Healthy brain aging and exercise

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Our health and longevity depend on the brain’s prowess.

The human brain is a magnificent three-pound organ. It is the seat of our intelligence, initiates all our body movement and controls our behavior. As we all age, the incidence of neurodegenerative diseases is expected to markedly increase. Our health and longevity depend on the brain’s prowess. Brain aging is a key precursor to declines in cognitive function, which increase the risk for dementia and neurodegenerative diseases. Some 100 million Americans will suffer from devastating brain disorders at some point in their lives. We need to take care of our noggins.

Healthy brain aging requires one powerful factor: exercise. Exercise reduces all major hallmarks of brain aging. Having greater cardio fitness in older adults is also associated with improved decision-making and may influence network functional connectivity in the hippocampus, the complex brain structure responsible for learning and memory.

Lying in its bony sheath and sheltered in protective fluid, the brain is the source of all the qualities that define our humanity. Within, the brain texture is like a firm jelly, housing about 86 billion neurons (nerve cells), the “grey matter,” along with billions of nerve fibers, the “white matter,” connected by trillions of synapses. Exercise is a giant metabolic switch. It switches on all these neurons and stimulates multiple key energy-sensing pathways in the brain.

Regular exercise is like miracle-grow for cellular function. If you aren’t already a regular aerobic exerciser, start using it as a first-line strategy for healthy brain aging.

The ability to clearly think, learn and remember is an important component of going about each day. It is one of the many aspects of brain health. Motor function—how you control movement and balance—is another. Brain health also involves emotional function, how well you interpret and respond to both pleasant and unpleasant feelings. Add to that tactile function of touch, pressure pain and temperature. When the brain is healthy, these essential functions are automatic and quick.

Exercise is one of the best strategies for slowing down all major hallmarks of brain aging, largely because it activates key cellular energy-sensing pathways. This enhanced energy metabolism with exercise is important because the proteins and cellular pathways involved can also directly influence other hallmarks. The cellular functions are vast; glucose transport (brain food) and enhanced glucose utilization, regulated glycolysis, respiration and energy-metabolizing enzymes. Also activated at the cellular level is the turnover of proteins and macromolecules that can be used for energy. These signaling proteins also impact gene expression, plasticity and memory formation. In fact, habitual aerobic exercise can lower levels of biomolecule damage in the brain. When you exercise, you literally repair DNA.

So the next time you decide to get up off the couch and out the door for some fresh air and exercise, remember that little brain of yours is well worth cherishing for a long, happy life.

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_7fe519d6-8da8-11eb-8207-0b413a8d5857.html

Health and perspective: From stairs to red wine

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Photo~ Hallie Kathyryn Photography

The Covid -19 pandemic has impacted everyone across the globe.  It has affected our lives on both a small and large scale, particularly having to let go, for a while, of a pre-Covid world. Remember, there is nothing wrong about allowing ourselves to grieve the lives we used to live, and that you wish this never happened.  Some of us will suffer from post-traumatic stress.  But there can also be tremendous growth, and we can come out of this experience better.  It could be that you have discovered an inner strength and commitment to living your best life.

In the midst of this pandemic, people prioritized healthy living, and made an effort in trying to keep their routines as normal as possible, gravitating to at-home-exercises.

Yoga mats and resistance bands are still ranking high on Amazon’s best-selling products. Bike sales surged as well, as Americans turned to cycling for exercise when gyms first closed. In June alone, bike sales rose 63 % compared to the same time last year. 

The virus has given us a new perspective, and we’ve learnt that exercise makes us feel better. It’s important to have a stress-release plan, as we live through a once in a century event, with Corona restrictions of daily life and social contacts. One easy way to reignite that feeling of bursting with energy is to climb stairs more often (or hills) or walk errands instead of driving. 

These everyday activities may help us feel more alert, full of energy, and significantly enhance our well- being.  Research recently published in Science Advances studied the brain regions that play a central role in what makes us happy and enhances our well-being.  Their findings reveal that even everyday activities, like stair climbing, is good for us. Plus, stair climbing lowers your blood pressure and builds strength, especially in postmenopausal women. 

