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ALEX

Alex specialises in pre and post natal fitness and has been training pregnant and post partum women for many years. She believes exercise should be fun and works closely to ensure that her training is not only beneficial but also sustainable over the long term.

She is an accredited exercise physiologist with over 10 years experience and has extensive experience training over 55’s and individuals with chronic health conditions including metabolic diseases, heart disease and mental illness. She wants to pass on skills that create a healthier lifestyle over a lifetime.

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Fish is good for the heart and arthritis

. Fish is good for both the heart and arthritis because it’s loaded with nutrients

. Experts recommends eating fish two to three times a week

. Limit eating fish that is high in Mercury such as swordfish and marlin

Fish has long been considered good for both the heart and the brain but is also valuable in the fight against arthritis. It’s high protein packed with nutrients such as Vitamin D, B2 and Omega 3 fatty acids which make it a staple of any healthy diet. Dieticians and nutritionists recommend eating fish two to three times a week as does the Australian heart foundation.

Studies have shown that it can provide benefits in the fight against Alzheimer’s Disease and depression as well as helping to lower cholesterol but it should also be part of your armoury in the battle against arthritis and today we look at how it can be beneficial to both your joints and your heart.

But the first thing to note is that there is a sliding scale in terms of which fish provide the most nutritional value and which fish you should avoid. As a general rule, you should try and steer clear of fish that are heavy in mercury such as shark, swordfish and marlin. Mercury is a metallic substance that often attaches itself to fish and can cause long term health issues down the road.

Fish that are high in Omega 3 fatty acids are the choice of the experts and what they recommend. These include Salmon, Mackerel, Herring and things of that nature. If you actively look to include these types of fish into your diet you will be on the right path. They are rich in calcium and protein, help to lower blood pressure and provide definite benefits to both the heart and the joints.

The Australian Heart Foundation ‘recommends all Australians should aim to include 2–3 serves of fish (including oily fish) per week as part of a heart-healthy diet. This provides around 250–500 milligrams (mg) of marine-sourced omega-3s (EPA, DHA) per day. The Heart Foundation also recommends all Australians should aim for 1 gram of plant-sourced omega-3 (ALA) each day.’

They go on to say ‘Because our bodies cannot produce omega-3s we need to source them through our diet. The scientific evidence supports fish as the best dietary source of omega3s and found higher fish intake was consistently associated with lower rates of heart disease (heart failure and sudden cardiac death) and stroke.’

But as this study suggests different fish provide different value: ‘Among adults aged > or =65 years, modest consumption of tuna or other broiled or baked fish, but not fried fish or fish sandwiches, is associated with lower risk of IHD death, especially arrhythmic IHD death. Cardiac benefits of fish consumption may vary depending on the type of fish meal consumed.’

The other benefit relates to the issue of arthritis and how you can best manage the ailment. As this study states ‘Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce morning stiffness, the number of tender joints and swollen joints in patients with rheumatoid arthritis,’ but it may take some time before you see the benefits and it’s a program you have to commit to over the long haul.

They go on to say ‘In our study, a significant improvement was seen at the end of the twelfth week in 7 clinical variables, morning stiffness of the joints, overall assessment of the patient’s general condition, severity of pain, the physician’s assessment of the patient’s condition, the number of swollen joints, number of tender joints and physical function.’

The Arthritis Foundation goes on to say that ‘Research finds that people who regularly eat fish high in omega-3s are less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis (RA). And in those who already have the disease, marine omega-3s may help reduce joint swelling and pain. 

The anti-inflammatory effects from omega-3s are helpful not just for relieving arthritis, but also for preventing other diseases linked to inflammation, such as heart disease. That’s important, considering these conditions are closely linked and often coexist.’

And that’s an important point to note that these two ailments often go together for obvious reasons. Your heart relies on exercise and blood circulation and arthritis often prevents people from engaging in physical activity because of the pain and discomfort they are in.

So you really have to look at this from a holistic perspective and understand that all the pieces of the puzzle are connected and any program you put in place should make it a point to look at the whole picture. Exercise is obviously important but the other part is diet and what you actually put into your body. For the reasons outlined, fish should be a central component because of how beneficial it is to both your heart and in the fight against arthritis.

