Does Exercise Really Make you Happy?

By Tara Hackney, PT, DPT, OCS, KTTP for Athletico Physical Therapy

We’ve all heard it before, exercise makes people happy! The runner’s high – that feeling of happiness that keeps people running and training for marathons. That special energy you get after working out in a group or alone. Even the movie Legally Blonde references happiness from exercise endorphins! But is it real or just a myth?

How does exercise make you happy?

One aspect of life that can greatly impact your overall sense of happiness and well-being is stress. Stress can dampen your mood and lead to increased risk of illness. There is good news: Exercise is one of the best ways to combat stress!

According to research, exercise has many benefits including decreased risk of depression, improved health status and improved reports of happiness. Concurrently, a sedentary lifestyle has been associated with many poor health outcomes.

When we exercise, the body releases chemicals that boost your sense of well-being and suppress hormones that cause stress and anxiety. Among the chemicals released are endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine neurotransmitters which are related to pain and depression emotions. Exercise also reduces hormone activity of adrenalin and cortisol which promote feelings of anxiety and tension.

How much exercise do we need for these benefits?

You do not need to participate in demanding physical activity to reap the benefits of exercise. Walking, stretching and low-level strength training can all be effective in combating stress and anxiety. Studies have shown that more physical activity throughout the day has been linked to individuals who report feeling happier.

Easy Ways to Increase Physical Activity Throughout Your Day

  • Park in the back of the parking lot so you have to walk further to the store
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Take your dog for a walk
  • Search your area for local bike trails, kayak locations or hiking paths
  • Take a day trip to a local park for a walk
  • Go for a family bike ride
  • Take breaks when working at a computer by getting up to walk the hallway
  • Find a workout partner
  • Walk up and down the sidelines of your children’s sporting games instead of sitting in the bleachers.
  • Walk the golf course instead of driving a cart

Physical activity is a great way to decrease stress and improve your overall mood and happiness. The key point of doing more physical activity is to find something you enjoy!

If you would like to learn more from an Athletico physical therapist, click here to request an appointment!

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There’s A Lot We Don’t Know About Baseball and Softball Injuries

By Dev Mishra, M.D., President, Sideline Sports Doc, Clinical Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Stanford University

Key Points:

  • There are likely many factors involved in shoulder and elbow injuries for young throwers
  • The available data suggests that there are steps a young thrower can take now to minimize risk.
  • These steps include: play less than 8 months out of the year; play more than one sport; maintain shoulder motion as close to the non-throwing shoulder as possible; and improve lower extremity and core strength

I’m still thinking back on a recently published study of MRI abnormalities in young baseball players. I wrote about this in a blog post and noted that in this small study 100% of the players had an abnormal shoulder MRI scan if they were single sport athletes and played more than 8 months out of the year. Sure, a larger study will likely show a different percentage but it still should give us all reason to ask: why does this happen?  And why did 74% of young players report some arm pain during play in another study? Is this just the new normal, the physical price paid to play the sport? The data are compelling and a bit scary, but still it’s not easy to connect the dots and identify specific causes of problems. There’s a lot we still don’t know.

There is a lot of outstanding research taking place now, attempting to answer the question: “why”. We’ll likely find that there are several factors that can conspire together to create injury risk, loss of performance, and loss of sport enjoyment. I’d like to highlight a few excellent studies recently published in the journal Sports Health.

Here’s an excellent study that starts to define what the normal pitching motion should look like in a young pitcher. The authors defined ranges for the normal shoulder rotation and elbow load and found interestingly that loads are actually less for curveballs compared to fastballs, and yet current pitching recommendations suggest avoidance of curveballs until around age 14. The culprit may actually be abnormal lower extremity and trunk mechanics in the young pitcher. Possible solutions: lower extremity and core strength should be a conditioning focus for the young thrower.

