The benefits of keeping active may seem obvious, yet it can't hurt to be reminded of the many ways exercise can improve your life. Here are a few of our favourite reasons to get moving...
1. Exercise improves energy levels.
Improving your fitness means your body is capable of achieving more for the same energy expenditure. While doing exercise can make you tired in the short term, regular improvements to your fitness will help you get more out of your body each day, with seemingly less effort.
2. Exercise can help to reduce stress.
If you are stuck in a state of stress or anxiety, exercise can help you move out of it into a calmer and more relaxed state, improving your mood, concentration and sleep. There are now many studies to support this.
3. Exercise and hobbies can help you build connections and community.
Making new friends as an adult can be surprisingly difficult and the importance of connection and community is being recognised more and more as being essential for overall wellbeing. Being part of a team, group or club is a great way to build confidence and meet friends as well as keeping active.
4. Exercise keeps your muscles, tendons, joints and bones healthy.
Our bodies are often compared to machinery or car parts. However, there are some crucial differences between our bodies and machines, including the fact that our bodies respond to exercise by becoming stronger and healthier, rather than being worn out. As an example, one of the best ways to prevent osteoporosis is through regular high impact activity, which stimulates bone growth.
5. Exercise can help to reduce injuries.
Similar to the previous point, tissues that are used regularly are stronger, more elastic and are less likely to tear or break when under stress. Regular exercise is the best way to keep your body in a healthy state and prevent injuries.
Finding the right exercise for you can be tricky, your physiotherapist can help you with suggestions based on your ability and skillset if you need some help.
There is more to distance running than you may think. In this article, we offer some words of wisdom from our physiotherapists to help you get the most out of your training and avoid injuries.
1. Choose your shoes carefully:
Repeated stress from running long distances will show up any biomechanical flaws in your body relatively quickly. Choosing the wrong shoes can exacerbate an existing problem causing pain and injury. Your physiotherapist or podiatrist can guide you on what style of shoe will best suit you.
2. Don't neglect your upper body:
While running can appear to be a purely leg based activity, increasing the strength and mobility of your upper body can have a surprisingly big impact on your posture, running style, breathing and overall performance.
3. Find time to train strength as well as endurance:
Your body is great at finding ways to compensate for weak muscles. However, over time this can lead to overuse injuries of tendons and muscles. Identifying any areas of weakness early and specifically strengthening these muscles can both improve your running technique and efficiency, as well as help keep you injury free.
4. Pace your progress:
Entering an event is a great way to set a specific goal and keep you motivated. While trying to increase distances and speed, it is easy to forget to include rest days as a part of your routine. Your body needs time to recover and restore itself just as much as it needs the active portions of your training program.
Increasing your speed and distances gradually also allows your body to adapt to new demands without breaking down.
5. Enjoy your training and listen to your body:
Your body will often guide you as to when you need to rest and when you can push a little further. Training will be more enjoyable when you are well rested and pain free. Most importantly, if you are able to enjoy your runs, this will help you maintain motivation over a longer period of time, so you can continue for many years to come.
Ask your physiotherapist for more tips on how to reach your running goals while staying injury-free.
Your physiotherapist has a wide variety of skills and can help you with so much more than just pain and injury. Here are a few reasons to visit your physiotherapist that can keep you healthy and pain-free, before injury strikes...
Stiffness and Inflexibility
Almost all of us have experienced pain and stiffness after a day of increased or unaccustomed exercise. This kind of stiffness usually wears off quickly and is referred to as DOMS (delayed onset muscles soreness). However, if you find yourself feeling stiff for more extended periods, or even most of the time – it might be time to see a physio. There are many different causes of stiffness and inflexibility. By far the most common is lack of movement. Our joints and muscles both lose flexibility if not moved through their range regularly. Muscle stiffness can feel like a tightness with a bouncy feeling of restriction, and joint stiffness can create a harder ‘blocked’ feeling when you try to move.
When it comes to stiffness that evolves from lack of movement, you may not even notice that you have lost range, as it can be easy to adapt your movements to compensate. Your physiotherapist can help you to identify where you have areas of inflexibility and help you to exercise, stretch and mobilise your joints to get them back to a healthy range. Disease processes such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can also cause prolonged stiffness, and your physiotherapist is well equipped to help you deal with these conditions.
Reduced Strength or Weakness
There are many possible reasons for weakness in the body, from generalised disuse, weakness in one muscle group following an injury, neurological weakness or structural weakness of joint following a ligament tear. Musculoskeletal deficiency of any kind can predispose you to future injuries and are difficult to resolve without targeted exercises. Your physio can determine the cause of your weakness and prescibe the best treatment to restore your strength.
