Health and wellness tips from Indiana University
EDITORS: This monthly tip sheet is based on Indiana University faculty research, teaching and service. "Living Well Through Healthy Lifestyles" is the guiding philosophy of IU Bloomington's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. In keeping with that philosophy, this tip sheet offers information related to both physical and mental well-being. Faculty in other IU schools and departments also contribute their expertise in this area.
* Post-holiday workout injuries: prevention and treatment
* Keeping children active all winter
* Strength training for first-timers
Post-holiday workout injuries -- prevention and treatment. Renewed enthusiasm for fitness is common after the holiday season, but injuries are likely when people try to make up for lost time, according to John Schrader, clinical professor in the Department of Kinesiology and a certified athletic trainer for Indiana University's Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Schrader teaches courses on musculoskeletal assessment and rehabilitation of athletic injuries. "Too often people make the decision to get fit and overdo it immediately. Muscle strains and acute soreness are an unfortunate result of thinking that more is better when you're trying to get back on track. In fact, you will have more success at getting fit if you ease into a workout program and give your body time to gradually adjust to new demands," he said. Schrader offered the following tips for preventing and treating common workout injuries:
- Don't trust your instincts to tell you what your body can handle. "Your brain doesn't know when you are out of shape," Schrader said. "Your mind thinks you can do anything you did when you were 18, especially if you used to be very active. It's as if your brain sends out a request, but your body gives you a rejection notice in the form of acute soreness or injury." Check with your physician before starting a new program, and think in terms of gradually increasing your workout intensity.
- Put your energy into planning. "It's great to get excited about getting fit, but if you go all-out in the beginning, you can hurt yourself. Instead, take that energy and invest it in drawing up a plan that you can stick to. Develop a schedule and consider it an important investment in your health. Put it in your appointment book, and do not 'cancel' on yourself," Schrader said.
- Treat muscle soreness with a warm bath or shower, gentle stretching and light activity. "Going for an easy walk can help sore muscles by increasing circulation and speeding recovery at the molecular level," Schrader said. Peak muscle soreness is most common 48 hours after a workout.
- Know when to see a doctor about your injury. "A good measure of significant injury is if it wakes you up in the night or persists for several days. With either situation, you should see a doctor," Schrader said. Minor and short-lived aches and pains can be treated with a cold compress and over-the-counter pain medication. "It's also important to back off your intensity once you've recovered. An injury is a sign that you were too aggressive with your workout."
The Department of Kinesiology is part of the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation at Indiana University Bloomington. Schrader can be reached at 812-856-4905 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep children active all winter. Don't let cold weather stand in the way of active play. The winter months provide ample opportunities for active games indoors and out, says David Gallahue, dean of Indiana University's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. Gallahue, an expert on children and physical activity, offers the following tips:
- Dress for the weather and get outside. "If children are properly bundled, they can be outside for hours. The key is to dress in layers," Gallahue said. He recommends a first and second layer of moisture-wicking fabrics like polypropylene. "Don't have cotton close to the body, because it will trap moisture against the skin. Look for fabrics with wicking features that move moisture away," he said. For a third layer, add fleece for warmth, and then finish with a waterproof outer layer. "Add a hat, preferably made of wicking fabric, and mittens, which are better than gloves for keeping little fingers warm. If there's snow outside, eye protection and sunscreen are a must," he said.
- "Give it a name, make it a game." A walk through the park becomes an adventure when you're hunting for acorns or identifying winter birds. "A walk along a stream can be a 'creek hike' to find fossils or geodes. How about a 'tree hike' where you take rubbings of five different types of bark? Give your trip a name and a goal to make it exciting," Gallahue said. Older children can use a map and compass or the Global Positioning System to find landmarks or hidden treasures you've planted in advance. "With a little planning, you can put together a scavenger hunt for things like animal tracks, pine cones or interesting ice formations," he said.
- Visit a zoo or a farm. Places that house animals are fun winter destinations for learning how life changes throughout the seasons. "At the zoo you can see which animals are hibernating and which can survive in the cold. Or visit a farm to see how the farmers take care of their animals during the winter," he said.
