Treating You Like Family

I’ve noticed a trend in the health and fitness industry, and I bet you have too:

Long waits, and short appointments.

This actually is tough on everyone involved in the process: your health care team, including doctors, medical staff, and allied health practitioners, and of course, YOU.

Part of my success has stemmed from my willingness and ability to take plenty of time to get to know you, your body, what you want and need, and importantly, what a realistic program for achieving this looks like. This is a departure from the rapid turn-around times that are rapidly becoming the norm in health care (and is one of the reasons I really like being the boss!).

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not faulting the medical or allied health community at large. These people got into their work to help others, just like I have. They are often working within larger systems and sometimes under constraints that demand high patient volumes and ever-shortening appointment times. Couple this with the time it takes to clearly explain the basics of any given health condition, sometimes numerous treatment options, potential outcomes and side effects, and it’s no wonder that many patients are confused about what’s going on in their bodies. It’s not an outcome anyone is looking for.

Since I have the luxury of time, I want to use it. My goal for each patient I see is that I give them the gold standard of health care: A patient-centred approach. This means making sure I realllllly understand you. As well providing you with the best exercise and nutrition programs, I want to get what’s important to you, what your priorities are, and what achieving your goals will actually mean for your quality of life. After all, what’s the point of dieting so strictly that you miss out on your kid’s birthday party (or are too grumpy to enjoy it!)??

It also means taking the time to make sure YOU understand what you’re dealing with. I want you to understand what’s going on with your body, how your program will help, and what this means for your quality of life. In understanding your body and how it’s working, you’ll be able to more easily make informed decisions about your health care and fitness. My ultimate goal is that you are comfortable with, and confident in, your own approach to living a healthy life.

In treating you like family, I mean that I’m driven to give the same care and kindness that I want my mother to be treated with. There’s no yelling, no guilt, and no expectations other than what you’ve set for yourself. You’ll get all the time you need to understand your body and how to help it work better, and support to help you fit your new healthy habits into your lifestyle. Really, it’s all about making your program work for you, and feeling great because of it!


Hip Conditioning Help – Quarter Squat with Band

This is a great exercise for anyone needing glute activation, hip stability, or core stability: It’s a functional exercise that hits all three – very high bang for buck! This is thanks to the limited knee movement and high hip range of motion. You can control the level of resistance by using a heavier or lighter band. Unlike many other exercises, this has a relatively limited depth through it’s effective range.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Stand with the band just above the knees, and step back half a step with one foot.
  • Keeping all your body weight on the front foot, sit down and back slightly with the hips – no more than a quarter of your full squat depth.
  • Keep a neutral spine as you squat, allowing your chest to “bow” forward.
  • Make sure your front knee doesn’t go past your toes. Another way to think about this is trying to reach the back wall with your bum.
  • Keep both hips facing forward; don’t let the “back” hip rotate backward.
  • Push through the front heel and squeeze glutes to return to starting position.
  • Push both knees out slightly into the band as you squat and return to standing.

 

Check out the video to see it in action!


two medicine balls for at home strength training exercise and fitness

Client Question: What is functional exercise?

This is a great question!!

“Functional” has been a buzzword in the fitness industry for years now. It likely conjures up images of someone exercising while standing on one foot, doing much of their workout sitting (or standing – though please don’t!) on a big rubber fit ball to switch on their core. Spoiler: This isn’t actually what it means!**

In reality, most exercise can be functional exercises: Functional exercises are those that have a direct benefit to the movements you make in real life, whether that’s going about your day to day activities, going to the gym to get stronger, starting a beginners running program, or even training to compete in a big race. There is no particular group of exercises that are “functional”.

** As people (personal trainers, coaches, clients, and athletes) have seen how little the above types of exercise help in daily life and performance, the industry has moved away from the balance and instability elements that are the hallmark of the early “functional” trend. In fact, these exercises can lead to poor exercise technique, increased compensation patterns, and minimal additional benefit. They aren’t terrible across the board, but you can make better choices with your time!

