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

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.

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

Don’t underestimate the importance of good balance!

Welcome to Healthy Bones Action Week!

A week dedicated to encouraging people of all walks of life to invest in building and maintaining healthy bones. With this in mind we thought it would be a great time to discuss how exercise can impact the health of your bones.

As you may expect, bone strength is a crucial part of bone health. Our previous post “How strong are your bones?” explores this topic. We discuss the importance of building and maintaining bone strength, as well as identifying some exercise strategies to help achieve this.

But today, we thought we would explore a different aspect to maintaining bone health. If you think that keeping our bones strong is the only way to take care of them, you would be part of the majority.

When we think of bone health, strength is what first comes to mind. And although this is the primary indicator for bone health, it is also important to think about preventing the mechanism for bone fractures and breaks. In other words, if we can reduce our risk of falling over we also reduce our risk of damaging our bones. This is where balance joins the party!

The importance of balance

Having good balance is important for everyone, no matter the circumstances. For instance, high performance athletes need good balance to perform at the highest level of their sport. On the other hand, us average joe’s need good balance to perform various work responsibilities and daily tasks. 

When we think about it, our balance comes into play with our most common movements and activities. Walking (particularly on uneven surfaces like gravel), stair climbing, carrying groceries, washing the dishes, reaching the top shelf, and getting on and off a chair all require us to stay balanced. 

Even seated activities such as moving objects, folding the washing and working at a desk require us to maintain a good posture, and  stay balanced.

Often it is not until our balance starts to decline that we even realise how much we rely on good balance. Without it, we’d be falling on the ground creating the opportunity for a fracture or break.

Prevention is the best form of treatment.

How does our balance system work?

In summary, balance is our ability to maintain our body’s centre of mass over our base of support (the area between our feet). An optimally functioning balance system will allow us to:

      • Remain stable during various movements and activities
      • See clearly while moving
      • Identify orientation in respect to gravity
      • Determine direction and speed of movement
      • Maintain and make postural adjustments

This is achieved by a complex sensorimotor control system (utilising the sensory and motor systems). It involves an input of sensory information from our sight, proprioception (touch) and our vestibular system (inner ear). All of this information gets sent up into our brain to get processed and turns into a response. This response, which is typically muscular or movement based, will aim to either maintain our balance or make adjustments to regain our balance. 

Similar to how strength training uses resistance exercises, we need to complete balance specific exercises to develop and improve our balance.

Activities that help improve balance!

I hope you weren’t thinking that one size fits all in regards to balance training! There are three different ways to train our balance, which all work on different components. Let’s start with the two more common components: static and dynamic balance.

Static Balance

Static balance refers to our ability to balance when we are not moving around. Any activity that we complete while standing or sitting in one spot requires static balance.

Here are some great activities to help you start improving your static balance: Remember to alway practice in a safe space, away from items you could fall on. I like to practice at the kitchen bench, it is good height to help you recover if you need it.

      • Standing balance in different stances:
          • Feet together
          • Tandem stance (on foot in front of the other)
          • Semi-Tandem stance
          • Single leg stance.
      • Balancing on an uneven or unstable surface.

What’s amazing about these exercises is that they can all be done from the comfort of your own home! You can change your stance while standing at a bench watching TV, checking your emails, washing the dishes, folding some washing or while reading our “Tips for maintaining your health during a pandemic” post.

Just remember, we are challenging our balance and we may feel unstable. It is important to have something nearby, like a bench, table or chair that we can grab onto if we feel like we are going to fall. 

If you are feeling uncertain and would like some more guidance on what balance exercise is not only best for you, but is safe for you to do, contact us to speak with one of our Exercise Physiologists. 

We can organise a Telehealth appointment where we can create a balance program to match your specific needs. Once stage 4 restrictions have eased, we can also have face-to-face appointments or come to you for home visits.

Dynamic Balance

This is where we can get more creative with our training! Dynamic balance is the opposite to static balance – it refers to our ability to balance when we are moving. It doesn’t matter whether it is linear, lateral or rotational movement, all of it uses dynamic balance.

There is a wide variety of ways that we can train our dynamic balance. We can change out stance (as shown above), as well as stand or sit on an unstable surface while completing resistance exercises. You could also be more creative and use an activity like the ‘clock drill’ shown in the picture below. 

It is important to keep in mind that this type of training becomes very specific to your ability level, circumstances and goals. The most effective form of training is the one that is designed for you. And we are here to help! I know I have already mentioned this, but our Exercise Physiologists are specifically trained to provide you with the best exercises for you. Contact us if you are interested in organising an appointment.

The clock drill: a great example of dynamic balance training

Don't underestimate the
vestibular system!

One important part of our balance system that we need to train independently is our vestibular system. It is responsible for providing information about our motion and spatial orientation, as well as playing a crucial role in maintaining an equilibrium. What this means is it is responsible for keeping your ears level in relation to the ground.

