- Weight-bearing exercise (on your two feet) helps to improve your bone density by slowing down the rate at which your bones thin with age.
- Aerobic exercise (rhythmic, sustained exercises like jogging, swimming or cycling) improve your heart health and lung function, which will improve your lifespan.
- Resistance training (with weights or resistance bands) give you stronger arms and legs, which makes all your day-to-day tasks easier, like gardening and grocery shopping.
Pay a visit to your local park and I guarantee you a large proportion of other park users will be jogging or running. An extremely popular form of exercise, running is a form of exercise enjoyed by all ages. Why is running so popular, and why should you try it for yourself?
In order to go for a run, all you need is your running clothing! If you’re going to start running regularly, then purchasing a good pair of running shoes is a good investment. I personally choose Asics runners as I find they last longer and give good cushioning for my feet. Getting yourself a high-visibility waterproof jacket is also well worth the money.
You don’t have to become a member of a gym, saving you more money! You don’t need to buy any equipment for your home unless you want to run indoors on a treadmill. Be aware that running on a treadmill puts you at increased risk of injury compared with normal ground running. All of these factors make running an affordable and accessible form of exercise.
Requires Little Time
All you have to do is get dressed and run right out your front door. Running for as little as 30 minutes 2-3 times each week is enough to afford you significant, meaningful health and body benefits. You only have to get in the car if you want to run somewhere specific, which is a luxury but not a necessity. If you’re bringing your children/grandchildren to one of their weekly activities, you could always go for a run while they’re doing their soccer or ballet practice, so everyone gets the exercise that they need!
With running, it’s very easy to vary your workout intensity. If you’re running on your own, you get to dictate how fast you have to run. You don’t have to keep up with anyone if you don’t want too. If you get too tired or too out of breath, you can always stop and walk. Then when you’re ready, you can start running again. When running, you should still be able to talk but not be able to hold a conversation – this is how you know you’re working hard enough!
You can work running into your weekly routine relatively easy. You could start running to work on one or more days a week, and arrange to get public transport or a lift home on that day(s). You could also bring clothes with you to try going for a run on your lunch break. I guarantee that if you start running at lunchtime in your workplace, you’ll find someone else who will want to join you!
If you do want to run farther or faster, it’s really easy to join a running group or a running club in your area. Running with a group makes you run at a higher speed and will almost certainly motivate you to run longer.
You can jog or run pretty much anywhere, and that’s no exaggeration! We’re lucky to live in an area with beautiful trails, routes and parks all of which are ideal for trying to do some running. Trying to run in a new location when you have the time is a fantastic way to keep your exercise exciting and interesting.
Of course, your body will benefit in so many ways if you choose to take up running. Your bones will be thicker and stronger, which reduces your risk of Osteoporosis (brittle bones). Running is a whole body exercises, which means it burns a lot of calories and raises your heart rate significantly – both of which contribute to a slimmer, fitter you! You’ll see physical improvements all over your body, including your legs, tummy and arms.
In the last couple of years the discussion of mental health has become a major public issue. One of the reasons for the increased incidence of these mental health issues is that we are all exercising less than we should be. Taking up running will help to reduce your stress levels, improve your mood and increase your sleep quality and duration. It will also improve your brain function long term, so it’s another great investment in your future!
Join Sean’s Beginner Running Group, running for 6 weeks on Monday mornings (Starts March 27th). More info: www.flynnmedicalexercise.com/running-group
They say the best laid plans often go awry, and that’s certainly been the case with my New Years Resolution. Caring for our newborn son has turned our family life upside-down, which has made getting out for my weekly run that little bit harder.
Run #2 – The Climb to Johnnie Fox’s
My run today took me on Ballyedmonduff Road (just above Stepaside Village) up towards the aforementioned pub, and it was a miserable, cold, wet Irish day! The climb to this famous spot, allegedly the highest pub (by altitude) in Ireland, required me to conquer some lungbusting hills both on the way up and on the way back down. Hill running is one of the best ways to improve your lung capacity, so if you’re finding yourself in need of fresh air, why not give this run a try!
