Plunging yourself into cold water might not necessarily be on the top of your to-do list (and who can blame you?!).

But with the recent lockdowns forcing the temporary closure of indoor swimming pools, there’s been a rise in the number of people turning to open water swimming.

As shown by  recent stats, 45% of swimmers increased how much they swam outside in 2020. The same stats estimated that outdoor swimming in the UK has increased by between 1.5 and 3 times since 2019. And there’s good reason. According to a small number of studies, celebrities and athletes – cold water therapy has a myriad of health benefits.

What exactly is cold water therapy?

Cold water therapy – which can sometimes be referred to as cold hydrotherapy – is the practice of using water that’s around 15 degrees to treat health conditions or stimulate health benefits.

Despite the recent hype around the practice, cold water therapy is nothing new. It’s actually been around for a couple thousand years. But recent modifications of this practice include short and sharp cold showers, outdoor swims and cold-water immersion therapy sessions.

 

So, why the buzz?

The exact benefits of cold-water therapy are long disputed in the health industry. But according to certain enthusiasts, taking a cold water dip is the answer to many things.

On a recent episode of Gwyneth Paltrow’s The Goop Lab, the actor and entrepreneur sent a group of her employees to Lake Tahoe in Nevada to experience to popular Wim Hof method.

 

The Wim Hof method

This method is based on a combination of extreme cold-water therapy and specialised breathing techniques. It was the brainchild of Mr Wim Hof – a former athlete – who swears by this regime and raves about the many benefits it can bring.

In the episode he says: “Cold water is a great way to learn to deal with stress. If you learn how to breathe deep, you can go into the cold water and adapt. You become the alchemist of life itself.”

 

So, what exactly are the benefits of cold water therapy?

According to Mr Wim Hof, cold water therapy can:

  • Improve your circulation
  • Reduce inflammation in your body
  • Higher energy levels
  • Deepen your sleep

 

However, it’s important to note that not much research has been done to solidify these claims. But science does suggest that it can:

  • Lessen muscle soreness – a 2011 study found that cyclists who took part in intense training sessions had decreased soreness after they immersed in cold water for 10 minutes. A later 2016 study reported the same thing.
  • Ease symptoms of depression – some studies have suggested that cold open water swimming has helped to ease symptoms of depression and anxiety. In one study, a woman who had experience anxiety and depression from the age of 17 turned to open water swimming aged 24. The study confirmed that over time, her symptoms decreased significantly.
  • Cold water can boost your immune system – A handful of studies have suggested that daily doses of cold water could bolster your immune system over a period of weeks or months.

 

To take the plunge or not to take the plunge

Keen swimmer and Osteopath Robin Kiashek says: “The jury is still out on whether cold water therapy is the answer to a wide range of health problems.

 

“But as highlighted above, there are a handful of health benefits that cannot be disputed. I myself have been swimming for as long as I can remember. With indoor swimming pools now reopening, I can’t say I will be practicing my front crawl in my nearest lake – but I might try turning the shower temperature down a few notches.”

 

Robin Kiashek has more than 25 years’ experience in his field. He believes in taking a holistic approach when it comes to treating his clients. If you are suffering from a series of health issues – whether it’s headaches, aches and pains or long covid – don’t hesitate to get in touch.

 

NB: Cold water swimming should be done with guidance from a professional and consider that certain medical conditions and ages should be taken into consideration.

 

 

 

 

 

Optimal Health & Wellbeing

Maintaining optimal health & wellbeing has always important. But never before has there been such a focus on its significance.

“The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has changed all aspects of life – health & wellbeing included,” Osteopath Robin Kiashek said. “The closure of gyms and restrictions on non-essential travel has forced us all to find new health habits.

“At the start of the UK’s first lockdown, we saw a rise in the number of people going for daily walks, the lucky few converted their garages and spare bedrooms into make-shift gyms and there was a boom in virtual workouts in front of our laptops. And to help keep us in check, many people turned to smart tech and fitness apps which can monitor every aspect.”

