Balance and co-ordination is an often overlooked part of fitness and should be trained as much as strength and endurance.
It is known that balance and co-ordination is controlled by several parts of the body, namely the eyes and the ears. These senses pass on the data it has gathered via the nerves to the muscles to appropriately move about gracefully. In older people though, these senses deteriorate and as a result, balance may worsen. Improving balance and co-ordination can benefit everyone, especially the elderly, to increase health and mobility.
There are many factors that may hamper one’s balance and co-ordination. The alignment of your neck, your spine, and your pelvis is one. Age and disease is another problem. For example, when your pelvis is misaligned, your body needs to compensate for that misalignment. Your neck may shift to one side to promote balance, but this, in turn, may cause you stiffness and neck pain.
Age and disease can also contribute to poor balance. With poor balance, the elderly are prone to slip and falls. It hinders mobility and lessens the overall quality of life. Diseases such as arthritis and osteoporosis can also hamper balance and co-ordination.
Exercise improves flexibility and strength and, through these, balance and co-ordination. Nutrition is another important aspect of a healthy life. Important nutrients for balance and co-ordination include sodium, calcium, potassium, and magnesium as they are needed in regulating nerve impulses and muscle activity. Without them, you would experience painful cramps. Blueberries in particular are a superfood that contains many nutrients for improving balance and co-ordination.
With the right exercise and nutrition you will increase you chance of living a full healthy life.
These days doctors often ‘prescribe’ exercise as a way to maintain good health and with good reason. Being active not only makes us feel better, it can also help ease various symptoms and cut risk of disease.
Studies have shown that people in their late 70s who undertake at least 20 minutes of exercise per day need fewer prescriptions and are ess likely to be admitted to hospital than those who don’t. Exercise has been shown to be as effective at lowering blood pressure as certain medication, as well as being shown to improve heart and gut health, memory and balance. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends exercise 3 times per week between 45min to an hour, for 3 months for those with mild or moderate depression. The physical activity also stimulates our brains and helps prevent anxiety and stress, as well as increasing the lifespan and improving the quality of life.
1. For Living Longer – Jogging
A US study showed that adults over 65 who ran or jogged for at least 30 minutes 3 times per week were as healthy as young adults in their 20s. This might not sound important, but your walking style is a key indicator of mortality, so the longer you can stay spritely on your feet, the longer and healthier your life should be. Meanwhile, another study found that light jogging (between 70-120 minutes per week) was linked to the lowest mortality rate compared to sedentary people and heavy runners – so little and often is key here.
2. For Improving Memory – Dancing
A study from 2017 found that all exercise can help reverse the signs of ageing in the brain, but dancing more than any other sport. The study, which focused on adults in their late 60s who took part in a weekly dance class, found that all participants showed an increase in the hippocampus region of the brain, which can be affected by diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as more general age-related decline.
3. For Back Pain – Active Therapies
Many GP appointments are connected to muscle and nerve problems- and these are often based in the back. If you suffer with back pain, you will know that it can affect your movement and sleep and leave you feeling quite low. Luckily, help is at hand in the form of gentle stretching. Also, research shows that active therapies, such as chiropractic treatment, are a great option for managing back pain and to create optimal alignment, balance and symmetry.
4. For Depression and Anxiety – Walking
Science agrees – walking outdoors has been linked to a reduction in stress and a boost in mood, particularly for those who have just been through a negative life event such as serious illness or loss of a loved one. Brisk walks have also been shown to help women deal with the anxiety and stress that’s sometimes associated with menopause. Movement helps your brain to release endorphins, feel-good hormones that can reduce the perception of pain as well as depression or stress.
5. For Bone and Muscle Health – Weight Training
Experts are increasingly suggesting a bit of strength training goes a long way when it comes to better bone and muscle health. As we get older, we start to lose muscle mass, which can leave us prone to falls, as well as making it easier to gain weight. So think of strength training as insurance for your later life. While this could mean leading to lift lightweights, it can also mean strength exercises using your own body weight – such as sit-ups or squats. It’s really never too late to start. A study of 90-year-olds found that 12 weeks of strength training improved their muscle tone, ability to balance, general power and walking speed.