Writing A Functional Exercise Program

When I see a client who’s interested in getting into functional movement or exercise, I get really excited, since it lets me stretch my creative juices a bit (and also because these clients have the highest chance of long term success – winning!). The process starts with a good chat about what real life looks like for you, what kind of movements you might struggle with, what kind of movements you get pain with, and what you would like to be able to do more easily. We’ll do a brief movement screen to let your body tell it’s side of the story, since most of us have movement compensations we are not aware of, and then we’ll get started on creating a balanced exercise program to match your needs and goals.

Here’s where the art comes in. When I think about what exercises should go in this program, I think about the movements you make in daily life and/or training. I’ll pick exercises that are similar to those movements to help strengthen the muscles that keep you going day to day. I’ll also pick exercises that will turn on any muscles that aren’t quite pulling their weight in your normal movements (under-active muscles play a key role in injury rates) and exercises that provide a balance to your main working muscle groups, which will further decrease injury risk. You should be able to recognize your in your workout exercises that mimic the movements of your job, or that help you improve strength or cardiovascular fitness levels so that the activities of everyday life become easier.

Common Examples of Functional Exercises

Functional Exercise

Similar Real Life Movement

Squats Sitting down and standing up, as from a chair
Step Ups Walking up stairs
Bicep Curls Picking up a small child
Farmers Carry Carrying the grocery bags

Is Your Program Functional For You?

Whether it’s called functional or not, the best program will evaluate your daily movements, energy needs, and lifestyle goals, and focus on exercises that will improve or maintain your abilities in these areas. Not every exercise will seem like something a movement you make every day, since creating strength for movement can require different muscles and joint angles than you might expect. Your body is a complex machine, and it’s rare that you’ll ever sit down, stand up, walk, carry, or lift things in the same perfectly straight line every time! Overall though, you should be able to see the similarities to your daily life, and within a few weeks should be able to feel the benefits.

If you’re not sure that your program is ticking these boxes, HealthFit can help. Your exercise physiology program is designed to be done in-home, at your gym, or anywhere else you feel the most comfortable and likely to do it, and if that’s not functional, I don’t know what is!

HealthFit looks after residents of inner city Brisbane and the western suburbs, including Spring Hill, Paddington, Bardon, Rosalie, Milton, Auchenflower, Toowong, Taringa, St Lucia, Indooroopilly, Chapel Hill, Kenmore, Graceville, and Chelmer. 

Want more info about how HealthFit can help you? Get In Touch

 


Hypermobile woman doing the splits

Improving Hypermobility

Joint hypermobility is a condition where the ligaments surrounding a joint aren’t as tight as they would normally be, which gives that joint greater movement ability than someone without hypermobility would have. Many people call this condition being “double jointed” or having “loose joints”; clinically we talk about having various degrees of joint laxity.

Joint hypermobility isn’t a black-and-white diagnosis. It actually occurs on a spectrum – everyone has more or less laxity in every joint. Hypermobility is seen more commonly in younger people, since your joints will naturally stiffen as you age. And interestingly, your level of hypermobility can greatly vary between your joints. You may be hypermobile in your elbows and shoulders, and much more stiff in yours wrists and knuckles. You’ll generally be diagnosed as hypermobile when you have extreme ranges of motion in several joints. The most common test for hypermobility is the Beighton Score. You can read more about that test at this link.

There’s a small percentage of the population that stays hypermobile throughout their lives. This can be a positive for some sports and activities, like gymnastics, dance, and martial arts, but for many people, hypermobility can lead to moderate to significant muscle and joint problems: When we look at normal physical structure and function (anatomy and physiology), we see that the role of ligaments are to hold the bones in a joint together in a way that allows smooth, pain-free function. When these ligaments are loose (increased joint laxity), the bones won’t be held together as securely. This can lead to increased wear and tear on the bones and cartilage in the joint. Muscle tension around the joint will also increase as the nervous system tries to create substitute support for the joint.

