Editorials

Knee Anatomy – Parts, Functions and Health

knee healthIt’s not uncommon for people who have gained weight to say they’re concerned about their knees, with this in mind I had a little search for articles around the subject. So a bit of anatomy to begin as what we consider our knee joint is actually several joints; what’s generally considered the ‘knee joint’ is the tibiofemoral joint (TFJ), the joint between the tibia (shin) and femur (thigh); we also have the ‘kneecap joint’ or patellofemoral joint (PFJ) the joint between the patella (kneecap) and femur.

Development of osteoarthritis (OA) in the knees is more likely if you are overweight with OA in the TFJ the more likely; mechanical stress from the extra load going through the joint and the bodies adaptation to it is thought to be one aspect contributing to development of OA, however it is noted that OA is more likely in overweight people in joints that don’t weight bear too (i.e. the hand) leading to a belief that another aspect in development of OA may be the extra body fat producing proteins that worsen joint inflammation which subsequently may be instrumental in cartilage degeneration.

Now regarding the PFJ, which plays a large role in flexion/bending the knee; it is estimated that this joint is exposed to loads 2-3 times your body weight during activity, and OA in the PFJ appears in half of people experiencing knee pain or knee OA. The research found that those with PFJ pain were heavier, and those with PFJ OA were heavier again; although extra weight was not a predictor for those without PFJ pain, creating a chicken or egg debate -is pain due to excess weight or is excess weight due to reduced activity due to pain?

There is some belief that PFJ OA and pain are on a continuum and essentially it is concluded that reducing excess weight may well benefit the knees by restricting mechanical and metabolic effects believed to be caused by it.


Health and Fitness exercise tip by the FitFarms team. FitFarms specialises in Fitness and Weight Loss Holidays for people of all different fitness levels, shapes and sizes. Check out our next courses here.

Image credit to OMRF.ORG

Benefits of Strength (aka Resistance) Training

Strength trainingWe’re often asked at FitFarms ‘what sort of exercise should I be doing?’ and I’m generally of the opinion that you should be doing whatever activity you enjoy doing be it gym, classes, cycling or rock climbing; but I thought I’d share some info from an article I was reading about some benefits of strength (aka resistance) training.

As we age our muscle mass declines by roughly 1% each year and alongside it strength, though at an even greater rate; parallel to this there is an association between lower muscle strength and greater risk of dementia, need for care and mortality.

Recent studies in the article concluded a large reduction (19-27%) in mortality of adults using strength training a couple of hours/days a week. An earlier study in a nursing home found an increase in strength of 174% after 8 weeks in a a small group of nonagernarians with a couple of the participants regaining ability to walk without a stick, and one who had regained the ability to stand from a chair independently.

Other studies have shown strength gains to improve cognition in those with subjective memory problems, reduce inflammation in adults receiving haemodialysis for kidney failure, help adults with type 2 diabetes manage sugar levels, improve bone strength in postmenopausal women as well as benefits for heart attack recovery, depression and sleep.

Strength training is the only exercise that stimulates muscle growth and thus the only kind of exercise capable of dealing with reduction in muscle mass and strength. Finally, in line with the research and the ACSM guidelines, recommendation for strength training is to partake for at least two days a week at a moderate to hard intensity and to work the major muscle groups; all I will add for anyone reading thinking ‘I’m not about to start lifting weights’ the key is ‘resistance’ be it weights, gravity, water or my favourite the resistance band -as long as resistance and intensity is there it’s all good.


Health and Fitness exercise tip by the FitFarms team. FitFarms specialises in Fitness and Weight Loss Holidays for people of all different fitness levels, shapes and sizes. Check out our next courses here.

Image credit to Freepik

Foam Roller Exercise

foam rollerFrequently we’re bombarded with headlines on social media like ‘the one thing fitness pros wish you’d stop doing’, quite frankly the one thing I wish would stop is those headlines! Despite this every now and then I get lured into reading whatever pearls of wisdom someone has decided to share – sometimes they’re actually quite good other times not so much, but that’ll be my opinion based on my own understanding and learning. To quote ‘the one thing fitness pros wish you’d stop doing’ is to assume we all agree & think the same – we don’t!

The science behind exercise is exactly that and as with any other science involves research which either supports or refutes the hypothesis proposed, often with conflicting results which can seem to leave us no further forward in understanding. My knowledge and understanding will be based on the research that I have found and engaged with and may be entirely different to the next person who has found and read something different (there are not enough hours in the day to read it all!)

Any way back on track: a particular article I read with one of ‘those headlines’ was about foam rolling the IT band (ITB), it explained that foam rolling should be performed slowly (agree for the most part), that the ITB is not a muscle but connective tissue that acts as an attachment for other muscles and doesn’t respond to foam rolling in the same way as muscle (I’ll agree there), and suggested not to foam roll the ITB at all (going to disagree with that).

It then suggested instead to foam roll around the areas of hamstrings, quads and glute. med. (sounds good to me); I have to say however that I was expecting mention somewhere in the article of a hip flexor called the tensor fascia latae (TFL) which happens to be the muscle where the ITB attaches, I can only assume it was left out as often hip flexors will be tight rather than shortened and potentially may require stretching rather than rolling, though I guess there are probably few ‘fitness pros’ who wish you’d stop stretching.

So if you also read that particular article and your ITB’s an issue don’t forget your TFL.


Health and Fitness exercise tip by the FitFarms team. FitFarms specialises in Fitness and Weight Loss Holidays for people of all different fitness levels, shapes and sizes. Check out our next courses here.

Foam roller image source by NPR.org

Stop Feeling Intimated in the Gym.

Overcome gym intimadationWhen it comes to exercising different environments can suit different people, some like to exercise at home, some in a gym with equipment, some outdoors, some prefer group exercise and some like to mix it up – no different than exercise itself. Something I’ve heard quite often though is people preferring group exercise for the feeling of social support, I’m not going to go against it I love group exercise and you should feel comfortable and confident in the environment for it to be enjoyable, however it seems a shame when people don’t want to try the gym because they find it daunting.

I read a nice little poster the other day titled ‘stop feeling intimidated in the gym’ which I quite liked so thought I’d share some of its words of wisdom, beginning with ‘make a plan before you come in, then follow it’ – I’m putting this first as it will make a huge difference as to what you do when you’re there and how you feel about being there, I’ve gone without a plan thinking I’ll wing it and subsequently spent longer than I’d care to admit walking around looking lost!

This brings me to the next point ’everyone there is focusing on themselves’ – if this weren’t true I’m sure that for all the time I’ve spent walking around looking lost at least one person would have come up to me to check that I was in the right place, they didn’t so I’m sure they were in fact unaware of me and focusing on themselves.

Next ups a big one ‘literally everyone in the gym gets intimidated’ – yup even those of us qualified to instruct other people using the gym, it’s human nature. ‘Weights are for everyone, not just guys’ – definitely! This is something that needs to change in a lot of gyms and largely ties in with the previous point; I’m never going to deadlift the same weight as the 6’2” brick wall of a bloke in there but I have the right to attempt to lift whatever fairy light weight my 5’1” body will allow -refuse to be intimidated by either the other users or the equipment, (a degree of arrogance may be needed for this one, stand your ground!) if you need or want help ask for it, somewhere in that gym will be a bored looking instructor wishing someone would ask for their help.

Lastly ‘you’re at the gym, why not make the most of it?’ – ‘I figured since I’d made it this far I’d just keep on going’, I think we can all learn a little something from Forrest Gump!


