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A Window to Cardiovascular Health

“Casual Runner” by Chris Hunkeler is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Resting heart rate paints a vivid picture of cardiovascular health and impacts the body’s response to sports physical therapy interventions. RHR, or resting heart rate, is the number of times the heart beats per minute when the body is not physically active — such as when sitting.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the “normal” range for a resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute (BPM), though resting heart rates vary from person to person based on various circumstances. For example, resting heart rate is significantly influenced by mood, environment, cardiovascular fitness, and stress.

As a rule of thumb — as cardiovascular health increases, resting heart rate tends to decrease. Therefore, athletes often have lower resting heart rates than those that do not regularly exercise. That said, resting heart rate is an important measure for anyone looking to improve their overall health.

What Your Resting Heart Rate Says About Your Cardiovascular Health

The heart is responsible for pumping blood and oxygen throughout the body. An elevated resting heart rate causes increased strain on the heart, often  linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a higher risk of heart disease.

A resting heart rate of more than 100 BPM is called tachycardia, whereas an RHR below 60 beats per minute is called bradycardia.

Other than a few exceptions (for example, medications that lower the heart rate), a lower resting heart rate is an indication that the heart is more efficiently pumping blood, requiring fewer beats per minute to distribute blood throughout the body. Because each beat is more powerful, the heart is much stronger than one with a high resting heart rate.

Fortunately, there are many ways to improve resting heart rate, thus improving overall cardiovascular health.

How To Improve Your Resting Heart Rate

This is where cardiovascular exercise comes in handy. A recent study conducted at the University of Lousiville concluded that regular exercise effectively lowers resting heart rate, which reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

We think of cardiovascular exercise as strength training for the heart. Aerobic workouts, like walking, jogging, or swimming, train your body to use oxygen more efficiently, which gradually reduces your resting heart rate and breathing rate — both of which are important factors of cardiovascular health.

A more efficient heart can even help athletes recover quicker between grueling workouts. Plus, it allows many of our physical therapy patients in Chevy Chase and Bethesda to better adapt to the physical demands of their lives.

Final Thoughts

Resting heart rate is an important measure of cardiovascular health. A significantly high resting heart rate often correlates with many health problems such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Conversely, a low resting heart rate indicates a strong, healthy cardiovascular system.

If you’re struggling to improve your resting heart rate, try adding in regular cardiovascular exercise to gradually improve cardiovascular efficiency. Resting heart rate will improve as a byproduct.

If you’d like to work directly with a physical therapist in Chevy Chase or Bethesda to help you with this, please contact us today to schedule a free consultation!

Is Mobility Overrated?

Mobility has become a popular buzzword in the sports physical therapy community in Bethesda and Chevy Chase. While it is an important aspect of health and fitness, could mobility be getting more attention than it actually deserves?

What Is Mobility?

The term “mobility” refers the quantity of available movement — and how freely and efficiently you’re able to do so. Popularized by the sports physical therapy and training community, mobility is important for everyone, whether you’re an elite athlete or a busy working Mom.

Mobility is an important part of a well-designed injury rehabilitation and prevention program. It is also used to improve the quality of life for our physical therapy patients in Chevy Chase and Bethesda.

While very important, many experts feel that the booming popularity of mobility overshadows several other key health factors. In particular, the added focus on mobility often leads to a lack of attention on other important health factors, such as strength, cardiovascular health, and other global health behaviors.

What The Mobility “Craze” Makes Us Overlook

Although mobility is an important aspect of a healthy body, mobility alone won’t provide the quick fix you might be looking for. Instead, there are several complex contributing factors that need to be properly managed to improve your overall health.

Strength Training

Lean body mass and strength are some of the greatest indicators of the overall health of an individual. In fact, according to a study done by Harvard University, something as simple as grip strength can help measure an individual’s risk of heart attack, stroke, or cardiovascular disease.

Focusing on mobility alone overlooks the importance of strength training. According to The Mayo Clinic, strength training can help you manage or lose weight, increase metabolism, protect your joints and ligaments, and improve your ability to do everyday activities.

Cardiovascular Exercise

Another important measure of the overall health of an individual is cardiovascular fitness. A simple way to gauge cardiovascular health is by measuring your resting heart rate — the number of times your heart beats per minute when not physically active.

Although the normal range of a resting heart rate is between 50–100 beats per minute, a resting heart rate greater than 90-100 BPM can put unnecessary strain on the heart. A high resting heart rate has even been linked to high blood pressure, cholesterol, and even heart disease.

By solely focusing on mobility, cardiovascular health may be overlooked.

Global Health Behaviors

Outside of strength and cardio training, there are several other important contributing factors to an individual’s health — specifically sleep, nutrition, and social connection.

Sleep plays a crucial role in your physical health. Not only does sleep heal and repair your muscles, heart, and blood vessels, but a recent study discovered done by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute discovered a link between sleep deficiency and an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Final Thoughts

All in all, mobility is only one aspect of staying healthy and active — it isn’t the only thing that should be focused on. Health is achieved through the successful balance of multiple variables, including mobility, strength training, cardiovascular exercise, and various other global health behaviors.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive program to improve your health, fitness, and quality of life, our physical therapy team in Bethesda and Chevy Chase can help. Contact us today for a free consultation!

Why Rest Often Makes Back Pain Worse

I’m sure you’ve heard it before…“Weight training is back for your back! Be careful.”

Although this mindset is common, after years of treating sports physical therapy patients in Bethesda and Chevy Chase, we’ve actually found the opposite to be true. According to Michael Mash, DPT, back pain from time to time is actually normal and usually resolves itself without treatment or the need for expensive medical attention.

