Thursday, 14 December 2017

A Happy, Healthy and Active Festive Season

I would like to thank all my loyal readers for your continued support throughout the year. I hope you have gained some useful insight from the topics covered during the past year.

I wish you a joyous festive season and a prosperous new year. May 2018 be a happy and healthy year for you all.

Remember to keep active during the festive season! Walk, swim, play, laugh and have fun! J

Thursday, 26 October 2017

The Importance of Stretching

We always hear how important it is to stretch, but many of us don’t fully understand why it is so necessary. Here are a few basics on stretching and why it is important.

Stretching is necessary to improve flexibility and reduce the risk of injury. There are various stretching techniques that can be used to improve flexibility, two of which I will discuss here.

The most common stretching technique is static stretching. This is when a muscle is taken to the end of its range (slight discomfort) and held for about 15-30 seconds while the muscle is completely relaxed. Static stretching is most effective post exercise to reduce muscle pain and stiffness.

The second technique is dynamic stretching which involves the individual moving his/her own leg through its full range of motion. As the muscle warms up, the individual will be able to swing the limb further and further through its range, never taking it more than the point of slight discomfort. Dynamic stretching is most commonly used prior to strenuous exercise to increase joint mobility and thus decrease the risk of injury.

Various other techniques exist, including ballistic stretching, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) and active-isolated stretching; however, these techniques are more complicated and usually require the assistance of a therapist, such as a biokineticist or physiotherapist.

Stretching should be done pre and post exercise, as part of a warm up and cool down. Stretching before exercise assists in reducing the risk of injury, while stretching after exercise helps maintain increased flexibility of muscles and helps to reduce muscular pain and stiffness following exercise. Remember: never stretch a cold muscle; rather do a gentle warm up such as a walk or light jog and then stretch before starting any strenuous exercise.

When stretching, one should feel slight discomfort, not pain. Overstretching a muscle beyond its limits can cause damage to the tissue. The range of movement at a joint, or this point of slight discomfort, will increase as flexibility improves with regular stretching. Every person and every joint is unique and flexibility will vary depending on the joint, activity levels and types of activities performed on a regular basis, so only stretch as far as YOU can.

Stretching provides a great form of relaxation and stress relief as well. People of all ages and activity levels need to stretch to reduce the risk of injury, maintain joint mobility and keep the body moving with ease and minimal pain. 

Friday, 25 August 2017

Addressing Multiple Injuries

Because biokinetics involves looking at the entire body and the way in which it moves, biokineticists are able to assess and rehabilitate more than one injury at a time. Often two injuries may even be linked and it is then useful to rehabilitate them together anyway. This is one of the main differences between biokinetics and physiotherapy, a common question among the general public.

Physiotherapists treat symptoms, providing immediate relief by use of massage, heat, cold and various other techniques. Biokineticists look at the entire body to establish what is causing the problem in the first place, such as imbalances in muscle strength and flexibility. Appropriate exercises are then prescribed to try and correct these imbalances so that hopefully the injury does not keep recurring. It is, therefore, a slower process and changes are often only noticed after six weeks of regular rehabilitative exercise. However, it is hopefully a long-term solution.

It is for this reason that biokineticists can rehabilitate multiple injuries at the same time and, often, it is easier to do so. For example, one may have tendinitis in the ankle and also complain of knee pain in the opposite leg. There is a very good chance that the knee pain is as a result of overcompensation for the pain in the opposite ankle. Or, one might experience pain in the knee of the same leg as the ankle, again due to compensation. If there is a sore or weak point somewhere in the body, chances are very good that somewhere else, something will be compensating for that weakness, which may lead to further pain or injury.

This is also why it is so important to complete a rehabilitation programme. Until the injury is completely rehabilitated, meaning there is no longer an imbalance in muscle strength or flexibility, the injury may recur or other problems may arise due to compensation.

So, biokinetics may be a long process, but if you follow the programme you are given properly and to the end, it can be very successful and you may be tackling two birds with one stone. The knowledge you will gain regarding body awareness and technique will also stand you in good stead for the future in terms of your physical functioning.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Autism and Exercise

Autism is a developmental condition that is normally diagnosed in childhood and is present throughout a person’s life. It affects one’s social skills, as people with this condition struggle to communicate normally and social interaction is generally a problem. These individuals like to stick to a specific routine and don’t cope well when this routine is disrupted. Due to the psychological nature of the condition, those with autism may experience low self-esteem, leading to poor posture and low muscle tone. They may also be overweight due to physical inactivity.

Exercise cannot change the actual condition; however, it is an important tool in managing the symptoms associated with autism. An individual who participates in a regular exercise regimen will reap all the benefits associated with any regular exercise routine, including improved cardiovascular fitness, increased muscle strength and endurance, as well as enhanced ability to perform daily activities.

More specific to those with autism are the psychological benefits. Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, or happy hormones, which improve mood and mental wellbeing. Specific exercises to improve posture should also be included in the exercise programme. By performing new exercises, individuals are given a sense of achievement, leading to enhanced self-esteem. Exercising in an appropriate social environment can contribute to improved social interaction.

There are some factors that need to be considered by the exercise specialist when working with a person with autism. These individuals may come across as lacking in intellectual capacity because their social cues are not the same as people without autism; however, they are in fact very intelligent individuals and should be treated as such. Like all people, they will have good and bad days; however, these mood changes are often amplified as they are unable to ‘hide their feelings’ and so we must be sensitive to this. The environment should have minimal distractions and be a safe and positive space. The most important thing is that these individuals enjoy their exercise sessions so that they are a rewarding and positive experience. It is the role of the biokineticist or exercise specialist to encourage and promote this positive, healthy and active lifestyle.


Thursday, 6 April 2017

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a complex breathing condition affecting not only the ventilatory system, but also the respiratory, cardiovascular and muscular systems. Ventilatory problems include increased resistance of the airways, increased effort to breath, weakness and fatigue of the ventilatory muscles, inefficient breathing and later, failure to breathe. Respiratory problems refer to the impaired exchange of gases (oxygen and carbon dioxide) at a cellular level in the lungs. Cardiovascular complications include reduced cardiovascular fitness due to decreased physical activity, and inadequate cardiac function with increased demand. Muscular problems include deconditioning as a result of reduced physical activity.

People with COPD also often suffer with psychological complications such as depression, as they are unable to perform normal daily activities, and anxiety linked to their symptoms, the most common of which is breathlessness.

As exercise increases breathing rate and cardiac output, people with COPD will most likely experience difficulty with exercise and thus often do not participate in any regular physical activity. It is important, however, that individuals with this condition do participate in regular exercise in order to improve cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength and endurance, balance, flexibility, and body composition leading to enhanced self image. Exercise also helps to desensitize one’s response to breathlessness, assisting in the management of symptoms and thus reducing anxiety. Breathing also becomes more efficient and effective with appropriate exercise.

It is important to consider the effects of certain medications on exercise capacity, as these individuals are often on various medications to manage their condition. Exercise programming will thus need to be individualised and must be adjusted each day, depending on how the individual is feeling. Some individuals may need to monitor their oxyhaemoglobin saturation levels, especially in the early days of starting an exercise programme. It is important to always listen to one’s symptoms and adjust the exercise intensity accordingly, and allow lots of rest intervals.

The main goal is to keep one engaged in an ongoing regular exercise regimen. It must therefore be manageable from a physical capacity perspective, and enjoyable to ensure that it is continued. Then, not only will one reap the disease-related benefits, but also the many other benefits of participating in a regular exercise regimen.

ACSM’s Exercise Management for Person’s with Chronic Diseases and Disabilities