The magic of muscle and bone mass and brain health

Lifting weights is key to retaining lean muscle mass and keeping your weight down.
Photo-Metro Creative Connection

Hands down, the biggest reason people hire a personal trainer is that they want to be stronger and healthier. To achieve that goal, throughout a lifetime, it is essential that we maintain a vigorous level of physical activity to not only age well and be healthy, but also to keep our bones strong.

Lifting weights, or resistance training, is the key to retaining lean muscle mass and keeping your weight down. Around the time you turn 30, you start to lose as much as 3% to 5% of muscle mass per decade. The rate of decline of an inactive 80-year-old could be as much as 30%.

In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend two or more days per week of moderate-to high-intensity resistance training, using all major muscle groups. Use it or lose is correct, as keeping your muscles strong and flexible after 30 prevents scarpenia, a condition characterized by loss of skeletal muscle mass and function. Scarpenia is a natural part of aging, but muscle loss is largely accelerated by inactivity. For many, as we get older, we tend to move less.

The ACSM’s Physical Activity & Bone Health position stand is a recommendation that adults maintain a relatively high level of weight-bearing physical activity, with no upper age limit. Activities like plyometrics—jumping jacks, for example—and high-intensity resistance training are beneficial ways to increase bone mass, as well as to preserve skeletal integrity and improving balance to prevent falls. Kids that are involved in gymnastics and sports that involve jumping, like soccer and basketball, have a great strength advantage in later life, as their bone mass is maintained into adulthood, the report notes.

The main concept of resistance training is to produce changes that result in various strength adaptations. The 80-year-old mentioned? One set of arm curls, to overload his or her biceps, can result in strength gains in the arm muscles lasting as long as a month! While my job as a trainer is to set up great programs for individuals, consider ways you can start to train, if you haven’t already, with a simple home setup, including weights, elastic bands, medicine balls, or a TRX.

Remember when?

There is good reason to stick with your routine. Physical activity is a powerful intervention to reduce anxiety and depression during a pandemic. Those of us who stayed or became active during pandemic lockdowns were less likely to experience subjective memory decline. A recent study in Preventative Medicine looked at the effect of physical activity on subjective memory decline before and during social distancing. One in three participants experienced feelings of memory decline when socially distanced, however the active participants did not.

Muscles knock back inflammation

Besides brain health, regular exercise promotes a healthy immune system. Muscles that you use doing squats, arm curls or running down a trail have an innate ability to reduce inflammation. Lately, scientists studied lab-grown engineered human muscles to examine the role of a pro-inflammatory molecule, interferon gamma, which breaks down muscle. Typically, chronic inflammatory diseases break down muscle. The lead author of the study, Zhaowei Chen, a postdoctoral researcher in biomedical engineering, found that when exercising, the muscle cells themselves are a powerful shield and can directly counter interferon gamma, the pro-inflammatory molecule, as well as protecting other tissues and cells.

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_b2d26462-11af-11ec-b04a-23ef35ce0778.html

Do what you can

Staying physically active may be more important now more than ever. Photo SQNSport

Motivation comes in many forms. When it comes to why you do or don’t stick to an exercise program, research shows that physical exercise that focuses on enjoyment, competence, and social interaction leads to long-lasting exercise engagement.

Dr. Kenneth Cooper, pioneer of preventative medicine at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, coined the term “aerobics” in 1968. Now 90 years old and still practicing medicine daily, he’ll tell you that about 76% of diseases in the US today are a result of our lifestyle. Numerous reports have emphasized that physical inactivity is a leading cause of death worldwide. It’s all well documented: It’s not our heredity; it’s our lifestyle, Cooper says. Changing our behavior and concentrating on lifestyle changes will get us the results we want. Especially now, during a pandemic, staying physically active may be more important than ever.

So how do we pivot to solutions and actions that can promote our health and well-being? Two drivers of behavior can maximize your success.

The first is a meaningful, personally tailored rationale. What do you really care about? For example, if family means the entire world to you, a meaningful rationale would be to recognize that exercising allows you to be the healthiest version of yourself for those that you love the most.

