Over the past 10 years research has gained momentum in proving the benefits of regular exercise in helping a vast range of people – not just those looking to get buff or lose a bit of weight, and has given rise to it’s own specialisms within the fitness industry.
The term “special populations” is used to cover a variety of types of people but includes pre and post pregnancy, the elderly, and those with medical injuries and conditions from metal health issues such as depression to physical health issues such as disabilities, arthritis and cardiac rehab.
One of the key elements of resistance training is improving muscle strength (a consequence of which also helps improve bone density) and as such is used to help many people from broken or replacement bones, arthritis, and osteoporosis.
Cardiovascular exercise like walking, cycling and dancing all help improve and strengthen the cardiovascular system and so is used to benefit those with high BP, Asthma and helps reduce a person’s risk of heart disease.
The social aspect of interacting with instructors and fellow class mates or gym users as well as seeing improvements in your health & fitness levels, boosts self-esteem and can help with mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
However, each person will have their own specific needs and can differ widely in terms of exercise limitations and how they should be approached when it comes to both designing and communicating a suitable workout.
For example in terms of programme design Diabetics should use steady and predictable movement exercises and avoid exercising late at night. Those with High Blood Pressure should avoid prolonged static holds and exercises where the feet are positioned higher than the head and needs very close monitoring of heart rates.
As such the industry has reacted by creating new and more specific qualifications to provide instructors with the knowledge to provide the best service possible for the customer, in ensuring that their health improves and many work closely with the person’s GPs, dietitians and/or physiotherapists accordingly.
In general for those that fall into a Special Population, extra care needs to be taken and clearance from their doctor or specialist should be gained before starting a new exercise programme. A number of Health Centres work closely with GP surgeries and Doctors are now able to prescribe exercise as part of treatment – in which case they will refer the person to a local Exercise Referral specialist, who will be able to provide a relevant training programme and which usually includes 2-3 months free or discounted use of the Health club’s gym or swimming pool depending on the persons training needs – so it is worth speaking to your GP first if this applies to you!
Otherwise – always seek guidance from a qualified instructor to make sure that you are getting a workout that is relevant to your specific needs and more importantly – safe!
In truth we are all different in one way or another – some of us are a little more different than others.
One of my friends and colleague, James Vincent suffered a horrific motorbike accident losing the use of an arm and had to have a leg amputated at the knee. Through his rehabilitation he got into weight training and discovered ways to adapt exercises to rebuild his muscle strength and mass and from helping others in a similar situation has since gone on to become a Personal Trainer and is now currently training to complete in his first Body Building competition and goes to show whatever makes YOU different – it doesn’t need to be a barrier to getting fitter.
Exercise doesn’t discriminate – it adapts and everyone can benefit.
You can read more about Jay’s story and follow his progress on his Facebook page here – give him a “like”!
Since last time I had a look at exercise and pregnancy, it seemed fitting to look at sex as a form of exercise!
Whilst it can have you getting hot and sweaty at times, at other times maybe not so much.
On average, simply kissing can burn 2 calories a minute but sex itself can burn between 4 and 14 calories a minute. Of course, the actual calories burnt will vary depending on the position, whether you are being the active or passive participant, as well as your gender and weight. The average session for us Brits lasts 24 minutes – so that’s a minimum of 100 calories – but it could also be a lot more.
If you’re keen to find out the calories you’ve burnt during your last bout in the bedroom -Superdrug have a website where you can enter you and your partner’s gender and weight, time spent in various positions and it will then produce a graph showing the calories exhausted.
Taking this a more fun step further – there’s an app you can download (Android & iPhone) called “sexercise+”, which can provide details and guidance on what positions to use if you’re wanting to work on a particular muscle group, as well the ability to log the positions used “on the go” as it were.
There are even some sites (and enthusiasts) that can provide details of how to achieve a full body workout quoting position, intensity, number of repetitions, timing and so on.
While on one had this could be seen as a bit of fun – for some, the idea of interrupting your action to check and log your next position on your phone and mentally counting a number of repetitions is definite turn-off.
Whether your love-making is a wild and passionate affair, or relaxed and intimate… whether it’s a quickie or an all-nighter…. Sex has many more important benefits than just burning calories.
Studies have shown that it can lower blood pressure, it lowers the risk of heart attack, improves the immune system and an orgasm can even help to relieve pain (particularly cramps and headaches), and help you to sleep better.
For women sex helps to strengthen the pelvic floor muscle and avoid incontinence and for men ejaculation improves the health of the prostate.
From a Mental Health stance, sex and intimacy can also soothe away stress and anxiety, boost your confidence and self-esteem and also helps beat depression.
So whether you have a special someone or you’re on your own – there’s plenty of reasons to make time for that special kind of exercise – just make sure to keep it safe and vary those positions to ensure a full body workout!
So this week I’m looking at health & fitness during pregnancy.
There are actually huge benefits of exercise during pregnancy –helping to minimize aches and constipation, it will help you sleep better, as well as lowering your risk of diabetes and depression. You may even end up having a shorter, less complicated labor and building good workout habits during your pregnancy will help you get your body back faster after delivery too.
What exercise you can and should do, largely depends on your current activity and fitness levels and what trimester you are in – and you should always get approval from your GP or Pre-Natal team beforehand.
If you were really active before pregnancy, then try to stay as active as possible. If you weren’t – now is a good time to start! Beginners should start with just 15 mins of low intensity exercise and gradually build up to 30 mins moderate intensity, 3-4 times a week.