As such, hypermobility can lead to several annoying or painful symptoms:

  • Pain and tension in muscles and joints
  • Joints that click or pop
  • Joints that dislocate or sublux (come out of correct position) easily
  • Tiredness or fatigue, thanks to your muscles working hard
  • Increased joint injury risk for things like twisted and sprained ankles, or for joint overuse injuries

The most common complaints that my hypermobile clients have are muscular tension, sometimes leading to muscular aches, referred pain, or headaches (when the joints of the neck are affected). Many people don’t actually realise that hypermobility is the fundamental cause of this, instead thinking that it’s stress, or something they are doing in their daily lives that’s creating these aches and pains.

Now, the important part: What do to about hypermobility

There’s no “cure” for hypermobility (short of having surgery to shorten your ligaments, and you’d be hard pressed to find a surgeon who would do that!). It’s also not something that you should think is “wrong” with you. It’s just how your own body works. There are lots of ways that you can help manage hypermobility symptoms though, if you’re finding it to be unpleasant.

DON’T StretchFor Hypermobility

This might seem counter-intuitive, since tight muscles often feel like they need a good stretch. However, if you’re hypermobile, your joint laxity means you’re already “stretched” longer than your body wants you to be. Since stretching may further decrease your joint stability, it can actually backfire and increase muscular tension.

What to do instead?

Get A Remedial Massage

Remedial or deep tissue massage can decrease muscular tension without increasing muscle and connective tissue length. This tension often occurs in both the small stabilizer muscles and the larger muscles that power movement. It’s important to note that the body is using this tension to create joint stability and protect the joints, so by decreasing tension, you’ll have a small drop in joint stability. A good remedial massage therapist will be able to gauge how much tension to relieve. (Great remedial massage choices in Brisbane are Just Knead It and No More Knots.) This is still the number one way to decrease the feelings of tension though, so don’t skip out on it. Instead, think of it as one half of managing the symptoms.

What’s the other half?

Build Strength In The Muscles Surrounding Hypermobile Joints

Strength training builds muscle tension. This might sound bad (and too much of it can make you feel uncomfortably tight), but with hypermobility, this tension is actually a good thing. Stronger muscles hold a slight contraction at all times, even at rest, which can provide the joint stability that your body is looking for. As such, your nervous system won’t be pushing your body so hard to protect your joints, so you end up feeling less fatigued, feeling less muscular aches and pains, and may see a decrease in joint popping, clicking, or otherwise doing weird things. Plus you get all the other benefits of strength training too!

A strength training program for hypermobility should have a large focus on building activation ability and strength in your stabilizer muscles, since these are what the joint rely on for support and integrity. You can follow a program that address that alone, or that incorporates stabilizer training into a well-rounded fitness program.

Hypermobility is one of the more common complaints that HealthFit Coaching provides sessions for. If you’re in Brisbane and are interested in finding out how exercise physiology can help you manage your hypermobility, get in touch today!

 

Want more info? Check out these links:
Gazit, Y., Jacob, G., & Grahame, R. (2016). Ehlers–Danlos Syndrome—Hypermobility Type: A Much Neglected Multisystemic Disorder. Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal7(4), e0034. doi: 10.5041/rmmj.10261 Read it here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5101008/
Joint hypermobility symptoms and treatments. (2019). Read it here: https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/muscle-bone-and-joints/conditions/joint-hypermobility 
Featured Image Sourced From: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Yoga_Split_2.jpg?fbclid=IwAR1mgs9wappmEXULt8ZfSYoD9zCuduyozzEwukYqWI_qFrETlyeGYOAjpHU

Can I Claim Exercise Physiology On Private Health Insurance?

Lots of clients ask this question!

