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Exercise and fitness

Posted by Eamonn Brady on

Exercise and fitness

Sinead Brogan is a Chartered Physiotherapist and runs FlexPhysio Physiotherapy Clinic at Whelehans Pharmacy, Pearse St, Mullingar. To book an appointment or ask a question call Sinead at 083 1722171 

One aspect of modern living is that we tend to be less physically active than previous generations. Many aspects of modern living contribute to this. The use of cars, labour saving devices, more sedentary type jobs etc, has reduced the amount of daily physical activity we undertake. Technology means that are more likely to spend hours sitting in front of a TV or computer, rather than getting outdoors to burn those calories. In addition, modern living has increased the amount of activities we try to juggle on a daily basis. Hectic family, working and social lives mean that many people perceive that they do not have enough time to exercise and maintain fitness. 

Food has become more plentiful, varied, quick and easy to prepare in recent years, making it more difficult to keep the required energy balance. The explosion of convenient food and take away restaurants means that cheap (and often tasty) high calorie and high fat food has never been so accessible. When we eat more than we need or use, energy input (food intake) becomes greater than energy output (activity). That excess of energy soon leads to weight gain and the potential to develop chronic, obesity-related diseases later in life.

How Ireland ranks?

Many of us perceive Ireland to be a very sporting nation with a thriving GAA and the popularity of team sports like rugby and soccer. Since the slowdown in the economy, we have seen more interest in sports like running, triathlons and cycling as people have more time on their hands and turn to sport to escape the doom and gloom of the recession. However the facts don’t stand up to this perception; we do not rank high when it comes to exercise and obesity.  According to a 2012 study in the The Lancet, a leading medical journal, Ireland is the seventh worst country in the world for exercise. Perhaps even more worrying, the study showed that Irish people exercise less than Americans, dispelling the myth that Americans have a bigger obesity problem than us. The study found that 53.2 per cent of Irish people fail to do sufficient exercise, compared to 40.5 per cent in America. It found that among Europeans, Greeks, Estonians and the Dutch are the most active. Malta (71.9 per cent) and Serbia (68.3 per cent) had the highest levels of inactivity amongst adults in Europe. The study concluded that lack of exercise is killing as many Irish people as smoking.


The role of exercise


To correct this energy imbalance and ensure we stay fit and healthy, it is important to maintain an effective level of activity. Exercise increases the rate at which the body uses energy and burns up stored energy (fat), preventing weight gain and promoting weight loss.

In addition to increasing our body fat, exercise has many other advantages. It will also improve overall fitness which simply means how efficiently our heart and lungs perform.

Types of exercise


When we exercise, our effort exceeds that of our normal daily activities. As the exercise becomes easier, the intensity needs to gradually be increased so that a level of effort is maintained during the session. There are two important types of exercise. This is resistance training and aerobic exercise.

Resistance training
Resistance training helps to maintain and increase muscle mass and can be performed with weights, resistance bands or by simply by using your own body weight. It will improve muscle strength and flexibility. With time, movement becomes easier and muscles become firmer as they shorten and strengthen.

Aerobic exercise
This type of exercise allows the heart and lungs work harder and increase the body’s metabolic rate. Examples of aerobic exercises include walking, running, cycling, swimming and dancing. Aerobic exercise promotes weight (fat) loss, improves muscle tone, works the large muscle groups in the arms/legs/trunk, increases your level of fitness and improves the functioning of the cardiovascular system (i.e.) heart and lungs.

The benefits of exercise

Exercise helps prevent high cholesterol, heart disease and other obesity-related diseases such as diabetes and certain types of cancer and arthritis. Studies show that regular aerobic exercise has the ability to lower LDL levels (bad cholesterol) by 5 to10 percent and raise HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) 3 to 6 percent.

Obesity is associated with increased risks of cancers of the oesophagus, breast (postmenopausal), endometrium (the lining of the uterus), colon and rectum, kidney, pancreas, thyroid, gallbladder, and possibly other cancer types. Exercise reduces the risk of these cancers.

Exercise will help shake off any cobwebs and make you feel more energised. Physical activity delivers oxygen and nutrients to tissues and helps the cardiovascular system work more efficiently; this means you will have more energy.

