Tag Archives: exercise

The Importance of Hydration

Hydration

With increases in temperatures during the summer months, ensuring adequate hydration is extremely important, especially during activities requiring physical exertion.  Every cell and system in the human body relies on water to survive and to work correctly and efficiently, but water is lost every day through sweating, urination and breathing. Sweating is the body’s cooling mechanism, so naturally we sweat more when outdoor temperatures are higher or during exercise. A combination of hot, humid temperatures and physical activity can easily put the body into a state of dehydration. Dehydration decreases the ability of the body to regulate core temperature and decreases blood flow, both of which can have a detrimental impact on exercise performance.

Certain people will be more susceptible to dehydration than others, i.e. children lose water more quickly due to smaller body size, while older adults have difficulty conserving water and have a decreased sensation of thirst. Anyone who works or exercises in hot and humid conditions is also more likely to become dehydrated due to an increased level of sweating. Humidity makes it difficult for sweat to evaporate from your skin, which means it is harder for your body to regulate its temperature and keep cool. Although heavy and prolonged exercise makes people most at risk for dehydration, there is a cumulative effect.  This means with inadequate fluid intake over a few days, even mild or moderate exercise can create a state of dehydration. For athletes, mild dehydration of 1-2% of body weight can decrease the ability of muscles to use glucose, which diminishes aerobic performance and causes fatigue more quickly. Therefore, it is very important to ensure proper hydration in the days leading up to races or games.

How to tell if you are dehydrated:

  • Little urine output and/or urine that is darker than usual
  • Dry mouth, thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea

Drinking fluids and replacing electrolytes is the easiest and quickest way to treat dehydration. If you have any of the above symptoms and think you may be dehydrated, drink small amounts of water frequently in order to prevent an upset stomach. Sports drinks can also be helpful in treating or preventing dehydration, but take caution as the sugar in sports drinks can cause diarrhea. Eating foods high in water content, such as fruits and vegetables, will help in the rehydration process; and be sure to avoid anything that will continue to dehydrate you further, such as caffeine and alcohol. Severe dehydration will require a trip to the hospital for rapid hydration through an intravenous line. Symptoms of severe dehydration include loss of consciousness, rapid or weak pulse, low blood pressure, and confusion. Untreated severe dehydration can lead to complications, such as heat stroke, and can damage kidneys and muscles. Heat stroke occurs when the body overheats and is no longer able to sweat and cool itself down, usually due to prolonged physical exertion in hot conditions. This is extremely dangerous and requires immediate medical attention, before brain or other organ damage occurs. A milder form and precursor to heat stroke is heat exhaustion, which has symptoms such as heavy sweating, lightheadedness, and muscle cramps. It is very important to treat heat exhaustion before it becomes heat stroke, by moving the person into a cool, shaded area, cooling off with wet towels, and giving liquids if possible. If symptoms continue to worsen, call for emergency medical attention.

How much do you really need to drink?

Although there are many recommendations for how much water to consume, a general rule of thumb is to consistently drink throughout the day, before you feel thirsty. Exercisers will need to consume more than non-exercisers due to water loss through sweating. In the hour or so prior to a workout, try to consume 1-3 cups of water. During exercise, if possible, drink about ½ cup or a few mouthfuls every 15-20 minutes. This will help to prevent dehydration and is especially important if the weather is hot, or the activity is particularly long and strenuous. A handy trick to know how much to drink after finishing a workout, is to weigh yourself before and after. For every pound that you have lost during the activity drink about 3 cups of water. If you weigh the same amount before and after, it likely means you hydrated adequately throughout the activity, and can just continue drinking normally for the rest of the day.

Keeping cool and staying hydrated should be a priority in the hot summer months. Dehydration negatively impacts the body and can lead to a decrease in athletic performance, heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. Drinking water consistently throughout the day, and increasing this amount before and after exercise will help to keep you hydrated and safe during the summer.


BodyTech Physiotherapy

BodyTech Physiotherapy
519.954.6000 | BodyTechPhysio.ca

 

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Running Injury Prevention Part 2: Stretches for Runners

The differences between a dynamic warmup and static stretching were outlined in our previous blog post, explaining that both are key to help prevent injury for runners. Part 2 of our running injury prevention series will cover the static stretches you should be doing after your run. Dynamic stretching as part of a warmup before activity helps to prepare the body for the demands of physical activity, and involves moving muscles through their range of motion. Static stretches done after activity are important to decrease stiffness by improving flexibility and joint range of motion. These stretches are called static because they involve elongating a muscle and holding it in the same position for a short period of time.

