Archive for Physical Activity

Understanding How Bones Work

how bones work

Osteoporosis is a progressive disease that causes the bones to deteriorate and eventually lead to fractures.

The word osteoporosis defines itself. “Osteo” means bone, and “porosis” means the porous bone structure that results from the gradual loss of bone density. Osteoporosis causes the bones to gradually loose bone mass resulting in porous, brittle bones.

The different causes of osteoporosis usually interrupt the bone remodeling process. An interruption in the bone remodeling process causes the bones to become brittle and thin. To understand osteoporosis, you must understand how this process works.

The actual breaking down and rebuilding of bone tissue is performed by two groups of cells called osteoclasts and osteoblasts. Bone remodeling occurs when small amounts of bone are broken down by cells known as osteoclasts. After the bone has been broken down and reabsorbed in the body, cells known as osteoblasts move in to the area and start building new bone. The process where old bone is reabsorbed and new bone is built is called the remodeling process.

  • Osteoclasts The first group of cells called osteoclasts is responsible for the destruction of existing bone. They appear at a specific area to break down existing bone. Osteoclasts make pinhead holes in the bone to release calcium into the bloodstream which eventually leads to the break down of the bones. The entire process of the bone removal process is referred to as bone resorption.
  • Osteoblasts Osteoblasts are the bone building cells of the body. Osteoblasts place a matrix made up of collagen in the tiny holes left by the osteoclasts. The collagen matrix will begin to go through a hardening process, also known as the mineralization phase. During this phase, calcium and phosphorous mix with the collagen matrix in the form of calcium phosphate crystals. The calcium phosphate during this hardening phase contributes to the density in the bones. The process of building bones during the bone remodeling process is known as the bone formation phase.

Osteoporosis is not a natural part of aging. Due to a loss of bone mass and tissue, bones that were once strong may be unable to endure the stress of a normal activity. Basic activities such as bending, twisting or coughing can cause a fracture. Until recently osteoporosis was thought of as a natural part of aging. But there’s nothing natural about breaking a bone by simply laughing, coughing or sneezing.

Types of osteoporosis:

  • Type I, also known as primary osteoporosis occurs in post-menopausal women, and is due to estrogen deficiency.
  • Type II, also known as secondary osteoporosis occurs in both men and women, and is due to aging or calcium deficiency. Type II can also be due to certain diseases, medications or surgical procedures that accelerate bone loss.

The consequences of osteoporosis: Each year osteoporosis is responsible for more than 1.5 million fractures. These fractures usually occur in the spine, hip or wrist, but they may occur in other bones as well. Osteoporosis fractures can be debilitating, painful and sometimes can result in death. Only one-third of the people who break a hip ever return to being as active as they were before the fracture.

Prognosis: There is no cure for osteoporosis. However, there are medications available that help stop the break down of current bone and help aid in rebuilding new bone. Bisphosphonates, hormones (hormone replacement therapy “HRT”),selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs), calcitonin and teriparatide are all medications used for treating osteoporosis.

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What is Yoga?

Yoga is an ancient way of healthy living that promotes fitness of the body and mind by incorporating gentle exercise, breath control and relaxation. Now widely practiced in Australia, the word yoga means union in Sanskrit, the language of ancient India where yoga originated. Yoga is the union occurring between mind, body and spirit.

Yoga practices are designed to make you strong physically, mentally and emotionally and to increase vitality, balance and a sense of calm. Yoga is not only about exercising the body, but also uses physical postures to help you feel calmer and happier. Many people believe that yoga is stretching. But while stretching is involved, yoga is really about creating balance in the body through developing both strength and flexibility.

Key elements of yoga

Yoga classes differ in style, emphasis and content depending on the training and background of the teacher, but there are a few key things you should find in any yoga class:

  • Awareness of breath – working with your breathing to calm the nervous system and to enhance self awareness.
  • Physical postures – to build strength and flexibility and release tension stored in the muscles.
  • Relaxation – taking the benefits of the physical practice into the mind, enabling your thoughts to become calm and clear, aiding a general feeling of wellbeing.

