In these strange and different times, many of our normal routines have completely gone out the window, mine included, writes Reading Chiropractor Beccy Norman. This might also mean that your exercise routine has completely changed also. Everyone is faced with different challenges when it comes to exercise at this time. For some this is that their local gym which provided them with the classes that kept them motivated has shut. For others It may be they are now having to navigate home schooling, working from home and working out all in one manic day.
Another outlook may be that the only thing fuelling the gruelling 6am workouts was a particular race or competition that they may have been working towards. This will have now been cancelled! You are now left at a bit of a loss as to what the point is? That’s me! So what are the reasons to get moving, and what are the health and wellbeing benefits of exercise?
After spending the year getting up early for rowing training 6 days a week, missing out on social events and probably spending most of my time grouchy and tired; I was hoping to spend the summer out on the water racing, making all the miles worth it. For obvious reasons this has changed! I was left with more free time than I’d ever had before I was left feeling a little lost as to what exercise to do and why. I started to re-evaluate my reasons for exercising and the benefits I wanted from it. Exercise is such a broad term and encompasses so many things that before I would’ve considered “a waste of time”.
Almost since the beginning of time it’s been a well-known fact that exercise is good for us. Even Plato stated ‘Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being while movement and methodical physical exercise saves and preserves it’ . There’s a huge perception, particularly In our society that exercise is all about weight management but it’s so much more. For example, 80% of our brain’s nutrition comes from movement. Now seems such a perfect time to think about all the health and wellbeing benefits of exercise and how best to put it all together to suit our current COVID climate.
One of the first things that seems so important at the moment Is mental health. This broad term encompasses everything from stress to anxiety and focus to depression. There are tons of studies out there that all show exercise Is an excellent tool for helping to deal with depression and anxiety.
One study suggests the main focus of the exercise should be the duration of the exercises rather than the intensity of the exercise. Therefore, choosing a form of exercise you feel comfortable doing for a longer period of time should be the aim. There’s also a link between time spent outside and a reduced feeling of anxiety. Therefore, a brisk walk outside may be a favourable choice. Other ideas could Include cycling. Social interaction with people Is also a great mood booster so doing this with other people (within your household only!) Is a great idea.
If you don’t have time for a longer walk, due to constraints at home with work and family – don’t panic! The NHS website states that even a ten minute brisk walk Is enough to clear your head and help you relax, giving you the health and wellbeing benefits of exercise.
Many of us, myself included may be struggling with sleep at the moment. There are many different factors including: change of routine, not tiring out your brain or not tiring out your body enough. On top of this there is the added extra of the anxiety brought on with the uncertainty of the time we are living in. We are recommended as adults to aim for 7-9 hours a day. The quality of that sleep Is important too and how much of the time we spend in deep sleep. It is also important to remember that sleep has a direct impact on how well our immune system works.
There’s a strong amount of research showing that exercise can improve quality of sleep and how long we spend in the deep sleep phase. However, it appears that there Is a fine line between exercise being productive and destructive to sleep. Too much exercise at high intensity or exercise done too late in the evening (past 5pm on average) Is said to be a factor In disrupting sleep. Intense exercise releases the stress hormone cortisol. Exercising too late means your core body temperature is too high before bed. Therefore, if you are looking to use exercise as your sleep tool, try to stick to moderate intensity and keep to the day time rather than the evening.
Even if you are exercising and still struggling to sleep then please consider trying the current 15-Day FREE BrainTap trial. We have been getting fantastic feedback from patients about using the App at home. These benefits are coming from listening through headphones only, but the use of the headset magnifies the effect of the programmes considerably. For the trial they do not take any credit card details, so simply follow the banner link below. But also to read more about BrainTap have a look here.
As a chiropractor one of my main goals Is to reduce pain and improve the function of the body for our patients. We always focus on giving people the tools to be able to take control of their bodies and Improve their function at home too. This has often taken the form of rehab. The main aim of rehab Is to rectify areas of imbalance within the body. During this time when we aren’t there to support you, continuing with the exercises you’ve been given by your practitioner Is absolutely key.
