The One Foot Forward Challenge Outcome!

In case you missed our post earlier this month (One foot forward for mental health!), I decided that throughout October I would participate in the one foot forward challenge. It is run by the Black Dog Institute with the aim of raising awareness for mental health and to fundraise for mental health research.

For this challenge, I set myself the goal of walking 100km. To do this, I would record the total distance that I walk throughout each day and keep a tally to track my progress. I started off really well and ended up increasing this goal to 150km, as I ended up completing just over 75km in the first two weeks!

In this post, we will discuss the outcome of this challenge and some key lessons that we can take away from it. If you would like to read about mental health, the impact it has on modern society and how exercise can help, I would recommend checking out our previous posts – It’s not just our body that we need to look after, but our mind as well! and One foot forward for mental health!

Did I reach my target?

I am pleased to report that I have smashed my goal out of the park so to speak. With another 3 days left in the month, I have managed to walk 170.7km, 20km over my adjusted goal! And yes, I was definitely surprised to see that number. To think that I was able to travel that far within a month is mind boggling!

But the question is, how did I do it? I always like to look for lessons (and solutions) to take away from my experiences, and this is no different. From this challenge, there were two key lessons.

What We Can Take Away From This

Incorporate Exercise Into Your Routine!

Sounds simple enough, but what exactly does this mean? Let’s look at an example from the challenge.

When I drive into work, there are plenty of options to park – we have some spaces out the front, and a couple of nearby streets with no parking limit. Instead of parking as close to the building as I can, I often go into a neighbouring street and park at the opposite end. By doing this, I am able to add some extra walking as I go to and from work. Just by doing that, I’ve completed 5 to 10 minutes of exercise. And when we consider that 30 minutes each day is the national guideline, I’m already a third of the way there just by going to work!

Of course, this is dependant on your individual circumstances, but there is always a way to modify your daily routine slightly to fit in more exercise. Here are some other examples that have worked well for people that I have trained:

      • Completing an exercise (such as calf raises) while brushing their teeth or watching TV
      • Standing while completing household tasks (like folding the clean washing)
      • Taking their pet for more frequent walks
      • Parking slightly further away at the shops
      • Taking the stairs instead of an elevator

The key lesson: you don’t need to drastically change your daily routine to add in exercise. All you need to do is be creative and modify your routine to create an exercise opportunity!

Every Step Matters

When we think of exercising, or walking in this particular situation, we automatically think of bigger workouts. For example, we might think of walking a few kilometres, having a full gym workout or another form of exercise that lasts for at least 30-minutes.

But who says that we need to complete all of our daily exercise at once? What matters is what you have done before the end of the day, not when you have done it. For me, I more frequently did smaller bouts of walking throughout the day instead of one big long walk. By completing multiple 5 to 10 minute walks (or less) throughout the day, I would still accrue at least 30 minutes of walking before the end of the day. This made it easier to complete, as I didn’t need to find one big block of time to fit in my walk. Instead, I could go for small walks in by breaks and small gaps during my day.

This strategy worked wonders for me during this challenge, but it applies to all forms of exercise as well. Let’s say you are completing a home exercise program that involves resistance training. Instead of needing to find time to complete all 30 minutes at once, we could break it up into 3 blocks of 10 minutes. By the end of the day, we have still done the same amount of exercise and will still get the same benefits from it.

In short, don’t feel like you need to complete all your daily exercise at the same time. Completing multiple shorter efforts throughout a day is just as effective!

Need Some Help?

Are you fighting your own mental health battle? Do you want to become a healthier version of yourself? Need some help finding ways to fit exercise into your daily routine? No matter what the goal is, our Exercise Physiologists can help! Contact us to organise an appointment to see one of our Exercise Physiologists and kick-start your health journey!

Check out some of our other posts!

Here are some related posts that may interest you:

Keep your eyes open for more posts coming in the near future – there will be a new post every Thursday! In particular, we are working on a brand new series “How I live strong and prosper”. In this series, we’ll be chatting with Simply Stronger clients and finding out what they do to live strong and prosper!

Please leave a comment below if you have any topic ideas that you would like us to discuss!

Follow us on Social Media!

References

One Foot Forward image provided by the Black Dog Institute

Photos provided by Bruno Nacsimento and Jusfilm via Unsplash.com

Exercise: enhancing the lives of osteoarthritis patients!

A large portion of our population are affected by musculoskeletal conditions at some stage during their lifetime. One of the more prominent musculoskeletal conditions is arthritis, with 1 in 7 Australians being diagnosed with a form of arthritis. That’s around 15% of the population (or 3.6 million), with 50% of these people reporting physical limitations due to moderate or severe joint pain. In addition to this, 3 in 4 Australians over the age of 45 with arthritis report having at least one other chronic medical condition. This means that not only is the impact of arthritis is widespread, but it affects more than just our joints. Hence the importance in reducing our likelihood of developing arthritis. In today’s post, we’ll have a look at how exercise can help with this endeavour. But first, let’s have a brief chat about arthritis and exactly what it is!

What is Arthritis?

In simple terms, arthritis is a joint disease that encompasses a range of conditions affecting the bones and muscles around our joints. It describes permanent joint changes that can cause pain. In some cases, these changes are visible but most of the time the damages can only be seen on an X-ray.

There are over 100 different types of arthritis that are split into 4 main categories: 

      • Degenerative arthritis (e.g. osteoarthritis)
      • Inflammatory arthritis (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis)
      • Infectious arthritis
      • Metabolic arthritis

The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis affecting 2.2 million Australians (9.3%) and rheumatoid arthritis affecting 456,000 Australians (1.9%). So, instead of trying to talk about all of the different types and making this post ridiculously long, let’s just focus on osteoarthritis!

What is Osteoarthritis?

As I mentioned previously, osteoarthritis is a type of degenerative arthritis and is the most commonly diagnosed form of arthritis. 

Osteoarthritis occurs when the soft cushioning between the bones, also known as cartilage, breaks down. This can cause the joint to become painful, swollen and hard to move. It most commonly occurs in the hands, knees, hips, lower back and neck.

Causes and Risk Factors

The popular belief is that osteoarthritis is caused by the joints wear and tear. But significant research has revealed that the following factors all contribute to the development of osteoarthritis:

      • Age (particularly over the age of 50)
      • Previous joint injury
      • Overuse
      • Obesity (or being overweight)
      • Weak muscles
      • Genetics and family history
      • Gender (more common in women)

Symptoms

Osteoarthritis affects people in many ways, including:

      • Joint pain during:
          • Physical activity
          • After a long bout of exercise
          • At the end of a busy day
      • Joint stiffness
      • Reduced range of motion
      • Joint clicking or cracking
      • Swelling
      • Muscle weakness around the joint
      • Joint instability or buckling

How can exercise help?

Exercise has been proven to provide many benefits for individuals with osteoarthritis. In particular, exercise does an effective job in lowering our arthritis risk and reducing associated symptoms (see the risk factors and symptoms above).

Individuals with osteoarthritis are less likely to participate in physical activity due to their pain or the fear of aggravating their pain. Due to this, many osteoarthritis patients will have reduced muscular strength and endurance, aerobic capacity, flexibility and overall ability to complete daily tasks. Regular exercise can negate this and help osteoarthritis patients improve their physical capabilities (including muscular strength, endurance and range of motion). 

As the statistics indicate, osteoarthritis patients have an increased risk of developing a secondary medical condition. Exercise training, along with an increase in physical activity levels, will assist in reducing the likelihood of developing additional medical conditions.

As mentioned above, exercise will also help osteoarthritis patients minimise the impact of arthritis symptoms, particularly improving their:

      • Joint stiffness and pain
      • Energy expenditure, which helps with:
          • Weight loss
          • Body composition
      • Stress and anxiety
      • Self-esteem and quality of life
      • Overall mental health (i.e. risk of depression)

How much exercise should I do?

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) suggests that to reduce the risk of developing or reducing the impact of osteoarthritis, individuals should complete a combination of resistance, aerobic and flexibility training. In summary, in order to maximise the benefits of exercise, you should complete:

      • Resistance Training: 2 to 3 days/week of moderate or vigorous intensity exercises. For each exercise, you should complete 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.
      • Aerobic Training: it is ideal to complete the equivalent of 150-minutes of moderate or 75-minutes of vigorous intensity exercise across 3 to 5 days each week. Optimal activities include cycling, walking or swimming (low joint stress)
      • Flexibility Training: daily training that involves moving through your range of motion until you get the feeling of tightness/ stretching without pain. A 10 to 30 second stretch is ideal, using a combination of static and dynamic stretches.

Where should I start?

There are many ways to exercise, but as the ACSM suggest, it is best to use a mixture of strength, aerobic and flexibility training. This will ensure that we are maximising the benefits for our joints. Having some variety can also be a great way to keep things interesting and fresh – as they say, variety is the spice of life!

If you would like some suggestions on some various exercises that you could use, check out No gym? No problem! Effective ways to exercise outside the gym! It has some great suggestions of strength exercises and cardiovascular activities (such as walking, running or cycling) that you can complete, as well as providing an insight on how to complete them safely. 

Here is a sneak peek of some general bodyweight and resistance band exercises that are discussed in this post:

Bodyweight exercises

Resistance band exercises

As for flexibility training, the 5 strategies to avoid that post-exercise muscle soreness! has some great sections about stretching and self-massage techniques that help improve range of motion. To help get you started, here are some great stretches for different parts of the body:

Stretches

It is important to consider that the optimal exercises are dependant on which joint is affected by osteoarthritis – this is different for each person. For example, we have a wonderful video (shown below) that demonstrates some exercises that are perfect for hand osteoarthritis. Although the title specifically mentions rheumatoid arthritis, they are perfect for anyone with any form of arthritis.

