In these articles, we regularly discuss the physical benefits of exercise and I think it's about time we discussed the mental health benefits as well.
With an ever-increasing rate of people experiencing a variety of mental health conditions, it’s timely to consider all the ‘treatment’ options available.
Anecdotally we understand that exercise can make people happier and more productive but understanding the reasons WHY can assist you to become more active and reinforce the benefits of exercise, not only for your body but also for your mind.
A lack of exercise can be a cause and a symptom of less than adequate mental health, meaning that people who are sedentary are at higher risk of developing mental health conditions.
We also know that some mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety can lead people to become less physically active. What this demonstrates is the definite link between exercise and mental health and highlights the importance of discussing the benefits of exercise on your mental health.
Pinpointing exactly what it is about exercise that benefits a person’s mental health is difficult as it varies from person to person due to individual differences and personal circumstances, but research suggests that exercise assists by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain involved in the regulation of mood. The increase of endorphins – or the ‘mood lifting’ hormone due to exercise is also another example of the benefits of exercise.
The following dot points explore some of the other mental health advantages that regular exercise can provide.
By developing a healthy coping strategy (exercising) – instead of other less helpful strategies such as binge-watching Netflix, using alcohol, or ruminating on your day-to-day problems that can lead to worsening of mental health symptoms - you can improve your mental state and have an increased resilience for life stressors.
So the next time you're feeling a little low in mood or flat, try chucking on a pair of runners and get a sweat going - the only workout you'll ever regret is the one you don't do!
- Cory Hearn Personal Training and Rob Pearce, RCP counselling
As someone working in the fitness industry, the most important thing I tell my clients they should be doing is drinking water.
Nearly every person I ask about their water intake responds with “I really should drink more”.
This tells me that people know it is important they are just not prioritising it, which is silly considering it is one of the easiest aspects of your health you can control.
Water has many benefits:
While there is no specific measure on how much water someone should drink a day, individuals should aim for a minimum of two litres, or more if you are physically active.
Everybody has heard time and time again how important it is to stretch, yet this has still got to be one of the most overlooked aspects of our wellbeing.
Stretching after exercise reduces muscle fatigue by helping release lactic acid that has built during the workout. Stretching post exercise will also improve flexibility and range of movement, drastically reduce chance of injury and promote muscle growth by improving recovery time.
Saying this, the BIG thing that almost everybody needs to get through their head is that stretching is not only for after exercise. Regular stretching can enhance energy levels via improved blood circulation, improve muscle co-ordination and can be extremely relaxing / stress relieving (hence why yoga is becoming so popular).
One small point I would like to cover quickly is PRE-workout stretching, I see it at every event I compete in, people holding these deep stretches right before competing... This is not recommended as it actually reduces muscular strength and power for a short time afterwards. Your muscles need that tension to perform at their full potential, which does get taken away with long static stretches. My recommendation –, dynamic stretches leading up to competing and static stretches afterwards, if either of these terms confuse you, a quick Google will help you out.
Too many of us under-estimate the importance of stretching and only take advantage post-workout (some not even then), so please take this article seriously and touch your toes every now and then.
It’s that time of year that so many people are travelling to warmer climates in attempts to give themselves a break from the single digit (in some places even minus) temperatures. If you’re like me, you’ve been on holidays before and returned a larger, slower, more sluggish version of before you left. This doesn’t always have to be the case! We’re going to go through tips and tricks in order to remain in some sort of shape (other than round) when you decide to go on adventure.
Holidays are a great time to focus on improving your NEAT! What is NEAT you ask? NEAT stands for Non-Exercise activity thermogenesis, does that help? Of course not.. In simple terms, this refers to the energy expended during non-exercise related activities such as walking the dog, doing the gardening or vacuuming the house. In very simple terms, the amount of energy (calories) you burn per day can be broken down to three areas:
As you may be exercising less whilst on holidays and you have no control of how many calories you will burn during digestion, why not focus on the remaining area we can control? And during holidays can be the best time to do it! Take the stairs instead of escalators, swim when you can, walk around new cities and explore the area – the opportunities are everywhere waiting for you.
