During pregnancy, most women develop a split in their abdominal muscles. Sit-ups increase the abdominal pressure and encourage the split between the abdominal muscles, making the recovery of these muscles after childbirth slower and problematic.
Sit ups do NOT strengthen the core stabilisers. It does NOT work the core stabilisers, the transversus abdominus and multifidus. These muscles need to be trained to help with the recovery of the split in the abdominal muscles.
Sit ups is a dynamic exercise, specifically training the prime movers which often inhibits the activity of the core stabilisers from working. Without the strong base of core stability, sit ups can cause back pain, as it puts extra pressure on the discs of the lower back. It also increases the risk of injuring the discs and causing long term lower back pain.
Struggling to get your child interested in sport? Here are top 3 exercises you can do with your child to help them love and enjoy any sport!
Over the last 13 years, as senior physiotherapists and Pilates instructor, I have trained many children from the age of 7 to teenagers in Pilates, with a very specific purpose. The most common reason is lack of coordination, which often results in shying away from any physical-based activity. This is not innate and can be fixed with training.
Here are my top 3 exercises you can do with your child at home to get them started:
Exercise for greater coordination
Working on coordination is a major factor in Pilates, especially for kids. It’s also a great way in helping them develop skills such as performing two different tasks at the same time. One of my favourite activities is having your child jump on a trampoline (or any unstable surface, sand or even on a pillow) and throw a ball to them at the same time. As their skill improves, you can make the exercise more complicated and challenging by throwing the ball higher over their head so they have to reach or to the side of their body or get them to jump using one foot only.
Exercise to improve agility and power
Incorporating different physical exercises can increase children’s agility and power. For example, running drills that involve changing direction and speed are great in replicating what your child will need to do on the sports field. A great, simple exercise is to lay out a skipping rope on the ground. With your child standing on one side of the skipping rope, using 2 feet initially, get them to hop over the skipping rope side to side in a zig-zag pattern until they reach the end of the rope. Get them to do this up and down the rope for 2 minutes. They will love it and get exhausted (you’ll be surprised how long 2 minutes of jumping tires out your child). As they get better, they can have a go at this exercise using 1 foot only.
Exercise for better balance
There is no doubt that all exercises require some degree of balance whether it’s easy (focusing on one direction) or harder (focusing on two or three directions). Our aim is to challenge the balance of your child each time, so their brain adapts and their motor skills improve. A simple exercise you can practice to work on your child’s balance and reaction skills is my 4 directions game. Ask your child to stand on one leg. Call out a direction, front, back, left or right and your child has to hop to face that direction. If they get it right, they get a point. If they get it wrong (eg turn left when you call out right), you get a point. First to 10 wins. They will love this game and always want to beat their parents or their siblings.
It’s rewarding when we see a difference in a child’s behaviour through these simple Pilates exercises, because we know that what we are doing is working and making a big difference in your child’s sports and social life.
What are the health benefits of exercising in high temperatures?
There are some benefits of exercising in the heat for fitness, in particular, the short term effects on the heart. Exercising in high temperature (over 32 deg), regularly for 5-10 days at a moderate level for 60 minutes causes a heat adaptation effect, which means that your body increases circulating blood volume and your heart is able to pump more efficiently when in high temperatures.
This improves fitness performance in the short term, however, this performance improvement is only really limited to high performance athletes and not an average person. In addition, more training in the heat does produce further improvements in performance, and training in the heat needs to continue in order to maintain improvements.
So fitness training in the heat is good in preparation for an event or if the event you are participating in is in the heat, but not for long term fitness.
The other potential benefit of exercising in high temperatures is weight loss. Exercising at the same intensity in hot temperatures does use more energy than the same exercise intensity exercise in colder temperatures, however, it is hard to maintain the same level of intensity of exercise at high temperatures compared to low temperature, so the effects balance out. Sweating itself is a passive process and doesn’t mean that you are working harder and burning more energy. Bikram Yoga doesn’t burn much more kilojoules than regular yoga and burns a lot less kilojoules than regular cardio training
What are the potential harms of exercising in high temperature?
Exercising in high temperatures is not safe for everyone. If you have heart problems, issues with blood pressure or are pregnant, it is not safe to exercise in high temperature. As the temperature rises and your core temperature rises, this increases the load on your heart which affects your blood pressure and the strain on the heart. This is particularly true if you are unfit, so high temperature training should only be attempted after you have achieved your base level of fitness.
In addition, not being adequately hydrated during high temperature training can lead to heat related problem, such as cramps, dehydration and in worst case, heat stroke.
What are your concerns with Bikram Yoga?
Besides the potential harmful affects of dehydration, which is common for all high temperature exercise, Bikram Yoga heats up the ligaments and muscles, which increases the flexibility of the joints in the short term only. This means that if the movements are not controlled and not kept within your normal limitations, you are more likely to injure your joints, muscles and ligaments. Bikram Yoga should really be undertaken if you are experienced in Yoga and know your limitation and good technique, and should not be for beginners.
If someone trains in high temperature, does that ensure that they will see better fitness results?
Training at high temperatures does improve fitness, but only in the short term. Heat adaptation of training at high temperatures can be achieved after 5-10 days training, however, this is only maintained if you continue to train in high temperatures. So this is great if you are preparing for an event for that extra performance boost, similar to altitude training, however, it is not beneficial for regular fitness or for more weight loss. Make sure you have a good base of fitness first before starting high temperature training or you will be more vulnerable to heat related injuries such as dehydration and heat stroke
Do you believe that Bikram Yoga is a more effective and beneficial form of exercise as opposed to regular yoga?
Bikram Yoga is a good form of training for experienced Yoga participants, who want the extra challenge of the increased flexibility of the muscles and ligaments, which results from the high temperatures. However, it is not where you should start your yoga training. Yoga is about postural control and positioning control. The high temperatures increase your flexibility in the short term, which means you have to control a larger range of joint movement, great for a challenge, but more potential for injury.
Bikram Yoga uses mildly more energy than regular yoga in terms of weight loss, but would not be as effective as regular cardio training for weight loss, either in low or high temperatures, which uses substantially more energy than yoga.
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