model of person holding knee in pain from an injury

Easy Steps To Decrease Knee Pain: Part Two

Many cases of knee pain aren’t caused by a single traumatic injury. Instead, knee pain is often caused by overuse of poor movement patterns and the shortening and tightening of the muscles that accompany that. This can lead to poor alignment between the bones and tissues of the joint, in turn causing tissue stress, inflammation, pain, and long term degeneration.

The first step to stop knee pain in these situations is to decrease the tension in the muscles. It’s very helpful to do this PRIOR to stretching, as decreasing muscle tension makes the muscle easier to stretch, and more likely to maintain the increased flexibility. The best way to decrease muscle tension is to go and get a deep tissue or remedial massage from a qualified massage therapist. The second best way is to do self-massage work on your own at home. You can find the best DIY self-massage techniques for knee pain here.

After you’ve gotten the muscles around the knee loosened up with some massage work, try these stretches to return the muscles and other soft tissues to a better resting length.

Guidelines for all stretches:
  • Stretch to the point of discomfort, but NOT pain. Too much stretch can cause damage. Start the stretch and move into it until you feel a pull, and then move into it a little more and hold
  • Hold at least 45 seconds to create a lasting change (less than 30 seconds will not create a long term change in tissue length)
  • Breathe and relax – this helps tell your nervous system that the body is not in danger
  • As the stretch eases, you can move into it a little more to continue to increase the stretch benefit
  • Maintain good alignment to maximize the stretch. If you adjust the position to make it feel easier, you’ll lose some of the benefits of the stretch

 

Quad stretch

The quadriceps are the muscle group at the front of your thigh. When these muscles shorten, they can pull your kneecap slightly out of position, which can cause rubbing between it and the other joint tissues.

  • Stand tall and tilt your pelvis back slightly to flatten out your lower back
  • Bend one knee and reach behind to grab the top of the foot
  • Pull back slightly on the foot to increase the stretch through the front of the thigh
  • Keep your knees together to stretch the muscle fibers in the right alignment
Adductor stretches

The adductors are the group of muscles along the inner thigh. While they aren’t as commonly talked about as the quads (at the front) or the hamstrings (at the back), they are just as important. They are actually the largest group of muscles in the thigh, and are active in every movement you can make with your legs. Unlike the quads and hamstrings that run the whole length of the thigh, different adductor muscles are different lengths. Some run from the pelvis to different points along the top half of the thigh (the short adductors), while others stretch from the pelvis to down around the knee (the long adductors). Targeted stretches will help focus on the different areas.

Short adductor stretch
  • Sit up straight and bring the soles of the feet together in front of you
  • Tilt forward slightly from the hips until you feel a stretch through the inner thighs
  • Maintain a neutral spine – don’t let the back round out or the pelvis tilt backward as you lean into the stretch
  • Option: Use the elbows to put slight downward pressure on the inner thighs to increase the stretch

Long adductor stretch
  • Sit up straight and move your legs out in a “V” shape in front of you. This may be enough to give you all the stretch you need!
  • Keep toes pointed straight upward
  • If needed, tilt forward slightly from the hips until you feel a stretch through the inner thighs.
  • Maintain a neutral spine – don’t let the back round out or the pelvis tilt backward as you lean into the stretch


model of person holding knee in pain from an injury

Easy Steps To Decrease Knee Pain: Part One

Frequent knee pain affects approximately one in four adults. Are you one of them?

Knee pain is often caused by a combination of factors, but the presence of joint pain does not always mean there is an actual injury to the joint. Short, tight muscles and connective tissues (the soft tissues) around the joint commonly occur in conjunction with knee pain, and can be either a direct cause of the pain, or a by-product of it.

Changes in the soft tissue can lead to joint pain by producing small changes in the way the bones and other joint structures work together. Short, tight muscles, fascia, tendons, and ligaments can all create minute shifts in the positions of the joint, and even a tiny shift can lead to increased pressure, inflammation, pain, and long term degeneration.

Soft tissue length and tension while at rest – when you aren’t actively using your body – are influenced by the type and volume of your normal daily activities, your postural positioning, and recent or past injuries to the joints or soft tissues, among other elements. Too much use, too little use, or the wrong kind of use creates excessive tension and shortened soft tissues, which can lead to stiffening and even microscopic scarring of the tissues as the body works to heal and protect itself. This can ultimately increase wear and tear in the joint, which itself can be as painful as a sudden injury. The same increased tension and decreased length can also occur as a by-product of a sudden injury, as the body decreases movement ability at an injured area in an effort to prevent further injury.

