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Fitness

In September, our guest expert in Le Club's Ask the Expert segment was Elizabeth (Beth) Mansfield, MSc., RD.

Beth is a Registered Dietitian, Sport Nutrition and Physical Activity Specialist, with Peak Performance in Ottawa.  Beth’s area of expertise is in bridging the gap between the sciences of nutrition and exercise and the practices of healthy eating and active living.  Beth has assisted in the development of several Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS) programs, the most recent project being the content development for the Mothers in Motion website.  This aims to provide resources and inspiration for Canadian women and their families in their pursuit of healthy, active lifestyles.

CAAWS encourages girls and women to participate and lead in sport and physical activity. A not-for-profit organization, CAAWS offers a number of services, programs and resources to a variety of clients, including sport and physical activity organizations, teachers, coaches, health professionals and recreation leaders. CAAWS works in close co-operation with government and non-government organizations across sectors and jurisdictions on activities and initiatives that advocate for positive change for girls and women in sport and physical activity in Canada.  For more information please visit CAAWS.

Beth is currently working towards her PhD at McGill University in Montreal, where she is focusing on active women’s energy balance and the impact of energy insufficiency upon lean body mass (bone and muscle), endothelial function (blood vessel health) and subsequent risks of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis (loss of bone mass) and sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass).  If you would like to know more about Beth, you can visit her website.

 

Here are Beth's answers to your questions about Women and Physical Activity:

Q: I have chronic back pain on my left upper back. I feel pain all the time and the muscle of my neck is tight. I don't know what kind of exercise is proper for improving this situation. Is there any simple exercise I can do at home? I heard that Yoga is good. Will that help?


A: The first issue that needs to be dealt with is why you have chronic back pain. There are different health professionals that deal with this in different ways. Myofascial pain experts believe that trigger points may actually be the root cause of many genuine spinal problems, as they can keep muscles shortened and tight.

For example, trigger points in the scalene muscles of the front and side of your neck can generate a constant irritating ache between your shoulder blades in your upper back.

A trigger point in the serratus anterior muscle under your arm can cause a persistent middle backache at the lower tip of your shoulder blade. With trigger point issues some physical activities and stretching exercises may even compound the problem. In order to determine the best physical activities for your back and neck you need to meet with your physician, physiotherapist or back care specialist and determine the root cause of your discomfort. Then you will be able to make a plan of action that includes the appropriate physical activities to help improve and not harm your condition.

 

 


Q: I am 43 years old and weigh 200 pounds. I am 5 feet 7 inches tall. I also suffer from lupus, scoliosis (mild), heel spurs and rheumatoid arthritis. I have a history of heart problems in my family and do not want to have heart problems, too. I have begun to go to the gym three times a week using a tread walking track.

I have walked on this for 60 minutes non-stop gradually increasing the speed to 3.2 miles an hour and walking 2.81 miles in total. I maintained a heart rate of 134 for 15 minutes during this exercise; my average heart rate throughout was 109. I will be going back to the gym tomorrow and would like to know what the healthiest and safest goal should be for me to try to reach and at what rate.

I am also enquiring about using other gym equipment such as the stepper or the eclipse machines. My cholesterol levels were checked within the last year and I was told they were good. I try to watch my diet and enjoy fruits and vegetables. I also drink 60 ounces of water a day because I suffer from gout.


A: In order to determine your physical activity goals and objectives you will need to have a fitness assessment done. A certified physical activity or fitness professional can help you become more physically active. S/he can help you develop a physical activity plan and discuss any questions you might have regarding flexibility exercises, strength training, endurance activities, fitness programs and the best types of activities for strong muscles and bones and a healthy heart.

If your doctor does not have a certified physical activity or fitness professional whom s/he works with on a regular basis, speak with the physical activity professionals at your local recreational facilities. A listing of certified fitness professionals is available on the website of the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology at www.csep.ca.

Here is some general information on different types of training activities available for designing a workout program. The most popular indoor endurance exercises include treadmill walking, stationary cycling, and using stepping and rowing machines. Including a variety of these endurance exercise activities could be one goal.

