Exercise science

The Dangers of Treadmills

In this audio, Charlotte addresses the use of treadmills which are commonplace in most gyms in the country but many people are unaware of their dangers. Constantly using a treadmill can cause repetitive stress injuries and strain due the Read more

Kefir healed my skin

The power of Kefir I have been living in South Korea for a year now and I have become very sensitive to foods which may possibly have caused what looks like a fungal infection on my skin. When I went Read more

Ntosh's Journey to Health Part 2

I have been on the Better4life nutrition programme and I noticed something... For the past couple of days I've noticed that I'm happier, my mood is so much better – almost nothing can get me down. Also, the energy drinks – Read more

Kefir keeps me healthy!

All the Better4life products are a true God-send.  The kefir has been my medicine for everything. I have been applying the kefir on my skin for the past 3 weeks every night and my skin is producing such a Read more

Country living in the city

I picked up the March issue of “Country Life”, drawn to its fresh outdoor images. Print has suffered a decline and it’s amazing how this magazine continues to flourish, glossy and bright. And then it dawned on me. Many Read more

The Dangers of Treadmills

Charl's journal, Exercise science Comments Off on The Dangers of Treadmills

In this audio, Charlotte addresses the use of treadmills which are commonplace in most gyms in the country but many people are unaware of their dangers. Constantly using a treadmill can cause repetitive stress injuries and strain due the body not being able to stay naturally aligned. The disadvantages of treadmills far outweigh the benefits for weight loss. Rather walk on a natural surface, try a trampoline or join a Pilates class that includes cardio fitness.

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Fitness Guidelines For Your Age Group

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Every wondered what the right exercises are for your age-group? Here is a thorough breakdown of the recommended exercise for each age group.

Preschoolers (ages 3 to 5)

Already from the 1970s, activity levels for preschool children began to drop and the amount of obese preschoolers is increasing worldwide. This is due to decreasing levels of physical exercise with indoor-based activities such as watching TV and playing computer games growing in popularity. Many schools have also cut their outdoor activities and indoor areas are perceived to be safer with less supervision needed. There is a call back to the outdoors and parents and teachers alike need to encourage preschoolers to have fun being active by teaching them physical games, building safe play areas, and inviting little ones to explore the outdoors. Toddlers (12 to 36 months old) also need to exercise with 60 minutes of informal activity and 30 minutes of structured playtime daily. Little children, in particular, need to build motor skills, coordination and balance with a need for healthy muscles and bones through a number of different cardiovascular and strength activities (e.g. jumping, running and hanging from the monkey bars). Doing just one thing for an hour can get boring and tedious, so it’s best to break this up into bite-sized time periods e.g. six 10 minute playtime sessions doing different things.

What to do?

  • Playing tag or chase: preschoolers can also hop, waddle, or dance instead of running
  • Playing catch or kickball with different sized balls
  • Swimming/water play, such as running in a sprinkler or washing the car
  • Riding a tricycle or scooter in a safe and contained area
  • Crawling through a cardboard-box tunnel or obstacle course
  • Dancing to music with friends with scarves and ribbons
  • Building an indoor obstacle course e.g. with sofa cushions, hula hoops and chairs lined up to form a tunnel or a balance beam

How long?

  • A minimum of 60 minutes daily on organised physical activities (e.g. soccer, kickball, riding a tricycle/scooter)
  • At least 60 minutes a day to several hours on unstructured physical activities (e.g. crawling, running, dancing, gardening)


Tweens (ages 6-12)

In most countries, with the influence of video games, fewer school playing fields and fewer physical education activities, research shows that most primary-schoolers do very little physical exercise or nothing at all. During this age group, a wider range of activities is preferable to build up as much mineral density as possible, core strength, muscle and joint coordination and calcium reserves. It must also be noted that before puberty, children do not produce lactic acid and so their energy reserves are much greater – meaning they can exercise for longer periods without tiring.

What to do?

