Nov 23, 2015

Are you stretching correctly? Dynamic vs Static Stretching.

Over the years, beliefs about stretching and exercise have changed. It was once believed to be incredibly important to stand and stretch (in a static stretch) prior to any exercise and failure to do so would undoubtedly increase your risk of injury.

More recently though, research has proven that this may have been incorrect and static stretching prior to exercise could actually lead to higher risk of injury. However, I still see a lot of people following the old recommendations of intensive static stretching prior to exercise so I thought it might be time to explain what the most recent recommendations are to help you avoid unnecessary injuries.

Before we go any further though I think it's important to explain the difference between two of the more well-known types of stretching:

Static Stretching:

A type of stretching performed while the body is still or at rest. The aim being to gradually lengthen a muscle to to the point of slight discomfort and hold for at least 30 seconds.  It was once recommended by experts that static stretching be performed after warm up and before exercise.

Dynamic Stretching:

A type of active stretching performed with momentum where the end position of the stretch is not held.  Dynamic stretching prepares the body for exercise by gently extending range of movement and increasing blood and oxygen flow to muscles. Unless your sport specifically requires flexibility (such as dance or gymnastics) then current recommendations indicate that when performed correctly, dynamic stretching has been found to be safer and more effective than static stretching, and when used prior to exercising, it can increase sporting performance and reduce the risk of injury. Some examples of dynamic stretches are leg swings and walking lunges.

If you're not sure how to perform dynamic stretching, there are plenty of resources and videos on the web that will show you how, but the best way to figure out which dynamic stretches you will need to do is to think about the movements that you will be performing during exercise and whilst warming up your body, slowly and gently perform those movements gradually increasing your range of motion to the point you will be using during exercise. What this looks like for me on the track is a warm up including walking and runs that gradually increase in speed, then some dynamic movements that move and gently stretch the major body parts that I utilise for sprints and hurdles.

Static stretching definitely still has it's place, but the ideal time for a long, static stretch is actually after exercise to help with recovery.  Static stretches are only performed at the end of our sessions and I find it really relaxing after a session to sit or lay down and work through my static stretches.  Give it a try but just make sure you have a comfortable surface to do them on (yoga mats are the best). If you need a little help holding your stretches, resistance bands can also be a great help.

So before you start your next workout, remember to keep things in this order:

1.  Warm Up
2.  Dynamic Stretches
3.  Workout
4.  Cool down
5.  Static Stretches

This post was written by Aanika and made possible by Fitness Market where you can purchase the  fitness equipment discussed in this post.

References:  Kravitz, Page 2012, WebMD, Anderson 2005, Shrier 2000

Nov 19, 2015

Fun DIY Gardening Projects Suitable For Kids

Now that the nice spring weather is upon us, getting outdoors and doing some gardening can be the perfect way for you and your children to enjoy the sunshine. Children adore outdoor activities and most children will be thrilled to be allowed to help with a gardening project. Here are three little DIY garden projects that even the youngest toddlers can get involved with.

1. Birdhouses

Birdhouses are fun to make and will encourage some little feathered friends into your garden which will allow your children to observe the life and habits of the birds. Your children can help paint and decorate the birdhouses then they can be hung over fences or in trees. Here are some super cute DIY birdhouse ideas.

2. Painting Stones

Rock and stone paintings are a wonderful way to add some colour and atmosphere to your garden. You simply need suitable brushes and the right type of paints (remember, water-based paints may wash away in the rain, but other paints will stain clothing so make sure the children wear smocks). If you have a vegetable garden, a very cute idea is to paint pictures of fresh fruit and veggies like strawberries, carrots, or cucumbers.

3. Make Eco Friendly Planters

Another great little project is creating little planters from empty containers. You will need to search for tin cans or for baby food jars, as they make perfect planters and small tins and jars can be the perfect size for growing herbs. By planting seeds or seedlings, it becomes a great educational experience for children too and helping water and care for the plants is a wonderful way to teach responsibility.

These are just a few ideas to keep the kids away from the Ipad, computer or TV and to get them outside, involved in the gardening and closer to nature. If you’re after some more ideas check out these DIY gardening projects.

Do you have your own garden projects suitable for young children? Pop on over to our facebook group to share them.

The article is written by Kathleen Crane who runs a team of gardeners in Brixton.

Nov 16, 2015

Food Intolerances Versus Food Allergies: How to Know the Difference

As you all know, we have quite a few food allergies and intolerances in our family, so today I have asked guest writer Sally from Health Insurance Comparison to explain the differences between Food Intolerances and Food Allergies.

Feeling ill after eating certain foods can be a sign that your body isn’t able to deal with them but it isn’t always easy to know whether this is due to a food intolerance or food allergy. The two are often confused for one another, which isn’t helped by the fact there can be some overlap in their symptoms. They are actually completely different reactions. Many people therefore mistakenly believe that they have a food allergy when they may actually be experiencing an intolerance to a particular food.

What is a Food Allergy?

Food allergies are an autoimmune response that happen after the body reacts against substances (often proteins) and treats them as though they are toxic. This triggers antibodies, which lead to a range of unpleasant symptoms.

Food allergies are actually relatively uncommon for adults but they are seen more widely in children. Experts suggest that children can be much more likely to develop a food allergy if at least one family member has an “allergic” condition such as eczema. Children can be anything from 20 to 80 per cent more likely to have a food allergy in this situation but they can also occur with no family history of allergies at all.

Symptoms of a Food Allergy

Symptoms of a food allergy can include hives (a raised, red and itchy rash), a runny nose, eczema, stomach cramps, diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea and breathing problems.

