Category Archives: Exercise and Health

Why Exercise Is Best Done Outside

outside-exercciseIt’s not secret that one of the essential components of a healthy lifestyle is exercise: from lowering the risk of physical disease or the need for joint replacement to improving your emotional and mental wellbeing, exercise is critical for longevity and a higher quality of life. However, dragging yourself to the gym isn’t always appealing, and exercise that isn’t enjoyable can become exercise that isn’t done.  A new study by the University of Innsbruck in Austria has found that the best way to exercise is by heading outdoors, whether for a vigorous walk in the woods or a casual stroll near your house.

In the past, experts believed that a successful exercise regimen boiled down to two factors: intensity and duration. They figured that the secret to getting people to exercise was short, high-intensity workouts: this ensured that busy professionals weren’t strapped for time, though the intensity and effort could become off-putting. 

The new study, published in PLOS One,  believes that a workout’s emphasis should instead be on duration and enjoyment. To test this, they recruited 40 volunteers from Innsbruck to complete several prolonged workouts, completing mood and anxiety tests before and after. 

First, a guide took them around the surrounding mountains for a brisk, but not strenuous, three-hour walk.  Next, they were required to complete a similar workout on a treadmill within a gym, working out next to other participants and encouraged to converse. Finally, they spent three hours in a room at the university where they could spend time on the computer, read magazines, or chat with each other.

Analyzing the results, the scientists found that the mountain hike was the most taxing of all the activities and heart rates had risen more, although participants noted it felt less strenuous than the treadmill exercise. Happiness scores were significantly higher after the outdoor hike, although those after the treadmill walk were more elevated than just sitting and talking. 

Long walks outside may be a healthy alternative to intensive gym workouts, and the study is a reminder that even for those who can’t compete interval training, there are plenty of options to exercise and optimize your health. Consulting with an orthopedic surgeon can help you determine the best regimen.

Is joint pain impacting your ability to lead a healthy, active lifestyle? Interested in learning more about walking and exercising after joint replacement surgery? Dr. Stickney, a Kirkland orthopedic surgeon, can help advise you of the best 

Like Exercising? Avoid Painkillers

painkillersOver-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen and aspirin may seem a great way to alleviate soreness and pain after a particularly vigorous run or strength training session. These nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS, suppress inflammation, but recent studies published in the Emergency Medical Journal and The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences have found this may not be without consequence. When combined with exercise, they may overwork the kidneys and impede the muscles’ recovery. 

Unfortunately, ibuprofen and similar drugs have a long relationship with athletes, especially those engaging in more strenuous activities like marathon running. Some studies have found that more than 75% of long-distance runners rely on NSAIDS to blunt the strain of training and competitions. 

A team from Stanford University began investigating the true impact of NSAIDS after it was found that those that take them may still experience muscle soreness.

Essentially, NSAIDS block the production of prostaglandins, a biochemical that heads to the site of an injury and begins the process that creates pain and inflammation. To increase blood flow to the area, prostaglandins also stimulate blood vessels to dilate. NSAIDS limits the amount of prostaglandins, lessening inflammation. 

The Stanford researchers studied 89 participants in multiday marathons around the globe, having them swallow either an ibuprofen pill or placebo pill every four hours during a 50-mile leg. They then studied the amount of creatinine in the racers’ blood. Creatinine, a byproduct of the kidneys filtering the blood, can help show kidney injury — the higher the levels of creatinine in an otherwise healthy person, the more likely a person is to have an injury. 

Runners who took ibuprofen were 18% more likely than their counterparts to have developed an acute kidney injury. Though 44% of all runners had high levels of creatinine, those who ingested ibuprofen had more severe injury. 

The Stanford team followed this with a study looking at how NSAIDS impact a body’s response to exertion within the muscles. They found that, in mice, NSAIDS block muscles’ ability to rebuild after strenuous exercise, and the healed muscle tissue isn’t as strong as that which hasn’t been exposed to a painkiller. 

It’s important to remember that inflammation, while uncomfortable, is part of the body’s natural healing process and an essential component to regeneration and regrowth. If pain is an issue, ice baths can be an effective, safe remedy to sore muscles, keeping your body strong, healthy, and primed for competition.

