We've all heard that exercise is good for your mental health, and the age-old wisdom behind this statement holds truer than ever. Beyond its well documented physical benefits, regular physical activity plays a vital role in supporting and enhancing our mental wellbeing. In this blog, we will delve into five essential ways that exercise positively impacts our mental health, offering you even more reasons to lace up those runners and get moving. So, if you need some motivation to prioritise your physical health and mental wellness, read on to discover the powerful connections between exercise and mental wellbeing.
1. Improves Mood
One of the most immediate and noticeable benefits of exercise on mental health is its mood-boosting effects. When you engage in physical activity, your brain releases endorphins, which are often referred to as "feel good" hormones. These endorphins create a natural high, reducing stress and promoting a sense of happiness and relaxation. Regular exercise has been shown to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, making it a powerful tool for combating mood disorders.
2. Stimulates Creative and Flexible Thinking
Exercise is not only about physical fitness; it's also a workout for your brain. When you're active, your brain experiences increased blood flow and oxygen, which enhances cognitive function. This boost in brainpower can lead to more creative and flexible thinking. Whether you're tackling a complex problem at work or simply looking for creative inspiration, exercise can help you think outside the box and find new solutions to challenges.
3. Protects Cognitive Function
As we age, cognitive decline becomes a concern for many. However, regular exercise can serve as a powerful defense mechanism against age-related cognitive decline. Studies have shown that physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of conditions like Alzheimer's disease and dementia. This protective effect is due to exercise's ability to promote neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to adapt and reorganise itself, and the creation of new brain cells.
4. Aids in Decision Making and Planning
The ability to make sound decisions and plan effectively is a fundamental aspect of good mental health. Exercise can significantly enhance your cognitive function, allowing you to make better choices and organise your thoughts more effectively. This is particularly important in high-stress situations where clear thinking and efficient decision-making are crucial. Regular exercise can give you the mental edge you need to tackle life's challenges.
5. Boosts Memory and Recall
If you find yourself frequently forgetting names, appointments, or where you left your keys, exercise might be the solution you've been looking for. Physical activity has a positive impact on memory and recall. It stimulates the production of neurotrophic factors, which are essential for long-term memory. Furthermore, exercise increases the size of the hippocampus, a brain region associated with memory and learning. By engaging in regular exercise, you can sharpen your memory and boost your ability to recall information.
Incorporating exercise into your daily routine is a powerful and natural way to enhance your mental health. Not only does it improve your mood, stimulate creative thinking, and enhance and protect cognitive function, but it also aids in decision making, planning, and memory recall. The benefits of exercise extend far beyond physical fitness, making it an essential component of a holistic approach to mental wellbeing. So, the next time you're feeling stressed or struggling with a complex problem, consider taking a break and going for a run, walk, or weights session – your mind will thank you.
Feeling inspired to embrace exercise and start feeling the positive effects on your mental health as well as your physical. Come on down to Simply Stronger, where our exercise physiologists can help you to build an exercise plan that works for you. We work with you, taking a holistic approach to your health. Looking at not only what exercises will help to support your physical and mental wellbeing, but also how best to use this exercise to fit into your life. We are all unique and deserve an approach that support you as a whole person.
Today we herald in Women's Health Week and this year the theme is "Grow your knowledge". As such we thought we would start the campaign sharing with you four lesser known facts about women's health. The facts I have chosen to share are all lessons I have been surprised to learn about myself. They feel like they should be common knowledge, but somehow they aren't. Let's change that.
Menopause is a single day!
You read that right, menopause is a single day.
I had no idea. I honestly thought menopause was the whole time period when your hormones change, as you move out of your reproductive years. That period of time is actually perimenopause.
Perimenopause is the time where you still have cycles, but they are changing, becoming shorter and eventually less frequent leading to menopause. Being the day that marks 12 months since your last menstruation. Everything after this is referred to as post menopause.
Heart attacks can feel different!
