Fibromyalgia is a surprisingly common condition, even more widespread than rheumatoid arthritis, but despite this, it is not well understood even by medical professionals. Also known as Fibro, FMS or fibromyalgia syndrome, the condition affects an estimated 800,000 people in the UK and three to six percent of people worldwide.
Even with the condition being common, it’s still difficult for a sufferer to depict how they are feeling – and this can make it hard to treat – it’s also difficult for someone who isn’t suffering to understand just how bad someone with Fibro may be feeling.
Leading professional fitness training provider, Future Fit Training, have created visuals to demonstrate how it might feel for someone to have Fibro to help raise awareness for the condition and highlight how healthy living may, in some circumstances help towards alleviated symptoms.
What are the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?
The symptoms of fibromyalgia can vary greatly between different people and can be more severe at some times than others in one person. Probably the most common symptom of the condition is chronic widespread pain affecting most of the body, but this is frequently combined with fatigue, stiffness, difficulty in sleeping and other symptoms.
The pain caused by fibromyalgia may affect some areas such as the neck or back more severely than other parts of the body and is often continuous, although the severity can vary. It may be a dull ache or take the form of a sharp pain or burning sensation. People with the condition may also be very sensitive to pain, even perceiving a light touch as painful. This sensitivity can also extend to being sensitive to other factors such as bright lights, certain foods or smoke.
Extreme fatigue is another common symptom and can appear very suddenly, leaving the fibromyalgia sufferer feeling absolutely drained and exhausted so that they are unable to do anything. People with FMS can also suffer from muscle stiffness; this is often worse on waking when the sleeper has not changed position for some time. The muscles may also spasm, which can be painful.
Sleep quality can be affected by the condition, with the sufferer waking up feeling tired because they have not slept deeply enough to refresh themselves properly. A person with FMS may also experience cognitive problems – sometimes referred to as “fibro-fog”. They may have difficulties related to concentration, attention, learning new things and remembering. Sometimes their speech may be confused or slow. Frequent headaches can be another symptom of fibromyalgia, varying from mild occurrences to severe migraines. Headaches may be accompanied by nausea or other symptoms.
Some people who have FMS also have irritable bowel syndrome, which can cause bloating and abdominal pain, diarrhoea or constipation. Other symptoms that may be experienced by people with FMS include restless leg syndrome, clumsiness, dizziness and problems with temperature regulation. They may also have pins and needles in hands or feet, while some women report very painful periods, and the condition often causes sufferers to feel anxious or depressed.
The severity of all these symptoms can vary according to changes in the weather, the person’s stress levels and how physically active they are. Some symptoms can be alleviated by treatment, such as physiotherapy and sports therapy, so it is worth consulting a doctor about them, particularly for people who are feeling depressed.
What are the Associated Conditions of Fibromyalgia?
Other conditions that may be associated with fibromyalgia include lupus, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and temporomandibular disorder (TMD). All these conditions affect muscles, joints or bones.
What are the Causes of Fibromyalgia?
The cause of FMS is unclear, but it is believed to be linked to abnormal levels of some chemicals in the brain and to changes in how pain messages are processed by the central nervous system. Some experts believe that there is a genetic element involved in the development of fibromyalgia.
The disturbed sleep patterns that are common in fibromyalgia may actually be a cause of the condition rather than a symptom. Sometimes the condition seems to be triggered by a stressful event such as having an operation, giving birth, sustaining an injury, having an infection, a loved one dying or a relationship breaking down. However, in other cases, there does not appear to have been any specific trigger to cause the condition to develop.
How to Manage Living with Fibromyalgia?
At present, there is no cure for FMS but there are a number of treatments that can reduce the symptoms and improve the quality of life of someone with the condition.
Medication that may be prescribed can include painkillers and antidepressants, and some people benefit from talking therapies such as counseling and CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). However, perhaps the most effective treatment for many people with fibromyalgia is to make changes to their lifestyle.