References

The Heart Foundation

https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/getmedia/4adbe011-db9a-4777-8a99-db6365e27cb1/Consumer_QA_Fish_Omega3_Cardiovascular_Health.pdf

NCBI: Cardiac benefits of fish consumption may depend on the type of fish and meal consumed: the cardiovascular health study

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12642356/

NCBI: The effect of Omega 3 fatty acids in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis receiving DMARD’s therapy: Double blind randomized control trial

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4965662/

Arthritis Foundation

https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/nutrition/healthy-eating/best-fish-for-arthritis

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Why fish oil is good for arthritis

. Fish oil is good for arthritis as a convenient and effective supplement to fish

. High in Omega 3 fatty acids that helps to reduce inflammation

. Cod liver oil is a similar product and also very beneficial

Fish oil is a supplement derived from fish that provides many of the benefits as the real thing. The main reason that people often turn to fish oil is because of convenience, they haven’t got the time or the inclination to sit down and prepare two servings of fish per week, as the experts advise, and this has become a quick and easy alternative.

It’s certainly not a bad thing as most experts agree that it’s a useful and beneficial alternative. In another article we did recently we talked about the virtues of fish and with fish oil a lot of the benefits to the brain and the heart remain present by strengthening brain matter and helping to lower cholesterol.

But fish oil can also play a part in the management of arthritis in terms of reducing inflammation. According to Arthritis Australia ‘Certain types of omega-3 fats can reduce inflammation from arthritis. This may help to relieve joint pain and stiffness in a similar way to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Current research suggests omega-3 fats are helpful for people with inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis,  and psoriatic arthritis. There is also some evidence that fish oils may help control symptoms of osteoarthritis and lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus).’

The reason for that, as this study suggests, is because ‘Marine oil is thought to have an analgesic effect in arthritis as a likely consequence of its high content of docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid. Arachidonic acid, as well as DHA and EPA, are used in the production of lipid mediators, which are involved (among other functions) in the regulation of inflammation. Thus, supplementation with EPA- and DHA-rich oil could exert an anti-inflammatory effect, making it a possible treatment for arthritis pain.’

Another study also talked about pain relief more in regards to overweight individuals and seems to confirm that fish oil certainly has a role to play: ‘Our findings indicate potential for fish oil supplementation to reduce mild OA pain and burden in sedentary overweight/obese older adults with self-reported OA-specific pain, which was associated with improved well-being. The pain-alleviating effects of fish oil might be mediated, at least in part, by improvements in microvascular function.’

And this study also reiterates that fish oil can be a valuable tool for those looking for pain relief from arthritis as well as potentially having a protective component in regards to heart disease, which is sometimes a related condition because of the inability to exercise adequately:

‘In accordance with the biochemical effects, beneficial anti-inflammatory effects of dietary fish oils have been demonstrated in randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Also, fish oils have protective clinical effects in occlusive cardiovascular disease, for which patients with RA are at increased risk.’

A derivative of fish oil is cod liver oil which provides similar benefits. They are similar but slightly different products. Both are high in Omega 3 fatty acids, the backbone of their nutritional value because of the anti-inflammatory effect, but cod liver oil is also high in Vitamin A and Vitamin D. The same benefits to the heart and the brain remain present but there is also evidence to suggest that it can play a role in helping to protect and preserve eyesight.

To summarise, either because of time or inclination, whether you choose fish oil or cod liver oil as a supplement to fish there are certainly many nutritional benefits that can be had not just in the fight against arthritis but also in terms of your general health which makes both products a very useful and valuable compliment to your diet.

But you also have to be mindful of the actual dosage. For example, fish oil has a reputation for helping to lower blood pressure, which is fine and beneficial to those suffering from high blood pressure, but if you already have low blood pressure any further reduction can be quite dangerous, so as with most products always consider your own personal circumstances and consult with a medical practitioner if you have any further queries.

References

Arthritis Australia: Fish Oils

NCBI: Marine oil supplements for arthritis pain: A systematic review and meta analysis of randomized trials

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5295086/

NCBI: Fish oil supplementation reduces osteoarthritis specific pain in older adults with overweight/obesity

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7494084/

NCBI: The role of fish oils in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12678571/

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Eating berries helps arthritis

. Eating berries helps fight arthritis because the are high in antioxidants

. They have significant anti-inflammatory effect

. They help to reduce pain associated with arthritis

Diet can certainly impact how you manage arthritis and one of the best food groups to invest heavily in is a healthy dose of fruit and vegetables, in particular berries which have long been established to be of great benefit in the management of arthritis. Over the course of this article we will look at the therapeutic and nutritional value of berries, strawberries and blueberries and how eating berries helps to fight arthritis.