In fact, research shows that sedentary activity, like sitting on the couch watching Netflix, can actually make back pain worse. Oftentimes, after a small “tweak” or “flare-up” from lifting weights, many athletes can self-manage by simply avoiding painful movements while focusing on exercises that still feel comfortable.

All in all, weight training is not the single source of low back pain. There are several contributing factors — including lifestyle, diet, and exercise form. The body is incredibly resilient, and with a little education and practice, you can enjoy an active lifestyle while staying healthy and pain-free!

How Rate of Perceived Exertion Can Make You a Better Athlete

In performance physical therapy, training programs follow a strict methodology for exercises, sets, reps, and effort to produce a specific training effect.

One overlooked, but equally important aspect of an effective training program is autoregulation, which describes adjusting the training effort to accommodate a present condition. For example, if the program calls for a brief warmup, reducing the weight on the bar is one easy form of autoregulation.

One of the main use cases of autoregulation involves using the RPE scale, also known as the Rate of Perceived Exertion. The RPE scale is a scale from 1–10 that measures the perceived level of exertion or difficulty.

Rather than saying, “Darn, that set was really difficult!” you could say, “I’d rank that as an 8 out of 10 on the RPE scale.” Using RPE in performance physical therapy is an effective way to place a numerical value on the difficulty of an exercise, set, or workout.

Credit: Michael Tuchscherer & RTS

How to Implement RPE Into Your Training

Before we dive in, it’s important to understand the usefulness of RPE. According to Propane Fitness, autoregulating using RPE allows an athlete to get the most out of each training session — whether you’re feeling amazing and well-rested or if you slept for two hours on the floor of your buddies apartment. By adjusting the training load based on perceived difficulty, you’re better able to manage the workload of each exercise.

A sample workout using RPE might look like this:

  • Barbell Bench Press: 3 sets x 5 reps @ 8 RPE
  • Decline Dumbbell Bench Press: 3 sets x 8 reps @ 6 RPE

Implementing RPE into a workout is as simple as adding it to the already existing workout. RPE is simply a training tool that allows for more customization and variation in training load. An RPE of 8 would require more weight, whereas an RPE of 6 means an easier training load, thus lighter weight.

All in all, tracking the RPE of sets and reps is incredibly valuable when working with a coach or performance physical therapist. This method of autoregulation creates common ground between the PT and the athlete. It also creates a well-defined approach for managing workload and training effort, an invaluable tool for avoiding injury and overtraining.

The difficulty of RPE is determining how difficult each set or workout should be — or rather placing an RPE value to each exercise. This is why it’s important to work with an experienced personal trainer or performance physical therapist. For a deep dive into implementing RPE into your training, contact us today for a free consultation!

Exercise Snacking: A Simple Approach To Aging That Can Actually Improve Muscle Function

It’s no secret that finding time to exercise gets more difficult with age. As professional, family, and personal responsibilities stack up, it becomes more and more challenging to find time to get to the gym or exercise.

As part of the aging process, our performance physical therapy patients also tend to lose muscle mass and function. One well-known combatant of muscle loss is resistance training, though it does require access to both exercise equipment and the time to work out.

If you find yourself struggling to get to the gym as you’re getting older, there’s good news! A recent study from The Centre for Sport in Chesterfield, UK, concluded that short bouts of exercise spread throughout the day are an effective method to improve muscle function in a time-efficient manner.

“Exercise snacking,” as the study coined, is the process of breaking down exercise into short sessions throughout the day. During the 28-day study, individuals doing a twice daily home-based exercise snacking program improved their lower limb muscle function and size compared to a control group. In addition, not only did their maximum leg pressing power increase, but those who followed the exercise snacking program also improved their 60-second sit-stand scores.

Although the study is still being examined, the data suggests that “exercise snacking,” or short bouts of exercise, may be a promising strategy to improve muscle function in older adults. Something as simple as a short walk could do the trick.

If you often struggle to find time to exercise, “exercise snacking” is a super time-efficient method to combat the side effects of aging while staying in shape.

For a more personalized approach, our virtual physical therapy team in Chevy Chase can help! Contact us today for a free consultation.

Why Icing After Pitching Isn’t Great For Your Child

Icing after a baseball game is an often-used recovery or injury rehabilitation practice for pitchers.

However, recent research conducted by Electronic Waveform Lab shows that icing damaged tissue after exercise does not improve recovery and can actually delay the healing process.

40 years ago, Dr. Gabe Mirkin coined the term RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) to treat acute sports injuries. In 2014, nearly 40 years later, Dr. Mirkin retracted his statements stating, “Subsequent research shows that rest and ice can actually delay recovery.”

Why Does Ice Do More Damage Than Good? 

Inflammation is a natural, necessary response to the tissue damage that results from pitching in a baseball game. Due to the inflammation, blood vessels dilate, and the damaged tissue receives an influx of nutrients and cells that begin the process of tissue repair.

This process is necessary for the tissue to remodel and prepare for the future stresses involved in pitching. While icing may decrease pain in the short term, it can actually do more harm than good, as it slows down the recovery process.

Active Recovery: An Alternative To Ice

As part of his 2014 retraction of RICE protocol, Dr. Gabe Mirkin reported, “Mild movements help tissue to heal and the application of cold suppresses the immune responses that start and hasten recovery.”

One of the best alternatives to using ice is active recovery — including low-intensity muscle activation techniques. The goal is to find practical active recovery and loading methods that won’t aggravate the tissue or cause additional damage.

Try to activate the muscles to achieve the largest amount of pain-free, low-stress, and non-fatiguing muscle activation. This technique can act as a “pump” to remove excess waste products from the area and facilitate the release of proteins that accelerate recovery.

If you need in-depth injury rehabilitation or performance physical therapy techniques in Chevy Chase, our team of experienced physical therapists can help!