Then you may want to consider the type of training that you are doing.

Steady Pace Training
involves a consistent, yet comfortable physical activity. For instance, you have built up your walking program to 60 minutes non-stop, gradually increasing the speed to 3.2 miles an hour and walking 2.81 miles in total. You maintained a heart rate of 134 for 15 minutes during this exercise; your average heart rate throughout was 109.

As you become more fit, you may need to increase your pace to 3.5 miles per hour to produce the same training effect. As a rule, if you are able to walk and talk at in short sentences during this type of steady pace training, you are probably exercising at an appropriate effort level.

Once you can walk for 30-45 minutes at a brisk pace you are ready for an intermediate walking workout. Maintain the frequency of your walking program at 4-5 times a week but include some higher intensity workouts such as hill climbing, stair climbing or water walking. Find a hill or a set of stairs that takes a minute to walk up and try walking them a few times during your walk.

This should feel like a very strong effort - you can walk and talk but you cannot sing a song! Make sure that you alternate the hill/stair climbing with easier walking. Walking up hills or stairs puts more stress/strain on your lower back, stomach, buttock, thigh and calf muscles so slowly increase the duration of these higher intensity workouts gradually over 6-8 weeks. Water walking is fabulous in hot weather as it keeps you cool while working your body against the resistance of waist-deep water.

Save this for those hot days when you can slip into a refreshingly cool pool! Water walking is also great for those of you who may need to minimize the natural impact of walking on your back, hips, knees, ankles, or feet.

 

 


 

Q: I have had rheumatoid arthritis for 25 years with the main effects being damage to the hands, wrists and feet. I felt that exercising was too much effort with the fatigue but I have changed and now do stretching and some resistance exercises for 15 to 20 minutes a day because weight-bearing exercise is a problem. I have strong abs (I think) and pretty solid thighs.

I also started to eat more fruit and vegetables, and less sugar and caffeine. This has caused me to lose weight though I eat a lot. In fact all I do is miss part of a meal and another pound is gone. I would really like to put on more muscle, as I am concerned that I have lost my "metabolic reserve" and the osteoporosis that runs in my family will occur. How do I make this happen?


A: In order to put on muscle mass you need to do muscular strengthening exercises as well as follow a well-balanced and nutritious eating plan. Here are some guidelines to help you out.

GENERAL Muscular Conditioning Exercises
(Adapted from www.csep.ca)

Aim for exercises that target all the major muscle groups, including: arms, shoulders, chest, back, abdomen, and upper and lower legs.

  • Begin with a weight you can lift comfortably for 8 to 12 repetitions.
  • Once 12 reps become easy, you can increase the weight slightly or increase the number of repetitions.
  • Beginners should aim for one set of 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise.
  • As you become stronger, you can increase the number of sets to two or three.
  • Be sure to give yourself one to three minutes of rest between sets.
  • Try to include at least two strength workouts a week, and allow at least one day between strength training sessions.
  • Always include a few minutes of light to moderate aerobic activity and easy stretching before and after your strength workout.

Nutritional Tips:


1. Maintain a well-balanced diet but eat more food. You need extra calories to gain muscle mass.
2. Eat more frequently. Frequent feeding will help make muscle protein.
3. Include food sources of protein with each meal as extra protein may help make muscle protein.
4. Refuel with carbohydrate and protein combinations after working out.


Food Sources of Proteins, and Carbohydrate and Protein Combinations

Protein Sources:

  • Eggs
  • Milk Products
  • Meat, poultry and fish
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Natural nut butters
  • Chick peas, lentils, kidney beans
  • Tofu products
  • Soy milks

Carbohydrate and Protein Combinations:

  • Low fat milk, chocolate milk or flavoured yogurt
  • Low fat cheese and crackers
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich
  • Fruit smoothie
  • Spaghetti and meat sauce
  • Barley, beef and vegetable soup
  • Any legume based soups
  • Humus dip with raw vegetables

 

 


Q: Is it true that after you do a workout, within the first hour you can consume anything you want as your metabolism is working at a high rate and you would just burn off what you eat? This is something a fitness instructor brought up at the end of a class.


A: Your fitness instructor has brought up an interesting point about the importance of post workout nutrition. This applies to those who are putting in moderate to strenuous training sessions daily. Muscle energy (glycogen) may be measurably reduced after 45-60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise. This means that the tougher your workout is (a function of intensity and duration); the more important it is for you to refuel.

To maximize muscle glycogen stores, carbohydrate rich foods should be consumed immediately after exercising. Timing is critical to restore muscle glycogen. Research shows that athletes who want to store maximal amounts of muscle glycogen for optimal training and peak performance should shift their intake of carbohydrate-rich foods to immediately after workouts. In fact the best way to rapidly replenish muscle glycogen is to eat or drink carbohydrate immediately after exercise.

Objective #1: Rehydrate!

  • Weigh yourself before and after a training session
  • Replace each pound of weight loss with 500 -750 mL (2 -3 cups) of fluids
  • Non-caffeine and non-ALCOHOL containing fluids are best!

Objective #2: Refuel!

  • Eat and/or drink within the first 15-30 minutes after a training session and then eat a meal within 3-4 hours.
  • Choose carbohydrate-rich foods such as breads and cereals, brightly coloured vegetables and fruits, and low fat milk products for maximum energy.
  • Re-build (your bones and muscles) with protein and other essential nutrients found in low fat milk products, meats and alternatives.
  • Re-oxygenate (your muscles) with iron and protein found in meats, leafy green vegetables, fortified grains and cereals.

 

 


Q: I struggle with motivation to exercise and I think the medication I take for high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes make me feel tired and listless. I work full time and there are days that my energy levels really fail in the late afternoon. I know if I exercised this would help in losing weight and would help both the high blood pressure and diabetes. Do you have any suggestions?


A: Your feet were made for walking…take time for yourself, spend time with your friends, and feel great!

Walking is not only the most popular form of exercise among Canadians it is also one of the easiest ways to add physical activity into your day and get re-energized. "Get moving" with physical activities such as walking and you will notice that you have:

  • more energy
  • less stress
  • improved sleep
  • fewer aches and pains
  • toned muscles
  • a healthier heart
  • better blood pressure and blood glucose control
  • a positive self image!

Sounds like a great bunch of reasons to do some regular physical activities!

Walking is suitable for most of us, regardless of age or fitness level. It is also one of the safest ways to improve your health and fitness with the least risk to your muscles and joints. You can design your own walking program by gradually increasing the frequency, intensity and time that you walk using the guidelines we have set out for you.

Over several weeks, you can begin walking faster, going further, and walking for longer periods of time. If you are not used to regular physical activity you should talk with your doctor before starting your walking program.

 



Q: I have recently lost 40 pounds and still need to lose another 25 to get into a regular BMI zone. I've been doing the same exercises 30 minutes on the treadmill (graduating to running intervals) and 15-20 minutes on the elliptical everyday, but my weight loss is at a stand still even though my diet is the same. What can I do???? I'm 41 years old.


A: Great question! You have likely reached a plateau in your weight loss efforts. Basically, your body is able to maintain its current level of body weight with the energy balance that you are in (metabolic rate and exercise calories vs. food calories).

The human body is always trying to conserve energy so if we eat the same and do the same physical activities every day, your metabolism becomes very efficient. You want to kick start your metabolism and stimulate your metabolic rate a little more so that you can change your energy balance and dip into your extra body fat reserves.

You can do this in a number of ways but I would suggest the following two approaches:


1. Spread your food out into more small meals/snacks throughout the day. You will be eating less at any one time but the frequency of eating will keep your metabolism a little higher and you may be able to lose some weight on the same calorie intake.

2. Change your exercise program so that you are doing different activities throughout the week. This ensures that you do not become super efficient at doing the same workout. By changing the types of the activities that you do, you also rev up your metabolism a little more so the end result is a change in your energy balance and weight loss will happen.

 



Q: I was wondering since I'm a quadriplegic with multiple sclerosis & do get physical therapy three times a week, is there any validity to thinking that I'm going through the movements even though I'm unable to physically do them?