There’s an App for that

According to the latest stats*, health and fitness apps have seen a ‘steep rise’ in users during the pandemic. Trackable fitness service, Strava now has 73 million users world-wide. Whilst, fitness app Freeletics – which has more than 2 million UK users – saw a 50% increase in its use during the first 2020 lockdown between March and June.

Nowadays there’s an app for everything. You can monitor your sleep with Sleep Cycle, chart your mindfulness with mediation app Headspace and even check your blood oxygen levels with Pulse Oximeter.

But is all this tracking causing more harm than good?

 

Staying active is always good

It’s a well-known fact that regular exercise brings with it huge benefits. In today’s society where sitting in front of the TV, or working at home from a desk all day has become the norm, being active helps to build and maintain strong muscles.

It can also boost energy levels, increase productivity and promote healthy sleep. Staying active also helps to reduce the risk of injury and diseases such as osteoporosis, diabetes and heart disease.

 

Positives of health and fitness apps and smart tech

And these health apps and tracking tools can help keep us on the move and off our sofas. That’s because they have the ability to:

  • Help you set achievable goals
  • Track activity levels – like counting your steps
  • Give you a nudge when it’s time to ‘get active’
  • Give you incentives to work harder or push yourself
  • Keep you motivated – some even show you what your other fitness friends have achieved
  • Show you progress over time and give you the stats to back it up
  • Track your heart rate

Robin says: “The ability to track your heartbeat is of course an important measure in health of fitness. Especially with the spotlight that coronavirus ** has placed on achieving better cardio health. However, as with anything, balance is required.”

 

Health and Fitness – All things in moderation

Recent stats*** revealed by the Office for National Statistics showed how stress and anxiety levels have soared because of the pandemic.

The stats from 2020 showed that 19 million adults in Great Britain reported high levels of anxiety. This was said to be a result of the challenges of home-schooling, work worries and health – in addition to all of life’s other stressors.

 

The key message to keep in mind

Robin added: “So, instead of focusing on the stats and adding another stressor to your plate, try to focus on the here and now.

“How are you feeling? How does your body feel? Do you feel tired? The key message to keep in mind is that these stats are a far more beneficial tool if you use them alongside your natural intuition. Rather than heading outside because your smart watch says you should, do it because you want to. You are still moving – whether that’s to walk around the block and back or going for a 20-minute run.

“We are all learning to live during this very strange time, so don’t let your apps rule you. Make 2021 the year you take back charge of your health and fitness.”

Osteopath Robin Kiashek has more than 25 years’ experience in the health and wellbeing industry. As a leading osteopath, Robin believes in getting to the root of your problems and restoring, healing and developing the body and mind. Get in touch today to discover how Robin can help.

 

* https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-55318822

** https://www.hriuk.org/health/your-health/lifestyle/covid-19-and-heart-health

***https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/wellbeing/articles/coronavirusandanxietygreatbritain/3april2020to10may2020***https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/wellbeing/articles/coronavirusandanxietygreatbritain/3april2020to10may2020

In a world where we’re often encouraged to speak up, stand out and make ourselves heard, it feels like introverts have become the poor relation to their noisier extrovert cousins.

But as we move towards a new year, I wonder whether 2020 could finally be time for introverts to have their moment?  In a quiet way of course!  My experience as an Osteopath and Naturopath has shown that there’s a close link between physical, mental and emotional health. And for us to function properly as human beings these need to be in alignment.  So, a less frenetic and outward focussed approach to life could be the way forward.  Introverts certainly have many qualities that often go uncelebrated in these noisy times:

Low maintenance

Introverts are largely independent as they’re not stimulated by or reliant on other people.  In fact, they can find people draining.   Introverts enjoy time spent alone without unwanted stimulation and use it to recharge their batteries.  So, they are less likely to let their reserves run down and retain the ability to recover quicker from setbacks. Today’s society puts a great deal of emphasis on teamwork and being a team player. But introverts often prefer to work independently, which can mean that they require less supervision at work.

Measured

An introvert’s inclination is to reflect and observe rather than react and respond.  So, whilst decisions may take a little longer, they have been properly considered and there is less likelihood of a change of heart.  All of which makes introverts good problem solvers, critical thinkers, planners and, perhaps surprisingly, often good salespeople (they know their product back to front and have considered all possible objections!)

