- Reasons to be a happy slacker, rather than a gummy gym bunny
- Even major athletes are at risk of terrible damage from exercise
- The secret to safe exercise – revealed
Stop exercising – you could be doing more harm than good!
We are used to being told that too much alcohol, too much sugar or too much red meat is bad for us…
…but what about too much exercise?
There aren’t many gym goers who are aware of the health warnings on the various machines they sweat over each day, but they do need to be mindful of what overdoing it might be leading to.
Problems such as damage to joints and muscles are perhaps obvious, but new studies show that if you are doing more than 5-6 hours of exercise a week then your heart could be at risk.
If you don’t allow sufficient time for your heart and body to recover after exertion then you could be storing up longer-term problems, especially as you get older.
Prodded by health experts, newspaper stories and guilt, it seems like there is a new order of fitness seekers out there.
But just like the born again motorcyclists who are more likely to be involved in a fatal crash, these new health junkies are walking a fine line between benefit and risk.
Older folk tend to have more time to spare and often have a little more cash in their pockets and they are being targeted by the gym owners to entice them into their sweaty emporia during the day when the machines are quiet.
Like lambs to the slaughter the middle aged with their slightly rounded bellies and flaccid forearms begin to pound away on the rowing, cross trainer and running machines – fully expecting only good to come of it.
But if you haven’t been keeping yourself up to scratch since your teenage years chances are that you’ll be putting more stress on your heart that it can easily cope with.
That much seems to make sense to me, but I wasn’t expecting the next piece of news.
Let me explain how exercise can cause serious damage to your teeth!
Exercise can rot your teeth – I’m not making it up!
Dentists working with elite athletes have begun to report that tooth damage and decay is rising at an alarming rate.
In addition to these findings a team of researchers from Heidelberg University in Germany discovered that the longer athletes train each week the more likely they are to develop rotting teeth… and the further they run the worse the problems get.
This phenomenon was first reported by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2009 when they said that a third of their athletes had suffered tooth decay and that last year a survey of competitors in the 2012 London Games showed that a fifth of them had training spoiled by poor oral health.
Now you might think that this problem is due to a lack of personal hygiene, you know these folk are so busy being trained that they don’t get to brush their teeth, well apparently not.
A recent study published in the British Dental Journal, showed 94% of athletes brushed their teeth twice a day, compared with 75% of the general public, while 44% flossed regularly, compared with 21% of the public.
Yet researchers from University College London surveyed 352 female and male athletes across 11 sports, including cycling, swimming, rugby, football, rowing, hockey, sailing and athletics. The study concluded that elite athletes had poor oral health despite these outstanding efforts to care for their teeth.
When I began to read about this issue for our most fit individuals I immediately began to blame the high sugar sports drinks which are being hyped at events and through the media.
You know, the kind of thing you see professional rugby and football players gulping down at the end of a game, or the runners grabbing for as they complete a marathon – brightly packaged and claiming to be ‘isotonic’, ‘recovery balanced’ or some such tosh.
And it seems I may not be entirely wrong as the IOC report does highlight that the problems with the athletes teeth “may be an indicator of excessive use of sports beverages which are acidic.”
But given the amount of money these companies put into the sports it’s very unlikely that any governing body is going to point the finger of blame at them directly.
But it certainly is one prominent cause of the crumbling gnashers.
Dry mouth… damaged teeth
The team in Germany ran an experiment where they got triathletes to run around a track at increasing speed until they were exhausted.
Whilst they were pounding around the asphalt the team took samples of saliva from them and found that saliva levels reduced and became much more alkaline as the runners worked harder to maintain their times.
This created more favourable conditions for the plaque causing bacteria in their mouths and ultimately led to increased tooth decay.
Far from the damage being done by highly acidic conditions it was the alkaline ones that were making the situation worse, and if the athlete was drinking water to try to rehydrate this also led to problems.
The water dilutes the protective protein found in saliva which helps keep enamel on the healthy teeth.
So smile all you couch potatoes… avoid damaging exercise to keep your teeth in tip top condition.
The secret of safe exercise
Gyms and heavy work outs are definitely not the way to exercise safely for the vast majority of us.
But the ways to a healthier body are simple… just walk.
A steady 30 minute walk each day is perfect for most people to get their hearts working, mobilise fatty deposits and help burn off the extra calories.
Even a rainy day (and we have had a few of those lately – bah!) can be enjoyed with a stout coat and a good umbrella, there is real childish pleasure to be had in splashing through the puddles.
For the more adventurous get yourself to the local swimming pool and swim a few lengths.
Brilliant exercise for the whole body without putting any strain onto muscles or load through joints… and most of them have a cafe for a well earned coffee and a bit of cake afterwards!
Lastly, try a Pilates class, or even Tai-Chi.
Don’t be fooled by the gentle approach, a good instructor will get you aching in places you didn’t know you had muscles and help you tone up your all important core muscles.
These are the ones that don’t move you around but help support your spine, your shoulders and your neck…
…mind you if you already have problems there you would be well advised to read Sunday’s letter.