An active lifestyle is one of the core pillars of good health.  In the social media age exercise is often synonymous with protein shakes, rapid weight gain or loss programs and superficial excesses, but this shouldn’t be the case.  Exercise should be something that brings a smile to your face and when it does the health benefits will follow.

Include physical activity in your daily routine

It’s not just that exercise is great, it’s also that too much time sedentary can be really detrimental.  It’s better to have regular, moderate exercise than occasional high intensity sessions, and to try avoid long, unbroken stretches sitting at your desk or on the couch..

The level of daily exercise you should aim for depends on your individual circumstance, though there are some broad rules that apply based on your age.  A good starting place is the Australian Government’s Guidelines for Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour, which are available for young children, children 5-17, adults, and older citizens.

Looking for new ideas to get exercise into your daily schedule?  The Australian Institute of Sport’s ‘Find your 30’ website has some great interactive tools to help you find opportunities to exercise at work, at home and with your family.

 

The long-term benefits are just as significant as the short

Exercise is proven to release endorphins and make you feel better.  We often also associate it with various short-term goals, be it to improve at a sport or to drop a few kilos.

Many of exercise’s benefits are actually delivered over time and it is one of the most effective ways to ward off chronic diseases.  From cancer, to heart disease, respiratory conditions, diabetes, and mental illnesses, the threat of essentially every serious health condition can be reduced by an active, healthy lifestyle.  Exercise Right is a thorough guide on the relationship between exercise and chronic diseases, put together by Exercise and Sports Science Australia.

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Sam’s Top 3

By Sam Payne, Physiotherapist and Exercise Physiologist

Within my role as the NHC’s Physiotherapist and Exercise Physiologist I see a wide variety of different musculoskeletal issues.  These are 3 of the more common problems I see with my patients and intervention strategies that can help with their management and prevention.  Everyone’s body works a little differently though, so please check in your GP or specialist if you’re experiencing ongoing or severe pain.

 

Lower Back Pain (Lumbar facet arthropathy)

Do you often wake up with a stiff or aching lower back?  Perhaps it’s been there for a while and you’ve noticed that it’s been getting worse over time.

Lower back pain presents in many ways and can have several different causes and presentations. The most common however are arthritic problems with the joints, including conditions such as facet arthropathy and acute exacerbation of osteoarthritis.  These won’t usually prevent walking, though long periods of sitting or standing still will cause additional tightness.

Like most joint problems, this responds well to simply getting the joints moving – but in a way that does not aggravate the injury.  As a starting point, I recommend lying on your back each morning and evening and doing 5 minutes or so of lumbo-pelvic stretching.  Some good stretches include;

  • Supine lumbar rotations: bend both knees and gently move them from side to side, as far as is comfortable. 10 times each way.
  • Knee to chest: Bring one knee to your chest and hold for 5 seconds, then alternate with the other knee. 5 times each knee.
  • Glut stretch: Rest your heel on your opposite knee, and gently bring the knee towards the opposite shoulder until you feel a gentle ‘pull’ in your backside region. Hold for 30secs and then repeat for the other leg.

 

If you have hip problems or have recently had a hip replacement please talk to a specialist to get some tailored exercises as these may cause you pain – more on hip conditions below.

 

Neck pain (Cervical facet arthropathy).

Are you based in an office and find that you often spend long periods at your desk?  Neck pain is one of the most common conditions I see in my patients and is generally caused by a combination of too much unbroken time sitting down and poor posture.

When we spend too much time seated, typing and staring at our computer screen, chronic improper loading of neck joints occurs resulting in an achey, stiff and sometimes burning sensation which reduces the neck’s range of movement.

Similar to lower back pain, movement is the best medicine. Try to take a break every 30 minutes, and do some stretching 2 or 3 times each workday.  Some neck stretches that I find really effective are;

  • Mid-back rotations: Sit with your arms across your chest like an ‘X’, keep your feet flat on the floor and rotate body left and right (within comfortable range). 10 each way.
  • Shoulder retractions: sitting upright and bring your shoulder blades together for 1 second and release. 10 repetitions.
  • Neck retractions: sit upright, place fingers on your chin and gently push your chin back towards your spine. Push back as far as is comfortable and hold for 5 seconds and perform 3 repetitions.

Hip Pain (Trochanteric bursitis)

Have you had an aching hip, which radiates down the side of the leg and causes tightness and pain in the buttock?  Has it caused you trouble sleeping as it’s uncomfortable to lie on?

Hip bursitis is an increasingly common condition I treat my patients for, particularly with women though it certainly isn’t rare amongst men. It can be caused by direct trauma to the hip or can occur gradually over time.  If you’re experiencing the symptoms detailed above your doctor might refer you for an ultrasound scan, which can reliably diagnose hip bursitis as well as muscle conditions which often co-exist.  In stubborn cases, your GP may also recommend localised steroid injections.

Management can be tricky as a few factors must be addressed. It’s important not to further aggravate the injury – so avoid lying on the affected side as much as you cam. Loosening tight hip muscles via massage, foam rolling or (of course) Physiotherapy is also helpful as tight glut muscles tug on the bursa and further aggravate it.

Strengthening of weak or injured glut muscles is also important.  I recommend trying these exercises daily, giving yourself a day off if you’re feeling sore;

  • Static bridge: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the surface, lift your backside up (about one fist off the surface) and hold for between 10-30secs, depending on your tolerance. Repeat 5 times.
  • Bridges: Same action as above, but hold for just one second and do 3 sets of 15.
  • Squats: Hold onto a sturdy rail / sink and with straight arms (water skiing positioning) bend your knees to no more than 90 and lower your body, then return to standing. Keep your back straight and keep motion slow and controlled.  3 lots of 15.

 

Try to avoid over-stretching your gluts in any exercise that you do, as this can further aggravate your hip.  Hip conditions can be tricky, so it’s really important to check in with your doctor or specialist regularly to make sure everything is on track.

 

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