When you’re trying to change your own behaviour and routine, it pays to stick with it. The research data clearly shows that smokers who are trying to quit smoking are much more likely to succeed if they keep trying to quit. It doesn’t matter how many times they fail, each time they try again, they are a bit more likely to succeed. I know from my work that the same is true for establishing an exercising routins, so remember to always get back on the horse!
- AVOID trying to make up for the time you missed. Those weeks/months you missed are gone, and they’re not coming back. Try instead to simply stick to your original plan and start fresh. Punishing yourself for failure will never bring you to success.
I’m always telling my patients to exercise more, so I’ve decided to lead by example. I used to do a fair bit of running in my teens and early twenties for my club, school and college, but not so much recently.
This coming year I’ll be going for a run every Monday and sharing my experience here with you in the Running Diaries. I’ll be running in a variety of beautiful locations around South Dublin to keep it new and exciting each week.
Run #1 – Marlay Park
This a beautiful, big park in South County Dublin. As well as some stunning waterfalls, rivers and lakes it also has a great path all the way around which is ideal for pushing a buggy or wheelchair. The outside loop is approximately 3.5km, and there are various trails and tracks throughout the middle of the park as well. I took a route which amounted to a total of 5km which took me around the outside of the park as well as through the middle. This route is mostly flat and not too muddy. This park can get quite busy at peak times, but if you go early in the morning you’ll have the park mostly to yourself!
Flynn Tip #1 – Goal Setting
If you’re looking to set yourself an exercise goal for the coming year, then here is one important tip that will make you more likely to succeed. Focus your goal on making one small change to your weekly routine.
- AVOID focusing your goal around your weight, fitness or running duration because we inevitably aim too high and make our goals unreachable, which sets us back.
- AVOID trying to make more than one change to your weekly routine at a time. Start with one item (like a weekly run) and wait 4-6 weeks before adding in your second item (like a weekly swim). Success breeds success, no matter how small!
Have you ever tried to start exercising more, only to be held back by foot, shin or knee pain? Do you have foot deformities like bunions or fallen arches? Well, I’m glad to say that either Orthotic Insoles or Orthotic Footwear may solve your problems!
Orthotic insoles are used by people all around you, including top athletes trying to prevent shin splints, and active older adults trying to accommodate bunions and foot arthritis. I’ve been wearing them for years so I can say with confidence that well-prescribed orthotics can be extremely comfortable and beneficial.
As Plane as the Nose on your Face!
It’s important to realise that there’s no such thing as a normal foot shape. The features of everyone’s feet are unique, and the majority of our foot characteristics are inherited from our parents. Just like we all have different shapes to our nose, so too do we all have our own unique foot posture.
The Cornerstone of our Body
Despite their small size, the force of half our body mass travels through each of our feet with every step we take. Over the years these forces, combined with poor footwear choices, can cause poor foot posture, which leads to aches and pains. In the same way, poor back posture leads to increased aches and pains in our lower back. Small alterations in our foot posture also adversely affects the posture of our whole body, so the effects can be wide-ranging.
Orthotics for all Occasions
Something you may not know about orthotics is that there are different styles of insoles available for whatever activities you like to enjoy. There are different styles of insoles available for football boots, golfing shoes and high-heeled shoes as well as your everyday runners. I advise my patients to get orthotics for the shoes in which they are getting their pain/discomfort because this is where there is a problem that needs to be solved.
By the way, you’re Already Wearing Orthotics!
Whenever you put on a pair of shoes, you’re essentially putting your foot into an orthotic device. That’s because every pair of shoes alters your foot posture to some degree. The problem is that some of the shoes we wear negatively affect our foot posture, while others offer a benefit. You know a shoe is bad for you if you’re getting aches or pain when you wear them!
Comprehensive Assessment is Crucial
Feet are very complex, and a full assessment is essential to prescribing the correct devices. 5 minute assessments in places like Elverys or Foot Solutions are delivered by poorly trained staff and don’t take nearly enough factors into account. When I assess my patient’s feet, I’m looking to isolate my patients natural inherent foot shape, and then observe how this changes when your feet are bearing your weight. I’ll also look to see how this foot posture changes further when you’re walking or running. I’ll take note of any foot abnormalities, as well as the areas (if any) where you experience pain.
