A patient came into the clinic last week limping with knee pain and asked:
“I’ve had this knee pain for a few weeks now, I’m not sure what I’ve done to it but I’ve tried taking paracetamol and that didn’t help.
I was trying to rest it so that it wouldn’t hurt, but whenever I stood up and started moving, it hurt again so I had to sit down.
Now I’m wearing a brace to see if that helps, but I can still feel the pain when I take it off.
Is there anything else I can do to get rid of the pain?”
I know how frustrating it can be when you’re not sure what you’ve done to hurt your knee, and even more frustrating when everything you’re trying to do to get rid of the pain – doesn’t do a thing to make it feel any better.
Everyone always thinks and hopes that there will be a “quick fix” to their problem.
And because we see people confused, fed-up and even skeptical about what can be done to help with their knee pain, I wanted to address this idea of “quick fixes” for your knees – or for any joint problem, whether it’s your knees, back, neck, wherever, and tell you why they’re no good.
With that said here’s the 3 most common “Quick Fixes” that people THINK ease their knee pain, but that actually do the opposite:
1. Reaching For The Painkillers
When you’re in pain, lets face it, one of the easiest things to do is reach for the painkillers to “kill” the pain, quick.
It’s also unfortunately the first option that your Doctor will give you to help your knee pain.
But the thing is painkillers won’t get to the root cause of your problem and actually do anything to fix it – they just mask the pain instead, which doesn’t help anyone.
And at the end of the day, that pain will still be there when the painkillers wear off. So it’s better to do something to fix your pain long-term instead.
When pain strikes, it’s very tempting to do nothing but rest “in case the pain gets worse”, which means many people end up laying on the couch watching their favorite TV shows…
But when it comes to knee pain, ‘rest’ actually means to not do ‘too much’.
If you rest too much, your joints will become stiff and tight, which can make your knees feel even more achy when you try to move them.
To actually help your knee, you could go swimming, go for a light walk, yoga or go for a bike ride– basically any low impact exercise will help keep you moving and not place any added pressure on your knees.
3. Wearing A Support
Things like knee supports should ONLY be used as a last minute resort.
Wearing a support on your knee on a daily basis to try and ease the pain is actually masking the pain and creating an even bigger problem!
The best way I can explain it is to imagine you have a broken leg or arm and you have a cast put on. After 6 weeks or so, when the cast is taken off, the muscles underneath are weak – it’s exactly the same as wearing a support everyday.
Because it supports your joint, it takes the pressure off your muscles, but doing this everyday will make your muscles lazy which will make them weaker. Once you take off that support because it’s eased the pain, there’s a very strong chance it could come back quicker and worse than before!
So there you have it, 3 ‘quick fixes’ that people think ease their knee pain, but do the opposite.
Painkillers, rest, and wearing a support!
When it comes to your joints, these quick fixes are not the way forward to fix your problem long-term.
If you want more information to recover from nagging knee pain, we are holding an educational knee pain events live at my clinic. It’s a FREE “Knee Pain” event hosted by me for all past patients, their family and friends…
It’ll last about 45 minutes and it’s FREE for you to come along and discover exactly how you, or a loved one, can finally unlock the agonizing mystery of knee pain, and how to get back the life that you deserve, for good! For more information about the event please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject: I Need Help With Knee Pain!
Let’s talk about the single biggest problem that affects runners.
Nagging calf pain that just doesn’t go away.
(…Even after months of resting!).
Can you relate to this?…
“Tony– every 6 months or so for the last 3 years, I get a nagging pain in my left calf when I go out for a run, which then leads to a terrible sensation in the back of my leg that feels like I’ve been shot!
This always seems to happen when my training is going to plan and I’m making progress.
I’ve been running for years, and my calf has never had a pain so bad like this up until recently.
So why does it keep coming back? And will it ever go away?”
– Andy, 46, Mahopac.
Ok… let me try and talk you through this and why something as frustrating as calf pain, likely keeps happening and what you can do about it.
I see this all the time with runners who come to my clinic… they’ve been running for years then all of a sudden *ping!*, the pain comes out of nowhere.
And it’s not usually to do with how much they run, what surfaces they run on, or even if they get regular massages to keep the aches and pains away…
…9 times out of 10, it’s to do with what you wear on your feet.
Let me explain:
If you’re like many runners, you’ve likely been putting in the miles wearing the same pair of running shoes for years, OR, you’ve treated yourself to a new pair of running shoes without realizing that they’re not the right ones for your feet.
Not your fault, you didn't know!
But have you ever thought about how many miles your running shoes have actually done, and how worn down they’ve become?
You see, I often tell my patients to replace their running shoes for every 600 miles that they do. And I know that sounds like a lot! But when you run regularly, you’ll be surprised just how easy it is to build that many miles up!
So, if you’re suffering from the mysterious calf issue that comes out of nowhere, it may just be down to your favorite pair of running shoes.
So what can you do to finally put an end to the pain?
Get yourself something custom made, especially for you, that supports your feet 100 times better than any pair of running shoes you’ve owned – A pair of custom Orthotics.
You’re probably wondering what they are…
Custom foot Orthotics ARE the most accurate non-weight bearing molds of your feet.
They’re designed to control alignment and function of your feet in order to treat and prevent injuries – this means that when you wear them while running, your feet are completely stable and supported so they never roll inwards or outwards, meaning no risk of triggering off an injury.
So my big tip is this: Take a look at your running shoes. How long have you been running in them for? If it’s been years then now is the time to get yourself a new pair and consider getting your very own pair of custom Orthotics, to reduce the likely hood of the bothersome calf strain from coming back once and for all!
I don’t know about you but each week since the weather has been getting warmed, I’ve been invited out to eat in restaurants at least twice a week, if not more!
And even though eating out at restaurants is usually blamed as a culprit for making it harder to make healthy choices and stick to our new eating habits – you can still have your cake and eat it too.
Which is why I wanted to share some suggestions with you today about how you can eat healthier in restaurants so you can keep on the right track with your health goals.
It starts with restaurant selection – making healthy choices starts with where you’re eating. Menus from American, Italian and Chinese restaurants tend to heave the least healthiest options.
When deciding where to go for dinner, opt for cuisines centered around whole grains, veggies, good fats and lean protein (Greek, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Indian and Japanese), and you’ll have a more nutritious meal.
Also consider eating out at places with menus that change seasonally, as this means they’re likely to cook up fresh, seasonal, local produce. Not only does that make for more veg-heavy meals, but you’ll also notice how much better the food tastes too.
But what if your partner and friends don’t want to go to one of those restaurants?
Well, there’s a solution for that. Think leftovers.
If the Italian restaurant in the town is the only place your friends want to go, you don’t have to just order the salad…
While portion sizes have grown over the years that doesn’t mean you have to skip past the meal you’ve been eyeing up on the menu. Instead take advantage of the bigger portion sizes, and order what you want with the mindset that half of it will come home with you.
The best leftovers are ones that won’t suffer from re-heating or hanging out in your fridge for a day. Think meaty steaks, creamy pasta dishes and rich risottos.
Plus, when you have leftovers you’re getting a two-for-one deal, and it feels great to save a bit of money.
The next piece of advice I want to give you is this, even if you’re going out for an evening meal, eat all day long as you usually would.
Seriously. If you know you’ll be eating at a place that serves rich food and big portions, one of the best ways to avoid overdoing it isn’t to ‘make room’ for dinner later, but to eat (as you normally would) throughout the day.
Your body isn’t balanced when you’re hungry, and skipping meals to make up for a big one can cause all sorts of havoc with the body – including storing MORE weight.
So aim to eat a filling, healthy breakfast, a light lunch and some healthy snacks. It’ll be easier to resist more indulgence if you do.
Another thing, you know that bread basket a lot of restaurants bring out while you’re deciding on what to order that’s always tempting? You don’t need it.
If you really want to snack on something before your main meal is served – opt for a lighter starter like a prawn cocktail, or stuffed mushrooms. Save room for the nutritious meal you’ve ordered and cut down on calories too.
