Our Top 3 Tips to Increase Your Physical Activity

Most people do not meet the current weekly physical activity guidelines outlined by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The WHO encourages adults to engage in muscle strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days per week, and at least 150-300 minutes of moderate to intensity aerobic physical activity accumulated throughout the week. For many people, these recommendations can seem quite daunting, and it can be challenging to know where to start. What do we recommend? Our top 3 tips to increase your physical activity include:

  1. Participate in healthy hobbies
  2. Engage in exercise classes that you enjoy
  3. Join a team sport

Healthy Hobbies

Turn healthy into a hobby. One way to boost physical activity levels is to find hobbies that do it for you. Gardening, for example, is a great way to help your body get into positions that you’re probably not going to find yourself in throughout your day to day. Gardening acts as a fairly low intensity movement with little to no weight bearing activities involved. You’ll often find yourself kneeling and standing and getting your joints and legs to do a fair bit of work. Even better, there is a lot of bending over involved. This introduces low grade movement into our back and exposes us to varying degrees of motion. Add some pots of soil in there and you can start introducing some weight bearing activities into the (potting) mix.

Another great example is picking up a social activity like dancing. Dancing has the added bonus of being social that gets us moving in a more dynamic, aerobically demanding way. The cool thing is that you can vary the intensity by choosing different styles of dance. Salsa, country swing, and hip hop are some examples that will get the heart pumping!

Gardening

Keep it Classy

It can be easy to supplement a solid training program with some fun and enjoyable exercise classes. Classes such as yoga or pilates are great ways to get your body moving in ways that you’re not used to, but not only that, they are easily accessible to anyone. These classes can be physically challenging as they not only push you to move in new ways, but they also require a different level of focus to strength training. Many of our clients engage in exercise classes to complement their personal training sessions at Ivy Training. It’s no secret that we focus on strength training in our sessions, however we always encourage individuals find other physical activities they enjoy which can supplement their training.

Exercise Classes

Release Your Inner Athlete

When was the last time you participated in a team sport? A lot of you will likely murmur back in high school. Joining a local sporting club is another great way to get you moving in a social and interactive setting. Sports teams and clubs often have different grades, so don’t be afraid to enquire if you feel like your dribbling skills aren’t up to speed! Different sports also utilise varying levels of intensity, movement patterns and energy systems. Some activities are more fast paced and explosive and require rapid directional changes such as soccer, AFL or basketball. Whatever sport you choose, make sure that it fits with your lifestyle and that you enjoy the challenge. The Matildas definitely make it look like a lot of fun!

Matildas Soccer Team

Conclusion

Whether you are a highly active individual, or lead a fairly sedentary lifestyle, exposing yourself to activities that get you moving in ranges and in ways that we are not used to is highly beneficial. Think about a squat – the more we do it, the better we get at it and the stronger the movement becomes. The same can be said for any movement in any range. In fact, going against the norm and exposing yourself to unfamiliar movements not only has physical benefits, but can be highly motivating and mentally stimulating.

If you’re not already, one of the best things that you can do for your health is to jump under a barbell and lift some weights. That being said, we also like to encourage exposure to other forms of movement and exercise by trying out different forms of exercise. Keeping yourself active outside of regular weights training is really important as it not only helps to meet the recommended weekly activity guidelines, but also gives you exposure to new and different things. Engaging in physically demanding activities trains different energy systems and gets you moving in different ways that can translate to more effective strength training sessions in the gym. So, what are you waiting for? Start a new hobby, enrol in an exercise class, or join your local sporting club!

References

  1. World Health Organisation: Physical Activity

Do You Really Need to Stretch to Be Healthy?


It often seems like there’s a long list of healthy to-dos. Get 8 hours of sleep, eat your fruit and veggies, lift weights, take walks, and stretch before and after workouts. Don’t get us started on the trendy ‘hacks’ either! Who has time for apple-cider vinegar in the morning and cold showers. Overwhelming, right? I get that feeling. At Ivy Training, your time and effort matters. We believe it’s crucial to step back and assess which actions really impact health and are worth our focus. So today let’s unpack stretching and ask two questions:

  1. First, is being flexible important for injury prevention?
  2. Second, do we need to stretch or even be flexible in the first place?

Let’s dive right in.

Stretch the truth

In gym conversations, you’ll often hear, “Make sure you stretch beforehand to prevent injuries.” Defining flexibility, we consider it as the “intrinsic properties of body tissues that determine maximal joint range of motion without causing injury [1].” Another phrasing describes it as the “ability of skeletal muscle and tendon to lengthen [2].” The notion of preparing through stretching seems logical. However, like numerous long-standing fitness recommendations, it lacks undeniable evidence. The connection between flexibility and safety is tenuous. In this article, we won’t delve deep into this complex relationship. Just remember that “No clear relationship can be described between flexibility and injury that is applicable to all sports and levels of play”. While increased flexibility is important for performance in some sports that rely on extremes of motion for movement, decreased flexibility may actually increase economy of movement in sports which use only the mid portion of range of motion [2].”

Stretch is specific

We’ve got to give your body some credit. It’s smarter than you think. Muscles have viscoelastic properties. This means that they possess viscosity (resistance to deformation) and elasticity (ability to return to their original shape). These properties influence how muscles respond to external forces, like stretching during movement or contracting during muscle actions. This happens more or less outside of your conscious control. Moreover, strength and stretching are specific. Suffice to say, training movement itself develops the physical qualities we need. In fact, of course suiting our own bias, resistance training has been shown to improve flexibility as much as static stretching. A randomised control trial from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning showed “the results of this preliminary study suggest that carefully constructed full-range resistance training regimens can improve flexibility as well as the typical static stretching regimens employed in conditioning programs [3].”

Stretch your understanding

Very few things in fitness are black and white. It’s important to take a balanced view and understand where individual preferences come into play. Simply put, some people enjoy the feeling of stretching – we are all for it. However, setting time aside for stretching represents an opportunity cost. Regarding stretching as a recovery tool, a systematic review of randomised controlled trials states: “For now, recommendations on whether post-exercise stretching should be applied for the purposes of recovery are misleading, as the (insufficient) data that is available does not support those claims [4].” Simply put, we don’t recommend static stretching to better your health, reduce the incidence injury or improve recovery time. Quality nutrition, consistent sleep and a well balanced, thorough program addressing an individual’s particular needs will outperform the benefits of static stretching every time.

We hope you enjoyed this brief dive into stretching. If you’re looking to best use your time and resources to improve your health, you can contact us here.

References:

  1. Nuzzo JL. The Case for Retiring Flexibility as a Major Component of Physical Fitness. Sports Med. 2020 May;50(5):853-870. doi: 10.1007/s40279-019-01248-w. PMID: 31845202.
  2. Gleim GW, McHugh MP. Flexibility and its effects on sports injury and performance. Sports Med. 1997 Nov;24(5):289-99. doi: 10.2165/00007256-199724050-00001. PMID: 9368275.
  3. Morton SK, Whitehead JR, Brinkert RH, Caine DJ. Resistance training vs. static stretching: effects on flexibility and strength. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Dec;25(12):3391-8. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31821624aa. PMID: 21969080.
  4. Afonso, J., Clemente, F., Nakamura, F., Morouço, P., Sarmento, H., Inman, R., & Ramirez-Campillo, R. (2021, May 5). The Effectiveness of Post-exercise Stretching in Short-Term and Delayed Recovery of Strength, Range of Motion and Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Frontiers in Physiology, 12, Article 677581. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2021.677581