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Older adults may benefit from a vitamin D, exercise combo

In the physio press recently I read with interest about a study that found…

“a combination od resistance exercises and vitamin D supplements may boost adults’ muscle strength more effectively than exercise alone”.

The study said that the vitamin D supplement on its own didn’t appear to boost muscle strength, but for those in the study who did both exercise and took the supplement, their muscle strength improved significantly…more than those who just did the exercise.

However, the report does go on to say that more research is needed before firm conclusions can be made, but if you think it may be of benefit to you, I would suggest you talk to your GP and get their advice.

The study was published in: BMJ Open 2017 dot 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-014619


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Warming up in the cold

As the weather gets colder I wanted to remind everyone of the importance of warming up properly before you play, especially when the temperature drops.

As we get older, the circulation to our hands and feet becomes less efficient. Also, our muscles, tendons and ligaments can get less flexible and so, to help prevent injury, we need to warm up before playing by increasing the blood flow to them. You can do this, at a minimum, by gently jogging or running on the spot for 5-10 minutes. Once warmed up, ideally you will keep warm by wearing suitable gear that keeps your core body temperature warm. If not, and your core cools, your body will automatically divert blood from your extremities to you core…not ideal when you’re trying to run and hold a racket.

For more information I would recommend you read my information sheet on “Prevent injury in cold weather‘ on the website under Books and Free Downloads.

Stay warm and enjoy your winter tennis.

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How to stay healthy and active

Those of you that read this blog are most likely already playing sport, keeping active and so, hopefully, staying healthy. However, I read this article on our physiotherapy website and thought it would be good advice that you could pass on to your less active friends.

I hope you find it useful…

“Keeping active as we get older is vital if we are to remain healthy and independent.

Use it or lose it, so the saying goes.

Your body changes as you grow older and it’s vital to keep active if you want to stay healthy and independent. Otherwise, much of what you enjoy – perhaps gardening, playing golf or simply getting out and about – becomes that much harder. 

Bones and muscles

Over the years, bones tend to lose their density, making them more prone to injury, particularly if the bone-thinning condition called osteoporosis develops. Muscles might also lose some of their strength and flexibility, which could lead to problems with moving about, and particularly with balance. But the good news is that by following some simple, healthy living advice about exercise and diet you can help keep your bones, joints and muscles strong and healthy.


As you age, your heart rate might slow or your heart could become enlarged, making it harder for it to function well. At the same time, changes to blood vessels can lead to raised blood pressure and other conditions. Again, by keeping active and eating a healthy nutritious diet, low in salt and saturated fat, you can help to avoid, or at least minimise, these problems – and continue to lead a full independent life into older age.


It’s important to avoid being overweight at any age. As you grow older though, changes in the way your body deals with food, together with a less active lifestyle, might make weight gain more likely. This can place extra strain on your bones, muscles and heart and could also put you at risk of conditions such as Type 2 diabetes. By keeping physically active and following a low-fat diet, however, you can lose weight if you need to and also ensure that you stay fit and in good shape.

How can I help myself?

Fortunately, one of the most important things you can do is also one of the simplest: make regular physical activity part of your daily routine. Regular exercise helps maintain a healthy weight. It promotes strong bones and muscles and flexible joints. It also lowers your blood pressure and helps keep your arteries in good shape, contributing to a healthy heart and good circulation.

And the benefits are not just physical: keeping active also helps to combat anxiety, depression and isolation, particularly activities that involve other people, such as dancing, golf or bowls. Exercise helps you sleep, and also keeps the brain more alert – all necessary for the processes that your body has to deal with day to day, such as healing, learning and using your memory.

Physiotherapy can help you to deal with many of the problems you might experience as time goes on.”

You can be referred to a physiotherapist by your GP. If you have an existing medical condition that may affect your ability to exercise, it is always better to get advice form an appropriate health care professional such as a physiotherapist.

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What causes delayed muscle soreness after exercise and training

I read an article about muscle soreness post exercise, and particularly the soreness you get around 48 hours after exercise in our physiotherapy news email. It was reported on the  Huffington Post website, 2 August, and thought I would show you the article. It is important to understanding the different in pain due to muscle damage and pain due to an increase use of muscle fibres for  prevention of further injury or inappropriate treatment.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS): Why You Get It And What It Really Means For Your Training…And why it’s at its worst 48 hours after working out.

Aching muscles following the days after your workout usually leaves you in two minds.You’re either smug that you obviously worked hard enough for your muscles to ache, or you’re in so much pain that you refuse to do another squat for weeks.

But that muscle soreness and tightness you experience – usually up to 48 hours after exercise – has a proper term: delayed onset muscle soreness or ‘DOMS’

But that’s nothing to worry about as Professor Phil Glasgow of Ulster University School of Sport and GB Rio 2016′s chief physiotherapy officer, explained.

Glasgow said researchers have known for a long time that DOMS is caused by eccentric, lengthening muscle contractions. So, if you take a simple bicep curl, the eccentric (or lengthening) contraction is the part of the exercise when you lower the weight back down again. “You only get sore from the lowering down movement,” Glasgow explained. “Things like running down hills or lowering things – that’s what leaves you sore, it’s not the contraction.”

DOMS is also caused by the intensity of the workout, so the heavier the weight (and the longer the lengthening of the muscle), the more likely you’ll experience it. 

If you do non-impact exercises, such as cycling, you won’t experience DOMS – probably just a slight muscle fatigue. 

What is happening to our body and why is the pain delayed?

Changing your exercise routine – by working with a heavier weight or increasing the volume of our exercise (including going to the gym for the first time in a while) – will cause short-term damage to your muscles. This muscle damage gets observed almost immediately after exercise and it sparks of a “cascade” of events within the muscle. And then it all gets a bit science-y.

“Certain chemicals cause a protest where muscles break down,” said Glasgow. “That releases substances that irritate nerve endings and cause pain. It’s a complex process that gives an immediate reduction in strength but a delayed pain and soreness usually 48 hours after.

“In that sense, there’s little you can do to prevent it from happening once the process has started.”  Through this process our body gets used to the new volume of exercise, and it becomes the new norm – establishing a new ‘base’ level of fitness. 

“Our body is very good at adapting and responding to this delayed muscle soreness. Most people going to the gym for the first time in a while will experience soreness the next few days, but the next time they go they won’t be as sore.” explained Glasgow.

Continue working out at that intensity and frequency and it’s unlikely you’ll get DOMS again.

Is getting DOMS ever a bad thing?

Glasgow said there’s been a lot of research into the various types of exercise, how it affects DOMS and how people managed it.

“DOMS is not a serious thing at all,” he said. “It’s short-lived and most people should be fine within a week – certainly 10 days.  We recommend working on a level that gives you a little bit of DOMS so your body can adapt and gradually increase in strength in the most affective way. We then learn how to recruit muscle more effectively and our body learns the efficient way to do activity that causes less damage.” 

There’s little you can do to prevent it from happening once the process has started.

How can we treat DOMS?

The soreness in our muscles might not be a bad thing, but that doesn’t stop it from hurting. Glasgow advises against taking anti-inflammatory medication or ibuprofen because despite reducing the pain, they work to reduce the muscle’s ability to adapt.

Common treatment options include ice baths, compression clothes and staying active at a moderate level.

“Doing some form of activity is a positive thing,” said Glasgow. “Many studies have shown you won’t cause additional damage or excessive levels of soreness. There is no problem continuing to do exercise, but always just use the common moderate level rather than interval training.” 

Some people are more prone to DOMs than others, and the greatest protection is a progressive programme of training.

Always work out responsibly and make sure you increase the intensity of your workouts gradually. If you’re still in pain after 10 days, seek medical help. 

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Are sports compression gear worth wearing?