Keeping your exercise safe

As it is with any form of exercise, it is important to consult an exercise professional before getting started. This is especially important when you are experiencing any limitations or joint pain due to osteoarthritis. Exercise professionals, such as Exercise Physiologists, will be able to help you identify the most effective and safest exercises for your particular situation to ensure that you are maximising the benefits without any additional risk.

One Foot Forward Update!

As I mentioned in the One foot forward for mental health! and The benefits of exercise on breast cancer! posts, I am embarking on the journey to complete 150km of walking to help raise awareness for mental health. Here is a quick update on my progress:

So far, I have managed to walk 127.6km! I am on track to achieve my goal of 150km by the end of the month. To do this, I’ll need to walk 2.26km each day. But lets up the ante a little bit – I’m going to aim to reach 150km before next weeks post. This means I have 7 days to go and I’ll instead need to walk 3.2km each day! Thankfully, we are now back to face-face appointments, which means I’ll be on my feet a lot more throughout the day, so I’m confident about achieving this goal. I’m on the home stretch now and the finish line is in sight!

Stay tuned for next weeks post as I will let you know how I go during the final week of the challenge! Make sure to let us know in the comments section how you are going with your One Foot Forward challenge!

Need Some Help?

Whether it is osteoarthritis or another health condition, exercise can provide tremendous benefits! Exercise Physiologist’s specialise in helping those with various medical conditions with exercise-based treatment. So, if you would like some assistance with this or in achieving your health or performance goals, contact us to organise an appointment with one of our Exercise Physiologists.

Check out some of our other posts!

Here are some related posts that may interest you:

Keep your eyes open for more posts coming in the near future – there will be a new post every Thursday! In particular, we are working on a brand new series “How I live strong and prosper”. In this series, we’ll be chatting with Simply Stronger clients and finding out what they do to live strong and prosper!

Please leave a comment below if you have any topic ideas that you would like us to discuss!

Follow us on Social Media!

References and Useful Resources

Arthritis Foundation, 2020, Osteoarthritis, viewed 21/10/2020, https://www.arthritis.org/diseases/osteoarthritis

Arthritis Foundation, 2020, What is Arthritis?, viewed 21/10/2020, https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/about-arthritis/understanding-arthritis/what-is-arthritis 

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2020, Arthritis, last viewed, 21/10/2020. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-musculoskeletal-conditions/arthritis/contents/arthritis

Photos provided by Aan Nizal, Luis Quintero, Marcel Strauss, Mathew Schwartz and Sriyoga Ashram via Unsplash.com

Riebe, D 2016, ACSM’s guidelines for exercise testing and prescription, Philadelphia Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Health, 2014. 10th ed.

The benefits of exercise on breast cancer!

A large portion of our population is affected by breast cancer, particularly women. This makes breast cancer a prominent issue in modern society. 

Firstly, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women. Additionally, it is the second most common cancer overall, accounting for 14% of all cancer diagnosis!

Secondly, in Australia alone 19,974 are estimated to be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020 (19,807 of which are in women). That’s 55 new cases every day! In addition to this, 1 in 7 women and 1 in 675 men will be diagnosed within their lifetime. 

Thirdly, breast cancer will result in approximately 3,301 deaths in Australia this year, 2,997 being women – that’s 8 deaths every day! The mortality rate for breast cancer is the 5th highest among cancers, accounting for 6.4% of all cancer related deaths!

October happens to be Breast Cancer Awareness Month! So it’s a great opportunity discuss this important topic. In today’s post, we will dive into the world of breast cancer. We will start our journey with a quick explanation of what breast cancer is and how it affects us before discussing how exercise can help! Without further ado, let’s get started!

What is Breast Cancer?

To put it simply, breast cancer is the abnormal growth of cancerous cells in the breast lobules or ducts. These cells grow uncontrollably and have the potential to spread to different parts of the body.

Risk Factors (and Causes)

Certain factors can increase the risk of breast cancer. Some of these factors are uncontrollable and cannot be changed. These unmodifiable risk factors include:

      • Increasing age
      • Family history
      • Genetics (inheritance of mutations)
      • Increased oestrogen and progesterone exposure
      • Previous breast cancer diagnosis
      • History of non-cancerous breast conditions.

Conversely, controllable lifestyle factors can also increase the risk of breast cancer. By positively adjusting the following factors we are able to actively reduce our likelihood of a diagnosis:

      • Increased body weight (overweight or obesity)
      • Sedentary lifestyle (decreased physical activity)
      • Excess alcohol consumption.

Diagnosis

Before a breast cancer diagnosis is given, there are a variety of tests that may be administered. These can include a physical examination, Mammogram, Ultrasound or Biopsy. 

This is a manual examination that aims to find any lumps that are within the breast. If there are lumps, further investigating will be completed.

An X-Ray is used to look for changes (or lumps) in the breast tissues that may be too small to be felt during a physical examination. There are two types of Mammogram:

      1. Screening Mammogram: checks for breast cancer when no signs or symptoms are present
      2. Diagnostic Mammogram: checks for breast cancer after a lump (or other sign or symptom) has been found. 

An ultrasound is used to gather further information if the mammogram has picked up tissue changes. It is a painless scan that uses sound-waves to create a picture of the breast.

A biopsy is completed after an ultrasound. It involves removing part of the affected breast tissue for further examination under a microscope.

If cancer is detected, additional scans (such as a CT or MRI scan) help determine the grade and stage of the cancer. They also determine if the cancer is centralised to the breast or if it has spread to other parts of the body.

Treatments

Treatment of breast cancer depends on its stage and severity. The various treatment methods that may be used include: Staging, Surgery, Chemotherapy, Radiotherapy and Hormone Therapy.

This is an assessment that determines the size of the breast cancer and whether or not it has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm. To do this, CT scans of the chest and liver, as well as a bone scan, are completed to check the sites to which it most commonly spreads to.

For localised cancer, surgery may be completed to remove the breast and lymph nodes under the arms. There are two types of surgery that may be performed:

    1. Lumpectomy (or breast conserving surgery): the removal of only part of the breast 
    2. Mastectomy: the removal of the whole breast. This may be followed with reconstructive surgery.

Chemotherapy helps shrink the cancer prior to surgery, as well as reducing the risk of the cancer returning after surgery. It can also be administered after surgery if the cancer returns. It can also be given in conjunction with other treatments such as radiotherapy.

Radiotherapy (or radiation therapy) is used to destroy any cancer cells. This can be applied in isolation or as an adjacent treatment with surgery or chemotherapy.

This method uses drugs to reduce the levels of oestrogen and progesterone within the body. It aims to stop or slow the growth of hormone receptor positive cancer cells. which require these hormones to survive and spread.  

The Side Effects of Treatment

While breast cancer treatment can be quite effective at treating the cancerous cells, it also has many potential side effects. These side effects include, but are not limited to:

      • Fatigue
      • Musculoskeletal dysfunction or atrophy
      • Reduced bone mineral density
      • Lymphedema
      • Changes in body composition
      • Peripheral neuropathy or other nerve problems
      • Arthralgia / Myalgia
      • Cardiovascular toxicity
      • Increased stress and anxiety
      • Changes in mood
      • Decreased concentration and focus
      • Functional decline
      • Compromised immune system

Thankfully, exercise helps reduce the impact of many of these side effects. Speaking of which, let’s now have a look at the role of exercise in helping breast cancer patients and survivors!

Exercise for Breast Cancer

Physical activity is an effective intervention for breast cancer patients. Research concludes that exercise is helpful for patients both during and after cancer treatment.

Goals of Exercise

Exercise goals vary depending on the stage of cancer treatment, the treatments prescribed and the resultant symptoms experienced by an individual.

As I mentioned earlier, exercise prior to a cancer diagnosis can have a positive impact on some lifestyle factors known to be linked with cancer development. This makes exercise a great option in helping reduce the risk of cancer development in the first place – as they say, prevention is the best form of treatment!

Once diagnosed, exercise can provide many benefits throughout treatment. During this stage, it aims to reduce the associated symptoms, in addition to maintaining physical capabilities and function along with maintaining your quality of life.

In addition, exercise also provides many post-treatment benefits for survivors. After treatment, exercise aims to help the survivor return to their pre-treatment physical function, in addition to reducing the risk of cancer reoccurrence. 

Benefits of Exercise for Breast Cancer

No matter the stage of treatment, the benefits remain the same – the only difference is the goal!

Overall, an effective exercise intervention can allow patients and survivors to:

      • Improve their:
        • Physical function (ability to complete daily activities)
        • Physical fitness, including:
          • Cardiorespiratory fitness
          • Muscular strength and endurance
          • Muscle mass
        • Self-esteem and quality of life
        • Energy levels (or reducing fatigue)
        • Body composition
        • Tolerance of treatment and completion rate (or efficacy)
        • Cancer survival rate
      • Reduce their:
        • Risk of reoccurrence
        • Stress and anxiety
        • Risk of depression

So how much exercise should I do?

Exercise and Sport Science Australia (ESSA) suggests that breast cancer patients and survivors should follow the national physical activity guidelines and complete a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity (cardiovascular training) each week. In addition, it is recommended to complete at least 2 strength training sessions each week. That’s equivalent to 30 minutes of moderate exercise or 15 minutes of vigorous exercise 5 days a week. 

Of course, it is important to consider that everyone has different physical capabilities. Although this level of exercise may be realistic for some people, for others it won’t be. Hence, it is important to start at a level that is realistic for you to complete and gradually build up until you reach these recommendations. And at the end of the day, something is always better than nothing! 

If you are not sure how you can fit 30 minutes of exercise into your daily schedule, you could complete your exercise in intervals throughout the day. For example, you could complete 15 minutes in the morning and another 15 minutes in the evening. That would still be 30 minutes for the day – it doesn’t have to be completed all at once!

I want to start, but I'm not sure how to...

There are many ways to exercise, but it is recommended that we use a mixture of strength and cardiovascular training. This will ensure that we are maximising the benefits for both our muscles (regarding strength, endurance and mass) and our lungs (cardiovascular fitness). Having some variety can also be a great way to keep things interesting and fresh – as they say, variety is the spice of life!

