Ever wondered what varicose veins are? Well, they’re thrawn and swollen veins in the legs, often black or purple in color.
They’re largely innocuous, but can result in bruising, heavy and/or swollen legs, and itching. Other symptoms include:
- Skin discoloration around the varicose vein
- Exacerbated pain after sitting, or standing for extended periods
- Bleeding veins, chronic inflammation, ulcers (most severe cases)
- Lipodermatosclerosis – skin shrinking due to fat under the skin above the ankle becoming hard
- Talengiectasia – spider veins
- Varicose eczema – skin in affected area becomes red, dry, and itchy
- Restless sleeping syndrome (large contingent of sufferers)
- Leg crams while standing up (some sufferers)
Varicose veins are a common condition. They are a result of damaged, or weak, vein walls and valves. They may also with the increase of blood pressure in the vein walls. You see, veins have “one way” valves to ensure that blood doesn’t flow backwards -proper blood circulation involves arteries carrying the blood from the heart to the rest of the body, and the veins returning the blood from the body back to the heart. When the valves malfunction blood can stop flowing, and subsequently pool in the vein, resulting in damage, twisting, and swelling.
Varicose veins specifically occur in the lower legs as these areas are furthest from the heart. In essence, you veins have to work “double time” in tandem with muscle contractions to pump the blood back to the heart.
other causes include:
- Pregnancy – to aid the growing fetus, blood volume increases. The side effect comes in the form of enlarged veins
- Obesity – added weight exacerbates pressure on the veins
- Family history – varicose veins can be hereditary
- Age – old age can take a toll on the valves, progressively leading to malfunction
Unfortunately, there is no absolute, one-size-fits-all preventative measure, nor a cure, but a few preventative measures can be implemented:
- Weight watching
- Compression socks/stockings
- Dietary changes – high fiber/low salt diet
- Regular elevation of the legs
- Change sitting/standing position regularly
Hopefully one has given food for thought instead of nightmares. Remember, varicose veins are not life threatening – they can however get worse, even with the preventative measures, but they are not life threatening, nor do they contribute to any long term medical problems. Naturally, you’re always better off consulting your trusted healthcare professional should you have any symptoms, especially in more severe cases.
L. D. Dube
You’re Way Too Forward!!
Posture: The way our bodies are positioned; the way we hold our bodies.
The human body can assume multiple positions thus making posture both static (still) and dynamic (changing in direction). It is determined by the spine which consists of 3 parts, namely the cervical spine (neck region), thoracic spine (upper-middle back) and lumbar spine (lower spine). There are 4 types of posture – Kyphosis, Flat Back, Lordosis, and Forward Neck/Head. Today, we’ll look at Forward Neck/Head as it affects the greater population.
As you can see in Figure 1, the head leads the body wherever it goes; the shoulders and back hunch in response to the head moving forward. The neck’s job is to vertically carry the skull’s weight, which is roughly 4.5 kilograms, or 10 pounds, and per a study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy science, “for every inch of movement forward, there is an extra 10 pounds of weight placed on your neck”. This could lead to:
- Pain in the shoulder blades
- Cervical spine arthritis
- Limited range of motion
Forward Neck/Head occurs when the neck and head are in a forward position, extending the head past the shoulders. Fun Fact: it is also called Text Neck, indicating the forward tilt of the neck due to constant hunching over cellphones and computers. This will inevitably lead to pain, stiffness, and tension in the neck, shoulders, and back which, in turn, will lead to:
- Headaches and migraines
- Muscle fatigue
- Poor balance
- Compromised organs (liver, lungs, heart)
Strengthening and stretching exercises are best for combating Forward Neck/Head, such as “chin tucks” and “chest stretches” respectively. Additionally, one can ergonomically setup one’s work space by elevating the computer screen, or monitor, to a height which doesn’t necessitate neck tilting, as well as use a chair with a good headrest to support the neck. Another solution would be buying an orthopedic pillow for sleep. Such pillows are specifically designed to support the head and cervical spine.
As you’ve hopefully been conscientized, bad posture is no joke. It’s a serious threat to one’s overall health and wellbeing. Fortunately, it’s never to late to start righting these wrongs. Even if the D-I-Y route [God forbid] proves a dead end, your qualified and trusted healthcare professionals won’t!
A surprisingly important is-shoe
Contrary to popular belief – shoes are just shoes – there is such a thing as appropriate choice of footwear when it comes to the various types/disciplines of exercise. Think about it, you wouldn’t wear your Puma slides on a hike, would you? You daren’t sport Louboutin to spin class, dare you? And don’t get me started on wear moccasins during powerlifting – I kid you not, there’s a true story with this one, but that’s for a rainy day….The point is each discipline necessitates appropriate footwear.
This, perforce, raises one or two questions. The first: How do I make sure my shoes correlate to my discipline? The beauty of the world we live in is that shoes have become designated and specialized so you can find what you need for what you’re doing. Take (if you’re in South Africa) Mr. Price Sport, for example, they demarcate on the shoebox the type of shoe you would be paying for. The box will specifically state, in bold, “RUNNING”, or “STUDIO & YOGA”. Once you’ve determined your discipline finding the corresponding shoe won’t be hard.