In most cases, decreasing tension and increasing the length of the soft tissue around the knee joint will lead to an improvement in knee pain and movement ability regardless of underlying cause. The most effective way to do this is by loosening the tissue (decreasing the tension through massage or self-massage work) and then lengthening it via stretching.

Remedial Massage (also called sports massage or deep tissue massage)

Remedial massage decreases soft tissue tension by physically moving, mobilizing, and stretching them with appropriate pressure. This can help break up scarring caused by overuse or injury, and stimulates a localized healing response. While this process can feel intense at times, appropriate treatment should not be exceedingly painful (too much pressure can actually have a negative effect). Think about no more than a 6 out of 10 on a 1-10 pain scale, or a pressure that feels tolerable uncomfortable. If your therapist is using more pressure than this, it’s absolutely ok to ask them to back it off!

This is the best option for decreasing muscle tension, simply because these sessions will maximize time spent on improving your muscles and other soft tissues. (Physiotherapy or physical therapy also may provide an element of this, but the sessions are shorter and less time is spent on soft tissues. A massage session will also last longer than you’re likely to spend on self-massage – see below).

Always look for a qualified and experienced massage therapist, and help them give you an effective treatment by letting them know the details of your aches and pains. In Brisbane, your best bet for a top quality remedial massage treatment is at No More Knots (in Greenslopes, Taringa, and Newmarket) or at Just Knead It (in Wolloongabba and Spring Hill).

Self-Massage: Foam rolling and trigger point work

You can achieve some of the benefits of remedial massage on your own, using self-massage tools like a foam roller or a trigger point ball (which can actually be any sort of ball that you are comfortable with and have available). The areas that will give you the most knee pain relief can be targeted as follows. Bookmark this page or download the PDF below so you can take this list to the gym or anywhere else you do your self-massage work.

Self Massage: Foam Rolling for the Quads

When tight or short, this muscle group at the front of the thigh can pull the knee cap up, so that it sits slightly above its optimal position. This can lead to pain at the front of the knee, above or behind the knee cap.

  • Lay face down with the foam roller pinned between the front of your thighs and the floor. Your upper body should be propped up on your elbows.
  • Pushing and pulling with your arms, roll the front of your thighs along the roller.
  • Roll as high as the bend at the front of the hips, and as low as just above the knee joint. Pro tip: knees don’t bend backward, so stay off the joint itself!
  • You have the option to continue to roll up and down, or stop and hold on the areas that are more painful. Either approach is effective.
  • If you need to decrease the pressure, try pushing yourself up through your toes and elbows slightly.

Self Massage: Foam Rolling for the Vastus Lateralis

This muscle at the outside front of the thigh is part of the quad group, but is singled out for its greater impact on outer knee pain – both cause and management. Vasus lateralis tension is often confused for tension of the IT band, as it can create an outward pull through the knee joint.

  • Lay face down with the foam roller pinned between the front of your thighs and the floor. Your upper body should be propped up on your elbows.
  • Roll to one side so that you are resting on the front, outside of the thigh, at about a 45 degree angle. Don’t roll all the way to the side.
  • Pushing and pulling with your arms, roll along the roller.
  • Roll as high as the bend at the front of the hips, and as low as just above the knee joint.
  • You have the option to continue to roll up and down, or stop and hold on the areas that are more painful. Either approach is effective.
  • If you need to decrease the pressure, try pushing yourself up through your elbow and the foot of your other leg.

Self Massage: Foam Rolling for the Adductors

The adductors are the large group of muscles covering the inner thigh, and are often overlooked in favor of the quads and hamstrings. Tension through this group can create an inward pull through the knee joint, leading to pain on the inner side of the knee.

  • Lay on your side with the foam roller parallel to the body.
  • Place the knee and foot on the far side of the roller, with the knee at least as high as the hip. You will turn slightly towards the ground in doing this.
  • Leave the body resting on the ground, and shift your weight back and forth to roll a small area of the adductor group. Then move the roller higher or lower on the thigh and repeat.
  • For increased pressure, lift your body by pressing up through your elbow and the foot of the straight leg. Either approach is fine.
  • Roll as high as the bend of the hips, and as low as just above the knee joint.