  • A variety of cardiovascular activities in exercises that involve hopping, running, skipping and jumping with rapid twisting motions and high intensity and energy e.g. dancing and ball sports
  • All sports, especially those that develop coordination, core body strength, balance and fine motor skills and which are enjoyable e.g. athletics, tennis, badminton, hockey, football etc.


How long?

  • Stretching for 20 minutes should precede and follow all weight bearing and cardio activity
  • Cardiovascular exercise 4-5 times weekly leading to sweat-production 60-90 minutes each session
  • Children who are training for sports can do an additional two one-hour weights sessions per week


Adolescents (13-18)

Young women build their greatest amount of calcium before their 20s and so frequent weight-bearing activities which stimulate calcium production and core muscle strengthening, which establishes posture are vital. Weight training (including free, static and body resistance weight) is effective to build bone, muscle and joint health while skeletal structures grow to their maximum length. From puberty, teenagers begin to develop lactic acid and experience a variety of hormonal changes that place a demand on their energy and mineral stores. They will begin to tire quicker and need shorter, more frequent exercise. Sweat producing exercises stabilize hormones and effectively utilize sugar and insulin deposits (to counteract possible weight gain of puberty). High intensity exercise balances mood through endorphin release and stimulates the lymphatic system.

What to do?

  • High intensity cardiovascular and strength development exercises e.g. sports such as volleyball, hockey, tennis, netball, basketball, water polo, running, dancing, swimming, sprint and long distance cycling, aerobics and fast walking
  • Weight training with lighter weights (1-3 kilograms) joined with pre (fluid stretching) and post stretching (static stretching as the body is warm).

How long?

  • It generally takes 30 minutes of high intensity exercise for the body to begin burning fat and so daily 30-60 minute sessions of cardiovascular activity are ideal
  • 10-20 minutes of stretching daily pre and post high intensity exercise (see note above)
  • 20-30 minutes of weight training preferably before cardiovascular activity, but can be done separately with 6-10 repetitions of each movement. Higher repetitions versus heavier weights are advised


Young Adulthood (ages 18-28)

Exercise scientists state that weight maintenance is easiest during the first decade of adulthood: the metabolic rate works most efficiently; stress to the body parts is minimal with quick injury recovery time; calcium is more easily absorbed and stored for later use in preventing osteoporosis among women. Women need to focus on cardiovascular activity to burn fat, stabilize sugar and insulin to improve fertility; they also need to build bone health through regular weight-bearing activity, maintain flexibility for later years, release stress and condition their posture. At this age, women may be desk slaves, so developing good postural habits is really important.

What to do?

  • Weight-bearing activities e.g. running, walking, football or martial arts
  • Posture and balance work e.g. Pilates, Alexander technique
  • Dancing – e.g. modern, ballroom and contemporary styles
  • Regular cardiovascular exercise e.g. cycling, aerobics, brisk walking, or fast-paced sports

How long?

  • Three one-hour sessions of cardiovascular activities a week such as dancing, running, walking or swimming where the heart rate is increased to 60-70% (talking is difficult)
  • Three 30-40 minute sessions of posture and balance work weekly combined with weight-training (10-20 minutes) three times weekly


30s and 40s

Women will notice that their metabolism declines by at least 2% per decade after the age of 30. The good news however, is that we can still stimulate the metabolism with high-intensity aerobic interval exercise until 50. At this age, the effect of wear and tear becomes noticeable, and recovery time may take longer. So, strength training becomes more important for maintaining joint stability and increasing lean body mass and stretching exercises will help to improve core strength, flexibility and postural alignment.As professional athletes will tell us, it is possible to play top-class sport until one’s mid-30s. Post 35, women’s resting heart rate increases and muscle mass and strength decrease, mostly caused by a decrease in the human growth hormone. Strength training continues to be important at this age at it triggers the human growth hormone.

What to do?

  • Cardiovascular activities like indoor rowing, running, swimming or triathlon training
  • Weight training activities using gym resistance machines or free weights
  • Pilates for building core strength and flexibility

How long?

  • Two to four one-hour sessions of free or static weights weekly (note that body weight can also be used as is done in Pilates)
  • Three to four 30 minute cardiovascular sessions weekly
  • 10-15 minutes of stretching morning and evening
  • One to three 30 minute sessions a week of Pilates, Alexander technique or tai chi


The 50s

 Most women in this age group feel more intense aches and pains due to the wear and tear on their joints. This is a key stage of life for modifying aerobic workouts to include non-weight-bearing activities, such as swimming, rowing or cycling in addition to weight-bearing activities that improve bone density and help prevent injury. Menopause is likely to occur during the late 40s and early 50s, and hormonal changes can cause weight fluctuation. Portion size for meals should be watched carefully with calorie intake reduced by 15% percent with every decade of age unless physical activity increases. The more muscle mass a woman has, the higher her metabolic rate will be and the more fat burned when resting: but if new to weight training, though, women need to start slowly and precondition their body. Stretching is key as flexibility is vital for long-term physical independence and exercise specialists say it’s as important as brushing one’s teeth.

What to do?

  • Strength training and weight-bearing activities (e.g. walking, dancing and aerobics)
  • Regular dynamic stretching, deep breathing and core body strengthening e.g Pilates, tai chi or the Alexander technique

How long?

  • Free weights of four sets of each exercise 6-10 times, 30 minutes three times weekly
  • Two to four one-hour sessions of more gentle cardiovascular work weekly (can talk with effort while exercising) with weights/resistance and stretching
  • Core balance and posture exercises e.g. Pilates, Alexander technique or tai chi one to three times weekly for 30-60 minutes per session
  • Light stretching before bedtime 5 minutes each night and on waking when the muscles are warm


The 60s

Investment for later life is the motto as women approach their retirement age. Nerve conduction and reflexes slow down as women age, but effective exercise can slow the rate of decrease. Elderly women become injured due to falling because of loss of balance but by stimulating the nervous system, they can remain balanced, stay agile and be stable on their feet.

What to do?

  • Pilates, Alexander technique and core-stability exercises three times weekly for 30-40 minutes each session
  • Proprioception-based exercises such as standing on one foot and/or with eyes closed several times daily for as long as possible
  • Strength training with lighter weights, or rubber resistance bands and aim for 20 to 30 repetitions of movements for 30 minutes.
  • Gentle cardiovascular e.g. walking and swimming

How long?

  • For cardiovascular fitness, gentle swimming, walking, cycling and rowing indoors or on water is recommended 3-4 times weekly for 30 to 40 minutes as low-impact exercise is best to protect knees and hips
  • Generally, 2-4 one-hour cardiovascular and weights/resistance sessions, followed by stretching is advised
  • Pilates, Alexander technique or tai chi one to three times a week for 30-40 minute sessions


The 70s

Between the ages of 30 and 70, the average person loses 25% of their muscle mass. In this decade alone, women can lose 15% of their strength. Relatively speaking, though, endurance increases, which explains the number of veteran runners in marathons. Ultra-distance challenges to boost fitness levels, working on weaknesses, example strength, should take priority in this age group. Balance, body awareness and ability to function in daily life can be enhanced by strength work and high-intensity sports at this age are to be avoided as they can lead to joint deterioration and repetitive stress injuries.

What to do?

  • Swimming and gentle water aerobics for cardiovascular fitness
  • Lighter weight training and gentle cardiovascular and combined weights/resistance sessions
  • Postural realignment and muscle conditioning exercises e.g. Pilates, Alexander technique or tai chi

How long?

  • Use lighter weights (1-3 kgs) and do up to 30 repeats, with a longer recovery time between sets, and rest days between sessions.
  • Work the upper body once or twice a week, and the lower body once or twice on different days, so they have lots of recovery time.
  • Two to four one-hour cardiovascular and weights/resistance sessions, plus Pilates, Alexander technique, yoga or tai chi one to three times a week are also recommended.


