Author Archives: Kiara Johnson

Diet and Exercise Impact on Chronic Disease

The leading killers in Westernized countries are chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cancer. There is a strong correlation between a poor diet, physical inactivity and an increase risk in chronic diseases.

Chronic diseases have an immense burden to society by increasing medical costs and human suffering. There has been overwhelming evidence from a variety of sources which links most chronic diseases seen in the world today to physical inactivity and inappropriate diet consumption. In fact recent data estimates that physical inactivity and poor diet caused 400,000 deaths in the year 2000. At the moment this ranks second, however soon inactivity and diet will soon rank as the leading cause of death in the United States.

These health problems have virtually been non existent in underdeveloped countries, but as they develop more like westernized cultures chronic diseases have increased. People changing their diets and becoming more sedentary is on the rise.

For years diet has been known to play a key role as a risk factor in chronic diseases. Foods high in fat and energy-dense with a substantial content of animal foods have replaced diets which were typically largely plant-based. Diets are a major preventative; however it is just one risk factor. Physical inactivity is another major risk factor which is an important determinant of health. Recent studies have emphasized the importance of regular physical activity in decreasing the risk of chronic disease which needs to include both aerobic and resistance training.

The evidence suggests that an adoption of an ongoing healthy lifestyle is more effective in preventing chronic diseases than quick fix ‘weight-loss’ diets. The scientific evidence supporting the value of daily exercise and a diet focusing on the consumption of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables for the prevention and treatment of the major diseases seen in industrialized countries today is overwhelming.

Physical Activity and Bone Health

bone healthWeight-bearing physical activity has beneficial effects on bone health across the age spectrum. Physical activities that generate relatively high-intensity loading forces, such as plyometrics, gymnastics, and high intensity training, enhance bone mineral accrual in children and adolescents. To assess the effects of physical activity on bone mass in humans the BMD (bone mineral density) is measured which is the amount of mineral measured per unit are or volume of bone tissue. Physical activity plays an important role in maximizing bone mass during childhood and the early adult years maintaining bone mass through the 5th decade, attenuating bone loss with aging, and reducing falls and fractures in the elderly.

Physical activity plays a very important role in maximizing bone mass in children and adolescents. There is some evidence that exercise induced gains in bone mass in children are maintained into adulthood so the peak bone mass developed during this time is essential in decreasing the risk of osteoporosis in further years to come. Therefore physical activity habits during childhood may have long-lasting benefits on bone health. Observations conclude that bone mass is higher in children who are physically active than in those who are less active. Furthermore bone mass is higher in children who participate in activities that generate high impact forces, for example gymnastics, than those who engage in activities that are lower impact forces (e.g. walking) or non weight bearing (e.g. swimming).

During adulthood, the primary goal of physical activity should be to maintain bone mass. Peak bone mass is thought to be attainted by the end of the 3rd decade, therefore the early adult years may be the final opportunity for its increase. At this stage it is unclear whether adults can increase bone mineral density through exercise training. When increases have been reported, it has been in response to relatively high intensity weight-bearing endurance or resistance exercise.

After the age of 40, bone mass decreases by about 0.5% per year or more, regardless of sex or ethnicity. In middle-aged and older adults benefits of exercise may be reflected by a reduction in the rate of bone loss, rather than an increase in bone mass. The rate of loss varies by skeletal region and is likely influenced by such factors as genetics, nutrition, hormonal status, and habitual physical activity, making it difficult to determine the extent to which the decline in bone mass is an inevitable consequence of the ageing process. A variety of types of exercise can be effective in preserving bone mass of older women as well as men.

In conclusion maintaining a vigorous level of physical activity across the life span is an essential component for achieving and maintaining optimal bone health. Physical activity habits during childhood may have long-lasting benefits on bone health. It is important to keep active because there profound effects of immobilisation and bed rest on bone loss, so even the frailest elderly should remain as physically active as their health permits to preserve skeletal integrity.

Improve your performance

Interval training is used widely by many athletes these days because it is so effective. Gone are the days where all your training involves going for long, low intensity runs or walks. In order to improve your performance you need to add some intensity. However it is quite difficult to maintain a high intensity effort for a long period of time. That’s where interval training comes in handy; it involves bursts of high intensity work alternated with periods of rest or low activity. In order to get the proper effects of interval training you need to make sure the brief bouts of exercise are at near-maximum exertion. Doing this for half an hour will give you a great work out, in fact research shows interval training performed for only 20 minutes is more effective at improving performance (and loosing weight) than going for a 60 minute walk. Because of the “less time factor involved” you will find time to exercise. You’ll fell better about yourself and set a great example for your family and friends.

It adds variety to your exercise routine. When you include interval techniques it makes it feel like more of a challenge. During the quick bursts try to go further than your previous quick burst – it keeps it interesting. Try these workouts to add some variety to your training.
Interval Variation I: Standard
3 – 5 minutes warm-up (light ride, low intensity, gradually increasing at the end of the warm up period)
1 minute moderate or high intensity followed by 1 minute low intensity (repeat 6-8 times)
3 – 5 minutes cool down (light ride, low intensity, gradually decreasing by the end of the cool down period)
Interval Variation II: Pyramid
3 – 5 minutes warm-up
30 seconds high intensity, 1 minute low intensity
45 seconds high intensity, 1 minute low intensity
60 seconds high intensity, 1 minute low intensity
90 seconds high intensity, 1 minute low intensity
60 seconds high intensity, 1 minute low intensity
45 seconds high intensity, 1 minute low intensity
30 seconds high intensity
3 – 5 minutes cool-down

What’s that painful feeling in your ribs?

woman running with stitchSometimes when you’re running along a sharp pain can develop and often causes you to stop exercising (good excuse to tell your trainer that you can no longer keep running). This is known as a ‘stitch’ which is a sharp pain felt in your side just under your ribs. Although it is not clear what the cause of a stitch is, it is thought that breathing has a lot to do with it.