If you would like some suggestions on some various exercises that you could use, check out our No gym? No problem! Effective ways to exercise outside the gym! post. It has some great suggestions of strength exercises and cardiovascular activities that you can complete at home, as well as providing an insight on how to complete them. Here is a sneak peek of the bodyweight and resistance band exercises that are discussed in this post:

Bodyweight exercises

Resistance band exercises

Keep in mind that you can purchase your own resistance band from Simply Stronger. We are able to post it to you anywhere in Australia at $5/m plus postage – contact us for more information.

Preventing muscle soreness

Anyone that exercises frequently can tell you about the muscle soreness that you can get after a good workout! It happens to everyone. In particular if you are starting to exercise more frequently – any increase in overall load can result in this soreness, which can potentially hold you back.

There are many ways to help manage our load to help prevent this. Some of these strategies include gradually building up your load, self-massage and stretching. Our 5 strategies to avoid that post-exercise muscle soreness! post addresses this topic in depth and can help you avoid that soreness and maximise the exercise benefits.

Keeping your exercise safe

As it is with any form of exercise, it is important to consult an exercise professional before getting started. This is especially important if you are currently going through cancer treatment. 

Although exercise provides many health benefits, it is important to make sure that you are completing the right exercises for your situation. Exercise professionals, such as Exercise Physiologists are able to help with identifying the most effective and safest exercises for your particular situation to ensure that you are maximising the benefits without any additional risk.

One Foot Forward Update!

As I mentioned in last weeks One foot forward for mental health! post, I am embarking on the journey to complete 100km of walking to help raise awareness for mental health. As promised, I’ve got a quick update ready for you.

So far, I have managed to walk 78.9km! Thats right, I’ve somehow managed to surpass 75% of my goal even though we are only half way through the month. For those who are wondering, I’ve been focussing on staying on my feet throughout the day and allocating time each day to go out for walks around my neighbourhood.

However, I never expected to go this far so quickly – maybe I underestimated my capabilities? So, I’ve decided that I’ll increase my goal to 150km. This is still realistic to achieve, as I will only need to maintain what I am already doing to achieve it. At the end of the day, the goal needs to be challenging and realistic at the same time, and I think this adjustment will help with that.

Stay tuned for next weeks post as I will provide you with another update! Make sure to let us know in the comments section how you are going with your One Foot Forward challenge!

Need Some Help?

Whether it is Breast Cancer or another health condition, exercise can provide tremendous benefits! Exercise Physiologist’s specialise in helping those with various medical conditions with exercise-based treatment. So, if you would like some assistance with this or in achieving your health or performance goals, contact us to organise an appointment with one of our Exercise Physiologists.

Check out some of our other posts!

Keep your eyes open for more posts coming in the near future – there will be a new post every Wednesday!

Here are some related posts that may interest you:

Keep your eyes open for more posts coming in the near future – there will be a new post every Wednesday! In particular, we are working on a brand new series “How I live strong and prosper”. In this series, we’ll be chatting with Simply Stronger clients and finding out what they do to live strong and prosper!

Please leave a comment below if you have any topic ideas that you would like us to discuss!

Follow us on Social Media!

References and Useful Resources

Australian Government – Cancer Australia, 2020. Breast Cancer in Australia Statistics, viewed 11/10/2020. https://www.canceraustralia.gov.au/affected-cancer/cancer-types/breast-cancer/statistics

Bernstein, L., Henderson, B.E., Hanisch, R., Sullivan-Halley, J. and Ross, R.K., 1994. Physical exercise and reduced risk of breast cancer in young womenJNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute86(18), pp.1403-1408.

Cancer Council, 2020. Breast Cancer, viewed 11/10/2020. https://www.cancer.org.au/cancer-information/types-of-cancer/breast-cancer 

Courneya, K.S., Mackey, J.R., Bell, G.J., Jones, L.W., Field, C.J. and Fairey, A.S., 2003. Randomized controlled trial of exercise training in postmenopausal breast cancer survivors: cardiopulmonary and quality of life outcomesJournal of clinical oncology21(9), pp.1660-1668.

Hayes, S.C., Newton, R.U., Spence, R.R. and Galvão, D.A., 2019. The Exercise and Sports Science Australia position statement: Exercise medicine in cancer management. Journal of science and medicine in sport22(11), pp.1175-1199.

McNeely, M.L., Campbell, K.L., Rowe, B.H., Klassen, T.P., Mackey, J.R. and Courneya, K.S., 2006. Effects of exercise on breast cancer patients and survivors: a systematic review and meta-analysisCmaj175(1), pp.34-41.

Mock V, Dow KH, Meares CJ, et al. Effects of exercise on fatigue, physical functioning, and emotional distress during radiation therapy for breast cancer. Oncology Nursing Forum. 1997 Jul;24(6):991-1000.

National Breast Cancer Foundation, 2020. Breast Cancer Stats, viewed 11/10/2020. https://nbcf.org.au/about-breast-cancer/breast-cancer-stats/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwt4X8BRCPARIsABmcnOp6W6x_mQUpRxDTLRNn-pWEhwDYRpPii1GVH8IQRK1ihKQS6X1h5hYaApt1EALw_wcB

Photos provided by Angiola Harry, Jenny Hill, Jon Tyson, Marcelo Leal and Peter Boccia via Unsplash.com

Schwartz, A.L., Mori, M.O.T.O.M.I., Gao, R.E.N.L.U., NAIL, L.M. and KING, M.E., 2001. Exercise reduces daily fatigue in women with breast cancer receiving chemotherapyMedicine & Science in Sports & Exercise33(5), pp.718-723.

One foot forward for mental health!

Mental health – it’s an important issue that affects many people around the world. In Australia alone, one in five people are affected by mental health conditions every year, and 45% of us will have a mental health condition at some stage in our life.

In the past, those struggling with their mental health have remained silent. But in the current day, there are many individuals that have had the courage to speak up about their experiences and raise awareness on the importance of looking after our mental health. And hopefully these conversations continue to happen, as the more we speak about it, the less taboo these conversations become and the greater our understanding as a society becomes.

We have previously discussed the topic of mental health and exercise. If you would like to know more, check out “It’s not just our body that we need to look after, but our mind as well!” But today, let’s talk about a great initiative being used to raise awareness for those affected by mental health conditions.

The One Foot Forward Challenge

This October, as a part of mental health month, the Black Dog Institute aims to shine the light on mental health with the One Foot Forward challenge. Overall, the challenge is designed to raise awareness and fundraise for mental health research. It is fairly straight forward – all you need to do is to walk (run, ride or swim) 20km, 40km or 60km throughout the month (or set your own personal goal).

I'm putting one foot forward!

In order to help raise awareness for those living with mental health conditions, I will be participating in this challenge, along with the rest of the Simply Stronger team. Our goal is to raise awareness and have a positive impact on our own mental health, so we won’t be asking for any donations. We understand that everyone is going through tough times during this pandemic and may not be able to donate. We simply want to raise awareness, and what I better way to do that than by exercising!

I have set the personal goal of walking 100km. I know, it’s a big task – in order to achieve this, I will need to walk 3.3km every day! To do this, I’ll be tracking all of my walking throughout the day and I’ll be going out (within my 5km zone!) to specifically walk. It is important to set realistic goals and I do believe that this goal is realistic for my individual circumstances.

And it’s been a great start so far. Throughout the first 6 days, I have managed to travel 42.9km! How have I gone so far already? Well, most of that distance was from my time working at our BRAND NEW CLINIC! I spent three days last week on site assisting with the renovations, and may or may not have parked my car approximately 1km from the site, which added a lovely walk to and from my car to the total. It’s a very simple and easy way to get some extra exercise into your day – just park a bit further away from your destination and you get an extra two workouts from it!

How can you get involved?

As our team at Simply stronger leads the charge we would love for you to get involved! Not only can we raise awareness for mental health, but together we can be healthy and active. It’s a win-win!

If you are interested, you can sign up online and join in the fun! Alternatively, you can simply keep track of your own progress offline. Either way, the important thing is to raise awareness and be active in the process – how you do that is up to you!

Please let us know in the comments below if you are joining us in completing this challenge, and let us know how you are progressing! Keep an eye out in the posts over the next few weeks, as I’ll make sure to keep you posted on how my challenge is going!

Can an Exercise Physiologist help you?

Maybe you are fighting your own mental health battle? Or maybe you want to become a healthier version of yourself? No matter what the goal is, our Exercise Physiologists can help! Contact us to organise an appointment to see one of our Exercise Physiologists and kick-start your health journey!

Check out some of our other posts!

Keep your eyes open for more posts coming in the near future – there will be a new post every Wednesday!

Here are some related posts that may interest you:

Keep your eyes open for more posts coming in the near future – there will be a new post every Wednesday! In particular, we are working on a brand new series “How I live strong and prosper”. In this series, we’ll be chatting with Simply Stronger clients and finding out what they do to live strong and prosper!

Please leave a comment below if you have any topic ideas that you would like us to discuss!

Follow us on Social Media!

References

One Foot Forward image provided by the Black Dog Institute

Photos provided by Frank Busch and Natasha Connell via Unsplash.com

Formula 1 and health journeys – What we can learn from racing to help us achieve our health goals!

A health journey and Formula 1?

Not many of you would be aware that I am a fan of car racing! Specifically, I really enjoy watching the Supercars and Formula 1 races. Although, I’m not really a car enthusiast. For me, it’s more about the strategy, the battles between drivers and the competition.

I was watching the Formula 1 race from Sochi, Russia on Sunday night, and it was an eventful race! There were crashes, there were great battles between drivers, and there were penalties that ultimately impacted the outcome of the race. But while watching the race unfold, looking at the strategies of the different teams and drivers, I couldn’t help but make a comparison between the race and an individual’s health journey. A journey that many of us go on and one that, as an Exercise Physiologist, I go on with many people. And even though everyone’s personal journey and desired outcomes are different, at the end of the day we all want to achieve our goals. We all want to win our own race. 

