BackWeek 2019 – Should I take exercise breaks at work?

Should I take exercise breaks at work?

Yes… if you want to be productive and healthy!

For 2019’s National Physiotherapy BackWeek (1-8 September), the South African Society of Physiotherapy (SASP) is challenging employers and employees to schedule brief ‘Brain Breaks’ to boost brain power!

8:30 am: with a steaming cup of coffee you sit at your desk and get down to work. It may be two or even three hours before you move again, to head for the gents/ladies or pour another cuppa. Hard as we work these days, many office workers barely leave their swivel chairs, sitting down for seven and more hours every day.

And this, it’s been established, is not ideal. Sedentary bodies are at greater risk of many conditions that threaten quality and even length of life. Most adults, say the Australian authors of a 2010 study, face a two-pronged challenge: too much sitting coupled with too little exercise.

But how do you find time to exercise? Early in the morning or after close of business, these seem to be the best options, although they make other things, like family time, a bit more difficult.

How about taking time off in the middle of the working day? Forty or 50 minutes a day can be split into ten-minute blocks if necessary, to stimulate and engage both the body and brain (something exercise is proven to do). From a study published in the Lancet, “Researcher Ulf Ekelund, a Professor at the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, suggested that the one hour of activity could be brisk walking or cycling but said that the exercise doesn’t have to be so rigorous or all at one time. That is, the hour of activity can be spread out over the entire day.”

Employers will undoubtedly assume that taking hours out of every work week to exercise will decrease productivity, but it turns out that they’re wrong. Workers, if anything, were more productive, even though they had less time on their hands than before incorporating exercise into each day.

And “…those who exercised also reported improvements in self-assessed productivity — they perceived that they got more done at work, had a greater work capacity, and were sick less often.”

“Our bodies were not designed to be still all day,” says Professor Witness Mudzi, President of the SASP. “We have to move to keep our organs in good shape, to keep lymph flowing, to keep our lungs working optimally, to prevent pain conditions and muscle weakness. In days gone by, this was not a worry, certainly not for the working classes or farm workers; but now, it behooves both employers and employees to plan working days which allow for a bare minimum of physical activity, to ensure healthy, happy and motivated workforces.”

Our challenge to you this National Physiotherapy Back Week: why not experiment with this? Speak to your colleagues, negotiate with your bosses, try scheduling physical activity every day for a month and see how well it works.

Article courtesy of the South African Society of Physiotherapy (SASP)


BackWeek 2019 – Break it up!

Break it up!

Children need to run and play often to develop and use their brains. For 2019’s National Physiotherapy BackWeek (1-8 September), the South African Society of Physiotherapy (SASP) is challenging schools to schedule brief ‘Brain Breaks’ to boost brainpower!

“Fitness not sitness and “Exercise grows brain cells” read the posters on walls in a South Carolina, USA’s school room. The educator running this programme understands that children do better at schools where they have more regular scheduled breaks for physical activity. He also knows that children who learn things while being physically active are more retentive and quicker to learn. So children might stair-climb while learning the times tables or doing a spelling exercise, for example.

Schools which tackle the activity challenge are basing their choices on solid science. Science has convinced us to issue activity guidelines (in most countries) which usually set a total time limit, for example: children need to do at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day.

But those following cutting edge science have realised that those sixty minutes could be even more effective at improving cognition, memory and sleep, and reducing depression, if they were sliced up into small chunks of time throughout the day. It’s been shown, for example, that children do best academically when given a physical activity that demands their attention and engagement, and that they enjoy.

Many of you will have seen the video footage from a Chinese school, of a principal leading the children in a synchronised dance. It went viral, and all of us who saw it instinctively understood that the children were having the time of their lives, and that school was the best thing ever for them.

The period from 6-12 years is a ‘Golden Age’; in this time, children are laying down habits which will last a lifetime. If they learn to spent most of their time sitting, they will end up leading a sedentary life. If they associate learning with fun, they will use their brains actively lifelong; and if they make a habit of spending a significant part of their school day enjoying physical activity, they’ll want to do that forever.

