What Your Heart Rate Means to Your Health

By Andrew Grahovec with Contributions by: Abbey Corcoran, PT, DPT for ATI Physical Therapy

With every movement and minute of exercise your body goes through during the day, your heart doesn’t always beat with regularity. If healthy, your heart will adjust to the speed of your daily activities to accommodate the need for oxygen, but this may not be the case for everyone. Each individual’s body has its own way of adjusting to their activities, but an unusually high- or low-resting heart rate could be cause for concern. Knowing your pulse, at rest and during exercise, can help identify potential risks for heart attacks or diseases. One way you can do your heart a favor and help decrease these risks is by having good cardiorespiratory fitness.

Cardiorespiratory fitness refers to the ability of the heart and lungs to supply the exercising muscles and tissue with oxygen-rich blood during physical activity. Having good cardiorespiratory fitness can help decrease your risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), a person dies every 38 seconds from cardiovascular disease. Living a healthy and active lifestyle can lead to a healthy heart, decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease and help your overall health and well-being.

Assessing your heart rate

One way to assess how well your heart is functioning is by monitoring your heart rate. A normal resting heart rate ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute (BPM). To determine your resting heart rate, place your middle and index fingers on the thumb side of your wrist. There, you will find a pulse and you can count the beats. You can count the number of beats within a 10 second timeframe and multiple that number by six to find your resting heartrate. In a healthy individual, your heart rate can reveal how efficient your heart is working.

Your heart rate is determined by how efficiently your heart pumps blood throughout your body per beat. There are four chambers in your heart that help with this process, however, the most important chamber for determining your heart rate is the left ventricle. The left ventricle is responsible for pumping oxygen-rich blood to the entire body. If your left ventricle can pump a larger volume of blood throughout your body per heartbeat, then it will take fewerbeats per minute to distribute the same amount of blood.

Endurance athletes, such as marathon runners and cross country skiers, who have very high cardiorespiratory fitness, have a stronger and larger left ventricle. This makes it possible to pump out higher volumes of blood with each beat resulting in a lower resting heart rate due to the fewer beats per minute to pump out the same amount of blood through the body. This allows endurance athletes to have resting heart rates as low as 40 bpm. The lower your resting heart rate is, the more efficient your heart is working.

Is your resting heart rate high?

If your resting heart rate seems irregular, it may not be time to run to a doctor just yet. Resting heart rates can be affected by many factors including air temperature, emotions and medication. Higher air temperatures and humidity levels increase your heart rate to help keep your body cooler. According to the Cleveland Clinic, heart rates increase by 10 bpm for every degree your body temperature elevates. Emotions such as excitement, surprise and anxiety can also elevate the heart rate due to the activation of your sympathetic nervous system (SNS). Your SNS is responsible for the “flight or fight” response and increases body responses, like your heart rate. If your heart rate seems too low or too high, check your medication to see common side effects that may influence heart rate and consult your doctor.

Lowering your resting heart rate

Regular exercise can help decrease your resting heart rate. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week for adults or a combination of the two. “Moderate” exercise is categorized as exercising at 65 to 75 percent of your max heart rate and “vigorous” exercise is 76 to 95 percent of your max heart rate. To determine your maximum heart rate, take 220 and subtract your age. Then, multiply that number by 0.65 and 0.75. This will give you two numbers, the range you need to be considered exercising at a moderate intensity level. For example, if an individual was 50 years old, their predicted heart rate max would 170 beats per minute (220-50) and their heart rate zone for moderate intensity exercise would be 111-128 beats per minute. If you are just beginning to exercise, start in the lower ranges such as 65 percent to improve your tolerance to the exercise program then slowly work your way up.

Beginning a new exercise program can be intimidating, especially if you have various health conditions. If you are unsure where to begin, you can see your local physical therapist. Our trained staff are experts in prescribing exercise programs to a variety of health conditions.

Are aches and pains getting in the way of your daily activities or starting an exercise program?

If simple home interventions are not helping to lessen aches, pains and discomfort, it’s time to see a physical therapist. Stop by your nearest ATI Physical Therapy clinic for a complimentary screening and get back to your regular exercise routine.