Maybe you do think I’m crazy for comparing a Formula 1 race to an individual’s health journey. I can honestly say I never thought I would be making this comparison. And yet, here we are! Let me explain this concept, and hopefully by the end you’ll understand where I’m coming from with this idea. To help examine the concept, I’ll share one of my own personal health journeys. I first mentioned this journey in an earlier post The first step is always the hardest – tips on starting a successful behaviour change journey! Just in case you missed it, my goal was to reduce my soft drink consumption.

It all starts at practice

Practice time varies between all of the different competitions. In Formula 1, the drivers have 3 practice sessions – a total of 4 hours! In this time, they get out on track to test the car and to establish a driving rhythm. It involves a lot of trial and error, including tweaking car set ups, changing braking distances or how you attack each corner. It is all done in an attempt to set themselves up to be as fast as possible come race day.

And that’s the key take away: this is the time to set yourself up for success! Any successful health journey depends on this. We can’t just decide that we want to achieve a certain health goal and go for it, oh how we wish it was that simple! That strategy ultimately results in us ‘crashing’. It’s important to take the time to set up, plan our journey and think about:

      • What is my goal?
      • What do I need to do to achieve this?
      • How am I going to achieve this?
      • Are there any short-term goals that’ll help me stay on track?
      • What barriers might I come across?
      • How can I overcome these barriers?

Let's look at my soft drink example

In my situation, my goal was to reduce my soft drink consumption. What I needed to do was reduce my intake until I was having 2 cans (710mL) each week. I was going to gradually reduce my intake by a can per week until I hit that goal; this tactic would also be my short term goals. I was aware that I could potentially be tempted by any left over soft drink that is around the house – this was my primary barrier. So, to overcome this I needed to make sure that I only buy enough to hit my limit for that week and not be tempted to go over.

This is all part of the set up – our practice time. Take the time to think things through and develop a detailed plan. Maybe you could even get out on the track yourself to try out a strategy that might work. If it doesn’t work? Come back into the pits and make some adjustments. Just don’t rush this process – allow it to unfold over time and you will find the best action plan for your circumstances, because sometimes you can not foresee all the barriers you will encounter.

Qualifying to set up our race

Now, the next stage of a race weekend is qualifying. During qualifying all the drivers compete to set the fastest lap time. Whoever sets the fastest time starts at the front of the grid for the race, which as you can imagine holds a massive advantage! At the end of the day, you win by coming first, so starting there is ideal.

Qualifying shares similarities with practice in the sense that we are setting ourselves up to have success. However, here we are implementing our plans (or preparing ourselves) instead of answering the questions and developing a plan. We have already decided on our race strategy and we know what we want our journey to look like, so it’s time to put it into action! We need to take the answers to the questions and prepare for our journey. 

Let’s look at my situation. My goal was to reduce my soft drink intake by one can each week. During practice I decided that the best strategy for me was to remove the temptation of going over this limit. In qualifying, I now complete the set up to implement this plan. I did this by reducing the soft drink available to me and eliminating the possibility of being tempted to go over my limit. I had decided on my plan, and then I made the necessary preparations to maximise my chance of success!

It's Race Day!

Now it’s time to race! We’ve done everything we can during practice and qualifying to set ourselves up for success. Now it’s time to go and get the win!

The Start

The start of the race is very important. Once the lights go out, we need to get off the start line as quickly as possible. Our foot is down and we are accelerating away!

A strong start is important for our health journey too! We want to start our journey by implementing our plan and achieving our first goal. We are focussed, energised and motivated to get the job done. Yes, the first step can be the hardest one to take, but we have done all of the hard work beforehand. We have prepared and we are ready. So what are we waiting for? Trust your preparation and start racing!

Settling into a rhythm

The first lap is finished. Now we need to settle into a rhythm for the rest of the race. This is important to maintain our pace and avoid errors to make sure we are able to finish.

Here, we’ve gotten off to our strong start. We’ve implemented our plan and have successfully hit our first goal. In my situation, I had successfully reduced my intake by one can during the first week. But, we can’t let temptation settle in and throw us off course. So we now need to shift our focus onto our second goal, which for me is reducing my soft drink intake by another can. This repeated success allows us to get into a rhythm and start to develop a habit. Once our action plan is set into our routine, it will be much easier for us to achieve our future short-term goals.

Pit Stop!

The term “Pit Stop” always makes me think of Guido from the movie Cars, expertly conducting each tyre change for McQueen to keep racing. 

But let’s get back on track (pun not intended!). Everyone needs to make a pit stop at some stage during their race. This is important to re-fuel, get a fresh set of tyres and to have a quick breather.

What does this mean for us and our health journey? This is where we have started to fatigue, either physically and/or mentally. There is also the potential to get tempted by old habits or to give up on the journey completely. Hence, the important to step away for a day or two to re-energise and re-focus on the end goal. Don’t let all your hard work go to waste during this time, but just give yourself a moment. Consider this your ‘quiet time’ where you don’t need to think about your journey. As long as we settle back into our rhythm once we are back on the track, the pit stop will give us the boost we need to get to the end.

Finishing Strong

Now we are getting close to the chequered flag – the finish line is in sight! You can picture yourself standing on the top step of the podium holding up the trophy. But we can’t afford a mistake now. We need to maintain our pace and our focus to secure the win!

This is the final hurdle in our journey. We could be low on energy, but we must stay focussed and stay motivated – you are so close to the end! So close to achieving your goal. In my situation, I was two weeks away from hitting my ultimate goal. But my motivation was low, I lost my focus and I relapsed. I almost let all the hard work slip away. Thankfully, I was able re-focussed and make sure I finished the job and got the win! 

Although the finish line is in sight, stay focussed on your short-term goals and make sure you avoid any obstacles in your way. Keep pushing until you have achieved the goal you set yourself right back at the beginning! Finish the job and win your race!

Sometimes things don't go to plan.

Unfortunately, it’s not always smooth sailing and, just like in a race, many things can go wrong.

Maybe you had a crash (hit a barrier) – like in the Russian Grand Prix, where one driver hit a wall and another had their race ended by a collision with another car. Maybe you had a slow start (failed your first goal). Or maybe you made a mistake at some stage of the race (had a relapse – like I did!)

All of these issues can set you back a bit, but all of them can be recovered from.

Hit a barrier? Let’s find a solution and work our way around it.

Failed your first goal? Figure out why you failed and try again. Maybe the goal was too ambitious, or were there outside influences that you didn’t anticipate?

Had a relapse? Re-focus and aim for your next short-term goal. 

Just because something has gone wrong doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the road. We all hit speed bumps and challenges along the way, it’s about finding solutions to these problems and bouncing back stronger than ever.

Key things to remember!

Run your own race

The biggest take home message I want you to remember is to run your own race. There may be other people around you who are on the same or similar journey as you with the same goal, and that’s okay – it can be great to journey with someone. However, it can often be unhelpful to compare your progress to theirs. Everyone has their own race to run, their own journey. You’ll each face different obstacles, you’ll have different strategies and you’ll most likely achieve your goal at different times. So, run your own race and remember that the goal is to finish, not to beat others on the same journey (this is the one big difference between a race and a health journey).

It's a marathon, not a sprint

Most health journey’s that we go on are long-term. The goals that we set and the changes that we want to make take time to achieve. It can take weeks, months or even years to achieve your goal. Most health goals, especially those related to weight loss, dietary changes or improving fitness all take time to achieve. Take my soft drink change for example – it would be easy to make a change for one week and then go back to my old habits. But to make the permanent change, I needed to gradually build towards my goal and then sustain that for a few months. It took a while for my change to turn into a habit! 

It’s important to make sure that we remember that it is a marathon, not a sprint. A Formula 1 race is a minimum of 305km and will often take more than 90 minutes of non-stop racing to complete! This is a long time for a driver to stay focussed and maintain their incredible speed. Like the drivers, we need to stay patient and keep in mind that our ultimate goal is one that takes time. Take action that is sustainable for a long period of time and find your rhythm.

Have a strong support network around you

Every driver has a great team around them. At the track they have their race engineers, strategists and mechanics all working behind the scenes to help them win. Back at the factory there is all the staff that work to design and build the car, as well as making upgrades to improve performance. They also have a teammate, someone that is going through the same journey as them that provides support along the way. As you run your race, make sure to surround yourself with a great team and a great teammate. When the times get tough, they’ll be the ones that’ll help you keep going.

Maybe we could be your race engineer?

At Simply Stronger, we have expert Exercise Physiologists that will be able to help you from the start of practice all the way through to the chequered flag! No matter what your health journey involves, and no matter what your goal is, we will be able to utilise exercise to help you become the person that you want to be! Take your first step by contacting us to organise an appointment to see one of our Exercise Physiologists.

Check out some of our other posts!

Keep your eyes open for more posts coming in the near future – there will be a new post every Wednesday!

Here are some related posts that may interest you:

Keep your eyes open for more posts coming in the near future – there will be a new post every Wednesday! In particular, we are working on a brand new series “How I live strong and prosper”. In this series, we’ll be chatting with Simply Stronger clients and finding out what they do to live strong and prosper!

Please leave a comment below if you have any topic ideas that you would like us to discuss!

Follow us on Social Media!

Thank you for the photos!

Photos provided by Hanson Lu, José Pablo Domínguez, Kévin et Laurianne Langlais, Macau Photo Agency, Shaohao Yang and Sven Brandsma via Unsplash.com

5 strategies to avoid that post-exercise muscle soreness!

The soreness that affects us all!