According to this study: ‘Dietary fruits, especially berries are a rich source of several phytochemicals and nutrients which may explain much of their physiological effects as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. Commonly consumed berries, such as blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are a rich source of several polyphenols including anthocyanins, quercetin, and various types of phenolic acids.’

And according to the Arthritis foundation: ‘Berries top the charts in antioxidant power, protecting your body against inflammation and free radicals, molecules that can damage cells and organs.’ As stated, berries are a famous antioxidant and antioxidants are quite often found in plant based foods, so any diet that is rich in fruit and vegetables is a great start in the fight against arthritis. What antioxidants do is essentially help repair and protect you against cell damage and arthritis is fundamentally the wearing away and wear and tear of ageing joints, so it’s a perfect match.

As stated here, berries essentially bring with them a potent anti-inflammatory component: ‘Fruits, such as berries and pomegranates are rich sources of a variety of dietary bioactive compounds, especially the polyphenolic flavonoids that have been associated with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.’

One of the issues with arthritis is obviously the pain and discomfort that comes with it. As we’ve discussed previously, staying active, staying mobile and losing weight, which releases stress on your knees and joints, are all excellent ways to manage pain but there are also food elements that can play their part. This study suggests that the compounds found in strawberries are a useful weapon in alleviating some of the pain that comes with knee arthritis.

‘Our pilot study provides evidence on the role of strawberry bioactive compounds, as a rich source of polyphenols and nutrients, in improving pain and inflammation in obese adults with mild-to-moderate knee OA when compared to a control group. Given the economic burden of obesity and related conditions, including knee OA, our study suggests that simple dietary intervention, i.e., the addition of berries, may have a significant impact on pain, inflammation, and overall quality of life in obese adults with OA.’

The following study also suggests that blueberries have significant anti-inflammatory effect and can provide pain relief due to the high presence of dietary polyphenols, which are another class of antioxidants and play a role in the preservation and protection of damaged cells and cartilage. ‘Dietary polyphenols have been studied for their anti-inflammatory properties and potential anabolic effects on the cartilage cells. Blueberries are widely consumed and are high in dietary polyphenols, therefore regular consumption of blueberries may help improve OA.’

It goes on to say that ‘The proposed mechanism by which polyphenols reduce the risk of chronic human disease involves their ability to accept electrons from free radicals, thereby disrupting chain oxidation reactions, and increasing cellular antioxidative capacity’ and that ‘blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, as well as pomegranates are among the commonly available fruits that may offer some protection against arthritis.’

In conclusion, all forms of berries, be it strawberries, blueberries or natural berries can potentially be a potent weapon in the fight against arthritis. The great thing is they also provide plenty of other benefits because of the high element of antioxidants present, so you should certainly look to incorporate them into your diet.

In addition to being anti-inflammatory, they are high in fiber, can help balance blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol, so they are certainly a very valuable and all-purpose type of nutrient.

References

NCBI: Dietary fruits and arthritis

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5788027/

Arthritis Foundation

http://blog.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/tag/health-benefits-of-berries/

NCBI: Strawberries improve pain and inflammation in obese adults with radiographic evidence of knee ostheoarthritis

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5622709/

NCBI: Blueberries improve pain, gait performance and inflammation in individuals with symptomatic knee ostheoarthritis

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6413191/

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Arthritis and the Mediterranean diet

. Some elements of the Mediterranean diet are useful in the fight against arthritis

. Fish, grains and berries are foods you should look to incorporate into your diet

. Use discretion in regards to alcohol when trying to manage arthritis

When constructing a diet to counteract and reduce the symptoms associated with arthritis there are certain foods you should peruse and certain foods you should avoid.  Foods you should actively look to incorporate into your diet are fish, grains and berries. Foods you should look to avoid are fats, sugar and salt.

Fish, fruits and berries are all good for reducing inflammation which is one of the keys to managing arthritis. You want to avoid foods that inflame the condition and eat foods that actively reduce inflammation.

The food you eat can certainly play a role in how you feel and manage the ailment. In this health study on diet and arthritis, ‘Twenty-four percent of subjects reported that foods affect their RA, with 15% reporting improvement and 19% worsening. Blueberries and spinach were the foods most often reported to improve RA symptoms, while soda with sugar and desserts were most often reported to worsen RA symptoms.’

