The Journey of Sport: Lifelong Participation

Research involving sport’s impact and influence on society, culture, youth development, and overall health are abundant. People’s perceptions vary from generally positive to more pessimistic. Advocates of sport often argue for it’s capacity to teach life skills needed for adulthood, provide a vehicle for social networking, increases emotional well-being, and provides an environment for promoting healthy and physically active lifestyles. Pessimists however, would caution against these assumed positive outcomes as a person’s experiences in sport are ultimately shaped by the coaches, parents, and sport organizers who are in control, and the influence of competition tends to favour the more advanced players. As a major advocate of sport, my love and appreciation for physical activity in all its forms originated from my first experiences in meaningful physical activity, sport. My hope is to share my personal experiences in sport and how my perspective has changed to appreciate the health benefits sport has to offer.

Youth Participation

1928341_14816800471_2161_nI grew up (like many kids I knew) living and breathing sports. Many positive outcomes of my participation in sport were being developed inherently or subconsciously; such as making friends, developing good work ethic, allow leadership characteristics to grow, and a general sense of confidence and positive attitudes towards life. As I got older, the influence of competition, team success, and individual success were of top priority for myself and others. Not only was there competition among competing teams, but within particular teams for playing time and individual roles. It was here where I learned and accepted the fact that within a team, roles are not always equal, but all roles are needed for team success. In addition, this competitive environment fostered the motivation to achieve both team and individual goals; such as the pursuit for a college scholarship. What is interesting is that through my youth experiences, little attention or thought was put into how my behaviours or routines derived from sport was going impact my attitudes towards health today. Baseball was seen as a vehicle to seek higher education; practicing my skills and physically training were solely to help me get there, and all the other characteristics discussed earlier were not even a thought.


Sport Participation and Adulthood

13781964_10157313078130604_1787720818513828869_nThe transition into life after competitive sports and into full-time student and coach resulted in a shift in perception. This transition period, with the contribution of higher education in the field of human movement and physical activity, has contributed to shift away from the mindset of sport primarily as competition, towards an understanding and appreciation of it’s health benefits. Not only has it contributed to my appreciation for engaging in regular physical activity, but I also see it’s holistic benefits through personal experience. The positive characteristics (discussed earlier) I have acquired is a product of my lifelong involvement in team sports. To date, the majority of my physical activity stems from participation in recreational sports (i.e. mens league baseball, slo-pitch, and drop in basketball) because this is how I enjoy physical activity.

Final Thoughts

As the reader, there may be a few take home messages from my personal experiences in sport. First, perhaps we should be emphasizing more clearly to our youth the potential health and life skill benefits that sport has to offer outside of developing specific skills to win the next game. Although I was able to make the connection in my transition to adulthood, many others may not. Second, sport is one way to stay physically active, however keep in mind physical activity is not limited to the sport environment. And finally, the personal meaning of sport and physical activity to individuals will change over a life span, what is important is that this meaning contributes to a life long motivation to stay active.

References

Gould, D. and Carson, S. (2008). Life Skills Development Through Sport: Current Status and Future Development. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology. 1(1). 58-78.

Shores, K., Becker, C. M., Moynahan, R., Williams, R., & Cooper, N. (2015). The Relationship of Young Adults’ Health and Their Sports Participation. Journal of Sport Behavior. 38 (3). 306-320.

LTAD Path. (n.d.). Retrieved November 16, 2016, from http://canadiansportforlife.ca/parents/ltad-path

 

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Dieting and Healthy Living

There is no shortage of information on weight loss advice and dieting recommendations; in fact, you could argue maybe too much information. Whether it be from online sources, magazines, or television advertisements, the general population is bombarded with “new fad diets” that often guarantee quick and easy results. As consumers, it is often difficult and time consuming to decipher which nutritional recommendations will not only equate to weight loss, but also ensure a healthier version of one’s self. By reading this blog, it is the hope that people will become aware of the certain downfalls of popular fad diets and understand the importance of changing the conversation from “dieting” to “healthy lifestyle”.