Healthy eating is important, as is avoiding alcohol. Avoiding caffeine before going to bed can help towards reducing sleeping problems. Exercise has various benefits for people with FMS and should include both aerobic and strengthening exercises. Since people with the condition are frequently fatigued, it is important that any exercise programme is carefully tailored to their needs.
Aerobic exercise may reduce pain and improve quality of life because it increases endurance, and this is thought to help patients to function better. Strengthening exercises should boost muscle power and this, in turn, enables people to function better, feel less fatigued and experience improvements in their general mood.
In addition to eating a healthy diet and exercising, those with fibromyalgia can also benefit from sports therapy, deep tissue massages and practicing relaxation techniques to help them manage troublesome symptoms.
If you suffer from Fibromyalgia and want to talk to a professional about a physical rehabilitation programme, get in touch today with our friendly and knowledgeable advisors.
If you think a six-pack is the most important part of your core, you’d be wrong. The core muscles are one of the most significant muscle groups in your body and weak core muscles can impact a lot more than just giving you a less-than-toned stomach; from holding you up straight, supporting your hips and supporting most movements you and your body make, including balance and stability – the core muscles should not be overlooked.
The muscles in your core – that’s the torso – really do underpin pretty much everything you do. Here’s how they do it:
The Core Muscles Explained
The muscles in your core are a lot more complex than they may first seem. Yes, the ‘six pack’ forms part of them, but they’ve actually got a lot more going on than just washboard abs. There’s the upper abs, the obliques (the sides) and then a deep layer of muscles which are responsible for a lot more than looking good on the beach.
So, their fancy -albeit slight Harry Potter sounding- names are Transverse Abdominis (a muscle layer of the anterior and lateral abdominal wall [front and side]), Internal and External Obliques, Rectus Abdominis and Multifidus. There are others that form the significant make-up of the core but as we said, the core can impact everything so we could be here for a while listing them.
The Transverse Abdominis (TA) is the deepest abdominal muscles and also wraps itself around the spine for stability. These are the hardest to work on but if you can include exercises that tap into the TA muscles, you’ll see huge gains in the core muscles and how effective they can be to your overall structure.
How the Core Muscles Impact the Back
One of the biggest things we come across as physical therapists is back pain and a weak core can be contributing to a bad back. Essentially, the abdominals help to anchor the spine, and if they’re weak other areas (the back) would have to work harder.
As the name suggests, the core muscles are at the core of your muscular network and if either of them are weak, they can be impacting the other. As the muscles fail to do their job properly, for example, if the abdominal muscles fail to hold your core upright, the back will also relax and not stabilize the postural muscles properly. Or, if the back isn’t arched properly, or overarched, it can cause the pelvis to tilt – and as the core muscles connect to the pelvis muscles, this can impact them too. An overarched back, also known as a sway back, can be the result of weakened core muscles.
The best thing to do is to strengthen the core muscles so they can support the spine properly and positively impact the postural alignment. So, if you invest time in strengthening the core muscles, you’ll also see improvements in your weak back muscles and poor posture.
Physical Therapy and Core Muscles
If you’ve got a weak core and back, we can help get you back to your optimum health. Sit-ups are not going to strengthen the muscles like you need to, you’ll need to invest some time into thorough physical rehabilitation to get these fundamental muscle groups up and working properly.
If you do, you’ll see reduced back pain, improved posture, increased mobility and flexibility and significant improvements in your overall structure.
Book your session now to start your journey to a fully functioning body.
If you are chained to a desk all day and then hunched over your phone or tablet in the evening, it’s likely that – unless you’re making a big effort to sit correctly – your posture is pretty poor.
We see countless clients that have structural issues that all stem from bad posture, or at least aren’t helped by their posture. If you too find yourself with back, neck or chest pain, a curved spine, painful hips and much more then you may benefit from a postural belt.
What is a Posture Belt?
Posture belts or posture braces, as they are sometimes known, are a device designed to be worn for a few hours a day to help sufferers with bad posture.