While chest pain is the most common symptom experienced by both women and men experiencing a heart attack the pain experienced by women can also be present in the upper back, arms, neck and jaw. Rather than the crushing pressure commonly associated with a heart attack, women may have other non painful symptoms such as:
1 in 9 women live with Endometriosis!
Growing up we are led to believe that periods are painful and that this experience is normal. I always thought of myself as one of the lucky ones with very little discomfort during menstruation.
Periods can have many symptoms associated with them but pain shouldn't be one of them. This normalisation of painful periods by society and the medical profession can make it hard for people experiencing painful periods to be heard and believed. Did you know the average time it takes to be diagnosed with endometriosis is 6.5 years! 11% of our population live with this disease, yet it takes on average 6.5 years.
Well I can certainly believe that. A few years ago I began to experience painful periods along with excessive bleeding even after my period had ended. While I din't have endometriosis I have managed to grow a uterine fibroid. The first two delightful internal ultrasounds both found the solo fibroid but each time I was told it couldn't possibly be responsible for the symptoms I was reporting. Spoilers, it was. Painful periods are not normal, spread the word.
Period poops are a thing!
Yep, period poop is a thing.
I had no idea, knowing this was something I experienced but not really discussing it with anyone until I read in Maisie Hill's book Period Power that it is so common. Now I talk about it often, removing the taboo of talking about periods.
In the lead up to menstruation, prostaglandins stimulate the smooth muscle of the uterus to contract, helping it to shed the lining. These little prostaglandins can also stimulate the bowel creating and increased need to poop in the lead up and during menstruation.
The act of sitting and maintaining static postures for prolonged periods has become a common demand in many modern job environments. Evolution of technology has led to increasingly sedentary roles, resulting in individuals spending extensive hours seated at desks or workstations. Sure, this sedentary nature of work has its advantages in terms of productivity and focus. However, prolonged sitting can lead to issues such as muscle stiffness, poor circulation, and postural imbalances, which may contribute to discomfort and musculoskeletal problems over time.
In this blog we are going to show you six exercises that can help you to unwind the stiffness and reduced those muscle imbalance that come from holding any posture for an extended period.
While sitting for extended periods for work is for many of us a fact of life, it doesn't have to lead to aches and pains. Caring for your body regularly throughout the day with these six exercises and your body will thank you. If you're looking for some more exercises that are more specific to your posture book an appointment with one of our exercise physiologists and we'll help build you a routine that keeps you moving and feeling stronger and more comfortable in your posture.
We can even work with you remotely to develop a treatment plan to help you reach any goals you may have, whether that be improving your posture to feel strong rather than stiff and weak or to reduce any aches and pains you may be experiencing.
Did you know we can see you via Telehealth as well as face to face. Telehealth has proven to be a fantastic option to help our clients reach their health goals when coming into Simply Stronger is not the easiest option. As an added bonus we can visibly see your workspace (both at home and in the office) to develop plans of where and how you can complete exercises within your work day, and how to break up those long sitting periods. Helping you to get moving and feeling better in your body.
Challenging the concept of "Bad Posture"
Posture has been a topic of concern for generations, with many people associating it with health problems and physical discomfort. We have been taught to believe that "bad posture" can lead to a myriad of issues, from back pain to decreased lung capacity. However, it's time to question whether the concept of "bad posture" is an accurate representation of how our bodies function. In this blog, we'll explore the notion that there is no such thing as bad posture and how adopting a more holistic perspective on our body mechanics can lead to a healthier and more accepting approach to our physical selves.
The Myth of "Bad Posture"
The term "bad posture" implies that there is a correct, one-size-fits-all way of holding our bodies, but this idea oversimplifies the complexity of human anatomy. Each person's body is unique, and what might be considered "bad posture" for one individual could be completely normal and functional for another.
Our bodies are incredibly adaptable and more resilient than we think. They can adjust to various positions and movements, and adapt to the load they are exposed to. Rather than focusing on the rigid idea of "good or bad posture," it is essential to understand that our bodies are designed to move and change their alignment based on our activities and needs.