- Make snow and ice your playthings. "Ice skating, skiing, snowshoeing and building snow sculptures are all great ways to enjoy the outdoors," he said.
- Create indoor adventures. "With younger children, imaginative play can be a great way to be active. Build a fort or tent in the bedroom and make up a story to act out. Let's say we're taking our camera, hunting for a bear to photograph. So we stalk the bear all around the house. Then we jump into our cardboard canoe and paddle to the other side of the river. Now we're pretending to climb a tall tree so we can get a better view. Capture a child's imagination and be absolutely silly. You can also act out nursery rhymes or favorite stories in the same way."
- Have a family step contest. For older children, pedometers can be a great tool for a goal-oriented family activity that brings activity indoors. "Work as a team or have a contest to see who can get the most steps around the house each day. The winner gets to pick the next family outing, or the whole family can celebrate breaking its old record. Children aged 7-12 are great with devices and gadgets. They'll find creative ways to work in more steps to see the numbers add up," he said.
Gallahue can be reached at 812-855-1516 and email@example.com.
Strength training for first-timers. The rewards of a well-planned strength training program can include weight management, improved bone density, lower blood pressure and decreased risk of injury in other activities. Common mistakes by beginners, however, could result in low back pain, muscle strains or even serious injury. Mike Willett, a competitive powerlifter and associate chair of Indiana University's Department of Kinesiology, recommends that people new to strength training pay special attention to their core strength, stretching routine, grip strength and technique.
- Core strength. People of all ages and fitness levels need to focus first on building strength in the core of the body -- the back and abdominal muscles. "Anyone starting out on a strength training program should begin with the core," Willett said. "No matter what your goals are, you need to build a solid foundation in the torso. Unfortunately this is not how most people do it, and they experience low back pain and a host of other problems. Before you pick up a set of dumbbells and start doing bicep curls, you need to see to the well-being of your structure by building the stabilizer muscles in the abdominal and lower back areas."
- Stretching routine. Stretching is often overlooked during strength training workouts, but it is important for maintaining flexibility and range of motion. Willet recommends stretching before and after a workout. "Get your muscles warm before using any type of weights or resistance," Willet said. "The best way to do this is with a light jog on a treadmill or cycling on a stationary bike until you break a sweat, and then a 5-10 minute stretching routine prior to and after your training." Be sure to stretch the muscles that you use during your strength training routine.
- Grip strength. A limiting factor for people starting out using weights is the ability to grasp a heavy object securely. One of the most common injuries for beginners is a crushing injury from a dropped dumbbell or barbell. "Grip strength has to be developed gradually like any other type of strength," Willett said. "If this step is skipped, the result could be a broken bone." He suggests starting your strength program with a set of resistance bands instead of traditional weights. These stretchy bands are available in different widths -- the thicker the band, the more resistance it offers -- and many models feature handles, which can serve as a starting point in building grip strength. Click here http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news/page/normal/2572.html for directions for six resistance band exercises.
- Technique. However you begin your program, it's best to learn the fundamentals from a qualified strength training professional. "Improper technique will limit your progress, if not from direct injury like muscle strains, then from failure to target the appropriate muscle groups," Willett said. "Even if you're planning to work out at home, you need someone to show you how to train correctly." Although personal training can be expensive, he said that most trainers are happy to let small groups of three or four people share the cost of a training session. "Check out your local gym and ask for a half dozen training sessions. Tell the trainer exactly what you want to do and what kind of equipment you can access," Willett said. "A knowledgeable instructor can show you proper technique, breathing guidelines, and how and when to progress to the next level in your exercises." Many health clubs, community centers and colleges also offer strength training classes for beginners.
Willett also is director of the President's Challenge Physical Activity and Fitness Awards Program, which is administered through IU Bloomington's Department of Kinesiology for the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. More information on the President's Challenge can be found at http://www.presidentschallenge.org. Willett can be reached at 812-855-2227 and firstname.lastname@example.org.