These braces can hold your frame in place of its correct posture, keeping your shoulders, neck, and body upright. You’d be forgiven for thinking that they are an intrusive device but they can be subtly worn under your clothes.
Offering support to the weak areas of your body that are causing poor posture, a posture brace’s primary function is to hold you in the correct position, which in turn can alleviate tension in the muscles and can help you work towards good posture.
At first, you’ll see a big difference when you put the brace on or remove it; your shoulders and upper back will be pulled back or drop down retrospectively – you should see a huge difference over time, though. Your muscle memory will kick in, plus your muscles will be stronger (from additional exercises, not the brace) and this combined should keep your posture as it should be.
Why Do I Need a Posture Belt?
As mentioned, if you’ve got poor posture that you’re struggling to correct, a posture belt can be a supportive item in your physical rehabilitation or constant fight against posture.
A posture brace is good for you if you spend a lot of time hunched over a laptop; perhaps you curl up with a good book or are suffering from ‘text next’ – these are all valid reasons to get a posture support belt.
If you’re unsure on whether to invest in a posture belt, consult your physical therapist for more information. If you do think that you need a little extra support, there are a variety of prices, sizes and styles available to you and so you will be able to find one that works for you.
Do Posture Belts Work?
There are arguments for and against postural correction belts but as long as you use them as an addition to a treatment or rehabilitation plan. If your posture is bad and causing other issues in your body then you should absolutely be doing some exercises to strengthen your back and core muscles and help to prevent the spine curving and shoulders rolling forward.
It is a long fight against bad posture but it’s definitely one that will have long-lasting benefits for your body if you stick it out but it’s one of those situations where it won’t work if you don’t use it – same with any physical therapy, if you don’t invest the time and effort into making positive changes, you’re not going to improve.
If you do invest in a posture brace, be sure not to rely on it. Wear it for a few hours a day and include regular movements, stretches and strength exercises so the benefits will all work concurrently.
If you suffer from bad posture and are looking for ways to improve, get in touch with our friendly team for a consultation or check out our other helpful blogs for top tips on how to manage your posture and strengthen the supporting muscles.
Foam rolling isn’t exactly a new technique but as the gym becomes ever more popular, we’ve seen a rise in the use of foam rollers, but what exactly is a foam roller and how does it benefit you? We explore…
What is Foam Rolling?
To look at, they’re a harmful device; a simple cylinder made of foam that is either smooth or covered in ridges – they’re also available in a range of sizes, too – but foam rollers are actually a lot more painful than you’d first think.
These exercise devices are used for self-massage and to alleviate tight and sore muscles. You simply lie on or push against the roller and apply pressure as you ‘roll’ along it. This process will speed up muscle recovery and aid myofascial release (also known as muscle tension).
What are the Benefits of Foam Rolling?
When you’ve overworked your muscles in the gym, of there’s a build-up of lactic acid from endurance training, the body is unable to excrete the waste that builds in the muscles and tissue. When this happens, you’ll likely experience some sore muscles, or delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
These areas can lead to a reduction in performance, including a shortening of the muscle and reduced flexibility but foam rolling can help with this. In fact, there’s a variety of benefits to foam rolling:
- You can pinpoint the foam roller to your pain
- Foam rolling stimulates blood flow to the area
- Loosens off tight muscles for faster recovery
- Improved circulation
- Increased muscle flexibility
- Prevent injury
Should I Foam Roll?
Yes and no. We’d recommend discussing with your physical therapist before undertaking a foam rolling regime to ensure that it’s right for you.
If you’re good to go then foam rolling is certainly a good skill to have in your recovery-arsenal. Stretching alone cannot guarantee a release in muscle tightness and foam rolling can get to those sweet spots and release the pain trapped in certain trigger points. Stretching can elongate the muscle, aid recovery and improve flexibility but it doesn’t help to break up muscle knots – foam rolling can, however.
If you’ve never done foam rolling before, it can be tricky to get in to. You’re likely to fall off the foam roller, be uncomfortable, find yourself in a variety of positions and lacking in technique at the beginning. And let’s not forget the most important part of foam rolling: it hurts and it is uncomfortable. Though when you find your rhythm, you’ll be all good. Just remember to roll slowly and breath through the pain points.