What is a Food Intolerance?

Unlike allergies, food intolerances are not related to the immune system. Instead, it happens if the body cannot properly digest enzymes (such as lactose) or reacts against substances found in foods. This won’t show up in an allergy test due to the difference in why it happens.

Symptoms of a Food Intolerance

A food intolerance may not be autoimmune but this doesn’t mean that symptoms are necessarily any less intense. They can include rapid breathing, tremors, palpitations, migraine, headaches, diarrhoea, a tight feeling in the face and chest, asthma-esque breathing difficulties, mouth ulcers and bloating.

There can be some crossover between food allergies and intolerances, which can further confuse the difference between the two. Coeliac disease is not actually classed as a food allergy even though it does involve an autoimmune reaction to gluten.

What If You Suspect a Food Allergy or Intolerance?

For both allergies and intolerances, the key is to avoid the food(s) in question to banish the unpleasant effects and symptoms. This is simple if you know what is causing the problem but this isn’t always the case. If you’ve not been able to pinpoint this, things can be a lot more difficult as you could inadvertently consume the problem food(s) without realising that they are to blame.

An elimination diet is one of the best ways to find the culprit. Most people are allergic to one of a handful of foods such as gluten, eggs, soya, and milk, and eliminating the most likely candidates and gradually adding them back into your diet should help to work out which foods are causing symptoms and which aren’t.

Health Insurance and Food Allergies

If you’re not sure whether an allergy or intolerance is the culprit for health complaints, you will probably want to look at the possibility of getting this confirmed through allergy testing. Food allergies will show up in this but intolerances will not.

Seeing a private dietitian can be reasonably expensive but you’ll be pleased to know that some of the costs can be covered by Extras health insurance. Not all health funds offer Nutrition/Dietetics related services and for those that do, you will usually need to have mid or top level Extras cover for it to be included. If you're looking for more information about dietetics and health insurance, we wrote a guest post for Aanika earlier in the year about accessing dietetics/nutrition advice through health insurance.

If you'd like any further information about health insurance and food intolerances, please feel free to leave your question below so that Sally can get in touch.

Nov 5, 2015

Household Planner

Download your own 13 page household/family planner that will help you stay organised at home, an exclusive freebie for all members!

We all dream of having more time for the good things in life, for the things we want to do, rather than have to do. Quality time to spend with our family, time for exercise, time for relaxation and recreation.

Sometimes the best way to make more time for the things we love, is by getting the tasks we don't love finished quicker and more efficiently. One of the most important steps to becoming more efficient is to become more organised, in your home life, work life and family life. I have found keeping a household planner to be a very useful tool to help me stay organised.  It allows me to keep everything in one place, my meal plans, my to-do lists, important account numbers, phone numbers and birthdays.  I keep school notes and documents I need on a regular basis so they are easy to access.  It saves me time as I don't have to rummage through piles of paper work and saves me the frustration of losing an important note or bill.

If you want to become more organised and you don't already use a household planner, I suggest giving it a try.  Planners can be highly personal as different families have different needs but my printable household planner can definitely get you started as it includes 13 pages of home organisation (see the full index below).  It's a free download for all The Active Mum members/subscribers - simply check your email for a link to your free printable planner, print it out and place it in a binder or folder and you are one step closer to being more organised at home.  If you're not a current member, simply enter your name and email over on the right hand sidebar to subscribe >>>

If you're not a member you can purchase it here:  Household Planner

TAM  printable planner includes:

  • An 'Important Contacts' list, handy for babysitters and other family members.
  • A 'Tradesman/Handy People' list for keeping all of your home repair contacts in one place.
  • A 'Daily To-Do' List which is an easy to reference guide that allows you to make note and quickly see all of your daily chores and tasks.
  • A 'Weekly Planner' at a glance, so you can easily view your weekly schedule and regular commitments.
  • A 'Regular Expenses' list to keep track of your regular bills & payments, when they are due and how you pay them.
  • A 'Monthly Meal Planner' broken down into one page per week. Plan your meals for the month, list the ingredients and even plan your baking.
  • A 'Birthday Calendar' so you can keep track of all those important birthdays.
  • A list for all of your important account and policy numbers. Never search through old documents again, this list keeps all of those tricky-to-remember numbers in one place.

I hope you find this planner a useful time-saving tool.  Every bit of time we can save allows us to spend more time doing those things we love.

Have a great day..

Oct 22, 2015

Gosford Waterfront

I really love this time of year.  The days are getting longer, the weather is getting warmer.  It's not always easy getting outside in the evenings with the whole dinner-bath-bedtime rush, but sometimes it's worth absolutely worth it to just forget the routine for a night and get out and enjoy being outdoors at this lovely time of day.

On Sunday evening, we decided to head down to Gosford Waterfront for a walk to let the kids ride their scooters and have a play in the park.  It was really lovely quality family time and the waterfront was absolutely beautiful.  There are some new developments planned for the waterfront, I hope it only enhances the atmosphere down there and doesn't ruin it.

This very practical scarf is courtesy of Summerskin. Not only is it a scarf but I've heard that it is possible to use it for a beach wrap or even a great breastfeeding cover.  Summerskin has a range of stylish clothes with built-in sun protection, clothes with SPF are a perfect choice for the environment here in Australia.

We had such a lovely evening, it was the perfect temperature outside and the kids had a great time riding along on their scooters then playing in the park.  They were even treated to getting a little closer than usual to a pelican and some baby ducklings...