At the beginning of our first Covid-19 lockdown, I became quite inactive and sedentary compared to my regular lifestyle. This eased a little as restrictions did, but then became particularly noticeable during the second lockdown –  it’s amazing how you can feel when you haven’t been as active as usual! I decided that I needed to get back to my usual activity levels and utilise my 1-hour of ‘out of the house’ exercise each day (thankfully it’s now 2-hours!) My sister joined me on this quest, although our reasons for being active are very different – I’m being active for general health reasons, whereas she is being active to improve her athleticism and lower her injury risk for Basketball related goals.  However, we both utilised outdoor running/walking and strength training in our small home gym.

After a week, we both started to feel the same soreness and fatigue. The soreness was particularly bad in our calves and glutes. In general, we felt stiff, we weren’t able to move around as freely and we felt more fatigue than normal. 

Why? Where did this soreness and fatigue come from? 

Poor load management, in other words we had done too much exercise too quickly compared to what our bodies we able to deal with. We all have the best intentions when it comes to exercise, but if we don’t manage our workload correctly, there can be consequences. These consequences can potentially undo much of the positive steps we have taken by being active. Managing our load is a crucial component to maximising the health benefits of exercise and increasing our chances of achieving our goals!

Today’s post looks at load management, starting our journey with why it is important before looking at how we can monitor our load and effective strategies we can all implement to effectively manage our work load and aid in recovery.

Why is Load Management important?

You may have heard of the term load management in the sports setting, particularly in the modern AFL. Basically, load management is a strategy used to try and avoid over- or under-training, and therefore reducing injury risk while maximising the positive outcomes.

When we exercise and train, our body goes through a regeneration process that results in our improved strength and fitness. Let’s break this idea down and try and keep this as simple as possible. When exercising at the right intensity, our muscles fibres get fatigued and as a result get ‘damaged’. Our body then aims to repair these fibres, undergoing the regeneration process. As part of this, the fibres are repaired and adapted to be larger in order to provide stronger contractions. This in hand improves our overall strength and fitness.

When we don’t manage our load correctly, we can either end up over-training or under-training. To figure this out, we use an ‘Acute to Chronic Workload Ratio (ACWR)” – here is an example graph that I put together to help demonstrate this concept (please note that the data used for this graph is made up, but helps explain all of this):

There is a lot going on in this graph, but here are the key points:

      • Green zone: our optimal training zone
      • Red zone: represents over-training
      • Blue lines: our daily exercise workload
      • White line: the ratio we use to compare how our daily workload compares to previous days (like an average)

To put it as simply as possible, we want the white line to stay within the green zone – this is where we are able to maximise our health and performance benefits without the side effects of over- or under-training.

If we move into the red, we are over-training. This can result in increased injury risk (or niggling injuries lasting for prolonged periods), fatigue, soreness (also known as DOMS) and stiffness, as well as reduced energy, motivation, performance and ability to make improvements. Other common side effects of over-training include changes to mood, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite and increased stress. This is where my sister and I were – we were experiencing the soreness, stiffness and fatigue associated with over-training. Thankfully, we picked up on it early and were able to start managing this better before we got injured!

The opposite to over-training in under-training, and this occurs if we train below the green zone. This means we aren’t really doing enough exercise to achieve the health or performance benefits that we are aiming for.

Hang on, what is DOMS?

Now that’s a great question loyal reader! It stands for Delayed Onset Muscles Soreness. Do you remember a time in which you had a big day of exercise or physical activity and you woke up the next day feeling sore? Maybe you spent a day at the zoo with your family and walked way more than normal, and then you got out of bed the next morning and had really sore legs? That’s DOMS! It’s the soreness we feel between 24 and 48 hours after a tough workout or busy day, and it is a sign that we have pushed things a little too far. Keep in mind, a little bit of soreness is okay, but it shouldn’t be so bad that it limits us during our daily activities!

An interesting fact about DOMS is that it is most likely to occur after physical activity that involves eccentric muscle contractions. This is a complicated concept, so let’s try to make it as simple as possible. An eccentric muscle contraction is when your muscles work to try and slow down a movement. This could include walking or running (especially down some stairs or a hill), landing after a jump, catching an object before it hits the ground, or catching yourself after tripping or falling. If you find that you complete these kinds of activities frequently throughout a day, I would recommend using one of the following strategies. This will help reduce the effect of any DOMS that you might experience in the following 48 hours.

Load Management Strategies

There are many ways to effectively manage your workload and to help reduce the side effects of over-training. But let’s focus on the some simpler ones that anyone can do!

Gradually Build Up

The most effective way of avoiding over-training – not doing too much. Sounds pretty simple right? If only it was that simple! This is specific to you, as what may seem like too much for you could be the right amount for someone else.

The best way to think about this is to look back at what you have done over the last week. Then, think about how you felt in the 48 hours following these activities. No issues? Perfect, make it a little bit harder or go for 5 – 10 minutes longer next time. If you felt a little bit of soreness, do exactly the same thing and allow your body to undergo the natural adaptations that lead to improvement. But, if you felt a lot of soreness, it would be a good idea to take a step back and either reduce the intensity or total amount that you are doing.

Speaking of which, a good way to measure intensity is by using the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE). We previously introduced this scale in our Look after your lungs with the help of exercise! post. It is a tool frequently used by exercise professionals to measure an individual’s effort, exertion, breathlessness and fatigue. It provides a measure of how hard it feels to complete a certain activity (the intensity). You can use physical sensations such as heart rate, sweating, breathlessness and muscle fatigue to estimate how hard they are working.

The original scale that is frequently used by many exercise professionals uses a 6-20 scale. However, the CR10 scale referred to as as a modified Borg scale is simpler to use (see the image below). Aiming for a 5 or 6 is a great place to start!

Warm Up and Cool Down

The warm-up and cool-down are two of the most important parts of any training session, and is quite often underestimated and undervalued.

The warm-up provides us with an opportunity to prepare our body for what is to come. It’s like you are cooking – you wouldn’t just put your food straight into the oven and expect it to cook, would you? You need to switch it on and allow it to warm-up first. It is the same for our muscles. We use the warm-up to activate them and allow them to warm-up, reducing our overall injury risk. An effective warm-up also helps us reduce any stiffness and soreness we experience during recovery, as well as improving our athletic performance during exercise.

The cool-down is just as important as the warm-up, as we need to allow our bodies to switch off after a session. Whether we go for a walk, do some stretching or some self-massage, we need to provide our muscles with an opportunity to remove the by-products from energy production, as well as reducing any tension that has built up. This helps reduce the impact of any potential over-training side effects and gives us a quicker turn around time before our bodies are ready to exercise again.

Self-Massage (Myofascial Release)

This is my personal favourite! Myofascial release is a form of self-massage that aims to relax and remove tension from your muscles. This can be done in multiple ways, including using a foam roller, spikey ball or your own thumb! Whether you use this as a part of your warm-up, cool-down or as a stand along exercise sessions, myofascial release can help you improve your flexibility and manage over-training side effects such as injury risk, soreness and stiffness. 

If you would like some more information on stretching and myofascial release, check out our previous post “Up, up and away. Alternatively, you can have a look at the images below which provide some examples of ways to use a foam roller or spikey ball on different muscles. Please keep in mind that technique is important here, so seek the guidance of an expert before trying these for yourself!

Stretching

Surely you expected stretching to be on this list! Stretching acts in a similar way to foam rolling – it helps us remove tension from the muscles, improve overall flexibility and potentially reduce soreness and stiffness experienced from over-training. 

Unlike foam rolling, stretching is most effective as part of a cool-down or as a stand alone session. If you think back to our warm-ups, we are aiming to activate and switch on our muscles prior to exercise. Static stretching (which is when you get into a position and hold it for 20-30 seconds) has the opposite affect and can switch off your muscles, so to speak. This is great for a cool-down, but not ideal in a warm-up.

Dynamic stretching (stretching when continuing to move, like leg swings) is a good way to warm-up. However, make sure you seek the guidance of an expert before trying dynamic stretching, as good technique is very important!

Check out these images for some examples of how you can stretch the different parts of your body! I’d recommend trying out the hip flexor stretch – it can sometimes be tricky to initially get the stretch, but once you get it, it’s a fantastic stretch!

Light movements and exercise

The key word here is LIGHT. In general, moving is a great way to reduce the impact of over-training side effects. But for this to work it needs to be movements that involve large muscle groups and multiple joints completed at a light intensity.

Going for a light walk or bike ride is a great way to achieve this – these rhythmic movements use many large muscle groups and joints and can be completed at a light intensity. For me, I really enjoy going for a walk around the neighbourhood and using this as a form of recovery. Alternatively, you can also use various exercises for this purpose, like the ones in the images below. Again, just make sure it is at a light intensity – more specifically, aim for a 1 or 2 on the RPE scale above. You will be able to achieve the desired outcome by completing these exercises with no additional resistance, just your own body weight.

Need Some Help?

Instead of figuring all of this out for yourself, maybe it is just easier to get an expert to do it?  One of the specialties of an Exercise Physiologist is load management and, more importantly, implementing strategies to help avoid over-training and manage any side-effects caused by overtraining. If you would like some assistance with this or in achieving your health or performance goals, contact us to organise an appointment to see one of our Exercise Physiologists.

Check out some of our other posts!

Keep your eyes open for more posts coming in the near future – there will be a new post every Wednesday!

Here are some related posts that may interest you:

Keep your eyes open for more posts coming in the near future – there will be a new post every Wednesday! In particular, we are working on a brand new series “How I live strong and prosper”. In this series, we’ll be chatting with Simply Stronger clients and finding out what they do to live strong and prosper!

Please leave a comment below if you have any topic ideas that you would like us to discuss!

Follow us on Social Media!

References

Photos provided by Karl Shea and Kiki Vega via Unsplash.com

Williams, N 2017, ‘The Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale’, Occupational Medicine, vol. 67, no. 5, pp. 404-405.

The fight against prostate cancer – physical activity is on your side!