Specific food can help us along our journey as well. The right food choices can help reduce cognitive decline. It turns out we can responsibly eat cheese and drink red wine for improvements in cognitive function, according to a large scale analysis that connects specific foods to later-in-life cognitive acuity. 

Some of the most significant findings from the study, from Iowa State University and published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease were that cheese, by far, was shown to be the most protective food, as well as lamb, but not other red meats. 

Poet Maggie Smith wrote,   “Let change-even traumatic upheaval-remind you that anything is possible. Keep moving. ” My hope is that this is a time of possibility. May we all come out of this year wiser, more grateful and happy, with our hearts open to a better future. 

Connie Aronson is an American College of Sports Medicine Exercise Physiologist and Corrective Exercise Specialist (TBMM-CES) Visit her at www.conniearonson.com and Instagram @conniearon

Printed in the Idaho Mountain Express December 25, 2020 https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_4c054db8-4567-11eb-a64a-9b9e4ccc3327.html

Build core power and stability with the Farmer’s Walk

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The Farmer’s Walk is a great whole-body exercise.

Core stability is imperative for all facets of movement and performance, whether you’re a skier or skater.

As a new ski season kicks off, core strength can be a great asset to ski at a higher intensity, for a longer duration and with less fatigue. When you hit the terrain, you’ll want to have good core stability to not only turn well, but also handle different and varied snow conditions with ease. It’s not too late to add a great whole-body exercise called Farmer’s Walk—a walk with a weight—to your training program.  

Walking or any lower body movement where you carry or “load” yourself with a weight for a predetermined distance or time challenges the entire kinetic chain of the body and targets the deep stabilizing muscles of the core.

What is core stability?

The definition of core stability is your ability to maintain your posture and balance while moving your extremities. Sound a lot like skiing?

The core musculature has a unique function. Throughout the day, if you’re active, the core muscles act to stiffen the torso and function primarily to prevent motion. A strong core allows the strength to radiate out peripherally to the rest of the body.

Core stability is imperative for all facets of movement and performance, whether you’re a skier or skater. The Farmer’s Walk is a great whole-body exercise. The exercise targets the abdominals, and provides peak activation of all the muscles that support the spine, the gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus and cervical spine muscles during the walk. You’ll hit all the core muscles of the trunk and pelvic stability muscles, as well as the hips.

Together, these numerous and multi-jointed muscles are known as the lumbo-pelvic hip complex.

You can think of Farmer’s Walk as a vertical plank, a move that challenges the lumbo-pelvic hip complex. There are several variations of loaded carries, and here are two variations that will strengthen your core as well as challenge the body’s stabilizing system.

Unilateral Farmer’s Walk

Unilateral training exposes any asymmetries in the body. Noticeably, walking with a single weight provides a greater spine load than if the load were split between two hands. (For beginners, you might want to experiment with carrying a weight in each hand.) Carrying one weight targets the lateral spine muscles, called quadratus lumborum, and the lateral abdominal wall, which have an important role in that they stiffen the pelvis to prevent it from bending to the side of the leg swing.  The unilateral Farmer’s Walk also enhances the rotational demand to the core as the body now has to control the added stress in order to maintain dynamic balance.

 Choose weights that are challenging yet appropriate for your fitness level.

•    Squat down and grasp a weight in one hand. Maintain a braced core, and return to a stand-tall position.

•    Take slow and controlled steps forward for 30 seconds. Alternate sides.

Unilateral Farmer’s Walk

Unilateral Waiter’s Walk

An added benefit to this move is that it helps strengthen the muscles around the shoulder, referred to as glenohumeral stability, a term used to describe how the arm bone sits well into the shoulder and upper back muscles. Here’s how it’s done.  

•    Grab a weight in one hand and return to a stand-tall position.

•    Extend arm up overhead.

•    Keep a tight grip on the weight and take slow controlled steps forward for 30 seconds. Alternate sides.

Unilateral Waiter’s Walk

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/ski-fitness/article_9112101c-2db6-11eb-9a56-e30f89e1d500.html

Work ( out ) from home

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Try this new six-move fitness routine to break your pandemic rut

One way to feel better is to get back on a routine. The best approach to longevity, vitality and independence is through consistent exercise.