Exercise has been proven to improve mood by stimulating “good mood” hormones in the brain such as serotonin. Many of you know the feeling of satisfaction or even elation after completing a good exercise regime. Exercise is a great way to relax, it can give relief from the normal stresses and worries of daily life and can help “clear your head” if you have a lot going on. Regular exercise can have a positive effect on a person’s sex life, it can help enhance libido in women and reduces the risk of erectile dysfunction in men. Exercise has been proven to help us fall asleep quicker and give a deeper and more satisfying sleep. However, it is important not to exercise within three to four hours of going to bed as this can have an alerting effect and may affect sleep.

How to improve stamina?

Exercise improves stamina by training the body to become more efficient and use less energy for the same amount of work. As a person’s conditioning level improves, heart rate and breathing rate return to resting levels much sooner from strenuous activity. An explanation of stamina is the ability to withstand fatigue or resist disease. In relation to exercise and fitness, stamina is the ability to sustain physical activity or sport for a prolonged period of time. Stamina involves both aerobic endurance, which is low to moderate intensity prolonged exercise (needed for sport like a marathon), and anaerobic endurance which is short and very high intense exercise (needed for sprints). The best way to increase stamina is with exercises that challenge both types of endurance and muscles.

For those interested in improving stamina, there are a few types of exercise which improve stamina. These include interval training, weight training, circuits and cardiovascular exercise.



Interval training is short bouts of high intensity work followed by a longer bout of lower intensity work. In a study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise in October 1996 found that people who performed moderate cycling exercises for 60 minutes a day over six weeks improved their aerobic endurance but did not increase their anaerobic endurance. Another group of cyclists who performed eights sets of high intensity 20-second intervals with 10 seconds of rest in between for six weeks not only improved their aerobic endurance more than the moderate intensity group but also improved their anaerobic capacity by 28 percent.

Weight training

Lifting weights is mostly anaerobic and not only improves strength but also improves muscular stamina and the ability to perform repetitive activities for extended periods of time. To ensure strength and endurance gains in weightlifting, it is important to lift a weight heavy enough to experience muscular fatigue within eight to 15 repetitions. For those wanting to increase stamina, weight training should be done at least two days per week, working every major muscle group, about eight exercises per session.


Circuits involve up to 12 different “stations” that incorporate strength training, cardiovascular exercise or both. Circuits challenge strength and both anaerobic and aerobic endurance, making it a great way to improve stamina. To do a circuit, combine basic strength training exercises and do each one for 30 seconds before moving on to the next. It is important to get a 30 second break between each exercise. As stamina improves, a person can reduce rest time to 15 seconds and increase work time to 45 seconds.


Cardiovascular Exercise

An effective method of improving aerobic endurance and hence the ability to withstand low to moderate intensity work for a long time is with prolonged cardiovascular training. When starting into an exercise regime, start with 30 minutes of low to moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise such as walking, jogging, hill walking, cycling or swimming. Depending on your ability and health, you can reduce this initially. Each week try to increase the amount of exercise time by five minutes or increase the distance a little. Add another quarter mile on the walk or jog, or another lap in the pool. Keeping a record of your times and distances will allow you do this in a more disciplined manner.

Physiotherapy service in Whelehans

Chartered Physiotherapist Sinead Brogan MISCP runs FlexPhysio Physiotherapy Service in the therapy rooms at Whelehans Pharmacy in Mullingar. Sinead has an Honours Physiotherapy degree and has experience  working in Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar and private practice in New Zealand, Australia and Ireland, treating a wide variety of musculoskeletal issues including acute and chronic sports injuries, repetitive strain and postural problems, spinal dysfunctions and pregnancy related issues. Sinead has also completed a Masters in Neuromuscular Physiotherapy in UCD. Sinead is interested in sports injuries, having worked with many Gaelic and rugby teams providing pitch-side cover. Sinead is a Stott Pilates instructor and teaches pre and post-partum pregnancy, beginners and intermediate Pilate’s classes. She is also a Trigger Point Dry Needling practitioner and uses this technique with great results.  Reduced physiotherapy rates for over 60’s and affiliated sport clubs. Contact Sinead at 083 1722171 or

FlexPhysio Physiotherapy service at Whelehans Pharmacy, 38 Pearse St, Mullingar (Opposite the Greville Arms Hotel). Book by calling Sinead at 083 1722171


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