Exercising with arthritis

Do you suffer from arthritis?

The first thing to remember is that ‘Exercise is beneficial for people with arthritis’. Arthritis is a very general term which covers a multitude of conditions which affect joints and is frequently (but not always) linked to the body’s aging process.

If you have arthritis follow these simple guidelines to get the most benefit from your exercise:

  • Make sure your warmup is slow and gentle warm up with movement to mobilise your joints encouraging the release of synovial fluid to lubricate the whole joint more effectively.  It’s a bit like warming oil in a pan so it coats the whole pan surface.
  • Choose low impact activities to reduce the stress placed on the joint. Pilates, yoga, walking and swimming are all good.
  • Include strength training as studies have suggested it can decrease pain.  It also works to build bone density which encourages healthy joints. Simple exercises standing up can help build strength so don’t choose classes which are all mat based.
  • Try to maintain the range of movement and flexibility of a joint.  You may not become more flexible but should be able to maintain the movement range that you currently have.  (Without regular exercise you will gradually have less range of movement.)
  • Don’t exercise if you have rheumatoid arthritis and your joints feel warm and swollen. This is an indication of flare up and exercise at this time could worsen your condition.
  • Avoid movements which require extreme flexibility and stretching exercise techniques.
  • Avoid exercises which require kneeling if your knees are affected.
  • Avoid exercises which require repetitive stress or high impact activity such as road running.

By following these simple guidelines you’ll be able to gain all the benefits of regular exercise enabling you to keep ‘fit for life for all of your life’.


5 Adaptations your exercise plan needs once you are over 50

5 Adaptations your exercise plan needs once you are over 50

As your body ages, exercise is essential to keep it functioning at its best for the whole of your life,  keeping you active into old age.  The problem is that as your body ages it becomes less able to handle rigorous exercise, more prone to injury and less able to recover.  The good news is that with a few modifications you can continue to exercise whatever your age.

Age is ‘just a number’ so it’s difficult to be precise about when to start modifying your exercise programme to take account of the aging process.  Bear in mind that, for example, most people over the age of 40 will show some degeneration in the spine.  With a few key adaptations you can reduce the risk of injury and achieve an effective workout to keep you ‘fit for life for all of your life’.

A Longer warm up
Age related changes are seen in all tissues. The heart and cardiovascular system is no exception. The heart cannot pump as efficiently, the maximum heart rate is slower and it recovers more slowly.  Take account of this by warming up for longer, reducing the intensity of your exercise, monitoring your heart rate and allow a longer cooling down period.

Steps to avoid cramp
No one knows the details of what causes cramp, but we do know scenarios which will affect the likelihood of cramp.  Cramp has a variety of causes for all people including being new to exercise.  Older people have a reduced tolerance to muscle fatigue and associated blood acidity which leads to cramp.  More effort is needed to achieve movement due to the decrease in amount of muscle tissue.  This leads to an increase in levels of lactic acid which can cause cramp.  Compounding this effect is the fact that the body is less able to tolerate acidity as it get older.  Cramp is also linked to dehydration.  The body holds less water as it ages making cramp more likely.  Ensure you drink plenty of water.

More specific joint mobilisation
Age related changes show within the joints with less synovial fluid being released as well as the fluid becoming less effective in lubricating the joints.  Joint mobilisation can encourage the release of the synovial fluid and this is essential prior to exercise so the joints move more easily.

Focus on deeper breathing
While our lungs remain able to hold the same amount of air on each breath throughout our lives the amount of air that we breathe in and out on a regular breath cycle decreases.  This effects the level of oxygen in our blood and therefore our ability to exercise.  It’s important to take deep breaths to increase the available oxygen which enters the lungs on each inhalation. Start off with a few deep inhalations and include them in your cool down too to speed up recovery.

Less extreme movement
Changes occur in the cartilage and connective tissues of all joints reducing the range of movement and causing stiffness, especially in the mornings.  As the cartilage thins between the intervertebral discs in the spine its shock absorbing ability is reduced.   This will have an effect if you take part in high impact exercise such as running. Less elasticity within connective tissue make movements such as sitting cross legged more difficult. Movements to avoid include: those which move any joint beyond normal range, those with extreme flexion (leaning forward) and extension (leaning back) and using poor posture particularly when carrying heavy weight.

For more information do get in touch.  I am happy to help you get started on an exercise programme and to adapt your current programme to make it more suitable.

How do you cope with life?

Chatting with Kimberley, a colleague at The Studio Warwick, over coffee last week we came to realise that her real skill is in helping people cope with life. I’ve talked with many of you about the ups and downs of life over the years and it occurred to me that you might find Kimberley’s skills useful. Her own experience and the variety of training that she has undertaken gives her a better understanding than many people in this area. As a result she has a number of strategies she can share to help you manage common problems associated with today’s society. These problems take many forms, such as stress, emotional overeating, comfort eating, lack of confidence, worrying about little things, being unable to relax, sleeping problems or just feeling lost.

Kimberley can help you with any of these feelings using techniques as varied as coaching, counselling, self-defence and exercise.

She works most days including weekends and early mornings so do get in touch to see how she could help you.
Kimberley is based in Warwick but does work using Skype so she can help people who are not in her local area.
Contact Kimberley: kwarwick@hotmail.co.uk

HIIT Pilates – What is it and should you be doing it?

The latest fitness trend to be big in the UK is HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training.  Everyone is doing it, teaching it, and apparently loving it.  Last week I saw HIIT Pilates classes using Pilates equipment to gain the high intensity workouts.  My reaction to that was simply WHY?  Pilates and HIIT are two different regimes with different aims.  I don’t believe they mix at all.Pilates is a fabulous fitness programme which tones specific areas, encourages the correct muscle engagement, uses breath, focus and concentration to achieve great posture, alignment and muscle balance.
Pilates can be practised as rehabilitation post-surgery or as an exercise programme to help with arthritis or other chronic conditions.
Pilates concentrates on small, slow, controlled movements to train the body to engage the correct muscles for everyday movement and strengthen them where they are weak.
Pilates is suitable for almost everybody.
Pilates is NOT intended to be an aerobic work-out.  It will not improve your stamina nor enable you to lift heavy weights
HIIT on the other hand is targeted to improve your stamina and dynamic fitness, a completely different aim.
So, is HIIT something you should be doing as well?
That depends on the benefit you are seeking to gain and how much effort you are prepared and able to put in to achieve it.
If you are healthy, enjoy pushing yourself to meet new physical challenges and are looking to increase strength and cardiovascular capacity it could definitely help you.  If you are an athlete or sportsman looking to improve your performance then HIIT could be a beneficial part of your program, as could a bio-mechanics program and regular Pilates classes.
On the other hand, remember that it is high intensity exercise. If you have any medical history which precludes pushing your heart rate up this is not for you.  If you have joint pain or disease it could aggravate it.  If you do not use correct technique it is easy to pick up injuries.  And finally remember that it’s not the only exercise programme which delivers results, a gentler progressive programme may suit you better.
Don’t follow the latest trend because it is promoted in the glossy magazines with celebrity endorsements, choose a programme that gives you the benefits you are looking for.
HIIT Pilates is ‘HIIT’ using Pilates equipment.  It is not Pilates in any shape or form. Don’t be confused.

Post Operative Advice

This week I have spent quite a bit of time with clients who are back home following surgery or other treatment and needing more support than the NHS can offer.
It seems (in the areas I cover) that with reduction in health service budgets there is less funding for post operative physio and follow up care.
For the clients I have seen this week my input has been invaluable and I feel that I have made a real difference to their recovery time.

The first client is recovering from a hip replacement. The prescribed exercises were hard to follow as his leg was extremely swollen. Following a discussion covering the recovery to date I assessed that it was appropriate to try Manual Lymphatic Drainage to see if the swelling was due to excess fluid. This was successful and enabled the client to resume the exercise programme.