Did you ever imagine living through a pan- demic? More than ever, we’re all chal- lenged to be resilient. For many of us, our routines are shot and the new normal is still unfolding. One way to feel better is to get back on a routine. The best approach to longevity, vitality and independence is through consistent exercise.W

The human body has more than 635 muscles, 206 bones and 360 joints—an incredible wonder. Now is a good day to start taking good care of that wonder.

Here’s your arsenal, a creative, effective home program to help you get started or relight your pas- sion for a routine. Keep it short and sweet by pick- ing a few key muscle strengthening and flexibility/ mobility exercises. The following six moves use simple home exercise equipment: free weights or a milk jug, a golf ball and resistance bands. You can do the routine while catching up with the news or a show. Try to do each exercise for one minute and repeat the circuit twice.

1. Golf ball roll

Massage your feet with the golf ball roll to reju- venate the plantar fascia on the underside of your foot. All the muscles of the lower leg attach on the bottom of your foot. This connective tissue can get irritated and sore if you tend to continually stand with your feet falling inward, or after a summer of wearing flip-flops. Also, if your ankles don’t bend easily in a squat, this self-myofascial release exercise will help.



Place a golf ball under each foot and roll it back and forth until you hit a sore spot. Don’t overdo it, but increase pressure on that particular spot until it feels better. If a golf ball is too uncomfortable, use a tennis ball instead.

One minute each foot, preferably daily.

2. Step back with arm reach

Stretching your calf right after golf ball rolling helps immensely, as you’ll feel this stretch all the way up the back of your leg. This big bang-for-your- buck stretch targets the calf muscles, the hip flexors and the whole front body.


Start with your feet hip width apart and take a normal-size step back with the right leg. Simulta- neously fully extend the right arm up. Be sure the feet are placed straight forward. Keep your inner arches lifted and press down through your heel. Do three to four times and repeat on the left side.


Strengthen all your leg muscles with this move. Lean back against a wall, knees slightly bent. Pick up your left leg and cross it over your right knee. Try not to laterally shift your hips more than an inch or two. Slide down until your knees are level with your hips. Extend your arms and hold posi- tion for as long as you can. Build up to one minute. Switch legs.

4. One-minute clamshell

This is a time-tested favorite of clients who want the best butt exercises. The one-minute clamshell focuses on the gluteus maximus, an external rota- tor of the hips. This big muscle also pushes the hip forward. The glute maximus attaches to your lower leg via the IT band. When working properly, these muscles help to slow down pronation and internal leg rotation. In other words, if your butt muscles are weak, your knees will typically fall inward.

Place a mini-band above your knees. Lie down on your side, with knees bent and feet stacked on each other. Lift the top knee up, like an open clamshell, until there is tension on the band. Keep tension on the band for one minute. Repeat on the other side.

Tip: Minimize any spine or pelvic motion through strong abdominal bracing.

5. Single leg bridge with extension

This is an important exercise for the lumbo-pel- vic hip area, the core. There are 29 muscles attached to this area and keeping your core strong is essen- tial for a strong and stable spine.

Lie face up on the floor with your knees bent. Feet are flat on the floor. Relax your arms by your side.
O

Simultaneously tighten the glutes and brace the core. Smoothly raise the hips off the floor until you form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Extend one leg out at knee height. Lift and lower the extended leg up towards the ceiling and back to knee height 10 times.

Tips: Focus on a powerful glute contraction. Keep the load on your shoulders, not your neck. Try not to rotate through the hips.

If you can’t fully extend in the bridge position, it could mean the hip flexors are tight. (Go back to move No. 2.)

6. Half kneeling halo

You can make a standing core exercise more effective by dropping to a kneeling position. When you kneel, you have to engage your core to keep balanced, as your knees can’t grip the ground in the same way your feet can when standing. Plus, by driving the back foot into the ground, you recruit more glute muscles. The half kneeling halo also allows for another great hip flexor stretch, interwoven into a great core and shoulder move.