If you have knee pain, book yourself a massage and give these foam roller exercises a shot – you can download a PDF of the foam roller exercises below. For best results, follow up this soft tissue work with the stretches from Part Two of this series, out next week!


stressed out man looking out window with serious expression wondering what to do

More On Exercise For Stress Management

Do you remember your last big job interview or exam? How did you feel?

Ugh, stress.

Whether it comes from your job, family demands, a bank balance or an overcrowded calendar, stress is a fact of life. We’ve all experienced the impact of stress on a day, week, month – or even longer. I’m sure I’m not along in wanting to have less of it, but for better or worse, stress is actually an important part of life. A stress-causing incident (a stressor) has a quantifiable physical impact, creating changes to circulating levels of hormones that help prepare the body for fight-or-flight.

The fight or flight response can be used to your advantage. Short-term and/or moderate levels of beneficial stress (eustress) can help improve motivation, sharpen focus, and boost memory and recall – exactly what you need for big presentations or school exams. Physically, eustress can help improve physical performance and endurance; the zebra running from the lion is definitely experiencing heightened stress levels! Biochemical reactions that occur as part of the physical stress response can even dull or block pain levels in some situations. And the right amount of ongoing physical stress in the form of physical activity or exercise is actually what stimulates improved levels of strength and fitness.

Of course, too much stress can also be hard on the body. While we primarily think of stress as a mental or emotional difficulty, stress levels that are very high or remain high over an extended period of time also has a physical cost.

One of the primary stress responses is an increased release of epinephrine (also called adrenaline) and cortisol. High epinephrine levels can lead to feelings of anxiety. In the short term, this can help you get stuff done, thereby ridding yourself of some of your stressors. Over time though… You probably don’t need me to tell you that long-term anxiety isn’t healthy! Excessive cortisol and adrenaline can also have a negative impact on your immune system, making you more susceptible to minor illnesses like the common cold. Increased levels of epinephrine, cortisol, and other stress hormones can also lead to headaches, eating pattern and digestive issues, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular conditions, depression, insomnia, and fatigue. There is also growing evidence that high levels of stress and related physical responses can lead to increased cancer risks.

Stress is a pervasive problem. According to the American Psychological Association, the majority of American are living with at least moderate to high stress levels, and a 2014 study by the Australian Psychological Society found that about one in four Australians are living with distress.

Perhaps somewhat counter-intuitively, exercise can help. Isolation or avoidance are two common reactions to high stress levels. (I know that when I’m stressed, I want to get away from everyone and everything until I can get a handle on things.)  These reactions aren’t particularly helpful, but getting moving is!

Almost every type of exercise has been shown by decades of research to decrease short and long-term stress levels. Even if you’re not feeling it, going through the motions can be a distraction from your stressors, and can help decrease muscle tension and cortisol release. In turn, this can lead to decreased feelings of depression, anxiety, and anger, as well as physical changes like decreased heart rate and blood pressure. It’s possible that the amount of exercise you do can impact how significant these effects are. Some studies have shown more exercise leads to greater stress reductions, while others have shown that neither the amount, frequency, or intensity change how much stress is decreased. So walking the dog may be just as beneficial as a tough run or weights session.

The take-home message: It’s not worth getting stressed about how much, how hard, or how often you get moving – just get going! Any sort of movement will serve as the above mentioned distraction, and boost positive feelings of well-being. Take a moment and consider what kind of movement, physical activity, or exercise makes you feel better. It doesn’t have to be gym-based, or any sort of organized sport, just something that you enjoy at least a little!


What Is Functional Fitness?

“Functional” has been a buzzword in the fitness industry for years, but many people – including many in the health and fitness industries – struggle to define it. To some, the word may conjure up images of exercise standing on one leg with your eyes closed, or even on a huge exercise ball. Good news: You can save those circus tricks for, well, the circus!

Functional fitness means being physically able to meet your daily demands of work, sport or exercise, and leisure activities. Functional training refers to exercises that give you the strength, coordination, and endurance (or cardiorespiratory fitness) to do so. The muscles of the upper body, lower body, and core must be strong, with good neuromuscular coordination to tie it all together effortlessly. Increasingly, functional fitness also means being physically able to counteract the poor postures and physical stresses we encounter in daily life. 

