Back pain and exercise

A major review by Sydney University has found that paracetamol does not stop lower back pain or help the ache of arthritis. Instead doctors should consider prescribing exercise. Read more in this article Paracetamol ‘does not help back pain or arthritis’.

A separate study by King’s College London, suggest that your genes may play a part in lumbar disc degeneration (LDD), which is suspected of being the number one cause of chronic lower back pain. Although everybody gets LDD at some point, not everybody gets back pain. It goes on to say “Sitting up straight and exercising won’t change the way your discs change, but they might help you develop good muscular strength to keep a pain-free spine and back.” Read more in this article: Got back pain? It could be your genes.

The NHS website says “There’s some evidence that pilates can provide pain relief to people with non-specific lower back pain.” Read more in their A guide to Pilates.

If you are thinking of starting Pilates to help with your back pain, please get in touch.

The Anatomy of Dance: Paso Doble

If you’ve danced the Paso Doble, you’ll know it’s all about attitude – after all you’re trying to portray a matador! It’s all about how the posture and different movements involved help tone the abdominal muscles and give a great overall workout.

How are specific muscle groups targeted with the different postures involved in the Paso Doble?

The Paso Doble has a move called the Sur Place during which we’re on the balls of our feet and our legs are slightly bent. This means that the posture engages all the muscles in the legs, from your foot, ankle and calves to the front and backs of your thighs. Then the movement we call the zigzag brings in the hip area, abdominals and intercostals as you move from side to side.

Finally, for the Albatross, the upper body is in an upright position but the arms are moving in a very purposeful way from your groin to above your head. The arms are tightly engaged and all the muscles are tense.

So with all of this in mind, you’re engaging 80-90% of your muscles at any one time. This burns a lot of calories!

How is this better for the abdominal muscles than, say, 100 sit-ups?

Because the arms are moving and the feet are stamping throughout, the core muscles in the lower back and the abdominals have to be engaged, otherwise you’ll fall over. So if you’re doing a 4-minute workout, then just doing the Sur Place alone will work the muscles in the abdominals quite hard. But then you add in the zigzag motion, which means you have to move your whole mid-section almost 80-90 degrees side to side. So it’s almost like doing a sit up with a curl.

What kind of heart rate would you achieve with this dance?

The heart rate will elevate when your muscles are engaged, so during the Paso Doble, the heart is trying to deliver blood and oxygen to the muscles that you’re using. You’re already using your feet, calves, and thighs, but then your arms are above your head, so your heart has to work against gravity because it’s sending blood down and up. So, even though it’s not a fast movement, your average heart rate will be much higher than normal and maintained all the way throughout.Depending on your age and your resting heart rate, the average would be anything between 140 and 160bpm, which is very high.

What other health benefits come from this dance?

Because the Paso Doble is so slow and purposeful, your nervous system is working overtime. The Sur Place provides an unstable platform so you’re also really working on your core stability and balance. As we get older we naturally lose our balance, so this is really important for overall health.
Mark Foster
The Anatomy Of Dance: Paso Doble
A Health Tip from Mark Foster



Watch Chelsee and Pasha’s Paso Doble to Malaguena, which scored a perfect 40 in Strictly series 9.

Pilates Celebs: Andrew Flintoff

Andrew Flintoff, former England fast bowler, was advised to do Pilates to tackle his back problems by Mike Atherton, former England cricket captain. Freddie took the advice and was soon back to fitness and form.

“Athers suggested I try daily Pilates exercises. He swore by them.”

The Anatomy Of Dance: The Rumba

Ballroom Rumba first took off in the 1930s and soon became one of the five main Latin competitive dances. It’s usually slower than its cousins (the Paso Doble, Cha Cha, Jive and Samba), but what it lacks in speed it more than makes up for in terms of toning.

What characterises the Rumba for you in terms of dance and fitness demands?

The Rumba is a sensuous dance with a lot of rolling hip action and flowing arms. From a dance perspective it’s one of the nicest-feeling dances to do, but I personally find it one of the hardest. From a fitness perspective it’s absolutely fantastic for your back core strength because of the rotation of the hips.

There isn’t any rise and fall; it’s more about putting pressure on both sides of the legs. You’re rotating the pressure from hip to hip, from ball of feet to heel, and it’s like a walking movement, moving forward. It’s a toning dance in my view as you’ve got to really work your shoulders and your arms at the same time. It’s great for flexibility and pretty much anyone of any fitness ability can have a go; it’s not too difficult to try.

How are specific muscle groups targeted with the different movements involved in the Rumba?

The Rumba is a great exercise both to stretch the abdomen, pelvis and hip area, and to set free the chemicals released with muscle contraction, promoting blood flow in the area, and aiding mobility and flexibility. So it’s not particularly high in heart rate but it’s the equivalent of doing lots of sit-ups on a gym machine.

It’s a great abdominal exercise but you’re also working your back, lat’s and shoulders. Because you’re raising your arms from side to side, when your shoulders contract your lat’s will extend, then lowering your arms will have the opposite effect.

What kind of heart rate would you achieve with this dance?