Our natural tendency is to use our vision (looking at the horizon) and touch (foot on the ground) as feedback to help us stay balanced. As such, our vestibular system is often underused and undervalued. To compensate for this, we need to train it as independently as possible.

Training your vestibular system

One of the best ways to do this is to close our eyes, therefore removing all visual stimulus. By completing the static balance activities that we have previously spoken about with our eyes closed, we remove our visual feedback and rely more heavily on our vestibular system.

It is important to note, again, that this form of training is very dependant on your current ability and circumstances. Especially when it comes to using the eyes closed approach, the activities need to be tailored for you! It is important to ensure you are practicing in a safe place and to build up and gradually progress towards this type of exercise. 

Our Exercise Physiologists specialise in this type of gradual progression and will be able to prescribe the best exercises for you. I’m hoping that the third time is the charm and that you do decide to contact us. I know it is repetitive, but I can’t stress enough the importance of seeking professional advice to make sure you exercise safely while getting the most out of your training. We look forward to hearing from you to start your journey!

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 
      • Exercise and Asthma
      • How to exercise when you don’t have time 

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!

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.

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References and useful resources

Vestibular Disorder Association et al. (2016), “The Human Balance System”,  viewed 18/08/2020, https://vestibular.org/article/what-is-vestibular/the-human-balance-system/the-human-balance-system/

Photos provided by Jeremy Thomas and Jon Flobrant via Unsplash.com

Stay together, stay strong!

Here I am, sitting here at my desk thinking about what to write. I had originally planned on writing about how exercise can help with the prevention and management of Diabetes – it is Diabetes awareness week after all!

But, then I remembered why we developed this blog in the first place. Live Stronger and Prosper was designed with the sole purpose to help people. Writing about exercise and Diabetes would be helpful for so many of you, but I can’t help but think about what is in the forefront of everyone’s minds right now. The elephant in the room – stage 4 restrictions.

Our lives are changing

Here we are, living in Victoria trying to make the most of a bad situation. As Covid runs rampant around the world, we now gear up for another change to our lives with more restrictions coming into place. 

Now, we all know these restrictions are necessary in the fight against coronavirus, but it doesn’t mean that it’s easy for any of us. And I’m not going to sit here and act like I’m worse off than anyone else. I know there will be many of you reading this that will have it worse off than me. I really feel for you, all of you, and I want to help. 

So that leads me to this post – what can I do here that will help people? There are many issues that will have or are going to present themselves over the next six weeks. Unfortunately, a blog post with some well meaning words doesn’t really change that. But I do think there are some essential things that we can all do to help each other out. We are a community, and if we are to get through this, it has to be together. “We’re all in this together” – I can honestly say I never thought I would be quoting High School Musical, but here we are!

Touch base with friends and family

It’s tough to not be able to be around our families and friends, so don’t hesitate to make contact with them! Whether it’s a phone call, a meeting on Zoom, Skype or FaceTime, a quick message on social media or a text message. Hearing from and having a conversation with those that mean the most to you is an uplifting feeling, which is a feeling we all need right now. So not only will this help those you care about, but it will help you as well. We are human after all, and all humans crave those social connections with others. So take a minute out of your day to get in touch with someone. If you speak with 1 person each day, you will have made 42 people’s day better by the end of these restrictions.

Use your one hour of exercise effectively

Being locked up at home can drive people crazy – I’m sure we’ve all had that feeling at some stage already this year! Getting outside and being active is a great way to not only escape, but to look after both our physical and mental health. Just getting some fresh air and sunshine (subject to the amazing Melbourne weather!) can make a big difference!

Since we only get one hour, we need to make the most of it. And there is plenty we can do within 5km of our home. You could go for a walk or run (maybe bring your pet along?) You could go down to the local park or oval and do some yoga or stretching. Or maybe you would prefer a bike ride or rollerblading? Whatever it is, get out and be active – we must place an emphasis on maintaining our health to avoid complications down the line.

If you would like some advice on great ways to exercise, contact us to organise an appointment with one of our Exercise Physiologists. We also offer Telehealth appointments if you would prefer to stay within the comfort of your own home. Alternatively, our previous post “No gym? No problem! Effective ways to exercise outside the gym!” has some fantastic home exercise suggestions to help you get started!

Get creative, have some fun!

There is an ad going around on TV at the moment that is the perfect example of how creative we can be. It shows just how much fun we can have with others without leaving our house!

I’m talking about the ad where a heap of kids in the same apartment block make a giant car track that goes through the entire building. It goes in and out of windows and through all of their homes – one giant race track. If you haven’t seen it, keep an eye out for it!

Anyway, back on topic, a great way to pass the time is to come up with a fun and creative game or activity. There are so many different things you can do to have some fun together (while being a part as restrictions require!). Maybe a board game, card game, charades, or even a game of hide and seek (where maybe you ‘accidentally’ take a while to find the kids – I won’t tell if you don’t!)