In terms of structuring a diet to combat the symptoms of arthritis, over the years some have advocated the use of the Mediterranean diet, which embodies a more traditional way of living that was common in that part of the world. Excess sugar is avoided, meat is eaten sparingly and the focus is on food sourced from the earth such as plant foods, fruit and vegetables, fish and seafood. For flavour, meals are often cooked in olive oil and topped up with red wine.

Advocates of the Mediterranean diet certainly love the freshness and vibrancy of the food but in terms of reducing arthritis the medical information available is varied. This journal looked at four studies that had incorporated Mediterranean elements and found that ‘Only one study reported a reduction in the 28 joint count disease activity score for rheumatoid arthritis for the Mediterranean diet group. This review has identified beneficial effects of the Mediterranean diet in reducing pain and increasing physical function in people living with rheumatoid arthritis. However, there is currently insufficient evidence to support widespread recommendation of the Mediterranean diet for prevention of rheumatoid arthritis.’

We talked about olive oil being a staple of the Mediterranean diet and this study suggests it has a positive impact. It states that ‘Studies have also shown that incorporation of olive oil in diet decreases the risk of developing RA. Rosillo et al. have shown that administration of extra virgin olive oil in CIA mice (type II collagen-induced arthritis) reduced the serum levels of cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP) and metalloproteinase-3 (MMP-3) that are the predictive markers of cartilage and joint damage in RA.’

I think what’s safe to say is that there are certainly elements of the Mediterranean diet that can help manage and prevent arthritis but you also need to look at other options at your disposal.  Wine is often considered a staple in cultures in that part of the world, where social drinking at social gatherings are considered a part and parcel of life, but what affect does that have on managing arthritis? Again, the studies are varied and a matter of interpretation, but as a general rule, it’s generally accepted that excessive alcohol can be detrimental to those already suffering from arthritis. It can potentially inflame the condition.

But if you drink in moderation, it might not be all bad. You have to find the right balance. In regards to red wine there might be some good news as according the Arthritis foundation ‘Red wine has a compound in it called resveratrol, which has well-established anti-inflammatory effects. Some studies show wine consumption is associated with a reduced risk of knee OA, and moderate drinking is also associated with a reduced risk of RA.’

But it goes on to say that ‘many experts question the strength of these studies and argue it’s hard to distinguish confounding factors in this research.’ However, another study looked at the impact of resveratrol on arthritis and stated ‘This study suggests that intra-articular injection of resveratrol may protect cartilage against the development of experimentally induced IA,’ which is also backed up by this study that states ‘resveratrol administered either intra-articularly or orally, has shown joint protective effects in pre-clinical models of OA and RA.’

A different study looked at the correlation between alcohol and arthritis and found that ‘Beer consumption appears to be a risk factor for knee and hip OA whereas consumption of wine has a negative association with knee OA. The mechanism behind these findings is speculative but warrants further study.’  

So there is certainly a mixed bag in regards to the scientific backing of the virtues of red wine, but if you are going to incorporate it into your diet, it’s best to tread lightly and do so gently and moderately, but the Mediterranean diet as a whole, while not perfect, certainly has some elements to it that make it an attractive option in the battle against arthritis.

References

NCBI: Diet and Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms: Survey results from a Rheumatoid arthritis registry

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5563270/

NCBI: The effects of the Mediterranean diet on rheumatoid arthritis prevention and treatment: a systematic review of human prospective studies

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29256100/#:~:text=Only%20one%20study%20reported%20a,people%20living%20with%20rheumatoid%20arthritis.

NCBI: Managing Rheumatoid arthritis with dietary interventions

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5682732/

Arthritis Foundation

https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/nutrition/healthy-eating/best-drinks-for-arthritis#:~:text=Red%20wine%20has%20a%20compound,a%20reduced%20risk%20of%20RA.

NCBI: Effects of resveratrol in inflammatory arthritis

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17115116/

NCBI: Resveratrol, potential therapeutic interest in joint disorders: A critical narrative review

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5295089/

NCBI: Beer and wine consumption and risk of knee or hip osteoarthritis: a case study

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4355424/

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What your heart rate means

. Your target heart rate is between 50 and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate

. Listen to your body and understand the signs

. A lower resting heart rate is optimal because it means your heart is highly efficient

Over the course of this article we will talk about different forms of heart rate and the things you should be mindful of while exercising. To calculate your maximum heart rate, the most basic rule is to subtract your age from 220. While there are exceptions, such as elite athletes, for most people it’s generally considered that their target heart rate during exercise should be somewhere between 50-85 percent of their maximum heart rate.