I have to say that I  haven’t ever worn compression sports clothing but have always been interested in whether they are effective in aiding performance, speeding up post exercise recovery or injury prevention. So, when I saw an article in ‘Coach Magazine’ comparing the views of a sports physiotherapist, a running coach and a spokesperson for 2XU, a brand that sells compression gear who also works at the Australian Institute for Sport, I thought it worth communicating the results to you.

Basically, James Broach from 2XU says “yes it works, recent research has reported compression to be effective in improving exercise performance and muscle recovery, though the exact mechanisms are not entirely known, these benefits are thought to be associated with improved circulation and body awareness, reduced muscle swelling and/or feelings of fatigue and soreness”.

Roger Kerry, physiotherapist, says “some scientific evidence supports a perceived reduction in post-exercise comfort and a small reduction in recovery time with compression socks use during and after 24 hours following exercise”. However, he “does not believe there is any evidence that it improves performance or reduces injury and that any therapeutic effects are most likely psychological rather than physiological”.

Ed Kerry, running coach says “there have been studies that have shown slight enhancements in runners’ aerobic threshold, in my opinion there isn’t enough improvement for me to wear such garments”. However, “recovery is where I would be more inclined to wear compression tights. I have found that this aids my recovery to allow for higher milage the next day”.

So there you have it. Just one thing to say, if you do give it a go, make sure you have correctly fitting garments … if they are too tight they may compromise your circulation which will definitely not aid recovery!!

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Taking a 10 minute walking break eases driving pain

I thought it worth telling you about the findings of researches from Imperial College, Loughborough Uni and Nottingham Trent Uni who looked at the best ways to relieve pain from long periods of driving as most of us will be travelling around in our cars this summer.

We feel discomfort or pain following periods of sitting because of increased pressure on compressed body parts and decreased blood flow to parts of the body.

“In this research participants took part in a driving simulation– which included the vibration of a car on a typical urban journey – for two hours with a ten-minute break midway through.

Each participant tried each of the comfort break methods.

They provided ratings of their discomfort at regular intervals along the way.

One group just remained seated, while the others went for a ten minute stroll on a treadmill.

It was found that a stroll of ten minutes after a one hour drive prevented feeling discomfort for a further hour.

This compared to just ten minutes for those who stopped the vehicle and remained seated.

The researchers, writing in Applied Ergonomics, said that many factors contribute to discomfort during long car journeys including vibration, uncomfortable upholstery or cushions, and poor seat design.

While the benefits of breaks for tiredness and safety are well-documented, the researchers say they are also vital in terms of driver comfort.

Professor Neil Mansfield, Head of Engineering at Nottingham Trent University said: ‘Drivers should plan breaks at regular intervals in order to reduce discomfort during and at the end of their journey.’

He added: ‘When drivers stop at service stations they undertake a range of different activities. Some stay in their seats and take the opportunity to use their phones or devices, while others may choose to walk to a nearby café and sit with a coffee for a few minutes.

‘We have shown that getting out of the vehicle and taking a walk is the most effective method for relieving driver discomfort. Maybe drivers should rethink where they choose to park at service stations, as a longer walk across the car park is beneficial.’

Taking a walk is also advised for people on long flights – researchers have found this also relieves discomfort more than just sitting in your seat and eating and drinking.”

So I for one will be parking further away from the service station facilities and enjoying a walk. It sounds obvious really but I  hadn’t really thought about it before. have a great summer and safe travels.

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Is exercise harder post menopause?

This blog is obviously aimed at the lady readers but I thought it is always helpful for everyone to understand what happens to our bodies at different stages in our life.

I have often come across women who have suffered weight gain and lack of motivation to exercise post menopause. The report that I read, written by Dr Vieira-Potter from University of Missouri, describes the problem as…’

‘For many women, working out is completely different after menopause hits.

They feel lethargic, unmotivated, and don’t get the same buzz from a run or a zumba class as they did before.’