Exercise physiology is included in extras cover through many private health insurance providers, so if you’ve got extras, you may be in luck. Here’s a quick guide to getting the most out of your exercise physiology cover.

Make sure your exercise physiologist has the right qualifications

Private health insurance companies only provide rebates for sessions provided by ESSA Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEPs). ESSA is the governing body for exercise physiologists in Australia, and work with Medicare and private health insurance companies to make sure AEPs maintain high standards. You can verify ESSA accreditation on the ESSA website.

Find out what your coverage is

Call your insurance provider and find out if your cover includes exercise physiology, how much money you have allocated to that category, and what your expected rebates are. You may also want to find out when your annual coverage renews, as some insurance companies work on the calendar year, and some on the financial year. All of this information can help you plan out how to best make use of your coverage. Click though to Private Health Insurance – Exercise Physiology Cover to find a list of private health insurers that include exercise physiology in their extras cover. If you don’t see your private health provider on the list, definitely give them a call and tell them you’d like to see it added!

Don’t worry about a referral

They aren’t required for exercise physiology sessions covered by private health insurance. (You will need a referral from your GP if you wish to claim for Medicare rebates though, and you can’t use Medicare and private health to cover the same session.) Exercise physiology sessions can be held in-home so that you can exercise when it’s easy and convenient for you, or can be held in your local park, in a gym, or in another location you choose. We’re experts at coming up with creative and effective in-home sessions, no home gym required, which means that you can save on a gym membership as well.

Do make sure you have a valid reason for seeking treatment

Exercise physiology sessions that are clearly intended to prevent, delay, or improve a chronic disease or injury are generally covered, but general fitness programs are not. The Medicare definition of a chronic disease or condition includes things like diabetes and heart disease (among others), but also ongoing muscle and joint pain from traumatic or overuse injuries. This includes lower back pain, knee pain, neck and shoulder pain (including from or causing headaches and poor posture), and general musculoskeletal soreness that you’ve been experiencing for at least six months.

Talk to your exercise physiologist about making the most of your rebates

At HealthFit, we’re all about maximising your benefits, which means having a plan for making the best use of them. After discussing your ultimate, long-term goals, together we’ll work to figure out how many sessions you might need to reach them. This always varies based on how much support and accountability you need to stay on track, how much work you’re willing to do on your own, and how quickly your body adapts to exercise, among other things. But we’ll always aim to get you moving easily and feeling great as soon as possible.

 

Have questions about exercise physiology? Interested in signing up for in-home sessions? Get in touch! 

HealthFit Coaching looks after inner city Brisbane and the western suburbs, including Spring Hill, Paddington, Bardon, Rosalie, Milton, Auchenflower, Toowong, Taringa, St Lucia, Indooroopilly, Chapel Hill, Kenmore, Graceville, and Chelmer.


Sliced juicy oranges and grapefruit

The Three Day Weight Loss Fallacy

I just got a pop-up ad for weight loss. Specifically, “Join The Weight Loss Challenge”. What was the challenge? “How Much Weight Can YOU Lose In Three Days?”

This is a terrible idea. Here’s why:

First and foremost, how do you lose “as much as you can”? For most people, this usually means very little food, a whole lot of exercise, or some combination of the two. The approach you choose can have a significant impact on your three day (or long term) weight loss outcome. Regardless of your chosen food-intake-and-exercise combination, the science says short-term diets aren’t the way to achieve sustainable weight loss. Consider the following:

You’re not losing what you think you’re losing.

Your body is always burning fat (on a daily basis, more than half the energy your body uses comes from your fat stores). Changing your food intake or exercise volume over the course of a few days will not drastically alter fat burning.

You may still see a drop on the scales though: Lots of water weight can be lost in this time. Normal urine outputs can be anywhere between 800-2000ml per day (equating to 0.8-2kg, or 1.75-4.4 pounds), and additional water weight is lost through other body functions like sweat, bowel movements, and breathing. If your food or fluid intake is low, you’ll have less fluid to lose, but your total body volume will still decrease to a degree. (There’s a lot more to the processes of losing or retaining water weight, including different hormone levels, exercise levels, external factors like heat and humidity, and others.)