“Parents and teachers should work together to ensure that physical activity happens at the same time as learning,” says Professor Witness Mudzi, President of the SASP. “Physiotherapists can offer excellent advice on what sorts of activities to incorporate, intense bursts of activity which will grab the children’s attention and boost their brainpower”.

Article courtesy of  the South African Society of Physiotherapy (SASP).


Benefits of Breastfeeding for both Mom and Baby

Breast milk provides optimal nutrition for babies.

It has the right amount of nutrients, is easily digested and readily available.

However, the rate of breastfeeding is as low as 30% in some groups of women.

While some women are unable to breastfeed, others simply choose not to.

Yet studies show breastfeeding has major health benefits, for both the mother and her baby.

Here are 11 science-based benefits of breastfeeding.

Benefits 1–5 are for babies, but 6–11 are for mothers.


  1. Breast Milk Provides Ideal Nutrition for Babies

Most health authorities recommend exclusive breastfeeding for at least 6 months.

Continued breastfeeding is then recommended for at least one year, as different foods are introduced into the baby’s diet.

Breast milk contains everything the baby needs for the first six months of life, in all the right proportions. Its composition even changes according to the baby’s changing needs, especially during the first month of life).

During the first days after birth, the breasts produce a thick and yellowish fluid called colostrum. It’s high in protein, low in sugar and loaded with beneficial compounds.

Colostrum is the ideal first milk and helps the new-born’s immature digestive tract develop. After the first few days, the breasts start producing larger amounts of milk as the baby’s stomach grows.

About the only thing that may be lacking from breast milk is vitamin D. Unless the mother has a very high intake, her breast milk will not provide enough.

To compensate for this deficiency, vitamin D drops are usually recommended from the age of 2–4 weeks.

BOTTOM LINE: Breast milk contains everything your baby needs for the first six months of life, with the possible exception of vitamin D. The first milk is thick, rich in protein and loaded with beneficial compounds.


  1. Breast Milk Contains Important Antibodies

Breast milk is loaded with antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria.

This particularly applies to colostrum, the first milk.

Colostrum provides high amounts of immunoglobulin A (IgA), as well as several other antibodies.

When the mother is exposed to viruses or bacteria, she starts producing antibodies.

These antibodies are then secreted into the breast milk and passed to the baby during feeding.

IgA protects the baby from getting sick by forming a protective layer in the baby’s nose, throat and digestive system.

For this reason, breastfeeding mothers with the flu may actually provide their babies with antibodies that help them fight the pathogen that is causing the sickness.

Nonetheless, if you are ill, you should always practice strict hygiene. Wash your hands often and try to avoid infecting your baby.

Formula doesn’t provide antibody protection for babies. Numerous studies show that babies who are not breastfed are more vulnerable to health issues like pneumonia, diarrhoea and infection.

BOTTOM LINE: Breast milk is loaded with antibodies, especially immunoglobin A, which can help prevent or fight illness in your baby.


  1. Breastfeeding May Reduce Disease Risk

Breastfeeding has an impressive list of health benefits. This is particularly true of breastfeeding, meaning that the infant receives only breast milk.

It may reduce your baby’s risk of many illnesses and diseases, including:

  • Middle ear infections: 3 or more months of exclusive breastfeeding may reduce the risk by 50%, while any breastfeeding may reduce it by 23%
  • Respiratory tract infections: Exclusive breastfeeding for more than 4 months reduces the risk of hospitalization for these infections by up to 72%.
  • Colds and infections: Babies exclusively breastfed for 6 months may have up to a 63% lower risk of getting serious colds and ear or throat infections.
  • Gut infections: Breastfeeding is linked with a 64% reduction in gut infections, seen for up to 2 months after breastfeeding stops.
  • Intestinal tissue damage: Feeding preterm babies breast milk is linked with around a 60% reduction in the incidence of necrotizing enterocolitis.
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS): Breastfeeding is linked to a 50% reduced risk after 1 month, and a 36% reduced risk in the first year.
  • Allergic diseases: Exclusive breastfeeding for at least 3–4 months is linked with a 27–42% reduced risk of asthma, atopic dermatitis and eczema.
  • Celiac disease: Babies who are breastfed at the time of first gluten exposure have a 52% lower risk of developing celiac disease.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease: Babies who are breastfed may be roughly 30% less likely to develop childhood inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Diabetes: Breastfeeding for at least 3 months is linked to a reduced risk of type 1 diabetes (up to 30%) and type 2 diabetes (up to 40%).
  • Childhood leukaemia: Breastfeeding for 6 months or longer is linked with a 15–20% reduction in the risk of childhood leukaemia.

In addition to reducing the risk of many infections, breastfeeding has also been shown to significantly reduce their severity.

Furthermore, the protective effects of breastfeeding seem to last throughout childhood and even adulthood.

BOTTOM LINE: Breastfeeding may reduce your baby’s risk of infections and many diseases, including allergy, celiac disease and diabetes.


  1. Breast Milk Promotes a Healthy Weight

Breastfeeding promotes healthy weight gain and helps prevent childhood obesity.

Studies show that obesity rates are 15–30% lower in breastfed babies, compared to formula-fed babies.

The duration is also important, as each month of breastfeeding reduces your child’s risk of future obesity by 4%.

This may be due to the development of different gut bacteria. Breastfed babies have higher amounts of beneficial gut bacteria, which may affect fat storage (.

Babies fed on breast milk also have more leptin in their systems than formula-fed babies. Leptin is a key hormone for regulating appetite and fat storage.

Breastfed babies also self-regulate their milk intake. They’re better at eating only until they’ve satisfied their hunger, which helps them develop healthy eating patterns.

BOTTOM LINE: Breastfed babies have lower obesity rates than formula-fed babies. They also have more leptin and more beneficial gut bacteria.


  1. Breastfeeding May Make Children Smarter

Some studies suggest there may be a difference in brain development between breastfed and formula-fed babies.

This difference may be due to the physical intimacy, touch and eye contact associated with breastfeeding.

Studies indicate that breastfed babies have higher intelligence scores and are less likely to develop problems with behavior and learning as they grow older.

However, the most pronounced effects are seen in preterm babies, who have a higher risk of developmental issues.

The research clearly shows that breastfeeding has significant positive effects on their long-term brain development (.

BOTTOM LINE: Breastfeeding may affect your baby’s brain development and reduce the risk of future behavior and learning problems.


  1. Breastfeeding May Help You Lose Weight

While some women seem to gain weight during breastfeeding, others seem to effortlessly lose weight.

Although breastfeeding increases a mother’s energy demands by about 500 calories per day, the body’s hormonal balance is very different from normal.

Because of these hormonal changes, lactating women have an increased appetite and may be more prone to storing fat for milk production.

For the first 3 months after delivery, breastfeeding mothers may lose less weight than women who don’t breastfeed, and they may even gain weight.

However, after 3 months of lactation, they will likely experience an increase in fat burning.

Beginning around 3–6 months after delivery, mothers who breastfeed have been shown to lose more weight than mothers who don’t breastfeed.

The important thing to remember is that diet and exercise are still the most important factors determining how much weight you will lose, whether lactating or not.

BOTTOM LINE: Breastfeeding may make weight loss harder for the first 3 months after delivery. However, it may actually help with weight loss after the first 3 months.



  1. Breastfeeding Helps the Uterus Contract

During pregnancy, your uterus grows immensely, expanding from the size of a pear to filling almost the entire space of your abdomen.

After delivery, your uterus goes through a process called involution, which helps it return to its previous size. Oxytocin, a hormone that increases throughout pregnancy, helps drive this process.

Your body secretes high amounts of oxytocin during labour to help deliver the baby and reduce bleeding.

Oxytocin also increases during breastfeeding. It encourages uterine contractions and reduces bleeding, helping the uterus return to its previous size.