The team at the University of Missouri has identified a link between ovarian hormones and dopamine levels in the brain, which make exercise feel so good. In the paper they reported…

‘We found that the decrease in physical activity that leads to weight gain may be caused by changes in brain activity.’

 The menopause, which tends to strike by the early 50s, can cause mood swings, depression and anxiety.

In many cases, it affects a woman’s drive to move, and many women gain weight during this time.  

To examine this side effect, Dr Vieira-Potter’s study tracked the physical activity of rats – some that were physically fit and some that were not.

First they monitored their fitness levels and the level of activity in the pleasure center of their brains.

Then they removed their ovaries to mimic the effects of menopause, when women stop producing estrogen in such significant quantities.

Both groups – no matter how physically active they were before – showed dramatic reductions in their motivation to run on a running wheel.

All of the rats also experienced a drop in the amount of dopamine in the pleasure centre of their brain.

It suggests the hormonal changes experienced during menopause could impact on the brain, and that could be the process that hampers physical activity.’

Whilst it would be a dramatic step to start taking drugs to counter-effect this drop in dopamine, at least by understanding the changes happening in the body post menopause, it can help us formulate appropriate exercise programmes to continue to help maintain health and fitness with a different ‘buzz’ to encourage exercise. Keep on exercising ladies, it’s so worth it so please find what makes you buzz!


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Exercise shown to boost brain power for the over-50s

A comprehensive review of all available evidence regarding exercise boosting brain power in the over 50s has been complied and reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine 2017.

It reports that ‘the combination of aerobic and resistance exercise can significantly boost the brain power of the over-50s irrespective of the current state of an individual’s brain health. But to reap the benefits, moderately intensive activity, using both types of exercise for at least 45 minutes on as many days of the week as possible is required, conclude the authors.’

Most sports  require the body to work aerobically and with muscle power so an exercise programme that includes both is not only good for your sporting performance but also for your brain power…a win win!!

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Study shows exercise keeps dementia at bay.

Some of you may seen this report in the papers this week, but for those who haven@t I thought it worth posting on my blog. the report states:

‘Just 45 minutes of intensive exercise a day is the key to keeping dementia at bay, a new study shows.

Running, walking, yoga and tai chi have all been shown to “significantly” boost brain power in the over 50s. But experts say almost any exercise leaving you breathless helps with the benefits evident irrespective of the current state of someone’s brain health.

Research by a team of respected Australian scientists confirm what is good for the heart is also good for the brain. 

The team behind the remarkable findings said evidence was strong enough to recommend prescribing certain exercises to improve cognitive function.

Professor Joseph Northey, of the University of Canberra Research Institute for Sport and Exercise, said: “The findings suggest an exercise programme with components of both aerobic and resistance-type training, of at least moderate intensity and at least 45 minutes per session, on as many days of the week as possible, is beneficial to cognitive function in adults aged over 50.”

Yet again science tells us of the importance of not only general exercise but the mixture of exercise. So try to incorporate  aerobic  and strengthen exercises too into your exercise plan. The two together have huge health benefits. Have fun and stay healthy.

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Exercise can slow the ageing process!

In previous blogs I have talked about ‘teleomeres’. These are a protective cap at each end of each chromosome.

Throughout our lives, our telomeres shorten, covering a smaller amount of the chromosome causing our cells to age and weaken.

Many scientists  believe some people are born with naturally longer telomeres, and that they may be destined to live longer as a result, basically because their cells do not weaken and age as quickly.

A study, published in  Science Advances, was carried out by a number of institutions in Belgium, found

increased levels of an enzyme that causes telomeres to lengthen following 45 minutes of cycling.

This means that chromosomes – and the DNA inside them – would be better protected and therefore defends them from weakening over time.

Even though it was a small study, it certainly excites me to know that intense aerobic exercise could slow down the ageing process, as the new study claims.

Need an excuse to go to the gym…this is a good one!


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