And, though three days is a short timeframe, you might also see some (very small) weight loss due to muscle breakdown and the use of stored carbohydrate, though this depends on what you’re eating and drinking, and what kind of exercise you’re doing over these three days. It’s very unlikely that you’ll lose enough muscle mass to have a noticeable impact on scale weight, but I bring this up because it can impact the next point…

You’ll likely gain it back.

By the end of three days you’re going to be hungry – especially if you’re eating little/exercising lots. Physical and mental aspects contribute to how we react to feeling hungry; the end result is that usually we eat – perhaps more than we need to in the long run. Our bodies have an inbuilt “survival drive” to rebuild the energy stores – the amount of fat, stored carbohydrate, and muscle mass – your body used for fuel during those three days. Hunger may lead to eating beyond what you need to rebuild those stores. We can eat a lot of calories very quickly, and the body takes some time to process food, replenish stores, and register that things are back to normal.

This sounds like three days of… unpleasantness.

You might be able to go for a day or three eating little and/or exercising a lot and feel ok physically and/mentally. Different people respond to dieting differently, though, and deprivation can have a negative impact on feelings of well-being, energy and fatigue levels, mental health states like anxiety or depression. And being hungry is not fun.

True weight loss or gain takes time. You can definitely lose weight in three days, but it’s not going to be the fat loss that you want, and it’s very unlikely to stay off. I’m a big fan of the “do it once, do it right” approach, and making the process enjoyable. It can be done!

 

For More Information:
Johnstone, A. (2007). Fasting ? the ultimate diet?. Obesity Reviews8(3), 211-222. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789x.2006.00266.x
Melzer, K. (2011). Carbohydrate and fat utilization during rest and physical activity. E-SPEN, The European E-Journal Of Clinical Nutrition And Metabolism6(2), e45-e52. doi: 10.1016/j.eclnm.2011.01.005

 

 

 


Cartoon of two people sitting down having a conversation

Why Healthcare Is Like Dating

You’re looking for someone to care about you, enough so that they want the best for you.

Could be dating, could be finding a new healthcare provider. Whether going well or not, these two situations have a lot of similarities. They boil down to some base questions:

Are you meeting the right kind of person?

In dating, you want to meet someone that you have something in common with.

In healthcare, you want to meet a provider that has training “in common” with your condition. A doctor for illnesses, a dietician for nutritional advice, a massage therapist and exercise physiologist for muscle imbalance and injury prevention – the list could go on and on.

Are you meeting them at the right time?

I recently had a client come in with debilitating back pain. She could hardly move. She’d already been to the physiotherapist, who had given her some exercises to increase her core strength (the right solution, long term)… that she couldn’t do, because she could hardly move. What she needed was the right type of healthcare for her present condition – in this case, remedial massage to relieve the muscle spasm and allow the exercises to work. For the most effective and efficient outcome, you need the right healthcare at the right time.

Do you like them?

In healthcare and dating, there are many fish in the sea. Your doctor, exercise physiologist, dietician, remedial massage therapist, physiotherapist, etc. has approximately the same training as all the others in their field. But, as with dating, just because a person meets basic criteria doesn’t mean that you have to stick with them. Better healthcare happens when you have good communication, and good communication happens when you connect with people. Look for someone who listens to you, asks good questions about how you feel, wants your input, looks to make you a part of the solution, and is nice to you!

(And just like dating, when you find a good one, hang onto them!)


Fit and healthy middle age woman exercising in the morning by running on a path

Client Question: Is morning exercise or evening exercise better for weight loss?

Great question from one of our personal training clients in Taringa this last week:

Should I do my workouts in the morning or the evening for better weight loss? 