How to Know if You’re Foam Rolling Correctly
It can be easy to grab a tube and roll every muscle along it but, as with everything, there’s a right and a wrong way to foam roll.
As mentioned, foam rolling can be uncomfortable and in usual circumstances if something feels wrong and painful, you’d stop, but that’s not the case with foam rolling as it can be the good kind of pain when you’re rolling over a muscle knot, and this can make it a grey area when knowing if you’re rolling right or causing injury.
A good rule of thumb for foam rolling is this:
- Avoid foam rolling your lower back
- Refrain from rolling your iliotibial band (IT band)
- Roll slowly
- Breath into the tightest area of your muscle
Always remember, foam rolling can increase recovery in the muscles and help with a range of movements, but it’s not going to fix any long-term or underlying issues that you may have. For that, you’re better off booking in with a professional to talk through your concerns and find a suitable recovery plan for you.
For sports therapy you can rely on, contact our expert team today.
Meditation has been around for centuries but as it becomes more mainstream, even more of us are turning to meditation and mindfulness as a way of coping with every day stresses and pressures.
In a world where we are addicted to technology and always being busy, meditation comes as a welcome relief. Most know it as a way to stop, slow down and think, but studies have shown that as well as having heaps of psychological benefits, meditation can also have a physical impact on us, too.
As meditation and mindfulness grows in popularity, we take a look at how meditation can help with physical pain relief.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a practice where a person gets a sense of perspective and awareness. It’s a technique that encourages the unconscious mind and helps you find a deep concentration, calmness and clarity; it’s the ability to be present and engaged.
How Can Meditation Help with Chronic Pain?
Meditation can help your overall mood and make your pain less noticeable. Because of this, as you continue to meditate, the way you handle your discomfort and tolerate the pain will change. Meditation can also help relax muscles, which can alleviate further discomfort in the joints and muscle groups.
The more you practice, the more you’ll rely on meditation as a coping mechanism for your pain; you’ll also notice improvements in your sleep (which can also help you manage pain), concentration and memory – not directly impacting your pain management, but certainly a bonus. What’s most important to note is that those that participate in regular meditation have cited that they became happier and saw an increase in their quality of life. So it’s worth trying it, if that’s the potential outcome!
It’s thought that meditation specifically helps with pain by increasing the compound nitric oxide from increased relaxation. This is what causes the blood vessels to open up and subsequently encourages blood flow, which therefore reduces blood pressure. In fact, studies have shown that mindfulness can reduce chronic pain by 57%. Studies also found that meditation soothes brain patterns which can impact underlying pain.
A big part of meditation practice is about acknowledging discomfort in the body, be that physical or emotional, and observing the sensations to allow you to breathe through and deal with the uneasiness – and this is what also plays a big part in managing your pain with meditation. You simply learn to breath through it to the point that you no longer notice it. And if you don’t notice it, is it even there?
So, it’s time to get rid of the painkillers and focus on some healthy alternatives to managing your pain that has longevity, rather than long-lasting detriments to your health like pills.
Benefits of Meditation
The benefits of meditation are vast and it can not only calm your mind, ground you, help you deal with day-to-day pressures and alleviate stress, it can also help you identify physical pain and help you manage it.
The main benefits include:
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Improved immunity
- Improved aging
- Improved concentration
- Increased happiness
- Improved quality of life
- Increased self-awareness and acceptance
How to Meditate
Meditation is unique to you and is not as easy as it sounds on paper. However, if you’re looking to give it a go, here are some tips to get you started.
- Find a quiet space
- Close your eyes
- Slow, deep breathing
- Notice the sounds around you
- Focus on your breath
- Slow body stretching
- Body scan
If you’re struggling to do this alone, there are loads of guided meditations available online. If you search specifically for pain relief meditation, you can find videos more targeted to your needs.
