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Today’s blog has been written by one of my physios Alexandra (Alex) Schafer who not only sees our pelvic health patients and musculo-skeletal patients but also teaches at my studio- Studio194. Even though we are closing the studio at the end of the year, Alex, Megan, Martine and Jane will still be conducting one-on-ones, two-on-ones and three-on-ones at the rooms at Hampstead Road, Highgate Hill. I asked Alex to write about the benefits of establishing a regular exercise programme – and while it is never too late to begin a regular programme, there are obviously long-term benefits of getting to love exercise early in life. Alex’s blog follows.

We all know that doing exercise regularly is valuable and evidence shows that exercise is very beneficial to living a healthier life. I am passionate about getting everyone to move and enjoy exercise regardless of what they decide to embark on. Starting an exercise regime earlier in life will help you to stay fit, strong, and embrace any physical challenges our life stages such as menopause may present.

From research we know that from around 30 years of age (!- yes that early), muscle mass, muscle strength and physical performance deteriorates. This results in a 10% decrease per decade in aerobic capacity (Gielen et al 2012). Ageing also affects the pelvic floor, which are striated muscles like the rest of our skeletal muscles and can lead to symptoms like urine leakage (Klauser et al 2004).

Decreasing strength overall may also lead to a higher risk of falls, more aches and pains as well as difficulties with everyday tasks. Here is the good news: exercise on a regular basis will help to keep the muscles fit and strong, it will make you feel happy and strengthen your bones. People who start with a higher aerobic capacity and keep up an active lifestyle will maintain a greater fitness level throughout their life (Ades at al 2005).

It is the little things done regularly that will have an impact on your physical health like choosing the stairs over the lift, leaving the car at home and walk or park the car further away from work. Making the effort to do a proper squat or lunge to pick up things from the floor will help to strengthen your legs. What we also know from research is that high intensity exercises, for example resisted upper and lower limb movements, are important to maintain or improve bone and muscle health (Russo 2009).

During Pilates classes at Studio 194 (and when we move the classes to Hampstead Road) we often use weights or other resistance (like theraband or pilates circles) to challenge our muscles in order to achieve muscle growth. If you load your muscles enough then your body will adapt after the workout and as a result the muscles grow bigger and more importantly stronger. Strong muscles, particularly around the trunk and the legs, are important for many everyday tasks and for balance.

Osteoporosis is a common disease that decreases bone density which increases the risk for fractures. Women have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis after menopause. Physical exercise is important for maintaining and improving bone density. Exercise has to be regular and with a certain amount of impact. During childhood and adolescence maximal bone strength is usually achieved and then optimised during early adulthood. Regular exercise reduces the risk of bone loss in older age.

What I am trying to say is that exercise throughout life is important and very beneficial, it is never too late to start but the earlier you start the better.

I would like to encourage everyone to exercise, move and have fun doing it! In my classes I try to challenge everyone and I might give different variations depending on the level of fitness and strength. The most important thing is that you enjoy what you do. This is the key to sticking to any programme which ultimately is the only way to improve and maintain strength, flexibility, healthy bones and joints. Sometimes it can be difficult to get started and initially it might be really hard work. But set yourself goals, like a 3 month plan and see what happens. There is a very good chance that you will love your exercise after doing it for a while and getting the hang of it. See you at Studio194 until early December and then at 47 Hampstead Road Highgate Hill after that.

Thanks Alex. While we will miss the studio, I am looking forward to saying to patients: “Make an appointment with the girls for some sessions downstairs”. I will show some photos once it’s set up in the New Year. Don’t worry- the Running Clinic will still be happening downstairs as well!

I am off to the National Continence Foundation of Australia Conference in Hobart next week, so hopefully I will be doing lots of posting of tit-bits (knowledge bombs sounds better) from the conference – as long as I don’t get too distracted by Fiona Rogers of Pelvic Floor Exercise a fabulous online website for all things pelvic health!

Until next time

Sue Croft