Many people are facing the same physical, functional needs, ranging from weakness in foundational-level stabilizing muscles to imbalances in muscle tension, length, or strength. Creating functional fitness in these circumstances means building up weak points and decreasing stress on overused areas. This can be done by teaching your muscles to activate better, loosening or lengthening muscles and connective tissues, or using a targeted exercise program to build strength and balance out poor posture.

Some of the most common scenarios we see:

  • Too much sitting: Your desk job, meeting, car/bus/train commute – all of these things create excessive tension and shortness at the front of the hips and thighs, which can be a major (eventual) contributor to lower back pain. Stretch out the hip flexors and quads to regain that length and take pressure off the lower back.
  • Too much computer: Any screen time falls into this category, including tablets and smartphones. The forward postures that go along with this shortens the front of the shoulders and over-stretches the muscles of the upper back, leading to the neck and shoulder tension you are likely way too familiar with. As with the hips, stretching through the front of the chest and shoulders is a good start. I’d also recommend doubling up with a deep tissue massage (aka remedial massage) through the entire upper body, as this will help the tissues stretch much more easily and (added bonus) will actually get you feeling better fast!
  • Not enough movement in general: Many, many people have swapped physical stress for mental and emotional stress. We work too much, our leisure activities often involve the TV or computer, and there’s little actual need for movement. But even just 10 minutes of low-intensity movement (going for a walk or playing with the dog, or even doing household chores) can help decrease stress and counterintuitively, can give you a great energy boost!

Not sure what your functional fitness needs might be? Ask one of our expert coaches below to have your answer featured on a future post!


Muscle and Joint Health In Three Steps

Ready to start an exercise or physical activity program? Already active or working out? These three steps will keep your body happy and healthy, minimizing aches, pains and injury risk.

You probably know: Regular movement is really important to maintaining lifelong health. Keeping your body injury- and pain-free is really important to being able to keep moving.

Increasing daily movement can come at the end of a rehab program, or you may (correctly) see it as a way to get rid of ongoing sore spots. It may be your path to improving your health, or feeling even better than you do right now. These three DIY steps focus primarily on loosening and lengthening your muscles and connective tissues – leading to decreased joint stress – and then getting your muscles strong and fit. Following these three steps will keep your muscles and joints working efficiently and minimize the stiffness and pain that can prevent good quality movement. Improved movement ability directly leads to better health and quality of life.

Step 1: Loosen

Muscles that are overly tight (aka hypertonic) don’t work efficiently. Excessive muscle tension can decrease how quickly a muscle can contract and how much force it can contract with. Since the speed and force of contraction are what creates movement and supports your body, this is less than optimal (plus, tight muscles don’t generally feel good).

Many circumstances can lead to excessive muscle tension. Muscles can spasm and hold tension to protect a sore or injured area, or tension can build from long term movement compensations that result from an injury or tissue damage. Tension can also be caused by posture and occupational or lifestyle demands.

“Loosen” is step one because it has the greatest impact on the other two steps. A muscle with optimal tension and with minimal adhesions – what we commonly think of as “knots” – will be able to stretch and strengthen better.

Different “loosening” techniques include hands-on techniques like deep tissue massage, remedial, or sports massage therapy, myofascial release, and trigger point therapy, as well as self-massage techniques using a foam roller, trigger point ball, The Stick, and other similar tools. You can also help manage muscle tension by staying hydrated, using a heat pack or hot water bottle on tight muscles, and ensuring a diet high in magnesium.

Step 2: Lengthen

Muscles that are too short can lead to poor joint alignment and repetitive strain or overuse injuries. For most people, stretching after doing soft tissue work will give you the best results, as adhesions and tight areas don’t stretch well (and can potentially cause the tissues around them to overstretch). Appropriate stretching will keep joints moving freely and easily, and can also help prevent tension buildup caused by poor postures and movement patterns that shorten and stress muscles.

One caveat to the Lengthen step: If you are hypermobile (i.e. double jointed), stretching may actually aggravate muscles and joints. In hypermobility conditions, the tissues surrounding a joint are longer and looser than optimal, giving the joint very high degrees of movement (aka joint laxity). As this can predispose to injury, and your body’s #1 goal is to not get hurt, ever, the reaction to this laxity is to create more tension in the tissues around the joint. This can leave you feeling like you need to stretch, but that’s actually the opposite of what your body needs. If you are hypermobile, skip this step and do more self-massage (or go and good a good remedial or deep tissue massage) to decrease muscle tension. The strength work in step three will help further build joint integrity.