Don’t forget 150 minutes (just over 21 mins daily) is the minimum moderate exercise the NHS recommends for adults to stay healthy! And the best part is, it’s freely available to most of us, small things make a big difference. Movement is the new medicine!
If you thought strength training was only for young people – or only for men – think again.
Strength training can have fantastic benefits for men and women of all ages, and is actually more important as we get older.
Strength training doesn’t necessary mean lifting huge weights or building big muscles. It can do, if that’s what you’re looking for. But it can also involve using lighter weights for a higher number of repetitions, using weights machines at the gym, going to a strength training exercise class, or just doing bodyweight exercises. This means there’s a type of strength training that can work for everyone. And all can be helpful!
Here are some of the specific benefits you can get from strength training.
- Keeping your bones strong
We can naturally start to lose bone density from around age 35 onwards. So, as we get into our 50s and beyond, we have an ever-increasing risk of weak bones and osteoporosis – a condition that affects around three million people in the UK1.
Women in particular can see a dramatic drop in bone density at menopause, because they lose the bone-protecting effects of oestrogen. But men are not exempt and can have osteoporosis too.
Weight-bearing exercise and especially strength training can help stop bone loss – and may even increase bone density, even after menopause in women2. This is because the action of muscles pulling on bones stimulates our bones to become stronger.
- Reducing risk of falls and injury / maintaining independence in old age
We naturally lose muscle mass and strength from our 30s onwards, too.
But why should this be a problem?
Well, we don’t only need good muscle strength to lift heavy things. We also need it to keep our body stable and to avoid falling over or getting injured. Falls can have especially serious consequences in older people, even causing permanent disability. And we need muscle strength to help us move as we want and go about all our daily tasks, whether it’s walking to the shops or getting up from a chair – in other words, being able to look after ourselves.
So, strength training and keeping our muscles strong can help us live long, healthy lives and stay independent into old age.
- Improving body shape and preventing weight gain
Strength training helps to tone all our muscles and keep us looking fit and healthy. And by maintaining muscle strength, we’re also less likely to gain body fat.
- Improving testosterone levels in men
Testosterone naturally starts to drop in men from around age 35 to 40, by around 1 to 3 per cent per year3. And by late 40s or early 50s, men can start to experience symptoms such as erectile dysfunction, low sex drive, weight gain (especially on the belly), fatigue, low mood or depression and poor sleep. This is sometimes known as the ‘male menopause’.
Exercise is a key way to help maintain testosterone levels as men get older. But not all exercise is equal! Strength training with heavy weights has been found to boost testosterone levels in men directly after exercise3. On the other hand, endurance-type exercise such as long-distance running or cycling may lower testosterone levels in the long run4.
- Reducing risk of diabetes
Strength training seems has been found to reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, too5. This may be because muscle helps the body to take glucose (sugar) out of the blood and store it6. So, good muscle mass means better blood sugar control.
- Supporting memory and cognition
Strength training and maintaining good muscle mass may help to keep our brain sharp as we get older and even help prevent Alzheimer’s disease7,8.
One study on 37 elderly women found that 12 weeks of strength training three times a week improved their cognitive capacity (memory, reasoning, learning, etc.) by 19% compared to a control group that did not do the training.9
- nhs.uk. Osteoporosis. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/osteoporosis/ [Accessed 5 Apr. 2018].
- Zehnacker CH, Bemis-Dougherty A. Effect of weighted exercises on bone mineral density in post menopausal women. A systematic review. J Geriatr Phys Ther. 2007;30(2):79-88.
- Vingren JL et al. Testosterone physiology in resistance exercise and training: the up-stream regulatory elements. Sports Med. 2010 Dec 1;40(12):1037-53.
- Hackney AC. The male reproductive system and endurance exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1996 Feb;28(2):180-9.
- Shiroma EJ et al. Strength Training and the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2017 Jan;49(1):40-46.
- Scott D et al. Sarcopenia: a potential cause and consequence of type 2 diabetes in Australia’s ageing population? Med J Aust. 2016 Oct 3;205(7):329-33.
