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MUSC Health Blog

Keyword: exercise

Guest Post by:
Lindsey Clarke
Athletic Trainer
MUSC Health Sports Medicine

It’s that time of year again; time to pace ourselves through the slow roll of successive holidays from late fall through the New Year where we partake in the revelry the season brings. Who doesn’t love the parties, holiday events, gift shopping, and holiday breaks spent with loved ones? While disruption of normal routines and #treatyoself can lead to holiday weight gain, it doesn’t necessarily have to mean all is lost as long as you have a game plan for your merriment.Array of party food

“When what to my wondering eyes should appear? But an extra ten pounds on my hips, thighs, and rear.” Ten pounds over the holidays…are you serious?!?! According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, this frequently reported number is grossly over-estimated. They report that the average weight gain from mid-November to mid-January was actually less than 1 pound.

The takeaway here? You’re not going to gain massive amounts of weight from a few holiday indiscretions; our bodies just don’t work that way. But, if you let the one or two pounds from each holiday season accumulate, they can add up over time. Many of us overindulge over the holidays, hoping that our January 1 resolutions will put us back on a healthy track again. Making resolutions is the easy part; it’s the sticking to it that takes hard work. Don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself; establish a plan to get yourself through the holidays making good choices, and setting yourself up for success in any goals you set for the New Year. Start making realistic holiday health resolutions now, so you can cruise into the New Year happy and healthy.

Don’t hold yourself to such strict standards that you can’t enjoy the celebration. Beating yourself up over slips from your plan is no fun for anyone. Follow the tips below to avoid falling into the “I’ve already ruined my diet/healthy eating today” landslide.

Party Game Plan

  • Consume protein beforehand.  This will satiate you, and helps prevents overeating or binging due to hunger.
  • Don’t stand next to the food table.  Fix yourself a plate and remove yourself from temptation. This also helps prevent mindless grazing.
  • Be selective. Choose things that look extra special or are your favorites. Don’t eat something just because it’s there.
  • Be mindful of the number of alcoholic beverages you partake in. Alcohol is just empty calories. And let's be real with each other…overconsumption can lead to poor dietary choices. “Pass the celery” said no tipsy party-goer ever.

Marathon shopping excursions can lead to poor snack and/or meal choices and less than ideal grab on the go fast food. A little planning can keep you from face planting into a food court buffet.

Shopping Game Plan

  • Stay hydrated! People often mistake thirst for hunger. Water can also keep you feeling full.
  • Eat a good breakfast with protein and fiber. This will give you the energy you need to carry all those shopping bags and help prevent mindless snacking.
  • Pack smart snacks. Nuts, dried fruit, apples, and beef jerky all travel well.
  • Plan ahead and meal prep before you leave for the day. This is the perfect opportunity to use that new slow cooker recipe you’ve been wanting to try; add a nice salad and dinner is served!
  • Don’t park in the closest spot; parking farther away just increases your step count for the day.

Getting creative with your activity can take the doldrums out of sticking to your regular workout routine. Use your family and your surroundings to make your holiday workouts fun!

Activity Game Plan

  • Being one of four siblings, I know family competition is alive and well! Create fun activities for the entire family to do. Who can rake the biggest leaf pile or shovel snow from their side of the driveway the fastest?
  • Take advantage of your surroundings. Strap onto your snowboard, cross-country skis, or spend the day sledding and snowball fighting. We lucky Charlestonians can burn calories walking or running out along one of our beautiful beaches or enjoy the views from the Ravenel Bridge.
  • Sign up for holiday races. Many cities host Reindeer Runs or other seasonal races. Make it a family affair or just get your squad together and get moving!

It's perfectly fine to miss a day (or two or three) of exercise, eat your favorite holiday foods, and enjoy a festive drink. The important thing is that you don't let it turn into weeks – and then months – of no exercise or unhealthy eating. If you accept going in that there will be some sidesteps from maintaining/adhering to your newfound or established habits, you'll be better prepared to get back on track and move and groove right into 2017!

Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season from the MUSC Health Sports Medicine team!!

Guest Post by:
Ethan Konoza, ATC, SCAT
Athletic Trainer
MUSC Sports Medicine

Since we were young, coaches, fitness professionals, and gym teachers alike have instructed us to warm up prior to exercise and athletics. However, for many athletes, the value and importance of a proper warm up often times gets neglected. For the elite and professional athletes a proper warm up is a necessity and serves multiple purposes in their daily exercise routine and should never be ignored.

