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Herbal Remedies for a Healthy Life

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Warming Up,
Cooling Down and Stretching
It's important to warm up the muscles you will be working.

At the beginning of any type of physical activity, it is important to warm up the muscles you will be working for a few minutes. For example, if you were going to go for a jog or brisk walk, you should start off by walking and gradually increase the pace until your muscles feel warm enough to push yourself further.

When warming up, do exercises that involve the same types of range of motion that you will be using. If you are going to be lifting weights, do a light set of weights for each of the muscle groups you will be working before you push them to their max. After you are done working out, it is important to bring your heart rate back down, by decreasing the intensity of your workout (eg. go back to a slower pace walk before sitting down). After a few minutes of cooling down, your muscles are still warm, but your heart rate is low enough to begin stretching. It is important to stretch out all of the muscles you worked before finishing your workout.

Not stretching will give you a decreased range of motion over time and lead to problems. For example, failing to stretch out your hamstrings (the back of your thigh), will lead to lower back problems. Make sure you hold each stretch for at least 15 seconds, but the longer the better. You should feel a pull in the muscle you are stretching, but never any pain. When stretching, never bounce; always hold the stretch in a static position. Once you feel comfortable in that position (usually after about 10-20 seconds) try and stretch a little further. This will increase your flexibility over time, leaving you less prone to injury.

Aim to perform each of the exercises below over 10-15m, with a walk back or jogging recovery. It should be enough to perform 3-4 reps of each.

  • Lunge walk – for loosening up the hips, improving leg drive and strengthening the butt and hamstrings. Assume a lunge position and step forwards into another lunge. Keep your chest up, look straight ahead and co-ordinate your arms with your legs;
  • High knee lift – for hip flexor and ankle strength. Extend up onto the toes and lift each thigh to a position parallel with the ground as you move forwards;
  • Elbow-to-inside-of-ankle lunge – for hip flexibility, hamstring strength and stretching out the lower back. Similar to the lunge walk, but extend your trunk forwards over your front leg. If your right leg was in front of you, you would take the right elbow down toward the inside of the right ankle. Watch your balance!
  • Calf walk – for lower limb strength and achilles flexibility. Extending the ankle on each step will warm up the calf muscles and achilles tendons;
  • Sideways and backwards skipping/running – for lower limb strength, agility and flexibility.

Other useful warm-up exercises include:

  • Simulated running arm action, standing or seated. The seated version is also great for specific core stability, as you have to work hard to maintain stability on the ground. Perform for 15-60 seconds, altering your speed of movement;
  • Leg drives. Lean forwards against a wall, with your hands out at shoulder level and your feet shoulder-width apart and approximately a metre from the wall. Look straight ahead and keep your body straight. Lift your right leg, with the knee bent, until the upper thigh is parallel to the ground. From your hip, drive the leg back, so that your forefoot contacts the ground, then pull the leg back up to the starting position to complete one rep. Perform in sets of 10 on each leg, gradually increasing the speed of the drive;
  • Leg cycling. Assume the same starting position as for the exercise above, but this time, on driving the leg back, sweep it back up and behind you before pulling it back from the hip to the starting position. Try to keep the foot dorsi-flexed – ie stretched towards the leg. Perform this exercise slowly at first, gradually building up speed as you become more confident.

    A final tip is – don’t wear shoes! If weather permits (or you’re training indoors), performing the drills described above over very short distances without shoes can be very beneficial. Running shoes prevent the calf and achilles tendons, in particular, from optimally flexing. They also reduce the potential to specifically strengthen these areas.

Exercise Tips
Aerobic exercise is the only form of exercising where you use two sources of energy: carbs (blood glucose) and fat.

To be healthy, we need to exercise at least three to four times a week, in an aerobic zone, for 20-30 minutes. That is a standard to keep your heart healthy, not to lose body fat by burning calories.

You need to make fitness an important part of your life. The value of regular exercising has been proven again and again. Make it a point to exercise at least 3 times a week and for a minimum of 30 minutes at a time.

Why Cool Down?
The main aim of the cool down is to promote recovery and return the body to a pre exercise, or pre work out level. During a strenuous work out your body goes through a number of stressful processes. Muscle fibres, tendons and ligaments get damaged, and waste products build up within your body.

The cool down, performed properly, will assist your body in its repair process. One area the cool down will help with, is "post exercise muscle soreness." This is the soreness that is usually experienced the day after a tough work out. Most people experience this after having a lay-off from exercise, or at the beginning of their sports season. This soreness is caused by a number of things. Firstly, during exercise, tiny tears called micro tears develop within the muscle fibres. These micro tears cause swelling of the muscle tissues which in turn puts pressure on the nerve endings and results in pain.

Secondly, when exercising, your heart is pumping large amount of blood to the working muscles. This blood is carrying both oxygen and nutrients that the working muscles need. When the blood reaches the muscles the oxygen and nutrients are used up. Then the force of the contracting (exercising) muscles pushes the blood back to the heart where it is re-oxygenated.

However, when the exercise stops, so does the force that pushes the blood back to the heart. This blood, as well as waste products like lactic acid, stays in the muscles, which in turn causes swelling and pain. This process is often referred to as "blood pooling."

So, the cool down helps all this by keeping the blood circulating, which in turn helps to prevent blood pooling and also removes waste products from the muscles. This circulating blood also brings with it the oxygen and nutrients needed by the muscles, tendons and ligaments for repair.

The Key Parts of an Effective Cool Down
There are three key elements, or parts, which should be included to ensure an effective and complete cool down. They are;

  1. Gentle exercise;
  2. Stretching; and
  3. Re-fuel.

All three parts are equally important and any one part should not be neglected or thought of as not necessary. All three elements work together to repair and replenish the body after exercise.

To follow are two examples of effective cool downs. The first is an example of a cool down used by a professional athlete. The second is typical of someone who simply exercises for general health, fitness and fun.

Cool Down Routines
Example 1: - For the Professional

  • 10 to 15 minutes of easy exercise. Be sure that the easy exercise resembles the type of exercise that was done during your work out. For example, if your workout involved a lot of running, cool down with easy jogging or walking.
  • Include some deep breathing as part of your easy exercise to help oxygenate your system.
  • Follow with about 20 to 30 minutes of stretching. Static stretching and PNF stretching is usually best.
  • Re-fuel. Both fluid and food are important. Drink plenty of water, plus a good quality sports drink. The best type of food to eat straight after a work out is that which is easily digestible. Fruit is a good example.

Example 2: - For the Amateur

  • 3 to 5 minutes of easy exercise. Be sure that the easy exercise resembles the type of exercise that was done during your work out. For example, if your workout involved a lot of running, cool down with easy jogging or walking.
  • Include some deep breathing as part of your easy exercise to help oxygenate your system.
  • Follow with about 5 to 10 minutes of stretching. Static stretching and PNF stretching is usually best.
  • Re-fuel. Both fluid and food are important. Drink plenty of water, plus a good quality sports drink. The best type of food to eat straight after a work out is that which is easily digestible. Fruit is a good example.

Getting serious about your cool down and following the above examples will make sure you recover quicker from your work outs, and stay injury free.


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