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Five Lesser-Known Mental Health Values of Exercise

By Briana Jamshidi, Rehab Technician for ATI Physical Therapy

It has become common knowledge that exercise is good for the body. Regular exercise can aid in weight loss and help strengthen our muscles and bones, but sometimes that isn’t enough to get you exercising on a daily basis. There are numerous mental health benefits that come as a result of working out. These reasons may be the motivating factors you need.

Exercise and Positive Mood

There is a strong link between exercise and the treatment of mild to moderate anxiety and depression. Exercise encourages all kinds of positive changes in your body by releasing endorphins in your brain such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. They are known as the “feel good” chemicals because of their strong influence on your mood.

Exercise and Self-Esteem

When you aren’t happy with the way your body looks, it takes a toll on your confidence. Exercise helps to build your self-esteem by improving how your body moves, feels and looks. Even if you don’t lose weight from exercising, you are likely still strengthening your muscles and creating a firmer appearance of your skin. It can be empowering to run longer, lift heavier weights and stretch farther. These physical results will make you feel better about how you look and improve your confidence and self-esteem.

Exercise and Brain Power

Exercise enhances blood flow throughout your body, as well as in your brain. This increased blood flow supports the survival of new neurons and helps other neurons fire up faster. Exercise has been shown to promote neurogenesis, which allows for the creation and survival of new brain cells in the brain. All of this allows for better cognitive function, memory recall and more creativity.

Exercise and Pain

Studies show that people who exercise and stay flexible are able to better manage their pain than those who don’t. Typically, chronic pain can lower your pain threshold, meaning it takes less pain to cause you discomfort. Exercise, fortunately, helps to increase your pain threshold. The increased blood flow throughout your body allows your joints and muscles to move more freely, which further helps to decrease pain.

Exercise and Stress

When you engage in exercise, no matter what kind, it is wise to practice mind-to-muscle connection. This means focusing on the muscles you are using and intentionally squeezing them. During this time, you actually give your mind a chance to slow down and stop thinking about your stressors. Pair this with the better sleep you will experience from exercising and you will feel a significant reduction in your stress levels.

There are so many different types of exercise, ranging from weight lifting to yoga. No matter the kind, doing some is better than none. Do what you can and not only will you reap the benefits physically, but mentally as well.

Are aches and pains getting in the way of your daily activities?

If simple home interventions are not helping to lessen aches, pains and discomfort, it’s time to see a physical therapist. Stop by your nearest ATI Physical Therapy clinic for a complimentary screening and get back to doing you.

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Snow Skiing as a Natural Anti-Aging Remedy

Snow Skiing as a Natural Anti-Aging Remedy

By Brian Rog with Contributions by Peter Braun MS, LAT, ATC, ITAT

The effects of time on one’s body are unavoidable and often substantial. Many of us in the field of medicine are in an endless search to find the perfect sport, activity or exercise that will unlock our physical potential, well into our years. Scientific research has found that there are certain factors that contribute to longevity and sustainability. Bone density, lower extremity strength, balance and cardiovascular endurance all play critical roles in maintaining a physically active lifestyle. With this, physicians make an effort to integrate these factors into exercise plans for much of our elderly population. But what if there was a simpler answer? What if we could prescribe involvement in a recreational activity that naturally addresses all these areas? As we unravel the details, we challenge the question; “Is there such a thing as an anti-aging activity?”

Snow Skiing and bone integrity

As we dive into the leading factors that affect our ability to remain physically active, it is important to begin by discussing the foundation of our musculoskeletal system: our bones. Proper bone integrity allows our joints and muscles to function at peak levels. As more research is released clarifying the comorbid factors associated with aging, we are realizing how important bone density truly is. As we get older, it is natural to lead a more sedentary lifestyle. This reduces the forces exerted on our bones and leads to less deposition and remodeling. Consequently, bones become weaker and more fragile.