In another study the authors did a retrospective analysis of previously published data and found that shoulder rotational deficits correlated with risk of shoulder and elbow injuries in early adulthood. These authors feel that with the onset of puberty and the accelerated growth in the young body, it seems that repetitive overhead activity leads to changes in bone shape. Once the young thrower is finished growing the continued repetitive stress in throwing is transmitted to the soft tissues. Possible solution: improve shoulder, elbow, and trunk range of motion with a program such as the Yokohama Baseball-9.Sideline Sports Doc Logo

These and other studies point to the fact that there are multiple factors involved in creating the recipe for upper extremity injury. There’s a lot we still don’t fully understand. But there are reasonable steps any young thrower can take right now to reduce injury risk and maximize sport performance and enjoyment. Play less than 8 months in a year and play more than one sport. Keep shoulder motion as close to the non-throwing shoulder as possible, and keep lower extremity and core strength up.

Stay Safe and Perform Better – ACL Prevention Program

ACL

A couple weeks ago, I got the chance to dust off my golf clubs and go to the driving range. I hit 100 golf balls with four different clubs, and all of them went the same distance. I know that isn’t how it’s supposed to work, but hey, I never said I was good at golf. I just have the dream of hitting a hole in one, so I looked up the odds and it is about a one in 3,500 chance. Given that I can’t hit the ball like a pro, or even a good amateur, my dream will probably never happen, but I’m always going to prepare for the day by striking the ball whenever I get a chance.

From an odds standpoint, one in 3,500 is about .02 percent, which is a long shot, but accounts for approximately 100,000 people this year in the United States. These odds are the same as the possibility of tearing your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). For the same reasons I go out year after year and practice hoping for a par, I’d encourage you to make a small effort to work on lowering your chances of tearing an ACL with an ACL prevention program.

ACL prevention programs have been created and mixed into teams warm-ups, cool downs and off-season lift programs and have been shown to be helpful. Research shows 75 to 85 percent less ACL injuries happen when athletes are on an ACL program. Programs are usually three-times per week and take about 30 to 45 minutes to perform or, in my experience, about 15 to 20 minutes of additional work onto the normal warm-up and cool down of a team sport. It’s no guarantee that you won’t tear your ACL, but if you can practice for your sport to get better, why not make a small investment in making sure you can potentially avoid a nine- to 12-month rehabilitation process, too?

A simple ACL program looks something like this:

  • Warm-up
  • Jogging – Two minutes forward, two minutes backward and two minutes of side shuffling
  • Stretching – Thirty seconds on each of these muscle groups:
    • Calf
    • Quad
    • Hamstring
    • Groin
    • Glute
    • Hip flexor

This should look similar to a basic high school gym class warm-up.

Agility Drills – During agility drills, look to maintain your balance. Have your knee stay behind your toes and do not allow your knee to sway toward the opposite side of your body.

  • Bend over and touch a ball on the ground in front of you 10 times.
  • Balance on one leg in a mini squat for 60 to 90 seconds while dribbling a basketball, playing catch or trying to kicking a soccer ball.

At this point, we added approximately five minutes to your warm-up, and you should be ready to perform your normal practice, pick-up game or workout.

Strength Portion – After your workout, perform strength exercises that reinforce proper mechanics of jumping and landing and help you control your body while you’re tired. Most injuries happen to people when they are tired or near the end of a game because they lose focus on controlling their body.

During this strength portion, you should be looking to stay focused, keep your knees from going toward each other during the landing and land softly and on the balls of your feet.

  • Squat jumps with two second hold at the landing 10 times
  • Tuck jumps 20 times
  • Lateral jumps 10 times each side
  • Lunge 10 times each side
  • Plank two times for 30 seconds front and each side

Cool Down – Perform your normal cool down or a nice foam rolling session.

An ACL prevention program doesn’t guarantee you won’t tear your ACL any more than me hitting the driving range three times per week to help fix my golf swing will guarantee me a hole in one, but it doesn’t mean I’m not going to go out and try. I encourage you to take a few extra minutes to help prevent an ACL injury, and I hope your extra work is fruitful to your sports performance and ACL injury prevention.

By: Bryce Vorters, M.S., ATC, LAT. Bryce is the head athletic trainer with NovaCare Rehabilitation 

Is It Bad to Eat Before Bed? Nutritionists Answer

Here’s how it goes: Whether it’s going straight from work to a workout class or to an after-work event, you’re running around all day. You’ve been eating in between the busy moments when you can, but by the time you get home, it’s late at night, you’re physically drained from your day, and you’re hungry as hell. I’ve been there one too many times. Eating late at night is never ideal, but sometimes it feels like you don’t have a choice, especially when you live a fast-paced lifestyle. No one wants to count sheep until they fall asleep dreaming of food only to wake up hangry. So what do you do?

There have been conflicting studies on whether or not eating before bed has the ability to boost your metabolism or if it increases your caloric intake and can make you gain weight. The line is blurred when it comes to eating before bed, so we decided to seek counsel from the pros who know best. Summer Sanders, raw-food chef, holistic health coach, and author of Raw + Radiant, along with Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, nutritionist, and founder and director of Real Nutrition, cracked the code on nighttime eating.

Common Workout Myths

By Tara Hackney, PT, DPT, OCS, KTTP for Athletico Physical Therapy

truth about workout myths

Fitness and workout tips are everywhere: They can be found in magazines, TV shows, online articles, and even come within advice from friends. However, each tip seems to be different – sometimes even a contradiction of a different piece of health advice. To help you sort the fact from the fiction, read below to learn some common workout myths and truths that can help you have better, healthier and safer workouts.

1. Myth: Cardio Burns the Most Calories

Truth: If you want to burn more calories overall, and keep burning it after your workout is over, weight training needs to be incorporated into your routine. Weight training or strength training has been shown to keep you burning calories afterward due to post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).2 Cardio exercise is needed to keep your heart healthy, but if calorie burn is your goal, don’t forget the resistance training.1,2

2. Myth: Stretching Is Best Before Working Out

Truth: Warming up with cardio before a workout is much more effective than stretching. It will get your blood flowing and warm up your muscles, which helps to prevent injury.3 A short burst of cardiovascular exercise such as riding a bike for five minutes or jogging in place is an easy way to start a work out. Dynamic stretching is good before a workout as well. Dynamic stretching is also known as “active stretching” where the muscle is being moved through its range and usually this is a range needed for the activity after the warm-up. Static stretching, which refers to when a stretch is held in place for a short amount of time, is better for improving flexibility and may be more beneficial after a workout.3

3. Myth: Weight Lifting Will Bulk You Up

Truth: Many people wrongly assume that lifting weights will make you bulk up, which they may not be interested in. Lifting either light weights or heavier weights can result in increased strength and muscle endurance.4 The idea of “bulking up,” such as bodybuilders do, is achieved usually through hours of lifting coupled with a diet designed to build muscle mass. The average person may see benefits of lifting like feeling stronger and looking more toned.

4. Myth: It’s Too Late/I’m Too Old To Get In Shape

Truth: It’s never too late to begin a healthier routine. There is no age limit on the body’s ability to gain strength. If you don’t exercise at all, start by walking 5 to 10 minutes a day, gradually increasing the time and adding in strength training as your tolerance increases.

5. Myth: You Need A Gym Membership To Get Results

Truth: You don’t need a gym membership or major equipment to work out. A yoga mat, a couple lightweight dumbbells, resistance band, or even a chair, is all that is needed to get a full-body workout at home. There are even many exercises that require no equipment at all, like squats and planks.

6. Myth: “No Pain, No Gain”

Truth: Some muscle soreness is to be expected during a workout, especially if you’re trying a new exercise or lifting a heavier weight. However if you’re in serious pain, stop what you’re doing. It doesn’t mean you’re working harder or getting stronger, it usually indicates injury may be occurring. Generally, workouts should be relatively pain free, but you may feel fatigue during a workout or muscle soreness after a workout.

If you do experience lingering pain after a workout, make sure to schedule a complimentary injury screen at your nearest Athletico location.

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