And one more tip, if you want your food cooked a certain way to make it healthier, most of the time you can!
Don’t be afraid to put in a special request. Instead of my chicken fried, I sometimes ask for it to be grilled or roasted. Most places are willing to adapt their meals to suit your taste. It’s amazing how much power we have as diners that we never realize we can use.
So there you have it! Simple ways to make eating out healthier and enjoyable at the same time. Sticking to a healthy diet doesn’t mean you have to avoid dining out and say no to plans.
It’s all about making different choices, and enjoying the food we put in our mouths. Restrictions will only make it harder in the long-run, and make it more likely for you to sway off track.
Here’s to sticking to healthier choices!
With running season firmly in swing… let me answer this question that a previous patient emailed me.
“Tony… I meet with my friend twice this week to do some running up hill in an attempt to lose weight.
I’ve woken up the next day on both occasions with a sore Achilles and a stiff back – both worsening each time
Am I doing something wrong? And what are your thoughts on running up hills? Many people I talk to are of mixed opinions so I thought I’d ask you”.
Linda – 40’s, Brewster.
This is one of the most common mistakes I observe runners make.
Let me explain why:
You’re not designed to run up hills. And we don't need too, to keep fit or lose weight. Sure, you might work a bit harder by running up a bank or a hill, but you’re adding a lot of stress to lower back muscles and Achilles tendon muscles by doing so.
I agree – that if you were in training for something that involved lots of steep hills that doing this type of thing would likely be beneficial to achieving the goal. But here’s why it’s likely to do more harm than good...
When you run or even walk up hills, your natural instinct is to lean forwards to make it easier to get up. When you do this, your lower back muscles have to work 10x as hard. And that’s no exaggeration!
Standing up and leaning over or bending forwards for any sustained period of time will add at least 10 times the stress to your lower back than if you stand up tall and straight.
Something to think about if you do that at work or even in the kitchen, or somewhere like that!
Your lower back muscles are getting very stressed. And if they’re not ready to cope with the extra stress, as in, they’re not strong enough because you haven’t been doing things like core stability or Pilates style exercises, then you will notice a negative affect.
As for your Achilles tendon… think of an elastic band being stretched too far. The tension created means it’s likely to snap and every time you stretch it too far, you’re closer to that “snap” actually happening because of the weakness that is being created.
When you’re leaning forwards, your Achilles tendon is always on a full stretch and means your likely to feel pain and tension by the end, or at very least the next day.
If that’s happening and it’s getting worse, you need to stop ASAP and find somewhere flat to run.
Here’s my first tip:
If you are going to run up hills or banks, stand as tall as possible and try to spend a month or so before hand working on balance ball, core and Pilates exercises to make your back stronger so that you can safely do it.
My second tip:
Weight loss is 80% what you eat, 20% what you do.
If your goal from running up hills is weight loss, I’d bet that you’ll end up putting weight ON. Why? Because you will get injured meaning a period of even less activity, meaning slightly more weight added. Believe me, there’s much easier ways to lose weight.
Believe it or not – most people spend too much time in bed.
And even more people make the mistake of thinking that more time in bed = more energy and feeling ready for the day.
Now I know getting out of bed can be tough!
The alarm goes off and for a moment and you just want to stay wrapped up in bed, warm and cozy, wishing you didn’t have to move, hitting the snooze button for ‘just 10 more minutes’.
Of course we get up after a while anyway, usually because we have to, but for many of us it’s a chore and sometimes it’s painful – but it’s a little known fact that spending more that 7-8 hours in bed isn’t good for us.
In fact, it’s unhealthy and a lack of knowledge on this topic is why most people lose the battle of the bedroom.
Some days might be different, but doesn’t the day nearly always start off on a bad note? Especially when the last thing you want to do is get out from under the covers, and then spend the little time you have rushing around to get ready…
But here’s why most people struggle on a morning and lose the ‘bedroom battle’…
A lack of vitamin D (sunlight), eating a balanced diet + spending extra time on the sofa every evening, with a lack of exercise…
…Which leads to the big mistake of thinking that the answer to more energy, is spending more time asleep.
That’s rarely the case. Unless there’s an underlying medical condition, you’re a new mom, or suffer from extreme sleep deprivation.
The reality is that more sleep doesn’t = more energy. It actually makes you feel more tired!
And because that’s the opposite of what most people want to feel each day, and because a lot of us despise getting out of bed in the morning, here’s some natural ways which can help you wake up of a morning – and there’s no coffee in sight
Find the light…
Melatonin is a hormone produced by your brain and regulates your sleep. When it’s dark your body produces more melatonin making you sleepy. When it’s light, the production of melatonin drops.
If you struggle to wake up, open your curtains to let the light in.
And if it’s winter when the clocks have gone back, so you wake up before the sun rises, give an illuminating alarm clock a go – you’ll be woken up naturally with light, and won’t be disturbed all of a sudden with a loud alarm noise!
Your body is made up of 60% water, but when you sleep you sweat, breathe and don’t drink for hour – which dehydrates you.
Dehydration reduces alertness, increases those tired feelings and affects mental concentration.
Before you go to bed place a glass of water beside you and down it as soon as you wake up.
I do this each morning, I have done for months, and I really feel the difference.
Start the day
with a healthy breakfast…
It’s been proven that people feel more alert after eating breakfast first thing in the morning.
If your breakfast is high in processed sugar, your energy will drop quickly.
But if you have a breakfast packed full of natural carbohydrates, fats and protein – alertness lasts longer throughout the morning.
(A favorite of mine is scrambled eggs on brown toast and a glass of
Listen to music…
Music has the ability to release feel-good chemicals throughout your body. Starting your day with your favorite up-beat tunes can get you moving, and is guaranteed to set your day off on a good note
This one probably sounds obvious but getting up to do something active in the morning gets your blood pumping and releases your feel-good chemicals.
It doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise like a gym class or a run, it can be something simple like going for a gentle walk, or doing some stretches in the comfort of your own home.
To sum it up – when it comes to sleep, less is more.
On average you need 6-7 hours sleep each night, if you’re currently getting 9 or more, granted, any attempt to switch to less will leave you feeling groggy. But only at first.
If you stick at it for about 30 days, it’ll eventually become a habit that
leaves you feeling great with MORE energy.
And not only that, but you’ll also have MORE time in your life!…
Rising earlier could help you to exercise more and give you time to plan
and enjoy your day ahead, and even get the housework done in peace if
If you manage to make this a healthy habit by climbing out of bed just
ONE hour earlier each morning you will find spare time equivalent to an
entire week in your life. Every month.
Has this ever happened to you?
You’re going about your day doing your usual day-to-day jobs, you could be doing something as simple as taking the trash out, weeding the front garden, folding clothes or even changing the bed then all of a sudden you feel a sharp pain in your back and you can hardly move…
Just a few weeks ago this happened to one of our patients Charlotte, 57, from Patterson…
She was making the most of a quiet weekend, and before she decided to relax for the day she wanted to do some spring cleaning.
Charlotte was fine to begin with, but as soon as she went to turn over her mattress she put her back out completely.
At first the pain wasn’t so bad, but then a few hours later her back began to stiffen up…
Like most people we see she thought at first ‘oh it’s just a stiff back, I’ve probably got a bit carried away with the cleaning, it’s happened before.” But the next day the pain was still there, and it felt even worse!
Charlotte’s back started to ache when she sat down, she struggled to find a comfortable position to fall asleep in, and she couldn’t even bring herself to stand without being in agony AND she had a weekend away in Florida planned…
How was she going to get away now with a back so painful?…
Now you might be thinking this won’t happen to you, not with something as basic as everyday chores, but when you consider that most of us do some form of jobs around the house, that’s a lot of backs that could potentially become sore! And not just that, most people we see say they suffer from back pain when doing routine activities such as chores that cause flare-ups
The thing is, many people will ‘put up’ with a bad back for days (even weeks!), hoping the pain will go away on it’s own eventually, but you really don’t have to play the waiting game and suffer for so long – especially not if it’s getting in the way of daily life and even trips away and events that you’ve been looking forward to for ages!