The second client is undergoing chemotherapy as a preventative measure post abdominal surgery.  He was keen to start exercising again and to prevent joints becoming stiff through inactivity.  I took this client through an exercise programme to loosen all the main joints and encourage circulation.  The aim in this case is to do enough exercise to give a benefit but without tiring the client too much.  This will be an on going programme throughout the chemotherapy treatment and the exercise will vary depending on the clients level of energy.

The third client was referred to me by a local GP.  The client was suffering from back pain which had no specific cause.  An MRI scan showed the average wear and tear to be expected by a person in their 50’s but no structural damage.  I assessed the biomechanic function of the pelvis and tested the muscle activation achieved through movement.  As a result of these results I prescribed three simple exercises to try at home and suggested regular attendance at one of my small ‘SELECT’ classes where individual care is given in a class setting.

Many conditions can be helped by specific exercise or massage therapy so do consider this when looking for solutions to pain or for help in recovery from illness and surgery.

Fit for what? An event or for life in general?

Are you aiming to be Fit for a specific event? Fit because it’s good for you?  OR, Fit so you can be active for the whole of your life?

It’s a question I have found myself pondering for a long while and one which has changed my approach to fitness in recent years.

There are several reasons that lead people to join a gym or a class and a several more that prevent people from keeping it up on a permanent basis. To benefit from exercise it must be for life, not just for a few months or in the ‘post-Christmas diet’ weeks.

The question then is what type of exercise can you keep up on a permanent basis? The answer to that question depends on your aim. If you are booked to run a marathon the exercise should be a specific programme ensuring you are in the best physical shape for that event. If you feel that being fit is ‘good for you’ give some thought to exactly what you mean by that phrase. Do you mean keeping your heart healthy, keeping muscles toned, controlling weight gain or simply an all over general fitness? Or would you like to give your body the best chance of keeping you active for the whole of your life?

In recent years I have changed my approach to exercise. I have undertaken extensive training to help those with back pain, arthritis, restricted mobility and other chronic conditions continue to exercise. The results have been amazing and for some life changing. It has made me realise that an exercise programme which aims to keep you active for the whole of your life can be easy to follow and enjoyable as well as beneficial. It is not looking to get you to a high level of fitness where there is a risk of injury. It is not offering any exercises which put unnecessary strain on the joints. It is simply keeping your body in the optimum condition possible while taking account of its current state.

Many of my clients walk, cycle, ride, look after children or are simply busy. In this way they already get a reasonable amount of cardiovascular work. It may be at a low level but it’s done on a regular basis week in week out. What I offer is a complimenting exercise programme to enable them to lead an active life for the rest of their lives.

Key aims are:
Keeping joints mobile
Correcting muscle imbalances
Building a strong core
Maintaining a healthy back
Preventing the deterioration of balance
Ensuring muscles can stretch to optimum lengths.

To take part in a this type of class you won’t need gym clothing and you probably won’t get hot and sweaty. You will benefit from feeling that your body moves more freely, your back aches less, your joints have more range and you will feel more stable when you take part in other activities or sports. You will also benefit from the shared knowledge of what to expect as your body gets older and what you can do to keep reduce the effect of aging process on muscles joints and bones.

Remember that this is general advice. If you have a specific condition I recommend that you book a one to one session first so I can assess the best way to help you.



New Google Calendar Link

Thinking about trying a Pilates based class or one to one session?  The Studio Norfolk offers a mix of techniques picking the most effective pilates exercises, combining them with bio mechanic muscle spasm releases and classic back pain exercises.  This gives a class which will increase mobility through the joints, strengthen the back and core muscles, improve balance and help you be ‘functionally fitter’. For more information do get in touch


The updated calendar can be seen here

Osteoporosis – A simple guide

Osteoporosis: a simplified explanation

What is it?
Osteoporosis is a weakening of bones which can lead to an increased risk of fracture

Who is at risk?
You are at risk if you: are menopausal, have a family history, have broken a bone, are of slim build, if you endurance train, do not eat properly, smoke, are a heavy drinker, are underweight, are inactive.

