Tuesday 22 October 2019

'Movement is medicine' - Physiotherapist shares the top benefits as 33pc of Irish adults do not get enough exercise

Recent research from the World Health Organisation showed that 33pc of Irish adults do not get enough exercise, resulting in obesity and ill health. Movement is medicine, says physiotherapist Jenny Branigan, who shares the top benefits

"If we do not take the time to move now, we will be forced to make that time in the future as a result of illness or injury." Stock photo
Movement is medicine - so where possible, chose to walk or run

My job is to get people moving. I find reasons for lack of movement, incorporate movement into rehab plans, progress movement as tolerance increases, and use certain movements as a measure of success. Many of my patients tell me that they don't have time to do the movement needed to solve their problem. If we do not take the time to move now, we will be forced to make that time in the future as a result of illness or injury. Prevention is better than cure, every time. Here are some benefits.

1 A healthy heart Cardio power...

Cardiovascular fitness is the ability to handle aerobically challenging situations of varying duration. It allows participation in daily life without a struggle.

If you decide to take a longer walk than usual, or play an active game with your kids or grandchildren, being fit will allow you do that.

The great thing is that every single one of us, no matter how old, and no matter how previously inactive, can influence and improve our personal fitness. Aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming, running or cycling, strengthens the heart and lungs and improves the efficiency of the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. This can reduce the risk of developing metabolic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

2 Build muscle Weights to go...

Physical inactivity leads to muscle wasting. Our muscle mass and muscle strength decline steadily due to age after the fourth decade of life. It is important to note that it may not be obvious that our muscle mass is reducing, and we may look just the same. The reason for this is that the declining lean muscle mass is being replaced with fatty tissue. Loss of lean muscle mass is a risk factor for osteoporosis, falls and fractures, and impaired function.

The best way to maintain lean muscle mass is to participate in strengthening or resistance movements. Lifting weights is a great way to achieve this, but many household chores also involve strengthening challenges, such as gardening, DIY, housework, and lifting shopping bags.

3 Healthy bones Prevention is key...

Regular weight-bearing movements such as walking, jogging or dancing are easy ways to maintain bone mineral density levels. Osteoporosis is a big problem in Ireland with one in two women over the age of 65 developing it, and one in five men.

If you are diagnosed with osteopenia (early stage) or osteoporosis, you will be advised to attend weight-bearing classes, or Pilates, and to incorporate weight bearing cardiovascular movements into your weekly routine.

4 Better balance Try a group class

Reduced balance is a common problem in older people due to decreased muscle strength and increased joint stiffness, as well as reduced vision and reaction time. The risk of inner-ear dysfunction, which can significantly affect balance, also increases with age.

Regular movement such as walking or dancing incorporate strength and balance components, which will reduce the risk of falling. A group class may be appropriate, or if you need more individual guidance, your chartered physiotherapist can assess your balance and agility and prescribe a plan to improve movement ability, balance and co-ordination. It is important to take falls very seriously in older people, as the consequences can have a significant impact on a person's health and independence.

5 Flexible joints Get a blood test

Flexibility is the ability to move our muscles and joints through the normal range. As we age, our flexibility naturally diminishes, and we need to work harder to maintain it.

If you feel stiff getting out of bed every morning, you need to consider improving your flexibility. If you are very young and notice daily morning stiffness, please talk to your GP and get a blood test.

6 Better sleep Tire yourself out

A full night's sleep allows the body to heal and recover after a busy day. Regular movement in the form of exercise can contribute to more sound and restful sleep and increase the time spent in deep sleep. Deep sleep helps to control stress and anxiety, boost immune function and cardiac health.

Being physically active requires you to expend energy, which helps you feel more tired and ready to rest at the end of the day.

7 Mental health Stress relief...

Exercise is one of the most effective ways to improve mental health. It helps to relieve stress, improve self-esteem and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

During exercise, the brain releases endorphins. These endorphins are chemicals that help to elevate mood.

8 Concentration Keep moving...

Movement in the form of regular exercises has been shown to boost energy, engagement and efficiency in the workplace. So instead of reaching for a coffee to keep yourself awake, get moving!

Run up two flights of stairs to the bathroom instead of using one on your floor, organise walk-and-talk updates rather than sit-down group work, and avoid emailing colleagues when you can walk across the office for a constructive chat.

9 Be a role model Active games...

Set a good example in your family or workplace by encouraging others to get moving.

Play active games with your children or grandchildren such as ball games, hide and seek or chasing. Instead of going for a coffee and chat while sitting down with a friend, get your coffee to go, and walk and talk.

Make a "treat" an active one, such as taking the kids out on their bikes. Go for a walk at lunchtime and bring a work colleague along.

One small change in behaviour can make all the difference.

10 A better quality of life

In order to enjoy life, we need to be able to physically perform basic daily activities without pain or dysfunction, such as getting in and out of bed, moving on and off the toilet, walking to the shops, sitting at work, or using the stairs.

Being able to move through your day comfortably makes a huge difference to confidence and quality of life.

* Check with your GP if you have any concerns about physical activity due to a medical condition, or if you have symptoms such as chest pain, dizziness, or joint pain.

If an injury or pain is resulting in less daily movement or inability to complete the basic daily activities, see your chartered physiotherapist for an assessment and rehab plan, which will allow you to move more.

If you haven't been active in a while, your chartered physiotherapist can give you gentle strengthening and mobility exercises, to gradually prepare your body for moving more.

Jenny Branigan is a chartered physiotherapist and owner of Total Physio in Sandyford, Dublin 18. totalphysio.ie

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