While experts differ on whether people should obsess over this, the best approach seems to be to use it as a guide for the intensity levels you should be looking to generate during the course of your workout. If you’re falling under that 50 per cent threshold, it could be interpreted as a sign that maybe you could afford to work a little bit harder and push yourself a little bit more if you’re trying to achieve optimal benefit, but obviously within reason.

But the important thing with exercise is to know your own body. You have to listen to the signs, understand what you’re capable of, what you’re not capable of and work around that framework. Things of this nature are a guide to help you in the right direction. The more informed you are, the more knowledge you have, the better off you will be. Your resting heart rate is one of the benchmarks and key metrics that medical experts will often use to determine your overall health. What this is really judging is efficiency and functionality by assessing how hard your heart has to work to pump blood to the different parts of the body.

With that in mind, a lower resting heart rate is optimal because it means that your heart is so efficient that it doesn’t need to work as hard to do its job properly. Everything is in good order. For adults, between 60 and 80 beats per minute is considered optimal any anything above 90 is usually considered a little high. This study looked at the correlation between resting heart rate and the overall fitness of Brazilian adolescents. It first defines the importance of understanding the meaning behind the numbers:

‘Heart rate (HR) reflects the number of contractions of the ventricles per unit time and fluctuates substantially with variations in systemic demand for oxygen.’ This basically means that the heart has to work harder when it’s not getting the appropriate supply of oxygen. ‘RHR elevation in adolescents is directly associated with indicators of cardiovascular diseases, such as increased blood pressure levels, elevated blood glucose, higher total cholesterol concentrations, and elevated triglycerides.’

They go on to say: ‘The main finding of this study was that aerobic fitness was associated with RHR in both sexes, indicating that lower aerobic fitness values were associated with higher RHR values.’ So the findings indicate that aerobic exercise improves your resting heart rate and is beneficial to your overall health. As this study was done on adolescents, it also illustrates why it’s important to get into good exercise habits at a young age and hopefully maintain them right throughout your life.

A high resting heart rate has always been considered dangerous because it’s often interpreted as a predictor of cardiovascular disease down the road, which is one of the reasons why it’s important to address the issue and put in place measures to rectify that while you are still healthy enough to do so. The ways you can do this are obviously through diet, lifestyle and exercise. When connecting the correlation between heart rate and heart disease this study interpreted the data as such:

‘Results from this meta-analysis suggest the risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality increased by 9% and 8% for every 10 beats/min increment of resting heart rate. Compared with 45 beats/min, the risk of all-cause mortality increased significantly with increasing resting heart rate in a linear relation, but a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular mortality was observed at 90 beats/min.’

So again, when you start approaching that 90 beats per minute threshold, you’re starting to enter dangerous territory and it’s important to activate some lifestyle choices for your own health and your own benefit.

We will go into greater specifics at a later date, but this is a general overview of why it’s important for people of all ages to get tested, take the data seriously and then make practical changes in regards to diet and exercise if you find you’re not putting your best foot forward in regards to your long term health.

References

NCBI: Association between Resting Heart Rate and Health-Related Physical Fitness in Brazilian Adolescents

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6046174/

NCBI: Resting heart rate and all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in the general population: a meta-analysis

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4754196/

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Progression and resistance training

. Set clear goals in regards to progression and resistance training

. Volume builds endurance and intensity builds power

. Work at your own pace

To make great progress with resistance training you first have to establish exactly what you’re trying to achieve because the target and the pace you move at is heavily intertwined with the specific goal in mind. That’s true for most things but especially in this regard because of the work and commitment required with strength training. This is probably why it’s not a bad idea to ease yourself into your work, lay the foundation and build a solid base before you really try and take it to the next level. Ideally you want to build your body for the long haul and not just attempt a quick fix or rapid fire program, which is rarely sustainable.

Over the course of this article we will look at some of the things to consider if you’re trying to develop a strong resistance platform and how you can connect the dots and progress at your own pace. The first thing we will look at is volume and intensity and what you’re trying to achieve when balancing those variables. As a general rule, volume in fitness is directed more towards improving and increasing endurance and cardio vascular performance while intensity is geared towards power, strength and explosiveness.

How you structure your resistance training program and specifically what you want to accomplish will be determined by the balance you’re trying to strike and there are different studies available that outline how different methods have performed. For instance, this study suggests that ‘high-intensity (3–5 RM), low-volume resistance training program utilizing a long rest interval (3 min) is more advantageous than a moderate intensity, high-volume (10–12 RM) program utilizing a short rest interval (1 min) for stimulating upper body strength gains and muscle hypertrophy in resistance-trained men.’