Signs to look out for
Osteoporosis itself has no symptoms but a fall is more likely to result in a fracture.
As it progresses you will lose height, and develop a hunch as your thoracic spine curves.

What can you do about it?
Undertake specific exercise to strengthen muscle and improve bone strength
Practice falls prevention, train in balance
Make your diet healthy with moderate alcohol intake
Do not smoke.

Current guidelines for test results for the T score:
Normal: -1 to 1
Starting to weaken (normal for age): -1 to -2.5
Osteoporosis: below -2.5

Prescriptive Exercise

EXERCISE CORRECTLY Have you been to a physio recently? Or  have you seen an Osteopath? Do you have exercises to do at home? Are you doing them correctly and gaining maximum benefit?

Most people do not exercise correctly and so not get the full benefit I recently received some training from an experienced osteopath.  He suggested that many people given exercises by physios or osteopaths, don’t do them correctly.  They don’t exercise often enough or for long enough, and they use poor technique.  This results in a longer period of pain, more visits to specialists and often no answer at the end of it. The most effective way to exercise a specific muscle is with supervision by a professional who understands your condition and the exercise required to improve it.  Anne at the Studio is one of these professionals. This is where one to one sessions are ideal, allowing you the time with this specialist to talk through and practise the exercises you need to do on a daily or weekly basis.

Arthritis Exercise can be hugely beneficial for arthritic joints provided it is carefully monitored.  Mobility and strength work must be within your normal range of movement. 

Back Pain90% of back pain is described as ‘non specific’ as there is no specific cause and no medical treatment can be offered other than pain relief.   Exercise can help manage and considerably reduce levels of pain.

Knee Pain Knee pain has a variety of causes including injury and degeneration.  Exercise can strengthen the joint to give better stability for excellent long term results.

8 Reasons Why you should cut down on sugar

SUGAR – Why you should avoid it
This week sugar and the negative effect it has on our bodies has featured in several news articles so here are the facts that you need to bear in mind when reviewing your sugar intake:
Firstly, in really simple terms: Sugar can play havoc with your weight, hormones, energy, and give you tooth decay. Eating sugar offers you ’empty’ calories – i.e. no benefit and lots of potential for harm. Therefore you should be looking to reduce your sugar intake.
When you shop, look at the labels of everything you buy. Sugar can be found in a surprising array of foods. Be especially careful when buying breakfast cereal and processed food such as ready prepared meals, including soups or cooking sauces since these often contain unexpectedly high levels of sugar.

Run through the list of negative effects below to remind yourself of why you should be avoiding sugar:
1. Consuming sugar makes your blood sugar levels rise quickly. The pancreas is stimulated, it produces insulin to stabilise the blood sugar levels. Insulin is known to promote the storage of fat so more sugar = more insulin = more fat stored.
2. The high level of insulin production not only encourages the body to store fat, but is the main risk factor in diabetes.
3. H igh blood sugar levels damage artery walls, making it easier for cholesterol and fat to build up. This causes heart disease and high blood pressure.
4. A raised insulin level affects the immune system lowering resistance to disease.
5. Sugar puts stress on the kidneys and can interfere with absorption of some essential minerals. This can contribute to osteoporosis.
6. Sugar can cause free radical formation in the blood, this causes damage to each cell in your body. It speeds up the ageing process which you’ll see as wrinkles. Some studies have suggested that it also speeds the deterioration of brain cells and contributes to dementia.
7. Sugar can increase fermentation during the digestion process causing bloating.
8. Since insulin is a hormone it is an intrinsic part of the body’s hormonal balance. Abnormal variations in that balance are known to cause fatigue, depression, weight gain, fluid retention, and so on. 

For all these reasons cut down on sugar and enjoy better health