Small Changes, Enormous Benefits
When determining what type of device prescribe, I build a mock-orthotic underneath your foot while you’re standing in my clinic. I use a variety of oddly shaped plastic wedges and cushions to mould your foot into your ideal posture. If you’re comfortable with the end result and I’m satisfied that the alterations are sufficient, I’ll send all the appropriate information to the lab where your custom insoles will be constructed. Insoles normally take about two week to be delivered to my clinic. You could have your very own pair of custom orthotics sooner than you think!
Sean is a Chartered Physiotherapist and sees patients in his Sandyford clinic as well as in their homes.
Staying Strong & Fit
While it’s important at any age, staying strong and fit in your elder years has a direct effect on your quality of life. Keeping muscle strength around your shoulders, back and hips means you can engage in more meaningful activities like gardening or lifting your grandchildren. Getting fit means you’ll have more energy on day trips and won’t need to stop and rest as often as before. Both of these help prevent falls and improve your breathing, so you’ll feel less out of breath and more confident in yourself. Here’s some tips for adapting an exercise routine:
- Routine: Take on exercise that you can put into your schedule every week at the same time. Make that time sacred so that you only ever miss the exercise for a very good reason.
- Social: Arranging to exercise with other people means you’re more likely to get the exercise done, and more likely to enjoy it as well. Chatting and sharing stories helps distract you from the exercise and makes the time pass quicker.
- Variety: Having several different types of exercise in your routine keeps the week interesting and makes you significantly more likely to keep up your exercise routine for longer. Here’s some suggestions of different types of exercise older people can try:
- Aqua Aerobics
- Stretching & Posture Classes (i.e. Yoga & Pilates): For information on the classes run in Flynn Medical Exercise, click here!
Avoiding Falls in the Home
Suffering falls in your own home is a common reason for older people having to leave their homes for Assisted Living or Nursing Homes. As you get older, it becomes harder to get yourself back up off the floor when you fall. The consequences of a fall also become more severe. Many older people suffer with Osteopenia or Osteoporosis (reduced bone density, ‘brittle bones’), which means that your bones break easier. when subject to trauma. Hip fractures are all to commonly the result of falls, and can permanently affect your independence and mobility. Here’s 6 simple tips you or your older relative can adopt around the home to reduce the risk of falls and thus improve their safety:
- Move items that you use everyday onto a shelf, cabinet or counter-top at Waist Height. This will reduce the amount of bending, stretching or climbing you have to do, which will reduce your risk of falling everyday.
- Wear slippers or indoor footwear that Fit your Feet Well and have a Good Grip on the sole. The last thing you need is your shoes slipping on the floor, causing you to lose your balance and fall.
- Use a Grip-Mat in the shower and install Grab-Rails around the bath to help you getting in and out. These places are particularly dangerous and slippery when wet.
- Sleep disturbance is common in older adults (which I discuss further later on). Ensure you have a Lamp or Light Switch Near You in the Bed so you can turn the lights on and see where you’re putting your feet.
- Mop up Spillages Straight Away when they occur, so you don’t forget about them and slip on them later on!
- Wear night clothes and gowns that Don’t Drag or Hang on the Floor, as these are a significant trip hazard.
Improving Sleep Quality & Lifting Mood
As you move into your later years, you may notice that you find it hard to get to sleep and even harder to stay asleep! It’s not uncommon for you to get a poorer quality of sleep as well, leaving you feeling tired and moody during the following day. This sleep disturbance can be caused by many things including medication, physical illness and environmental causes. Some of these need to be treated by your doctor. Here’s some things you can try at home tonight to try and improve your sleep quality and duration:
- Take Exercise: Try taking exercise in the late afternoon or evening. Taking exercise in the morning means you’re more likely to nap in the afternoon, which then can cause sleep disturbance the following night. Make sure you’re breathing heavy when you’re exercising so you’ll be sufficiently tired out and ready to sleep!