It goes on to say that ‘These results are consistent with previous comparative studies in resistance-trained individuals showing high-intensity programs were more conducive for increasing strength while producing similar magnitude of muscle hypertrophy.’ To sum up, a high intensity workout is the fastest way to burn fat, lose weight and build strength. But this is quite an intense, strenuous type of workout that you should ease yourself into and is not always suitable for those starting out and those susceptible to injury because of the high impact nature of the training.

As we said at the start, ideally you would build to this point and have at least a couple of months of training under your belt to get your body stronger and more resilient before you move into the high intensity phase. In terms of increasing repetition, increasing weight, it’s more a case of common sense. When you feel your body is strong enough to go the next phase of training that’s when you can start to add weight and add repetitions, but you should only do that when you feel confident enough to do so and always make it a point to progress at your own pace.

As this study states: ‘Progression in resistance training is a dynamic process that requires an exercise prescription process, evaluation of training progress, and careful development of target goals. The single workout must then be designed reflecting these targeted program goals including the choice of exercises, order of exercise, amount of rest used between sets and exercises, number of repetitions and sets used for each exercise, and the intensity of each exercise.’

They conclude by saying ‘The resistance training program design should be simple at first for untrained individuals but should become more specific with greater variation in the acute program variables during progression.’ So these are the basics of formulating and progressing through a resistance training program. We have talked about why resistance training is important and how you can vary the program but in regards to progression because of the specific nature of the activity the target area must be clearly defined, goals must be set, and common sense applied when moving through the ranks.

References

NCBI: The effect of training volume and intensity on improvements in muscular strength and size in resistance-trained men

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4562558/

NCBI: Fundamentals of resistance training: progression and exercise prescription

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15064596/

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Different forms of resistance training

. Isotonic, Isometric and Isokinetic are all different forms of resistance training

. Important to incorporate a program that is diversified and not one-dimensional

. Elastic resistance is a useful alternative to conventional resistance

Resistance training can be loosely broken into three different forms: Isotonic, Isometric and Isokinetic. Isotonic generally refers to full motion exercises where you apply weight and then ask the muscle to go through a full range of motion to achieve optimal benefit. Most exercises at the gym fall under this category. In contrast, Isometric exercises are more low impact and body friendly. They are not designed to be quite as strenuous and the biggest difference is perhaps the range of motion that you put your body through during the course of exercise. Resistance is quite often achieved by using your own body weight.

Isokinetic exercises are more of a speed based concept more directed at elite athletes who have to try and develop power at speed to optimise their performance. While you may look to some of these exercises to diversify your program, they probably aren’t quite as important for regular people who would be better served devoting their energies to isotonic and isometric exercises and locking down the basics first. In terms of how you can formulate and structure your resistance training there are some different options and we can take a look at those now. But as this study suggests it’s important to consider all the variables when compiling your program:

‘It is necessary that the advantages and disadvantages of a particular type of strength training are carefully considered before incorporating it into a program. Variables that should be considered include cost of equipment, motor performance increases, amount of strength gains, and range of motion of the strength gains.’ Continuing on that theme, this study states that ‘One of the many variables that coaches and researchers face when designing RT programs is exercise selection. Resistance exercises can be classified according many different criteria, considering the number of joints involved they can be classified as multi-joint (MJ) or single-joint (SJ) exercises.

Most popular recommendations postulate that RT sessions should involve 8 to 10 exercises performed in multiple sets with both single (SJ) and multi joint (MJ) exercises.’ So to achieve optimal benefit, the fundamental theme that emerges is that it’s important to diversify your training with element of both isometric and isotonic concepts, multi-joint and single-joint components, and implement a program that gives you the full complement of benefits and isn’t too one-dimensional.

The next concept is load building. This study looked at the difference in impact between moderate load resistance and low load resistance. The program ran for six weeks, eight exercises, four times a week. The study concluded that both variables help to achieve muscle strength and achieve body composition but that: ‘RT performed with moderate-to-heavy loads is recommended to recruit fast-twitch muscle fibres…RT with a low  number of repetitions and intermediate RM is considered an appropriate stimulus to increase strength and skeletal muscle mass. Alternatively, RT performed with a higher number of RM is well recognized to increase muscular endurance.’