I am a big advocate of weight based exercise, I love using resistance training to improve my fitness and encourage my clients to do the same. But when you travel, it gives you a great excuse to try something new. I would suggest a form of exercise that requires very minimal or no equipment. Bodyweight workouts, yoga, pilates etc.. Any good PT should be able to hook you up with some options, or at least point you in the direction of somebody that can.
I’d like to start this paragraph by pointing out that I am being very hypocritical here.. Buttttt you don’t HAVE to eat and drink EVERYTHING you see whilst on holidays (although I personally think that is the best part). If you decide to take this advice, you could start by considering your entire day of eating, if you know you are going to be consuming a large amount of calories in the evening, consider eating and drinking more thoughtfully throughout the day. You can still eat your delicious foods whilst travelling, but you don’t always need to eat your bodyweights worth of it – portion control can go a long away. And the best / worst advice would have to be – you don’t ALWAYS need the buffet breakfast (who am I kidding, yes you do, you’re on holiday).
I’ve touched on this in many of my previous articles but I think this topic deserves an article of it’s own.
Training for weight loss has become too hard! All the different diets to follow, the different exercise programs that will help you lose more weight than the others, the supposed ‘fat burning foods’, the anti-cardio propaganda etc. etc. the list is huge.
It really doesn’t have to be that hard!
Another trainer gave a metaphor that I really like, ‘think of weight loss as a leaky bathroom, too many people are trying to decide which kind of mop they are going to use (exercise selection) to clean the mess before solving the real problem – the leak!’ the leak in this situation is your caloric intake. The absolute bottom line is – if you consume more calories than you lose you will gain fat, if you consume less calories than you lose, you will see a loss in fat. Yes, some mops may wipe up the mess faster than others, but that it not near as important as fixing that damn leak causing it.
A healthy, more active body will burn more calories daily than a sedimentary one – choose a form of exercise you don’t hate doing and go hard at it, this will have a much higher percentage chance that you will stick to it and see good long term change.
If you regularly eat unhealthy foods (take-away, chocolate, donuts, pizza, lollies etc) you don’t need to pay somebody to write a meal plan for you.. Just stop eating so much of that stuff! I have something I often say to my clients – If somebody eats 10 Big Mac meals a day, they will start to feel better if they start eating 9 a day. 9 Big Mac meals still sounds crazy to most people, but to that person, it is an improvement. You don’t need a complete overhaul straight up, you just need to make healthier choices to begin with. When it gets to the point where you feel like you are eating great and still want that extra push, that is when meal plan’s will come in handy.
There are plenty more points on this topic, but let’s leave that for another day.
Stay healthy guys
In my experience lower back pain is by far the most common injury people mention when recording medical history as current aches and pains are taken into consideration whilst devising a training program. This is the reason I have decided to target this injury in my article today.
I would like to touch on the topic of lower back pain in general, too many people get confused between lower back soreness and a lower back injury. If you are an active person, who uses some form of resistance training in your regular exercise program, chances are that you have experienced muscle soreness at some point in your life. Whether you have sore legs from a run you completed or your shoulders are pulling up a bit stiff after a weights session from the day before, I’m guessing everyone has experienced this at some point.
I don’t know what it is but there is something about the back that just makes people panic. Your back is full of muscles just like every other part of your body, meaning it can get sore as any other part of your body can. All I’m saying is just because your back feels a bit tight don’t automatically assume you have injured yourself, if it flares up after exercise (and it’s not a sharp or lasting pain) try and give it some movement and a stretch and see if that relieves any of the discomfort, if not then it may be time to take into consideration some other methods.
Unfortunately as soon as most of us get some discomfort in our lower back the most common response we get, either from our own heads or from the mouths of others, is to give it some rest. Little are people aware that giving it too much rest is often what causes these issues to begin with. Nothing fixes most muscle injuries as much as movement, whether the movement is corrective exercises, strength building exercises or stretching.
By far the most common lower back injury is mechanical pain (stress and strain to the muscles in the vertebral column) this is most often caused by poor posture or improper working conditions. Studies has shown exercise as being the number one treatment for this condition. A properly devised and supervised training plan can not only help you work around your injuries, but help to improve them. Such a program should include increasing abdominal strength, exercises to release hamstring tightness and strengthening the muscles that support the spine.