There is also a threshold where forces may be too much for a bone to adequately tolerate. Therefore, we don’t see many 60 or 70-year-olds participating in heavy plyometric type activity that requires sprinting, jumping, or heavy lifting. What makes skiing so unique is that the peak force exhibited on the bone is achieved over a longer period of time compared to other activities. If someone is running, the peak force at heel strike happens instantaneously and stress is quickly translated through the bones. In skiing, this process is lengthened due to the natural mechanics of a turn. As we begin to turn while skiing, ground reaction force increases and it doesn’t achieve maximum force until the dynamic center of the turn, and gradually reduces as we bring the skis back underneath the body. There is no sharp or sudden spike in pressure or force. This allows for a healthy and acceptable loading of our joints and bones, which optimizes remodeling.

Snow Skiing and lower extremity strength

Lower extremity strength has been promoted by many as a key to upholding a physically active lifestyle and essential to healthy aging. The biomechanics of a skiing turn activate all lower leg muscles in a complex and symmetrically balanced fashion. The intrinsic muscles in the foot are important to control edge initiation and release. These muscles are also essential to foot rotation, which affects the degree and engagement of an edge throughout the turn. The muscles of the lower leg are important for staying balanced and continuously adjusting to the changing pressure and contact with the snow.

Even during various parts of the turn, the hip flexors, quadriceps and hamstrings help create dynamics and proper leg lengthening necessary to carve and ride the edge of the ski. The core, hip flexors, hip rotators, hamstrings and glutes all work harmoniously to transition our body from the initiation of the turn through to its completion. These muscles are stressed, more or less, depending on the size and shape of the turn, slope of the hill, and conditions of the snow.

The combination of all these components create an exceptional foundation for strengthening. In addition, skiing requires a diversity in motor activation patterns, therefore resisting motor specificity and repetition. The movements of skiing are so complex that when coupled with the aid of gravity and slope as we ski downhill, chronic injuries are minimized when compared to many other recreational sports-activities.

Snow Skiing and the role of balance

Balance is another function that tends to decline with age. The rate of falls and severity of resulting injury are often fatal in the elderly population. There are many contributing factors to one’s overall capacity to stay balanced. It is important to recognize that even as we challenge this system there may be limiting factors, whether centrally or peripherally, that inhibit our skills as we age. But there are few other sports that challenge the body in such a dynamic and functional way as skiing. Proprioception is arguably one of the most important skills in skiing. Awareness of our limbs in space allow us to successfully stay standing as we move down the hill. Even in a static fashion, as we click into our skis there is an immediate and drastic reduction in friction under our feet. This makes even the most finite movements more substantial and challenges our joint awareness and control.

As we begin the move down the hill and turn our skis, this skill becomes exponentially more difficult. Our movements, pressure, center of balance, turn dynamics, turn radius, as well as the snow conditions all affect how we need to position our body over our skis. Furthermore, the skier often must be reactive to many of these factors. To put all this in perspective, it would be like executing a balance exercise in the clinic wherein the surface that we are balancing on is changing, while simultaneously shifting weight from side to side, alternating single leg stance, and also reacting to a stimulus (such as catching a ball). Tremendously complex, right? If there are any benefits of proprioceptive training to improve overall balance as we age, you will definitely see the results if skiing is incorporated into your lifestyle.

Get active, and stay active

Individuals in the physical therapy profession and others in the medical field are continually trying to encourage others to enroll in an active lifestyle. We can all agree, regular exercise is important, but leading a life that incorporates consistent and regular activity throughout the days is the main goal – and it shouldn’t stop at 10,000 steps. What we are doing during the time we are not accumulating steps is just as important. When we observe the scope of different activities we can perform to stay physically active, none are quite as sustainable as skiing. Most skiers set aside an entire day to enjoy time on the mountain. Even other sports that are notoriously lengthy such as golf, hiking, or long distance biking and running, don’t even remotely match an eight hour day.

Although activity isn’t continuous, a single run on the slopes, which typically takes only a few minutes, is just enough time to increase the heart rate and stress the musculoskeletal system before resting on the chairlift. This is a perfect combination of rest and exercise that can easily fill an entire day. The sustainability of skiing is what makes it stand apart from most other sports activities. If the overall goal is to create a physically active lifestyle, skiing may be one of the few solitary solutions that can achieve this goal.