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in men. 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 85. In addition, it is the third most common cause of cancer related deaths! This form of cancer is most common in older men, with 63% of cases diagnosed in those over the age of 65. 

This year alone, an estimated 16,754 males will be diagnosed with prostate cancer resulting in an as many as 3,152 deaths! The news is not all bad the 5 year survival rate for prostate cancer is certainly something to smile about. Of the men diagnosed with prostate cancer between 2012 and 2016 95% have survived at least 5 years!

Like all forms of cancer, prostate cancer is a very serious condition and is life threatening if it is not treated. However, the statistics indicate that the majority of men will survive – the treatment works! The downside? The treatments can have major side effects that can reduce overall function, physical capabilities and quality of life. Luckily, exercise is a fantastic way of reducing these side effects and, in some cases, preventing them completely! This is what we will explore in this post, but first let’s start by understanding exactly what prostate cancer is.

What is Prostate Cancer?

Our bodies are made up of billions of cells that reproduce and multiply in a controlled and purposeful way. Cancer occurs when these cells become abnormal and grow uncontrollably to form tumours. Specifically, prostate cancer occurs when these tumours form within the prostate gland.

Certain factors can increase your risk of prostate cancer. These include age (especially above 50 y.o.), family history of cancer and a father or brother diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 60. In addition, research suggests that there is a link between high testosterone levels and prostate cancer.

How is prostate cancer classified?

There are three different classifications of Prostate Cancer:

      • Early (or localised) Prostate Cancer: Cancer cells have grown, but do not appear to have spread beyond the prostate
      • Locally Advanced Prostate Cancer: Cancer cells have spread to parts of the body outside, but close to the prostate
      • Metastatic Prostate Cancer: Cancer cells have spread to distant parts of the body

Treatment of Prostate Cancer

As we mentioned earlier, the survival rate for prostate cancer is high, indicating that the treatment is effective!

Prostate cancer treatment is influenced by the TNM staging system. This system uses five key pieces of information: 

      1. The extent of the primary tumour (T)
      2. Has the cancer spread to the nearby lymph nodes? (N)
      3. Has the cancer metastasised (spread) to other parts of the body (M)
      4. The PSA level at the time of diagnosis
      5. The Gleason Score, which measures how likely the cancer is to grow and spread

The importance of PSA testing!

A PSA blood test measures the amount of a protein know as prostate-specific antigen in your blood. This test does not determine if you have prostate cancer or not.  Simply put it informs us of overactivity within the prostate, this over activity may or may not be related to cancerous cells.

It is important to stress that only one-third of individuals with increased PSA levels have prostate cancer! This test is used as an indicator and for the purpose of early detection. As we know, the earlier we can identify it the greater our chances of recovery and survival. If you are a male over 50 years old it is recommended that you discuss having a PSA test with your GP, that way you and your GP can monitor any changes in your PSA.

Treatment Options

In this phase, the prostate cancer is monitored as it is not causing symptoms and is considered low risk. Because there are minimal or no associated symptoms, the treatment may do more harm than good. Due to this, monitoring the prostate cancer to ensure it is not progressing is the optimal approach.

Those with slightly more progressed cancer go into this form of active surveillance. Progression of the cancer is still considered low risk, however more frequent PSA testing and check ups are completed to closely monitor the situation and ensure it is not worsening. Some men may move in and out of this phase depending on the success of other treatments.

A prostatectomy is performed which, to put it simply, removing the affected prostate and therefore the cancerous cells. The aim of this is to remove it before it spreads to the rest of the body.

Beams of radiation are used to target the affected areas in an attempt to damage or destroy the cancerous cells. This would prevent them from multiplying to spread or create larger tumours.

This treatment is a form of hormone therapy. Prostate cancer requires testosterone in order to grow and spread. Hence, an implant is inserted with the aim to suppress the production of testosterone and therefore slow down the spread of the cancer.

This method is commonly used alongside other treatments and can be applied successfully for many years.

During Chemotherapy, anti-cancer drugs are used to prevent the cancer from growing and spreading. This can be done using oral tablets, injections or an intravenous drip.

This form of treatment typically occurs in cycles, and treatment can occur for as long as six months, a year or for as long as it works.

The Affects of Treatment

As is the case with any treatment, cancer treatments can have negative side effects. These side effects can include (but are not limited to):

      • Fatigue or lack of energy
      • Compromised immune system
      • Incontinence
      • Muscle weakness or atrophy
      • Reduced bone mineral density
      • Hair loss 
      • Easily bruising or bleeding
      • Nausea, vomiting or appetite changes
      • Peripheral Neuropathy or other nerve problems
      • Changes in weight (loss or gain)
      • Digestive problems
      • Decreased concentration and focus
      • Mood changes
      • Changes in libido and sexual function
      • Increased risk of:
        • Hypertension
        • Heart Disease
        • Diabetes
        • Dyslipidemia
        • Depression
This is where exercise can help and join in the fight against cancer!

What is the role of physical activity?

Individuals living with prostate cancer have been shown to gain tremendous benefits from regular exercise training. Evidence shows that exercise can help prostate cancer patients in many ways. Exercise has been proven to reduce the impact of the side effects of cancer treatments, enable patients to undergo more treatment cycles, and return to physical function faster post-treatment.

Managing Side Effects

Prostate cancer treatment can result in many side effects, as discussed earlier. Both aerobic and resistance training have been shown to help reduce or completely prevent these side effects. In particular, exercise training helps prostate cancer patients by:

      • Reducing fatigue and increasing energy levels
      • Maintaining and in some cases improving muscular strength and endurance
      • Improving aerobic fitness
      • Maintaining bone minerals density
      • Limiting gains in adipose tissue (body fat) 
      • Reducing incontinence symptoms
      • Improving quality of life
      • Boosting the immune system function
      • Improving mood, focus and concentration
      • Aiding in prevention of:
        • Hypertension
        • Heart Disease
        • Diabetes
        • Dyslipidemia
        • Depression

Returning to Physical Health

The improvements from exercise training mentioned above can be obtained either during and after prostate cancer treatment. As such, exercise is a great ally not only during the fight against cancer but also on the recovery path after the war has been won!

The goal of exercise during treatment is to maintain and try to limit the loss of physical function. This is with a particular focus on fatigue (or energy levels) and maintaining a healthy body composition including minimising muscle atrophy. By minimising these changes the road to recovery after treatment will be that bit easier. However, if have completed your treatment and are now looking to regain what you may have lost exercise is there for you too. This is especially important in regaining independence in completing our daily activities and returning to work. Prostate cancer survivors have been able to improve their overall physical fitness and capabilities through regular exercise training. As such, exercise is an important tool in improving independence, ability to complete daily tasks and return to work.

Where to begin?

This is a very good question! and a tough one to answer. The ideal exercises (and the safest) vary from situation to situation, depending on the stage of the cancer and overall physical capabilities after treatment. Not to mention that many people over the age of 50 are likely to have other injuries or illnesses to be considered when prescribing exercise. As such, it is important to seek advice from an expert before beginning. This is where exercise professionals, such as our expert Exercise Physiologists join the party. They are able to assess your individual needs and circumstances and provide the exercises best for you! 

In addition, we also have some previous posts that provide more detail on various exercises that can be a good starting point. I would recommend starting with “No gym? No problem! Effective ways to exercise outside the gym!“, as it provides fantastic options for exercise within the comfort of your own home.

Enjoying this Blog? Check out some of our other posts!

Keep your eyes open for more posts coming in the near future – there will be a new post every Wednesday!

Here are some related posts that may interest you:

Keep your eyes open for more posts coming in the near future – there will be a new post every Wednesday! In particular, we are working on a brand new series “How I live strong and prosper”. In this series, we’ll be chatting with Simply Stronger clients and finding out what they do to live strong and prosper!

Please leave a comment below if you have any topic ideas that you would like us to discuss!

We are here to help!

Exercise Physiologists specialise in helping people identify the type of exercise that will help them achieve their goals – not just in a gym with weights, but to include in your everyday life! If you would like some assistance in determining the best type fo exercise for you to help you achieve your goals, contact us to organise an appointment to see one of our Exercise Physiologists.

Follow us on Social Media!

References and useful resources

American Cancer Society, Prostate cancer stages and other ways to assess risk, viewed 15/09/20. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/staging.html

Australian Government – Cancer Australia, Prostate Cancer in Australia Statistics, viewed 15/09/2020. https://www.canceraustralia.gov.au/affected-cancer/cancer-types/prostate-cancer/statistics

Baumann, F.T., Zopf, E.M. and Bloch, W., 2012. Clinical exercise interventions in prostate cancer patients—a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Supportive Care in Cancer, 20(2), pp.221-233.

Cancer Council, Early detection of prostate cancer, viewed 15/09/2020. https://www.cancer.org.au/cancer-information/causes-and-prevention/early-detection-and-screening/early-detection-of-prostate-cancer

Cancer Council Victoria, Prostate Cancer, viewed 11/09/2020. https://www.cancervic.org.au/cancer-information/types-of-cancer/prostate_cancer/prostate-cancer-overview.html

Photos provided by Curtis MacNewton, Emily Morter, Marcelo Leal and National Cancer Institute via Unsplash.com

Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, https://www.prostate.org.au/

Segakm R.J., Reid, R.D., Courneya, K.S., Malone, S.C., Parliament, M.B., Scott, C.G., Venner, P.M., Quinney, H.A., Jones, L.W., Slovinec D’Angelo, M.E. and Wells, G.A., 2003, Resistance exercise in men receiving androgen deprivation therapy for prostate cancer. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 21(9), pp. 1653-1659.

Segal, R.J., Reid, R.D., Courneya, K.S., Sigal, R.J., Kenny, G.P., Prud’Homme, D.G., Malone, S.C., Wells, G.A., Scott, C.G. and Slovinec D’Angelo, M.E., 2009. Randomized controlled trial of resistance or aerobic exercise in men receiving radiation therapy for prostate cancer. Journal of clinical oncology, 27(3), pp.344-351.

