Exercise while catching up on the housework!

houseworkFeeling bad because you didn’t get much exercise today? OK, so tell us what you did do. Chances are, if you had a day at home catching up on the housework, you’ll have been much more active than you think.

Chores such as vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, doing the laundry and mowing the lawn all work muscles and burn energy. Granted, half a day’s housework isn’t the same as going for a run or spending a couple of hours in the gym. But getting on with chores at home can burn up to 315 calories an hour, keep us in shape and help improve flexibility too.

Activities like sweeping, mopping and vacuuming will all help to stretch and tone the muscles in our arms and legs. Scrubbing the bathroom or kitchen and cleaning windows works the bicep and tricep muscles in our arms. And washing the car by hand works our arms and our abdominal muscles.

Gardening’s great for toning too – raking wet leaves in particular mimics weight training as we pull against resistance to rake them into a pile. As well as targeting arms, gardening jobs such as planting and weeding help to strengthen and tone our thigh and buttock muscles too. And 30 minutes of pushing and dragging a lawn mower is equivalent to 30 minutes of jogging in terms of exertion and calories burned.

And getting on with jobs at home is something couples can do together – and it’s far cheaper than a joint gym membership! And the housework is shared too! It really is a win-win situation.

It’s important to be aware of how our bodies are moving while we’re getting on with household chores to avoid muscle strain or injury. Try to vary tasksto ensure you’re not working in the same position for long periods of time which may strain or overuse certain muscles. For example, don’t sweep and mop the whole house in one go – instead break up the mopping job by some dusting or folding laundry.

And here’s a reminder to take care when lifting – bend your knees, avoid twisting your back and lift the load close to your body. And don’t be tempted to overload yourself – avoid carrying all the laundry upstairs in one go. Instead, make two trips – and burn extra calories!

Clearly, getting on with chores at home doesn’t give us a cardiovascular workout and it’s still important to find time for activities that raise our heart rate. This doesn’t have to mean hitting the gym or heading out for a run – there are plenty of other ways to become more active a little bit at a time.

Read our blog post on ways to introduce a little bit of exercise into your day.

Read our blog post on dance for exercise.

Two left feet? The health benefits of dance

shutterstock_289668500We often tell our patients that a little bit of physical activity is better than none. For some of them, finding ways to introduce exercise into their lifestyle is tricky. Not everyone feels comfortable in a gym setting and many shy away from activities that they feel are too sporty for them. Dancing offers the perfect way to get into exercise – and with the benefits not just limited to physical.

Dancing has grown in popularity in recent years, probably due to the success of TV programmes like Strictly Come Dancing and Got To Dance.
Every year more than 4.8 million people regularly attend community dance groups in England alone.

This week is Two Left Feet Week, which aims to celebrate the fact that while we’re not all Freds & Gingers, Nureyevs & Bussells, dancing can have a hugely positive impact on our health.

There are the obvious physical health benefits of dancing. It’s good for cardiovascular fitness and can help tone and strengthen muscles in the legs, buttocks, back, arms and shoulders. Dancing can work wonders for our posture and can strengthen our bones. It’s also wonderful exercise for improving flexibility and reducing stiffness. Dancing helps to improve balance and co-ordination too, making it the perfect activity for us as we get older and are more prone to trips and falls. And, of course, a fair amount of jiving, salsa dancing and waltzing is great for keeping the pounds off! Like other forms of exercise, it can promote better sleep too.

But the health benefits of dance go way beyond the physical. Getting together with others in a dance class or dance-based exercise class can be great for our mental health: exercising to music can lift our spirits, help relieve stress and fight depression. And there are the social benefits of getting out and making friends with people with similar interests, which can help to boost our mood and self esteem.

Studies have shown that dancing may help to boost our memory too, having a positive impact on the part of the brain that controls memory.

Even putting on some music at home and bopping around the bedroom with the kids or grandchildren can bring the health benefits of a workout. And while we’re having fun dancing to our favourite tunes we don’t actually notice how much exercise we’re doing!

So you see, it really doesn’t matter if we have two left feet; the positives of dancing far outweigh the negative of not having the nimble footwork of Michael Flatley.

Will you dance for health? This post on the Two Left Feet Week website can help you choose a dance style to suit you. Have you got the stamina for fast paced Latino dancing or a retro jive class, or would something with a slower pace suit you better? Remember to start slowly and build up your activity gradually.

We also like this post on Everyday Health listing nine health benefits of dance.

Fancy a cuppa? The health benefits of tea and coffee

tea-coffeeThere’s not a day goes by that we don’t see an article or tweet in our newsfeed extolling the virtues of some variety of tea or a good old fashioned cup of coffee. Here we round up the health benefits of putting the kettle on.

Turning to tea

Tea is the UK’s favourite drink, with the average UK adult downing three cups a day. We’ve been brewing it since the 16th century and so much more is understood about its health boosting properties today.

Proper tea – and we’re talking non-herbal teas here – is derived from the Camellia Sinensis plant. It’s been show to have anti-bacterial properties, helping to boost the immune system and bring a variety of health benefits.

Studies have found that some teas may help with the prevention of cancer, including breast, pancreatic, prostate and oral cancers. Health properties of tea can protect against heart disease and diabetes, and help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

Tea’s health properties have been attributed to phytochemicals, naturally occurring chemicals, and the anti-oxidant properties of flavonoids and polyphenols. Together it’s believed that they help protect the body against free radicals, which can cause damage to our DNA.

Five of the best health-boosting teas:

Green tea

The anti-oxidants in green tea help protect against bladder, breast, lung, stomach, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers, as well as helping to prevent clogged arteries.