- Portugal EM et al. Aging process, cognitive decline and Alzheimer`s disease: can strength training modulate these responses? CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2015;14(9):1209-13.
- Hurley BF, Hanson ED, Sheaff AK. Strength training as a countermeasure to aging muscle and chronic disease. Sports Med. 2011 Apr 1;41(4):289-306.
- Smolarek Ade C et al. The effects of strength training on cognitive performance in elderly women. Clin Interv Aging. 2016 Jun 1;11:749-54.
The nights are still long, temperatures are low and cold / flu season is very much upon us. From shorter days with less sunlight, changes in hormones and potential nutritional deficiencies, there are so many factors that can contribute to feelings of exhaustion at this time of the year. But here are a few simple ways to put the spring back into your step!
Move more, yawn less
Regular low-intensity workouts help boost energy levels in people suffering from fatigue. In a study, subjects trying low-intensity exercise, like leisurely walking or bike riding, reported the biggest drop in feelings of fatigue compared to the group doing more intense exercise. You should keep moving and ensure you continue exercising regularly, as the endorphins released during activity will help give you a much-needed lift. Regular exercising should also help you achieve a better night’s sleep so you feel more energised in the morning.
Multiple studies have shown that regular exercise strengthens your immune system, so it can fight off bacterial and viral infections. When you exercise and get your blood pumping, immune cells circulate through your body more quickly, helping them to seek and destroy infections. This boost only lasts for a few hours, which is why it’s good to exercise consistently.
Let the light in
February is the worst month for sleep. Research found that it takes longer to nod off in February than any other month. This can certainly be a contributing factor towards people reporting lower energy levels in February than any other month of the year. Aim to go to sleep and wake up at the same hour every day, so you get a good length of rest. Avoid sleeping too much at the weekends, because it might result in you actually feeling even more tired and sluggish.
Check your room temperature, too. If it is too high, it can make you feel like you didn’t get enough sleep, even when you have slept a proper amount of hours. And if it’s too cold you might wake up several times during the night. Sleep experts recommend bedroom temperatures to be between 20-22C degrees. Even if you are sleeping well, you may experience fatigue as a result of increased levels of melatonin, because of lack of exposure to sunlight. To help regulate your melatonin levels, spend as much time outdoors in daylight as you can – take a walk at lunchtime, or make sure the blinds are open if you sit near a window at work.
Boost from within
For most of us, the colder it gets, the more we crave carbs. It’s true that if we’re shivering, we burn more energy to keep warm, but as we spend most of our time in heated environments, most of us don’t need the extra calories. Comforting drinks and foods are often higher in fat, carbohydrates, and added sugars, and they can have a detrimental impact on energy levels, which can end up making you feel worse. Swap in healthier alternatives, like sweet potato, lentils, veggie soups and porridge. It’s also important to include a vitamin D supplement in your diet as our bodies are unable to create enough at this time of year. Food sources such as eggs, oily fish, spreads and fortified cereals are helpful to include in your diet, but a good quality vitamin D3 supplement is more effective. Nutritional deficiencies can cause low energy levels and exhaustion.
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080228112008.htm https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007165.htmhttps://www.pri.org/stories/2013-02-07/february-worst-month-sleep-study-says
Arthritis has always been perceived as a problem only for older people, but some 30% of the 8 million sufferers in the UK are under the age of 25.
Making sure that your diet contains certain food groups can be a powerful natural weapon in the continuing battle for pain relief. Arthritis doesn’t have to be a life sentence. The following lifestyle and dietary table is for guidance only and arthritis sufferers willing to change their diet should do so very gradually, after discussion with their GP, and ensure that all food groups are adequately replaced.