When it comes to working out, most of us want to maximize the results we get, so it would make sense to work out when your body can make the most of it. Popular belief in the personal training and body building worlds holds that cardio first thing in the morning is a great fat burner, perfect for losing weight and toning up. How true is that?

The answer: Somewhat.

There is evidence that morning exercise can set you up for better fat burning (and improvements in other health markers) throughout the day, meaning that over the course of the day, you may burn slightly more fat than you might if you were relying solely on evening exercise. Why am I talking about fat burning if you want to lose weight? Body fat loss is far more likely to be what achieves your weight loss goal, than overall weight loss. Body composition is what determines how lean and toned you look, and from a health perspective, lower body fat levels are associated with lower levels of health risk; fat loss rather than weight loss can significantly improve your health.

Any exercise you do will have a positive impact on your body fat levels, regardless of what time of day you do it. But both morning and evening workouts have their own benefits. Several factors are in play here:

  • Exercising leads to a slight to moderate increase in metabolism during the “recovery period”, or the time after your workout when your body is busy replenishing cellular energy stores and making repairs to tissues. Because of this, exercise in the morning may provide a slight advantage by adding to the normal amounts of energy used during your daily activities. Overall, you may see a small increase in overall energy (calories) burned during the day. It’s important to note that this difference will be minor, especially if your morning workout is low to moderate intensity, and will not be enough to make a huge difference to body weight and body composition in a short or even moderate/medium time frame – this is for playing the long game.
  • Some studies have shown an increase in fat burning tendencies after exercise in the morning compared to exercise in the evening, though other studies have found no differences. This also appears to be dependent on the types of fats in your diet, with unsaturated varieties being more easily used than saturated fats. This can be particularly useful if you’re exercising for heart, cardiovascular, or metabolic health.
  • Exercise intensity and the resulting hormonal and immune responses (generally thought to be related to the physical stress of exercise) both influence the use of fats versus carbohydrates in providing energy at a cellular level. In normal physical function, these responses are influenced by the time of day as well as how you exercise. Many physical responses to exercise are amplified in the evening; Evening exercise appears to increase the body’s hormonal and immune responses, which in turn can lead to higher release of fat molecules into the bloodstream – basically, leading to increased breakdown of fat stores. It’s important to note, however, that increased breakdown of fat stores does not necessarily mean increase fat burning, as these molecules may continue to circulate in the blood without being used.
  • Given that the hormonal responses to exercise are heightened during the evening hours, you may wish to consider how these might impact your sleep. One normal exercise response is to increase levels of your “fight or flight” hormones, making you more alert – rather than ready for bed. If you already have sleep challenges, you may wish to avoid evening exercise.
  • Exercise at any time of the day is can be followed by a decrease in blood pressure. While this response is larger after evening exercise, there is evidence that the blood pressure decrease after morning exercise is more consistent. It may also be more valuable if you are prehypertensive or have high blood pressure. As part of normal body functions, you experience a temporary rise in blood pressure in the mornings; the decrease in blood pressure following morning exercise can return these morning “spikes” to more normal levels.

Evidence exists for both morning exercise and evening exercise to be more effective in fat burning and weight loss, and there are mindset and motivation effects of morning exercise that are hard to look past. For example, if you hit the gym in the morning, will that make you less likely to grab that pastry from the office kitchen for breakfast? Regardless of the science and the mindset effects, your work outs, your ability to lose weight, and your health will all stand to make the most improvements on your own timeline. The most effective workout time is going to be the time when you feel best prepared for it.