Polyphenols in green tea may help maintain the parts of the brain that regulate learning and memory and could help reduce the risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Green tea is also believed to be beneficial to people with Type 2 diabetes: studies suggest that certain compounds in green tea may help diabetics to process sugars better.

Black tea

This is what we know as the standard cuppa, the instant tea bags that many of us throw in our supermarket trolley every week. Interestingly, 78% of all tea drunk across the world is black tea.

Studies suggest that this variety of tea may protect lungsfrom the damage caused by exposure to cigarette smoke. It’s thought to also reduce the risk of strokes and heart disease due to the way it helps blood vessels to dilate.

White tea

White tea has the most potent anti-oxidant properties compared to more processed teas, making it a hero in the cancer prevention battle.

It’s good for your skin too: certain extracts in white tea have been found to inhibit wrinkle production by strengthening elastin and collagen.

Herbal teas

While not technically teas – since they aren’t made from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant – some herbal brews have health-boosting properties.

  • Camomile tea contains antioxidants that may help to prevent complications from diabetes, such as vision impairment, and could also stunt the growth of cancer cells.
  • Three cups of hibiscus tea every day, according to a small study, was found to lower blood pressure in people with slightly raised levels.
  • Nettle tea has been found to help boost the immune system and having a detoxifying effect. It is also thought to ease pain from arthritis.
  • And both peppermint tea and ginger tea are herbal teas good for digestion.

Fancy a slice of lemon in your brew? A simple squirt of citrus juice added to tea can increase its anti-oxidant potential.  This is due to the Vitamin C providing an acidic condition for catechins inside our bodies, helping with absorption.

Want to know more? We like this post on Greatist.com about why tea is so good for us.

And what about coffee?

Coffee is the most popular drink worldwide. Whether you’re someone who needs an early morning caffeine hit or a coffee connoisseur, we’re a nation of coffee drinkers: a staggering 70 million cups of coffee are drunk in the UK every day.

Coffee brings its own health benefits to the (coffee) table. It’s bursting with anti-oxidants: scientists have identified around 1,000 anti-oxidants in unprocessed coffee beans, and discovered that hundreds more develop during the roasting process.

Coffee has been linked to improved memory recall and may help to prevent cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

It’s also thought to protect against type 2 diabetes. By helping the body use insulin and by protecting insulin-producing cells, drinking coffee can help with the regulation of blood sugar.

Coffee can help to prevent heart disease by protecting against arterial damage caused by inflammation. And it’s also believed that drinking coffee may lower the risk of some cancers thanks to the polyphenols, thought to help reduce the inflammation that could be responsible for some tumours.

So you see, staying healthy isn’t just about the foods we eat, but about what we drink too. A note about caffeine: advice from the experts tells us to limit our daily caffeine intake to 400mg for men (roughly four cups of coffee or six cups of tea) and 300mg for women (roughly three cups of coffee or four cups of tea). Drink responsibly, folks!

Want to read more?

Here’s a great infographic from Greatist.com setting out why coffee and tea are so great for our health.

Tennis elbow – what actually is it?

1With Wimbledon in full flow, millions of people across the world are feeling inspired to pick up a racket and head outside. We’ve been inspired to write a blog post about the injury to which tennis gives its name: tennis elbow.

While a common tennis injury, tennis elbow – or Lateral Epicondylitis to give it its proper name – can affect anyone, even those who have never picked up a racket in their lives. People who have picked up tools, paintbrushes, kitchen utensils and knitting needles perhaps, since tennis elbow can affect anyone who spends a lot of their time in work or hobby activities that require repetitive arm movements.

In the simplest of terms, tennis elbow is an overuse injury. Inflamed tendons caused by overusing the muscles of the forearm manifest themselves in pain around the outside of the elbow. The condition usually affects people in their dominant arm (i.e. the right arm in right-handed people). The pain in tennis elbow feels worse when moving the wrist with some force, for example to open a jar, or even when using everyday implements such as a toothbrush or cutlery.

As with any tendon injury, it heals slowly. The best advice is to be patient and avoid doing the activity that has caused the tennis elbow. But that’s not ideal if that activity – be it painting, cooking, gardening or playing tennis – is your livelihood.

Many people turn to physiotherapy for help with recovery from tennis elbow. Physiotherapists use manual therapy techniques, such as massage and manipulation, in their treatment of tennis elbow. This helps to relieve pain and stiffness, and encourage blood flow to the arm. Physiotherapists often recommend exercises to reduce stiffness, increase flexibility and strengthen forearm muscles.

Osteopathy, chiropractic and acupuncture can also be used to treat tennis elbow.

Osteopathy recognises that pre-existing problems with the neck, wrist or shoulder, while perhaps not painful themselves, can make it more likely for someone to suffer with tennis elbow. Osteopathy treatment for tennis elbow includes gentle massage and manipulation techniques aimed at easing symptoms and getting to the cause of the problem.

Similarly, chiropractors search for any underlying back and neck conditions that may have contributed to the development of tennis elbow in their patients. Chiropractic treatments use manipulation techniques to help restore the normal alignment and motion of the elbow joint.

And acupuncture too can be used to help with pain management in tennis elbow sufferers. This ancient method of healing, which aims to restore the flow of the body’s energy, can be used to alleviate blockages of energy flow in affected parts of the body. Some studies suggest that the stimulation of certain acupuncture points on the body can affect those areas of the brain that are known to reduce sensitivity to pain. There is also a belief that acupuncture needles can help to loosen tight muscles around the elbow joint.

If you think you have a tennis elbow injury, make an appointment to come and discuss it with a member of our team.