The 80s

For the 70s and 80s, social aspects become an important driver in staying active and it’s more important to stay active in activities such as walking, swimming and hiking groups. Postural realignment and stretching exercises are all beneficial – any exercise that promotes the standing up, balancing, stretching and breathing with coordination. Tai chi and Pilates in particular are recommended. A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, found that this gentle movements like tai chi increased physical confidence and reduced falls by 47.5% in people aged over 70. Club activities such as table tennis clubs can be played with limited level of mobility and a really good cardiovascular workout and socializing is still possible

What to do?

  • Pilates
  • Table tennis, walking, swimming and badminton
  • Golf is also popular, but with caution as it can lead to hip injuries

How long?

  • Two 40-60 minutes classes each week of Pilates and
  • 30-40 minute sessions of cardiovascular exercise 3 times weekly


80s and Beyond

As women enter their beautiful sunset years, it’s more important than ever to exercise with the correct clothes and shoes. Aging means that thermoregulation isn’t as efficient, so it is more important to wear more layers of sports clothing when exercising. Nordic walking, marching along with sticks like ski poles for balance and propulsion is highly recommended for the over-80s and the right walking or running shoes are especially important at this age. Exercises like Nordic walking can have a great effect on cardio fitness and endurance as the balance and stability that poles or sticks provide helps to reduce the risk of falling, which improves the motivation and confidence to exercise. Swimming is also good exercise for this age group as is stretching after exercise: elasticity in muscles and tendons decreases with age therefore suppleness needs to be increased.

What to do?

  • Nordic walking, gentle swimming, and static stretching when the body is warm every day
  • Gentle Pilates and deep breathing

How long?

  • Stretching exercises 2-3 times weekly for 30-40 minutes
  • Daily gentle cardiovascular exercise for 20-30 minutes per session


My favourite exercise is still Pilates as it can actually been safely done at any age and gives a full body workout. Join one of my classes in Horison or Northcliff, Johannesburg: Group Pilates classes.

Charlotte Jean Steenekamp


Inventive Ways to Exercise on the Job

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Modern day living means that most people work within offices. Regardless of their design, offices all have one thing in common: desks, chairs, and usually computers within a limited area. Although some organisations have invested in gyms and rest areas for their employees, for the most part, facilities to exercise at work are scarce, over-crowded or unavailable.

Staying active while working is vital: We spend the greater part of our days on the job and extended periods of sitting turn off a vital fat-burning enzyme in the body, resulting in accumulated mid-section and abdominal fat. So what can we do? Is there any hope for those of us who are office-bound? Exercise specialists say, “Yes, there is”! There is a range of inventive ways to use your office space to get your body moving and avoid the pitfalls of inactivity.

The key to effectively exercising on the job is to be creative. Devise an easy system for yourself that you write on a post-it, stick somewhere you can see it, and stick to each day. Any movement is better than none at all. Adding short stints of exercise throughout the day will help to burn more calories, release tension, strengthen the immune system and reduce stress. All benefits we can live with, but not without!

Get Moving!

Don’t sit for longer than an hour at a time. Set alarms to remind you to get up, stretch, and visit the kitchen or the bathroom. Swing your arms as you take a short walk and focus your eyes on something far away to alleviate eyestrain.

Stand as you Chat, Walk as You Talk

Take “standing breaks” every hour and work standing up for 5-10 minutes. You’ll burn 25% more calories by doing this. Don’t lean over your desk as you stand: find tasks that make you stay upright, e.g. stand while speaking on the phone, reading or jotting down notes using a clipboard. In addition, if you pace as you work, or walk as you talk on your cell phone, you’ll burn almost four times as many calories as when you are sitting. Grab a colleague and go walking around the block during your lunch break.

