5 ways to get more restful sleep

FIT TIP: Sleep is an essential bodily function that has many benefits. Lack of sleep, on the other hand, can be very damaging and is linked closely to weight gain. You can exercise all you want, but if you are not sleeping enough you won’t get any results. Here’s 5 ways to help you get a better sleep:

1) Cut down on caffeine. Caffeine drinkers may find it harder to fall asleep than people who don’t drink it. Once they drift off, their sleep is shorter and lighter. For some, a single cup of coffee in the morning means a sleepless night. That may be because caffeine blocks the effects of adenosine, a neurotransmitter thought to promote sleep. Caffeine can also interrupt sleep by increasing the need to urinate during the night. Those who can’t or don’t want to give up caffeine should avoid it after 2pm, or noon if they are especially caffeine-sensitive.

2) Stop smoking. Nicotine is a central nervous system stimulant that can cause insomnia. This potent drug makes it harder to fall asleep because it speeds your heart rate, raises blood pressure, and stimulates fast brainwave activity that indicates wakefulness. In people addicted to nicotine, a few hours without it is enough to induce withdrawal symptoms; the craving can even wake a smoker at night. People who kick the habit fall asleep more quickly and wake less often during the night.

3) Limit alcohol intake. Alcohol depresses the nervous system, so a nightcap may seem to help some people fall asleep. However, alcohol suppresses REM sleep, and the soporific effects disappear after a few hours. Drinkers have frequent awakenings and sometimes frightening dreams. Alcohol may be responsible for up to 10% of chronic insomnia cases. Also, alcohol can worsen snoring and other sleep breathing problems.

4) Develop a sleep routine. Our bodies respond well to routine, we are creatures of habit! Have a designated bed time, allocate the same time to reading or other pre-sleep activities, and set your alarm for the same time each morning.

5) Exercise! People who exercise have a more restful and deeper sleep, and wake feeling much more refreshed than those who do not.

Group Exercise Safety

FIT TIP: The fitness industry was in the news last week. ACC claims have risen significantly to over 23,000, with a huge proportion being from either Zumba or CrossFit.
A large part of the reason is the inherent problem with group fitness – how do you provide a challenging workout for everyone without being able to monitor individuals? What somone finds easy might be very hard for someone else. What might be a natural movement for some might be weird and uncomfortable for others. If you’re doing a difficult, weird and uncomfortable exercise, the risk of injury jumps up dramatically.

If you’re a fan of group fitness classes, here are some tips to help you lower the risks of injury:
1) Make sure your trainer is REP’s registered. This means you won’t have an unqualified ‘fitness fanatic’ taking your session and risking your safety.
2) Look for smaller group sizes. At the Busy Body Boot Camp, there are only 4-8 people. Some outdoor Boot Camps have up to 50! There’s no way you can be monitored properly in such an environment.
3) Ask if there are progressive exercises. An example would be step lunges to weighted lunges to weighted jump lunges. Going straight into the most difficult progression is a huge injury risk.
4) For weighted exercises, check there are a variety of weights on offer and test them out in a warm up to see what is right for you.
5) Some gyms offer beginner, intermediate and advanced group classes. If you haven’t done that class before, start with the beginner and don’t assume you can handle a tougher one.

Weight training and your joints

FIT TIP: I was asked last week about the negative impact on your joints caused by lifting heavy weights. This person had been advised that heavy weights will wear out your joints and should be avoided.

This is completely 100% incorrect. Weight training, done safely and correctly, is THE BEST THING you can do for your joints. First, lets clarify what constitutes a ‘joint’. Bones, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, meniscus (in the knee) and muscle. Always lots of muscles around and through the joint.

Here are 5 reasons why you want to lift heavy weights for your joints:

1) As your muscles strengthen, they will take over the role of supporting the skeleton, which takes the pressure off the other connective tissue.
2) Weight training is non-impact, meaning you can control the range and speed of the motion without the sudden forces applied by exercises such as running and sports.
3) As the muscles develop around a joint, and proper form is maintained in the motion of the joint, the muscles will hold the bones in place much better than loose/stretched ligaments and tendons. Often this means that clicks and cracks will disappear and the joint will operate smoother. Also this greatly reduces the risk of dislocations.
4) Lifting heavy weights will strengthen your bones to reduce the risk of breaks, fractures, osteoporosis and other bone diseases. As muscles pull on tendons, which pull on bones, new calcium is generated within the bones and bone density will increase. Cool eh!
5) Muscles are completely repairable. You can rip, tear or snap a muscle and it will grow back again. You cannot repair ligaments and tendons. Only lifting heavy weight builds muscle. Period.

Make sure you’re getting the best advise when it comes to looking after your body and protecting your joints!

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