How A Walk in the Forest can Help Cure What Ails You

We’ve been hearing more and more about how getting out into nature can help to improve mood, reduce stress and promote overall good health. It makes a fair bit of sense that as humans have evolved with nature, and therefore our nervous systems may feel most ‘at home’ when we are amongst nature. But it seems that there is more to it than that. Studies are now showing that some of the compounds produced by the trees in the forests we walk
in have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, neuroprotective and antitumor effects. These compounds (forest aerosols) are excreted by our trees (in particular, conifer and camphor laurel trees) and we can be said to be ‘showering in them’ when we take a forest walk. Forest aerosols are being shown to have many beneficial effects on health in laboratory testing and may be the reason that walking in the forest has been shown to benefit asthma,
atopic dermatitis, immune health, cancer and nervous system health (Cho KS, 2017).  It is not only conifers and camphors but other plants such as lavender, citrus, hops, peppermint and chamomile that also contain these beneficial compounds. If anyone needed a reason to go for a walk in a lavender or chamomile field, here it is!

Other health benefits can be attributed to the production of a compound called brain- derived neurotrophic factor (or BDNF) when we exercise. BDNF promotes what we call ‘neuroplasticity’ which basically refers to the ability of brain cells to heal and create new connections as is seen in learning and healing from damage due to stress, depression or trauma. A reduction in BDNF is seen in neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia and has also been linked to major depression, stress, obesity and cardiovascular disease. In the case of BNDF, we do not need to be walking in the forest to promote its production – any exercise will do (but a forest walk is a great option if available). Studies show that moderate to high-intensity physical activity are the most effective in achieving the desired increase in BDNF (Phillips, 2017).

So why not make a regular walk in the forest part of your health regime? When you breathe in those delicious foresty smells you are taking your aerosol shower and providing your body with many healing agents. If you are sick, it may assist your healing process, and if you are not, it will certainly provide protection against some long-term health complaints.

So, get a map, pack a lunch, get a buddy and get out there!

Sore muscles after exercising: Is it normal?

Having delayed onset muscle soreness is common after exercise but it’s nothing to be alarmed about. It usually means that your muscles are getting stronger. 

Mild soreness is a natural occurrence after any kind of physical activity most frequently experienced in the beginning stages of a program. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, also known as DOMS is a common result of physical activity as our muscles go through quite a bit of physical stress when we exercise. 

A common result of physical activity causes tissue to stress beyond what it’s accustomed to. It’s perfectly normal to experience this discomfort between 24-48 hours post activity and it can be the body’s signal to the brain that it needs a rest. 

DOMS occurs when the muscle is performing an eccentric contraction or lengthening contraction. For example, running downhill or the lengthening portion of a bicep curl. During this action, a small microscopic tear occurs in the muscle – this creates damage to the muscle fibres. The aches and pains are a result of this and indicate that the muscles are adapting to a new fitness program or regime.      

 

5 Easy tips to speed up recovery and reduce DOMS:

Get more sleep

Sleep deprivation can have significant negative effects on recovery for all performance levels. 

Drink plenty of water

Exercising while dehydrated can cause greater damage to muscles and reduce the body’s ability to repair itself. Water is usually enough for most individuals looking to replenish fluids. 

Make foam rolling your friend

Rolling out muscles with a foam roller or spikey ball can help remove knots and prevent muscle imbalances from forming. 

Gentle stretching

When muscles are in recovery mode they tend to tighten up which leads to feelings of soreness. Slow, gentle stretching of the area will relive that tight feeling and diffuse pain. 

Light massage

Massaging a sore muscle can help reduce tightness while promoting blood flow which will help speed recovery and shorten the duration of DOMS.

 

 

 

 

Why you shouldn’t skimp on stretching

Stretching – that activity that we know we should no but generally don’t, leaves you feeling nice and warmed up and ready to take on the world… but why is stretching important, and does it really matter if you decide to skimp on it? In this article our Musculoskeletal Therapist Emma shares her wisdom on stretching.

Range of motion

Generally speaking, the range of motion is dictated by two factors: your joints and muscles. Muscle provides passive and active tension to joints, with neuroreceptive qualities to it, dependent on its contractile state. Movement is also dependent on the amount of range of motion a synovial joint has (synovial being a joint that has a capsule filled with synovial fluid).

Muscle tension decreases range of motion

So from this we have one major factor that we can control: muscle tension. Muscle tension can result from a variety of things; anything from your day-to-day activities – work, exertional exercise, walking, even sitting down and watching television has some factor in which muscles create tension, and which muscles are switching off and not doing their job.

Without even working your muscles can become tense from your body’s amazing ability to adapt and overcome situations. This can include scar tissue, neurological impairment, or certain postures (think desk work, five days a week situations).

Stretching helps the muscles and the joints

Stretching generally focuses on the muscular length between the joints where it originates, and where it attaches. When you stretch, your muscle increases in length due to muscle: brain communication through certain receptors. As well as stretching muscles, actively stretching allows your joints to increase in space, allowing less compression between bones. This reduces deterioration of joint structures, ultimately allowing your ligaments and fascia (the connective tissue surrounding your muscles, bones, joints, blood vessels etc) to release. Regular stretching can therefore prevent pain and discomfort that arises from both muscular tension and joint pain.

Stretching calms the mind

Active stretching, the kind that puts you through your entire range of motion – holding and releasing several times, can also induce a meditative state, where you are able to enjoy the full benefit of your feel good endorphins! Combining stretching with some deep breathing exercises will help you to be able to stretch longer with the added benefit of relaxation.

Stretching for people who ‘can’t stretch’

Are you particularly tense and feels like you just can’t reach that happy point of no pain and/or length when stretching? Getting some passive stretches from a Musculoskeletal or Remedial Massage Therapist can greatly reduce the restrictive feeling of active stretching as they work with your own body dynamics, rather than against them. It feels fantastic to stretch like this since you’re immediately relaxing into it and allowing your body to naturally move in ways that would otherwise be limited from the psychological barriers in place to reduce injury.

So to recap, you shouldn’t skimp on stretching because…

  • It lengthens muscles to relieve tightness
  • It helps to increase space in the joints, which can prevent pain and discomfort
  • It helps to prevent injury
  • It increases range of motion, to help you move more freely

So now that you know, try not to skimp on stretching. It really is an important part of keeping your body healthy and mobile through the years. Happy stretching, everyone!

Want your own tailored stretching program? Make an appointment with a musculoskeletal or remedial massage therapist by calling 07 3367 0337 and we will help you on the way to recovery.