So load management is an important concept to consider when deciding if you want to place the emphasis on increasing strength or building endurance because there is a different formula applied to achieve both variables. A large load with low repetitions will help to build strength while a smaller load with more repetitions will help to build endurance. And the final point we will look at in this article is the difference between elastic resistance and conventional resistance. One of the benefits of using elastic bands is versatility and portability.

The drawback is that you might not get as strenuous of a workout as you would with free weights or conventional resistance, but it’s certainly a piece of equipment that is worth investing in because of the convenience and options they provide. But this study certainly suggests that elastic resistance is a very valuable tool and doesn’t lose anything in comparison to conventional resistance:

‘Evidence from this study suggests that resistance training with elastic devices provides similar strength gains when compared to resistance training performed from conventional devices. These findings allow coaches, physiotherapists, and even patients to opt to use devices with low costs, ease of handling, and which can be used in different places, such as elastic devices, for maintenance and gain in muscular strength.’

So there’s a broad overview of the different forms of resistance training at your disposal and the things that you should consider when formulating your workout.

References

NCBI: Types of strength training

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6843979/

NCBI: Resistance Training with Single vs. Multi-joint Exercises at Equal Total Load Volume: Effects on Body Composition, Cardiorespiratory Fitness, and Muscle Strength

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5744434/

NCBI: The Effect of Different Resistance Training Load Schemes on Strength and Body Composition in Trained Men

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5548165/

NCBI: Effects of training with elastic resistance versus conventional resistance on muscular strength: A systematic review and meta-analysis

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6383082/

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Why resistance training is good for you

. Resistance training improves balance, bone density and mental awareness

. Strengthens vulnerable parts of your body and makes them flexible and malleable

. Targeted training helps to strengthen muscles, tendons and joints

A workout regime that places a strong emphasis on resistance training is a great option for people at different stages of their fitness journey as it hits a lot of the key target areas in terms of what you want to get out of an exercise plan. While it shouldn’t be the only focus of your training because it’s important to incorporate some form of cardiovascular component for variety and greater benefit, resistance training can certainly be one of the building blocks of any personal workout because the benefits are tangible for people from all walks of life.

As the name suggests, the basic principle is a strength training program where you push or work against an obvious force and challenge the muscles to become stronger and more developed. The benefits of such a program are a combination of strength, stamina and injury prevention because you’re strengthening vulnerable parts of your body such as your muscles, tendons and joints by making them more flexible and malleable and as a result more likely to withstand the rigours of day to day life and any physical activity you may undertake.

As a general rule, resistance training can be achieved through some combination of medicine balls, your own body weight, resistance bands or free weights such as dumbbells and barbells. There’s enough variety there to put together a workout plan that is stimulating and rewarding at the same time without being too predictable, and that’s the balance you’re trying to achieve. The goal is to harness and manipulate these different apparatus in such a way so that your body is tested and challenged and forced to respond positively and decisively through the basic principles of force and resistance with your muscles contracting and strengthening over time in order to achieve all of the benefits that we talked about before.    

Once you know how to best use the apparatus the next step is to determine exactly what you’re trying to achieve:

What’s the goal?  What’s the endgame?

For seniors, the benefits are both physical and neurological. There is evidence that resistance training helps to improve balance, bone density and mental awareness, so a carefully structured program can certainly be of great benefit to elderly people who are possibly coming to terms with the changing nature of their bodies. In this study, it was established that ‘A program of once or twice weekly resistance exercise achieves muscle strength gains similar to 3 days per week training in older adults and is associated with improved neuromuscular performance. Such improvement could potentially reduce the risk of falls and fracture in older adults.’

For younger people resistance training can still be a cornerstone component of your training program because of the high-impact nature of the exercises which make it a great way to burn calories and manage your weight, which is obviously one of the things that most people are trying to do with their fitness regime. The other benefit of resistance training for young adults is that they are essentially setting in motion some good habits and creating tangible benefits that will prove to be invaluable as they get older.

These include benefits to the heart such as reducing cholesterol and lowering blood pressure as well as helping to prevent the potentially debilitating effects of arthritis by cultivating a body that is stronger and more resilient. As we get older our bodies start to naturally deteriorate so it’s important to put in place measures and activate a lifestyle that takes that into account and prepares us in advance for that transformation and resistance training is a great way of doing that.

This study suggests that ‘ Inactive adults experience a 3% to 8% loss of muscle mass per decade, accompanied by resting metabolic rate reduction and fat accumulation. Ten weeks of resistance training may increase lean weight by 1.4 kg, increase resting metabolic rate by 7%, and reduce fat weight by 1.8 kg.’ The study goes on to say that ‘Resistance training may promote bone development, with studies showing 1% to 3% increase in bone mineral density’ as well as ‘enhance cardiovascular health, by reducing resting blood pressure’ and ‘assist prevention and management of type 2 diabetes by decreasing visceral fat.’

There are certainly numerous health benefits that come with incorporating a high quality resistance training program into your diary and in the weeks and months ahead we will delve more into the specifics and also how you can progress but that’s a basic overview of the benefits of resistance training and why it is certainly something you should consider as you move forward with your fitness journey.

References

NCBI: Once weekly resistance exercise improves muscle strength and neuromuscular performance in older adults

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10522954/#:~:text=Conclusions%3A%20A%20program%20of%20once,and%20fracture%20in%20older%20adults.

NCBI: Resistance training is medicine: effects of strength training on health

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22777332/

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Muscle strength for seniors

. Muscle strength for seniors is important because a natural decline occurs as we age

. We need to replenish what we are losing

. Those who engage often report feeling happier and more outgoing

As we get older our muscles, joints and tendons naturally lose strength, flexibility and function. It’s an unfortunate fact of life. To counteract that it’s important for seniors to do their own muscle strength training to replenish what they are losing. While it’s unlikely that we will be able to get back all of the strength and flexibility from our younger days, with a disciplined, structured exercise program you can certainly slow the decline and continue to live a happy, healthy, productive life by committing a certain amount of time each week to strengthening your muscles, joints and tendons, all of which become vulnerable as we age.

This study outlines how the ageing process can be attributed to ‘a number of physiologic and functional declines that can contribute to increased disability, frailty, and falls’ through a reduction of muscle strength known as sarcopenia.The study suggests that strength training is an excellent way of combating the natural deterioration of the body in this regard. ‘Done regularly (e.g., 2 to 3 days per week), these exercises build muscle strength and muscle mass and preserve bone density, independence, and vitality with age.’

Osteoporosis is a common ailment that arises as we get older and there is definitely evidence to suggest that strength training helps to nullify and neutralise the effects of this condition because one of the goals is to improve bone strength by challenging the body to respond and get stronger. This study states that ‘Of the several exercise training programs, resistance exercise (RE) is known to be highly beneficial for the preservation of bone and muscle mass.’

It goes on to say that ‘Exercise training, especially RE, is important for the maintenance of musculoskeletal health in an aging society’ and that ‘Based on the available information, RE, either alone or in combination with other interventions, may be the most optimal strategy to improve the muscle and bone mass in postmenopausal women, middle-aged men, or even the older population.’ While the majority of health benefits in regards to strength training are physical there is now evidence emerging that there are also definite psychological benefits that are a direct by-product.

To summarise, seniors who engage in this type of strength and resistance work often report feeling happier, more confident and more outgoing while having a positive self image because there is a certain chemical reaction that is unlocked as well as being a natural boost to your self-esteem when you successfully challenge yourself and step out of your comfort zone. This study suggests that ‘Resistance training improved exercise-related motivational and volitional characteristics in older adults. These improvements were linked to continuing resistance training 1 year after the supervised intervention.’ Greater motivation and positive reinforcement are certainly some of the psychological benefits that can come with strength and resistance training.

We will go in to greater detail at a later date but in this overview of why it’s important for seniors to build muscle strength the last point we will touch on is how to structure your training program to get the most out of it without going overboard. The first point is frequency. When starting out, two to three times per week with eight to ten repetitions for each exercise is a good starting point. That way you can ease yourself into your work, it’s not too time consuming and you’re not overdoing it which means that your body will slowly and naturally adapt.

Obviously once you are confident and comfortable you can either add repetitions or frequency but still be mindful of not overloading your body. You want to try and achieve a balanced fitness program and one that is sustainable over the long run. Muscles also need time to grow and relax in between so it’s important to put some distance between your workouts to achieve optimal benefit. Stay dehydrated, keep a safe work area and develop your strength training slowly, steadily and meticulously with a long term vision in mind and you will be well on your way to success.

References

NCBI: The benefits of strength training for older adults

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14552938/#:~:text=Current%20research%20has%20demonstrated%20that,independence%2C%20and%20vitality%20with%20age.

NCBI: Effects of resistance exercise on bone health

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6279907/

NCBI: Motivational characteristics and resistance training in older adults: A randomised control trial and 1 year follow-up

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29878445/