The second question: How do I it’s quality? “Quality”, at its most rudimentary definition, means “fitness for purpose”. Those aforementioned Puma slides, as quality a product as they are, are not “fit” for the purpose of hiking. We typically tend to trust the more established, or global brands for quality, like Puma, Nike, Adidas, or Asics, and rightly so as they’re all tried and tested. Just one problem…price. These brands will set you back a couple of hundreds of… uh…whichever currency you’re working with. Quality doesn’t have to be expensive. Real talk, I typically wear generic brands. I bought a pair blue “Willow” trainers, from Makro, for less than R300 in 2014 – still use ‘em today. Conversely, I’ve seen/heard people complain about their well renowned brands. All you need is a good solid shoe that gets the job done, irrespective of both price and brand.
Willow trainers. Affordable. Quality
Now, on to looking at the actual shoe. This goes without saying, but I feel like I must state, and subsequently emphasize, the most crucial (and I mean most crucial) property of a shoe, comfort. You have to feel comfortable when wearing shoes to perform better in them. Some people prefer snug fits while others opt for more loose fits. The choice is ultimately yours. Climate is a considerable factor. Our feet tend to expand in hot weather/environments so you want to make sure your shoe can accommodate the occurrence. Get shoes with the following properties: responsiveness (how well it adjusts to, and accommodates your foot when wearing it); breathability (how much ventilation it provides so as to avoid sweaty feet, and all those permutations); lightweight (not heavy on the feet – no added weight when in use); durability (how long it lasts last); traction (how much grip it provides).
Responsive. Breathable. Lightweight. Durable
*NOTE: If you’re a jogger avoid running on the tarmac, especially in hot climate, as you could ware out the soles quickly.
There is the alternative measure of buying shoes which are a half size bigger, but I wouldn’t necessarily endorse this idea as doing so could compromise the much needed comfort. Your foot could end up slipping and sliding, and in the endeavour to find stability/grip you may incur blisters.
If you’re a gym goer, or training on flat surfaces like pavement or again, get a comfortable, responsive shoe, with good grip on the sole so as to avoid slipping – smooth soles on equally smooth surfaces compromise stability. If you working on uneven surfaces you’d need shoes that protect your ankles, and are durable enough of the surface. Typically, protective shoes have a denser feel; thicker material; and more solid sole, and the mouth extends over the ankles to form the protective layer. Just remember that there are hiking/outdoors style shoes (see Cape Union Mart) and there are basketball high-tops…the latter are best kept on the basketball court.
Hopefully I’ve been able to shed light on this topic, and you feel equipped to sully forth on your fitness journey with the right footwear. Again, all you need is a good solid shoe that gets the job done, irrespective of both price and brand. As long as you feel can conquer the world, or at least you discipline, in the shoes you’re wearing then that’s all you need!
You mean hiking is more than just walking? Yes, definitely.
You can do your own thing, and/or still become part of a hiking group/club. However if you’re new to hiking, you might want to start with hiking with a group/become a club member.
Types of hikes:
• Day hikes
If you’re a beginner hiker, day hike are the way to start building trail skills.
• Overnight Hike
Overnight backpacking trips requires a longer time investment (both planning and trail time). The best tip for planning an overnight is base camping, might be best option.
Staying out longer than a few days (an extended backpacking trip) demands more strength (a bigger backpack to hold, the best hiking gear and lots of food). But a multiday backpacking trip also yields a much bigger payoff such as wildlife sightings before the day hikers arrive/after they go home, stargazing in silence under inky black skies, the serenity that comes with using your physical, rather than mental, muscles day after day.
Nothing gives you deeper satisfaction than gazing at a mountain peak or leafy ridge from the peacefulness of your camp site, knowing that you got yourself AND your gear there using the strength of your legs and your trail smarts.
For an off-the-beaten path place to learn to backpack, try the Porcupine Mountains in the upper peninsula of Michigan.
• Hiking for weight loss
No way around the fact that hiking is hard work in terms of sustained muscle contractions, in fact, hikers are classified as endurance athletes. If you’ve set a weight loss goal and are looking for an effective way to burn calories, consider this fact, it’s possible to burn 5,000+ calories on a day hike. Forming a regular hiking habit will also tone up your major muscle groups and lead to a serious addiction to the outdoors. Once you hit your weight loss goal, you can transition into other types of hiking.
NB: Wear high performance clothing that fits and looks great while you’re pursuing your weight loss goal so your hiking addiction won’t be thwarted.
• Hiking in the dark
Does this sound like a scary idea to you? Night hiking is not for everyone, but it’s a great skill to develop. The rewards of navigating a trail using only your night vision are a big thrill.
Night hiking tips (Taking a hike at night is not recommended if you’re a beginning hiker):
You need to find your trail rhythm first:
4. Depth perception
5. Stride, and
• Hiking for health
I also want to point out that hiking is good medicine, regardless of your age.Being in the outdoors for prolonged periods of time helps you deal with stress, it’s called the Nature Therapy, that combined with the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal work out of a hike, will keep you in top shape.