So how about I give you three quick tips for everyday housework jobs to help make agonizing back pain a thing of the past – because chores themselves aren’t to blame (even though we’d like to think they are), it’s how you ‘do’ them.
1. When using the vacuum cleaner or a mop: one of the most common mistakes people make is reaching out with their arms while bending at the waist over and over again.
Bending over in awkward positions can place a lot of strain on your muscles – especially in your back! To help fix this the key is to keep your hips and shoulders moving towards the work.
What I mean by this is instead of leaning forwards and twisting your back, step forward in the direction of the movement with one foot and bend slightly at the knee, allowing your upper body to stay upright to reduce any strain.
2. When doing the laundry, picking up items and rescuing that lost sock from the bedroom floor, leaning over can trigger back pain – similar to sweeping and using the vacuum cleaner, bending at the waist repeatedly will strain your back muscles.
To get around this I tell my patients to do something I like to call the ‘golfer’s reach’, it has this name because it’s similar to how golfers pick up a ball.
When you reach for items with your right hand balance yourself by lifting your leg up in the air. If you need extra support, place your opposite hand on a nearby surface. If you’re reaching with your left hand, reverse the directions.
The deeper you reach with your hand, the higher your opposite leg should go so that you can keep your balance while simultaneously reducing the amount of strain on your back muscles.
3. One more thing, I know it can be easy to get caught up, rushing around the house to get everything done but one thing to remember is to be kind to yourself and take 20 minute breaks throughout. Brew some coffee and relax for a while before returning to your chores.
If you start feeling any signs of pain, walk, stretch and rest your back.
Don’t allow yourself to get so busy checking chore off of your to-do list that you forget the safe way to move your body.
Start using these tips, you’ll be keeping your back safe.
Lets talk about the one thing most of us don’t think about often when it comes to keeping our bodies active, mobile and pain free:
In my opinion, knees tend to be overlooked and something we don’t pay much attention to in our lives (even I’ve been guilty of this!)
But if you think about it, our knees are incredibly important and play a huge role in supporting the body. They allow us to walk, run, bend down, drive, etc., and yet hardly anyone knows how to actually look after them.
Now, you might think that ‘exercising’ would be a good thing for you, and most of the time it is – it keeps you in great shape and is good for your joints. So, why wouldn’t it be good for you?
Here’s an example: if you like to go jogging it can sometimes do more harm than good.
Think of it in this way:
Each time you take a stride your leg is bending, causing your knee joints to work. Now think of how often and how long you would jog or run for? 10, 20 minutes? Maybe even more? This repetitiveness can have an effect on your knees over a long period of time.
Even walking can sometimes cause aches and pains in our knees if we don’t look after them.
We are recommended to do 10,000 steps a day, and with each step, we use our knees. If we manage to do the recommended steps then it is likely that your knees have been bent at least 10,000 times within the day! (That’s a lot of bending!)
Now, I’m not saying to avoid running and walking altogether, nope, what I want to share with you is why it’s important to prepare your body properly for these types of exercises (so aches and pains don’t keep us from being active and going about our daily lives)
Let’s take a look:
Show your knees some love whilst exercising, stretch before and after you exercise. With a warm up, a lot of people don’t realize that stretching beforehand can actually help you walk, jog, and run further and with more ease (and reduce the risk of injury!).
Cooling down has exactly the same principles. Stretching after exercise is key to easing stiffness in the morning. When you stretch your muscles after exercise, your body lets go of that lactic acid – aka the reason you are sore the next day.
Stretching after exercise also improves circulation and flexibility, helping you to ease any chances of knee pain.
If you work somewhere where you are doing heavy lifting all day, you may have been told over and over to ‘lift with your knees.’ Yes this is the safest way to lift, but remember to look after your knees when you come home!
Maybe you don’t work in this type of environment but often pick up your grandchildren after chasing them around the garden?
