Spring into fitness — safely

Spring into fitnessThere’s no doubt the warmer weather, and the impending beach season is good motivation to take up a regular exercise regime.

But are you exercising safely?

 

How much exercise do we need?

After emerging from the pile of blankets you’ve been hiding under during winter, usually a few kilos heavier, it can be tempting to start a gruelling exercise plan, in a bid to lose the winter weight. But overdoing it could increase your risk of injury.

Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines state that we should:

  • Be active on most, preferably all, days every week
  • Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity, or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week
  • Do muscle strengthening activities on at least two days each week.

 

Benefits of exercise

Many of us make the mistake of seeing exercise as a way to shed unwanted weight. And while exercise does help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, its benefits go beyond weight loss. Regular exercise leads to:

  • Increased muscle mass: The more muscle you have the higher your metabolism; which means it’s easier to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Increased muscle strength: This is important for balance and reduces your risk of injury.
  • Improved bone strength: The stronger your bones, the less risk of osteoporosis.
  • Healthy immune system: When your immune system is strong, you are less likely to get sick.
  • Decreased risk of chronic disease: Your risk of diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes are reduced.
  • Better energy levels: You will experience increased energy levels.
  • Reduced stress levels: You will be less stressed.
  • Improved sleep: Your sleep quality will improve.

 

Start out slowly

If it has been a while in between workouts, you need to start out slowly and gradually build up to the recommended amount. That means walking before you begin running; engaging in low-impact activities before you start high-impact activities; and lifting light weights before you graduate to heavy ones.

If you are overweight or have a pre-existing health condition, you should also seek the advice of your health practitioner.

 

active aprilStay safe

The whole point of exercise is to improve your health. So with that in mind, it’s worth considering the following safety tips:

  • Invest in shoes that will support your foot appropriately for the activity you will be undertaking.
  • Wear appropriate clothing, preferably clothing that will wick sweat away from your body.
  • Ensure you warm up and cool down correctly.
  • Stretch all the muscle groups properly.
  • Stay hydrated, particularly during warm or hot weather.
  • Apply sunscreen and wear a hat if exercising outdoors.
  • Pay attention to your nutrition, and eat food that will fuel your body. Don’t be tempted to starve yourself in a bid to lose weight quickly.
  • Enlist the help of a qualified personal trainer or exercise physiologist if you are unsure of how to perform specific exercises, or need assistance in developing an exercise program for your goals.
  • Stop if you feel pain of any kind.

Spring is a great time to get off the couch, get moving again and experience the great outdoors. But remember, ease into it gently and build your activity levels up gradually. Before you know it, exercise will be a normal, healthy part of your lifestyle.

 

The Write Way to Health blog is part of the portfolio of Write to the Point Communications.

Melbourne health writer & blogger, copywriter & editor, researcher extraordinaire.
Delivering high-quality health writing with exceptional customer service.

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You can beat allergy season

hayfever2While most Australians are happy to say goodbye to winter and welcome in the warmer weather, there are many who find spring a difficult time.

Usually, because they suffer from allergies — most commonly, hay fever.

Hay fever (also known as allergy rhinitis) affects millions of Australians every year. While hay fever can strike at any time of the year, it is usually worse during spring and autumn.

What is hay fever?

Hay fever is actually an allergy that affects the nose. While symptoms and severity of hay fever differ for everyone, the most common symptoms are:

  • Sneezing and runny nose
  • Blocked nose
  • Cough
  • Teary, red or itchy eyes
  • Itchy nose or throat
  • Sinus pressure or facial pain
  • Blocked ears
  • Decreased sense of smell
  • Fatigue
  • Asthma.

Symptoms usually begin after the person has been exposed to the allergen (the substance that causes the allergic reaction). In Australia, common spring-time allergens include pollens from grass and trees and spores from fungi and moulds. Other triggers may include animal dander (skin, hair and feathers from animals), cockroaches, dust mites and indoor fungi and mould.

How to prevent or reduce symptoms

The best course of action in preventing symptoms is to avoid the triggers that cause a reaction. While the most common spring-time allergens are found outside, you don’t have to miss out on the gorgeous spring sunshine. The following tips will help reduce the likelihood of your exposure:

  • Shut doors and windows during pollen season.
  • Hang washing inside to dry, as pollen can stick to clothes.
  • Avoid being outside in the early morning when pollen counts are the highest.
  • Avoid being outside on dry, windy days.
  • Be aware of the pollen count each day (check the weather report for your area) and stay inside on days when it is high.
  • Avoid gardening activities that stir up pollen and mould.
  • Wear a mask when gardening.
  • Line the inside of your nose with petroleum jelly to prevent pollen from sticking in your nose.
  • Use a humidifier to reduce the amount of pollen in the air.
  • Rinse your eyes and nose out regularly to flush out any pollen.

What about medications?

Of course it’s not possible to avoid allergens all the time. After all, we have to go to work, do the school run and get our daily dose of sunshine.

That’s where medications can come in handy. The first line of defence is over-the-counter (OTC) medications. These can be in the form of:

  • Antihistamines — can prevent or reduce the symptoms of an allergic reaction, and are best taken before experiencing symptoms
  • Decongestant — can help unblock stuffed up noses
  • Corticosteroid nasal sprays — may relieve nasal inflammation and provide relief for blocked, irritated noses.
While pretty, spring blossoms can spell misery for a hay fever sufferer.

While pretty, spring blossoms can spell misery for a hay fever sufferer.

You may also wish to use eye drops to relieve itching, watery eyes that sometimes accompany hay fever.

Should I see a doctor?

If using allergy medications does not provide relief, or your hay fever is preventing you from leading a normal life, consult your doctor. If you suffer from asthma, which is made worse by hay fever, you should also speak to your doctor. There are a range of prescription medications available that may help you. In some cases, a referral to an allergy specialist may be required.

So this spring, don’t let hay fever get the better of you. Take positive action so you can enjoy one of the most beautiful times of the year.

Further information:

Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy

Asthma Australia