduce to levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

    Strengthening Mental Health: This goes with all exercise, including strength training. Maintaining a high level of fitness can combat anxiety, depression, issues with stress, etc. Exercise is also great for memory!

    Whether walking, jogging, hiking, dancing, etc., experts recommend 30 minutes of weight-bearing activity every day. Guidelines also suggest it’s also necessary to set aside another two to three days of strength and resistance training each week, which can include free weights, weight machines, Pilates, yoga, and so on.

    And for the sake of both health and safety, a thorough strength, movement and balance assessment should precede any new exercise regimen, especially for older adults – assessments that physical therapists are uniquely qualified to perform.

  6. Pools Offer Fitness and Relief for Older Adults

    While drinking plenty of water is critical to life, health and healing, simply submerging your body in water (i.e., a pool) opens up opportunities for relief and fitness for those who otherwise may have difficulty exercising.

    This is especially important for aging adults and those with chronic conditions, say physical therapists and other health care professionals.

    “When you do an exercise on land, like jogging, you get an impact on your joints,” said Torben Hersbork, an osteopath from the Central London Osteopathy and Sports Injury Clinic. “But, when you exercise in the water, you don’t have any gravity forcing your body weight down onto your joints.”

    Because of this, experts say water exercise is ideal for people dealing with issues related to strength, flexibility, balance, sore joints and pain. This includes people recovering from injury or surgery, as well as those with chronic conditions like arthritis, osteoporosis and diabetes.

    The buoyancy of waist-deep water, for example, can support around half our body weight, while neck-deep water can reduce body weight by up to 90 percent. Such reduction in weight and impact on the joints can help people who may experience difficulty standing, balancing and exercising on land to move more freely – and often with less pain.

    In addition, water offers 12 times the resistance of the air around us. Because of this added resistance, movement and exercise while submerged in a pool can help build overall strength and stability in the body.

    “If you are over 50, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends moderately intense aerobic exercise for 30 minutes a day, four times a week, plus resistance strength training, plus balance and flexibility training,” said Mary E. Sanders, a researcher at the University of Nevada (Reno). “A swimming pool provides the one place where you can do all of that at the same time without the need for a lot of machines – at your own pace and more comfortably.”

    One study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise back in 2007 showed that older women who regularly participated in a pool-based exercise program performed better in daily tasks than others who exercised similarly on land. The women in the study, for example, improved their walking speed by 16 percent, their agility by 20 percent, and their ability to walk stairs by 22 percent.

    Another study published earlier in the same publication (2002) showed that combining aqua aerobics with strength training while in the pool helped participants increase their strength by 27 percent in the quads, 40 percent in the hamstrings, and about 10 percent in the upper body.

    Even when people suffer from common chronic diseases like arthritis and osteoporosis, water exercise can help improve the use of affected joints while decreasing overall pain.

    “Exercise is an integral part of any arthritis treatment program, as it helps to strengthen and stabilize the joints, preventing further damage,” wrote Andrew Cole, M.D., an author on Arthritis-Health.com. “Water therapy is an excellent option for patients with osteoarthritis of the knees, hip osteoarthritis, and spinal osteoarthritis due to the decreased pressure placed on the joints.”

    Those who feel pool exercise or aquatic therapy may help them improve fitness levels or overall functional abilities should first contact their physical therapist for professional guidance. A physical therapist can help identify your greatest weaknesses and needs, then develop a pool fitness plan that specifically addresses these needs and your personal goals.

    SOURCES:

    Arthritis-Health.com: Water Therapy for Osteoarthritis
    https://www.arthritis-health.com/treatment/exercise/water-therapy-osteoarthritis

    AAPR: Making a Splash with Water Workouts
    https://www.aarp.org/health/fitness/info-2007/water_workouts.html

    AARP: Water Works Aquatic Activity: A Painless Way to Stay Fit
    https://www.aarp.org/health/fitness/info-12-2008/water_works_aquatic_activity_a_painless_way_to_stay_fit.html

    “Take It to the Pool: Benefits of Aquatic Exercise for Arthritis”
    https://fox11online.com/sponsored/osmsgb/take-it-to-the-pool-benefits-of-aquatic-exercise-for-arthritis

    Daily Mail: How Can Aqua-Exercises Help You Slim?
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-105285/How-aqua-exercises-help-slim.html

    Cleveland Clinic: Benefits of Water-Based Exercise
    https://health.clevelandclinic.org/benefits-of-water-based-exercise/

    CDC: Health Benefits of Water-Based Exercise
    https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/swimmers/health_benefits_water_exercise.html

    WebMD: Water Exercise for Seniors
    https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/features/water-exercise-seniors#1