The exercise paradox describes the natural urge to avoid exercise despite our awarness of its benefits and to select the ‘easy option’ of sitting on the couch and watching tv. With the lastest news reporting that a third of Irish kids are overweight or obese, this suggests that the health service will be unable to cope with the health crisis on the horizon. The exercise paradox explains the challenges borne out by those trying to change their exercise habits for the better.
A recent study in the journal Neuropsychologia examined why people choose to avoid exercise. In the study performed in the University of British Columbia’s brain behaviour lab, the participants were asked to control an onscreen avatar while being shown images representing either physical activty or inactivity. Electrodes measured brain activity during this task.
The participants were required to move the avatar towards the images depicting physical activity and away from the images depicting inactivity. The data demonstrated that the participants expended significantly more focus and brain activity when attempting to move the avatar away from the physical inactivity images than when they were required to move towards them. Therefore, our brains seem hardwired to avoid exercise. This poses some interesting questions regarding how this barrier to exercise compliance may be overcome. What I find consistently with my patients is that those who have sedentary jobs find it very hard to motivate themseleves to do exercise. Part of the reason for this is that prolonged sitting creates a sense of lethargy and decreases the activation of the brain centres involved in motivation and feelings of wellness. It is often best just to put on your running or walking gear and go outside without any firm commitment to how much exercise you are going to do on any particular day. Once you are outside then the internal debate is over and you are more likely to do more. The key is also to find something that you enjoy and actually can look forward to doing. This is the main determinant of consistency.
The cause of depression is not fully understood; however, previous research has suggested that inflammation may be a contributing factor in its development. In his book ‘The Inflamed Mind’ professor Edward Bulmore of the University of Cambridge puts forth the theory that inflammation causes depression. He believes that stress is one of the key drivers of inflammatory changes. From a evolutionary perspective acute stress can signal a potential attack and an increased likelihood of injury. For this reason it makes sense for the body to prepare for a wound by increasing inflammation as it plays a key role in repairing a wound that may be incurred from an injury. Bulmore found that blood sample of people who say they are depressed shows a higher level of inflammatory markers than samples from people who are not depressed. Research by Wium-Andersen et al. examined 73 131 men and women aged 20 to 100 years. The blood marker used to measure inflammation in the body is CRP. Elevated levels of CRP are associated with increased risk for psychological distress and depression in the general population. In this study there was a “dose-response” relationship between people who reported low moods and inflammation. Those with greater inflammatory markers had worse moods than those with lower markers. Like most areas of research, not all studies have shown a correlation between inflammation and depression, especially when confounding variables such as body weight are taken into consideration. Interestingly, research in rats has demonstrated that when they are injected with cytokines (proteins that signal inflammation) they become listless and demonstrate behaviours similar to people suffering from depression. In humans, vaccinations, such as those given for tuberculosis, are known to induce an inflammatory response and to induce low mood also. Recent genetic research that certain genes related to inflammation and immune function are also linked to depression. https://www.physioclinic.ie
Use of Schoolbag in Children is Not Linked to Low Back Pain
An Australian review of previous studies has conculuded that the weight & design of school bags is not linked to an increase in the risk of developing back pain.
Back pain due to heavy schoolbags is one of the biggest concerns identified by parents in relation to their children starting school. However, a review of the published research on back pain and school bag use does not demonstrate an increased risk of back pain in children and adolescents. This paper published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine reviewed 69 studies relating to schoolbag use and back pain. The studies involved a total of more than 72,000 children. While some pupils linked their pain to a perceived excess weight of their schoolbag the overall picture was one which lacked clarity. One of the studies reported that children who said they have difficulty carrying their schoolbags had a higher risk of persistent back pain.Most guidelines recommend that a schoolbag should range between 5 to 25 percent of body weight. There is very little evidence to back up this recommendation however.
The main issue in children is that of obesity and lack of exercise. It can be argued that regular weight bearing exercise would help to increase bone density and muscle mass and would be good for overall spinal health, although this was not shown in this review.
When organising the schoolbag it is best to place the heavy books closest to the back of the bag and ensure the straps are adequately padded for comfort. If your chid is experiencing back pain, it may be wise to temporarily reduce the load being carried if they report that this decreases their symptoms. Aside from this, it is adviseable to encourage our children to walk and to weightbear where possible as part of our efforts to encourage a healthy active lifestyle.