 

Why Static Stretching Should be Done After Activity

For many years the widely accepted belief was that static stretches before activity were important to reduce injury. Research in recent years has shown that not only do static stretches before activity provide no benefit, but can actually reduce strength, power and performance when running or jumping. The correct timing to receive optimal benefits from static stretching is following activity, once the muscles are warmed up and more elastic.

 

Benefits of Static Stretching After Activity

Static stretches after activity can improve flexibility, decrease muscle tension, increase muscle length, and improve joint range of motion. Shortened muscles can result in muscle imbalances, which impact performance and can lead to pain and injuries over time. An example common among runners is short hamstrings, which can lead to knee pain and injuries from the resulting stress placed on the knee joint. Short hamstrings are also susceptible to strains, and can cause low back pain as the pelvis is pulled down into an unstable position. In addition to causing muscle imbalances, short muscles also limit joint range of motion. This can decrease performance, affect running stride and therefore contribute to injury. Static stretches after activity also provide an additional recovery benefit of increasing blood flow to help remove waste products accumulated during activity.

 

Short vs Tight Muscles

Muscle tension is different than shortened muscles, and differentiation between the two can determine which treatment type will be most effective. Shortened muscles will feel tight and stiff with a limited range of motion, resulting from the muscle itself having a reduced length. Short muscles will put a strain on tendons and joints, which can contribute to discomfort and injury. Tight or tense muscles may have focused areas of discomfort caused by fibers that are unable to release their contraction. These are commonly known as muscle knots, and are nodules that can be felt in the muscle. Deep massage or foam rolling is required to release these spots of contraction, and stretching alone may not be enough.

If a stretching program is not relieving the feeling of tight muscles, there may be another underlying cause resulting in the sensation of a consistently tight muscle. Muscles can feel tight when they lack the strength or endurance to support the demands of activity. Additionally, a muscle can be too stretched out and also weak but still feel tight because it has to work too hard in a lengthened position. These muscles should be strengthened to decrease the feeling of tightness rather than stretched. A detailed physiotherapy assessment can help identify which muscles need to be stretched and strengthened and will address any underlying joint restrictions. A deep massage from a massage therapist can also be beneficial for all individuals with tight muscles.

 

Stretching Guide

A good stretching routine should include the major muscles used during the activity, and at BodyTech Physiotherapy we have created a stretching routing specifically for runners to do after their runs. Each stretch should be held for 25-30 seconds, gradually deepening the stretch upon exhalation. The stretches are easy to perform anywhere after a run, and we have also included number 8 and 9 with a foam roller as part of a routine at home or the gym.

 

BodyTech Static Stretches for Runners

1. Hip flexor – tuck buttocks under to tilt pelvis posteriorly, keeping back straight.

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2. Quadriceps – tuck buttocks under to tilt pelvis posteriorly. Make sure the flexed knee does not drift forward in front of the other knee.

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3. Hamstring – tilt pelvis forward while keeping back and buttocks in line to avoid arching the back.

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4. Hip Adductor – keep back straight and bend forward at the hips.

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5. Glute and External Rotator – keep back straight and rotate entire trunk at the hips instead of twisting upper body.

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6. Soleus – bend both knees and sit back over back leg, keeping torso upright.

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7. Gastrocnemius – from the soleus stretch straighten back leg while keeping heel on the floor.

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8. Iliotibial band – support with the top leg while maintaining a tight core to keep hips from dropping, rolling the side of the thigh from the hip to knee.

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9. Gastrocnemius – cross legs on roller and roll from the knee towards the foot.

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A warm up before activity in combination with static stretches afterwards provide multiple benefits for every athlete, including increased performance and decreased chance of injury. Running is a repetitive and symmetrical activity that requires a balance of muscle length and joint range of motion on both sides of the body for optimal performance, and both can be maintained through proper warmups and cool downs. The repetitive nature of running can also lead to overuse injuries, which is why the warm up and stretches afterwards are especially important as part of every smart runner’s routine.