My tips are for the general population and are not suited to anybody with an ongoing back injury, consulting with your doctor or other health professional before undertaking a new exercise program is always highly recommended.
Superfood is a term that is regularly used now with not many people having much of an idea what it means or what foods fall into the category. A superfood is described as ‘a food that is rich in compounds (such as antioxidants, fibre, or fatty acids) considered beneficial to a person's health’. Many foods fall into that category, but today, we are going to detail five of my favourites.
Avocado has got to be number one for me – This fruit has multiple potential benefits including improving digestion and fighting cancer. It contains over 20 vitamins and minerals and is high in healthy fats (monounsaturated) and helps keep you fuller for longer. The reason it is my number one superfood is because it is so easy to introduce into your diet! Put some as a side on breakfast, chop it into a salad, spread it on toast.. I put a quarter on my steak when I have one and I LOVE it.
These have made the list due to the fact that when you cook them right, they actually taste unhealthy for you! And we all know junk food tastes better than the healthy alternatives surely? The fact is, these vegetables are very high in vitamins (predominately A & C) meaning they help maintain strong vision and play a large part in building a strong immune system. These taste delicious cut into wedges, put into salads or eating whole as a jacket potato.. Yuuuum.
These are the quickest, easiest, healthiest snack I know! There is rarely a point in time I don’t have almonds at hand and the reason is simple.. They are so damn good for you! They are full of calcium, packed with vitamin E and a high source of protein. These are on the list because of their ease of consumption as a snack, but they can also be added to salads and roasted along with other foods as well.
High in antioxidants (great for fighting disease) as well as a great source of vitamins and manganese, these berries are a delicious addition to any diet either as a snack, a sweet addition to salads or to make those deliciously unhealthy cakes or doughnuts the SLIGHTEST bit more nutritious.
I don’t think I have had a greek yoghurt free day for at least the last year, I love it. I include this into my diet for the probiotics; it helps strengthen the immune system, improves digestion and makes you feel full! If I’m not mixing my vanilla protein powder into it with my berries in the morning (delicious) I am using it as a substitute for sour cream on my dinner that night!
There you have it, my top five ‘superfoods’. If you haven’t introduced these into your diet before, it might be about time.
Today we are going to break down the three most common myths surrounding the topic of health and fitness. We will be exploring if there is ANY truth to the statements and giving some tips on better options if you have been misled by any of these misconceptions in the past.
Fitness myth #1: ‘You have to be sore after every workout’
This one is very common, people get upset if they are not sore after their workouts or they feel like they have not worked hard enough if they are able to walk properly the day after training. DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) can often be present after training, sometimes it hits you soon after your session, sometimes it can last for days, and does this mean you had a better workout than somebody who didn’t feel the same amount of pain? The short answer is no. Soreness will most likely arise when first getting into an exercise routine, when trying new exercises or can hit after training with a new intensity. Studies show that muscle damage has no correlation to muscle growth, good or bad. Meaning that soreness is not a bad thing (unless it affects your future sessions) but it has no positive benefits either.
Fitness myth #2: ‘Weights make women bulky’
So many women are still so scared to participate in weights training in fear of packing on too much muscle and looking too big, never fear because that is certainly not the case. Women have a fraction of the amount of testosterone in their body as opposed to men, which is the primary hormone promoting muscle growth. Unless you are going to be taking performance enhancers or have crazy genetics, getting bulky will not be an issue. What will happen is that you burn fat as well as tighten and shape your physique! Win / Win.
Fitness myth #3: ‘Doing sit ups to flatten your stomach’
As nice as it would be, spot reducing (losing fat in a particular area with isolated work) is a myth. Doing sit ups to flatten your stomach or bicep curls to lose ‘tuckshop’ arms has not been proven to be an effective method at all. Your body will lose fat based on genetics and where it feels it needs the most gone, unfortunately we can’t decide. You can train the stubborn areas to tighten the muscle, but when it comes to fat loss, the ball is generally not in our court.