Calf and Arm Raises

Standing, place two heavy files of equal or similar weight in your outstretched arms and stand up on tiptoes for 2-5 counts and then come down. Repeat 10-15 times. Two 1-2 litre water bottles can be used, one in each hand as you raise the bottles above your head and bring down to shoulder level. You can also use your handbag in the same way, lifting it above your head and bringing it back down again. Repeat 10-15 times 3-4 times daily. Remember to pull in your stomach muscles as you do this, keep your back straight and your neck and shoulders relaxed.

Ab Attack to Fight the Fat

Do the ab strengthener: contract your ab muscles six times slowly for 6 counts each, then six times quickly for 2 counts each, then six times very slowly for 10 counts each and repeat.

Subtle Tucks For Firmer Butts

Contract your gluteals (rear posterior muscles) any time you need to wait for something, sitting or standing. This means, simply tighten your buttocks as you stand or sit, hold for 5-10 counts and then relax. Repeat 15 times. Remember that if you are wearing figure-hugging clothing with someone behind you, this may attract unwanted attention so be aware of this.

Sit on a Pilates Ball

A firmly inflated exercise ball can serve as a good chair. By exchanging your traditional chair for a ball, you will improve your balance and tone your core muscles while sitting at your desk. During the day practice lifting one foot off the ground to improve balance.

Handy Fitness Equipment

Keep resistance bands (also known as therabands) or small hand weights in a desk drawer or cabinet. Do arm curls and arm stretches using these between meetings or during your lunch break. Lift your arms outwards at shoulder level, hold each side of a theraband with your hands about 10 cm apart, and stretch your hands further apart and bring back to starting position. Do 2 sets of 10-20.

Regularly Raise Your Heart Rate

Improving your heart rate variability (your heart’s ability to jump from resting to 60 or 70%) has been shown to increase longevity and decrease heart disease risk. To do this, while seated, pump both arms over your head for 30 seconds, then rapidly tap your feet on the floor, drill style, for 30 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times. Or do jumping jacks for 60 seconds or running on the spot with knees high.

Smart Steps for Firmer Legs

1) Do one-legged squats (hold onto a wall or table for support) while waiting for a web page to load, the copier to print your reports, or faxes to come through. 2) Stand with one leg straight and try to kick your buttocks with the other. Repeat 10 times each leg. 3) Sitting in your chair, lift one leg off the seat, extend it out straight, hold for 2 seconds; then lower your foot (stop short of the floor) and hold for several seconds. Switch; do each leg 15 times.

Subtle Chair Workouts

1) To work your chest and shoulders, place both hands on your chair arms and slowly lift your bottom off the chair. Lower your body back down, but stop just before the seat and hold for a few seconds. Repeat 15 times.

2) To stretch your back and strengthen your biceps, place your hands on your desk and hang on. Slowly push your chair back until your head is between your arms and you are looking down at the floor. Then, slowly pull yourself back. Repeat 15 times.

Let’s not allow our fear of embarrassment or disapproval discourage us from exercising at work. The more you invest in your body’s health now, the more quality of life you will reap in the future. Your colleagues may even admire your efforts, be inspired or ask to join you. If on the rare occasion, one of your colleagues does find you in a less conventional position, for example, sitting on your chair two feet from the desk, stretched out, staring at the floor, you could pretend you dropped a pen, but how about telling them the truth, exclaiming “This feels great! Why don’t you try it.’

Live in Joburg? Join one of my Pilates classes in Northcliff or Horison. Contact: admin@better4life.co.za

By Charlotte Jean


Confessions of a Recovering Gym Bunny

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So, there’s an overwhelming amount of information available – in the beautifully broad and general virtual world and in the formal printed book industry, about all things related to exercise, wellness and fitness. You begin to get the feeling that you may also need a PhD, just to stay fit and in shape.

Somebody is always modifying something – a better ab crunch, a shorter, more intense workout. More sophisticated gym equipment. Optimised protein shakes. Paleo-atkins-macrobiotic diets shaken up and stirred and served again with another twist. The psychology of exercise: what you think when you work out. Right down to the multi-million dollar industry of exercise clothing, personal training and exercise studios.

No wonder many people prefer to sit on the coach than get exercising.

My confession: I was one of those gym bunnies who spent years in many different gyms, with different programmes and different goals.  I remember feeling awkward; unsure of what I was doing – hilariously avoiding the personal instructor hovering nearby – convinced I was doing the right thing, but not really convinced. There was always this frustration in my mind that I was working out so hard, so diligently, but not seeing the results I wanted. Or I thought I needed. So, what happened? Did anything change? Can I share any pearls of wisdom with you today.

Hmm, maybe not pearls, but certainly some clinchers that changed my perspective:

 #1 Your Ideal Body is Probably False.

The body you think you should have, and what you’re working so hard to attain is usually false. It either doesn’t exist outside of a designer’s Photoshop lab, or it’s been attained by eating things what wouldn’t sustain life for even a cockroach beyond 30 days. And gentlemen, this isn’t exclusively reserved for the appearance-mad fraternity of women. It affects men and women alike. And it’s mean and needs a beating.

#2 The Body is a Lever System Designed for Movement.

This may sound too scientific, but it changed the way I see exercise. I don’t even refer to it any more as I speak to clients. Movement is what we need and it’s what we should aim for every day. Some of my clients are teachers at schools and very few of them are overweight or weak – because they keep moving and stay active. Most don’t go to a gym (what a thought!), but they also don’t suffer from central obesity or laxity of ligaments like the rest of our chair-sitting office-bound workers.

# 3 You’ll Know Your Right Body Type Intuitively.

I look at my childhood photos and already I see a predisposition to a certain body type, a certain diet and a certain muscular-skeletal structure. It took me years to come back to how I should look and what I should be eating etc. But when it was clear, I shed the false expectations (along with some muscle mass) and began to feel truly comfortable in my own frame. If you were long, lean and skinny as a child, chances are you should have a long, lean, slimmer frame as an adult. If you really enjoyed meat and veggies growing up, it’s good to keep to them now in your later years. We get lost in the hype and bubble of nutritional science and need to remind ourselves that we were designed to know what we need.

# 4 Good Movement is Simple, Natural.

Lose the pseudo-science, mumbo-jumbo rhetoric designed to scramble your brain and all of the psycho-jargon often crafted to make you buy things you don’t need. Human movement is the simplest thing in the world. We were designed to walk, to jump, to lean, to carry, to stretch, to swim – a long stroll, a fast trot, and to run – for short distances (unless you’re from the Masai tribe or have Ethiopian genes). We don’t do too well exercising on artificial machines – which, and I know I’m standing on controversial ground here – includes bicycles. Example: Long distance cyclists run the risk of overdeveloping one side of their heart’s ventricle. And the best immune response from exercise is moderate – just in the middle of our heart rate low and high, and not longer than 40 minutes, done frequently. Like living and breathing. Moving every day. Making movement and exertion a normal, natural part of our lives and encouraging our bodies to move, even while we work in offices and drive cars to work.

 # 5 You’ll Enjoy What’s Good for You

If you’re not liking it after you’ve got beyond the beginning point of the difficulty of change – it’s not good for you. I teach many different people – of all sorts of shapes and sizes, ages, genders. You name it. Those that ENJOY their movement, their food and their lifestyle choices are HAPPY and WELL. Those that are trying to put on more muscle mass than their whole family tree combined are miserable – because it’s not natural and it takes a gross amount of misplaced resources – including chickens and whey protein – to make them get there.

It takes some experimenting, some testing and some firm “No’s” and “Yes’s” to fit into the right shape and quality for your life.

My favourite exercise now? Pilates hands down! It truly is a full body workout! Hey, why not sign up for one of my classes if you are in Joburg: http://www.better4life.co.za/group-pilates-classes/

Go for it. Find comfort and gentle truth in your movement, and be well.

Pilates for athletes

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Pilates is just for Sisters and Sissies, Right?