A: Recent Canadian research in spinal cord injury (SCI) has been tackling this very topic. The reports of this research project are not yet available however there is a strong belief that any activity is helpful to the overall health of a SCI individual regardless of whether or not it is assisted physical activity or upper body physical activities that the SCI individual can do on his/her own.

 

 



Q: What kind of exercise would help to increase/maintain bone density? I am female 59 yrs old taking calcium and vitamin D + multivitamins Nutrilite. I also have a weak knee.


A: If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis you should consult your doctor before starting any exercise program. You may need a bone density test and a fitness assessment first.

The best bone boosting exercises are those that stimulate your bones to grow. This includes impact activities like walking and running (also known as endurance or aerobic activities). In the last few decades researchers have discovered that the chronic force of muscles pulling against bone also promotes bone building.

This also means that the stronger your muscles are, the more they stimulate bone building. Strength activities will increase your strength and protect your joints.

These activities will also promote and maintain your independence as you age. Flexibility activities keep the joints supple and mobile. This will reduce potential injuries and increase your range of motion. Additionally, stretching will reduce muscle soreness after a physical activity session, improve posture, decrease stress, and generally make you feel good all over.

Take time to relax and stretch. Stretching releases tension - position changes should be done slowly in order to avoid ligament pulls - avoid extreme stretching and ballistic movements!

Flexibility Activities Guidelines:

  • 5 to 10 minutes a day of easy stretching. This will reduce potential injuries and increase your range of motion. Additionally, stretching will reduce muscle soreness after a workout, improve posture, decrease stress, and generally make you feel good all over.
  • Stretch the large muscle groups. Use static stretches. Take time to relax and stretch. Stretching releases tension - very necessary for coping with all the demands of life! Position changes should be done slowly in order to avoid ligament pulls - avoid extreme stretching and ballistic movements!

Here are some guidelines to help you out:

GENERAL Muscular Conditioning Exercises
(Adapted from www.csep.ca)

Aim for exercises that target all the major muscle groups, including: arms, shoulders, chest, back, abdomen, and upper and lower legs.

  • Begin with a weight you can lift comfortably for 8 to 12 repetitions.
  • Once 12 reps become easy, you can increase the weight slightly or increase the number of repetitions.
  • Beginners should aim for one set of 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise.
  • As you become stronger, you can increase the number of sets to two or three.
  • Be sure to give yourself one to three minutes of rest between sets.
  • Try to include at least two strength workouts a week, and allow at least one day between strength training sessions.
  • Always include a few minutes of light to moderate aerobic activity and easy stretching before and after your strength workout.

Please see The Big 10 of Strengthening Exercises Chart for more information.

 

 


Q: I'm interested in finding out the effect of running/exercise on breast milk supply. Thanks.


A: You can slowly and gradually resume or continue a physical activity program, even when breastfeeding! Make sure you wear proper support bras to support your activity! Don't think that by increasing your physical activity level that you will alter your breast milk quality or quantity. Just remember to participate in the activity after you have nursed.

  • With respect to nutrients (energy, protein, carbohydrate, fat) and mineral (calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium) concentrations in milk, no contraindications exist for being active throughout the months that you breastfeed your baby. Mineral concentrations in breast milk are the same whether you are active or inactive in this postpartum period.
  • Moderate physical activity will not change the amount of breast milk you produce, the breast milk composition or acceptance of the breast milk by your baby.
  • Intense levels of physical activity have a significant but apparently short-term elevation in lactic acid in breast milk. A hungry baby will rarely turn away and refuse your milk so a bit of lactic acid will not place your baby at nutritional risk! If you are concerned, do physical activities after you have breastfed (most likely it will be more comfortable for you also!)
  • Make sure to eat plenty when being active and breastfeeding. Both activities are demanding on your body and will require adequate fuel and fluid for you to replenish and keep going.


For more information for new moms go to the Mothers in Motion site - a website for women who want to lead healthy lifestyles and mentor their children to do the same.

 

 



Q: I will be having knee surgery in the late year. I would like to know if I could still do any exercises though I limp because of the pain in my knee?