Start in a kneeling position with a weight or milk jug in front of your chest, elbows pointed to the floor. Brace the core, and “trace” or halo the weight around the head. Keep the weight very close to your head. The weight makes a full revolution and ends directly in front of the chest, elbows pointing to the floor. Immediately repeat in the oppo- site direction.

Tip: A common mistake is for the weight to complete the halo, but not the elbows. Make sure the arms and elbows return to the start position. Keep the chin tucked. R

Connie Aronson is an ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Cor- rective Exercise Specialist. Follow her at www.conniearonson.com and on Instagram @conniearon.

Published in the Idaho Mountain Express- Remote Living: A guide to the new normal October 7, 2020

Can you really spot-reduce belly fat?

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Wouldn't it be nice if you simply get rid of belly-fat with a few crunches and ab work?
In reality, it takes a host of healthy habits to get a flat belly.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could simply get rid of your belly fat with a few crunches and ab work? After all, wouldn’t all that hard work melt the fat away if you really put your heart into it?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting a quick fix, but in reality, it takes a host of healthy habits to successfully manage outcomes like a flat belly. A study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research investigating the effect of six weeks of abdominal exercises on abdominal fat showed that exercise alone didn’t change waistline stubborn fat, or other measures of body composition. Nevertheless, core-conditioning exercises build important strength and endurance of these muscles.

It’s well known that obesity has significantly increased in most industrialized nations over the past 20 years, and abdominal fat is linked to various diseases such as heart disease and type two diabetes. The increased levels of deep visceral fat can lead to metabolic complications such as insulin resistance, glucose intolerance and high cholesterol levels.

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study questioned whether or not abdominal exercises alone support the notion of “spot reduction.” Do they affect abdominal fat, waist circumference and abdominal strength? Twenty-four sedentary young, majority male (58 percent) participants were randomly assigned to an abdominal exercise group or a control group. The exercise group performed seven abdominal exercises, each with two sets of 10 repetitions, five days a week, for six weeks. For these participants, including a five-minute warm-up on a treadmill, the total exercise session time was approximately 15 minutes.

The control group maintained their normal activities and diet.

During the first week, all participants were monitored so that proper exercise form could be taught and subsequently logged. The exercises were Bent Knee Sit-Up, Lateral Trunk Flexion, Leg Lifts, Oblique Crunch, Stability Ball Crunch, and Abdominal Crunch.

The exercise group had significant improvements in abdominal muscle endurance, proving that strength increases with resistance training exercise. However, from an energy balance perspective, it’s not likely that a 15-minute exercise protocol for the ab muscles would create a sufficient energy deficit to change body fat percentage and abdominal fat percentage. Though this study was small, it is a good reminder that infomercials claiming flat abs in five or 15 minutes a day is wishful thinking.

What can help is regular exercise and progressive resistance training to reduce not only belly fat, but overall health as well. A 2016 study found that losing as little as 5 percent of body weight improved fat tissue, liver and muscle insulin sensitivity. Research shows that this approach—a moderate one, up to a 10 percent weight loss—can lead to better long-term outcomes. While societal pressure to be thin unfortunately overemphasizes weight loss, a realistic goal should focus on habits you can control, including physical activity, nutrition, sleep and stress management, as opposed to a magical spot reducing program.

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_42769d42-ee2d-11ea-94b1-6bbf8d6f54cd.html


Connie Aronson is an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist at the YMCA in Ketchum. Learn more at www.conniearonson.com.

Breath and awareness can help us cope

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Now is the time to connect to our humanity, take a nice big breath and not be so hard on ourselves.

Fear and uncertainty are real right now, as each week brings even more uncertainty fighting COVID-19. Many of us are scared and lonely. But please don’t be so hard on yourself right now, because you already are doing something very brave and compassionate, staying home to flatten the curve. This extremely important measure is a global act of unity. By doing so, you are protecting others, especially our dedicated health workers, who are on the front lines, personifying service.

To feel anxious is natural. Right now, you don’t have to be a hero as you confront all the uncertainty of life. Like the earthquake we all just felt here in Idaho! Right now you want to put as little pressure on yourself as possible. Of course, volunteer to help those in need, get out for a long walk or start a new project. But there is one important thing that you can do to boost your spiritual immune system. Try to stop for a moment, and take a deep breath. This one new habit is one that is based in love, not fear. When you calm your mind down and pause, you connect to something bigger than yourself. Your breath and awareness become a tool to quiet the external fears and worries.

Peel an orange

In just over two weeks’ time, running to the store for one thing or another has come to seem like such a luxury. Today, if you are lucky enough to have fresh fruit in your house, peel an orange. As you peel it, think about how this piece of fruit grew on a tree, in an orchard, tended by a farmer. Think, for a moment of the sun needed for it to grow until it was ripe enough to pick. Take another few breaths to appreciate the trucks and drivers needed for this very orange to travel all the way to your supermarket. This small simple act of gratitude is meditation, connecting you to something much bigger than yourself.

Walk with purpose

Walking outdoors is good for you, and one of the healthiest things you can do for your fitness. You certainly have the time now. On your walks, think about how the arches of your feet absorb the impact of the ground for propulsion. The very act of walking, the human gait system, uses almost all of the 635 muscles in your body. Think, for a moment, of how lucky you are for your feet to be hitting solid ground, propelling you forward. Breathe out compassion for all the doctors, nurses and care givers who aren’t as lucky as you to be doing so. Breathe in love and compassion for all of those who have succumbed to the coronavirus, or who are struggling with the disease right now. As you continue to walk, envision your health and good fortune.

* * *

Use this tool in as many ways as possible during the day. You might not realize it, but your courage comes from generations of people who survived wars, plagues and crisis, yet humanity finds a way to move forward. What is here and is coming is difficult, but now is the time to connect to our humanity, take a nice big breath and not be so hard on ourselves.


Connie Aronson is an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist at the YMCA in Ketchum. Learn more at www.conniearonson.com.

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_ef34fdda-752e-11ea-839f-834530597363.html

Fix your pain with self-myofascial release

Tennis ball rolling can improve flexibility and restore movement function

If you feel sore and stiff, you might want to consider foam or ball rolling. Whether you’ve skied too hard, or overdone any activity, you can fix your post-exercise pain with a technique called self-myofascial release. Rolling can improve flexibility, restore movement function and help with delayed onset muscle soreness. The technique also relaxes stored tension in the muscle and releases endorphins to help reduce pain.

Combining rolling an area of muscle with an immediate stretch for that particular muscle is the best strategy for fixing tight, sore muscles. Research shows a greater improvement in joint range of motion compared to stretching or foam rolling alone.

It may sound technical, but self-myofascial release is really a simple concept. Myofascial refers to muscles and fascia; the prefix myo means “muscle.” Self-myofascial release is basically massage, where external pressure is applied to sensitive areas in the muscle, which are either tight, inflexible, knotted or contain scar tissue. The sustained pressure stimulates circulation to the area and increases flexibility.

There’s a reason muscles feel tired and tight either from doing too much or doing too little exercise. The benefits of exercise are myriad, but there is a downside of repeated loads on the body: microscopic damage in muscle and fascia. That typically results in sore or tight muscles, or diminished movement quality. Massage and trigger point therapies by clinicians can help, but you can also fix your own pain at home with a roller or balls.

There are two kinds of self -myofascial release techniques: general and specific. General involves using a foam roller for larger muscles, such as the front thighs. More specific would mean working on your calf or foot, where tennis balls, golf balls, baseballs, or other massage tools can pinpoint a precise area of muscle. The specificity of using a tennis ball is also practical if you’re traveling and can’t take a foam roller along with you.

Rolling and athletic performance

The influence of rolling on athletic performance remains unclear. A review of nine studies reported no change in vertical jumps or multi-directional sprints. In another study of 24 athletes published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, joint range of motion increased but power and agility declined after five minutes of rolling. For pre-event warm-ups, the recommendations are not to roll for more than a minute to prevent power loss.

How to roll

For the rest of us, at present there is little concern regarding how long you roll. Research suggests five seconds to three minutes, or three sets of thirty seconds on each area in need. Once you find an area in the muscle that’s restricted and tight, take your time to explore the tight spots with either a roller or a ball. Try to relax to allow the hormones to release into your body to encourage further relaxation.