Yoga is suitable for people of all fitness and activity levels and all ages, shapes and sizes. Anyone, from the very young to the elderly, can benefit from the practice of yoga. It is important to choose a style of class and teacher appropriate to your needs.

What if I’ve never tried Yoga before?

Do some research to find out what yoga studios are in your area, call up and ask to speak to one of the teachers. Ask them about their style, approach and your suitability to their classes. Ask if you can watch a class to get an idea of what happens. Remember, there are many different styles of yoga, so it is a matter of finding one that feels right for you.

The style of yoga that is best for you depends on what you are wanting form your yoga practice. For people who are naturally fast-paced and driven, yoga ideally can be a time to slow down and learn to relax. For others feeling a little low on energy other forms of yoga can help increase motivation and get the body moving.

There are many different names and styles of yoga schools in Australia, most of which originate from Hatha Yoga. Hatha is the traditional umbrella term for styles of yoga that use the physical postures as a basis for practice. All other names identify styles which emphasise particular elements in their classes. Ask the teacher what his/her emphasis is.

Yoga and Women’s Health

Yoga helps us to learn more about our body, to understand the way we move, and the natural rhythm of our body. This understanding will help us feel more balanced and calm. The specific benefits of yoga for women’s health may include the following:

  • Menstruation, premenstrual syndrome, endometriosis and other gynaecological conditions – practices designed to open the abdomen, alleviate cramps and lower back discomfort, facilitate deep relaxation and alleviate physical and emotional tension.
  • Pregnancy – relieve back strain, strengthen and stretch the muscles that aid childbirth, calm body and mind. Please note, it is important to inform your teacher if you are pregnant and ask for appropriate alterations to the practice.
  • Perimenopause and menopause – practices designed to stimulate the ovaries and pituitary gland to regulate hormone functioning, alleviate fatigue and restlessness and balance mood.

Mind-Body Balance

The way we feel physically has a profound effect on our state of mind or emotional wellbeing. Similarly, when we are emotionally agitated, our physical health and vitality are affected.

Consider the body’s natural response to threat or a sudden fright – the breath speeds up, muscles tense, heart rate increases, all in preparation to respond to a perceived threat. Over time this stress can accumulate in the body and mind causing physical and emotional symptoms, which can clearly be linked to anxiety, depression, and other mental health and emotional issues.

Specific yoga practices are designed to counter this accumulation of tension and create positive mental states. Creating openness in the body has a corresponding effect on the mind, calming the breath, slowing the thoughts and aiding general health and wellbeing.

When used along with other approaches such as psychological counselling, yoga practices can help to alleviate the symptoms of emotional health issues, such as depression and anxiety and may also assist the individual to find more clarity and calm to deal with life stressors which contribute to overall mental and physical health.

What to Look for in a Yoga Class

The points below provide a guide to help you choose a yoga class suitable for you:

  • Qualifications – check your teacher has been formally trained in yoga teaching, either in a particular style of yoga, or as part of a government accredited training course.
  • Awareness – look for a teacher who asks for an indication of your general health and wellbeing (particularly relevant injuries, illnesses and associated health factors, which may affect your yoga practice) and who offers suggestions to suit your personal needs.
  • Personality – as when choosing any health practitioner, it is important that you feel comfortable with your yoga teacher and change classes, if necessary, to find a teacher you like.
  • Approach – a good yoga teacher combines an awareness of the body, breath and mind in the yoga class, emphasising the benefits of yoga on many levels and the importance of integrating these elements.
  • Style – find a style of yoga to suit your needs. Ask your teacher about the effort level of the class and the emphasis of the practice. The diversity of yoga styles reflects the diversity of approaches required to suit different types of people, so look for a style that you feel comfortable with.
  • Most of all, yoga should be about you. Rather than feeling like you are being forced into a set of postures that may or may not be be right for you, look for a teacher who recommends a yoga practice to suit your needs and who helps you to feel happy, healthy and calm.