Studies have also shown that mothers who breastfeed generally have less blood loss after delivery and faster involution of the uterus.

BOTTOM LINE: Breastfeeding increases oxytocin production, a hormone that causes contractions in the uterus. It reduces blood loss after delivery and helps the uterus return to its previous smaller size.


  1. Mothers Who Breastfeed Have a Lower Risk of Depression

Postpartum depression is a type of depression that can develop shortly after childbirth. It affects up to 15% of mothers.

Women who breastfeed seem less likely to develop postpartum depression, compared to mothers who wean early or do not breastfeed.

However, those who experience postpartum depression early after delivery are also more likely to have trouble breastfeeding and do so for a shorter duration.

Although the evidence is a bit mixed, it’s known that breastfeeding causes hormonal changes that encourage maternal caregiving and bonding.

One of the most pronounced changes is the increased amount of oxytocin produced during birth and breastfeeding.

Oxytocin appears to have long-term anti-anxiety effects. It also encourages bonding by affecting specific brain regions that promote nurturing and relaxation.

These effects may also partly explain why breastfeeding mothers a lower rate of maternal neglect, compared to those who do not breastfeed.

One study found that the rate of maternal child abuse and neglect was almost three times higher for mothers who did not breastfeed, compared to those who did.

On that note, keep in mind that these are only statistical associations. Not breastfeeding does not mean that you will neglect your baby in any way.

BOTTOM LINE: Breastfeeding mothers are less likely to develop postpartum depression. They have increased amounts of oxytocin in their system, which encourages caregiving, relaxation and bonding between mother and child.


  1. Breastfeeding Reduces Your Disease Risk

Breastfeeding seems to provide the mother with long-term protection against cancer and several diseases.

The total time a woman spends breastfeeding is linked with a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

In fact, women who breastfeed for more than 12 months during their lifetime have a 28% lower risk of both breast and ovarian cancer. Each year of breastfeeding is associated with a 4.3% decrease in breast cancer risk.

Recent studies also indicate that breastfeeding may protect against metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease and other health problems.

Women who breastfeed for 1–2 years over their lifetime have a 10–50% lower risk of high blood pressure, arthritis, high blood fats, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

BOTTOM LINE: Breastfeeding for more than one year is linked to a 28% lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer. It has also been linked to a reduced risk of several other diseases.


  1. Breastfeeding May Prevent Menstruation

Continued breastfeeding also pauses ovulation and menstruation.

The suspension of menstrual cycles may actually be nature’s way of ensuring there is some time between pregnancies.

Some women have even used this phenomenon as birth control for the first few months after delivery.

However, note that this may not be a completely effective method of birth control.

You may consider this change as an extra benefit. While you’re enjoying precious time with your newborn, you won’t have to worry about “that time of the month.”

BOTTOM LINE: Regular breastfeeding pauses ovulation and menstruation. Some have used this as birth control, but it may not be completely effective.


  1. It Also Saves Time and Money

To top the list, breastfeeding is completely free and requires very little effort.

By choosing to breastfeed, you won’t have to:

  • Spend money on formula.
  • Calculate how much your baby needs to drink daily.
  • Spend time cleaning and sterilizing bottles.
  • Mix and warm up bottles in the middle of the night (or day).
  • Figure out ways to warm up bottles while on the go.

Breast milk is always at the right temperature and ready to drink.

BOTTOM LINE: By breastfeeding, you don’t have to worry about buying or mixing formula, warming up bottles or calculating your baby’s daily needs.


Take Home Message

If you are unable to breastfeed, then feeding your baby with formula is still completely fine. It will provide your baby with all the nutrients he or she needs.

However, breast milk also contains antibodies and other elements that protect your baby from illness and chronic disease.

Additionally, mothers who breastfeed experience their own benefits, such as convenience and reduced stress.

As an added bonus, breastfeeding gives you a valid reason to sit down, put your feet up and relax while you bond with your precious newborn.