4 Benefits of Pilates for Athletes


It’s funny, the responses that I get from people. “So, what do you teach?” I answer, “Pilates.” Sometimes, there is that typical look of pity. “Oh, that’s like stretching for old people, right?” And then, others surprise me. “Oh, I’ve heard about it. My physio’s always telling me to do it. She says I need to strengthen my core.” This helps me. It means that a) I don’t have to explain this isn’t a pre-flying course or that b) This has nothing to do with a deceased Roman ruler called Pilate.

And then of course, there are the standard misconceptions. Many athletes (especially male) also give me that look, and seem surprised when I suggest they add Pilates to their workout. If you want the scientific and bio-mechanical basis, you’ll find it easily. Many excellent articles have been written on the benefits of Pilates for athletes. I’m not going to repeat their content. I’d like to share with you why, in my experience as a practitioner and trainer, Pilates is good for everyone, especially athletes.

Referring back to our original question, Pilates was designed by and named after a man: Joseph Pilates. This needs to be clear and set the record straight. Joseph, originally from Germany, is said to have been a human movement genius, at least 100 years ahead of his time. The First and Second World Wars, internment and POW camps, corsets and bloodletting defined his time. Joseph was very strong, completely masculine and also completely respectful of female and male strength. Read his story. It will inspire you.

Joseph was an athlete. He lived to a ripe old age and understood the pressures on super athletes. He believed in healing the body and utilising all of its levers naturally. He lived and taught so that men and women can walk with strength, comfort and grace. Dancers, actors, celebrities and normal people all flocked to his US studio to heal and rediscover their strength.

Now, here are some of my thoughts on why athletes should really look at doing Pilates.

Athletes need:

  • to be challenged differently
  • multi-varied movement to condition the brain
  • true fitness for flexibility, strength and endurance
  • a non-competitive environment
  • to breathe and destress


  1. Challenge all the Muscles

    Running, cycling, golf, canoeing or dancing are all sports that focus on a specific type and level of fitness. It’s like opening and closing the same door again and again, getting better at this door, but what about the others? Then there are the repetitive stress injuries that can develop from opening and closing the same door. The body is a system of levers designed for movement. All our levers and fitness forms need to be activated regularly or at the same time. Pilates does this simply and efficiently. Even one session a week can condition the body and realign the levers.

  2. Train with Your Brain

    Mechanical movement, especially under the influence of rhythm and music, switches the brain off, not on. Pilates challenges the brain in a quiet, focused atmosphere. It helps to recondition the central nervous system, which is rather important for quality of life.

  3. Embrace True Fitness

    Now, I say this as an athlete. I know what happens when my performance increases and the adrenaline kicks in after a very good climb, swim or run. I think I’m really strong and it’s without the context of total body fitness. Total fitness equals flexibility, strength and endurance. Pilates focuses on all three. It never becomes easy. It humbles me and helps me to see the equal strengths and weaknesses in others and myself.

  4. Friends and Fun Count

    Training regimens can be harsh and unforgiving. Highly competitive environments create stress, and inflammation from cortisol production. Training in a non-threatening environment, which focuses on the health of the individual and the group normalises us as athletes. We learn it’s not all about us. We are reminded that we are people too. We develop friendships. We enjoy moving our bodies and releasing pressure. Sometime we forget the importance of enjoyment. Fun calms us, helps us produce endorphins and stimulates our pleasure pathways – these are responsible for healing and well-being.

  5. You’re a Being not a Doing

    Living in a world where even your job seems to be on a conveyor belt, we need less paralysingly stress and more motivating stress. Pilates, in focused gentleness, helps us to breathe, reflect and just be. As we move, we rest. Peace is restored. We let go of outcomes. We focus on the gift of being alive. We see classmates moving with us. We appreciate the rich variety of the world. We understand and are reminded that we are human beings, not doings.

To all my athletes out there, I encourage you to find more healing movement. Go try a class. Confront the prejudices and misconceptions. Pilates is for you too!







