Muscle strength, bone health and balance are as important for our overall health as aerobic activities that strengthen our heart and lungs.  So says a report published last week by Public Health England (PHE).  It is concerned that too many people are neglecting strength and balance and has issued specific advice on what we should be doing and which activities are best.  It specifically recommends Nordic walking.

What should we be doing?
The UK Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines for good health cover four areas:

  1. Cardiovascular activity
  2. Strengthening activities
  3. Activities to improve balance and coordination; and
  4. Reducing prolonged sedentary (sitting) time.

We should be doing at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week.  Plus muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).  Plus exercises to improve balance and co-ordination on at least two days a week for those who are at risk of falls.

It’s particularly important to undertake strengthening and balance activities at important key transition points in life: pregnancy, menopause, onset of/on diagnosis of disease, retirement, on becoming a carer, or following hospitalisation.

Why this is important?
The report says that between the ages of 18 to 24 years, muscle and bone strengthening and balance activities maximise bone and muscle gains. Between the ages of 40 to 50 years, these activities maintain strength and slow the natural decline; and in people over 65 they preserve strength and maintain independence.

Current statistics show that falls are responsible for around 95% of all hip fractures, costing the NHS over £1 billion per year.

For employers and the economy, musculoskeletal health conditions are the second most common cause of sickness absence in the UK, accounting for 30.8 million days lost in work.

Which activities are best?
The table below shows that the activities of most benefit were resistance training, circuit training, ball games, racket sports and Nordic walking.  Walking, despite cardiovascular and other health benefits, was found to have low beneficial effect for either bone health or falls reductions, with only small gains in muscle strength.

Type of sport, physical activity or exercise

Improvement in muscle function

Improvement in bone health

Improvement in balance

Running

x

xx

x

Resistance training

xxx

xxx

xx

Circuit training

xxx

xxx

xx

Ball games

xx

xxx

xxx

Racquet sports

xx

xxx

xxx

Yoga, Tai Chi

x

x

x

Dance

x

xx

x

Walking

x

x

0

Nordic walking

xx

NK

xx

Cycling

x

x

x

Key: xxx = Strong effect; xx = medium; x = low; 0 = no effect; NK = not known

Dr Alison Tedstone, head of diet, obesity and physical activity at PHE, said: 'Alongside aerobic exercise such as brisk walking, all adults should be aiming to do strengthening and balancing activities twice per week. On average we're all living longer and this mixture of physical activities will help us stay well in our youth and remain independent as we age.'

Nordic walking is a weight-bearing, muscle-strengthening aerobic exercise.  Our classes at Bristol Nordic Walking are designed to improve and increase your:

  1. Aerobic fitness
  2. Strength
  3. Balance
  4. Flexibility
  5. Mental wellbeing
  6. Knowlege of our local area
  7. Sense of fun and happiness

Some of our Nordic walking classes incorporate extra muscle strengthening and balance exercises into an energetic Nordic walk.  These are our Nordic walking workout classes which are held on Monday, Friday and Saturday mornings.  You do not need to be super fit to join these classes, especially those on the Downs. 

We constantly review the latest research and fine tune our classes to make sure we are offering you the best possible fitness classes to maximise health and enjoyment.  It's why we recently introduce ‘brains and balance’ into our weekly rotation focus.  It's also why we think Nordic walking is the 'go to' exercise of choice.

Vicky

 

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