If you see the Rumba in a competitive ballroom environment it can be very fast, switching from side to side, but from a FitSteps perspective it’s one of the slower dances. I think you’d be quite surprised how hard you work, but it’s going to be lower than the Jive or the Quickstep. Your heart rate can be anything between 120 to 150bpm depending on your fitness level. One of the best ways to use a Rumba is to sandwich it between two fast dances, like interval training from a classical training perspective.

What if I have a a problem with my hip or hips?

Understandably, extended periods of hip action often strike fear into fitness enthusiasts with hip issues, who may shy away from a dance that exclusively focuses on that area. However, that may be all the more reason to give it a go, albeit within your personal comfort range.

Hip problems are usually caused by impact and over use, so it’s really important to strengthen and flex the muscles around the pelvis so that it can support those joints. Doing the rumba in a light movement is a great exercise both to stretch and to set free the chemicals released with muscle contraction, promoting blood flow in the area, thereby aiding mobility and flexibility.

Someone with a hip problem, working to his or her own levels, will know instinctively when it doesn’t feel right. It’s actually a really good exercise to do. To completely ignore this area is a bit like saying, “Doctor doctor, it really hurts when I do this!” with the obvious response being, “Well, don’t do that!” That means that nothing ever happens and the muscles don’t strengthen around the problem area. It’s a bit like someone coming out after a heart attack will be encouraged to do a strength test on the treadmill. You have to train it.

FitSteps recommend anyone with an existing hip complaint to consult a GP prior to undertaking any form of exercise, but all being well, the rumba is a great exercise to try in moderation.

What other health benefits come from performing this dance?

From a motivational mental health perspective, the Rumba can be good for improving your self-confidence. From a physical perspective it’s a great abdominal and core dance to tighten up your love handles!
Mark Foster
The Anatomy Of Dance: The Rumba
A Health Tip from Mark Foster



Watch Rachel and Vincent’s rumba to Paul Weller’s You Do Something To Me, which scored an almost perfect 39 in Strictly series six.

The Waltz

The waltz is a classic ballroom dance, which originally shocked many due to the close hold of the partners. It became popular in Vienna in the 1780s, from where it soon spread across Europe.

The waltz is in 3:4 time: the first step is onto the heel and the next two are up on the balls of the feet. It should be danced with a smooth rise and fall, an elegant posture and feel flowing and lyrical. In ballroom, the waltz includes natural and reverse turns as the couples move around the room.

Watch Matt and Flavia’s waltz to Mariah Cary’s ‘Open Arms’, which scored a perfect 40 in Strictly series five.

Nutrition for Joints and Connective Tissues

Changing our diets can have a huge effect on our overall health. However, did you know that eating certain foods can actually promote healthy joints as well as helping prevent conditions sfish2uch as arthritis and osteoarthritis?  Glucosamine is a compound found naturally in the body that produces glucosaminogly, a molecule that repairs cartilage. The older you get, the less glucosamine your body makes, so give your joints a helping hand by eating some of these foods as part of your diet:

Shrimp shells, lobster shells, crab shells, most sports drinks and sweet almond oil.  Manganese, also found naturally in the body, works as an assistant to the glucosamine in the process of fishbuilding cartilage.  Adding extra manganese into your diet will speed this process, it can be found in the following foods:  Beans, whole grain breads and cereals, milk, seafood, dark leafy veg and nuts. Omega 3 fatty acids are not produced naturally in our bodies and can only be attained through foods or supplement.

These fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effect which helps with pain and swelling around your joints as well as improving your blood flow.  Medicine this good cannot be turned down! They can be found in the following foods: Salmon, cod, cod liver oil, flax seeds, walnuts, egg yolks, trout, and sardines.
Mark Foster
Nutrition for Joints and Connective Tissues
A Health Tip from Mark Foster

Pilates clothing and equipment

If you’d like to start the New Year with some new clothes to wear to class or equipment for practising at home, read on.

Aldi in Brandon currently have a range of Pilates clothing and equipment, including mats, rollers, circles and weights – all at bargain prices.

Asquith of London have a 50% sale and 15% off your first order.

Football 0 : Pilates 1

No footballer wants to admit he’s over the hill, but in this article from the Telegraph one Sunday footballer learned to accept his physical limitations.

Having been injured, he tried Pilates because he had heard that it was recommended both to prevent injury and to enhance performance “I thought I was hard, but here – off the pitch – I was struggling”.

He notes “After eight weeks I was noticeably stronger. My posture straightened and I found that I could run more efficiently. More importantly, I got through a practice football game without injury”.

Pilates celebs: Arlene Phillips

Arlene Phillips, choreographer and ex-Strictly judge, had her 70th birthday earlier this year. In this article from the Express, she shares some of her top tips for staying ageless – and one of them is to “develop your core strength through exercise like Pilates”.

Fusion: Rumba and Paso Doble

Our new dance for December is a fusion of rumba and paso doble to Meat Loaf’s I’d Do Anything for Love (but I won’t do that).

This dance combines two contrasting styles and energies to give us a full body conditioning and toning work out.

By combining dance styles in this way, the variety that we can introduce to our classes is endless!