I would like to acknowlede a recent study done by Lonnie Lowry, PhD that attempts to prove the success of spot reducing by manipulating skin temperatures in regions of the body prior to exercise. I cannot speak to the facts of this research but feel it should be added before giving the blanket MYTH statement.
‘It’s better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb than to be on the top of one that you don’t’ – Chris Guillebeau. This quote can be applied to so many situations but in this instance, I am applying it to the fact that you are much better off beginning a regime slowly and executing each movement perfectly that by rushing ‘ahead’ using incorrect form and forming bad habits in the meantime. I have written this article to coincide with ‘Exercise right week 21st – 27th May’ so let’s get our exercise done, the right way!
If you are performing a movement consistently but poorly, you will only improve the movement in a poor fashion. Sure, you may be able to move quickly in your varied position or lift significant weight but there will be a point in time where your improvements will discontinue or you’ll start heading backwards if injury catches up with you. Exercise and movement has been a very heavily studied topic recently and lots of scientifically proven information has been provided to us and there are many reasons why we should be following these guides. ‘Just get out and get moving however you can’ is a great saying to get people a little more active, especially for those that are wanting to lose a little bit of weight but there has to be point where this basic strategy is not applicable.
If you have specific running goals, just getting out every now and then for a little shuffle is really not going to get you very far towards that goal – You would be better off identifying areas of concern, i.e. what is stopping you from achieving those goals (endurance, injury, technique) and addressing those deficits, rather than continuing your runs despite them. It is the same for those wanting to see improvements in their strength training at the gym, if you head into training and just tick along day in and day out, you will be very unlikely to achieve much improvement even over a long period of time. Instead you should ensure that your technique is improving and you are following a program that involves a principle called progressive overload, meaning that every time you approach an exercise you want to ensure that you are attempting an improvement from the time before either in the way of increased weight or an increase in time spent under the weight.
As I said, just getting out and getting moving is great advice for somebody who is very new to exercise or somebody who’s primary goal is to lose a lot of weight. But if you’re looking for a little more out of your workouts you would benefit from ‘finding your, why?’ which is to decipher why you are training, set some goals and program effectively, either by yourself or with the help of an exercise professional.
In today’s article, we are going to look into three different factors to consider when you are training to improve your body composition and just to look better in general. We will be exploring the theme of ‘spot reducing’, outlining the basic genetic structure of your body and give you some tips when building that six pack that you have been chasing!
Firstly; Spot reducing. Spot reducing is a term given to those who want to focus on losing weight in particular areas such as wanting to ‘tone’ their arms or lose a bit of weight off of their thighs. In the simplest of terms, doing hundreds of sit ups will not specifically burn belly fat and performing hundreds of push ups will not directly drop fat off of ‘tuckshop’ arms. When we exercise and burn fat, your body will decide where it feels the fat should be burnt from; it will not necessarily come from the area you are working on at that particular time. There is some evidence that spot reducing can occur with a combination of training whilst manipulating body temperature.. But that is a conversation for another day. For now, just know that the best way to burn body fat (from wherever you want it) is by following a healthy diet and performing workouts that focus on the big muscle groups (i.e. don’t try to isolate).
Genetic structure; One word you’ll often here aspiring bodybuilders shudder at, is the word, genetics. And unfortunately for most (fortunately for some) they play a large role in your overall look. For the sake of this article, we will just use your abs as an example. If you follow insta-famous models online or subscribe to fitness magazines, you will notice that they are all very muscular, they often have a very different mid-section.. For example, some are totally shredded but only display a 4-pack, some have eight abdominals on show but they are staggered and don’t line up evenly. Yes these people may train differently, but the way your abs look, ultimately come down to genetics! You can certainly build them and make them stand out but the overall shape has been pre-determined. Contrary to popular belief, we all have abs, many of us just don’t know what they look like.
The big question, how do we make our abs stand out? The resounding answer is…… Diet. The best way to unveil those abs, is to shed the fat covering them and the best way to burn fat is by sticking to a healthy eating plan. As far as training goes, a good mix of multi-joint free weight exercises (squats, deadlifts etc.) paired with abdominal activation exercises (leg raises, rollouts etc.) is the greatest way to develop a strong core as well as getting those abs to ‘pop’.