A: You do want to ensure that you are going into surgery with a fit body and a knee that is as strong as possible (within your injury limitations) so that your recovery is optimized. However you would need to discuss this with your orthopedic surgeon and/or physiotherapist.

 

 



Q: I have several chronic conditions including fibromyalgia and atrial fibrillation, which make fitness on a regular basis difficult to do. I've tried fitness groups, but the exercise is too rigorous and I've injured myself several times. Can you suggest a regimen, tailored to these conditions or with a gradual but steady increase to the level of activity that might work for me?


A: In order to determine your physical activity goals and objectives you will need to have a fitness assessment done. A certified physical activity or fitness professional can help you become more physically active. S/he can help you develop a physical activity plan and discuss any questions you might have regarding flexibility exercises, strength training, endurance activities, fitness programs and the best types of activities for strong muscles and bones and a healthy heart.

If your doctor does not have a certified physical activity or fitness professional that s/he works with on a regular basis, speak with the physical activity professionals at your local recreational facilities. A listing of certified fitness professionals is available on the website of the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology at www.csep.ca.


Here are some guidelines for endurance activities to get you started:

Walking is one of the safest ways to improve your health and fitness with the least risk to your muscles and joints. You can design your own walking program by gradually increasing the frequency, intensity and time that you walk using the guidelines we have set out for you.

Over several weeks, you can begin walking faster, going further, and walking for longer periods of time. If you are not used to regular physical activity you should talk with your doctor before starting your walking program.

 



Q: I am recovering from surgery. I had a cyst on my left ovary and being that it was cancerous they removed everything. Being that I am overweight, once I recover from my incision, what would be a good exercise for someone who is very hard to motivate? I know that I need the exercise but I always use the excuse that I am too tired after work, the kids and the house. Please help!


A: Get moving! Take time for yourself, spend time with your friends, and feel great!


Walking is not only the most popular form of exercise among Canadians it is also one of the easiest ways to add physical activity into your day and get re-energized. "Get moving" with physical activities such as walking (or swimming, cycling, skating, etc) and you will notice that you have:

  • more energy
  • less stress
  • improved sleep
  • fewer aches and pains
  • toned muscles
  • a healthier heart
  • better blood pressure and blood glucose control
  • a positive self image!

Sounds like a great bunch of reasons to do some regular physical activities!

Your feet were made for walking….
Walking is suitable for most of us, regardless of age or fitness level.

It is also one of the safest ways to improve your health and fitness with the least risk to your muscles and joints. You can design your own walking program by gradually increasing the frequency, intensity and time that you walk using the guidelines we have set out for you.

Over several weeks, you can begin walking faster, going further, and walking for longer periods of time. If you are not used to regular physical activity you should talk with your doctor before starting your walking program.

Mall walking, water walking, treadmill walking, nature walking, and dog walking…there are many ways to get walking into your day! You can also catch up on the latest gossip, keep in touch with your friends, spend time with your family, and enjoy nature…all while you are out walking!

Take the first step by building walking into your daily routine: walk the dog, take the stairs, walk the kids to school. Try a walking meeting rather than a business lunch.

Take a walking break instead of a coffee break. Every little bit counts. Ten minutes of walking three times a day is just as good as 30 minutes at one time so get on the move and walk more often - it all adds up to a healthier you!  

Get moving…anywhere and at any time!

All you need is comfortable clothing and a pair of low-heeled, thick, flexible soled shoes that fit well. These shoes will cushion your feet and absorb shock - making your walks a pleasure for your feet! Wear clothes that fit the season - layers of clothing in the cooler months let you take off layers as you warm up.

Light, cotton clothing in the summer time help keep you cool. Choose shorts that don't chafe your thighs or try a pair of lycra/cotton form fitting shorts or tights.

Get moving…try it!

It is a well-known fact that most of us have lots of barriers to physical activity. Not having someone to do physical activities with is one of the biggest barriers stopping us from being physically active. Encourage your family and friends to walk along with you - it's a form of active intimacy. Not only are you spending quality time together you are getting in great shape too!

Form your own support group - start a walking club - at home, work or in your community, and encourage more people to "get moving" with you! Keep a walking journal to record your walks and the distance traveled. You may even want to participate as a group in awareness walks for health issues (heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, and osteoporosis).

Track Your Progress!

Keeping track of your progress with a walking log is a great way to stay motivated with your walking or other physical activity program. Keep tabs on your energy level - it should be higher as you start to get fitter. You will also notice that you deal better with stress, you feel more refreshed from your sleep and your muscles not only feel fit and toned they look it too!

Drink plenty of fluids to replace what you may sweat out during exercise. Fluids are your body's natural cooling system. Bring a water bottle with you when you are walking - and drink up to ½ cup (125 ml) of water every 15 minutes to replace sweat losses during your physical activity sessions, especially during spring and summer.

Make sure to drink at least another 2 litres (8 cups) of fluids each and every day to make sure that you are well hydrated - great fluids choices include water, juices, soups, milk and decaffeinated coffee and teas. So drink when you're thirsty, drink when you're not thirsty and drink in between!

 

 



Q: I have been told that high intensity exercise is counter productive to dealing with stress or anxiety because it raises the stress hormone in the body (cortisol?) as opposed to decreasing it. If this is true, what exercise is recommended for dealing with stress and anxiety?


A: Cortisol levels increase in response to stress, including drops in blood sugar, inflammation, chronic pain, injury, late hours/insufficient sleep, and excessive exercise or over training.

Prolonged bouts of exercise and high intensity exercise both increase cortisol levels. Repeated exercise without sufficient rest and recovery results in chronic elevated cortisol and also over training syndrome. The best types of physical activities to deal with mild stress and anxiety are those that you enjoy doing. Allowing for adequate recovery in between the higher intensity sessions will ensure that you maintain optimal health benefits and avoid over training.

Follow these recovery tips - rehydrate, refuel and rest-up!

  • Re-energize (your muscles) - with carbohydrate rich foods such as breads and cereals, for maximum energy
  • Re-build (your bones and muscles) - with protein and other essential nutrients found in low fat milk products, meat and alternatives
  • Re-vitalize (your muscles) - with anti-oxidant vitamins and minerals found in brightly coloured vegetables and fruits
  • Re-oxygenate (your muscles) - with iron and protein found in meats, leafy green vegetables, fortified grains and cereals
  • Re-hydrate (your body) - with water and other fluids, before, during, and after physical activity sessions
  • Rest-up and recover!

 



Q: I am 50 years old and consider myself to be quite healthy. I jog a couple times a week and do a Pilates DVD tape 2 times a week that includes exercises for abs and 15 minutes of weight exercise for the arms. I am of slight build and quite thin. I feel great when I exercise but am at risk for losing weight. How do I keep my exercise program but maintain a proper weight?


A: A strength training program would likely be helpful. Strength activities will increase your strength, maintain and build up your muscle mass and protect your joints. These activities will also promote and maintain your independence as you age.

Here are some strength training guidelines:

GENERAL Muscular Conditioning Exercises
(Adapted from www.csep.ca)

Aim for exercises that target all the major muscle groups, including: arms, shoulders, chest, back, abdomen, and upper and lower legs.

  • Begin with a weight you can lift comfortably for 8 to 12 repetitions.
  • Once 12 reps become easy, you can increase the weight slightly or increase the number of repetitions.
  • Beginners should aim for one set of 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise.
  • As you become stronger, you can increase the number of sets to two or three.
  • Be sure to give yourself one to three minutes of rest between sets.
  • Try to include at least two strength workouts a week, and allow at least one day between strength training sessions.
  • Always include a few minutes of light to moderate aerobic activity and easy stretching before and after your strength workout.

Please see The Big 10 of Strengthening Exercises Chart for more information.

 

Please note that this information is intended to provide general information on common nutritional/medical topics. It is not a comprehensive medical review and does not include all the potential medical conditions, issues, or considerations. Therefore it cannot and should not be relied upon as a substitute for seeing an appropriate health care professional (who can provide individualized and comprehensive assessment and advice).

 

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