How to Exercise Smarter
By Nina Syahira
November 20, 2015
Get smart with exercising!
Exercising may help perk up your mood and increase alertness, but it also tires out the body. Whether you’re training for a competition or just to keep fit, remember to rest in between sessions. If you continue to push your already fatigued body with prolonged workouts, you may risk overexertion and injury.
To learn more about exercising smart, we spoke with Dr Andrew Dutton, Medical Director, Singapore Medical Group (SMG) Orthopaedic Group, to give us a deeper understanding on what happens to our body if we overwork it and how to prevent it. He also gave great tips for desk-bound workers!
Have adequate rest in between workouts and training sessions.
It’s recommended that we allow our body to rest 24 to 72 hours prior to the next strength training at the gym. Can you tell us why, and what happens if we don’t give our body time to recover?
Rest between exercises can be considered in 2 different ways; the short rest interval between exercise sets and the long rest recovery time between work outs.
Thus, rest allows the body to recover and repair after training sessions. In general, it is recommended that there is a break of 3-5 minutes between exercise sets and 24-72 hours between workouts.
Exercise is a catabolic process which means that it causes a metabolic breakdown. It also is a mechanical stress and causes muscle fatigue. The rest period allows the body to remove the metabolic waste from the body, which includes lactic acid.
If there is insufficient rest, then there can be a build-up of lactic acid, causing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Additionally, the person may injure a muscle with a strain (pulled muscle) or a tear.
Overworking your body can lead to abnormal joint stresses and altered biomechanics.
Why is it important to avoid doing the same exercise over and over again? What does that do to our body?
For a certain action, there are muscles that are termed agonist (working to perform the action) and antagonist muscles (working to counterbalance the action). Thus, performing the same exercise repeatedly will build up the agonist muscles while not building up the antagonist muscles. This can lead to abnormal joint stresses and altered biomechanics especially of the knee, shoulder and back. An overuse injury can occur as a result.
General overall body health and fitness must be holistic. Concentrating on pure anaerobic power strength training while neglecting aerobic stamina training and conditioning will not only make a person injury-prone but causes a deterioration of performance in the long term. Concentrating on peripheral limb strength while neglecting core muscle strength will leads to similar problems. Improved peripheral muscle function is obtained with strong core muscles to act as a stable fulcrum.
If you’ve never used the machine before, ask the gym trainer for help first.
Photo sourced from humoar.com
When trying on new gym equipment, we might engage in a new type of exercise thus new body movement. How important is it to allow our body time to adapt to new moves for a safe progress?
Overenthusiasm or going from ‘zero to hero’ is a common cause of injury. Muscles, tendons and bones are adaptable (Wolff’s law) but this requires time, usually weeks. Therefore a gradual build up is advised since a person is activating new muscles or using muscles in a novel manner. Without the adequate time to condition oneself to a new type of exercise, muscle or tendon strains [and tears], stress injuries or fractures of the bones may occur.
From ‘hunter-gatherer’ to ‘briefcase-carrier’, but are we getting healthier?
Many of us have desk jobs which, if we’re not careful, may lead to us developing poor posture. So when we work out with bad posture, it might aggravate the situation or lead to injury. What kind of exercises/stretches can we do to avoid that? What about measures to take while we’re at work or performing other daily tasks?
The human body developed to function as a ‘hunter-gatherer’ and was not originally intended for prolonged desk work. This may lead to poor posture or keeping the body in an abnormal position. Muscle tightness and joint stiffness of the neck, shoulders, lower back and calves develop.
Ergonomics, although to some extent still controversial, does play a significant role in improving posture and avoiding muscle tightness. One may need adjustable chairs [and] tables or even a stand-up table. Lumbar (low back) chair supports are useful and ensuring that the computer screen is a little below eye level improves neck posture.
A short break every hour is important to relax one’s eyesight as well as to do short stretches of the neck, shoulders, lower back and calves.
General exercise workouts 2-3 times per week are essential to maintain good body conditioning. This may include Pilates which concentrates on core strength and body awareness. Swimming is useful to stretch and strengthen the back.
There are new wearable devices which monitor one’s posture and they alarm when the posture is poor. This may assist in achieving muscle memory for improved posture and awareness.
Always stretch before and after your workout or sport.
What is the difference between warming up and stretching your muscles? How does each help avoid gym injuries?
Warm-up is advised first before dynamic stretching. Both are distinct and are performed before engaging in a workout or sports.
A warm-up consists of doing mild aerobic activity, which is sports specific. This increases the blood flow and improves muscle elasticity.
Dynamic stretching should follow the warm-up which then aligns the muscle fibres in parallel which allows improved muscle contraction and decreases muscle strains or tears. It also increases the joint range of movement. Dynamic stretching may include jumping jacks or high leg kicks.
After sports or a workout, static stretching to ‘cool down’ is advised to prevent cramps and muscle soreness.
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