Watch the link for an example of neck myofascial release combined with a neck stretch at

vimeo.com/516004574.

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/community/fitness-guru/article_ac72a5dc-77bd-11eb-8267-ebbc34eee6d4.html

The bicycle twist is a core move for the morning

Clients often tell me about their morning sequence to start their days, and I’m always proud that they take care of themselves. A morning core program can help maintain low back health, improve neuromuscular control, spinal stability, movement pattern efficiency, and injury prevention. But any ab or core exercise you choose needs to be effective, and not potentially lead to lower back pain.

A morning program is ideal for two reasons. First it’s typically the time in which your body is stiff, cold and most prone to injury. Having a routine prior to your busy day is like doing a pre-workout warm-up: It helps to increase soft-tissue blood-flow, warmth and pliability, facilitates neurological awareness and helps develop a psychological readiness for the day ahead. Second, a morning routine gives us another chance to make our habits stick, and if you miss doing it, you have another opportunity to do it later in the day.

The Bicycle Twist is a big external oblique winner.  

If you need a little help in choosing where to start, add Bicycle Twist to your routine, one of the best core exercises. Compared to a crunch, electromyography ( EMG ) shows that this exercise is 9 % more effective at targeting the rectus abdominis and 310 % more effective at targeting the external obliques.

It’s an ab exercise that many people know, also known in Pilates as Criss-Cross, and a go-to in yoga class.

Let’s include a brief anatomical overview of the ab muscles that this exercise targets. Four abdominal muscles hold the contents of the abdomen in place; the rectus abdominis, aka “six-pack”, which stabilize the pelvis and rib cage with respect to each other, transverse abdonimis, a deeper muscle that maintains intra-abdominal pressure, and is not involved in movements of the trunk, and the external and internal obliques that work together to help decelerate the spine as it arches backwards, rotates, and side bends. The external and internal obliques store potential energy, as in a follow-through in a golf swing.

The Most Common Mistake 

The Bicycle Twist targets the abs, yet most people do it wrong, and use the hip flexors. Stop using your hip flexors! They are typically stronger than the abs in trunk flexing movements; hip flexors bring the legs and trunk toward each other. Beyond 30 degrees, in the Bicycle Twist, crunches, or sit-ups, the powerful hip flexors begin to take charge of the movement. In real life, they are more likely to be strong, as you use them to create energy to help swing your leg forward in walking and running.  

Pilates mat exercise studies using EMG found that the hip flexors in Criss- Cross work at an intensity of 41 %. In other words, when you bring your knee towards your torso, the Criss-Cross, or Bicycle Twist becomes an ineffective exercise for the abdominals. The goal of ab training is to maximize the involvement of the abdominals, and minimize the hip flexors. 

Getting it right 

Keep your knees at 90 degrees, instead of flexing the hip to pull your knee in toward your elbow. This will give the back extra support and help target the obliques. 

Connie Aronson is an ACSM Exercise Physiologist and Corrective Exercise Specialist (TBBM-CES )  Visit her at www.conniearonson.com and  Instagram@conniearon

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_a62eb6d4-61a6-11eb-bcfb-3f5fb75e1f4c.html

The best way to target the glutes

Strength training has a myriad of benefits, from increased bone mineral density and lean body mass production, improved HDL (the good cholesterol) and improvements in functional ability in older men and women.


  • by Connie Aronson
  • July 10, 2020

Don’t think that this summer you can get away without doing any strength training for your legs. Sure, you’re out hiking and on the trails, and that kind of activity is important for your health. However, you need lower body exercises to keep your hips, spine and knee joints stable and strong. Strength training has a myriad of benefits, from increased bone mineral density and lean body mass production, improved HDL (the good cholesterol) and improvements in functional ability in older men and women. This month we’re going to focus on a great butt exercise you can do at home. In real life, the glutes, or gluteus maximus, need to be strong so you can move better. The glutes are a big muscle, originating at the tail bone and extending into the connective tissue in your lower back. The glutes attach to the lower leg via the IT band, a dense strip of connective tissue that runs along the outside of the thigh.