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Top 10 tips

Top 10 tips for getting active

1. Plan ahead

Schedule physical activity into your daily routine and do your best to stick to it. A commitment to being active needs to be long-term, and should become a normal part of your everyday lifestyle. If time is limited, try getting up earlier or walking during your lunch break.

2. Equipment

You do not need expensive equipment to begin exercising. Start with a good pair of training shoes and comfortable clothes. Take a water bottle and don’t forget to wear sunscreen and a hat in summer.

3. Get support

You are more likely to succeed if you have the support and encouragement of family or friends. Group activities are a great way of staying motivated and a good opportunity to get involved in your local community.

4. Choose an activity that is right for you

When choosing a new activity, take time to consider what would best suit you. Think about convenience, budget, pre-existing medical conditions and whether or not you will enjoy the activity. You wouldn’t take up water-skiing if you couldn’t afford it, had to travel for hours and don’t like getting wet!

5. Be creative

Try something different – let your imagination run wild. Vary the places you go walking or try line dancing or water aerobics – there’s bound to be something out there that’s perfect for you.

6. Keep at it

Occasionally there may be periods of time where you lose focus and go off track. Do your best to get back to doing some physical activity when you can – try to think positive, plan ahead and always keep the benefits in mind.

7. Set goals

Set both short and long-term goals so you have something to work towards. Be realistic – you won’t be able to run a marathon in two weeks time; but you might be able to walk every day for a week. Keep track of your achievements.

8. Reward yourself

It’s important to reward yourself when you achieve your goals. Having an added incentive can also help you to get going when you don’t feel motivated. A reward could be anything from buying your favourite magazine, getting a manicure or going away for the weekend.

9. Listen to your body

Exercising is not about ‘no pain, no gain’. If an activity causes you pain either slow down or stop altogether. Pain is a sign that something might be wrong. If you are worried, see your health practitioner before continuing.

10. Have fun

Enjoyment is essential for maintaining a long-term commitment to being more physically active. Be selective in the activities that you choose, get in involved in group activities and stay positive – you’re worth the effort.

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Getting Active

How much physical activity is enough?

The Australian National Physical Activity Guidelines for adults recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week to benefit your health. There are many ways to achieve this – and it isn’t as hard, or as time consuming, as you think. According to the guidelines, three 10 minute activity sessions are just as effective as 30 minutes of continuous activity.

Types of activity

Moderate activity is movement that causes a slight increase in your breathing and heart rate – but you should still be able to talk. A brisk walk, mowing the lawn or even vacuuming are examples of moderate activity.

Vigorous activity, enough to make you ‘huff and puff’, is recommended to those who are able, and wish to achieve further health and fitness benefits. Aerobics and running are examples of vigorous activity.

Getting started

Planning is essential. To increase movement, start by looking at daily activity as a long-term investment in your health. Write a plan and put it where you will see it every day, like on the mirror, fridge or in your car.

Points to remember

  • Think of movement as an opportunity to be active, not an inconvenience
  • Be active every day in as many ways as you can
  • Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days
  • If possible, include regular, vigorous activity for extra health and fitness

Be realistic. Start by inserting small amounts of activity into your schedule, then increase your time and pace gradually as you become fitter. This is essential to ensure you enjoy the activity and therefore keep doing it for longer.

Ideas for

At home

  • Vacuuming
  • Gardening
  • General tidying
  • Playing with children or grandchildren
At work

  • Walk during lunch break
  • Get up and speak to people instead of email/phone
  • Use the stairs
Out and about

  • Get off public transport a stop or two early and walk
  • Walk to the local shops to get milk/newspaper
  • Walk the dog

Setting goals

Set some short and long-term goals for yourself. A short-term goal might be to build up to a brisk 30 minute walk every day for a week. A longerterm goal, something you work slowly towards, might be to participate in a fun run, go bushwalking or lose some weight. Reward yourself when you achieve your goals. An incentive may help you keep going on a day when you aren’t feeling motivated. Try setting goals using a pedometer. Aim for 1,000 extra steps every few days until you reach 8,000 to 10,000 steps per day.