It’s a bit like a workout, it might even feel like it sometimes! But when you get home, make sure you stretch before you go to bed. Your knees have had extra strain on them as opposed to any other day, which could leave you in pain the next morning when you roll out of bed.
Now for those who love to garden when the sun’s out – How often do you plant your flowers kneeling down? This one may go without saying but this is probably one of the worst things you can do to your knees!
The amount of pressure you are putting on them is quite something! Not only are your knees supporting your full body weight, they are forced onto the hard ground and are kept in that position for over an hour!
Some of you reading this might not think it takes that long to plant new flowers. Or perhaps you stay on your knees because it’s easier to get up and get your tools?
Either way, your knees will be suffering. The best way to approach gardening, is to bring all your tools with you, get a cushion and bring over a knee rest too.
A lot of gardening shops have knee rests to help, although I understand sometimes even these can become uncomfortable.
My advice would be to try and use one, and if it becomes too much, sit on your bottom and use the cushion. You may even prefer to kneel on the knee rest with the cushion.
However the most crucial part is timing! Try not to kneel for longer than 10 minutes with a knee rest, get up often and move around before kneeling down again to get movement to your joints.
Yes, the gardening may take longer but you will be looking after your knees, and if you love gardening then you have nothing to lose!
So next time you have a slight ache or pain in your knees, don’t brush it off! Our knees are what keep us independent and living life to the full, remember that!
Had this question asked in my clinic this week that I wanted to share with you (It’s a common question I often get asked about posture)…
’Tony, I’ve recently had Repetitive Strain Injury from work and although I’ve been given a wrist rest for when I’m on the computer, I still seem to suffer from bad posture. What would help improve my posture at work??…’
– Clare, 49, Brewster
A lot of people underestimate the power of great posture and the advantages it can provide to your lifestyle.
Think of it in this way, a lot of your time is spent at work doing whatever it is that you do, but if you have bad posture throughout your day, in the long run, it can have a serious effect.
Some people can spend hours either at a desk or stood up at work and those hours of having bad posture can add up to something serious if it is not dealt with.
Here’s a few ways to have better posture and ultimately, make it a healthy habit in your lifestyle.
This tip might seem quite obvious but the first thing I’d recommend is to keep your body straight. If you have an office job then adjust your seating if you are sat down for a long period of time. Remember the chair’s features are there for a reason, to make you feel supported!
Sit up straight and adjust the chair so that it feels comfortable and supportive. Sometimes, depending on how long you are sat for, even if you are sitting in a good position, it can feel tiring. If this is the case, then try shifting towards the front of your seat with a straight back from time to time. This can sometimes help ease your back muscles and stop you
If you stand up at work, then standing straight really does help. I know at times it can feel like a relief to rest your body weight on one leg whilst resting the rest of your body on a desk or worktop. Sound familiar?
Unfortunately this is pretty much how not to stand. Ultimately all you are doing to your body is putting strain on particular muscles while you ‘rest’. When standing, make sure your body weight is spread evenly to the front, back and sides of the feet.
Another great tip is to get up (if you are not already) and move! Yes you could finish off that one last email but I think we both know that, that one email will lead to something else. As a result, you will not only be glued to your chair all day, but may end up putting more pressure on the neck and back.
The best time to get up and moving is when you start to feel your body slouch a little and find it hard to keep in a comfortable position. If it’s possible, try and get up from your chair every half an hour or so and do a few stretches or walk around for a few minutes.
Think of it as a coffee break for your body. After a few minutes you’ll come back to your desk refreshed and ready to start working.
If like Clare, you are thinking of using posture-friendly props, then great. They are easy to find and can make a big difference to your posture at work. As Clare has done, she has decided to use a wrist rest to help ease her symptoms of Repetitive Strain Injury.
However there are many other props that will help you at work. Footrests, back supports and even a pillow can help ease back pain. Even positioning your computer screen in level to your resting eye position, will help avoid straining the neck with the head tilted forward.
If you don’t work in an office and are based more outdoors, then even using correct footwear, bags and backpacks can help minimize back strain and can encourage good posture.