Embracing Diversity in Postures
The human body is not meant to be static or fixed in a single position. Our ancestors, who led a more active and varied lifestyle, did not have the luxury of ergonomically designed chairs or desks. They moved, squatted, and knelt in different postures throughout the day, which helped them build strength, flexibility, and resilience.
Today, we should strive to embrace this diversity of movement in our daily lives. Instead of obsessing over maintaining a supposedly "ideal posture," we should focus on incorporating more movement and variety into our routines. Whether it's through strength training, stretching, or regular breaks from sitting, giving our bodies the opportunity to experience different postures can promote a healthier musculoskeletal system.
Comfortable and Capable Posture
Instead of thinking about our posture as good or bad we should consider
You can begin by paying attention to how your body feels during various activities, this can help you recognise when we need to shift positions or take breaks. Holding certain postures for extended times is simply a fact of modern life. For some of us this can feel quite comfortable, for other however it can be tiring and lead to discomfort. In out next blog post we will explore six exercises to help you unwind a static posture. So make sure you're following us on Facebook and Instagram to keep up with all our tips over the month of August as we discuss posture all month long.
How much should I be doing?
The best starting point is to look at meeting the Australian Guidlines for Exercise and Physical Activity, which we have discussed previously. But a combination of both aerobic and resistance exercises throughout the week will be most beneficial for both immediate and long term management and control of diabetes.
The best thing about exercise, is that we don't need specialised equipment to get started. You can start with aerobic exercises like going out for a walk around a local park, or just around the block. For resistance training it can be exercises like squats, push ups and step ups. As Exercise Physiologist we can help you get moving and stay active with exercise programs that are designed specifically for you, taking into account of your unique goals and needs.
There are many ways you can see an EP at Simply Stronger.
There are many ways you can see an EP at Simply Stronger.
Your blood glucose level is the amount of sugar (glucose) present in your bloodstream. Glucose is the body's main source of energy and comes from the digestion of carbohydrates in our diet. It then gets transported through the blood to different parts of the body for energy production.
Having the right level of glucose in your blood is important for your overall health. Our bodies manage our blood glucose levels using hormones called insulin and glucagon, which are produced by the pancreas.
When our blood glucose levels are elevated insulin helps lower our levels by moving glucose from the blood into cells. Conversely when more glucose is needed within the blood glucagon raises releases stored glucose from the liver.
Normal blood glucose levels can vary, but typically, blood glucose levels will generally sit between 4.0 and 7.8mmol.L (millimoles per litre of blood).
Low blood glucose levels, known as hypoglycemia, can occur due to certain medications, underlying health issues or if it has simply been too long since consuming sugar. High blood glucose levels known as hyperglycemia is common in diabetes, where the body doesn't produce enough insulin or doesn't use it effectively resulting in high levels of blood glucose. Prolonged abnormal blood glucose levels can indicate conditions like diabetes, where cells do not react to insulin correctly or become resistant to insulin itself.
People with diabetes need to regularly monitor their blood glucose levels. To do this they can use a blood glucose meter which measures glucose levels from a small blood sample obtained by pricking a finger. Monitoring helps them manage their condition by helping them track the impact of diet, exercise, medications, and informed decisions about how to use these along with insulin dosage to keep their blood glucose under control.
Coming up next week we explain role exercise plays in managing your blood glucose levels.
In our previous blog we introduced Men’s Health Week's theme of healthy habits and why this is so important to Australian men today. In this blog we are going to dive deeper into a few healthy habits we can all implement, what they are and how to get started.
Healthy Habit 1 - Check Ups
A great way to get started is setting up a regular visit to a GP, now this visit does not need to be every month but having a general check-up each year is a positive step in taking more control of your health. It will allow men to have a better understanding of their health and what they can do to reduce the risk of chronic disease.