There are many ways that you can stretch, like traditional static stretching, or partner variations like assisted or PNF stretching. Regardless of how you do it, hold your stretches for a very minimum of 30 seconds, as it takes at least that long for the tissues to lengthen to a beneficial degree. And don’t bounce! It’s a recipe for disaster.

Step 3: Strengthen

The first two steps are all about getting the muscles ready. Now it’s time to get going! The right strength program identifies any areas of strength or activation imbalance, and will selectively target them build on the movement quality you’ve already achieved with the Loosen and Lengthen steps. For maximum benefit, get some advice from a movement professional who will help you determine your weakest links. This information will allow you to build a strong foundation, further decreasing any injury risks and making any ongoing physical activity or exercise much more effective.

Strength programs come in many, many forms. The best programs are created based on both your physical needs and the types of movement you enjoy, and may include components of body-weight exercises, band-resisted exericses, yoga, pilates, and traditional strength training.

How much work you do in each of these stages will depend on your starting point (current movement quality, activity levels, injury and health history, and the like). The art of creating the best program for YOU means understanding what your body needs in order to handle the activities you love, and then simply working through the steps.

While including all of these components is becoming more widely used in strength and fitness programming, there are many people and places that still miss a step or two. If you have questions about how these steps apply to you, leave a comment here or jump on our Facebook page – we’re happy to talk specifics!


Healthy Habits to Prevent High Blood Pressure

Have high blood pressure, or at high risk for it? Building healthy habits can really help your blood pressure levels. In fact, though there is a genetic component to your individual level, lifestyle choices have an enormous impact on blood pressure – for better or worse!

How is high blood pressure dangerous?

Picture this: You’re filling up a water balloon. As you put in more water, the balloon stretches, and the walls start to thin, which makes them much more susceptible to damage (like when you throw it at someone and it bursts on impact!!). On the other hand, a balloon with only a small amount of water in it will be much harder to damage.

High blood pressure (known in medical terms as hypertension) works in much the same way. The increased pressure on the blood vessel walls makes them more susceptible to damage. Vessels can become more stiff and build up deposits of plaque, leading to the blockage of blood that causes heart attack and stroke. High blood pressure can also damage small blood vessels in your kidneys, eyes, and other organs, which in turn damages the organs themselves. And like the water balloon, blood vessels can also weaken and bulge, forming an aneurysm. An aneurysm that bursts can quickly be life-threatening. High blood pressure is also a risk factor for other diseases and health conditions, increasing the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and even cognitive conditions.

These high blood pressure complications are not especially appealing! But the lifestyle choices that keep your blood pressure at healthy levels and help prevent complications can be easy, and even enjoyable.

Simple Changes to Lower Blood Pressure

Get daily exercise or physical activity: A healthy heart and blood vessels can be achieved and maintained with as little as 30 minutes of daily activity. You can even break this up into smaller blocks – there is significant evidence that multiple, short bouts of activity have the same health benefits as one longer one. So if a brisk half-hour walk doesn’t sound good, you could try a 10-min walk in the morning and evening, and another 10 minutes of exercise or even active chores like vacuuming to hit your 30 minutes. If it’s been a while since you’ve been active or exercising, please chat with your doctor prior to starting a new exercise routine, especially if you have health problems.

Make healthy food choices: Choose fresh foods that are as close as possible to their natural state. That is, pick lean steak over salami. Eat more whole foods, like fresh fruit and vegetables, lean proteins, legumes (beans, lentils, etc.), and fewer pre-prepared foods, as these are generally higher in sodium, cholesterol, and trans fats. Choosing foods with no added sugars will also help. Don’t forget to include beverages in this category too!

Achieve and maintain a healthy weight: Carrying extra body fat can cause blood pressure to rise, and increases physical stress on the body’s systems. Even a small amount of weight loss can have a big impact on blood pressure levels, and additional weight loss can lead to additional improvements. The above two ideas will certainly help with this.

Choose healthy stress management strategies: Gentle physical activity like walking or tai chi, meditation and breathing exercises, keeping a journal or working on arts and crafts are all healthy relaxation ideas. Take some time to have some fun!

