Post by Emily White
As we all know, too much of anything can be a bad thing. Your fitness and training regime is no exception. Over training or more specifically under recovering is common amongst athletes but is now also becoming more prevalent amongst us ‘average Joes’.
Often we are told that static stretching is the best way to warm up prior to training or exercise and a way to loosen our muscles up and prevent injury. But how much truth is there behind this practice? Recent studies have suggested that static stretching can actually have the potential to reduce performance (1) and that dynamic stretching is a much more valuable practice pre-training.
Post by Emily White
The benefits of exercise are infinite. Not only do you feel better through the release of endorphins, you can most definitely end up looking better. Many people are of the belief that if they want to shed those extra kilos and be feeling their best, spending hours per week hitting the pavement is the best way to do so. I will admit I was guilty of this- running anywhere from 5 to 10km most days, battling shin splints and other injuries, as I truly thought that was the most efficient course of action. This however has been proven to not be entirely true.
Post by Emily White
We are constantly told that some form of exercise is crucial for the prevention of a wide range of disease and will benefit cardiovascular health considerably. But how much is too much? Many studies are now in fact suggesting that long term; excessive endurance physical activity could in fact be doing more harm than good.
Post by Emily White
You are right in the middle of a gym program, which is going great, and you haven’t missed a day yet. Then all of a sudden you get struck down with a cold or flu and you are left with the common debate. Whether you push through it and ‘sweat it out’ or rest up and let your body recover. So what is the best option?
Post by Emily White
You hear it time and time again, if you are trying to lose fat, the cardio room in the gym is your best bet. Many women avoid weights because they don’t want to get bulky. This is quite possibly the biggest misconception when it comes to the gym. Men find it hard enough to put on size and they have the testosterone levels to support that muscle growth. Women just simply were never designed to be ‘bulky’ and therefore as a woman a normal strength training routine is not going to be sufficient to do so. For example, a study published in the European Journal of applied physiology showed a group of women undergo a 20-week heavy resistance weight-training program focusing on the lower extremities. After the twenty weeks, there was a decrease in body fat percentage, an increase in lean body mass, but no overall change in thigh girth (1).
By Matt Foreman
We have all heard it before that performing low-intensity cardiovascular exercise in a fasted state will utilise fat stores and cause greater fat loss. But this may not be the case after all. Schoenfeld, Aragon, Wilborn, Krieger and Sonmez (1) decided to put this to the test in a lab setting.
By Cliff Harvey ND
I have back pain. Chronic, annoying, sometimes debilitating back pain. I always figured it was from years of weight lifting and competitive martial arts. But my journey over the years through various diagnoses and treatments had me questioning the solely physical basis for any chronic pain. So what really causes our back pain?
Back pain affects around ¼ of people according to United States national surveys (Deyo, Mirza, & Martin, 2006) but the cause of back pain is still poorly understood. Within a mechanistic model we could make an a priori assumption that the causes are physical dysfunction or injury and this assumption also defines the diagnostic-to-treatment pathway for low back pain which commonly involves referals from a general practitioner to a physiotherapist to a back surgeon or specialist involving various tests along the way.
The challenge within this model of diagnosis and treatment is that there appears to be no firm causal link between the mere presence of spinal pathology (nor its absence) and back pain. A systematic review in Spine concluded that there is indeed no firm evidence for the presence or absence of a causal relationship between radiographic findings (such as disc space narrowing, osteophytes, sclerosis, spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis, spina bifida, transitional vertebrae, spondylosis, and Scheuermann's disease) and nonspecific low back pain (van Tulder, Assendelft, Koes, & Bouter, 1997). Further MRI discovery of bulges or protrusions may be coincidental due to the large amount of people without pain who exhibit the very same spinal anomalies (Jensen et al., 1994). In his 1992 paper in Current Orthopaedic Practice Dr Alf Nachemson states “Rarely are diagnoses scientifically valid, nor is the effectiveness of surgery proven by acceptable clinical trials.” (Nachemson, 1992)
Notwithstanding this intravertebral disk degeneration is a weak predictor of low-back pain in young adults (Salminen, Erkintalo , Laine, & Pentti, 1995), but this statistical correlation does not help the practitioner, nor patient to understand what is actually causing their back pain as there are large numbers of people who exhibit pain with pathology, and large numbers exhibiting pain without pathology.
It is well known that psychological variables (such as pain related to fear) worsen pain (Peters, Vlaeyen, & Weber, 2005). Cohort evidence suggests that low back pain disability is strongly predicted by psychosocial variables and the structural variables (as shown by MRI and discography testing) have only a weak association with back pain episodes and no association with disability or future medical care (Carragee, Alamin, Miller, & Carragee, 2005). A systematic review of prospective cohort studies featuring 20 publications concluded “Psychological factors (notably distress, depressive mood, and somatization) are implicated in the transition to chronic low back pain.” The authors go on to suggest that the development and testing of new clinical diagnostics and interventions taking into account these factors and that there is a need to clarify further the role of psychological factors, especially coping strategies and fear avoidance, in low back pain (Pincus, Burton, Vogel, & Field, 2002).
Serious pathology (such as a fracture) in which we would expect to see resultant back pain is exceedingly rare, accounting for less than 1% of cases of low back pain (Henschke et al., 2009).
Psychosocial factors may be beginning to be further elucidated, at least in a corrolary fashion by neuroimaging evidence suggesting that inappropriate cortical representation of proprioception may falsely signal incongruence between motor intention and movement, resulting in pain in a similar way that incongruence between vestibular and visual sensation may result in motion sickness (Harris, 1999). Others imply that chronic back pain is accompanied by brain atrophy and suggest that the pathophysiology of chronic pain includes thalamocortical processes (Apkarian et al., 2004).
A hypothesis suggested by some is that there is a ‘tension syndrome’ or compartment syndromes (Peck, Nicholls, Beard, & Allen, 1986) present that may help to explain the cause of idiopathic low back pain and that for which we believe (perhaps mistakenly) that there is a physical pathology, and that this may also have a psyco-emotional or psycho-social/psychospiritual basis.
This tension could be related to stress, or a self-limiting belief structure that is attempting to reduce further harm, potential injury or limiting a perceived threat activity, which indeed may or may not be dangerous at all.
There is clinical case series evidence suggesting that this indeed the case and that when people are aware of the reality that back pain may not be a physical dysfunction, but indeed may be simply a stress-tension or psychoneurophysiological inhibition that it may abate. There is scope within this to extend physical therapy into psychological or mind-body therapy modalities if this is indeed the case.
Apkarian, A. V., Sosa, Y., Sonty, S., Levy, R. M., Harden, R. N., Parrish, T. B., & Gitelman, D. R. (2004). Chronic Back Pain Is Associated with Decreased Prefrontal and Thalamic Gray Matter Density. The Journal of Neuroscience, 24(46), 10410-10415. doi: 10.1523/jneurosci.2541-04.2004
Carragee, E. J., Alamin, T. F., Miller, J. L., & Carragee, J. M. (2005). Discographic, MRI and psychosocial determinants of low back pain disability and remission: a prospective study in subjects with benign persistent back pain. The Spine Journal, 5(1), 24-35. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.spinee.2004.05.250
Deyo, R. A., Mirza, S. K., & Martin, B. I. (2006). Back Pain Prevalence and Visit Rates: Estimates From U.S. National Surveys, 2002. Spine, 31(23), 2724-2727 2710.1097/2701.brs.0000244618.0000206877.cd.
Harris, A. J. (1999). Cortical origin of pathological pain. The Lancet, 354(9188), 1464-1466. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(99)05003-5
Henschke, N., Maher, C. G., Refshauge, K. M., Herbert, R. D., Cumming, R. G., Bleasel, J., . . . McAuley, J. H. (2009). Prevalence of and screening for serious spinal pathology in patients presenting to primary care settings with acute low back pain. Arthritis & Rheumatism, 60(10), 3072-3080. doi: 10.1002/art.24853
Nachemson, A. L. (1992). Newest Knowledge of Low Back Pain A Critical Look. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, 279, 8-20.
Peck, D., Nicholls, P. J., Beard, C., & Allen, J. R. (1986). Are There Compartment Syndromes in Some Patients with Idiopathic Back Pain? Spine, 11(5), 468-475.
Peters, M. L., Vlaeyen, J. W. S., & Weber, W. E. J. (2005). The joint contribution of physical pathology, pain-related fear and catastrophizing to chronic back pain disability. Pain, 113(1–2), 45-50. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pain.2004.09.033
Pincus, T., Burton, A. K., Vogel, S., & Field, A. P. (2002). A Systematic Review of Psychological Factors as Predictors of Chronicity/Disability in Prospective Cohorts of Low Back Pain. Spine, 27(5), E109-E120.
Salminen, J. J., Erkintalo , M., Laine, M., & Pentti, J. (1995). Low Back Pain in the Young A Prospective Three-Year Follow-up Study of Subjects With and Without Low Back Pain. Spine, 20(19), 2101-2107.
van Tulder, M. W., Assendelft, W. J., Koes, B. W., & Bouter, L. M. (1997). Spinal radiographic findings and nonspecific low back pain. A systematic review of observational studies. Spine (Phila Pa 1976), 22(4), 427-434.
I started working as a nutritionist (initially as a student practitioner) back in the late 90’s. At the time I loved strength and ‘physical culture’ in all its forms…including bodybuilding. In fact I still think bodybuilding of the type epitomised by Bill Pearl, John Grimek and other ‘pre-steroid era’ bodybuilders is awesome. These guys were true physical culturists. They lived and breathed the pursuit of strength and health, and the way they looked was a consequence of this. Over time the aesthetic became pre-eminent, and as any athlete is tempted to do, means to improve more rapidly (primarily anabolic steroids) became more and more rampant.