No more excuses

Starting a physical activity plan is the easy part – sticking to it is more difficult. Here are a few ways of overcoming some common barriers.

I don’t have time

Schedule activity into your daily routine. Get up earlier or walk during your lunch break. If you can’t find half an hour then try for three 10 minute sessions. If you drive to work, park 10 minutes walk away.

I’m too tired

Physical activity actually helps to improve your energy levels and can help you sleep better as well. Start small and slowly build up as your energy levels increase.

I’m too old

It’s never too late to benefit from the positive health effects of physical activity. If you are worried, speak to your doctor about what activities would best suit you.

I can’t afford it

The amount of free activities to improve your fitness is only restricted by your imagination. Walking, dancing to your favourite music, or having sex are just a few examples of budget-friendly activities.

I’m not well

If you have a pre-existing condition it may be more difficult for you to become physically active; however it can be of great benefit to your overall health and wellbeing. Ask your health practitioner what activities would be of benefit to you.


Walking is one of the most popular and achievable forms of physical activity. “Surveys show that women prefer walking over all other activities and when they walk with friends they walk longer and report walking is more enjoyable,” says dietitian Cate Lombard. “Set a time and place to meet each week – rain, hail or shine – and make the effort to turn up. Group activities are more social and you can encourage each other to keep going.”

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The Benefits

The benefits of getting active

How physical activity can help you

Becoming physically active not only significantly lowers your risk of illness, but can also help to improve many pre-existing health conditions.

Heart disease

A staggering 92 per cent of Australian adults have one or more risk factors for heart disease. Physical inactivity and poor diet are the most prevalent risk factors – and both are preventable. Regular exercise can lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, and reduce body fat. Aerobic activity is particularly beneficial for heart health; and even low impact activities such as swimming, bike riding, or moderate-paced walking will provide benefits.

Type 2 diabetes

Every day in Australia, 275 people develop diabetes (more than 100,000 annually), and being inactive is a major contributing factor. If you already have type 2 diabetes, physical activity can help to improve the body’s response to insulin, which can in turn lower blood glucose levels, help control weight, and lower heart disease risk. Regular, supervised strength training (weight training) has been shown to be particularly helpful for the treatment of diabetes.


While it can be difficult for people suffering from depression to feel motivated to be physically active, it can be beneficial – particularly in managing mild to moderate depression or anxiety. Research shows that regular physical activity of light or moderate intensity can lead to a reduction in symptoms of up to 50 per cent, especially in women. Becoming more active can help to block negative thoughts, distract you from daily stresses and, if you exercise with other people, the social contact can be invaluable.

Osteoporosis and bone health

Women are at a much higher risk than men of developing osteoporosis. Although most of our bone mass has been achieved by the time we’ve reached adulthood, physical activity can still be of great benefit to our overall bone health. Being active increases muscle strength and also helps to improve our posture,
balance and coordination. Maintaining physical activity into old age can reduce the risk of falls and fractures.


It is estimated that around three million Australians have some form of arthritis. Regular light exercise can help to relieve joint stiffness, build muscle strength, lower stress or depression and can help you maintain independence for longer. It is important to find the right balance between exercise and rest. Try exercising in water or chair exercises to help maintain your strength.

Weight loss

Excess body weight is often a result of physical inactivity and is a major risk factor for many chronic conditions. Around 54 per cent of Australian adults are either overweight or obese. Physical activity combined with healthy eating is the best approach for sustainable weight loss. Even moderate-paced walking (about 5km/hour) burns in excess of 100 calories per half hour.

Physical activity can also:

  • Lower your risk of some cancers (e.g. bowel and breast cancer)
  • Ease back, muscle and joint pain
  • Promote better sleep quality
  • Increase energy levels

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Physical Activity

Taking steps towards a healthier you

Want to feel better, have more energy and even live longer? Getting active can be simple, affordable and fun and has benefits for everyone.

Australian perspective

Today, more than half the Australian adult population is not active enough to maintain good health. With obesity, heart disease, diabetes and depression on the increase, there has never been a better time to get physically active.