The glutes—your butt—not only play an important role in the health of the lumbo-pelvic hip region, but also have great influence on movements of the legs and knees.

The derriere is a specific muscle in the gait cycle that works in a bungee-cord manner with other muscles in the legs. When you are walking, part of your gait cycle involves your leg swinging forward and your foot hitting the ground. It is natural for the leg to rotate inward first, in your stride. This motion sets off important tension in the gluteus maximus. Its role is to slow down the internal rotation of your leg. If your glute muscles are weak, your knee often collapses inward too much, putting unwanted stress on the knee.

To understand how the gluteus maximus works in real life, bend down and pick a wildflower. Try this a second time, but bend your knees more and more to feel how the glutes have to work. Next, sit down in a chair. When you sit down in a chair, notice how the glutes lengthen under the tension to slow your hips down as you sit. Another example of how the glutes work in real life is to step over an imaginary puddle, and notice how the glutes help extend your hip, lifting it, so you clear the puddle and don’t soak your shoe. Aside from moving well in daily living, a strong derriere enhances your athletic performance, be it running, Pickleball or whatever activity you love.


Gluteal activation over ball

If you don’t have one, it’s worth buying or borrowing a stability ball for this exercise. Not only are they fun to train with, but using a ball in this particular exercise helps you feel neutral spine, so you do it right. This exercise targets the gluteus maximus, as well as the gluteus minimus, gluteus medius and the hip rotator muscles.

  • Lie over a stability ball. You should be on the apex on the ball, hands on the ground. Keep your neck relaxed and eyes looking downward.
  • Rest one foot on the ground. Tuck your tailbone under by tilting your pelvis. This will help you stabilize the body.
  • Lift your right leg slightly off the ground.
  • Rotate your right leg slightly outward, keeping it straight. Flex your foot.
  • Lift and lower your leg 10-15 reps.
  • Repeat on the left side.
  • Tips: Don’t arch your back. Don’t bend your knee or rock your hips to one side.

To see and share this exercise, click on vimeo.com/436311024.

As seen in

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_beb4ed2c-c223-11ea-92da-9703b9e79eac.html


Connie Aronson is a corrective exercise specialist and ACSM exercise physiologist at the Wood River YMCA. Check out conniearonson.comand follow her on Instagram @conniearon.

Sore neck? 2 quick fixes for forward head

If it’s your habit that your head juts forward and is ahead of your shoulders, you can learn how to fix this common musculoskeletal imbalance.


  • by CONNIE ARONSON

If you feel like you have the weight of the world on your head right now, it could be time to change that situation. If it’s your habit that your head juts forward and is ahead of your shoulders, muscular neck and head pain could be the culprit. It’s very possible that headaches, jaw pain or grinding noises in the jaw could be the result of your forward head. When you have a forward head position, your body’s center of gravity shifts forward and increases the weight of your head in relation to the body. Your head effectively weighs almost as much as two bowling bowls, if it is only 2 inches forward and out of alignment with your upper back.

Imagine the head as round as a ball perched on top of the spine. In real life, the head rests on the most mobile part of the spine, the neck. Because of the small base it sits on, the head becomes more like a large ball sitting precariously on a seal’s nose. The numerous neck muscles that hold your head up all work together to keep your head sitting correctly on top of your shoulders, whether you’re riding a bike, doing crunches, walking or running. However, if you are constantly looking down at your phone, or watching a lot of television, the front neck muscles become weak from being continually stretched forward. When you align the head in an optimal anatomical position, you align the entire upper back, shoulder girdle and ribcage.

There are two common muscle imbalances in the head and neck. One is your head being too far forward, (forward head) and the second one is excessive cervical lordosis, when the muscles in the back of the neck are chronically shortened. For example, suppose you are watching a great movie on a big screen, and you sit slouching, looking up. Sitting like this causes the position of your neck to arch backward to keep your eyes on the show. This position of holding your head up, with your eyes looking up, is a deviation. You’re slumped. When you later try to correct your posture by tucking your chin, those very muscles and fascia on the back of your neck can feel painful or irritated.