Defining a warm up

So what is a warm up? A warm up is a period of time prior to physical activity in which light cardiovascular exercises (exercises that raise your heart rate) are performed in combination with static and dynamic movements as well as stretching.

How long should a warm up last?

There is no set amount of time on how long warm ups should last, however it is suggested that warm ups last at least 20 minutes. During this time athletes should gradually get ready for activity physically as well as mentally.

What benefits does warming up serve?

Improved physiological function for physical activity

During a warm up, cardiovascular exercises are performed, whether that is walking, jogging to running progression, cycling, etc. The effects of cardiovascular exercise on the body include an increase in body temperature and a gradual increase in heart rate, which ultimately improves blood circulation to the muscles that will be used during physical activity as well as facilitates joint lubrication and readiness.

Improved mental preparedness

We know that participating in sport and exercising is both a physical and mental task. If you look at the elite athletes of the world, such as Usain Bolt, Lionel Messi, or Simon Biles, they are not only incredibly gifted athletes, they have mental fortitude and resilience as well. The fact that these athletes “get it right” as consistently as they do speaks volumes of not only their athletic ability but also their mental preparedness. A proper warm up is of vital importance to each of these athletes’ routines, to prepare their mentally and physically, prior to both daily training and competition.

Reduction/prevention of injury

There is a vast array of evidence in the current literature that suggests warming up prior to physical activity helps to reduce the likelihood of musculoskeletal injury during exercise. Keeping the muscles warm will help to prevent acute injuries such as strains as well as overuse injuries by allowing the body to prepare gradually and safely.

Sample Warm-up Routine

The type of physical activity you are going to partake in, as well as fitness levels, will dictate the type of warm up you perform. This example should be used as a general guide and not necessarily as a one-warm-up-fits-all example.

  • Light jog/run ~ 5-10 minutes
  • High knee walk ~ 10 yards (there and back for all movements after initial jog)
  • High knee skip
  • High knee run
  • Heels to buttocks
  • Straight leg skips
  • Backward jog
  • Backpedal
  • Forward lunge walk
  • Stride 50%
  • Stride 75%
  • Stride 90%
  • Stride 100% - (Finishing through the line)

After these exercises your muscles should be warm and you should have some perspiration. After your muscles and body are warm this is the best opportunity to get the most out of stretching.  Below you will find general stretching guidelines.

General Stretching Guidelines

  1. You should only stretch to the point of mild tension in your muscles.
  2. There should be NO PAIN when you are stretching!
  3. Make sure that you breathe.
  4. Hold stretches for 30-45 seconds.

Final Thought

Warming up provides many benefits and should be a staple to everyone’s pre-competition and daily workout routine.  Whether you’re a professional or amateur athlete, in order to perform at your highest level and reduce the risk of injury, take time for an adequate warm-up and remember the usefulness it provides!

Guest Post by:
T. Ryan Littlejohn, ATC
Athletic Trainer
MUSC Health Sports Medicine

Have you heard the buzzword concussion in todays sports world? Most people would agree they have heard all the hype about concussions and it is a big deal. There is good reason for this attention to head injuries, they can be serious and need to be managed appropriately. A concussion is an injury to the brain and currently there is no way to completely prevent them from occurring. According to the centers for disease control, there are 3.8 million concussions per year, in the U.S. alone. A concussion occurs when the brain is bruised from hitting the inside of the skull and it can occur from a whip lash or a direct blow to the head. This can lead to concussion symptoms, headache, dizziness, and nausea, which tend to be the most common. If you or someone you know is experiencing problems from a head injury, it is essential that a medical provider trained in concussion management is consulted, before returning to any type of physical activity.

Some research suggests that certain strengthening exercises may help reduce the prevalence or severity of a concussion by reducing or better absorbing the applied force. Specifically, neck strength is something that can be addressed and might help lessen the chance of receiving a concussion. The rationale behind this is simply a stronger neck could help stabilize both the head and neck movement. So take action, implement these simple and easy exercises into your sports program today.

Shoulder Shrugs:

Standing with weight in both of your hands and arms by your side slowly shrug your shoulders upward. Control the weight in both directions - lifting and lowering the weight. Perform for 3x10.

Upright Rows:

Standing with arms in front of you holding a dumbbell or bar, have the palms facing outward. Raise the weight to chest level then slowly lower the weight back to the starting position.  Perform 3x10.

Four Way Isometrics:

Place two hands on back of your head and then push into your hands for isometric resistance. Perform in all four directions - front, back, left and right side of your head. Make sure you feel the resistance in your neck, but keep your head straight.  Perform 1x10 each direction holding for 5 to 10 seconds.

Towel Resistance:

Place a towel behind your head and hold the ends of the towel. Perform resistance against the towel keeping your head straight and pushing backwards. Then change the position and push against the towel going forward. Perform 1x10 reps holding for 5 to 10 seconds.

Resources and Additional Information:

Google search results for concussion

PubMed Abstract on neck strength as a factor in concussion

Mom's Team:  Stronger Necks May Reduce Concussion Risk


Guest Post by:
Brittany Darling, MS, ATC

As we enter the New Year, the busy schedule is not the only thing getting in the way of staying active. Around this time of year we also see the weather changing and getting colder everyday, with daylight becoming less and less. This time of year, in my opinion, is the absolute worst for staying in shape. I have come up with some tips that may be helpful to not let yourself fall into hibernation mode this year.

Get on a schedule. Creating a schedule that flows with your normal routine can make it easier to stick to work out plans. Write it down, or sign up for classes ahead of time based on what the upcoming work schedule looks like. I have found that getting up a half hour earlier and doing something active really helps to get the day started. Getting your blood flowing and adrenaline pumping first thing in the morning will have a direct effect on the rest of your day. I think morning workouts are especially effective this time of the year because it is dark by 5pm, so it allows you to relax when you get out of work knowing you have already done your exercising for the day.

Try something new. If you are getting bored with the same old gym scene, and it’s obviously too cold to run outside, and then try a new class somewhere else. You may even be able to put your current gym membership on hold for a month.   I would highly recommend a yoga class, especially one that has a warm and/or hot class that they offer. It’s great to walk in from the cold to a heated room this time of year. This may also introduce your body, as well as your mind, to something new. A great way to stay committed is to sign up and pay for the class ahead of time, this way you are motivated to not waste the money you spent.

Start a home exercise plan. Depending on what level of activity you are looking for, it is very possible to accomplish your fitness goals right from home. Again, it will be beneficial to think of a time that works best for your schedule, whether it is in the morning or at night in order to stay consistent. There is a variety of phone apps out there right now that outline a basic body weight routine for you and track your progress. You can also implement your own, for example: body squats, push-ups, plank hold, jump rope and max out every other day. These are basic exercises that take no more than 10 minutes to complete, but you can easily track gradual improvements as your max becomes higher each week.

Overall the hardest part always seems to be getting started and beginning the exercise. Find your own personal motivation and use it to keep you going. Just keep reminding yourself that spring is right around the corner!

Guest Post by:
Brittany Darling, MS, ATC
Athletic Trainer
MUSC Sports Medicine

          At any age, we find enjoyment in picking up new sports and activities to help keep us active and entertained. From tennis to mountain biking, and yoga to hiking, or even swimming and dancing; these are all excellent examples of new activities that can easily be started for exercise, health, and overall enjoyment. Personally, I encourage my athletes to take interest in a difference sport or activity that can provide them with a mental break while still being active. The important and sometimes difficult part is to try not to get hurt in the process.

            When thinking of beginning a new sport or exercise routine, it is important to do a little bit of research first. For example: what type of equipment will be necessary and is there a specific type of footwear that is recommended. Hiking in sandals or doing yoga without the yoga mat can be a recipe for disaster. I would recommend either viewing the specific exercise class first, or speaking with someone who has performed or participated the activity before, this way they can provide you with the insight you are looking for. Of course, also be sure to do your adequate research with the internet as well.Beginning yoga

            Once getting started, it is important to not get disheartened early on. What appears to be simple may in actuality by very difficult, and can take some time to get used to. This being said, it is also likely that there can be some soreness in muscles you have never experienced before. Combining these new exercises with proper nutrition and stretching routines will help to keep the body healthy and performing at its full potential. Pushing through some discomfort may be necessary, however it is very important to differentiate between the pain and soreness- yes, there is a difference. Although every individual will have different levels of pain tolerance, I typically describe pain as something that has a debilitating effect on the body so that it is unable to function as it normally would. Also, pain is typically found in one very specific area. Discomfort, or soreness, can be in a more localized area and will not have a severe effect on how your body is moving and functioning. It also may improve with light movement, stretching, and NSAIDs (ibuprofen).  It is imperative that as you progress in your new undertaking that you are careful and aware with how your body is feeling and performing. If at any time pain is felt for a period of time or with specific movements, stop the exercise and seek medical attention from an athletic trainer or orthopedic specialist.


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