The good news is that it’s never too late to become active. Beginning or resuming activity at any age will benefit your health.

If you have a medical condition, are overweight, are pregnant, over 40 years of age or have not exercised regularly for a long time, see your health practitioner for medical advice before increasing your activity. They can refer you to an accredited Exercise Physiologists who can help you design an activity plan that is safe and helpful to your individual needs. In most cases the initial costs of the Exercise Physiologist will be covered by Medicare. Your local accredited Exercise Physiologist can be located through the Australian Association of Exercise and Sports Science.

Shift your thinking: Fitness not Body Weight

For many years the medical profession has promoted weight-loss as the best way to reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease. Often the only advice given was to start exercising and go on a diet, but did not provide any further help or sustainable programs. More recently, reality television shows are promoting exercise and food restriction programs, with incredible weight-losses, that normal busy people can only dream of achieving. The good news is that just starting and maintaining a reasonable amount of activity for 30-45 minutes a day will provide greater and more sustainable health benefits compared to repeatedly trying to lose 5-10kg on fad diets and extreme health programs. So shift your thinking and aim to be active everyday and eat a healthy balanced diet. This approach will improve your physical and mental well-being, and ultimately help you reduce your body weight.

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Escaping from the stress and strain of the daily routine has a positive influence on the health and wellbeing of both women and men.

Taking some time for yourself by simply reading a book or magazine, taking a long bath, gardening, enjoying beauty care “rituals” (such as getting your hair or nails done), and participating in a hobby or recreation are all marvellous forms of relaxation.

Personal pleasures

Every day do something that you enjoy like reading, listening to music, gardening and sewing.

Aromatherapy, Tai chi, a warm bath, sauna or spa to relax your body, meditate or pray.


Laughter produces endorphins in the body which help you relax and feel good about yourself.

  • Bring laughter into your life by being with friends who have a good sense of humour, and watching comedy shows.

Positive thinking

Practice pushing away negative thoughts and replacing them with positive thoughts – and enjoy the relaxing effect.

  • Negativity – for example ‘I fail more times than I get it right’. Try and catch yourself when you think in this unhelpful way and challenge yourself
    ‘I do get things right sometimes’.

Physical activity

Physical activity decreases muscle tension and improves concentration and self esteem.


Walking is simple and effective, and particularly appropriate if you are starting an physical activity program.


This can be a simple hand or neck massage by a partner or friend.


Indulge yourself occasionally or regularly with a body massage from a professional masseur.


There are many forms of yoga, some more physical than others.

The focus, here  is on the combination of meditation with body stretches and gentle physical activity.


Mediation requires practice.

  • Sit comfortably in a quiet environment.
  • Breathe deeply and close your eyes.
  • Focus on a word, chant or image and push away all the day-to-day thoughts intruding into your mind.
  • 15 to 20 minutes daily promotes an inner calmness.

Consider attending meditation classes.

Relaxation exercises

These exercises include tensing and then relaxing each limb in turn, then your torso and face.

  • Sit down in a comfortable chair or better still lie down on your back.
  • Think about your toes – concentrate on them and wiggle them then relax them.
  • Slowly move your mind to your legs – first the left leg, tense and relax and then the right leg, tense and relax.
  • Same with each arm – tense and relax.
  • Think about your breathing, take some deep breaths then fully exhale and breathe gently and relax.
  • Move your mind now to your head and tense up your facial muscles then relax. Clear your mind.

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There is a definite and clear link between health and physical activity. But if you are not into organised sport what can you do? As long as you manage to undertake some physical activity of at least 30 minutes a day you will reap the health rewards.


There is also a clear link to improved health in anyone who has good links and support in the community. Being part of a family is great for support but for those of you without immediate family life can be a challenge.

Your local council or community health centre is a great place to begin to find groups with various activities that may interest you and that you might enjoy.

Such activities may include:

  • Reading groups
  • Craftwork, sewing or cooking groups
  • Cards, chess or other and board games
  • Activities such as painting, writing or computing
  • Bird watchers or
  • Friends of parks and gardens groups.