So my answer to Clare is this- yes, a prop can help ease pain from poor posture, but remember to put the other tips in place too.
The solution lies not only in putting these actions in place, but also committing to these tips in the long run. It may not be a quick fix but you will be easing your pain in the long term. This is one of the healthy habits that everyone needs in their working day!
Have you ever wondered what the most simplest thing for getting healthy would be?
Look no further, you’ll know about it once you’ve read this article.
A lot of patients we see are always on the look out for new ways to feel great, and live a healthier lifestyle – especially after experiencing something like an ankle injury that puts them out of walking for a while, or a bad back that’s kept them resting in bed for days.
But when it comes to health, most of us start to over complicate things.
We think about what foods we should fill our shopping carts with, what exercise routines we should do, what the best green superfood juice is, but in my opinion, that’s the hard approach.
I know as humans we want results fast (myself included!), but that’s often the primary reason why we give up on our new habits after a matter of weeks. When it comes to your health, as with everything else in your life, the key is to be consistent.
Let me give you an example…
You’ve probably read how around 92% of New Year's resolutions get dropped within the first few weeks of a new year – there’s no point in having a New Year’s resolution and start a rigorous exercise and diet plan, only to stop doing it a few weeks later…
Slow and steady progress will make you healthy (and happier) – wanting the quick route only makes it harder. So let’s take a look at…
Getting Healthy The Easy, And Most
The easy approach is much different – you take a habit, or a behavior you want to put into action, and make is so small you can’t give it up.
A popular example is eating less processed sugar – a lot of people want to incorporate this habit into their daily life but brush it to the side after a week or two.
Why? Simply because it’s tough, and they make the habit too big. They throw out all of the sugar in the house, and banish it completely.
But a ‘better’ approach that works for most people is to begin slow, by cutting certain processed foods out one at a time, so that the habit is so tiny you simply can’t give it up.
From there you increase the habit, and instead of not just eating jelly sweets anymore, you also don’t drink fizzy drinks, then you keep going and you don’t add sugar to your tea, and before you know it, you’ve cut your sugar intake dramatically!
Although it won’t work for everybody, because we’re all different at building habits – it’s a great tactic that works for many people.
Anyways, this article isn’t about sugar and reducing your intake. It’s actually about another really easy (but also highly effective) habit. It’s one thing that has multiple positive effects attached to it.
Can you take a guess at what it is? I already said it isn’t cutting out sugar. Maybe it’s exercise? Or eating more vegetables? Nope, these are too hard for the beginning.
It’s something really, really easy. Something you’re probably already doing on most days, but you just don’t do ‘enough’ of it.
Let me explain…
Getting healthy is all about the small things you do everyday. The small things that don’t require much work, but add up over time, and walking can be a huge contributor to that – walking is like exercise, it just doesn’t feel like it.
Here’s the definition of ‘walking’:
‘To advance to travel on foot at a moderated speed or pace.’
That doesn’t sound too hard does it”? Moderate is always good, right? The best part of walking is that you are already doing it. Probably every day!
You walk to your car, you walk at home, you walk around your work place – walking is already a habit, you just need to increase the amount of it you do.
Before I fill you in on how to make this more actionable, I want to give you some of the benefits of walking, short and simple…
Walking Gets You Moving!
…and everybody knows how important this is. We spend an average of 9.3 hours a day sitting which isn’t good for our bodies! When you are walking you are not sitting, which is a good thing for getting healthy.
Your Muscles Get Used!
Using your muscles will keep your body moving – if you live a sedentary lifestyle, chances are, you’re increasing your risk of suffering from something like a bad back, and a weak body – which let's face it, if you can avoid that you will!
It Helps You Feel Relaxed!
Getting fresh air will make you feel more relaxed and less stressed, while getting into the sun will increase your vitamin D production which improves your sleep – helping you to feel fresh each day.