If you have access to prenatal exercise classes then make sure to sign up for them – not only are the workouts modified for pregnancy, but you also get to make some new friends with the other mum’s to be.
It’s fine to keep going to your favourite classes right up to the third trimester – however only as long as you pay attention to how your body feels, limit your intensity and stay within the normal range of motion. In terms of intensity use a 1-10 scale of Perceived Exertion (with 1 being really easy and 10 being maximum effort) and try to aim for between 3 and 5 on the scale and always make sure the class instructor or your Personal Trainer knows you’re pregnant as that way they can advise you if you are safe to continue and will provide variations and alternatives.
Highly choreographed classes like Step or Combat aren’t the best choices for expectant women since they require quick direction changes and a heightened sense of balance – so can risk pulling on the stomach or increase risk of falling. Other things to avoid would be Hot Yoga (as it increases your risk of overheating), Contact Sports (for obvious reasons!), or HIIT and heavy lifting. The hormonal changes in your body can make your joints and tendons more elastic – so avoid overloading (either in terms of speed or weight) to avoid damaging the joints.
Some great classes that you can include are Pilates or Yoga (avoiding any of the exercises on your back – always keep your head above your belly after first trimester), water bases classes like Aqua Aerobics or swimming are brilliant as the water supports your growing belly and is low impact.
In Terms of resistance training – try to use the weight training machines rather than free-weights but again avoid any machine or exercise that puts pressure on belly such as the seated row and abdominal crunch and avoid raising your arms overhead (to avoid excessive curvature on the spine) and if using a bench always have an incline.
When it comes to food make sure that you load up on the big 5 nutrients – Folic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Zinc and fibre, as well as Omega 3 Fatty acids – ideally these should come from natural sources and you should also increase your water intake. When pregnant your body loses hydration quicker – so make sure to drink plenty of fluids. Staying hydrated helps prevent headaches, kidney stones, dizziness and common pregnancy complaints such as constipation and haemorrhoids, but also helps avoid pre-term contractions. You know you’re well hydrated when your urine is light yellow to clear.
Finally make sure that you don’t “Eat for Two”! Half of all woman gain too much weight during pregnancy using it almost as an excuse to eat as much and whatever they want. Research suggests that when mums-to-be gain excess weight, their babies then have a higher risk of obesity later in life, plus the mothers then tend to retain that extra weight after giving birth.
It’s crucial therefore to base your pregnancy weight-gain “target”, on your height and pre-pregnancy weight but as a guide – if you’re carrying a single baby, you would need approximately 340 extra calories per day in the second trimester and 450 extra in the third trimester.
To find out what’s appropriate for you and some more ideas on exercises you can do or need to avoid – have a look at FitPregnancy.com which is a invaluable source of information covering everything health & fitness related during and after pregnancy and is highly commended.
This week’s all about health & fitness hacks to make living healthier lifestyle a little easier.
When it comes to diet – try not to resort to using the ones that cut out certain food groups like carbs or fats. Your body has a very varied requirement of nutrients and minerals and all of them are needed. By cutting out foods groups – you are more likely to binge when you come off the diet and you will put the weight back on quicker. When you lose weight you are reducing the size of your fat cells not the quantity – something to bear in mind.
In general you should try to eat smaller meals 5 times a day – but quite often it’s difficult to fit this in so if your sticking to your 3 meals a day try to make your biggest meal breakfast and reduce the size o each meal so that your smallest meal is in the evening when your metabolism naturally slows down. This will ensure that your body uses up the energy that the food you eat gives you throughout the day, rather than having a large meal in the evening (especially if its a couple of hours before going to sleep) where because the body doesn’t need the energy it will then store it as fat.
When it comes to eating before or after exercise recent studies have found when looking to improve fat burning potential – for women it’s best to eat before exercise and for men to eat afterwards.
Other things you can do is to use smaller plates – studies show that you tend to eat 20% less calories by using a smaller plate as your brain is fooled into thinking it’s a bigger meal and always drink plenty of water (especially having a glass before your meal) – this will not only help you feel fuller for longer but it boosts your metabolism and helps to burn fat quicker.
Sleep has a major impact on your energy levels – try to keep to 7-9 hours but if you do lack that little bit of energy for your workout – rather than spending money on expensive pre-workout drinks – a good cup of coffee or green tea will do the job as it’s the caffeine in the drinks that has been linked to better workout performance.
If you are not seeing the results you want – then mix up your routine. If you are focussing on all cardio then add in some strength training or vice versa. Your body very quickly gets used to coping with the same thing – whether that’s calorie intake or type of exercise – so by regularly mixing things up you keep your body guessing and working harder.
When in the gym try doing your bodyweighted or dumbbell exercise while on a power plate rather than on the floor. The unstable surface means your body has to recruit more muscle fibre to either keep you in position or still be able to complete the exercise – this extra challenge will help burn extra calories.
Sneak in exercises during everyday activities! Try doing calf raises or clench your buttocks while waiting in a queue, lunging while doing to hoovering regularly switching hands….. Apart from strengthening your muscles, you will also burn calories: An average person should burn 4 calories a minute for easy cleaning (e.g., dusting). That is a total of 80 calories for 20 minutes of cleaning so even just 1 hour of cleaning every week, you get a total of 12,480 calories a year! That is 3.5 pounds a year for keeping a clean house!
There’s a ton of more hacks to help get you fitter and healthier here: