Do you do it? What do you think of exercise?
How does exercise impact the brain?
What are your thoughts on running? Have you signed up to the Chester half or full Marathon this year?
Sport and exercise is a topic that is prevalent in my life. My family are always eager to stay fit and gain the reaping benefits of exercise, such as the so called ‘runners high’ with the release of endorphins. Athletics is something I enjoy, having previously represented Cheshire County in cross country. This is something which I gained from my dad, as back in his day, he was a superb long distance runner, so I say myself. My mum and sister are also sports enthusiasts, with my sister playing for Manchester City Football team in the Development Squad. She plays sport at a competitive level, whereas my exercise journey focuses on enjoying sport and maintaining fitness. This is something that I think is really important when it comes to exercise and fitness- don’t compare your exercise journey to others. It can be easy to get wrapped up in social media and deem individuals as fitter than you. Your journey is unique, go at your own pace, perhaps engage in multiple sports disciplines and from here, learn to love exercise.
Exercise is a word that can often have negative connotations, with the feeling of ‘ughh I need to do some exercise today’. It’s so important to change this. Motivating yourself can sometimes be the hardest thing. If you’re thinking, yes that’s me, ever thought of doing exercise in a professional setting with guidance or in a group setting where there are others to offer encouragement. Or even booking a class or setting a time in your diary can help you mentally make a note of your sporting endeavours.
Then… usually after doing exercise you feel ‘great’- if only that feeling could come before to encourage you to exercise, if lack of motivation is the issue. This ‘great’ feeling can be attributed to what happens when we exercise. Any form of aerobic exercise is responsible for raising heart rate, resulting in the increase of blood flow to the brain. This increases connectivity and movement. Studies have also shown that exercise over a long period of time helps to protect the hippocampus- wondering what the hippocampus is. It is a major part of the brain that resembles the shape of a seahorse. Exercise helps stop the hippocampus from shrinking and can even lead to cell regeneration. This is fascinating with the hippocampus playing a vital role in developing memories from short to long term and controlling thoughts and emotions. Evidence has shown that individuals with depression for example have shrinkage of the hippocampus and therefore engaging in exercise can help stop this and improve mood. Exercise is known to improve conditions like depression and anxiety.
Recently, there has been a lot of talk of getting your 10,000 steps a day. This is an average guideline with movement definitely being good for you. It again can help one’s mental state and reduce the chances of gaining conditions like diabetes. This can be difficult when much of society is designed for ease. You may have an office job, sat in a sedentary position for most of the day. Try to get up and move regularly to stimulate blood flow- it is said ‘sitting is the new smoking’. However, the likelihood of developing a mental health condition like depression is said to be higher when you are not doing something mentally stimulating and it is passive activity. When it comes to other guidelines, the World Health Organisation recommends that an individual does 150 minutes of exercise a week, which alternatively is 5 lots of exercising for 30 minutes a week. That may sound like a lot, but like mentioned earlier, go at your own pace and build up to this amount if need be. You are only meant to increase exercise by a maximum 10% each week otherwise it puts strain on your body.
For those of you who live and breathe sport and exercise, you may have set yourself a bigger challenge and may be preparing for the Chester Half Marathon or the Chester Marathon later this year. It is estimated that you take around 40,000 steps in a Marathon. Now, that’s a lot of exertion… It is vitally important that you prepare well for the marathon. Build up your mileage gradually. Physios here at ProPhysio are able to assess how you run through a biomechanical assessment. This is useful in understanding your running technique in greater detail- do you need to strengthen your muscles? Do you need to improve your range of movement? Or possibly, do you need a bespoke orthotic? An Orthotic is an insert for a running shoe. Gary, one of the Physios, specialises in running injuries, running biomechanics and orthotic prescription.
Perhaps do other forms of exercise alongside running whilst preparing for a Marathon. Cycling is low impact. Yoga and Pilates are great for strength training. Here at ProPhysio, we encourage Pilates and have classes led by Keryn, one of our Physios and Jane Hickson, a qualified and experienced fitness professional. Keryn also offers one-two-one classes and these can be arranged on all weekdays, except Monday.
**Pilates time table updated 20/03/2019 - subject to change**
When you run, you are placing three times your load on your joints. This can cause inflammation and stress on the body. Therefore, you need to listen to your body. When running always warm up, stretch and cool down. As part of recovery, you can foam roll, have a bath with magnesium salts or have an ice bath- yes, for those of you who are brave enough to sit in freezing cold water! It should help with inflammation. Another form of recovery is sports massage, which is a soft tissue massage. At ProPhysio, all Physios offer 30 minutes or 1 hour sports massage appointments.
Before doing a long run, it is important to hydrate your body and have lots of fluids, as sweating reduces your salt content. Electrolyte drinks are a good way to return salt to your body.
Glycogen is found in your muscles and scientifically you have enough in your muscles to keep you running for 90 minutes. You then have to gain it either from fats or carbohydrates and hence why you may have heard of carb loading- ensuring that your body has a good energy supply. When Marathon training, it is important to have a well-balanced diet. Fruit and vegetables help the body deal with any damage that has occurred whilst running. Proteins are needed for growth and repair and Carbohydrates are needed for the energy you have used.
For those of you competing in the Half Marathon or Marathon, the very best of luck and happy training! For those of you like me who enjoy sport and exercise, I hoped you found this interesting and carry on your own exercise journey.