Walking has many, many, many positive effects, but you’ll have to find out the rest yourself
Anyways, since I want you to begin this habit as soon as possible, here are a few ideas to get you started…
Don’t think a 5 minute walk is a waste of time, it’s not! Begin with 5 minutes and if you enjoy it, increase it next time to 10!
Use Your Legs More
If you drive to work, park your car further away and walk the rest. Even better, if your workplace is close, ditch the car altogether.
At The Weekend…
Take a long walk on the weekend. Take your family or a good friend and just walk. Meet up and walk to a café or park close by. Update each other on what’s new. This combines walking and your social life as well. Isn’t walking just great?
When you’re on vacation, don’t take a taxi or the public transport all the time. Walk through the city and talk to locals. This way you’ll discover more places you wouldn’t have seen otherwise and make the most of it.
There’s just a few ways you can start to incorporate walking more into your daily life. I personally love to walk. And I walk each day for at least 20 minutes, whether alone, with friends, or my family. I’ve discovered so many places during my walks, came up with tons of ideas and always feel great afterwards
Walking is really easy. Finding an excuse for not jogging is rather simple (not a lot of us like jogging), but finding an excuse for not taking a short walk is almost impossible.
Take a five-minute walk every day for a week and see how you feel afterwards. Increase it five minutes each week.
It’s a great way to start getting healthy.
Let's talk about exercise and back pain…
Last week I had a question asked by one of our patients, Jackie, 58, from Carmel
And it’s one that we get asked often (especially since the New Years gym rush!)
“Is it ok to exercise when my back is hurting? I’ve just got into a good
routine sticking to the gym and working out three times a week, and I
really don’t want to stop…”
I get the frustration, and I also know that the thought of doing any movement at all when you’re going through some kind of pain might feel a little scary…
You don’t want to run the risk of aggravating it any more in case it turns into something more serious.
You don’t want to go ‘too hard’ in the gym in case you pull another muscle.
And you don’t want to wake up one day to find that you can no longer roll out of bed easily, walk down the road, or even drive because what you did, made it worse.
But don’t let that worry you too much – that’s rarely ever the case!
An aching lower back doesn’t mean you’ve got to be housebound, with heat and ice packs until it magically disappears.
You CAN keep moving! In fact, not moving at all can make your back pain worse!
If you suffer from lower back pain that comes and goes, gentle walking with exercises designed to improve lower back strength and movement added in, will make a big difference.
Walking is a completely natural movement that keeps your joints mobile and muscles working – even those in your feet, lets, hips and torso – which play an important role in keeping the muscles in your back that hold you up right, strong.
Stretching combined with walking will improve your backs strength, flexibility and posture, which in turn, can help stop back pain from creeping up on you when you least expect it. What’s more, it can also reduce how painful it feels and how much it gets in the way of day to day life.
So here’s the important question to answer now that you know it 100% is ok to exercise even if you’ve got a bad back…
What exercise can you actually be doing? Because of course, too much exercise, or exercise that’s strenuous could make it worse or keep it hanging around longer.
Even though there’s false beliefs around Yoga, like ‘you’ve got to be flexible’ etc., etc., etc… you can ditch those false beliefs behind because it’s for anyone!
Let me tell you why – Yoga helps build strength.
Yoga requires you to concentrate on specific muscles in the body when holding poses – many of which improve back strength. When these muscles are stronger your back pain can be greatly reduced and is less likely to affect you as bad as it once did.
As well as strengthening, Yoga relaxes the body and reduces any tension in stress-carrying muscles (a.k.a your back!)
For people with lower back pain, stretching is important. Stretching the muscles in your legs actually help to increase range of movement in your hips, taking the stress off your lower back – which in addition increases blood flow, allowing nutrients to flow in, taking care of the muscles in your back.
It’s also once of the best forms of exercise to maintain and improve a healthy posture. Great for your back, stopping back pain in it’s tracks, and add to that it feels great when you can walk around confident and tall.
So there you have it, gentle walks and yoga.
Both of these will help you gain back your strength in your back, so you can return to doing the exercise you love the most.
Dr. Tony Tanzi: Physical Therapist, Triathlete, Runner, Performance Coach