TRY TO AVOID
- Nightshade foods – e.g tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, white potato and margarine
- Dairy products including chocolate
- Dry roasted nuts
- Alcohol (wine), soft drinks and caffeine
- Additives, preservatives and chemicals
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Sulphur and methionine containing foods – eg cabbage, brussel sprouts, garlic and onions
- Moderate amount of meat
- Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna for Omega 3
- fruits and vegetables, e.g lettuce, peas, cabbage, apples
- Complex carbohydrates, e.g brown rice, wholegrain pasta and wholegrain bread
- Vinegar and hot spices
- Dietary fibre
- Nuts such as almonds, brazil nuts and hazelnuts
- Water – try to drink a minimum of eight glasses a day
Plus gentle daily exercises, stretches and walks.
It is estimated that around 94% of adults in Europe & the US own a mobile phone. This means that 94% of the population are at risk of ‘text neck’. Text neck can occur just by tilting the head downwards by 2-3cm to look at your phone screen. It has also been found that when tilting your head forward by this amount, the effective weight of your head increases to 30kg – equivalent to the weight of an average eight year old child!
Text neck can result in severe upper back strain, shoulder pain and tightness in both shoulders. It can also possibly cause permanent damage in young, growing children, which may in turn lead to life long neck pain.
Follow these helpful tips to reduce your risk of ‘text neck’:
- try to hold your phone as close to eye level as possible. The same goes for people working in an office who need to use a computer for the majority of the day – ensure that your screen is completely in line with your eyes, to ensure you are not straining your neck to look at the screen.
- If you work in an office, be sure to take a quick stretch break every half an hour or so, to ensure that your back and neck won’t stiffen.
- Try these simple exercises to relieve pain stemming from text neck, the downward-facing dog is a common exercise to relieve shoulder and upper back pain, however the ‘exaggerated nod’ might be more effective. Simply look up to the ceiling, let your jaw relax and open your mouth, keep your head here and bring your lower jaw to your upper jaw.
Be sure to visit local chiropractor if you are experiencing any ‘text neck’ symptoms because if left untreated, it can potentially lead to inflammation of the neck ligaments and increased curvature of the spine.
Many patients who suffer from knee, back or shoulder pain for example can attribute these issues to a pelvic dysfunction. While pelvic dysfunction is not life threatening it can be life limiting so find out how you can make small changes that may make a large difference. If you’re suffering from regular pain and think you might have a misaligned pelvis, it’s important for patients to visit a chiropractor.
Pelvic dysfunction often happen as a result of everyday awkward movements over time such as lifting heavy loads without care and sitting at a desk with bad posture as well as during pregnancy and childbirth or from injury.
The pelvis acts as a transmitter of forces between the legs and the spine. Many important muscle groups attach to the pelvis, the thigh muscles from below and the muscles of the trunk from above. If the pelvic joints (sacroiliac joints and pubic symphysis) are not moving correctly this can cause an imbalance resulting in pain in many different places. It could be looked at as a core stabilizer, supporting the spine, legs and wide range of muscles, so when the pelvis is not working properly (hip is tilted out of position) it can cause pain, weakness and tightness that can travel through the hip and pelvis up into the shoulders and neck, it also commonly can cause referred pain down into the legs.
There are three distinct areas that may be affected as a result of Pelvic Dysfunction these include the hips, which can become achy, painful and inflamed, the lower back which due to impairment of stability and function of (hyperextension) of the muscles in the abdomen and lower back which can cause spinal joint (facet joint) injuries and finally, the knee and ankle which can be put under a lot of strain if weight is shifted to one side to compensate for the pelvic dysfunction.
You can do a simple test at home to help you look for obvious signs of pelvic dysfunction: stand barefoot in front of a mirror with your back straight but relaxed. Imagine a vertical line going straight down the middle of your body and a second line near your shoulders that is perfectly perpendicular to the first line. If your hips are out of alignment, your pelvis will appear diagonal rather than parallel to the second line meaning you have a lateral pelvic tilt. This could be a sign of pelvic dysfunction.
We know that facial muscles affect facial expression, and in turn can influence emotion, but it’s rarely considered that other muscular states can also affect mood. Research suggests that this is the case and that sitting upright can build resilience to stress.
Especially when under pressure and distracted, people are likely to pay less attention to their posture. However, research indicates that good posture at times of stress can help to maintain self-esteem and positive mood, whereas slumped postures have the opposite effect.