Healthy Habit 2 - Keeping Fresh
Small changes in our daily food intake can not only improve our physical health, but also our mental health too. As we mentioned in our previous blog, Australian men are not eating the required servings of fruits and vegetables on a regular basis. Setting up small changes of including more servings of fruits and vegetables into our meals will go a long way in creating healthier eating habits. As we have all heard before, “an apple a day, keeps the doctor away”.
Healthy Habit 3 - Keeping Active
Other healthy habits for us to consider is physical activity, again a majority of men in Australia are not meeting the national guidelines which in itself increase chronic disease risk. This reduced physical activity also negatively impacts the mental health of men in Australia too. Exercise has been proven to provide a major positive effect on mental health as well as our physical health. By starting to try and meet the national guidelines (discussed here) is another great step towards a healthier lifestyle.
As Exercise Physiologists our job is not just exercise prescription, but also education. Often that education involves finding ways to help our clients change their current habits, to try and include more of these healthy habits we've been discussing. We take the time in our sessions to get a better understanding of our clients goals, what motivates them and why, to ensure we set attainable goals together. An approach we have had great success with is setting smaller goals that lead towards our main goal. That way our goals don't look so far away, and we can start to build some really positive momentum towards our more long term goal, even when we do hit some speed bumps along the way, having these habits in place can keep us moving forwards.
As some of you may be aware, last year I tore my ACL and have been embarking on a long recovery back into playing sports. Now this rehab can take anywhere between 12-18 months and I can tell you that it has not been all smooth sailing for me. But being able to set up smaller goals all along this journey has helped me to stay committed to achieving this long term goal. I have felt like my goals have been progressing constantly throughout as I have achieved one after the other. Starting with simply being able to bend my knee, then being able to walk without any aid, walking pain-free, being able to squat, to jump, to run... etc. All of these successes has made it so I can see the progress and feel that sense of achievement on a consistent basis.
You might be thinking "Nick this is all well and good when you are achieving constantly, but what about when life gets in the way?"
And life will definitely get in the way at some point, it's as unavoidable as death and taxes. Throughout this journey of mine, things have absolutely gotten in the way, whether that be work, my social life, or even my knee itself. But having set twice weekly appointments with my own physio and exercise physiologists has helped me create some really positive habits around exercise and my rehab. Having someone there for me to help guide and support me through everything and set out a plan for me to follow has kept me on track. This has especially been the case when my knee has felt sore, swollen and to be honest absolutely shitty. Keeping up with this regular exercise, has allowed me not to go backwards, but to treat it for what it is a speed bump and come out of it feeling like I am still moving forwards.
Taking that first step.
The best first step that we can take is finding our reason to live a healthier lifestyle. It doesn't have to be to run a marathon, or break world records, it could just be to keep up with our kids and grandchildren, to not feel as stiff and sore after sitting at a desk all day, or just to feel healthier. Once we have this purpose for change, we can work backwards to set those smaller, more achievable goals to become a reality. As exercise physiologists we can help you develop those goals, create a plan with you to implement and support you in this process.
There are small changes we can start to make to improve our health and reduce the risk of developing chronic health disease. These changes can not only impact our life, but we can start to impact those around us. We can be a better role model to our children and grandchildren, to show them that these positive habits are important.
Once you have your reason come and see us at Simply Stronger and we'll help you make it a reality!
Why building healthy habits needs to be a priority for every male!
During the month of June we at Simply Stronger will be celebrating Men’s Health Week. This week is designed to encourage conversations with men and boys around men’s health, whilst also prompting them to take an active role in their health.
The theme of Men’s Health Week in 2023 is Healthy Habits. The idea is to educate and help men and boys to build healthy lifestyle habits that will protect their health long term.
Looking at the big picture of men's health.
In Australia, men have a lower life expectancy and a higher rate of chronic disease compared to women. In 2020 the leading cause of death in Australian men was coronary heart disease, dementia, and lung cancer. This is important for us to understand, especially when we look at the statistics around unhealthy habits in men.
Can We Change Habits?
The simple answer is, yes, of course you can!