 

For more information:
De Bristo, L. C., Rezende, R. A., Da Silva, N. D., Junior, Tinucci, T., Casarini, D. E., Cipolla-Neto, J., & Forjaz, C. L. (2015). Post-Exercise Hypotension and Its Mechanisms Differ after Morning and Evening Exercise: A Randomized Crossover Study. Plos One,10(7).
Kim, H., Ando, K., Tabata, H., Konishi, M., Takahashi, M., Nishimaki, M., . . . Sakamoto, S. (2016). Effects of Different Intensities of Endurance Exercise in Morning and Evening on the Lipid Metabolism Response. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine,15, 467-476.
Kim, H., Konishi, M., Takahashi, M., Tabata, H., Endo, N., Numao, S., . . . Sakamoto, S. (2015). Effects of Acute Endurance Exercise Performed in the Morning and Evening on Inflammatory Cytokine and Metabolic Hormone Responses. Plos One,10(9).
Votruba, S. B., Atkinson, R. L., & Schoeller, D. A. (2004). Sustained increase in dietary oleic acid oxidation following morning exercise. International Journal of Obesity,29(1), 100-107.

 

Shameless plug time!
If you’re interested in exercise for weight loss and better health, we can help. HealthFit Coaching offers exercise physiology, personal training, nutrition coaching, and our signature Complete Coaching package in the Brisbane suburbs of St Lucia, Sherwood, Chelmer, Oxley, Indooroopilly, Taringa, and Toowong, or online at your convenience.
Contact us now to look good, feel great, have more energy, and enjoy life more. We offer a free no-obligation Kick Off call to make sure we can meet your needs. What do you have to lose?

Red Emergency sign at the entrance to an emergency room

Do you really need a doctor’s clearance to start exercising?

You might. And you might not. Getting a doctor’s clearance prior to starting an exercise program has one purpose, which is to answer this:

How much will your health status place you at risk for a medical emergency during exercise?

To some degree, common sense applies here. How healthy are you right now? Do you have any physical concerns, or anything going on with your body that doesn’t seem quite right? Anything you honestly can’t explain?

These are things that should prompt a visit to your doctor prior to starting an exercise program, according to many major exercise science and medicine associations (including the American College of Sports Medicine, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, Exercise and Sports Science Australia, and Sports Medicine Australia, among many others). The results of an examination or testing are used to gather information and provide guidelines, with an overall goal to decrease your risk of a sudden, serious medical event – in layman’s terms, a medical emergency that could lead to disability or death.

That’s scary stuff, and it makes sense to limit your risk. Good news for you though – for most people, that risk is actually really low. While these risks are elevated during and shortly after high-intensity exercise, it’s important to bear in mind the following:

  • There is a wealth of current and historical data show that heart-related events (those that are highest risk, and that you might be most worried about) are associated with exercise in only about 5% of cases. To put it another way, they happen to about 20 people out of every million.
  • Low- and moderate-intensity exercise is even less likely to trigger anything but improved fitness.

So if you’re ready to start an exercise program, what should you do to get started safely?

Gauge how hard you plan on working. According to current recommendations, low to moderate intensity exercise is a great place to start no matter what your current health status is – it’s actually high intensity exercise that is most likely to lead to problems during or immediately after a session. If your plan is to start high intensity workouts, you should examine the following points in a little more detail.

Intensity is relative – if you’re not used to doing much physical activity, you’ll likely find that as you start out, many things feel harder or more intense than you might expect. Use the talk test – can you comfortably carry on a conversation during activity? – to help keep yourself to an appropriate work intensity. And ease into exercise. For example, consider starting with a long walk rather than a short run.

Be smart about how you start. If you think you might have more than two risk factors for cardiovascular disease, or if you have another diagnosed health condition, including conditions like asthma or Type 2 diabetes, definitely go talk to your doctor. While your GP or PCP probably won’t be the ultimate expert in exercising with health conditions, they definitely are the experts in who you should see for that information, whether that be an exercise physiologist, a cardiologist, or another specialist. Plus, with the right referral from your doctor, you may have insurance options that help cover the costs of learning to exercise with expert guidance.

An additional point on this – if you haven’t been to see a doctor in some time, and have a sense that you may have some health risks, making that appointment and getting there can be scary. I know that, exactly and personally. But even if they have not-great news, it’s likely nowhere near as bad as you think, and there’s a lot you can do about it.