It’s not just our body that we need to look after, but our mind as well!

Here at Live Strong and Prosper, we often present information that stresses the importance of taking care of our body. But it is also important to take care of our mind as well.

With R U Ok? Day approaching, we thought it would be a good time to have a chat about mental health. Specifically, let’s discuss how we can maintain our own mental health and support those around us. 

What do we mean by Mental Health?

Mental health is defined by the World Health Organisation as: “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”.

Mental Health conditions affect 20% of Australian’s every year, with 45% of people experiencing a mental health condition at some stage during their lifetime. These mental health conditions include (but are not limited to) depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse disorders and personality disorders. Each mental health condition affects people in different ways, but nonetheless they all have a significant impact on an individual’s overall wellbeing and quality of life.

Even people who are considered mentally ‘healthy’ can go through prolonged periods of sadness, stress or anxiety that can have major implications on their daily life. This is especially true in a society where we are all locked up at home all day while we try and fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many people are impacted by mental health conditions and everyone is susceptible to it. Hence, it is important that we are able to not only understand how to take care of our own mental health, but how to help those around us as well. 

If you would like more information regarding mental health, there are several great organisations with lots of detailed information. Here are three great websites that we would recommend starting with: Headspace (services for young people), Beyond Blue and Black Dog Institute

'R U Ok?' Day

‘R U Ok? day’ is a national day dedicated to reminding us to ask someone who might be struggling with life’s ups and downs if they are okay.

This year, it is being held on Thursday September 10, and on this day we encourage everyone to ask at least one person about how they are doing. This is especially important now as we are all locked up at home as we battle our way through this pandemic!

"I'm just one person, what can I do?"

There are many ways that you can help those around you. Even by yourself, you are able to change the world for one person. Just remember that you do not need to be an expert to help someone, just a great friend!

I could go on for a while about the different ways in which you can help someone who you think might be struggling. The simplest way is to get in touch with them and ask “are you okay?” These three words can be very powerful. Most of us don’t express our feelings naturally because either we are too embarrassed to mention it or just don’t know how to start the conversation. Asking the question provides someone with the invitation to open up and express the feelings that they have buried deep inside. And I’m sure we all know the amazing feeling of that weight lifting off your shoulders when you talk to someone about problem. 

If you are unsure of the best way to ask someone if they are okay, check our the R U OK? website. 

Don't just worry about everyone else!

As important as it is to check in with others and to make sure they are okay, it is just as important to take care of yourself! Maybe you are having some difficulties at home or are struggling with work?  You could be stressed about an upcoming event, missing loved ones or are just generally run down and tired. The reasons will vary for everyone and some ways might not be as important as they way you respond to them. That is why it is so important that you take some time to look after your own mental health.

Like many things, it is easier said than done. But there are many strategies that can help you improve or manage your mental health:

      • Getting some fresh air
      • Yoga or meditation
      • Mindfulness
      • “Me time”
      • Having a conversation with a friend or family member
      • Physical activity and exercise

If things feel overwhelming, keep in mind that your GP is a vital link to professional supports such as a Psychologist.

The power of physical activity

Exercise is often considered as a neglected intervention for mental health conditions. Although there is no consensus in regard to how exercise assists in mental health management, as there are many mechanisms that contribute. However, the link between exercise and positive impacts on mental health is solid and well researched.  Both general aerobic exercises, such as walking, cycling, swimming, gardening and dancing, and resistance training, done from a gym or home setting, have been shown to provide these benefits.

Regular exercise results in mental health improvements by reducing the symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. It also helps improve self-esteem, cognitive function, mood, overall quality of life and the symptoms associated with social withdrawal. Further effects of exercise such as improved sleep, energy levels, weight and fatigue management, and cardiovascular fitness have also been particularly helpful for those with mental health conditions.

Where do I start?

As we have mentioned, any form of aerobic or resistance training exercise can help provide these benefits. If you are a bit unsure of what options there are, check out our No gym? No problem! Effective ways to exercise outside the gym! post. Looking for something a bit more fun to get the family involved? Try Your guide to making exercise fun for kids! – it has some great options for families of any size!

If doing it alone seems too daunting then simply drop us an email and we’ll make an appointment with you to talk you through the best approach for you. You do not have to do this alone – we are here to help.

Enjoying this Blog?
Check out some of our other posts.

Keep your eyes open for more posts coming in the near future – there will be a new post every Wednesday!

In the meantime, here are some related posts that may interest you:

Keep an eye out in the future for our brand new series “How I live strong and prosper”. In this series, we’ll be chatting with Simply Stronger clients and finding out what they do to live strong and prosper!

Please leave a comment below if you have any topic ideas that you would like us to discuss!

We are here to help!

Exercise Physiologists specialise in helping people identify the type of exercise that will help them achieve their goals – not just in a gym with weights, but to include in your everyday life! If you would like some assistance in determining the best type fo exercise for you to help you achieve your goals, contact us to organise an appointment to see one of our Exercise Physiologists.

Follow us on Social Media!

References and useful resources

Beyond Blue, What is mental health?, viewed 04/09/2020, https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/what-is-mental-health

Black Dog Institute, Facts and Figures about mental health, viewed 04/09/2020, https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/1-facts_figures.pdf

Callaghan, P., (2004). Exercise: a neglected intervention in mental health care?. Journal of psychiatric and mental health nursing, 11(4), pp.476-483.

Photos provided by arek Adeoye, Fernando Cferdo, Josh Riemer, Mor Shani and Sincerely Media via Unsplash.com

R U Ok? Day – https://www.ruok.org.au/join-r-u-ok-day

Sharma, A., Madaan, V., & Petty, F. D. (2006). Exercise for mental health. Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry, 8(2), 106.

Look after your lungs with the help of exercise!

Welcome to National Asthma Week!

As the name suggests, National Asthma Week (1st to 7th September) is a week dedicated to raising awareness of Asthma.

Around 2.7 million Australians are living with Asthma – thats 1 in 9 people!

Asthma doesn’t discriminate either, affecting both children and adults of both genders. It also occurs twice as often within Aboriginal and Torres Straight Island communities, as well as being more common in socioeconomically disadvantaged, regional and remote areas.

To put it simply, Asthma affects a wide variety of people. But what exactly is Asthma? And how can exercise help? Let’s dive in and find out!

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic medical condition that affects our airways – the breathing tubes that transport air in and out of our lungs. Asthma causes these airways to become narrower, making it harder to breathe by:

      • Tightening up – the muscles within the airways constrict and narrow the airways
      • Thickening up – the lining of the airways become inflamed and swollen, leaving less room for the air to pass through
      • Filling up – the inside of the airways get filled with mucous

The exact causes of Asthma are unknown, but it is believed that their is a genetic component to the condition. There is also an understanding that allergens (such as pollens), air pollution, smoking and air temperature can contribute and cause Asthma symptoms to appear.

To continue learning more about Asthma symptoms and treatments head to National Asthma Council Australia or Asthma Australia websites.  

How does exercise help?

Exercise is a fantastic tool to help manage Asthma and overall improve lung function. Regular exercise training improves: 

      • Ventilatory Threshold – the point at which our breathing increases at a faster rate than our oxygen supply
      • Maximal Oxygen Uptake – the maximum rate in which we can breathe in and use oxygen
      • Ventilation Efficiency – how well our respiratory system (lungs) are able to supply our body with oxygen.
      • Myocardial Oxygen Cost – the amount of oxygen used to create the energy we need to exercise

Alongside these improvements, Asthma symptoms can not only reduce in severity, but also begin to occur at a higher exercise intensity. This, for example, allows for an asthmatic to run faster, walk for longer or climb more stairs at a faster speed before the onset of symptoms.

Exercise Guidelines

To achieve the most beneficial outcomes, it is important to complete the right type of exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that individuals with Asthma should complete both aerobic and resistance training. 

      • Aerobic training:
        • 3 – 5 days/week.
        • Activities that involve large muscle groups (such as walking, running or swimming)
        • Gradually build up to 30 – 40 minutes.
        • This can be completed in either:
            • High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) – short, but fast bouts of exercise with rest periods in between.
            • One continuous bout at a moderate speed.
        • Some great examples of aerobic activities are:
            • Walking/Running
            • Hiking
            • Cycling
            • Stair climbing
            • Rowing
            • Cross-trainer
      • Resistance training:
        • 2 – 3 days/week
        • 2 – 4 sets of 8 – 12 repetitions of each exercise
        • Exercises (using free weights, machines or even just your own bodyweight) utilising large muscle groups. This could include exercises like:
            • Squats
            • Push Ups
            • Chest Press
            • Lat Pull Down
            • Step Ups
            • Shoulder Press
            • Seated Row
            • Lunges

If you would like some more great suggestions on different ways to exercise, check out our previous post No gym? No problem! Effective ways to exercise outside the gym!

Important considerations!

These exercise guidelines were designed for someone living with Asthma, however they will be beneficial for anyones respiratory health. Additionally, it is important to consider that the prescription may be slightly different for people with other chronic respiratory conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Cystic Fibrosis. If that is you, it is always advisable to seek the advice of a professional, like an Exercise Physiologist, before starting an exercise program.

We also know that exercise has the potential to induce Asthma symptoms. Hence, it is important to have your Asthma medication with you while exercising, just in case you need it!

It is also important to understand how exercising and the environment impact your Asthma symptoms. For example, exercising on a cold winters morning when the air is dry, or outside in the spring with lots of pollen and grass clippings around can be potential triggers for many asthmatics. You also need to know the intensity of exercise at which Asthma symptoms start to occur for you.

This can be challenging, and sometimes a little scary, to figure out, so seeking the assistance of an exercise professional is an important step to take. To ensure you are maximising the benefits while remaining safe, contact us to organise and appointment with on of our Exercise Physiologists!

How do I know if I'm getting the most out of my exercise?

A great way to monitor our work load is by using the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE). It is a tool frequently used by exercise professionals to measure an individual’s effort, exertion, breathlessness and fatigue. To put it simply, it provides a measure of how hard it feels to complete a certain activity. The individual completing a task will use physical sensations such as heart rate, sweating, breathlessness and muscle fatigue to estimate how hard they are working.

The original scale disigned by Borg and often used by many exercise professionals uses a 6-20 scale. However, the CR10 (0-10) scale referred to as as a modified Borg scale is simpler to use, so we’ll use it here.

Specifically referring to the recommendations above, you should aim for aerobic training to be completed between a 4 and 6 initially, building up to a 6 to 7. As for resistance training, beginners should start at a 6 to 7 and those with more experience in weight training at an 8.

Although this is a good guide to your starting point, the ideal training intensity does vary for each individual’s circumstances. Hence, it is advisable that you seek the advice of an expert before beginning your exercise journey. For some assistance, contact us to organise an appointment with one of our Exercise Physiologists. 

Want to know more?

Keep your eyes open for more posts coming in the near future – there will be a new post every Wednesday!

In the meantime, here are some related posts that may interest you:

Keep an eye out in the future for our brand new series “How I live strong and prosper”. In this series, we’ll be chatting with Simply Stronger clients and finding out what they do to live strong and prosper!

Please leave a comment below if you have any topic ideas that you would like us to discuss!

We are here to help!

Exercise Physiologists specialise in helping people identify the type of exercise that will help them achieve their goals – not just in a gym with weights, but to include in your everyday life! If you would like some assistance in determining the best type fo exercise for you to help you achieve your goals, contact us to organise an appointment to see one of our Exercise Physiologists.

Follow us on Social Media!

References and useful resources

Asthma Australia (2020), What is Asthma?, viewed 01/09/2020, https://asthma.org.au/about-asthma/understanding-asthma/asthma/ 

Durstine, JL, Moore, GE & Painter, PL 2016, ACSM’s exercise management for persons with chronic diseases and disabilities, Champaign, IL Human Kinetics, [2016]. Fourth edition.

National Asthma Council Australia (2019), What is Asthma?, viewed 01/09/2020, https://www.nationalasthma.org.au/understanding-asthma/what-is-asthma 

Photos provided by Fitsum Admasu, Paul Green and Robina Weermeijer via Unsplash.com

Riebe, D 2016, ACSM’s guidelines for exercise testing and prescription, Philadelphia Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Health, 2014. 10th ed.

Williams, N 2017, ‘The Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale’, Occupational Medicine, vol. 67, no. 5, pp. 404-405.

The first step is always the hardest – tips on starting a successful behaviour change journey!

“Habits are formed by repetition of particular acts. They are strengthened by an increase in the number of repeated acts. Habits are also weakened or broken, and contrary habits are formed by the repetition of contrary acts”

                                                                                                        – Mortimer J Adler.

This quote really hits the nail on the head! When it comes to habits, whether they are good or bad, they become stronger by continually repeating the same action. As they strengthen, they become more difficult to change. And this is where a lot of people get unstuck when it comes to changing their behaviour. In a lot of scenarios, people try to make a change to become a better version of themselves, but they fall back into habits that have formed over the course of many years! 

Change is hard!

To put it simply, behaviour change is hard! I remember back to my time at university. One of my units was all about health behaviour, and to help us understand the behaviour change process, we needed to make a health related change for ourselves. I chose to try and cut down on how much soft drink I was drinking – it was an issue I knew I had but I had never gotten around to changing it. So why not now? I failed to achieve my goal during that unit, but even though I had finished the class and didn’t need to anymore, I wanted to make this change for myself. So I kept trying. And I failed again, and again, and again. Each time it was for a different reason, but each time the outcome was the same – I fell back into my old habits.

And that is the inspiration for this post. I understand first hand how hard change can be, no matter how much we want to make that change and I want to help you achieve your goal. So, have a think about something that you want to change. Maybe it is health related, maybe it’s not. In the end, it doesn’t matter what it is, all that matters is that it is important enough for you to want to change. Thought of something? Great! Then let’s get started.

Are you ready for change?

This is the most important question – are you ready to make a change? Because at the end of the day, if you aren’t ready, it is less likely to work. Before we dive any deeper into this, first we need to briefly mention the stages of change.

The stages of change

People in this phase have no intention of changing. Maybe you have tried before and given up, maybe you are unaware of any problems. Either way, you aren’t considering any changes right now.

In this phase, people recognise that they have a problem and are considering changing. This is the stage we can be stuck in for the longest – “I know I need to change, but….”.  Most people believe that they don’t have the motivation, time or energy to make the change and therefore don’t do anything about it.

Here, we are close to taking action. We have thought about what we might do and have possibly come up with a plan, but just haven’t put it in place yet.

Now we know we need to change, we’ve decided to do it and we have a plan. It’s time to put our plan into action and work to make our change!

In this stage, we continue to implement our plan. We continue to work towards turning our change into a permanent habit. But, this is where we also encounter obstacles and may relapse. So, it’s important that we build strategies to work through these problems.

This is the finish line! Our action plan has worked, we’ve navigated past our obstacles and our new behaviour is ingrained into our daily life. 

So what stage are you in?

To figure out which stage you are currently in and if you are ready for change, it is important to ask yourself a few questions:

        • What do you want? What is your ultimate goal?
        • Do you want to change your behaviour?
        • Why is it important for you to change?
        • What change is the greatest priority at this time?
        • Does this change help you move closer to your ultimate goal?

If you are unsure about any of these questions, it means we are in the precontemplation stage. In other words, you aren’t sure about what it is you want or need to change.

If you know what your ultimate goal is, you do want to change, you know why it is important, if it is a priority to you, and if it does help you move closer to your goal, then you are in the contemplation stage. Now that we know we are here, let’s move towards taking action.

Time to take action!

Before we can meaningfully take action we need to have a plan. This will give yourselves the best chance of success! To prepare for change, we must set ourselves goals. Most unsuccessful goals are vague and open-ended, like “get into shape by exercising more.” The best type of goal is a SMART goal.

SMART Goals

A goal that contains specific details rather than general statements.

“Attend the gym (or complete my home program) each Tuesday and Thursday for 60-minutes, in addition to an Exercise Physiology appointment at Simply Stronger each Saturday”

A goal that has a measurable outcome to determine success.

“Reduce my soft drink intake to one glass each day for the next three weeks”

A goal that focusses on the specific action that needs to be completed

“Go for a run on Saturday mornings.”

A goal that is realistic to achieve.

“Increase my daily walk from 15 to 20 minutes”

A goal that has a time to achieve it within.

“Attend the gym three times per week for eight consecutive weeks, then reassess.”

If your goals meet these criteria, then you have laid a great foundation to make your change from. Alternatively, if you are uncertain about your goals or want some guidance on building effective goals, let us know in the comments below or contact us! We can help you develop effective SMART goals that will enhance your change of successful change!

Now that we have our goals in place, we can take action and put our plan into place. Sounds easy right? Well, don’t forget what we said at the start about this being hard – this is where it can get tricky.

Here comes the hard part

I mentioned earlier that my attempts at reducing my soft drink intake failed over and over again and my old habits kicked in. This is the stage in which this happened – I would make the change initially, but then a couple of weeks in is when my old habits came back. Even now, a few years down the track, I encounter bumps in the road and occasionally slip back into old habits. It is an ongoing challenge that requires long-term maintenance in order to turn our action plan into a habit.

This is where the maintenance phase comes into place, and why it is so important to develop strategies for overcoming the obstacles that you face. Maybe your barrier is related to time, motivation, energy, temptations, work load, stress, fatigue, having overambitious goals, negative mindset or lack of support or even a lack of good guidance? There are many things that can go wrong, but there are many solutions out there!

Now I would love to sit here and give you every solution for every situation. But if I did that, I would never finish this post. It is very specific to you and your goal, the barrier you are experiencing and your circumstances. So, let us know in the comments below what your barrier is and we will respond with some helpful strategies. You never know, maybe someone else reading this post is having the same problem as you! Alternatively, you can contact us and we can help you develop strategies and overcome your obstacles with a face to face, Telehealth or over the phone appointment!

There will be ups and downs!
Be persistent, and don't give up!

We are here to help!

It is never easy to go through the behaviour change process by yourself. As I have mentioned above, you need a good support system around you and may even need some help with developing goals or strategies to overcome barriers. This is something we can help with, as Exercise Physiologists are trained to assist people with their behaviour change journey. We are able to help identify and set SMART goals, identify barriers, set plans to get around these obstacles and provide expert advice on the best way to achieve your goal – especially when it is related to exercise or your physical health! If you would like some assistance, contact us to organise an appointment and start your journey with one of our Exercise Physiologists.

Check out our previous posts!

Keep your eyes open for more posts coming in the near future – there will be a new post every Wednesday!

In the meantime, here are some related posts that may interest you:

And here is a little sneak peek into some posts that will be coming your way over the next few weeks:

      • Exercise for mental health 
      • Breathe easier with exercise. The benefits of exercise for Asthma!
      • A healthy heart needs to exercise!

Also, keep an eye out for our brand new series “How I live strong and prosper”. In this series we’ll be chatting with Simply Stronger clients and finding out what they do to live strong and prosper!

Please leave a comment below if you have any topic ideas that you would like us to discuss!

Follow us on social media!

References and useful resources

Broadbent, J (2012), HBS110: Health Behaviour, Pearson Australia

Habits for wellbeing, 20 quotes to inspire you to change habits, viewed on 25 August 2020, https://www.habitsforwellbeing.com/20-quotes-to-inspire-you-to-change-habits/ 

Photos provided by Braden Collum, Clem Onojeghuo, Jakob Owens and Hello I’m Nik via Unsplash.com