Health and Fitness editorial by the FitFarms team. FitFarms specialises in Fitness and Weight Loss Holidays for people of all different fitness levels, shapes and sizes. Check out our next courses here

Image credit to FitRebelle.com

Fitness Exercise with a Balance Board

Balance Board ExerciseAs a rule if I run in the gym I like to find a treadmill which offers me some sort of view, preferably by a window; unfortunately one particular day I wasn’t so lucky and found myself using the last one available situated in the corner of the room directly behind a stand of swiss and bosu balls. I watched as people took and returned them and found myself feeling sorry for the only item continuously left on the stand – a dusty balance board. Now I appreciate the balance board doesn’t seem like the most exciting piece of equipment and swiss balls have a reputation for being the go to for core exercises, but seriously the balance board can work core and more! Anyone who knows me knows my stance on developing core stability as fundamental for all exercise but in conjunction when performing standing/weight bearing exercise stability at the ankle is also unsurprisingly important. All joints in the body undergo a continual conflict between mobility and stability – to increase one is often to lessen the other.

In part, the purpose of a warm up is to increase mobility in joints, the ankle in particular has need for mobility to allow for movement in several planes, but it also needs adequate stability to prevent injury. The most common injury in sports and physical activity are ankle sprains which are estimated to account for 25% of injuries; most commonly ankle sprains involve the lateral (outer side) ankle ligaments and are associated with the movements plantarflexion and inversion (pointed feet turned inwards). I tend to be of the opinion that prevention is better than cure and where ankles are concerned a balance board is a good first step. They can serve to mobilise the ankle (remember mobility is still needed), more importantly can improve proprioception (the body’s awareness of where it is in space) and in turn improve neuromuscular control and the ability to correct excess movement, as well as helping to begin strengthening muscles around the ankle for stability. Functional movements such as squats can be performed on them, lunges with either the front or back foot in contact; as well as core exercises such as planks with either the feet or hands in contact, and even press ups.

I have to say bosu balls are also great and perfect for progressing ankle exercises (honestly run or hop your way across one) but to take things back to basics the balance board is amazing, so the next time you head up to grab a swiss ball spare a thought for the balance board, do your ankles a favour and brush off a little dust!


Health and Fitness editorial by the FitFarms team. FitFarms specialises in Fitness and Weight Loss Holidays for people of all different fitness levels, shapes and sizes. Check out our next courses here

Image credit to Shape.com

Overtraining Signs and Solutions

overtraining exerciseI’ve noticed with some guests who have done a week at FitFarms that there’s apprehension at the beginning around the amount of exercise that will be involved and whether they’ll be able to do it all and keep up (the average amount of exercise at FitFarms being 4-6 hours a day), conversely I’ve seen others who are regular intense exercisers who seem to feel they should be spending the week stepping up their usual routine.

ACSM guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week, so my question here is this: if a regular exerciser does 1-2 hours of intensive exercise daily, what would be the benefit in increasing it 2, 3 times or more to 4-6 hours? You may be wondering where I’m going with this or if it’s a trick question but what I really wanted to bring up is the subject of overtraining.

Now it’s not something that often gets mentioned in the average fitness setting as it’s more commonly associated with athletes however that’s not to say it doesn’t happen with non athletes.

What are the Signs of Overtraining

Overtraining is pretty much exactly as it sounds -an accumulation of training load without adequate rest that will ultimately cause a decrease in performance, the thing is as an exerciser you may not be aware of a decrease in performance if performance is not something you monitor, so how can you tell if you’re overtraining?

As with any other stress there may be several physiological responses, these include:

  • Increased resting heart rate in the morning
  • Poor appetite
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Severe muscle soreness and stiffness
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Lack of concentration.

 

What are the Solutions to Overtraining

If overtraining has occurred the intensity and amount of exercise should be reduced and a plan put in place to prevent it happening in future by:

  • Ensuring good rest and recovery
  • Sufficient sleep
  • Rest between exercise bouts
  • Adequate hydration and nutrition for training
  • Abstaining from training through times of high stress

Health and Fitness editorial by the FitFarms team. FitFarms specialises in Fitness and Weight Loss Holidays for people of all different fitness levels, shapes and sizes. Check out our next courses here

Background image created by Schantalao – Freepik.com

What is the Aerobic System?