For more top tips, help and advice. Visit our blog, we chat about everything from sports massage to fitness.
Every exercise regime needs an element of cardiovascular training, even if you’re a diehard strength training addict! Cardio exercise works the heart and lungs, strengthens bones and gives you speed and endurance. But which type is best?
If you saw our blog: ‘Why Walking is Better than Running’, you’ll know that we delved into both types of exercise and evaluated the pros and cons of both. Now, we’re putting cycling against running to see which comes out on top.
Running and cycling are both very popular and effective forms of cardio – so let’s weigh up their relative benefits. Firstly, both are aerobic, rhythmic and involve most of the muscles in the body, meaning that you’ll be enjoying a full body workout as you train.
However, there are differences which are worth considering. On the basis of calories per minute, running generally burns more calories than cycling does – although this differential depends hugely on how fast you perform either exercise. A speed cyclist can burn as many calories cycling as a moderate runner for example, and both can get into the magic ‘HIT’ (high-intensity zone), where the body burns fat for several hours after training.
Does Running or Cycling Burn More Calories?
The American College of Sports Medicine has calculated that an individual weighing 150 pounds and running a seven-minute mile (brisk!) will burn around 1,000 calories every hour. If the same individual cycles at a steady pace of 16-19 mph, the calorie burn will be 850. As a comparison, the equivalent walking activity at 4mph would burn around 360 per hour. Winner – running.
There are other advantages to the strenuous activity too. High effort running and cycling alike can have appetite-dulling effects, albeit on a temporary basis. Studies suggest that high-intensity exercise inhibits the release of ghrelin, which is a hunger-stimulating hormone. Winner – both activities.
Also known as fat burning and muscle building! The good news is that both running and cycling can greatly help to burn fat, but again, it depends on your intensity. Both target the lower body which will develop great calf muscles, glutes and quads. Running will also work your arms and both will work your core. Slow and steady can be useful for a higher proportion of fat burning, but short and sharp HIT sessions will get your hormones, cardio and fat burning systems into max efficiency and will burn fat for hours after you finish training. Think sprints or intervals – both of which can be more enjoyable than long, steady-state sessions. Winner – both activities.
Taking Injury into Account
Yes, heading out for a run does burn slightly more calories and fat, but it is also associated with more injuries than cycling. Runners can end up with damaged ankles, inflamed tendons and runner’s knee – especially if they run too fast and too far at the start. Biking is weight-bearing, so it supports the joints and knees and helps to minimise muscle soreness. If you do want to run, then build up to it slowly and ideally get some coaching to check your gait and to nip any pronation issues in the bud. For cyclists, read the highway code and avoid taking corners too fast in bad weather! Winner – cycling.
Considering Social Aspects
Even if you like to run and cycle alone, the social element of both activities does give you an additional option to enjoy community, fitness events, social exercise and motivation from like-minded enthusiasts. You’ll probably get better results too, as it’s far harder to dodge a session when your training buddies are waiting on you. Consider signing up to a running group or cycling club, find online groups and forums and immerse yourself in the culture of the sport to really get the most of it. You can then train for a race if you fancy the competitive aspect and really see your fitness escalate! These activities both offer fantastic potential for community, social activities and new friends with the same goals. Winner – both.
Which is Better?
Ultimately, the best type of exercise is the one that you enjoy most and are most likely to stick to. Both will increase your capacity for aerobic fitness, which will boost your resistance to chronic disease and help you to enjoy a healthier, longer life. A good starting point is to assess whether you have an injury, a strong preference…and a bike! If you can potentially carry out running and cycling equally well and without any risk to joints or existing injuries, then why not mix it up? A good exercise regime will have a mix of high, medium and low-intensity exercise, strength training and flexibility. So mix up your sprint training with a steady run and enjoy a leisurely weekend jog. If you have a bike, get out for some interval training, do a long-cross country bike hike on another day or attend a spinning class. The more varied your training approach, the better results you’ll enjoy and the more fun you’ll have in the process!