Avoid unhealthy stress management: Two common but unhealthy stress management choices that many people make are alcohol and tobacco use. Keep your alcohol consumption under one standard drink per day for women, and two for men. And we all know that tobacco use is deadly – spiking your blood pressure is just one reason why.

Sleep well: Restful sleep is key to stress management. Poor sleep quality can impair your body’s ability to regulate stress hormones, which can lead to increases in blood pressure. On average, adults under the age of 65 should get 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Adults over 65 should get 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night. If you have trouble getting this amount of sleep, or don’t wake up feeling rested, please talk to your doctor about this. It’s one of the single biggest things you can do to improve your health!

Taking action in any one of these areas can make a significant difference. Making more than one of these choices on a regular basis will help you easily control your blood pressure, and potentially even prevent the need for medication. What’s one change that you can make today?


The Golden Rule of Exercise

Ever heard the saying “no pain, no gain”?

I bet you have. And when it comes to exercise, I’m here to tell you, this is a big fat lie. While it can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference, different “pain” feelings can mean very different things for your body.

Unfortunately, when it comes to exercise, pain has long been considered a part of the experience. Sore knees, aching backs, bum shoulders that catch, stab, or just don’t move very well anymore… The idea was that if things weren’t hurting, you weren’t working hard enough. Apply this to a different situation: Would you put your hand on a hot stove to make sure you were cooking well enough? Doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it? You can actually have a far more effective workout when you aren’t hurting, because you will be able to continue to exercise on your regular schedule, and not limp around for three days. So our Golden Rule: No Pain (or, If it hurts, don’t do it).

Feelings of intense exercise should occur in areas powering movement, mainly muscles and/or lungs.

But exercise isn’t always pleasant, and can be downright uncomfortable, especially as intensity increases. The physical sensations that come with intense exercise or physical activity – burning muscles, bursting lungs or shortened breath, or a stitch in the side – are not particularly pleasant at the time. But the “pain” of working hard during exercise should not last. When you stop and rest, these feelings should subside, leaving you pain-free, or at worst, somewhat fatigued. In the days following an intense workout, you may also feel stiff and sore through the muscles, a short-term state known as Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS.

Any aches and pains arising during or after exercise that are different than these should be brought up with your doctor or an exercise physiologist ASAP to make sure you stay safe and injury-free. Some of the most common feelings that should prompt this discussing (during or after a workout): joint pain, back pain, pain in areas that may not be related to a workout – anything that seems unusual, really. These are often indicators of tissue damage. Further, if you have a history of injury, or a chronic health condition, you may experience slightly-to-very different feelings during exercise or physical activity than someone who is assumed healthy. If this is the case, definitely talk to your doctor or an exercise physiologist about how to get exercise safely and what to look out for.

Feelings of injury or damage are often felt in joints, and can last for days after activity.

It’s important to distinguish between these two types of pain, because the “pain” of appropriate and/or intense exercise can actually prevent the pain that coincides with tissue damage and long-term aches, pains, and injury by conditioning the body to be better able to respond to physical stress. Next time you’re moving and something isn’t feeling great, take a moment and consider what kind of whether you’re feeling the burn of hard work, or whether you might actually be doing some damage, and then apply the Golden Rule as needed.

In order to move well and stay healthy and injury free, you have to get and stay pain free. Continuing to exercise when you feel pain will likely increase that pain, may create further tissue damage, and make it more difficult to exercise or get through your normal daily activities. In the long run this will be detrimental to your overall health and fitness, mental health, and ability to make progress. All of this makes exercising when you’re in pain a bad idea! So when in doubt, seek help. Better to have an extra appointment and stay safe and feel good, than push through pain until something breaks.


Three Steps to Feeling Great

Movement is one of the four key areas of health used in the HealthFit approach, and a great tool to improve your health and feel better – our end goal! To help you achieve it, we provide a three-step framework that takes the seemingly overwhelming process of increasing fitness and strength, and turns it into something a little challenging, but totally achievable. Whether you are investing in yourself with Health Coaching for healthy lifestyle choices, or succeeding with an In-Home Exercise Program, your coach will work with you to develop the details while guiding you forward through the process of building more movement into your life. It’s as easy as one, two, three…

Step One: Get Moving
Think about all the muscles and joints you have in your body – it’s built to move! Just 100 years ago, life had many more physical demands. These days, while we don’t have to worry about planting the garden in order to get dinner on the table, now we also don’t get the exercise that goes along with that.