The Aerobic SystemI thought I’d get down to basics and have an attempt at explaining one of those mystery words that crops up in fitness, if you haven’t guessed here we have the great unveiling of…aerobic! We’ve all heard it but what does it mean, what does it do? Well generally speaking it is a system so I’m going to attempt to answer: What is the aerobic system? The aerobic system is the bodies way of using oxygen to produce energy (Adenosine Triphosphate/ATP) for muscle contraction, it is responsible for long term production of energy, continuing to produce energy over a greater duration where there is a low work load such as when going for a walk.

The aerobic system also works to support the anaerobic system, this system also produces energy but does so much more rapidly though only over a short period as it does this without using oxygen, for example when sprinting; this system produces metabolic by products (they’re what slow us down) such as blood lactate which build up faster than the body can deal with at the time but which an effective aerobic system will readily remove after. Effectively the aerobic system is always governed by oxygen supply and demand -availability, uptake from blood and delivery to tissue.

Developing the aerobic system helps to speed up recovery, particularly between bursts of exercise such as with high intensity interval training, as well as helping to sustain longer periods of exercise bouts. Improving the aerobic system increases the anaerobic threshold -the point where metabolic by products are generated, thereby also allowing exercise to be performed at higher intensities.

There are several protocols suggested for developing the aerobic system including exercising over a long slow distance or duration (more than thirty minutes), performing high intensity intervals, threshold training (focusing on learning where an individuals anaerobic threshold is, exercising for 3-10 minutes at or just below the threshold before resting and repeating), and performing resistance training with high time under tension (increasing the length of time a muscle is under strain).

So there you have it, something to remember the next time you see an ‘aerobic’ class advertised!


Health and Fitness editorial by the FitFarms team. FitFarms specialises in Fitness and Weight Loss Holidays for people of all different fitness levels, shapes and sizes. Check out our next courses here

Exercise, Physical Activity and its impact to Longevity of Life

Exercise and LongevityExercise and physical activity are well understood to pose health benefits such as helping to control weight, prevent or manage health conditions, improve mood, increase energy levels and encourage quality sleep.

I found myself reading an article about another potential benefit which I will share: the article was about whether exercise or increased activity impacts longevity of life, in short as with many studies the evidence so far appears to be conflicted; without going into too much detail (yawn) observational studies are suggested to have consistently shown a connection between increased activity levels and longevity across varying populations, epidemiological estimates suggest solving the problem of inactivity may produce an effect similar to eradication of smoking or obesity, with an increased life expectancy of 0.68 years, while randomised control trials have not demonstrated a causal relationship between level of activity and mortality. The problem appears to be due to evidence being open to misinterpretation and study limitations, selection bias and a reverse causation were put forward: we know exercise reduces risk of obesity but what if obesity restricts potential to participate in activity.

There are clearly a lot of varying factors that relate to activity and longevity which all need to be taken into account when studied. All the time while reading I kept thinking even if it does increase longevity it’s only 0.68 years -just over six months is the estimated measurable gain of mortality from exercise or activity and it seemed like such a small amount. But then I reflected on the reverse causation: what if obesity restricts potential to participate in activity, 0.68 years may not seem like a lot quantitatively but it’s not just the extra six months that’s important but what can be gained qualitatively in all the other years that precede -and that goes beyond measure.


 

Editorial by FitFarms Health Team

Image credit: 16films.com

Benefits of Sports Massage Therapy

Sports Massage TherapistAs a practitioner of sports massage therapy I thought it may be beneficial to explain a little about sports massage, partly because it’s a frequently used and often very beneficial treatment; and largely, as I’ve come to discover via the Fitfarms weight loss boot camp, it’s not a well understood one! Often people are not quite sure what its purpose is or what makes it different to other types of massage, so here goes my explanation of it.

Sports massage therapy is a treatment aimed at relieving stress and tension in soft tissues that may occur as a result of physical activity. It is a treatment that can benefit everyone not just people participating in sport, as often everyday physical demands can place stresses on the body that may not always be recognised until injury or ailment results. Sports massage incorporates techniques from Swedish massage, though is often deeper and more intense -however it is not necessarily painful as is sometimes presumed! Other techniques may also be included such as those to treat trigger points (aka ‘knots’) similar to acupressure, and muscle energy techniques and soft tissue release which aim to improve tissue extensibility and improve range of movement.