Nowadays it’s not unlikely if you’ve got a few aches and pains in your body; the society we live in sees us crouched over desks, phones and tablets and even though we’re living longer, we’re aging quicker.
With that in mind it comes as no surprise that our bodies are struggling, especially considering most of us are leading inactive lifestyles. Regular sports massage, therapy and rehabilitation can help combat the systematic gripes your joints and muscles may give you, but with so many recovery options out there, how do you know what is best for your body?
What’s the difference between a deep tissue massage and a sports massage?
On the surface, they sound like the same thing, but there are some differences between the two depending on what your troubles are. Let’s explore:
What’s a Deep Tissue Massage?
Deep tissue massage boasts many benefits: improving posture, alleviating painful and tight muscles and helping you to recover from injury.
There any many skilled techniques that are used in deep tissue massage, and these techniques are applied using different levels of compression to the body using the forearm, elbow, thumbs and knuckles to exert more pressure.
The intensity of the pressure alters throughout the treatment, sometimes you’ll feel a movement that mimics kneading bread, this is to improve the blood flow, then there’s rapid, rhythmic moving or slow and intense pressure. You’ll probably experience a range of emotions during this treatment, too. Take it from us, you will get through the discomfort. No pain, no gain and whatnot.
During this treatment, your therapist will check that the pressure and intensity is okay. If it gets a little too much for you, breathe deeply through the discomfort, but if it gets way too much, just let your therapist known and they will ease up. They work at a slow and steady pace and your health and comfort is at the top of the list of priorities.
What’s a Sports Massage?
Sports massages take a similar approach, but they’re usually used for preventing and treating injury and/or enhancing physical performance. As with deep tissue massages, these types of high-pressure massages can encourage the muscles to dissipate and rid the lactic acid build up.
You’ll usually find that sports massages are most effective pre- or post-workout. So, if you’ve just run a marathon, the chances of needing some rehabilitation in the form of a massage are high. Some sportsmen and women also get a massage before a big event to get the blood flowing, muscles warmed up, and the body ready for the impending exercise.
You don’t have to be an athlete or a gym rat to get a sports massage – they are ideal for anyone that’s physically active. So whether you’re training for a marathon, preparing for a bodybuilding competition or doing light to moderate exercise, sports massages can help with muscle recovery, and prevention of injury.
Which is Better: Sports Massage or Deep Tissue Massage?
Neither are relaxing; these are definitely not the types of massages that you’d get on a spa day. Which is better for you is definitely down to personal preference, but if you’re active, it’s probably best to go down the sports massage route, whereas, if you’re struggling with muscle and joint pain, opt for deep tissue massages.
How to Book in for a Sports Massage or Deep Tissue Massage?
If you’ve got a niggle in your joint or muscles and are looking for an alternative to taking medication, try a regular session with a recovery therapist to help you mend from a sports injury, recover from chronic pain, improve posture and prevent further problems.
If you’re still confused, get in touch with our expert team of highly-qualified therapists, who can advise you on the next steps.
If you’re a slave to the treadmill and hate pounding the pavements to get your cardio in the form of running then you will be over the moon to hear that walking can be just as effective as running.
Research by the American Heart Association’s Journal of Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology shows that ‘equivalent energy expenditures by moderate walking and vigorous running exercise produced similar risk reductions for hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, mellitus, and possibly CHD.’
That’s basically saying that brisk walking saw the same physical benefits as running. Considering an estimated 48,000 people have osteoporosis of the knee and 64% of adults are classed as overweight or obese, it’s easy to see why the nation would favour a workout with lesser impact on the body.
What are the Benefits of Walking?
Multiple studies have found that running’s slow-paced cousin, walking, is just as good for relieving stress, reducing cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes; as well as not giving you joint pain and the pesky runner’s knee, walking helps strengthen your bones, unlike running that can cause osteoporosis.
Walking also boasts improvement of balance and coordination, can help you to maintain a healthy weight and improve posture.
Other studies have found that speed walking decreases the risk of mortality and increase the quality of your sleep. So it’s not just about hitting your step count at the end of the day, walking is a powerful exercise that you should be using more.