On top of the tips and tools we have given you there Is also lots of activities you can be doing to keep the pesky niggles at bay. Both some of my patients and myself have seen great results from bringing in yoga to our daily lives. Being perfectly honest I have never given yoga its due respect. I always admired people who did but never made time for it myself. Since using a great app on my phone I’ve found it particularly helpful for loosening off tight areas that creep in after sitting funny on my laptop for too long or hammering it on the erg for too long.
After looking at the research these improvements aren’t just in my head either. A systematic review of studies on yoga and back pain showed there to be strong evidence both for short-term and long changes in pain and function. In terms of what other exercise to focus on to keep pain at bay, this massively depends on what you tend to suffer with. In general lower impact exercise such as walking, cycling and swimming are much kinder to your joints particularly in chronic conditions like Osteoarthritis. The best thing to do if you are unsure of what activity Is best for you is to contact your lovely practitioner who will be happy to help.
Aerobic and strengthening exercise has also proven to be a great option for the long term management of fibromyalgia. The main message seems to be: “start slow, go slow”.
Not only are the health and wellbeing benefits of exercise for musculoskeletal complaints; exercise is also excellent for many other health complaints. The evidence suggests prescribing exercise in the prevention of Cardiovascular diseases such as: hypertension, CHD, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and intermittent claudication. There is also evidence for preventing metabolic diseases such as: Type 2 diabetes, Hyperlipaemia and insulin resistance.
Diabetes is a huge problem in the UK. Statistics show 1 in 16 people in the UK have diabetes. The majority of these are type 2 which is directly linked to obesity. Resistance training has been found to be the best exercise for diabetic control. However, any exercise will lower blood glucose levels. The American diabetic association suggests 30 mins of exercise five times per week as a minimum.
There’s no shame in the fact that many of us exercise for “aesthetic purposes”. You see many workouts labelled as things like “booty workout”, “thigh buster” and “flat tummy” workouts. This is fine but the main thing to remember is to try and exercise the body as a whole. This is the best for weight management and also the best way to reduce risk of injury or creating imbalances. Also, if you’re like me, having this as your main motivation for exercising is probably going to wear thin pretty quick!
Weight control is a huge motivator for exercise. The simple fact is that in order to keep a stable, healthy weight, you need to burn more energy that you put In your body. For some of us this may be proving more difficult than normal. Its surprising the amount of energy you burn on a normal day at work on your feet, running around completing errands and school runs. This means more exercise than previously may be needed than ‘normal’ if you’re still eating the same. There are many different theories on what exercise “burns calories best”. Any exercise burns calories and usually the more your heart rate is raised the more calories you’re burning.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT training) has proved particularly popular in this realm, and can be great for managing Type 2 Diabetes as well. Short workouts at high intensity means you are able to fit in to your busy schedules rather than plodding on a treadmill for hours. The research seems to support this too. One research study showed after 6 weeks of HIIT training, participants had greatly increased their whole-body and skeletal muscle capacity. This improved ability to oxidise fat and carbohydrate in previously untrained individuals. My top tip is doing your HIIT training first thing in the morning. This fires up your metabolism keeps your body burning fat all day long.
If you’re interested in trying out HIIT just search YouTube and you’ll find plenty of workouts to try. Please bear in mind that any of the HIIT exercises are fairly high impact. It may be worth checking with your practitioner if it’s suitable for you first.
In conclusion there are so many great reasons to exercise and so many ways of doing it that sometimes in can feel really quite overwhelming. The best thing I can suggest is keeping variety in the exercise you carry out and the intensity to which you do it at. Not only will this mean you don’t get bored, it will mean you reduce your risk of injury and you get the most out of as many health and wellbeing benefits of exercise as possible. I was amazed at how much research is out there on all the different benefits and there was so much more I could’ve included. Just a few other gems that I found were:
Basically, the health and wellbeing benefits of exercise are fantastic, and anything is better than nothing. Take it slowly, progress at your own pace and talk to your practitioner if you have any concerns.
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Reflex Spinal Health are a passionate, dynamic spinal health team. We are committed to help as many in our community of Reading, Berkshire and South Oxfordshire to enjoy the vitality of great health, to reach their health goals and feel truly alive! Our chiropractors and osteopaths offer the highest standards of care in a superb environment.