Most people know that physical therapists often recommend exercise as part of their treatment. What most people don’t realize is how simple that exercise can be. Therefore, many people are often surprised when a physical therapist offers a walking program instead of running or weight lifting.

Walking has many powerful health benefits; just 30 minutes a day, 3 times a week has been shown to improve cardiovascular endurance, and reduce blood pressure and weight. Lots of people are using activity trackers and apps to track steps during their daily activities, and this too has been shown to have benefits. While many people aim for 10,000 steps per day, research shows that as little as 6,000 steps a day can reduce pain and disability while boosting cardiovascular health.

If you’re thinking about starting a regular walking program or just increasing the amount of walking you do throughout the day, it’s important that you do it the right way. The general recommendation for building any physical activity is to take whatever amount of the activity you do in a week and increase it by 5% or less per week. A good general starting place would be 3,000 steps per day, and an example program following the 5% rule might look like this:

 Week 1: 3000 steps (1.5 miles) Week 2: 3150 steps

Week 3: 3300 steps Week 4: 3500 steps (1.75 miles)

Week 5: 3750 steps Week 6: 4000 steps (2 miles)

Week 7: 4200 steps Week 8: 4500 steps (2.25 miles)

Week 9: 4800 steps Week 10: 5000 steps (2.5 miles)

Week 11: 5250 steps Week 12: 5500 steps (2.75 miles)

Week 13: 5800 steps Week 14: 6000 steps (3 miles)

If you’re not sure if you’re ready to walk the recommended 6,000 steps a day, you can always visit a physical therapist for a review of your medical history and baseline testing to find out what a safe level for you to start at would be.

One last thing to consider is footwear. Although walking is less stressful than running, it’s still important to take care of your feet. Shoes designed for running work well to cushion and support your feet when walking too. If you need help picking the right pair, a PT can help assist by analyzing the foot position and reviewing all the interplaying components that may affect footwear choice — components that may be missed at a shoe store alone.  At Nikao Performance and Rehab, we help vet companies to ensure our clients receive information from individuals that are very qualified and knowledgeable in the industry.

Exercise has great benefits for your physical health – it can strengthen your muscles, improve your cardiovascular system, and reduce your risk of diseases like stroke and diabetes. But, did you know that exercise can have benefits for your mental health too?

Why exercise lifts your mood

Exercise causes your brain to release chemicals including endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals all work together to make you feel good. In addition to the chemical changes in your brain, exercising can lead to a feeling of accomplishment and relaxation of your muscles, also helping you feel good.

Exercise and depression

Exercise on it’s own is not a cure for depression, but research has show it can be as effective as medication for mild to moderate depression. In fact, the most commonly prescribed antidepressants are SSRI drugs, which work by increasing the amount of serotonin in your system. As mentioned above, exercise also increases the amount of serotonin in your system, so the effect on depression shouldn’t be a surprise.

Make time for yourself

Many people believe they are “too busy” for exercise. Being “too busy” for something really just means that you’re prioritizing something else above it. By placing exercise high on your priority list, you’re prioritizing yourself. This is a great way to help boost your mood and your confidence, because you’re taking a portion of your day for yourself.

Choose physical activity you enjoy

While any physical activity will help release endorphins and serotonin, choosing something you enjoy can help boost your mood even further. In addition, by using physical activity that’s fun for you, you’ll be more likely to be consistent. Consistently exercising is important for getting the most benefit out of it.

Recently we have seen a rise of diseases in children that in the past had only been seen in adults. Things like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure are being seen more frequently in children. One of the best ways to combat the rise of these diseases is to make sure that your kids are getting enough physical activity.

The Department of Health and Human Services has developed guidelines recommending that youth ages 6-17 participate in 60 minutes or more of physical activity 7 days/ week. This is total activity time, so 1 hour, 2 30 minute sessions, or 4 sessions of 15 minutes each in a day would all satisfy this recommendation. Most of this activity should be at either moderate or vigorous intensity.

An easy way to distinguish vigorous vs moderate intensity exercise is as follows:

Moderate intensity allows you to talk but not sing during or right after activity

Vigorous intensity allows you to say only a few words at a time

As part of the 60 minutes daily, it is recommended that children participate in muscle strengthening activities 3 days/wk and bone strengthening activities 3 days/wk. Some activities that would fit into these categories are listed below:

Muscle Strengthening Activities

1. Games like tug of war

2. Climbing playground equipment

3. Push ups, pull ups, or sit ups

4. Activities like crab walking, bear walking, or wheelbarrow with a partner

Bone Strengthening Activities

1. Hopscotch

2. Jumping rope

3. Skipping

4. Sports that include jumping like basketball or volleyball

To get and keep kids participating, physical activity should be fun and incorporated into playful activities that are age appropriate. Being involved in physical education in school is important, especially if children are not involved in extracurricular activities that meet the requirements. Summer camps can be a great way to keep kids active during summer vacation.

For more information check out:

1. https://health.gov/paguidelines/midcourse/youth-fact-sheet.pdf

2. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/physicalactivity/facts.htm

Basketball is the most popular youth sport in the US. A study by the National Athletic Trainers Association found that 22% of male basketball players have an injury that causes them to miss playing time each year. 42% of the time, that injury is to the ankle or foot, making this the most injured area. Some other common injuries to basketball players include:

Lower Extremity

1. Muscle strains such as a groin pull, quadriceps, hamstring, or calf strain

2. Knee ligament injuries such as ACL, LCL, MCL tears or sprains

3. Ankle sprains, including high ankle sprain

4. Ankle fractures

5. Overuse injuries such as patellar tendonitis, IT band pain, shin splints

Upper Extremity

1. Falls, leading to fractures, dislocation, or sprains of the wrist, elbow, or shoulder

2. Jammed fingers

Head

1. Concussion as a result from a collision between head and the ground, usually from falling

Knowledge of the most common types of injuries gives us a place to start thinking about prevention. While not all injuries can be prevented, there are some things parents and players can do to reduce the risk of being injured.

1. Have an annual physical completed by a physical therapist or other qualified professional This should include baseline testing of strength, ROM, and a baseline concussion test

2. Make sure you have an adequate base of strength and aerobic fitness The annual physical mentioned above should identify areas needing addressed here. Your PT or other professional can help design a training a program to address your specific needs.

3. Improve your balance and proprioception – this can help reduce the risk of the foot and ankle injuries so common in basketball This can be accomplished with off-season strength and conditioning as well as participation in injury prevention programs to work on jumping and landing skills

4. Avoid overuse injuries and burnout Taking time off throughout the season and the year will let the body recover

5. Hydrate adequately before and during practice and games

6. Wear properly fitted shoes

7. Be aware of the environment

Especially when playing basketball on outside courts – the court may not be smooth and even everywhere.