Self-diagnose (just not with Dr. Google). Use a pre-exercise readiness questionnaire (PAR-Q) form like the one here to help determine whether you are at higher risk of an exercise-associated medical emergency, and if you need talk to a doctor before starting high-intensity workouts. If you’re starting an organized (or even semi-organized) program, like personal training, exercise physiology, and programs like Crossfit, F45, HIIT training, and others, you should definitely be using this and your personal trainer or program coach should provide some version of it. If they don’t, or if you’re more likely to exercise on your own, it’s still worth using. Just print off your own copy and fill it out (it takes about a minute). And remember that it’s generally deemed safe to start with a low or even a moderate intensity exercise program – just listen to your body, and if says stop, then stop!

Exercise is generally awesome for your health, and while getting a medical clearance and/or a clinical exercise test can be beneficial, requiring this step can actually keep a lot of people from getting started in the first place. Going to the doctor for a medical or other testing can range from a painful waste of time to a frightening appointment with a lot of scary information that you previously lived with in blissful ignorance. On the other hand, is avoiding this clearance an unnecessary risk? Use the PAR-Q and be honest with yourself, start easy, and always always always pay attention to what your body is telling you!

For more information:
Pescatello, L. S., Arena, R., Riebe, D., & Thompson, P. D. (Eds.). (2014).  ACSM’s Guidelines for exercise testing and prescription (9th ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

 

HealthFit Coaching’s Exercise Physiology in-home and in-clinic programs provides expert guidance in safe exercise programs for existing health problems. Exercise is powerful medicine. Get healthy, feel better. Start now.


Fit and healthy middle age woman in leggings and a tank top doing a plank exercise to develop core strength

The Fourth Element of Fitness: Neuromuscular Exercise

Most exercise programs focus on the three most common elements of fitness: strength, cardiovascular endurance, and flexibility. However, a separate focus on each of these elements means you’ll overlook what training and exercise is all about: Allowing you to move better. Better could mean moving more, or being able to do specific activities, or moving in a way that is safe and will keep you pain-free.

The fourth important element is neuromuscular training. It is this type of exercise that helps maintain your movement ability and good physical function. It builds on your existing strength, endurance, and flexibility to develop coordination between muscle, joints, and the brain. For every movement you want to make, your brain will take in information from your five senses and from the thousands of tiny nerve endings all over the body, and then tells the nervous system when and how to activate various muscles to create that movement.

Sometimes this is straightforward – simpler movements like drinking from a glass take less coordination. More complex movements are highly coordinated. For example, many of us take walking for granted, but think about a child learning to walk: You have to move lots of body parts at once in a very specific manner to maintain your balance and body position and move forward.

This muscle-joint-nervous system coordination allows you to complete physical movements like walking and maintains agility and reflexes, as well as balance and body positioning. In exercise science, we refer to this as Functional Training, as it supports your ability to carry out tasks and activities of daily life. If you’re an athlete, that can mean specific skills training in your sport. If you don’t play sports, neuromuscular control is what allows you to catch yourself if you trip, or drive a car or ride a bike.

To maintain good movement, you do need strength, cardio endurance, and flexibility – but these elements along don’t guarantee lifelong good movement. You can maintain good neuromuscular control if you challenge yourself with exercises that mimic the movements that you use in everyday life, like standing up from a low seat, walking up steps or a hill, or changing your walking speed while you’re on the move. Training balance and good posture is also important, but you don’t need to do any sort of crazy exercises to do this. In fact, this training can be as simple as standing on one food while you’re brushing your teeth, or remembering to sit up straight when you are at your computer. Even simply remembering to think about your body as you move can be immensely helpful!

 

Need help developing your functional fitness and movement quality? HealthFit Coaching is mobile, offering in-home personal training and exercise physiology and making everyday fitness easy to achieve. Contact HealthFit now to take your first step!