Good friends

Introverts prefer quality relationships over quantity. They are discriminating in who they allow into their world, and they value and nurture the relationships they develop. Introverts really listen to what the other person is trying say in conversation rather than focusing on how they might interject with their own contribution.  They are often more interested in receiving information than divulging it – which makes them very good secret keepers too!

Knowledgeable

Introverts are the kings (and queens) of concentration.  They can immerse themselves in solitary activities like research or writing for extended periods of time. This hyper focus allows them to become extremely well-informed in many areas of interest.   By nature studious and lovers of information, introverts enjoy learning and discovering new things and think that knowledge is power.  But they are also happy to share that expertise with others.

Self-aware

Introverts tend to enjoy thinking about and examining things in their own minds. Including their own preferences, feelings and motivations, how others see them and how they fit into the world.  This often means they are better able to manage their emotions and are inclined to act consciously (rather than react passively).  There is strong scientific evidence that people who know themselves and how others see them are happier.

Obviously we can’t change who we are.  Although if you’re interested in labels and would like to establish whether you’re officially an introvert then there are lots of tests available online including this one from 16Personalities.  In an age when it feels almost compulsory to share our every thought and opinion with our online friends and followers however, I do think we could learn from how introverts value quiet time for recharging.  Perhaps it’s something we could aim to take with us into the new year?

 

About Exercise AddictionToo much exercise can lead to obsession

We all know that physical exercise offers many health-giving benefits. These include strengthened muscles and bones, and a reduced likelihood of developing such nasties as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. Not to mention its mood-enhancing and stress-busting properties. But some people take it too far and become exercise addicts. According to Katherine Schreiber and Heather Hausenblas, authors of The Truth About Exercise Addiction, a worrying 25% of all runners suffer with exercise addiction, compared with 0.3% of the general population.

Nature’s best stressbuster

Our over-complicated, over-sedentary, over-digitised 21st century lifestyles have a lot to answer for when it comes to creating stress. Exercise is certainly an effective way to counter this. Any form of physical activity releases endorphins – chemicals that enhance mood – in the brain but this is particularly true of cardiovascular exercise such as running and cycling. That’s why you get the ‘runner’s high’, and it’s also why you want to keep repeating the experience.

I’m seeing more and more highly stressed professionals self-medicating with excessive exercise. They cycle or run to work, put in a full and often stressful day, and then cycle or run home. They sign up to increasingly testing challenges – running further and in more and more difficult conditions or trekking and climbing all over the world. They’re on the brink of developing an addiction to exercise.

Symptoms of exercise addiction

  • Ever more exercise is needed to achieve the perceived benefits – the exercise ‘high’, increased self-esteem or reduction in anxiety – with addicts regularly exceeding their exercise limits.
  • Addicts experience withdrawal effects (anger, fatigue, anxiety) when they cannot work out as planned.
  • Time spent exercising is often at the expense of that spent with family and friends, at work or doing non-exercise related activities.
  • They persist with physical activity despite illness, injury, anxiety and depression and even against medical advice to take a break.

Exercise addiction and injury

If someone’s exercise goal is unrealistic or the lifestyle unsustainable then the chances of something physically ‘giving way’ eventually is high.

Which is when they appear in my Osteopath Clinic looking for an instant cure for their shin splints, muscle strain, fatigue and so on.  We are, after all, the ‘next-day delivery’ generation that expects a guaranteed recovery in just days or even hours. So, imagine their distress when I explain that the healing-time for an exercise-induced torn ligament for example, can stretch into weeks, requiring plenty of rest and patience, alongside Osteopathic treatment. My patients are then deprived of a tried and trusted outlet for their stress, which escalates.

I always look beyond the injury that brought the patient to my Clinic and probe deeper into their lifestyle and emotional wellbeing. This usually provides helpful clues for treatment and preventing a re-occurrence. As a qualified Osteopath and Naturopath, I work with patients to identify areas that might be undermining their health, such as diet, lifestyle choices, medical history, and physical or emotional circumstances. Treatment plans then encourage the body to heal itself and help guard against future illness or injury.

Give stress the boot

Since stress can be such a large part of the mix, I encourage patients to engage in new ways of managing it:

  • Autogenic therapy, a type of relaxation. I teach patients a set of simple mental and physical exercises and techniques, often incorporating this therapy into a patient’s treatment plan to help them manage their stress and/anxiety and promote greater healing of both mind and body.
  • Mindfulness. This is hugely popular and has become big business with plenty of its own apps and gadgets! But the basic idea is good – paying more attention to the present moment, to your own thoughts and feelings, and the world around you. Rather than sitting cross-legged focussing on one’s breath, ‘being in the moment’ and relaxing can take many different forms – long walks, gardening, swimming or even talking to friends. All these ways of unwinding can be a refreshing break from distractions (especially electronic ones) and have huge benefits for both physical and mental wellbeing. You can find out more about Mindfulness here.

The good news is that most people who exercise are able to maintain a healthy balance with the other areas of their life. So, please get in touch if you’ve got a pain or niggle anywhere, or if you’d like any advice on how to relax, manage stress or establish healthy habits.

 

A mindful activity

Hands up who really understands what Mindfulness is?

As an activity it’s become fashionable with its own gadgets, Apps, clothing and general paraphernalia! All of which I fundamentally disagree with, which is why I dislike the word ‘Mindful’.
Having said that, I have no problem with Mindfulness as a practice, provided that a) it’s not hijacked by commerciality and b) people understand what it is – and is not.

Mindfulness explained

It’s about:

  • Being present – engaging with the here and now, paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, sensations, as well as to the world around you. Not letting your mind wander to your shopping list or what’s on TV tonight!
  • Living with intent – deliberately moving through your life rather than being on auto-pilot.
  • Accepting that life isn’t perfect, so working with what you have now, not what was or should have been.

Why should we bother?

Being Mindful can have huge benefits for both physical and mental wellbeing by:

  • providing a break from distractions (especially electronic ones)
  • reducing anxiety, stress and the (very real) possibility of burnout
  • improving attention span
  • boosting creativity
  • enabling us to manage our emotions better
  • helping to reshape our perspective, bringing us back to what’s important in life

 Main barriers to being Mindful

We simply don’t have the time or space, thanks to our fast-paced, teched-up 24/7 lifestyles. When did you last sit down and reflect quietly or walk the dog without being attached to an electronic gadget?

I swim regularly, as many of my patients know. It enables me to ‘be in the moment’. I feel the water on my body, I pay attention to my breathing and I clear my mind. For me, riding my motorbike in the countryside or walking the dog is equally good.

Recently, I spent a week in Portugal on a woodworking course, learning how to make a chair from a mimosa tree using traditional woodworking tools. The scenery was spectacular and I enjoyed the sun and warmth on my body, the feel of the wood and the creative process of making the chair. The action of planing was soothing and therapeutic. There were no bleeps, rings or reminders to do things. I just lived in the moment, on my senses. And it was wonderful.

I’m not saying that everyone should go to Portugal. Or that you need special kit or gadgets. In fact, the opposite is true – anything can be done in a mindful way by anyone!

Tips for being Mindful

  1. Sit down quietly and become aware of your senses: notice what you can you see, smell, taste, touch and hear, to help keep yourself in the moment. If your mind wanders, just notice it and gently bring it back to your senses. Try this for just a few minutes at a time.
  2. Start each day with a few deep breaths and think about your top three priorities. Check back at different points during the day to see if you’re on track for achieving these.
  3. At the beginning of each task, take a minute to breathe, refocus and get into the moment, giving it your full attention. Many of us pride ourselves on our ability to multi-task but sometimes focusing on one activity and seeing it through to its conclusion is simply better.
  4. Set boundaries so that you switch off mentally at the end of each day, giving your brain time to recharge ready for tomorrow.

So, do think about giving it a go this summer, remembering the one golden rule of Mindfulness: anytime, anywhere – and anyone!