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Heart health and exercise go hand-in-hand. Not only does staying active enhance your heart’s pumping power, but also it’s necessary to have a healthy heart to safely engage in intense aerobic training. A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology revealed that cardio workouts are not the cure-all for heart-related conditions. In fact, focusing solely on extreme physical training may even damage the heart.
Researchers evaluated the heart health among three different male profiles: one group of athletes between the ages of 50 and 67, another between the ages of 26 and 40 and a control group of men ages 50 and older. The athletic participants had all competed in distance running or rowing in either the British national or Olympic team. Members of the comparison group were healthy but had never undergone endurance training.
“Focusing solely on intense physical training may damage the heart.”
During the study, participants underwent cardiac magnetic resonance imaging with late gadolinium enhancement to assess the cardiac structure, function and myocardial fibrosism, which occurs when the heart’s tissue stiffens and scars and can lead to cardiovascular conditions, including heart failure. The results confirmed that half of the older-athletes group had fibrosis in their hearts, while neither the young athletes nor the control group showed signs of this condition.
Researchers haven’t made a clear-cut connection between fibrosis and exercise, but it seems worth the effort for athletes to practice other heart-healthy regimens aside from cardio, including massage therapy. The Mayo Clinic lists high blood pressure and stress as risk factors for heart disease. Additionally, the National Sleep Foundation cites sleep deprivation as another element that increases one’s chance for developing a cardiovascular issue. Discover how massage therapy may help:
The Mayo Clinic explained that cortisol and adrenaline are released during stressful situations. Cortisol’s presence causes an increase in glucose in the blood stream, allowing your body to more readily repair tissues. While this is crucial during a fight-or-flight process, cortisol can be detrimental when there is no real threat. Long-term activation of this main stress hormone can lead to heart disease as well as other non-cardiovascular issues, including digestive problems, depression, and memory and concentration impairment.
Many people seek the help of massage therapy to relax. Beyond the soothing music, the gentle stroking and kneading can change hormone levels in the body and promote heightened physical and psychological well-being. A 2008 study published in the journal Psycho-Oncology found that when either massage or aromatherapy was applied to patients undergoing intensive chemotherapy, their cortisol levels significantly dropped. That is, massage therapy has been shown to reduce the main stress hormone in the body, which may benefit your heart health.
High blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension, places a higher stress level on your arteries. This added work creates microscopic tears along the artery walls that may then transform into scar tissue, according to the American Heart Association. As a result, particles of fat and cholesterol may get caught on this scar tissue, which can prevent your heart from receiving adequate oxygen and nutrients.
A study published in the International Journal of Preventative Medicine revealed that massage therapy may be a safe and effective way to reduce hypertension. Researchers divided 50 pre-hypertensive women into two groups. The test group received a Swedish massage for 10-15 minutes up to three times per week, totaling 10 sessions. The control group received no massage but relaxed in the same environment for an equal amount of time. For both groups, blood pressure was measured immediately before and after and again 72 hours after the massage.
The results revealed that those participants who received the massage had lower blood pressure than the control group both immediately and 72 hours after the treatment. During a massage, your muscles and arteries are manipulated, promoting an increased flow of blood and oxygen. Though the study evaluated Swedish massage, other forms of this therapy may help as well. The study even suggested that beyond receiving treatment from a licensed massage therapist, you may see the same results using a personal massagerat home.
The National Sleep Foundation explained that there is a link between sleep deprivation and heart disease. Waking during the night or not getting enough sleep can disrupt biological processes, such as metabolism, and cause fluctuating blood pressure. In essence, sleep issues deprive your body of crucial recharging time. Specifically, adults need seven to nine hours of sleep, according to the National Institutes of Health. Massage therapy may reduce stress levels and muscle soreness, both of which can diminish your quality of sleep.
Your heart takes care of you, so return the favor with massage therapy.
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Endurance athletes who take part in marathons, triathlons or century bike rides typically have fitness goals of strength and stamina. Your body needs to be strong enough to carry you long distances, and it needs to have the proper training in order to function for extended periods of time.
Before a race it’s crucial to plan a training program to prepare, and most of this will include running or cycling through intervals of faster and slower speeds, up and down hills and longer and shorter distances. It should also include cross training with strength exercises and core workouts such as Pilates for total body training.
Another factor that should be included in a pre-race program is athletic recovery and stretching. Whether you’re a new or seasoned endurance athlete, you’ll be putting your body through more intense challenges, which is sure to leave you with sore muscles from time to time, but it can also increase your risk of injury. To prevent getting hurt and having a setback, you need to take the proper precautions, which include stretching and massage.
A century bike ride will take you 100 miles, and it will certainly test your mental and physical prowess. This may seem like a lofty goal, but it’s certainly an achievable one that many endurance cyclists aspire to complete.
Being able to bike 100 miles requires serious commitment, dedication, planning and training. Once you decide to take part in a century ride, you need to starting working at least eight weeks beforehand to prepare your mind and body for the challenge ahead. Your training program should consist of long and short rides as well as intervals of different speeds, resistance levels, terrain and hills. It’s also a good idea to cross training with weight lifting to strengthen your muscles and exercises such as Pilates that provide stretching and improve posture.
Another key component is nutrition. Your body won’t be able to last long if it is not being fueled properly. Even slight dehydration can completely zap your energy levels and cause sore musclesand cramps. If this does happen, giving your muscles a massage can help. Additionally, eating the right amount of carbohydrates and fats is needed to fuel your muscles and provide you with the nutrients to keep you going mile after mile. You’ll certainly want to pack snacks to stop and eat during your ride to replenish fuel sources, curb hunger pangs and boost energy. Remember not to pack any foods that are too heavy or hard to transport. A muffin may sound delicious, but it can be messy to eat. Also, be sure not to try any new foods in case it affects your stomach negatively and you have to stop mid-race.
Here are some tasty, helpful snack options to pack for your century ride:
Whether you’re preparing for a cycling race, training for a triathlon or simply appreciate the exhilarating cardio workout you get from riding, your body (the lower half in particular) is certainly being challenged.
Most of your focus will be on the meat of your training – developing programs for each ride to incorporate different terrain, speeds, hills and other aspects of riding itself. But it’s also important to remember that your training doesn’t stop once your session ends. In fact, time spent after you hop off your bike is just as important as time spent on the saddle. Cooling down and taking part in athletic recovery reduces your risk of sore muscles and injuries, which can sideline you and set you back in your schedule. This is especially problematic if you are on a deadline for a race.
After each bike ride you should be taking the time to stretch out your muscles and allow your mind and body to return to their resting states. It’s also useful to incorporate self massage into your routine each week, especially after an intense ride. Massage will help loosen up muscles even further, which is important so you don’t create any imbalances.
There are several key muscles you should focus your massager on after a bike ride: