Why life is better going upside down

At Forma it is pretty much taken for granted that we spend large amounts of time on our hands, whether it be whilst practising front supports, side planks or handstands.

Now we have all been beginners and many of us will remember that it was our wrists preventing us from making faster progress in those early stages. A few sets of 30 second plank holds and they begin to feel sore and weak, and for many, fundamental movements like table walks are just out of the question, for the time being.

So why is this? Have you stopped to think why this happens?

The answer is actually quite simple; our joints are susceptible to a gradual process of what we like to call “deconditioning”. As a general rule, most adults decrease their physical activity quite considerably after leaving the education system, As youngsters we played, climbed jumped, attempted cartwheels and all sorts just for fun. This process strengthens the soft tissues that are part of the joints as well as the bones themselves. Ligaments, fascia, tendons, bone, muscle and even blood vessels are kept in a state of continual adaptation to the natural stresses of playing games and sports.

When we leave school or college, our physical activity has already reduced considerably and decreases more with the onset of work, relationships and becoming parents. As the years pass, the body simply adapts to the lack of physical forces. It saves energy and resources by no longer maintaining all those tissues in such a state of being ‘conditioned’. The tendons slowly become thinner, weaker and more brittle, the muscles shrink and tighten, the bones drop in density levels until a balance is maintained between the need to adapt and the forces we subject our body too.

One of the most common bone breaks or fractures that occur daily are wrist fractures due to falls, especially in the older population. A general reduction in bone density along side a general reduction in upper body strength, agility and balance results in frequent occurence of falls and subsequent fractures.

Prevention is better than cure!

There has been a focus in traditional fitness education on developing muscular strength and cardiovascualr fitness, with very little thought and time on joint preparation. Gymnastic fitness and strength training that we utilise in our classes is a proven method for progressively and gradually re-conditioning the body including the joints, and it doesn’t matter what age you are.

In summary:

  • Our bodies adapt to the physical forces we expose them to whether they be big or relatively non existent.
  • The bodies tissues are capable of change in a positive direction irrespective of age. Although the process does slow down as we age.
  • Start of with consistent steady practice. A few hours each week over 6 months will pay more dividends than one month of intense training.
  • Weight bearing through all of our joints can help protect us from reduced bone density in later life and help with injury prevention.
  • Try to change your thoughts and approach to your fitness regimen toward long term goals from 6 – 12 months.
  • Gradually increase your total hours of training after an initial 2 month period of consistent hours.
  • Listen to what your body is telling you and learn to stop when you feel those joint niggles instead of pushing through.

Gymnastic type training has been shown to increase bone density levels in participants that holds for some time even after the practice has been given up. The two scholarly articles listed below give evidence of such findings for those of you who may wish to read more.

  1. J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact 2009; 9(4):247-255 : Comparison of pQCT parameters between ulna and radius in retired elite gymnasts: the skeletal benefits associated with long-term gymnastics are bone- and site-specific.
  2. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research : Former Premenarcheal Gymnasts Exhibit, Site-Specific Skeletal Benefits in Adulthood, After Long-Term Retirement