Is joint pain impacting your ability to live an active life? Questions about exercising after joint replacement surgery? Dr. Stickney, a Kirkland orthopedic surgeon,  is an expert in knee surgery and hip replacement surgery and can help combat pain and return you to an active lifestyle. 

Runners May Not Hit Stride Until 50 Years Old


Unusual low angle back view of a group of friends jogging outdoors on a summer afternoon with sun flareFor those who always struggled with running or were never able to commit to a consistent running routine, it
turns out your best running days might still be ahead of you.
New research reveals that recreational runners might not peak until they’re 50, compared to elite runners, whose performance starts to decline when they hit 35.

The study, summarized in the Washington Post, examined 16 years of data from the Chicago, New York, and Boston marathons. While the fastest runners, both male and female, are between 25 and 34, those who ran competitively started to lag after 35.

This is partly because when we turn 35, our muscle mass, bone density, and maximal aerobic capacity starts to decrease. In turn, we are less able to sustain high-intensity exercise and the amount we spend training might start to diminish, if we trained at all. 

Elite runners, however, continue at an intense rate, drawing on their reserve energy at a much faster rate. Recreational runners, however, have more endurance because they’ve never pushed themselves as hard. 

The scientists view the recreational runner’s tendency to veer away from training that’s too difficult or intense as a boon. Since his or her physiological limits haven’t been tested, his or her fitness level can be cultivated for the next ten years, helping negate the impacts of aging. 

However, older recreational runners should remember they’re no longer in their twenties and they shouldn’t run like they are. Interval training helps cultivate endurance and speed, a more effective combination than running the same distance at the same speed. The benefits of recovery should also not be overlooked, especially as we age and the body needs rest to restore and protect against injury. If you’ve struggled with joint pain or an orthopedic issue, it may be best to consult with an orthopedic surgeon before beginning a training regime.

From reducing anxiety to preventing obesity, stroke, and some types of cancer, the benefits of running make it a worthwhile pursuit to pick up, whether you’re 25 or 45. 

Is joint pain impacting your ability to lead a healthy life? Contact Dr. Stickney, a Kirkland orthopedic surgeon, today. An expert in knee surgery and hip replacement, he can help combat pain and return you to an active lifestyle. 

Why Athletes Should Treat the Brain Like a Muscle

brain-as-muscleFor many people, one of the most frustrating aspects of recovering from surgery or an injury is returning to their former level of performance. To overcome these hurdles, champion athletes are honing a different muscle: their brain. By sharpening their confidence, motivation, and the mind-body connection, they’re able to surpass previous limits, and, now, research suggests this is a feasible option for amateur and casual athletes facing physical obstacles. 

The Washington Post rounded up tips from former Olympic athletes, psychologists, and fitness experts about the best ways to train your brain to surpass your physical limits:

1. Stay positive
If you’re struggling with an exercise or activity after joint replacement surgery, it can be tempting to indulge in harsh self-talk. However, this can significantly impede your progress and fuel a cycle of negativity. Sports psychologist Justin Ross instead recommends writing down how you feel while exercising, when things became difficult, and how these feelings shaped your performance. Positive affirmations can also be a productive way to end an activity, reminding yourself of how much progress you’ve made and how much your body has accomplished.

2. Practice visualization
Take time to imagine what you’re going to do, whether that’s walking up a hill or running in a marathon, and focus on the positive outcomes. Joanna Zeiger, a former Olympic triathlete, suggests visualizing the moment when you reach your goal after all of your hard work. To ensure that becomes a reality, she also says to imagine worst-case scenarios to mentally prepare yourself for incidents and plan how you would overcome them.

3. Let yourself rest 
Treat the brain like you would any other muscle and give it time to rest and recover. Don’t stress if your performance didn’t match your goals, and don’t focus on the results every time you exercise. Given proper breaks, your brain can function at its optimal level and keep you positive, strong, and determined as you return to a regular exercise routine. 