You and your coach will work as a team to figure out what kind of movement you can fit into your lifestyle – easily and enjoyably, and taking into account your interests and abilities. This may mean joining a gym or taking an exercise class, but it also can be as simple as taking the dog out for a daily walk. There’s no single “best” way to get moving.

It’s important that you stay safe and pain-free (always, but especially at the beginning). That means easing into it to get your body accustomed to additional movement, and making sure you feel good before, during, and after. It’s also important that you have a movement plan you enjoy. Life has a tendency to throw curve balls, and exercise is often one of the first things to stop when the going gets stressful.

Step Two: Move Better
The Move Better step helps your body move easily. The stiffness, weakness, and aches and pains that we associate with aging have more to do with years of postural stress and lack of movement than getting older. Move Better is not learning a new way to move. Rather, it allows your body to remember how to move well, and lets you rebuild the ability to do it.

You and your coach will come up with a plan to help you loosen tight parts and lengthen short parts to decrease physical stress, and strengthen the whole body to help you more easily meet the physical demands of daily life. This will allow you to achieve and maintain better posture and greater flexibility, and stay pain free and decrease injury risk. As well as kicking those achy joints to the curb, adding Move Better to Get Moving can result in positive changes to health markers like blood glucose levels or high cholesterol or triglycerides. Much of this work can be done in your own home and on your own timeframe, and doesn’t require a major time commitment to create a major change.

Step Three: Move More
For many people, taking steps to Get Moving and Move Better will be enough to get them to the level of health and fitness that makes them happy. But if you want to build on feeling better, Move More is the next step. You can get stronger, fitter, leaner, more flexible, or train for a specific goal or event.

Move More often does mean having a more detailed plan for exercise or physical activity, but that still doesn’t mean a daily commitment to an hours-long gym workout. To continue your progress, you will work with your coach to find smart, realistic ways to further increase the amount of movement, exercise, or physical activity in your everyday life. Your program will follow the same rules: keep you safe and pain-free, fit into your lifestyle, and be effective.

At each step, the focus is on finding what works for you. You’ll be guided through this process with the freedom to call the shots or follow directions as much as you like. You’ll have the full support of your coach to pursue better health and fitness in whatever way makes you most comfortable, and have someone to celebrate with when you hit the marks. Our goal for every client: Healthy, fit, happy.


Five Ways to get Fit on a Budget

Getting fit often can cost money, but it doesn’t have to be a lot – sometimes it can even be free!

No one likes getting sticker shock. Getting around to joining a gym can be hard enough, and when we finally get there, finding out they want a three figure down payment can be a big surprise. Thank god there are other options.

  1. Join a budget gym. It doesn’t cost too much to bring your own towel and water bottle, and if you don’t mind basic or minimal amenities, a budget gym can be all anyone needs. In the US, these gyms can range from ten to twenty-five dollars a month, and frequently have 24-hour access. You’ll get the most bang for your buck if you can find a gym with free weights, open space to exercise, and other fun toys like suspension trainers and battle ropes. My local favorite in the Portland area is Workout Anytime – they have all the toys and great space to use them.
  2. Join a group. Most areas offer some sort of recreational sports leagues with various levels of competition. And if organized sports aren’t your thing, Meetup is becoming increasingly popular worldwide/ Groups get together to enjoy golf, hiking, running – you name it, and usually for little or no cost. Can’t find one in your neck of the woods? Sign up and start your own.Running Group
  3. Get outside. You don’t need a gym membership to get fit. Walking, running, cycling, and swimming might require a small investment to get started (new shoes, a bike, a pool pass). But you’ll get a lot out of them if you are consistent in using them. Plus there are an increasing number of parks with exercise equipment built right alongside. park with exercise equipment
  4. Make your own gym. Keep an eye out for sales at sporting goods stores, online classifieds like Craigslist in the US and Gumtree in Australia, and second-hand stores. You’ll find all sorts of deals on everything from cardio equipment to kettlebells. Don’t want to shop? There are plenty of household items that are great substitutes. Run up and down the stairs, fill up some empty milk jugs, do step ups on a step stool, or grab some buckets of paint or bricks from the backyard to add extra weight.at home Dumbbells for sale
  5. Check out your health insurance. You may have fitness options that you weren’t aware of. In the US, the Silver Sneakers and Silver and Fit programs cover gym memberships and other fitness programs for adults 65 as part of many major health insurance programs. In Australia, exercise physiology services may be covered by Medicare or your private health insurance company. It’s worth checking out your health insurance coverage to see if they offer any exercise-related preventative health benefits.