The second—particularly on the days that you weren’t up to it but decide to exercise anyway—is finding pleasure and satisfaction in the experience of exercising. These are integrated and intrinsic behavior drivers that lead to your success for long lasting health. They become a choice, not a chore. Make time you spent getting some exercise pleasurable and empowering.

There is much good being done worldwide of our efforts to move more and sit less. In a recent study published in the Lancet Global Health, researchers examined data from 168 countries to observe evidence supporting the advantages of healthy behaviors, including being physically active. The scientists found that almost four million lives were saved from an early death.

Equally important is to realize that the most common characteristics of the world’s longest living populations. Sardinians, Adventists and Okinawans all include daily walks. At the same time, The American College of Sports Medicine suggests that a prescription to walk 30 minutes per day could be one of the most important prescriptions a patient could receive.

We should all move our bodies more in some form every day, now more than ever. The pandemic crisis has made us aware that we can change, as our attitudes and needs continue to adapt to the new normal. Boosting our defense mechanisms through exercise is a simple way to keep our immune system healthy. Your immune system is a network of tissues, cells and organs that work together to attack foreign invaders and neutralize infection and disease. Your body identifies any threat and strategizes how to neutralize or destroy it. Every walk, hike or daily activity you do helps increase the rate at which an army of immune cells can defend against invaders and increase the odds of your immune system protecting you from harm.

It’s been said that “Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Wishing is not enough; we must do.” My hope is that you do.

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_a25e1c98-a3a5-11eb-a3e2-87a3281f3fd7.html

Say goodbye to sore muscles with foam rolling and a tennis ball

Rolling, or myofacial release is a simple therapy to help you stretch and get rid of knots in your muscles.

Should you be foam rolling?  If you’ve never noticed or heard of them, they are 3- foot long white or colored foam rolls, typically in gyms near the stretching area. And if you also noticed tennis balls being used by trainers and regulars, you might want to give them a try. Rolling, or myofacial release is a simple therapy to help you stretch and get rid of knots in your muscles. It relieves and releases adhesions within the fascia. Akin to massage and trigger -point therapy, the manual pressure of rolling rejuvenates hard working muscles and soft tissue. If your muscles hurt after a hard day of skiing, or have overuse patterns, myofascia-release helps stretch, increase blood blow and increase range of motion to muscle.

Fascia is the connective tissue that covers all muscle. Injury, inactivity, disease or inflammation contributes to a loss of elasticity, resulting in unwanted fibrous adhesions. In other words, tight, sore muscles. Physiotherapists or massage therapists typically spend about 45 percent of their time doing massage therapy on these areas to stretch tight muscles and fascia, loosen scar tissue, and relieve muscle spasms. The good news is that in as little as two minutes, foam or tennis ball rolling can enhance joint range of motion, which is important for healthy movement, particularly if you never stretch. 

1. First you roll 

Starting your training or competition with foam rolling helps get your muscles warmed up, as it improves your range of motion. Unlike static stretching at the beginning of a workout, which research shows can diminishes performance, foam rolling doesn’t have any drawbacks. In a recent study participants improved their range of motion significantly after foam rolling compared to static and dynamic stretching.

Begin by applying sustained pressure on a roller or ball with your body weight. You can roll any muscle, but hip flexors, hamstrings, calves, quadriceps, and the upper back are typically the tightest areas. Use your own body weight in varying positions. The sustained pressure helps isolate soft tissue areas and release fascial adhesions, similar to a deep massage. What’s more is that the friction between the fascia and the foam roller warms the fascia, making it more fluid and elastic. 

2. Stretch and strengthen afterwards

After spending a few minutes rolling, it is important to actively stretch the area you just rolled. Let’s say that you just finished rolling your calf muscle, because it’s tight from skiing. Getting up from the ground and performing a standing calf stretch will further stretch the muscles you just rolled, bringing it back to it’s resting length. Doing so, you’ve just helped fixed shortened, tight muscles into lengthened proper functioning muscles. The final step in a well-rounded corrective protocol would be to do some calf exercises, like standing heel raises, to strengthen all the calf muscles. 

3. Don’t run for the shower yet 

You might also consider using a roller or tennis ball after demanding exercise. All that hard work creates muscle damage. Recent studies showed participants improved range of motion in the knee joint and hips compared to control groups.