Popular Dieting

Popular dieting seems to appeal to many people because they often produce short term results and instant gratification for their recent disciplinary eating habits. Some of these dieting progr6faeff1ab4bd74e1b995d0e43be63eb4ams include: “Weight Watchers”, “Atkins Diet”, “Negative Calorie Diet”, “Cabbage Soup Diet”, or diets that cut out fat or animal fat intake. What is important to point out is some weight loss program’s such as Weight Watchers and Atkins Diet have reported to have success. Other diet fads such as the negative calorie diet or cabbage soup diet seem to have blindly obvious flaws in them when even small amounts of research into nutrition are done.

First, let us address the flaws with some of these diets. The cabbage soup diet is self-explanatory, your daily diet consists primarily of cabbage soup with limited other foods permitted. This diet is a short-term “lose weight fast” type of diet that is designed to keep your daily caloric intake at extremely low levels (about 1200 calories). Caloric intake at this extreme level is simply not sustainable for long-term function, and weight regain after termination of the diet will be quite rapid. In addition, no recommended exercise program is attached; because caloric intake is so low, a person on this diet may not even have the required energy to meet the demands of the activity. Second, the negative calorie diet is based off the idea that certain foods use more calories during digestion than what their intake value is. This however has not been proven to be true by science or research, therefore, it should not be considered as a viable option. The third, and arguably most controversial is the Atkins diet. The Atkins diet derives around the idea of dramatically reducing carbohydrates and and replacing it with a diet rich in lean proteins, healthy fats, and high fibre fruits and vegetables. Once you have reached your desired weight loss goal, the program helps you understand how to maintain your newly desired weight. Although sources have proven this diet to be successful, there are some concerns. Since carbohydrates are our primary energy source to function on a daily basis, drastically cutting back could have adverse affects on daily function. Also, like many other diet programs, the lack of attention drawn to the importance of physical activity coupled with nutrition is problematic when considering effective long term maintenance of weight loss.

Of the weight loss programs, Weight Watchers seems to be a more holistic approach to weight loss and healthy living. Weight Watchers is based around the idea that changing lifestyle habits will result in a more long-term and sustainable plan. In this program, no foods are restricted, exercise recommendations are made, and counselling sessions are available to keep members on track. Weight Watchers is also proven to be a successful and credible weight loss program.

Final Thoughts

The conversation of “dieting” must change to a more holistic approach that stresses the importance of balance in all aspects of health. Dieting is often a quick fix, not sustainable in the long-term, and in some cases contradicts Canada’s food guide of what diet and nutrition should look like. Furthermore, when “new” nutrition information does become available, we ought to critically assess where this information is coming from, and whether or not it is proven to have health benefits by science. Canada’s food guide is the best source for nutritional information with the most current dietary research available.

 

References:

Asp, K. (2016, January 07). Weight Watchers Diet Review: Count Points for Weight Loss? Retrieved November 16, 2016, from http://www.webmd.com/diet/a-z/weight-watchers-diet
Fields, L. (2016, March 17). Atkins Diet Plan Review: Foods, Benefits, and Risks. Retrieved November 16, 2016, from http://www.webmd.com/diet/a-z/atkins-diet-what-it-is
Watson, S. (2016, March 27). Cabbage Soup Diet Review: Ingredients and Effectiveness. Retrieved November 15, 2016, from http://www.webmd.com/diet/a-z/cabbage-soup-diet

Lower Back Pain and Inactivity

Lower back pain (LBP) is a complex and multifactorial issue that many adults in our current society suffer from. According to Schaller, et al. (2015), the lower back pain prevalence in our population’s lifetime is between 74-85%, and almost 20% suffer from severe or disabling  LBP. Although contributing factors seem abundant, many instances of LBP can be prevented by making even small lifestyle changes. As a current university student, factors such as hours spent studying, attending class, and commuting to and from school have lead to increased time spent on sedentary activities, and decreased time spent being physically active. The goal of this blog is to educate current students and working class citizens on how sedentary lifestyles may be the catalyst to lower back pain.

