Thursday, May 31, 2012

Get Moving! Get Smart!

It’s common knowledge that physical exercise is good for our general health, but did you know there's another advantage to proper exercise and nutrition? It’s good for your brain.

Aerobic exercise increases the amount of oxygen in the blood and studies on rats have shown that neurons (the brain's nerve cells responsible for communication) operate better when they get more oxygen. So, if you think you’re going to get smarter sitting in front of your computer or watching television, think again.

Movement and exercise increase breathing and heart rate so that more blood flows to the brain, enhancing energy production. In fact studies have shown that moving your body can help:
If you want to give your brain a regular boost, any kind of exercise will help.  Even mild exercise, such as a daily walk or yoga can improve your brain health.

Knowledge of the effects of exercise on the body and mind continues to grow and in doing so, it helps to guide the development of new therapies to improve our general quality of life.  There seems to be little downside to a moderate aerobic exercise program; with the approval of your health professional, of course.

References from the SIRC Collection:

1. Archer S. Youth Exercise Contributes to Cognitive Development. IDEA Fitness Journal [serial online]. February 2012;9(2):76.
2. Brisk Walking Can Rebuild Your Brain. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter [serial online]. March 2007;25(1):1-2.
3. Don't Put Off Exercise--Put Off Alzheimer's Instead. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter [serial online].
4. Kleim J. Exercise and the Brain: Exciting discoveries underscore how exercise benefits brain health and boosts lifelong learning. IDEA Fitness Journal [serial online].
Studies: Physical exercise a good warm-up for learning. Pennsylvania Journal Of Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance [serial online].

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Warm up to Train at Your Peak

Everyone is aware of the importance of warming up to improve performance and prevent injury. There is good reason for this practice, because scientists have shown that warm muscles are flexible, resistant to tearing and can produce force more quickly.

One of the major problems facing today’s athletes is muscular injury, both recreational and professional. A well-formed warm up will prepare the athlete mentally and physically for the intense movement associated with training or competition.

Some benefits of a good warm up include:
  • Increased muscle temperature 
  • Increased body temperature and blood flow 
  • Reduction of muscle soreness and joint stiffness 
  • Improves range of motion (ROM) 
  • Promotes body relaxation and reduces emotional stress 
Some athletes advocate an efficient warm up while others believe it only tires you out and affects overall performance. Warm ups can tire you out if done improperly, try not to overdo it; a moderate 10 minute warm up is ideal and anything beyond that tends to be counter-productive.

Some excellent warm up exercises are the tried and true:
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Skipping
  • Walking Quad Stretch
  • Squats
A proper warm up can provide you with the needed flexibility to perform consistently from the beginning to the end of your competition and can reduce the chances of injury.  Remember to incorporate a few minutes to warm up at the start of your routine because this simple addition can make you a winner!

References from the SIRC Collection

1, ACL INJURY PREVENTION IN THE FEMALE ATHLETE: 3-STEP WARM-UP PROGRAM. Performance Conditioning Soccer [serial online]. February 2012;17(1):12-13.
2. A WARM WARM-UP. Journal Of Pure Power [serial online]. April 2007;2(2):11-13. 
3. Jee Won S. Do You Stretch Right?. Soccer Journal [serial online]. March 2011;56(2):62.
4. Swanson J. A Functional Approach to Warm-up and Flexibility. Strength & Conditioning Journal (Allen Press) [serial online].
5. Woods K, Bishop P, Jones E. Warm-Up and Stretching in the Prevention of Muscular Injury. Sports Medicine [serial online]. September 2007;37(12):1089-1099.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Running a Marathon? Keep Yourself Hydrated

It’s race weekend in Ottawa! Which means people of all ages and fitness levels will be hitting the road running and walking.  With the weekend looking like it's going to be a warm one, we all have to remember to take good care of our bodies, most importantly staying hydrated.

First of all, sweat contains electrolytes and the main electrolyte lost in sweat is sodium, although how much each individual loses through sweat varies from person to person. Electrolytes are ionic solutions (salts) that exist in the form of minerals.  They play a variety of important roles in the body and are mainly comprised of:
  • Calcium – which is essential for bone formation, aids in muscle contraction, blood clotting and the transmission of nerve impulses 
  • Magnesium - helps the body use glucose, assists in making protein and fat, and acts as a method for energy production 
  • Sodium – has the important function of helping to balance fluid levels in the body 
During prolonged workouts, especially in humid or hot conditions, sweating increases and electrolytes are lost, therefore making it harder to maintain fluid balance and can lead to dehydration.

Drinking only when thirsty will prevent over-consumption of fluids and is the safest way to hydrate during endurance exercise. Many runners believe that they need to “hyper-load” on fluids before race day. In reality, the body is not equipped to carry excess fluid and drinking too much during exercise can dilute the sodium content of blood to abnormally low levels which can cause hyponatremia.

Hyponatremia is an imbalance of water to salt in the body and can cause:
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue 
  • Muscle Spasms 
  • Vomiting 
The best course of action is not to blow by those first water stations when running a marathon, take the time to grab that paper cup and keep yourself consistently hydrated. This way you won’t dehydrate at the end of your run and lose out on performance.

So, all of you that will be running this weekend, have fun and keep drinking water!

References from the SIRC Collection

1. Anastasiou C, Kavouras S, Sidossis L, et al. Sodium Replacement and Plasma Sodium Drop During Exercise in the Heat When Fluid Intake Matches Fluid Loss. Journal Of Athletic Training [serial online].
2. Beltrami F, Hew-Butler T, Noakes T. Drinking policies and exercise-associated hyponatraemia: is anyone still promoting overdrinking?. British Journal Of Sports Medicine [serial online].
3. Clark N. Fluid Facts for Active Lifestyles. Palaestra [serial online]. Summer2007 2007;23(3):43-44.
4. Gibala M. DIET FOR SPORT PERFORMANCE & ACTIVE LIFESTYLE. Wellness Options [serial online]. 2005;(21):32-33.
5. Heaner M. To Salt or Not to Salt?: An update on sodium and how it affects health and exercise. IDEA Fitness Journal [serial online].
6. Webster S. do runners overhydrate on race day?. IDEA Fitness Journal [serial online]. November 2011;8(10):57.