Suffering from joint pain? Dr. Stickney, a Kirkland orthopedic surgeon who specializes in procedures including ACL rehabilitation and total knee replacement, can help you find the surgical or nonsurgical option that will allow you to return to an active lifestyle.

Smoking Increases Risk of Postoperative Complications

smoking-surgical-riskThe adverse effects of smoking upon a patient’s health have been known for decades. However, the relationship between smoking and postoperative complications for total joint arthroplasty has, until recently, been unclear. As total joint arthroplasty, a treatment for degenerative joint disease, is expected to increase in frequency in the United States, the medical community has been interested in potential risk factors, such as smoking. A recent study performed at The Rothman Institute at Thomas Jefferson University has found definitive evidence that current smokers, as well as former smokers, are at significantly higher risk of postoperative complications after joint replacement than non-smokers.

This recent research, published in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc, studied 15,264 patients who underwent 17,394 total joint arthroplasties between 2000 and 2014. The team sought to determine if smoking impacted whether or not a patient faced readmission and/or reoperation within 90 days of the first surgery.

Of the patients surveyed, 9% currently smoked, 34% had formerly smoked (on average, they had quit 22 years before), and 57% were nonsmokers. While the average age of the latter group was 63.2 years, current smokers needed surgery at an average of 57.7 years. The researchers also analyzed packs smoked per decades — an average of 233 for current smokers and 221.1 for former smokers.

The researchers’ findings show current smokers were much more likely to need reoperation for infection within 90 days of the original procedure. Smoking, regardless of current status, also led to significantly higher rates of unplanned nonoperative readmission. The more packs smoked per decade, the more these potential complications increased.

Tobacco use is the largest preventable cause of disease and death, triggering complications and risks even after a user has quit. Knowing the dangers is crucial to leading a healthy life, whether now or several decades later, especially given its relationship to surgery outcome. It is likely insurance and medical practices may require smoking cessation prior to joint replacement surgery in the future.

Troubled by joint pain? Concerned about how smoking might be impacting your joints or joint surgery? Dr. Stickney, a Kirkland orthopedic surgeon, specializes in procedures including total knee replacement and shoulder replacement. Contact his office today to return to a healthy, active lifestyle. 

Research Shows Benefits of “Weekend Warrior” Lifestyle

weekend-warriors-stickneyWorking out may stave off premature death, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to squeeze the recommended amount of exercise into your week. To combat this, the trend of “weekend warriors” has emerged: adults who condense physical activity into Saturday and Sunday. While opinions on how effective this is have been mixed, a recent study showed that the benefits for working out only one or two days are almost the same as spreading exercise throughout the week.

The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, looked at over 63,000 adults from the UK over 15 years, studying how long they exercised, what their exercise consisted of, and what days they exercised. The participants were grouped into two categories: inactive (those who never exercised) and sufficiently active (those who exercised for the recommended amount). The latter was split into those who worked out for three or more days a week, and those who compressed their activity into one or two days, the preference of about one out of every three American adults.

The so-called “weekend warriors” were primarily male and 90% of them participated in vigorous activities like competitive cycling or team sports one day a week. Compared to the inactive group, they were 29% less likely to die prematurely. However, those who spread their workouts over several days were still better off: they were 30% less likely to die early and their risk of heart failure was reduced by almost 50%.

However, weekend warriors are more at risk of sports-related injuries. Should this occur, consult an orthopedic surgeon so you can quickly and safely return to an active lifestyle.

What of the people that opt for frequent exercises in small doses? A recent study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology studied 55,000 people over 15 years and found that even running just five minutes a day dramatically reduces incidents of heart disease and deaths from other causes.

Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise every week to prevent diseases and premature death. Unfortunately, about one-third of American adults don’t exercise at all and 80% don’t meet the recommendations. However, the results of these studies indicate that even small amounts of daily exercise can have considerable health benefits and hopefully could motivate formerly sedentary adults to integrate more activity into their week, even if just for short spurts at a time.

Is joint pain impeding your ability to exercise? Contact Dr. Stickney, a Kirkland orthopedic surgeon specializing in procedures including total knee replacement and ACL reconstruction.