Keeping your balance is a complicated process and your body works hard to make sure you stay on your feet. Humans have a small base of support for our height and we use all our senses together to determine which movements we should make to stay upright, including our visual, vestibular, muscular and sensory systems. As balance is essential for walking, if one system that supports our balance begins to weaken, the others will quickly compensate, so you may not notice that your balance has worsened until you fall or trip over unexpectedly.
As a general rule balance deteriorates as we get older, but this doesn't mean that falling should be an inevitable part of aging. Actively working to maintain or improve your balance can have a significant effect on your quality of life and confidence in getting around. Your physiotherapist is able to test all aspects of your balance and provide effective rehabilitation to help keep you on your feet.
Keeping active can be challenging. For many people, going out for a run or taking time to perform a full workout can be daunting, especially if this is not a part of their usual routine.
There are a few quick and easy ways to add some movement to your day, starting with something as simple as boiling the kettle. As the average kettle takes 2-3 minutes to boil, challenge yourself to see if you can complete these three exercises while waiting for your cup of tea or coffee. You can focus on one each day, or work through a different one each time.
1. Challenge your balance.
Standing on one leg is something many of us assume we can do, yet rarely take the time to check. This is an essential skill that can deteriorate without being noticed until everyday activities, such as getting dressed, are impacted. Being able to stand on one leg is important for putting on shoes, trousers and reduced balance can be a risk factor for falls.
Start by seeing if you can stand on one leg with your eyes open for the entire time the kettle is boiling. Test both legs, making sure you are close to a bench that you can use to support yourself. To increase the difficulty, try balancing with your eyes closed, then progress to balancing on your tiptoes. If you can balance on your tiptoes, with your eyes closed, then you can ask your physio for more suggestions.
2. Heel Raises
Start by keeping your knees slightly bent and lift both heels off the ground at the same time. You can begin with repetitions of 5, have a quick rest then repeat. Challenge yourself to increase the speed of your heel raises and see how many you can fit into your waiting time. As you bend your knees, aim to keep your knees over your second toe. If you feel this is a little too easy, you can progress to single-leg heel raises, which will also improve your balance!
You can start a daily competition with the people in your household to see who can complete the most repetitions in a set time period.
Squats are a great exercise to keep your large muscles working. You can start with 5 shallow squats, aiming to slowly increase your number and progressively squat to a lower position. As with heel raises, when you start to find squats to be less of a challenge, you can move to single-leg squats.
Don’t hesitate to ask one of our physios for tips on how else you can stay active at home or in the office.
Nothing can ruin your enthusiasm for a new workout program faster than the pain and stiffness that sneaks up on you the day after. This delayed reaction from your muscles, known as DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), has affected almost all of us at one time or another. While there is no sure-fire cure or prevention for DOMS, here are a few tips to help reduce your symptoms next time you hit the gym
Understand what it is
DOMS is thought to be a result of micro tears in muscle tissue during eccentric exercises in particular. While DOMS is not a sign of a serious injury and usually goes away on its own within 48 hours, it can be very uncomfortable and a deterrent to continue exercising. It can also leave you at a higher risk of injury, and for athletes who are competing in a tournament and need to recover quickly, DOMS can be particularly problematic.
Warm-up and cool-down
By taking the time to let your muscles warm-up, your muscles can operate at optimum flexibility, reducing the tension on muscle tissue during exercise. A cool-down encourages effective blood flow to muscles after exercise, so that any waste products such as lactic acid and calcium can flow back into the bloodstream rather than staying in the muscle tissues.
Get a massage or use a foam roller
By massaging tight and sensitive muscles, you can improve blood flow, promote tissue healing and reduce pain. Both massage and foam rolling can help to relax tight muscles and enhance tissue recovery in the first 24-48 hours after exercise.
Keeping hydrated allows your body to remove waste, stay flexible, and help tissues heal optimally. The trick is to maintain hydration throughout your day, not just when it's time to exercise. It's also essential not to wait until you are thirsty, as you could already be dehydrated at this point.
Other ideas includes gentle exercise such as 20 minutes on a stationary bike, and mild stretching. If you are particularly brave, ice baths have recently been shown to have mild benefits in pain reduction following intense exercise.
Running is a great way to stay in shape, manage stress, and increase your overall wellbeing. However, it's not without its drawbacks. While being a low-risk activity, there are a few injuries that commonly affect runners. As running is a repetitive impact activity, most running injuries develop slowly and can be challenging to get on top of. Here are three of the most common conditions faced by runners, all of which can be helped by your physiotherapist.
1. Runner's Knee:
Runner's knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome) is a persistent pain at the front or inside of the knee caused by the dysfunctional movement of the kneecap during movement. The kneecap sits in a small groove at the centre of the knee and glides smoothly up and down as the knee bends and straightens. If something causes the kneecap to move abnormally, such as muscle imbalance or poor footwear, the surface underneath can become damaged, irritated, and painful. The pain might be mild to start with, but left untreated, runner's knee can make running too painful to continue.
2. Shin Splints:
Shin splints (also known as medial tibial stress syndrome) is a common condition characterised by a recurring pain on the inside of the shin. While the cause of this condition is not always clear, it is usually due to repeated stress where the calf muscles attach to the tibia (shin bone). Why this becomes painful is likely due to a combination of factors that can be identified by your physiotherapist to help you get back on track as soon as possible.
3. Achilles Tendonitis/Tendinopathy:
The Achilles tendon is the thick tendon at the back of the ankle that attaches the calf muscles to the heel bone. The amount of force that this tendon can absorb is impressive. It is vital in providing the forward propulsive force needed for running. If the stresses placed on the tendon exceed its strength, the tissues begin to breakdown and become painful. Treatment is focused on helping the healthy tendon tissues to strengthen and adapt to new forces while allowing the damaged tissue to heal and regenerate.
Better health isn't just about looking better. It can also help you to feel stronger, more flexible, reduce aches and pains and feel happier overall. If you're an inactive person, it can be challenging to change your lifestyle. Here are a few tips that might make it a bit easier.
Sign up for a race or event:
Fear is a powerful motivator, and having a challenge looming can create a sense of urgency to improve your fitness. You don't need to sign up for a marathon straight away, but something that lies just outside your current fitness level is a great place to start.
Join a team:
You may not feel committed to your exercise routine, but being part of a team can get you out of the house when you'd much rather be a couch potato. Joining a team can have added social benefits by increasing your sense of community and expanding your social circle.
Make it a habit:
Upgrade your daily exercise to be a non-negotiable part of your routine, increase the priority level and refuse to reschedule. In the long run, you'll be grateful that you have created a habit that's difficult to break. If you can also keep track of your attendance, set yourself the added challenge of not missing a day to put the habit in place.
Be honest about what you enjoy and what you don't:
We all have different preferences when it comes to activity, and taking the time to identify which sport or type of exercise is right for you can be the secret to long term success. If you're a thrill-seeker, you might find mountain biking infinitely more rewarding than an hour at the gym. For others, the peacefulness of a yoga session can be just what they need after a stressful workday. There are many options other than a gym membership, and many come with added benefits of improved self-esteem as you learn a new skill and being a way to make new friends.
Many of us respond better to positive reinforcement than punishment, or at least it's a nicer experience. For example, rather than restricting calories when you miss a day of exercise, reward yourself with a massage when you have reached a small goal. Choosing a reward that is also beneficial for your health can help avoid a boom/bust attitude towards your health.
One of the most challenging aspects of living with an injury or chronic pain is how it can impact your exercise routine. If you have been working towards a fitness or weight goal, this can be extremely demoralizing. Here are a few tips that can help to keep you on track while you recover. Staying as active as possible during this time can mean you’re in the best position to reach your goals again once your injury has healed.
1. Try a new activity.
When injury strikes, it can be tempting to stop exercising altogether and just rest while you recover. An injury can be frustrating, but it can also be an opportunity to try out a different sport. If you’re a runner with an ankle injury, you can keep up your fitness by swimming instead. Cycling can be an excellent option for people for dealing with knee pain, and if you’re a swimmer with shoulder pain, maybe switch to running for a while. Check with your physiotherapist for some ideas to keep you moving.
2. Exercise within your limits.
If you’re getting pain at 5km, this doesn’t always mean you should give up running altogether. Your physiotherapist can help you monitor your symptoms carefully and plan an exercise routine that keeps your fitness up while reducing symptom flare-ups. Staying as active as possible throughout your recovery can also mean that you a better placed to get back to your best performance once symptoms subside.
3. Take the opportunity to improve your footwear and equipment.
Injury and pain can be a great prompt to look at your equipment and technique. For example, with hip and knee pain, the type of shoes you wear can have a significant difference. Often pain has more than one cause, with technique and equipment often having a substantial impact on the stress placed on your body. Your physiotherapist is an excellent source of advice in this area, don’t hesitate to ask for an assessment.