- No TV in the Bedroom: Having a TV or Radio in your bedroom serves as a mental distraction. It impairs your brains preparation for sleep and as a result causes your sleep quality to be poor. Watch your TV in a separate room, so that when you come into your bedroom you’re there primarily to sleep.
- Fast before Sleeping: Digestion of food in your stomach can take up to 3 hours after a big meal. During this 3 hour period, its better for your body to remain predominantly upright, otherwise you’re likely to experience reflux or heartburn, both of which adversely affect sleep. This is why is better to wait for a while after eating before trying to sleep.
- Avoid Daytime Napping: Napping during the day is sometimes necessary, particularly if you’ve had a very active morning. However if you’re in a routine of taking an afternoon nap for 1-2 hours, you will find it more difficult to sleep in the evening time. Try breaking this routine for a day and see how much better you sleep that evening.
- Therapeutic Massage: Muscle aches and tension are a common cause of sleep disturbance, and can be relieved by therapeutic massage. This treatment also helps to improve mood and induce relaxation in the body, all of which will help prepare your body for sleep. Try taking a massage in the afternoon or evening and I guarantee you’ll sleep better!
Book an Appointment
If you’re interested in booking a consultation with me (Sean Flynn), a chartered physiotherapist, then don’t hesitate to give me a call, text or email (contact details below).
Exercise during pregnancy is more important than ever before. When pregnant, t’s not just your own health and fitness that’s at stake, but that of your baby as well. My new Pregnancy Stretching & Posture class incorporates a number of key elements that help make your pregnancy and delivery more comfortable, and I discuss those elements in this article.
Pelvic Floor Strengthening
Why: Strengthening of these illusive muscles is crucial in any pregnancy exercise programme. Clinical studies show that strengthening of these muscles can reduce labour time, make labour easier and reduce the risk of stress incontinence before and after birth. Stress incontinence is when you leak a small amount of urine when sneezing or laughing.
How: Imagine you are urinating and now imagine try to stop urinating midstream, actively clenching muscles. Those muscles you activated in your lower abdomen are your pelvic floor muscles. Practice contracting those muscles for 5 seconds, then relaxing. Repeat 5 times, and do this several times per day.
Lumbar Extension Stretching
Why: Healthy weight gain of about 25-35 pounds (11-16kgs) is a normal part of pregnancy. However the fact that this weight gain takes place primarily on the front of your abdomen pulls your lumbar spine forward into what we call Lumbar Lordisis (see image on right-hand-side). This is the primary cause of lower back aches and pain during pregnancy.
How: The image below is a fantastic way to stretch your lower back. Having a gym ball in your home is fantastic during pregnancy, but not essential (you can use the side of your sofa or a kitchen chair in stead). Keeling on your shins, lean forward and place your hands onto the gym ball. Now lean your head and shoulders down towards the floor until you feel a gentle stretch in your lower back (this should be mildly uncomfortable, not moderately or severely). Hold for 30 seconds, repeat 3 times per sitting. I recommending doing these exercises once or twice each day, particularly towards the end of your working day.
Gluteal Muscle Strengthening
Why: Your Gluteal muscles are the muscles in your buttocks and at the side of your hips. When exercising, they play a key role in walking, running, climbing stairs. One of their most important roles when you’re expecting is to help stabilise the pelvis. Due to hormonal changes during pregnancy, the ligaments that tightly support your pelvis are more lax (to facilitate the travel of your baby through your pelvis during labour). This laxity can cause pain in your pelvis, and strengthening your Gluteal muscles can prevent and treat this pain.
How: Alternating between the two below exercises each day are a great way to strengthen your Gluteal muscles.
- With Exercise 1, you can lay down on the floor facing the ceiling with your knees bent. Lift your hips up off the floor and hold, building up towards holding for 90 seconds, then slowly lower your hips back to the ground. You can perform this twice, and on one occasion each day.
- In Exercise 2, come into 4 Point Kneeling (hands and knees) on the floor, possibly with a towel or mat under your knees for comfort. As shown, you can lift one leg up off the floor and behind you, straightening your knee. Hold for 5-10 seconds, then slowly lower back to the floor. You can perform this exercise 10 times on each leg, and on one occasion each day.