So get creative, and let us know in the comments below what activities you have come up with! To help get you started, here is a video that we created featuring some two people games, which can easily be modified to include the whole family!

Make time for you

Don’t forget to have some quiet time for yourself, some time to just get away from everything and relax. You could read a book, go for a walk, have a nice relaxing bath, pottering int he garden or enjoy your favourite comedy (okay, maybe I’m really enjoying binging Brooklyn Nine Nine on Netflix!). It doesn’t matter what it is that you do, all that matters is that you are able to relax and let all the stress just float away.

If you are not sure of what the best way for you to relax is, maybe Mindfullness is for you? Try it out by following along with this video!

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:

      • Hey kids, did you know exercise can be fun?
      • Exercise for mental health 
      • Strategies to overcome obstacles
      • Strengthening your bones

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 members 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 for you!

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! Even if you don’t feel comfortable coming into our clinic, we can help you via telehealth appointments. 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.

References

Photos provided by Alex Motoc, Artem Beliaikin, Dylan Ferreira, Julia Vivcharyk and National Cancer Institute via Unsplash.com

4 tips to help everyone stay limber and focused at your desk!

The inspiration for this post came from a teacher. They were asking about strategies and tips for helping kids survive the many hours they now spend at a desk. 

So here we are – let’s have a chat about how we can help students in the classroom. More specifically, let’s dive into the ideas and concepts relating to a great sitting posture, relieving tension, and using movement to regain focus. All of which will help your students stay loose and focussed throughout a long day of studying. Simply Stronger’s amazing Director, Sara, will be taking you through the journey to discover the four important ways that we can help your students achieve this.

#1 - Sitting posture

The first tip revolves around our posture while sitting. In the following video, Sara will demonstrate and explain the two key points that will help your students maintain a good sitting posture.

The two important messages to remember are to sit on top of your sit bones and shine your chest torch forwards. Once explained and understood, these two cues are very simple ways to quickly remind your students and yourself of the ideal sitting position.

#2 - Desk stretching

I’m sure all of us frequently experience stiffness and tightness while sitting at a desk for a prolonged period. I can imagine that you have been experiencing this yourself, as well as your students, whether  studying/working in the classroom or from home! In the next video Sara will take us through a variety of stretches that can help us reduce that stiffness and stay nice and loose.

Remember, these stretches can help relax and loosen up your bodies, all while staying at your desk:

    1. Lateral Neck Stretch
    2. Levator Scapula Stretch (another neck stretch)
    3. Shoulder Stretch
    4. Wrist Extensor Stretch
    5. Wrist Flexor Stretch

Make sure these stretches are done on both sides of your body, that you take long deep breaths and that you hold the stretch for around 20 seconds at a time.

This is by no means an extensive list of stretches, but a few very good ones to get your started. If you use any alternative stretches, or have an idea for a different stretch or area of your body you would like us to show you, let us know in the comments below!

#3 - Getting mobile

Although the desk stretches are a great place to start, there is nothing better than getting up and moving about after sitting in a chair for a long time. In this video, Sara will show you some exercises that will help your students get moving, loosen up and get rid of that tension building up in their body – especially through their back and hips!

Don’t be shy here, you know it will feel great to try it yourself!

The exercises that you can use to get your students moving are:

    1. Happy puppy, sad puppy
    2. Roll down
    3. Windmill
    4. Knee tucks
    5. Rotations

Remember, these activities can be completed in the classroom, in between classes or while studying at home. It could be a great option to encourage students to try an exercise in the middle of a class to help break up their sitting time.

#4 - Getting your heart pumping

Finally, it’s time to get our heart pumping and get that blood flowing! This is especially important for students to regain focus or maintain their concentration throughout the day. I’ll now pass it over to Sara who will explain and demonstrate some great activities to help with this.

These are the activities that are a great place to start:

    1. Arm swings
    2. High knees
    3. Arm circles (both ways)
    4. Star jumps
    5. Heel kicks

Remember, we are looking for around 20 repetitions of these exercises at a high pace to get our heart rate up – slow and steady won’t win this race!

Of course, this is a great starting point, but there are many great activities out there. If you use a different activity with your students or have an idea of a different exercise, let us know in the comments below!

Not just for teachers and students!

Although these tips have been designed specifically for teachers and their students, they can be applied to any situation that involves prolonged sitting time. Whether you are studying, teaching, working from home or you regularly work from a desk, these tips can help you! Remember, it’s all about reducing tension and staying loose to help us stay comfortable, focussed and productive!

If you do have injuries that prevent you from completing any of these exercises get in touch and we will help you to modify them.

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:

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

      • Hey kids, did you know exercise can be fun?
      • Exercise for mental health 
      • Strategies to overcome obstacles
      • Strengthening your bones

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 members 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.

References

Photos provided by NeONBRAND via Unsplash.com