All strength to Ukraine 🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦
Clutter - does it mess with your mind?
"If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?", said Albert Einstein.
There is a link between messiness and mental health. At least, that's Tik Tok has popularised. I guess Albert Einstein isn't popular on Tik Tok.
If a test could tell you if you were likely to get dementia, would you take it? I'd probably not - see item #2.
I'm sceptical of exercise fads. But when I checked the research about Nordic Walking, I was surprised at what I found - see item #1.
⭑ Does Nordic Walking really improve your balance? I found the facts ✔
⭑ Tests can predict your incurable diseases - do you really want to know? ✔
⭑ Not exercising isn't always the best answer for back pain. Research ✔
⭑ These hip stretching and strengthening exercises can reduce lower back pain ✔
01 Nordic Walking Better Than Walking - Fad or Fact?
While Nordic Walking, as practised in Nordic nations, is a challenging exercise, I've regarded the popularisation of it elsewhere as more of a fad.
I recently read a claim in the New York Times that Nordic Walking (NW) is a fabulous exercise to help improve balance. How could that be, given that the poles support you when otherwise your body and brain would be working in coordination to support you and improve your balance?
A quick search on Pubmed revealed a long research trail going back decades. The evidence shows that compared to normal walking NW requires more energy, stimulates more muscles, improves upper body strength, and improves balance!
What this means for you: Nordic Walking increases energy expenditure by an average of 20% and significantly improves cardiovascular fitness compared to regular walking at the same speed.
Balance and stability are improved indirectly by the use of the poles, as follows:
- They encourage upright posture and proper body alignment;
- engages the core muscles to a greater extent than regular walking
- The poles provide additional sensory feedback through the hands and arms, which can help with proprioception – the body's sense of its own position in space. This additional feedback can enhance balance control.
- The rhythmic movement of the poles can also aid in coordination, which is an important aspect of balance
While it's true that the poles provide external support, they do not necessarily reduce the development of balance.
⇒ Instead, they can help to train and enhance balance by engaging more muscles, improving body mechanics, and providing additional sensory feedback. Over time, this can improve balance even when not using poles.
PS If you are tempted to use heavier poles to get even more benefits from NW then take note of this 2010 study, which found:
"Heavier poles do not affect energy expenditure compared to normal-weight poles but increase muscular activity. However, since there are no physiological and biomechanical parameters benefits, we do not recommend using heavier poles for Nordic walking."
02 To Know Or Not To Know - Having An Incurable Disease
A new test can detect protein levels of beta-amyloid which causes premature cell death of brain neurons. This is a cause of dementia.
But knowing this doesn’t currently offer any hope of changing the outcome for dementia (although breakthrough drugs are on the way, e.g. lecanemab and donanemab).
For example, genetic tests can predict breast, ovarian, prostate, and pancreatic cancer. All without cures. Would you want to know or not know?
⇒ Generally speaking, I would prefer not to know. But of course, it is a deeply personal choice.
I TALKED WITH A PSYCHIC when I was told I had aggressive prostate cancer and a life expectancy of five years (in 2012). I asked him how long he thought I would live and he offered to tell me. Then he said, "But before I tell you, think about whether you really want to know."
He said some people later regretted knowing and that you can’t unknow what you know. I thought for a minute. Then I passed.
What this means for you: If we think about dementia, the advent of genetic testing has brought us face-to-face with a challenging question: If you could know early that you're likely to develop dementia, would you want to?
Pros of Knowing Early:
- Preparation: Early knowledge allows you to plan for the future while you're still able to make decisions. This can include financial planning, healthcare decisions, and discussions with family about your wishes.
- Lifestyle Adjustments: You can make lifestyle changes that may help slow the progression of the disease, such as regular exercise, a healthy diet, mental stimulation, and social engagement.
- Research Opportunities: You may be eligible to participate in clinical trials for new dementia treatments.
Cons of Knowing Early:
- Psychological Impact: The knowledge can lead to anxiety, depression, or a sense of hopelessness.
- Social Stigma: There can be negative social implications, including discrimination or changes in how others perceive you.
- Uncertain Timeline: Dementia can take years to manifest, and the uncertainty can be stressful.
On the other hand, not knowing but consistently focusing on your health and exercise will give you the best chance of living longer better - no matter what.
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03 Surprisingly, Lower Back Pain Is Reduced By Exercise
Globally, lower back pain is a leading cause of days lost from work and, even more critically, a leading cause of discomfort in people's daily lives.
In cases where the cause is non-specific, and there are no dangerous underlying causes, one of the most successful treatments is not continued rest, but exercise.
This is counter-intuitive as movement often causes discomfort. The key is to start slowly and to do exercises that improve overall support rather than target specific pain-points.
⇒ A 2020 study found that specific core stability exercises delivered quantitative improvements in lower pain intensity, lower disability level, hip muscle flexibility, balance ability, and improved quality of life for people with non-specific lower back pain.
What this means for you: A combination of core stability exercises and hip muscle stretching exercises could improve your quality of life if you suffer from non-specific lower back pain.
See the next item for my effective hip stretching and hip strengthening exercises.
Caveats to bear in mind, as I read the study, are that (1) it had a relatively small sample size, with a total of 66 participants, and had a dropout rate of 12%, (2) the duration was limited to 6 weeks, and the long-term effects of the interventions beyond this timeframe are unknown, (3) the outcomes were measured based on self-report questionnaires and subjective assessments, which may be subject to bias.
04 Reduce Back Pain - Hip Stretch and Strengthening Exercises
Our exercise of the week is... two easy exercise sets that have been found to reduce lower back pain.
These exercises also contribute to better balance and stability, reducing the risk of falls, which is particularly important as we age.
⇒ Try combining these with Nordic Walking; you'll feel like a new person in 6 months!
What this means for you: Here are some simple and effective exercises you can do at home to stretch and strengthen your hip muscles. For the best results, do these 3 times a week.
Hip Stretch Exercises for Maximal Motion
Seated Butterfly Stretch (video)
- Sit on the floor with your back straight.
- Bring the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to fall out to the sides.
- Hold your feet or ankles and gently push your knees down with your elbows. You should feel a stretch in your inner thighs.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds, then release. Repeat 3-5 times.
Hip Flexor Stretch (video)
- Kneel on one knee, with the other foot flat on the floor in front of you, knee bent.
- Lean forward, stretching your hip toward the floor.
- Squeeze your buttocks to stretch your hip flexor. You should feel a stretch from the front of your hip and possibly down the front of your thigh.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds, then switch sides. Repeat 3-5 times.
Hip Strengthening Exercises for Maximal Isometric Contraction
Standing Hip Abduction (video)
- Stand straight and hold onto a chair or wall for balance.
- On one leg, lift your toes to lock out your knee
- Slowly lift the leg to the side, keeping your back and both legs straight. Don't lean to the opposite side.
- Hold the position for a few seconds, then slowly lower your leg.
- Do 10-15 repetitions, then switch sides. Repeat 2-3 times.
Glute Bridge (video)
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms by your sides.
- Squeeze your buttocks and lift your hips off the floor until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
- Hold the position for a few seconds, then slowly lower your hips.
- Do 10-15 repetitions. Repeat 2-3 times.
Remember, listening to your body and not pushing beyond your comfort level is essential. If any exercise causes pain, stop doing it.
Thanks for reading!
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>> My Latest Blog Post: Energise Your Golden Years: Boosting Your Desire to Exercise with Gut-Healthy Foods
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