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Kayaking – recreational paddling from a Physio’s perspective
Getting into Exercise
It’s all happened to us, even from the most innocuous of activities: picking up my keys. Does our body really start to fall apart as we age?
I just jumped in my car, and as I went to grab the door handle with keys in hand, I dropped my keys. While seated, I twisted and bent over to pick them up – then I felt it – a tiny twinge in my lower spine. Not enough to hurt, but just enough to let me know I’d done something bad down there.
Not thinking anything of it, I drove away, the twinge becoming pain and then acute pain. I drove myself to a physio. By the time I got there, I couldn’t get out of the car without assistance. I had ruptured a lumbar disc.
I’m not alone. Lots of friends have told me similar stories – doing something simple, and then twang – something happens. Generally it’s shrugged off with the statement “this is what happens at our age. Your body starts to fall apart.”
“The age” is mid-30s. The thing is, I heard the same when I turned 40. And I’m sure I’ll hear it again when I turn 50.
There is some truth to it. Your muscles do start to change in your 30s, says Professor Alan Hayes, a muscle and exercise physiologist at Victoria University.
“You have … peak muscle mass in mid-20s and certainly after that point, by about your mid-30s, they start to decline.
“But if you’re that age and just blaming your body, that’s a bit of a cop out.”
James Fell, a sports scientist at the University of Tasmania, says there’s probably no reason to attribute such muscular niggles to age until your 50s.
Professor Hayes thinks it’s even higher: “I don’t think you should do that until you’re in your 70s.”
So if I can’t blame my age, why does it feel like my body is about to fall apart?
Life stage and lifestyle
In short, a lot of it is due to activity — or lack thereof.
“There’s no doubt that the sedentary lifestyle aspect is a major contributor to the injuries that we’re going to sustain,” Professor Hayes says.
When you sit at a desk for hours on end, for instance, your hip flexor muscles, which connect your spine, pelvis and upper legs, remain constantly shortened, Dr Fell says.
“And then you get up out of your chair and expect them to function normally, and you injure them or other associated structures.”
With being sedentary comes a greater risk of obesity. Fat can work its way between muscle fibres, further decreasing strength, and into bone.
The “your body falls apart in your 30s” idea probably also has something to do with that particular life stage, Bond University sports scientist Peter Reaburn says.
Are you over the age of 40 and feel like your body is telling you something? What do you do to keep fit and moving? Do you incorporate resistance training? We’d love to know!
If you’re unsure about what to do, or whether your body is ready to start something knew like lifting weights – then feel free to give us a call or book in for an assessment. You can book on-line HERE, or call us on 1300 842 850. We’ll make sure you don’t fall apart.
If you have been to a Physiotherapist before, there is a good chance you have been prescribed a muscle self-release (Usually performed with a ball) or a muscle stretch of some kind as homework. At Barefoot Physiotherapy, both are prescribed, and for slightly different reasons. Below, we will go through the benefits of Self-Releases vs Stretching and when each are appropriate.
Benefits of both self-releases and stretching:
- Decrease in tension/discomfort in the muscle
- Potential to lengthen the muscle and increase joint range of motion
- Enhance performance
- Can improve motor control
- Can improve posture
The main prescription differences Self-Releases vs Stretching:
- Nerves have the potential to be irritated with stretching. This is why if a client has any neural irritation, we avoid prescribing stretching until that neural irritation has been cleared. This decreases the chance of aggravating any nerves, and consequently speeds up the client’s recovery.
- General tight muscles vs. “knots”. A lot of tight muscles have palpable “knots or trigger points” in them. These are in certain areas and not throughout the entire muscle. To target these, muscle releases (With a ball, pocket physio or foam roller) are more effective than stretching the entire muscles. The mechanism of benefit is similar to that of a therapeutic massage, and relies on pressure to the muscle to relieve tension and increase efficiency of the muscle fibres.
- Stretching on the other hand can be a more effective prescription if the client has an entire muscle group that is notably tight.
- Studies have shown athletic performance benefits when dynamic stretching is used prior to competition.Although there are minimal (if any) studies examining muscle releases immediately prior to athletic performance, we propose that daily muscle releases are also beneficial to performance.
- Performing regular muscle releases can decrease muscle tension and “knots”, and therefore likely benefit athletic performance, similar to stretching.
It is important to understand the benefits and risks of muscle Self-Releases vs Stretching so they can be used safely and effectively. If you have any questions about Self-Releases vs Stretching with your specific exercise program or training regime, ask you physiotherapist or contact us at Barefoot Physiotherapy 🙂
Our friends at Amber Tree Yoga also have a regular release class worth checking out.