We will never be certain as to what is the best thing to do to resist the effects of aging. Our genetics, our bodies, and our history all have a role that is too intricate for us to predict. However, if there’s one thing that is definitive, it’s the positive impact that exercise and activities like skiing brings to someone’s well-being.

Dealing with a lower body injury?

Recognizing and assessing an injury is the first step in ensuring a speedy and effective recovery. Most individuals are led to believe that surgery or opioids are their only lines of defense when dealing with an injury. Instead, consider physical therapy as a first course of action, even if it’s only a screening, which are complimentary at all ATI locations. Recent research suggest that people who underwent physical therapy enjoyed faster recovery and less pain than those who chose alternative routes such as surgery and opioids. Give PT a try!

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Keeping Active in the New Year

By: Briana Jamshidi, Rehab Technician for ATI Physical Therapy

After a long week of work, countless errands and running around, the weekends may be your opportunity for leisure to do nothing but sit around all day. While there’s nothing wrong with taking well deserved time off to relax, you may be doing more of a disservice than you realize. The human body is designed for movement and as the saying goes, “sitting is the new smoking.” According to research at Cornell University Department of Ergonomics, sitting increases the pressure on your lower back by 90 percent compared to standing. It’s no wonder back pain is one of the most common health problems in today’s society. On the days that are meant for relaxing, you may want to reconsider how you spend your free time and consider these precautions to make sure you’re treating your body with the best care possible.

Go for a walk

All you need is 30 minutes a day. To make it more enjoyable, make it a family activity by going together for a walk around the neighborhood or at the local park. If you have dogs you can choose to take them along as well, instead of just playing with them inside. If you live in a cold-weather climate, many indoor malls open early for walkers.

Set the intention to get more steps in. Park the car in the back of the parking lot, get off the bus one or two stops early or use phone calls as an opportunity to stand up and move around.

There are numerous benefits to walking daily. Not only will this simple movement strengthen the muscles in your legs, but it will improve the blood flow throughout your body. Walking modifies your nervous system and boosts your mood, making you feel happier and more creative.

Stand up every 30 to 60 minutes

Unfortunately, you cannot offset hours of sitting with one hour of exercise. According to research at Start Standing, “marathon sitting” drastically changes your body’s metabolism. Your metabolism slows down by 90 percent after only 30 minutes of sitting. The enzymes that aid in fat burning slow down. The muscles in your lower body turn off. And after two hours of sitting, your good cholesterol reduces by 20 percent.

Fortunately, it’s as simple as standing up, stretching and walking around for as little as five minutes for your body’s metabolism to pick back up again.

Stretch out your hips and back

Prolonged sitting, especially with poor posture, causes your muscles to shorten, which is why they feel tight. You might experience shoulder pain, hip pain and even back pain. The deepest hip flexor, the Psoas, is directly connected to our lumbar (lower) spine. When you’re sitting, your hip flexors shorten, causing your glute muscles to elongate. This can cause a tight or pulling sensation in your back.

Negate these pains by stretching out your muscles. To get you started, ATI Physical Therapy’s Rehabilitation expert Briana Jamshidi shares with us a few recommended stretches and suggestions.

Stretches for Your Hips and Back

Click the image above to enlarge the infographic

Prioritize drinking enough water

Proper hydration and nutrient-dense meals are essential for a well-functioning body. Your body is up to 70 percent water and if you’re dehydrated, many functions of your body stop working as a result. Areas of the body that are not important for survival become deprived of water in order to supply the brain and other vital organs. As an example, cartilage is not considered a vital organ, so the body will pull water from it, dehydrating it. When the water content of cartilage drops, it loses its smooth, low-friction and wear resistant qualities, allowing it to become damaged.

It’s recommended to drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day (body weight: 140 pounds, water intake: 70 ounces). Carrying a water bottle around with you helps makes sure you drink enough water each day. Proper hydration can result in more health benefits, such as improved skin complexion, increased energy, headache prevention and improved digestion.

Are aches and pains getting in the way of your daily activities?

If simple home interventions are not helping to lessen aches, pains and discomfort, it’s time to see a physical therapist. Stop by your nearest ATI Physical Therapy clinic for a complimentary screening and get back to doing you.

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