Clapham Osteopathy and Functional Movement

Hormesis: The Good Stress

Nietzsche famously said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Or was it Conan the Barbarian? Either way, there is certainly some truth to the statement. One such way actually involves stress. Now, with good reason, we are constantly warned about the dangers of stress, both physical and psychological. Stress has been shown to worsen or increase the risk of conditions like obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems, and asthma. However, the intent of this post is not to warn you about the dangers of stress – you are probably already well aware of them. Rather, we’d like to focus on a very particular kind of stress – a good stress – called hormesis.

Whereas the chronic stress from our jobs, lack of sleep, bills, antagonistic relationships, poor diet, etc. will break you down, certain low-level stressors can actually make you physically stronger, boost your immune system, improve your mood, and more. Some of these hormetic stressors are probably already very familiar to you, including such staples as exercise, sunlight, fasting, exposure to extreme heat or cold, and even certain foods. The key to hormetic stress is that it needs to come in small(er) amounts. For example, plunging into arctic water for a long period of time will ultimately probably kill you. But a cold bath or shower can actually stimulate your immune system, making you healthier. Similarly, exposure to extreme heat for a prolonged period can lead to dehydration and other issues, whereas a 20 minute sauna session can produce loads of beneficial effects, physical and mental. For a more detailed and scientific analysis of this, check out Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s article, Hyperthermic Conditioning’s Role In Increasing Endurance, Muscle Mass, and Neurogenesis.

weightsAnother very familiar example of hormetic stress is exercise, in particular strength training. A challenging weights workout increases levels of oxidative stress and inflammation in your body. Done in the right amount, ie not over-training, this provides a relatively low and manageable dose of muscle injury. Your body responds to this microtrauma by building new muscle fibres as well as repairing the slightly-damaged ones. Regular exercise improves your body’s ability to rebuild, making you stronger and healthier. But the key to this is not overdoing it, and ensuring proper rest and recovery between workouts. If recovery isn’t adequate, the hormetic stress becomes chronic stress and the body can’t cope with the damage. This is why so many people who insist on training super-hard too frequently often wind up feeling ‘broken.’

Fasting, especially intermittent fasting, is another hormetic stressor. Skipping meals provokes a great hormetic stress response. Additionally, fasting triggers autophagy, a process in which cells clean themselves up, getting rid of damaged or junk cells that could potentially become cancerous. Again, though, this needs to be approached correctly, as calorie deprivation combined with gruelling exercise, sleep deprivation or other chronic stress can do more harm than good. So once again, don’t over do it! Notice a trend? Dr. Jason Fung is one of the world’s foremost experts on fasting. You can check out interviews with him here and here. Even better, buy his book, The Complete Guide to Fasting. We’ve read it, and highly recommend it.

Certain foods also promote hormesis. You’ve almost certainly heard about foods rich in antioxidants. Well, antioxidants are actually hormetic stressors, which is why they are so good for you. Colorful fruits and vegetables, as well as bitter foods, tend to be high in antioxidants, so having a good amount of these types of foods in your diet can be very beneficial. Check out this article on antioxidants for more info. Some of the most popular “superfoods” – blueberries, dark chocolate, turmeric, red wine, green tea, broccoli –  contain hormetic compounds that activate adaptive stress response pathways, improving our health. But of course, moderation is still key. You certainly don’t want to go on an ‘all chocolate and wine’ diet, no matter how appealing that may sound.

Believe it or not, sunlight is even a hormetic stressor. Getting regular, small amounts of sun exposure can help reduce skin cancer and improve vitamin D levels. But again, overdoing it can have the opposite effect, so don’t get sunburnt!

In conclusion, it’s critical to note the difference between chronic stress and hormetic stress. In almost all instances, too much of a good thing can have the opposite of the desired effect. Too often we push ourselves too hard – the ‘just do it!’ and ‘no pain, no gain!’ mentality. Conversely, not having enough hormetic stressors does not enable us to develop as we should. Here at Backs Etc., we believe that balance is the key to health, fitness, and happiness, so do challenge yourself, but do it wisely.

 

Why we owe it to ourselves to spend quiet time alone every day

Are you always rushing around? Take a few moments to meditate, breathe or just be alone with your own thoughts. By not giving ourselves the minutes — or hours — free of devices and distractions, we risk losing our ability to know who we are and what’s important to us, says physicist and writer Alan Lightman.

 

Read the full article, Why we owe it to ourselves to spend quiet time alone every day.

 

 

 

 

A Quick Guide To Fasting

fastingMore and more studies are proving the myriad of health benefits that fasting can provide. And these days, with the growing popularity of intermittant fasting, the 5:2 diet and compressed eating windows, many people are reaping these rewards. If you’re at all interested in fasting (and you should be!) here is a great little one page intro guide from the folks at www.gutgeek.com.

Read the article, ‘A Quick Guide To Fasting’

How to Make Diseases Disappear

Can you actually make a disease disappear? Dr. Rangan Chatterjee thinks you can, and describes how in this TEDx Talk. Often referred to as the doctor of the future, Rangan is changing the way that we look at illness and how medicine will be practiced in years to come. He highlighted his methods in the BBC TV show, Doctor In The House, gaining him much acclaim from patients, his contemporaries, and the media.

We’re big fans of Chatterjee’s approach, and highly recommend his book, The 4 Pillar Plan: How to Relax, Eat, Move and Sleep Your Way to a Longer, Healthier Life.

 

Sleep vs. Exercise?

man sleepingIn this article, a reader poses the question to the experts: “Is it better for my overall health to get eight hours of sleep per night during the week but not have time to exercise, or to get six and a half to seven hours of sleep per night and fit in a morning workout?”