Keep moving

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Keep moving with some moderate physical challenge daily

The human body is a system of levers designed for movement. Prolonged (from 40 minutes upwards) periods of sitting send a message to the brain that something is wrong. In response, the brain deactivates energy burning enzymes, primarily located in the waist and posterior in order to conserve fat for illness or injury. Immune function is proven to be at its peak during moderate heart rate stimulation. It has also proven to be its lowest during no physical exertion and at risk when heart rate is above 70% i.e. the heart is being overtaxed and more free radicals are generated than protective antioxidants.

Endurance athletes age prematurely and often die from heart attacks due to consistent cardiovascular stress. In contract, the Japanese population follow a diet highly varied in ingredients (50 or more different food types in small quantities daily) and undertake moderate activity throughout their day. They also decrease their caloric consumption 15% for every decade over 30. These are interesting principles we can learn from. The body requires exercise in moderation every day, with some challenge. Simply taking the stairs, going for your morning walk and doing it briskly so that your heart beats faster equates to challenge.  This needs to occur every day and our lifestyles need to reflect our design for true health.

9 Health myths

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We’re bombarded with advice on healthy living which can be very confusing.
Here, we sort out the myths from the facts to keep you on track.

True or False:

1. Breakfast skippers tend to gain weight.

Answer: True– Eating a proper breakfast is one of the most positive things you can do if you are trying to lose weight. For many people, breakfast should include protein for energy. Ask Charlotte for more info on what the best breakfast for you: charlotte@better4life.co.za

2. Bone density starts to decline after the age of 50.

Answer: False– Your bone density declines after the age of 30. You need at least 200 milligrams of calcium daily, which you should combine with magnesium, or it simply won’t be absorbed.

3. Eating berries can help protect against heart disease and cancer.

Answer: True– Blueberries, strawberries and raspberries contain plant nutrients known as anthocyanidins, which are powerful antioxidants. Blueberries rival grapes in concentrations of resveratrol – the antioxidant compound found in red wine.

4. It’s better to drink energy drinks than water while you’re exercising.

Answer: False– Drinking water is best. Your body will burn the glucose from the energy drink first, before starting to burn body fat.

5. Always do cardio first to warm up the muscles, then weight training.

Answer: False– Experts say weight training should be done first, because it’s a higher intensity exercise compared to cardio. Your body is better able to handle weight training early in the workout because you’re fresh and you have the energy you need to work it. Conversely, cardiovascular exercise should be the last thing you do at the gym, because it helps your body recover by increasing blood flow to the muscles, and flushing out lactic acid, which builds up in the muscles while you’re weight training. It’s the lactic acid that makes your muscles feel stiff and sore.

6. Trail running is easier on the body than road running.

Answer: True– If your ankles, knees, and hips ache from running on pavement, head for the dirt. Soft trails or graded roads are a lot easier on your joints than the hard stuff. Also, dirt surfaces tend to be uneven, forcing you to slow down a bit and focus on where to put your feet – great for agility and concentration.

7. Eating fibre will help keep your digestive system on track.

Answer: True– Fibre helps keep the digestive system in order. It also reduces the risk of bowel cancer. We need to consume eating fibre rich foods such as wholemeal bread, pulses and cereals. For some it’s best to go the gluten-free route. Not sure what is best for you? Contact Charlotte to go through the Better4life Nutrition Programme. Charlotte@better4life.co.za

8. Diabetes and heart disease are two separate problems.

Answer: False– More than three million South Africans suffer from type 2 diabetes, and the incidence is increasing – with new patients getting younger. New studies show this type of diabetes is often part of a metabolic syndrome (X Syndrome), which includes high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease. More than 80 percent of type 2 diabetics die of heart disease, so make sure you control your glucose levels, and watch your blood pressure and cholesterol counts.

9. Doing Pilates regularly will help improve your posture.

Answer: True– Pilates works the deep core and stabilising muscles which will certainly improve posture if done regularly. Join a pilates class today!

Credit: www.hfpa.co.za