In addition to improving physical fitness, walking (be it at a brisk pace or gentle stroll) also has many psychological benefits:
How Walking Helps the Mind
Arguably, any form of exercise and moving your body helps to combat stress, boost your energy and improve your overall mood but walking helps instil a sense of calm in your body while you work out, helping you to find and maintain a more relaxed state. This is particularly helpful if you live a stressful life as walking can help to adjust the nervous system; opt for a 45-minute walk after work, rather than reaching for a glass of wine to take the edge off. (We know, sometimes the wine will win but bear with us!)
Not to mention, walking is way more social than running. And if the weather is good, well you’ve boosted your workout even more as exercising outdoors can revitalise you, helping to increase your energy and mood even more, as well as blasting off those cobwebs.
How Walking Burns Fat
Whilst in theory, running exerts more energy, it’s actually quite stressful for your body and heart. And, unless your keeping your heart rate in its optimum fat burning zone, you’re not actually getting the best work out for you.
Walking burns a lot more calories that you realise too. Though if you’re using walking as your main source of exercise, perhaps add some weights – such as ankle weights or a weighted vest – to increase the metabolic costs and overall intensity.
If you’re getting your walk in on the treadmill, increase the incline and this will see your overall workout intensity increase, and oh will you feel it in those glutes.
If your long-term health goal is to improve your overall health, and to create an active lifestyle that has longevity, then walking is for you.
Essentially in terms of wear and tear on your body, you’re actually better off walking. Phew! So grab your Fitbit and get earning that step count!
In our last blog, we spoke about the importance of warming up to avoid injury. Now, we’re going to talk you through why it’s important to cool down after you exercise – and some people would argue that stretching after a workout is the most important thing you can do.
If you workout a lot, chances are you’ve experienced sore muscles, aches and pains, and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) from time to time. Though, if you bolt out of the gym quickly after your workout, you’re not stretching after your session and this can lead to more painful DOMS.
Why You Should Cool Down After Exercise
It’s really important to have a thorough cool down session and whilst a nice warm shower after the gym is a good way to soothe aching muscles, it’s just not going to cut it as a long-term strategy.
Here’s why you need to stretch post-exercise:
You may not know this but slowing your body down and sinking into some deep stretches boasts both physiological and psychological benefits.
The psychological benefits would be getting to know your body and its aches and twinges, and understanding the way your muscles work and the types of stretches you need to do.
But here’s the science bit: your muscles will experience a buildup of lactic acid when you work out, it’s this that causes the soreness and fatigue in the body. As well as that, your muscles are put through numerous moves that cause them to expand and contract quickly meaning they are usually left in what’s known as a shortened state – stretching can loosen this up and essentially extend the muscle, comparatively to when it’s contracted.
Stretching when your muscles are warm (and they will be from your gym session) also helps to increase the blood circulation. This will aid your muscles to recover faster so you can go hard in your next workout quicker than if you skip this all together.
Finally, stretching and cooling down properly is good for injury prevention, which we are obviously all for.
The Most Effective Way to Cool Down
If you’re strapped for time and are looking to have an effective cool down to go with your effective workout, then there are some key stretches that you can do to avoid injury and increased muscle soreness, without keeping you in the gym for much longer.
If you’ve worked on a particular muscle group, for example legs, then you can focus on the key muscles that are used – as well as the hip flexors and lower back – and you will reap the rewards of stretching. The same goes for if you just do an upper body workout; stretch the areas you have used.
However, it’s a good idea to dedicate some time to full body stretches as you use more muscles in any compound movement than you think. Speaking of full body, if you’ve done a full-body workout, you really will need to spend some time stretching all of your muscles so you don’t seize up – so hit that mat for between 15 and 30 minutes to ensure optimum recovery.
Techniques for Deep Stretches
We’ve touched on a few of the benefits of stretching here but one thing to bear in mind is that stretching will help you reduce your overall recovery time and prevent unnecessary injury.