The bottom line is, if you sacrifice sleep to train, you’ll miss out on all the helpful recovery elements provided by sleep. In the words of the great Gray Cook: “Don’t rob health to pay fitness.”

Check out the article, Sleep vs. Exercise?

Release Your Inner Beast with Animal Flow

Sue animal flow

Recently, we spent a weekend in New York at the Animal Flow level 1 course. For those of you unfamiliar with it, Animal Flow is a fitness programme that combines quadrupedal and ground-based movement with elements from various bodyweight-training disciplines to create a fun, challenging workout emphasizing multi-planar, fluid movement. The primary movement patterns are based on animal movement, but in the programme, we recognised elements of parkour, yoga, breakdancing, and gymnastics.

We have decided to incorporate elements of Animal Flow into our training at Backs Etc. because we realise the value of a system requiring no equipment that can increase and/or improve:

  • Mobility
  • Flexibility
  • Stability
  • Power
  • Endurance
  • Skills
  • Neuromuscular development

In addition, Animal Flow can be fun. How many other workouts have you slinking along the floor like a hunting beast, scuttling like a crab, and bounding about like an ape? This aspect of the programme is an important part of our philosophy that we should all be incorporating more fun into our lives, especially in physical endeavours.

So how is Animal Flow beneficial to us?

It utilises closed-chain exercises

Most bodyweight training exercises, such as those in Animal Flow,  are closed-chain, which means that limbs connect to the ground or another immovable object in a constant fixed position, and resistance is created by pushing against it, moving the body rather than the object. For instance, a bicep curl or leg extension is open-chain, whereas a push-up or squat is closed-chain. Most fitness experts agree that closed-chain exercises are preferable because:

  1. Closed-chain exercises better mimic activities of daily living, which means they improve your “functional” fitness. They’re great for athletes, too, since sports require multiple joint and muscle movements to happen at once. Very few movements in real life or in athletics isolate joints and muscles like open-chain exercises do.
  2. Closed-chain exercises work many muscle groups at once. That’s great for the reasons above, but also because you can get more benefit in less time.
  3. Closed-chain exercises are safer for your joints—especially the knee joint, which is very vulnerable to stress and injury. The force involved in closed chain exercises like lunges and squats is compressive, meaning it actually stabilizes the joint and helps strengthen it. In contrast, open chain exercises, like knee extensions or hamstring curls produce shear force, which stresses the knee joint (and the ACL) and is more likely to result in injury.

It focuses on multi-planar movement

The benefits of multi-planar training are closely related to those described with closed-chain exercises. The goal of multi-planar training is to utilise the entire body to move and/or stabilise instead of working an isolated muscle. Most day-to-day activities and resistance training programmes are sagittal plane-dominant. The sagittal plane refers to front-to-back movement when looking at someone from the side. So, for instance, walking and bench pressing are taking place in the sagittal plane, and many exercise programmes over-emphasise these types of movement. Frontal plane exercises are those that go side-to-side. An example of this is a side lunge. Finally, there is the transverse plane, which involves rotational movements.

The beauty of Animal Flow is that, when putting together a flow of various patterns, you are training in all three planes of movement. By involving all of the major muscle groups, this provides a balanced training approach that helps increase overall function and decreases the risk of injury.  Most injuries occur in the frontal and rotational planes, so working these is essential to reduce risk.

It utilises slings and chains

You may think, “Whoa, this sounds a bit S&M!”, but slings are the kinetic chains that connect contralateral arms and legs on walking and running. The majority of the Animal Flow travelling forms fully activate these slings and chains, providing excellent benefits for improving the way we walk, run and move. When we load the slings with our body weight, and put them into motion, we further enhance the neural sequencing and conditioning of all the muscles.

It features quadrupedal movements

Crawling patterns are an important part of neural development stages. After all, babies need to learn to crawl before they can walk. We’ve always practised crawling patterns ourselves and trained clients to do so, but Animal Flow takes these movements to the next level. For example, the ‘Beast Crawl’ correlates to our normal walking and running gait patterns, using the same neural sequences, so an ability to crawl fluidly with control will translate into better walking and running form, thereby improving performance and reducing the risk for injury.

 

If you’re interested in exploring how Animal Flow techniques can help with your general fitness, athletic performance or rehab, drop us a line. We’re excited to have incorporated this methodology into our own workouts, and we’d love to share this knowledge with you!

Jack Sue animal flow

Why the pursuit of pleasure is making us sad

This is a fascinating interview with Dr. Robert Lustig on the difference between happiness and pleasure, and how the two are driven by different chemicals – Dopamine and Seratonin. In a nutshell, Dopamine governs pleasure, while serotonin governs happiness – and the two do not overlap, says Lustig. Pleasure is short-lived, visceral, can be had alone and can be brought about by substances or behaviours. Happiness is long-lived, ethereal, usually social and cannot be had from substances or behaviours.

Check out the full article, Why the pursuit of pleasure is making us sad.

Choose Love this Christmas

At this time of year when we are busy buying gifts for people that already have so much, why not buy something for someone who is in real need?

Choose Love is the world’s first store that sells real products for refugees. Every single purchase you make goes towards a similar item for a refugee, delivered via one of the 80+ projects Help Refugees work with across the world.

Visit Choose Love and help those who really need it this Christmas.

The Latest Science on What Meditation Can and Can’t Do

meditationHere is an interesting article on what meditation can and can’t do. It is becoming very popular for good reason. We try to meditate for 10-30 minutes every day, but it is not a universal panacea. Recently we have been using the Insight Timer App, which has loads of guided meditations of varying lengths and subjects for those of you who need a bit of help to get started.

 

Read the full article, From States to Traits: the Latest Science on What Meditation Can and Can’t Do