4. Take to the water
Hydrotherapy has long been used to help patients with joint pain or muscle weakness exercise. The water helps reduce joint stress and provide extra sensory input that can reduce pain. Exercising in water can be especially helpful for sufferers of chronic pain or those who have pain with weight-bearing. Speak to your physio for a hydrotherapy program if you’re not sure how to approach exercise in water.
Our physiotherapists are happy to discuss your condition with you and share their tips to help you stay pain-free.
What is it?
Our knees are complex hinge joints, designed to provide stability from side to side and smooth movement forwards and back as you walk, kick and run. The patella, or kneecap, is a small bone embedded in the tendon of the quadriceps muscle that protects the knee and also provides extra leverage to the quadriceps, amplifying their strength. The patella moves up and down in a groove at the front of the knee as the knee bends and straightens. Usually this movement is smooth, with little friction, however, if something causes the patella to move in a dysfunctional way, the soft tissue between the kneecap and the knee can become irritated, causing pain in a typical pattern. This condition is often referred to as ‘runner’s knee’, PFJ syndrome or patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS).
What causes it?
The patella usually sits in a balanced position in the shallow groove at the front of the knee and moves easily without friction. The patella is attached to the quadriceps muscle at the top and connected to the lower leg via the patella tendon at the bottom. When the quadriceps contracts, this pulls on the patella and acts to straighten the knee. If one side of the quadriceps is stronger or tighter than the other, it can cause the kneecap to pull to one side and over time become irritated.
There can be many factors that cause a muscle imbalance or weakness on one side of the quadriceps. In most people, the outer aspect of the quadriceps tends to be stronger and tighter than the inner muscle.
Certain postures and leg positions require the outer muscles to work harder and the inside muscles to become less active. Lack of arch support in your feet or simply a physical abnormality of the knee can also place stress on the movement of the patella.
What are the symptoms?
This condition is characterized by pain felt on the inside or behind the patella with activities that require repetitive bending of the knee. There may be a sensation of crunching, clicking or grinding and some people report that their knee suddenly gives way. The pain is commonly felt when running, going up and down stairs or when doing squats and is generally relieved with rest. The pain may start as a small niggle and gradually become worse over time.
How can physiotherapy help?
The first step in effective treatment is to exclude any other conditions and have a physiotherapist confirm the diagnosis. Your physiotherapist is able to determine which factors are contributing to this condition, which could include poor posture, a lack of arch support in your feet or poor running technique.
Once these factors have been identified, you will be provided with a specific treatment program to best approach your condition. PFJ syndrome usually responds well to biomechanical analysis and correction of any muscular weakness and imbalance. Having the correct shoes and orthotics can also make a huge difference. There are some short-term treatments, such as patella taping, dry needling, trigger point therapy and ultrasound, which may help alleviate symptoms quickly and keep you active while you address the other factors contributing to your pain.
Stretching has long played an important role in the world of sport and fitness, with many athletes stretching religiously before and after exercise in hopes of preventing injuries.
More recently, this practice has been called into question with many people wondering if stretching really makes a difference to athletic performance. The answer, like most things, is not black and white, as we explore a little in this article.
A brief introduction to stretching
Stretching is a type of movement that increases flexibility by lengthening muscle fibres to the end of their range. Stretching before and after exercise has been thought to reduce the risk of injury, improve athletic performance and reduce muscle soreness after exercise.
The two most common types of stretching are static and dynamic stretching. Static stretching is when you lengthen your muscle and then hold that position for a period of time.
Dynamic stretching uses movement and momentum of the body to stretch muscles to their end range, without holding the stretch at the end.
What does the research say?
Some research has suggested that static stretching before an activity can actually reduce power, strength and performance. However, these reductions were shown to be minimal and not noticed at all if the stretches were held for less than 45 seconds. It has also been found that stretching does improve flexibility but only for a short period of time. A few minutes after stretching, your joints move further, and with less resistance, so you may have improved flexibility immediately after stretching.
Why stretch at all?
One thing that is undeniable is that stretching feels great, with many people feeling more relaxed and reporting a rush of endorphins after a good stretching session. It is also difficult to test the long-term effects of stretching specific muscles showing abnormal tightness. A long-term static stretching routine will improve your overall flexibility, and this is thought to help prevent injuries, although the evidence is inconclusive.
If you’re an athlete, the decision to stretch or not can be a personal one. A warm-up prior to intense exercise that includes some form of dynamic stretching is generally recommended for reducing injury risk, but of course is no guarantee. Strength and balance training may have a far greater impact on reducing injuries in the long term.
Your physiotherapist is able to guide you on the best stretching advice for your individual activity and they may be able to identify some areas where improving your flexibility will help to reduce injuries and improve performance.