Defining Lower Back Pain:

Lower back pain can be generally classified into two categories: acute and chronic LBP. Acute LBP is caused by either a particular trauma (i.e. sudden physical impact on the body) or an unexpected immobilizing sense of pain that lasts for a relatively short period of time. The latter is often a tell of underlying chronic issues relating to one’s spine and supporting structures (i.e. core muscles, ligaments, etc.). On the other hand, chronic LBP is the classification that many sedentary individuals suffer from, often times a product of sedentary lifestyle habits. Chronic LBP stems from (but not limited to) compression of vertebral discs, core muscle weaknesses and imbalances, and hip joint inflexibility. Since the focus is on lifestyle habits of individuals, chronic lower back pain will be the focus of attention.

Inactivity and Posture

Let us all take a moment and think about a typical daily routine; assess how much time you spend driving, doing paperwork at a desk, watching T.V., browsing on the computer, or listening to your professor lecture. All of these activities are typically done in the “sitting position”. Interestingly enough, sitting is percieved to be a more comfortable position for our body; however, prolonged sitting (especially in a slouched position) actually has adverse affects by putting compressive stresses on our vertebral discs. In addition, when we sit, postural muscles (i.e. intrinsic and extrinsic postural muscles) that are normally activated when standing are shut off because external support is given to our spine. If these muscles are constantly inactive, or overstretched due slouching (which many people do when in the sit position), the muscles become weak or inactive which causes spine instability. As mentioned previously, the slouched position when sitting is of particular concern because it promotes postural maladaptations even further. Our spine is suppose to have a natural S-shape curve to it when we stand upright. When we sit in a slouched position, our spine takes a more C-shaped curve. This C-shaped curve applies more weight on our lumbar spine (the section of our spine located in our lower back area) with less support from our stability muscles mentioned earlier.

pe-posture_figure1

S-Shape Curvature

spine-health

Sitting posture (C-Shape Curvature on left)

Hip Flexibility and Muscle Weakness

In addition to postural compensations, prolonged sitting has negative impacts on our hip joint flexibility and weaknesses to muscles that contribute to movement at the hip joint. Some of the notable muscles that contribute to posture and act at the hip joint are our hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteus muscles, and hip flexor muscles. Notably, the hip flexor muscles, and more specifically the psoas major, is in a flexed position when sitting. This constant flexing of the psoas major leads to decreased hip flexibility resulting in more stress and more demand from your back muscles during movement. A great example is this relationship is seen when trying to pick up a dropped item; in order to bend down to pick up the item, one must bend their legs at the hip joint. If the hip flexor muscles are tight, your body will compensate by activating your back muscles to further reach the dropped item; resulting in an increased stress and fatigue on your back muscles area. The gluteus (specifically gluteus maximus) and hamstring muscles are major posterior muscles that contribute to hip extension and maintaining upright standing position. The gluteus muscles are the muscles we sit on (our butt muscles). Prolonged sitting can cause our gluteus muscles to become deactivated when it is time to move. Using the “dropped item” example, when we have picked the item up and want to return to a standing position, our gluteus maximus and hamstring muscles should be the primary muscles to achieve this movement. If they are deactivated or weak (due to prolonged sitting), once again our back muscles have to compensate and provide the force necessary to create this movement. Our back muscles or posterior postural muscles are best used for maintaining an upright posture. As you can imagine, when asked repeatedly to perform tasks that other, much larger muscles are suppose perform, fatigue and instability is inevitable.

lower-back-health

muscles involved with hip movement

Final Thoughts 

Prolonged sitting and sedentary lifestyles seems to be more prevalent in our current society. People ought to be mindful and self-aware of what their body is telling them as many conditions of lower back pain stems from inactive habits and prolonged sitting. Although highlighting specific lower back stretches and exercises is outside the focus of this blog, the first step in ensuring spine health is understanding the lifestyle causes and specific maladaptations to unhealthy lifestyles.

References

Nicholson, S. (2016, March). Acute and Chronic Back Pain. Retrieved November 11, 2016, from https://lowbackpainprogram.com/acute-and-chronic-pain/

Nicholson, S. (2016, August 15). How Extended Periods of Sitting lead to Chronic Lower Back Pain and What You Should Do. Retrieved November 11, 2016, from https://lowbackpainprogram.com/lower-back-pain-and-sitting/

Schaller, A., Dejonghe, L., Haastart, B., and Froboese, I. (2015). Physical Activity and Health-Related Quality of Life in Chronic Low Back Pain Patients: A Cross-Sectional Study. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 1662.