FEELING GREAT: Essential strategies for keeping healthy

The more time that you spend exercising on the hard surfaces, the faster you’re likely to suffer the aches and pains of your hips and knees.

And that includes the hard surfaces of squash courts, dance studios and even netball courts.

Now, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t be on these things, it just pays to protect yourself from the repetition of the impact that your joints will inevitably suffer from.

If you are aged 40-60, love to exercise, but are starting to worry that years of over use might catch up on you, then there are five specific principles that you need to be adhering to to slow the wearing process on your back, hips and knees. If you don’t, pain and stiffness await.

Working on your balance, improving your muscle control and increasing your flexibility are three of the principles that are often over looked by runners, cyclists and pretty much any exercise enthusiast.

And it’s often the reason that many end up in somewhere like my physio clinic.

The other two things that you need are stamina and strength. And both of the latter are often really easy to achieve but come at the price of neglecting the other three.

For the past decade I’ve been a physio, I’ve been introducing members of my physio clinic to these Big Five principles of keeping fit safely in the hope of avoiding unnecessary problems in the 60 + age group.

Strength and stamina are easy to achieve. Go for a run along Seaton Front every night or around Summerhill and you’ll likely achieve that.

But, here’s the thing with principle one – muscle control.

You need it to ensure that all of your muscles are doing the job that they were designed to do.

Let’s take your hamstring muscles. If the muscle control at your lower back isn’t very good, and the first obvious sign is with back stiffness, then your hamstrings have to do the job of helping to protect your spine.

They weren’t designed to do that. They want to help you run faster and easier.

So when you head out for your run, your ride, your game of footy or whatever it is that you do, a lack of control in your back muscles means your hamstrings have to work twice as hard they should.

Effectively, they’re now inefficient.

Any wonder then that over time, night after night that your hamstrings will get tighter meaning you’re more likely to suffer a hamstring injury?

Worse still, the wear on your lower back because of a lack of support could be contributing to something like a disc bulge, or stenosis or disc disease. Best to avoid them at all costs.

Understand that muscle control is different to strength.

I’ve treat bodybuilders who could likely lift a truck, but when I ask them to do simple muscle control exercises, they struggle.

And that’s likely to be the reason they’re in my care in the first place.

So the moral of this story as you keep fit this summer, keep one eye on muscles that are becoming constantly stiff and tight.

It could be the first sign that you’ve got a muscle control problem that will eventually catch up with you.