The diaphragm and intercostal muscles (located between the ribs) are involved in the breathing process and can become tight and not function properly if there is a lack of oxygen. So the sharp pain you are feeling in between your ribs are perhaps a result of inadequate oxygen delivery to the muscles that are involved in breathing.

So how do we treat a stitch? Most of the time, stitches occur on the right side of the body. When the side stitch is on the right side, try to exhale when you’re left foot lands. Also try and drop the intensity slightly and hopefully it will settle after a few minutes. Another recommendation is breathing through pursed lips is to ease the pain, but stopping your exercise activity is sometimes the only solution. If you stop exercise the pain will usually stop in a few minutes with no harm done.

Now that we have treated them, how do we prevent them?

Here are some ways:

  • Improve fitness
  • Strengthen the diaphragm by using exercises such as those that aid respiratory rehabilitation
  • Strengthen core muscles (abdominalslower back, obliques)
  • Limit consumption of food and drink two to three hours before exercising (in particular, drinks of high carbohydrate content and osmolarity (reconstituted fruit juices))
  • Drink water beforehand to prevent muscle cramps
  • Warm up properly
  • Gradually increase exercise intensity when running
  • Run on soft surfaces
  • Deep breathing with full exhalation
  • Slow the pace of the exercise.

Do Powerbands and Powerbalance bands really work?

Do powerbands really work?The latest craze in the sport and fitness industry… Powerbands!

These days they are in every sports store and most athletes are wearing them. So how does a rubber band make you stronger and increase your balance? The answer is very simple… magic tricks from a sales person!

When a sales person is trying to sell you a power band they will get you to do a balance test. The test involves standing on one leg with your arms out and someone pushing down on your arm. The test is done first without the powerband and then repeated while you are wearing the band. Miraculously you will be able to balance better with the magic device known as the powerband!

Funnily enough this increased balance is not magic energy running through your body but a simple trick. During the first part of the test the sales person will push slightly out and away from the centre of gravity, hence the subject will fall quite easily. Now give the subject the magic device and push down towards the person’s centre of gravity they will then be able to balance much better. Also they will push down harder on the second part of the test which looks quite impressive to the on looker however it is actually causing an advantage. The harder you press down the more anchored the body is to the ground, therefore they are able to balance better.

Another reason for the increased performance can be put down to The Hawthorne effect. This has nothing to do with Big Buddy Franklin however.

The Hawthorne effect is a form of reactivity whereby subjects improve or modify an aspect of their behavior being experimentally measured simply in response to the fact that they are being studied, not in response to any particular experimental manipulation.  In short, you learn how to manipulate the test.

So there you have it, save your $60 for something else that actually works! Although I believe they do look cool, so it might be worth getting the cheaper version and look fashionable, or go with a fundraising version. At least they are not posing as something they are not and the money is going to a good cause.

Bargain Power Balance Powerband

Or if the placebo effect of you believing they are helping you out and there for they are works for you keep wearing them! Who are we to tell you that’s not good enough! What ever gives you the belief to perform at your best stick to it.

If you liked this post don’t forget to keep checking back for Kiara’s Tuesday posts.

Kiara’s posts will be up each Tuesday morning so check back weekly.

Thought I would update this post with a funny photo I took on Friday night… It seems if you are in the market for a Power Balance Power Band and you have been able to wait it out this long you’ve done well.  Looks like you will be able to pick up one of these beauties for a bargain $4.99.  Interesting considering they were at around the $60 mark before they were shown to be ineffective. – Luke Scott

OK – I decided that given that a picture is worth a thousand words… Ah you’ll get the drift.

I would love some more examples of how far these things got… Please post more photos!

Motivation to Exercise!

motivation to exerciseIt’s now the middle of January and I can bet that one of your New Year’s Resolutions was to exercise more, for whatever the reasons; health, fitness, weight loss etc. Let me guess so far you haven’t because the motivation just isn’t there. Are you having trouble exercising regularly outside of your PT sessions? Here are some tips to get motivated!

Know the benefits of exercise. We are more motivated to do things that we’ll benefit from. The more we benefit, the more motivated we are.
Create your personal “reasons list.” Jot down EVERY reason you can think of that you want to get healthy/get fit/lose weight through consistent exercise. Inform your trainer of these so when they are pushing you to do that final hill sprint they can bring in these reasons to motivate you
Exercise with a friend. Statistics tell us that people who exercise with a friend are more successful at exercising consistently. You can keep each other accountable. Knowing that someone is waiting for you to exercise with them can be great motivation to show up and get it done! Even get a friend to join in on your PT sessions for a bit more fun.
Exercise first thing in the morning, every morning. In between your PT sessions it’s important to keep exercising, our bodies were made to be active on a daily basis, and when we are, all sorts of wonderful things happen. We even get healthy and fit! Get out there and take a 30-minute walk.
Train for a local 5 km or 10 km walk or run in your area. This can be great motivation to exercise on a regular basis. Melbourne always has events happening and they always turn out to be a fun day. Also don’t let the thought of 10 km scare you, if you train regularly and are determined you can make this distance!
Keep records. Write down your exercise time (minutes) each day. Keep a running total for the month and year. Calculate your average exercise time per day. This will help your trainer periodise a program for you (this will help avoid injuries).

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