Quick fix: How to tell if your head is too far forward

Here is a quick and easy assessment to see if you have forward head. You can also do this alignment check at any time during the day to see if you are practicing good head carriage and posture.

  • Sit on the edge of a chair. With your index finger, find the part of your cheekbone that protrudes outward most, just below your eye. Gently place your index finger there.
  • With an imaginary line, place your other index finger directly below your top finger, on your collarbone. They should be vertically aligned.
  • If the end of the finger on your cheekbone is ahead, your head is too far forward

Tennis ball rejuvenation

A tennis ball is a great inexpensive tool to help you loosen up tight sore muscles. Lying down, place a tennis ball on one side of your neck, and move around a little to find a sore spot. Once there, try to breath and relax on that particular spot. Do for one minute, every day, on each side of the neck. Click on video to see the exercises: vimeo.com/manage/427520367/general.


Connie Aronson is an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist at the YMCA in Ketchum. Learn more at www.conniearonson.com.

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_2a3367a6-ac2e-11ea-b3ee-d73273a6435f.html

Your feet-why they need extra care

When we walk, our feet and ankles absorb impact and force from above and the ground. Our feet need tender loving care because of this.

During this overwhelming pandemic, walking is like a lifeline. People are walking more than ever. You can use this time to improve your alignment and movement skills, starting with your feet.

When we walk, our feet and ankles absorb impact and force from above and the ground. Our feet need tender loving care because of this. Your feet have 52 bones and over 100 ligaments, with 40 muscles and tendons connecting the muscles to these bones. They all form the foundation of the human body. Having healthy feet and ankles means that they can keep your body balanced and can withstand the pressure of standing and moving. That pressure needs to be evenly distributed throughout the lower legs all the way up to the head.  

The average American walks 3,000 to 4,000 steps a day. When you walk, the pressure on your feet increases by 50 percent, and increases even more during an hour of strenuous exercise, cushioning up to one million pounds of pressure. If the feet and ankles are not functioning optimally, it could create some problems through the entire muscular system.

Other areas of the body will be affected as they shift further out of alignment to try to maintain balance.

Our gait affects the whole body, from the moment your heel hits the ground and your weight is transferred through a system of arches that displace forces. The muscles of your feet and lower leg react as our arches drop and roll with gait. The feet and ankle also must know how to adapt to changes in surfaces, like steps or uneven terrain. If your ankles don’t bend, for example, or your knees roll inward, called pronation, not only is your walking gait off kilter, but the knees, hips, lower and upper back can be affected because of musculoskeletal imbalances.

  1. How do they look?

Take a moment to look at your feet. Notice if your big toes have bunions or calluses, or if that toe has moved towards the other toes, rather than pointing straight ahead. Are your lesser toes curled up and flexed?These conditions are called hammer, claw or mallet toes. Are your arches collapsed? Are your feet turned outward as you stand? All of these checkpoints affect the position of the knee, so you can begin to understand the importance of distributing your weight evenly through your feet.

2. Golf and tennis ball roll.

Give your feet a home massage by rolling a golf ball under your foot for a few minutes every day. This exercise helps rejuvenate the plantar fascia, a broad dense tissue on the underside of your foot, where the muscles of you lower leg attach.

Place a golf ball under your foot, and roll the ball back and forth, until you feel tender or sore spots. Pause on the sore spots, until you feel the sore spot release. If the golf ball is too painful, use a tennis ball. You can also add an active stretch by pulling your toes up while rolling.

Do this myofascia release exercise as you sit watching TV, or by your bed to do first thing in the morning.

3. Toe Stretch.

After you golf or tennis ball roll, stretch the underside of your foot to increase the flexibility of your toes and ankle. Stand barefoot, one foot forward, with your toes pushed up against the wall. Keep the ball of your foot and base of the toes in contact with the floor. Slowly lean in, moving the knee inward. Hold for 10-15 seconds, and repeat.

Take at look at the exercises at

https://vimeo.com/user77012133/review/415371796/a971589693

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_10c8774a-90b1-11ea-8d1c-3b262b6c1d24.html