The old saying “if there’s a will, there’s a way” hold true here. Explore your local options, get creative, or just take yourself outside. If I’ve missed any good low-cost fitness options, please feel free to share in the comments section!


Exercise in the Summer: Sweat Smart!

Safely exercise in the heat with a few easy tips…

New year, new you is definitely the trend at this time of year, and for those of us lucky enough to live in sunny Brisbane, there is always a trend towards taking your exercise outside. There is nothing wrong with that! But when the weather turns warm, it can be important to exercise caution, too. Moving your training outdoors can increase the risk of heat-related conditions, specifically, severe heat exhaustion and exertional heat exhaustion.

Summer hiking
In both cases, exhaustion means that the body is unable to continue to exercise or do other physical activity. Your body simply stops, though you may remain at very high risk of internal damage or death (not to scare you, but it should, a little). The difference between the two conditions is “why” it stops:

Severe heat exhaustion typically involves a combination of nervous system and muscular fatigue, dehydration, and/or electrolyte depletion from high sweat levels. Your brain can also get in on the act, and send altered signals to other body systems and interfering with proper function. Once you reach a threshold level of dehydration and/or fatigue, your brain is going to say “no more” and you’re gonna hit the wall, hard.

Exertional heat exhaustion happens when the body’s internal temperature gets too high. To prevent your internal temperature from increasing even more, your brain shuts your body down – physical work can no longer continue. This is a serious, high-risk condition if left unrecognised or untreated; part of the physical shutdown includes your body’s ability to cool itself. Without fast recognition and quick cooling, overly high internal temperature can lead to organ failure and death.

ride bicycle and cycle in Brisbane

Both conditions can affect healthy people even when the environment is relatively cool, though the risk increases significantly in hot or humid weather. Fortunately, there are precautions you can take that will significantly decrease your risk.

  • Exercise during the cooler parts of the day. This is probably more enjoyable anyway!
  • Wear cool clothing. Shorts, T-shirts, and tank tops are good here (but don’t forget the sunscreen). Cooler clothing will prevent excess heat from being trapped in your body, and will help improve the cooling that occurs with sweat evaporation.
  • Exercise in an air-conditioned environment. If this is your option of choice, note that it is still beneficial to exercise when its cooler outside, as the outdoor temperature can have an impact on your body temperature.
  • Take your time to get used to the heat. The ACSM Position Stand on Heat Related Illness recommends a 10-14 day acclimatisation period, where you gradually increase your time in the heat (to stay on the safe side, do this in a non-exercising fashion by just spending time outside). This precaution can be especially important if the weather has gotten really hot, really fast, or if you have travelled to a new area where the weather is different.
  • Increase your exercise volume and intensity gradually. In plain speak, start easy and short. Heat tolerance has been linked to fitness levels, with better fitness creating better heat tolerance.
  • Check your medications. Some prescriptions and over the counter medicines can decrease heat tolerance. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to make sure you’re not at increased risk.
  • Stay hydrated! This is one of the best ways to avoid any heat-related condition. Many factors can contribute to dehydration, so sweat alone is not a good indication. Adding an extra 1.5 to 2.5 cups of water for a shorter workout (under an hour) is a good starting point, but exercise in heat and/or humidity may require much more than that.
  • Stay hydrated, part two! Sweat losses can be surprisingly large. A useful way to track how much fluid to replace is to weight yourself before and after your workout, and aim to drink two cups of water for every pound lost.
  • Stay hydrated, part three! Sweat can mean electrolyte losses as well as fluid. If you’re normally a heavy sweater, or are sweating a lot in a given workout, replacing water with a sports drink may be a good option.

Girl drinking water after exercise
While heat-related conditions can be quite serious, they are easily avoided by taking the right precautions. Remember that some people may be more prone to heat-related conditions and that each person has a unique level of heat and exercise tolerance. But you can sweat smart. So get out there and enjoy the summer!