It is important to take care of your posture and there are a number of ways to do this, both at home and at work, and especially when using a computer.
- When relaxing in a chair, such as when watching television, it is important to ensure that as much of the body as possible has contact with the chair for optimal support.
- Avoid sitting for more than 30-40 minutes at a time. Remember to stand up, stretch, change position, walk around and go and get a drink of water!
- When stretching, concentrate on opening up your chest, abdominal area and hip flexors. Your chiropractor can advise you on the best movements for this.
- Perform exercises to strengthen the muscles that support your posture. Exercises such as resistance band pull-aparts are good, and your chiropractor can advise you on other suitable exercises.
Of course, perhaps the time that slouching most commonly occurs in our society is during the hours that are spent hunched over a desk, working at a computer.
- Ensure that your desk, chair and monitor are set up following proper guidelines.
- Take regular breaks. Set a timer to remind yourself if you’re guilty of forgetting to do this when immersed in work.
- If using a laptop, ensure that is placed on a desk or table rather than your lap to avoid looking down, slouching, and leaving your neck unsupported.”
Your chiropractor will be able to conduct a postural analysis and suggest stretches, exercises and lifestyle changes that can improve your seated posture and enhance your mood.
Spine health is all about mindfulness and constant care. Maintaining a healthy spine, will make everything you do in life a bit easier. Here are some tips on how to keep your spine healthy.
If you can, stretch every single day. Always warm up for 3-5 minutes before you stretch fully. Remember, never stretch cold muscles. Usually after a run or workout you are able to stretch more intensely.
Over time, our muscles and tendons become used to the motions we most regularly perform, tightening up if they are not continually stretched out. The more flexible they remain, the less chance you’ll suffer from a pulled muscle.
Along with staying limber and flexible, you’ll need to make sure your back muscles are strong enough to help you maintain proper form for the entirety of your workouts. Even a few moments of slouching can lead to a pulled back or slipped disc which is not good for spine health.
Try a few weight-lifting and core strengthening exercises at least a few times a week.
Working the body is great but make sure that rest days are taken seriously. Whether you’re practising for marathons or just getting your thirty minutes of activity in, many people forget just how important rest days are.
By not working out on certain days, the body is able to repair damage while simultaneously making your muscles stronger. Too much exercise means this healing doesn’t happen. Make sure you have at least one day a week set aside for rest and repair.
Good spinal health is directly related to a good diet and staying hydrated. Providing your body with necessary nutrients, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts are required. With these, the body can better heal areas that are injured or are showing signs of injury. Be sure to practice these tips for a healthy spine.
80% of UK adults will experience back pain at some point in their lives – so what is causing it? With this rate being so high, it is important to highlight some of the everyday activities, which, if conducted wrongly, can lead to back pain. One of the main ones to focus on is sleep – everyone does it, so it is important to know how to do it properly!
Below are some of the sleep positions that can cause you pain:
- When sleeping on your front, your head is turned slightly to the side as not to suffocate completely. As a result, this can cause a large amount of strain on the neck, which could lead to pain throughout the day. This position also means that your spine is completely unsupported, which could lead to extreme back pain.
- When sleeping on your left side with your arms completely out, you are essentially restricting blood flow and putting a large amount of pressure on your nerves; which can result in soreness in the shoulders and arms. Like sleeping on your front, the spine is completely unsupported in this position and therefore could lead to both upper and lower back pain.
- Whilst sleeping in the foetal position is a favourite amongst many, it is actually one of the worst sleep positions because of its complete lack of support for the neck and spine. As a result of the curvature of the spine in this position, neck and back pain is extremely common.
These positions can ease back pain:
- By sleeping flat on your back, your spine is completely supported, which will help ease the pain caused to the neck and back. By keeping your arms by your side, you are reducing strain on the shoulders as well.
- If you continue to feel soreness in your back after sleeping on your back, try the exact same position but with a small pillow underneath your knees. This helps your body to maintain a healthy curve in the lower back.
- If you want to sleep on your side, you absolutely can by just making sure your arms are kept down by your side instead of being stretched outwards. This actually supports the spine in the position of its natural curve.