Concentrate when you stretch, particularly if you’re holding a pose in weak areas or areas that are prone to injury – for example the knee or hip flexor. If you feel a pain then you need to stop the stretch immediately. If you experience this, the best thing to do is to rest, apply ice and compression and elevate the body part – also known as the RICE method.
It’s important to hold your stretch for up to a minute to gain the benefits, this can also help you push through the soreness from your workout.
If you invest time into a proper rehabilitation routine, you will also see a reduction in your overall aches and pains and an increase in your posture so it’s definitely worth your while to find an extra 10 – 15 minutes a session to warm your body up.
Above all, don’t forget to breathe.
If you’re a regular gym goer, you’ll know the importance of warming up and cooling down and if the gym isn’t your regular haunt, you’ve probably still heard of this old adage. But, statistics show that even though we know we should be doing a quick pre- and post-workout session, not many of us are actually dedicating anytime to it.
Why You Should Warm Up Before Exercise
The preparation for a workout is sometimes just as important as the workout itself and here’s why:
Stretching and warming up the muscles before a workout aids muscle mobility and helps your flexibility – both of which help increase your performance. So, if you’re prone to skipping your warm up, you could find yourself increasing the probability of injury, such as tearing a muscle. And no one wants that.
The Best Ways to Warm Up Quickly
If you’re limited with time, the quickest way to warm up is to do some short, sharp moves that target a wide range of muscle groups, including the main muscles such as your quads, back and core but also pay particular attention to your glutes and hips – these are pivotal to most exercise moves but regularly get forgotten about; warm these up and you’ll have a much better workout.
For a quick way to warm up you can hit the rowing machine, pound the treadmill or jump on the elliptical for 10 minutes; alternatively, you can do some mobility moves to heat those muscles up and increase your range of movement ahead of your session.
By stretching out your tight muscles, you’ll increase the blood flow to your muscles which assists in preventing soreness and speeds up your overall recovery process. This is also true for post workout, but we’ll come onto that in another blog.
As we focus on pre-workout warm-up moves, here are some of our favourite warm up techniques to activate your muscles:
Lunge with a twist – this dynamic stretching move activates a few muscles at once, from your back through your hip flexors down to your leg.
Skipping – skipping with a rope is an incredible way to warm up the body; it gets the blood pumping, heart rate increasing and the body temperature (and therefore muscles) warm.
Ankle rotations – often forgotten about, the ankles are prone to injury as they’re not warmed up or strengthened enough. Take time to rotate the ankles to get them going ahead of a workout. For more information on how to strengthen your ankles, check out our blog.
Pigeon stretch – we talk about this in our blog The 7 Best Hip Flexor Stretches because it is an awesome stretch. It gets deep into the hip flexor and is definitely an area that you want to avoid injuring so look after it as much as you can.
Jumping Jacks – the classic move that will elevate your heart rate and get the key muscle groups warmed up, jumping jacks (or star jumps) are a simple but effective way to warm up.
Techniques for Deep Stretches
You’ve heard that form is important with exercise, well that saying is just as significant when it comes to stretching. You need to pay attention to your pre (or post) workout stretches and ensure you’re not over expanding the muscle tissue; if you feel any pain, twinge or discomfort when stretching, it’s best to stop. There’s one thing breathing into a deep stretch through DOMs, but you know your body and if something doesn’t feel right, it’s better the air on the side of caution and stop what you’re doing.
If you feel comfortable, it’s best to hold the stretch for up to a minute before moving onto the next; take deep breaths throughout and focus your attention on something else to help moderate the feeling – or to keep your balance, depending on what stretch you’re doing.
Benefits from Stretching
You’ll quickly be reaping the rewards of warming up properly as your workouts are performed at optimum level, your recovery time is reduced, you’ll avoid injury and increase mobility and flexibility.
If you invest time into a proper rehabilitation routine, you will also see a reduction in your overall aches and pains and an increase in your posture so it’s definitely worth your while to find an extra 10 – 15 minutes a session to warm your body up.