When used at sporting events treatment may be beneficial both pre and post event. Pre event massage is normally performed 20 minutes to an hour before the event with a shorter duration than other massages (usually 5-15 minutes), it is a more superficial massage which utilises techniques to invigorate and prepare tissues for optimal performance. Post event massage is usually performed 30 minutes to two hours after the event (following a cool down), it is a deeper massage intended to relax tissues and allow for identification of any muscle spasm and minor injury, it is often used to reduce the severity of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) which may occur following strenuous exercise.

In an everyday setting sports massage may be beneficial for either maintenance or rehabilitation. Maintenance massage is beneficial as a regular treatment where therapists aim to prevent injury by addressing areas that may be likely to cause problems based on knowledge and understanding of anatomy, the clients sporting background, and/or occupation and the physical demands involved, it usually has a duration of 30-60 minutes.

Massage for rehabilitation purposes may be beneficial for both acute and chronic injuries, aiding to reduce any pain or discomfort, encourage the healing process and lower the risk of further injury to other tissues which may be compensating. Massage for rehabilitation involves undertaking an injury assessment, the results of which guide the treatment plan. Initial treatment may be a shorter duration than a maintenance massage (allowing for assessment) though specific to the injury and tissues involved.


Editorial by FitFarms Health and Fitness Team
FitFarms specialises in Fitness and Weight Loss Holidays for people of all different fitness levels, shapes and sizes. Learn more.
Image credit: https://www.discovery.uk.com/

Cardio-vascular Exercise and What is it?

Iheart would say that what makes an exercise cardio-vascular is that it gets you out of breath and allows you to keep that breathless state going for a prolonged period of time. For example any exercise or activity will cause you to get more breathless or for your heart rate to increase as your body is requiring more oxygen for a number of different reasons but if we asked you to do an exercise at the FitFarms weight loss boot camp that was too hard for you at this time then your body wouldn’t be able to cope with the oxygen requirement and you would fatigue too quickly so it’s not necessarily a specific exercise more like a level of output.

Basically you want to be able to elevate your heart rate and breathing as much as you can maintain for as long as you can. Take walking as an example, setting out at a constant pace will gradually increase your heart rate and oxygen saturation in your blood as long as you maintain a similar standard or effort that same pace will become more challenging as your body tires but is able to cope with the energy requirement if we then add a hill you may need to slow the pace to maintain a similar effort because you now have a greater resistance to work against. So your effort will be the same but your pace slower.

This example also carries over to your level of fitness as it improves your pace will increase but the effort level will feel similar to before. So then, how can we use cardio-vascular exercise? Well we could use it to improve our basic level of fitness which means to be able to do normal things better and to be able to recover from simple activities a little swifter, so something like going for a short walk 3 times a week could be enough to see improvement to this degree.

You could also use it to help with your higher level of fitness pushing your limits and challenging yourself more regularly, long undulating walks/jogs/runs swimming, cycling, CV equipment in a gym etc could all be used for this but exercises involving too much muscle focus like muscle specific weights/body weight exercises like squats or press ups etc will fatigue the muscles too quickly to be able to properly benefit the CV system. Also you can really effectively use these kind of exercises for recovery from more intensive sessions, the CV system is designed to work continuously and to recover whilst it works Muscles need a more thorough recovery so after a hard session that leaves your body aching your thinking you should avoid exercise until your ready to go at it again, but it’s actually much more beneficial to do something albeit less intensive to allow the increased blood flow to aid the muscle recovery by delivering much needed nutrients during the recovery process. So if you are looking to improve your heart health or want to improve your muscle recovery from more intensive exercise or would or would just like to be able to do the normal day to day activities better then the best exercises are the lower intensity movement based activities.

Editorial by Andy, FitFarms Health Manager


 

Image source: https://www.pinterest.com.au/SoSloffen/workout-quotes/