However, changing these unhealthy habits is more easily said than done. Some of these unhealthy decisions have been engrained into individuals’ routines since they were young men, so they can be quite difficult to change. That is why it is important for men to know that they don't need to try and change these habits on their own. There are so many different health professionals available that are ready and willing to help, who have so much knowledge and understanding on the best ways to approach this with each individual.
So What's Stopping Us?
The unfortunate reality around this fact, is that men’s engagement with the healthcare system is often characterized by delayed access and shorter commitments to appointments. This can be due to the reduced desire to seek out assistance from others, including health professionals, as men are more likely to ask advice from family and friends concerning health issues.
This is why opening discussions around men’s health is so important in today’s world. We need to be open and aware of the impact an unhealthy lifestyle can have and of the help that is available to us. This will allow us to start moving towards a happier and healthier life.
So if you have questions around what healthy and unhealthy habits you might have, and how to start changing some of those negatives into positives. Its never too late to start having a conversion with the men around you, check in with them, you never know who else may have the same questions as you.
Our team of Exercise Physiologists are here to help guide you on this journey of change. Keep an eye out for our next blog that will go into more detail around the types of changes we can make, to start living with more healthy habits.
Exercise Physiology – More than just exercise prescription:
As exercise physiologists we often get asked many different questions about our profession both from clients, members of the public and even our family and friends. I can't tell you how many times I have been asked by my family "What exactly is an Exercise Physiologist?". Other than a long and confusing title, I like to explain that an EP is someone who uses exercise prescription to improve an individual's health, wellbeing and function. Like specialised personal training. That's the short version, the elevator pitch. With Exercise Right Week coming up this month, what better time to dive a little deeper and discuss what makes us as EPs different from other health professionals like PTs and physios, and what you can expect from seeing an EP at Simply Stronger.
Getting to know you
We take the time to get to know our clients, we want to know what makes them tick. By getting to know the ins and outs of our clients we can better understand the things they like about exercise, and the things they don't. We can figure out what impacts their ability to exercise both in a positive and negative way and then use this information to build a more personalised and achievable exercise plan. Sometimes our clients will have blocks they don't even realize that is limiting their activity. By obtaining as much information in the initial assessment as we can, we then tailor their plan to suite all of their needs.
Extensive exercise knowledge
Something that differentiates us from other health professionals is our extensive knowledge around exercise. Within our studies and training we focus deeply on how exercise can be prescribed , but also how it can be modified and changed to suite everyone’s needs. This means that any exercise can be changed to better fit the individual that walks in the door. At Simply Stronger you will often here us say "everything is modifiable" and it's true. We constantly tweak and adapt exercises to subtly or sometimes not so subtly change the goal and subsequent outcome of the exercise. This while used every day in face to face sessions, has also proven to be enormously beneficial when developing home exercise programs, travel programs and gym programs with various equipment.
The key to success
When you receive an exercise plan from us, it will involve all the specific details of your individualised exercise prescription. Explaining what exercises to complete, when and how, I think we can all agree is vital. However, the key to your success is understanding why. Why this exercise, why this prescription, what will this exercise do for you and your health?
We provide you with this education because when you have the context of why, you are so much more likely to complete your program. Without the why it has no context and no meaning, so why would you do it.
As exercise physiologists we also focus on a more holistic approach to our treatment and services. By doing this, we ensure that we understand what drives our clients to complete their exercises, while also having a true awareness of the challenges they face when it comes to completing exercise. We work together with our clients to develop goals that feel achievable and realistic to you, our clients.
As one of our clients recently stated “It’s the small and achievable goals that become habits”. Over the years this client has been attending Simply Stronger, she has found our consistent messaging and education has empowered her to both see and understand her progress.
We hope this gives you a little more insight to what an EP is and what we do for our clients. We would love it if you shared this with your friends because let's be honest, most people don't know who we are either.
Simply Stronger - here to make exercise simple. Understanding why you should exercise is a giant step towards wanting to exercise.