And lastly, there is evidence that foam rolling can also help you reduce fatigue post-exercise and possibly improve long-term performance.

Click on link to see tennis ball rolling –

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The Dead Bug, aka Happy Baby, is a core move you should be doing

The Dead Bug helps train the core muscles to be strong and enhance spinal stability.

Obtaining a strong core can be surprisingly easy. Even better, there are excellent exercises that you can do lying on your back, using a simple band as a progression. One of the best exercises taught by strength and team coaches, yoga teachers, Pilates instructors and the sports medicine community is the Dead Bug, also known as Happy Baby. The base move is an isometric bracing action, as if you’re readying to take a punch to the belly, which promotes core stability and strength in your torso. Progressions or regressions are then tailored to your abilities and fitness level.

In Dead Bug, the reciprocal arm and leg patterns, like a dying bug on the ground, resemble motor skills like walking, running and swimming. (Or a happy baby lying in a crib, arms and legs akimbo)

The key muscles you work during the Dead Bug primarily focus on the core musculature, the powerhouse of the body. Picture the muscles forming its structure of floor, walls and ceiling. This includes the erector spinae, the deep low back muscle known as multifidus, hip adductors, rectus abdominus and the internal and external obliques. Exercises like this enhance spinal stability by training the deep postural muscles that protect you while you play the sports that you enjoy. Core stability, or trunk stiffness, allows you to transfer force to your limbs so that you throw, strike, kick, push, swing or run better. In other words, all motions are generated from the core and are translated to the extremities.

Our nervous system prefers to move with the most efficiency at all times. If your core is weak, most likely your brain will want to make it easy for you, and compensate. But over time, the compensation will create greater degrees of wear and tear. For example, slouching and leaning on handles on a stair climber or treadmill will make it much easier. But the wear and tear is more likely to be around your neck and shoulders. This can result in even worse posture, as a weak core encourages slumping, which tips you forward and off balance.

It’s often thought that repetitive flexion and extension exercise, like the good old sit-up, are a good way to train the core. But these muscles are rarely used in this way because they are more often used to brace while stopping motion. Researchers found that disc injuries can develop through even low-compressive forces with excessive bending and extending. An isometric exercise like the Dead Bug helps train the core muscles to brace under heavy loads, which helps stabilize the spine and in turn prevents buckling.

Dead Bug/Happy Baby

Start by lying on your back. Your spine should not be arched or flattened. Draw the abdominals in to assume the neutral position.

Reach your arms up. Lift your legs off the floor, holding a 90-degree angle at your hips and knees.

Move your arms back and forth (like a baby reaching up to play with a mobile) Duration: 30 seconds. Progression: Extend your arms and legs towards the floor, creating longer levers to increase the level of difficulty. Click on the video to see more progressions: vimeo.com/389162099.


https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_9d47b746-490b-11ea-8988-9fc27539e035.html

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

Modernize your workout. Lose a few old popular exercises

Modernize your workout with safe new moves

You may already lift weights, but is your workout working? What if you modernize a few moves? With the growing prevalence of chronic and overuse injuries, particularly in the middle- age population, you might be ready for safer alternative exercises. In 2013, there were more than 10 million doctor’s office visits for both lower back pain and shoulder symptoms. The shoulder joint and the back are two important areas where the combination of previous injuries and inappropriate exercises can initiate injury, damage soft tissue or exacerbate an existing injury. Behind-the-neck pulldowns and loaded lateral flexion (e.g. dumbbell side bends), once fitness standards, are two examples. Choosing newer, evidence-based alternative exercises can save you time visiting doctors and physical therapists and help you reap better training results.

Be kind to your shoulders

    A traditional exercise is behind-the-neck pulldowns. Forget your old high school training and don’t put the shoulder and cervical spine at risk of injury. It is estimated that up to 70 percent of people have a shoulder injury in their lifetime. Shoulders need the strength and flexibility that allow you to reach, hold, lift, carry, press and pull, pretty much what you do daily. It’s the most movable joint, and very shallow at that. The shoulder joint is a ball-and-socket joint, with the ball—the head of the upper arm—attaching into a small shallow socket (glenoid fossa), giving the joint inherent instability, often described as a golf ball sitting on a tee. The shoulder is also held together with an elaborate system of muscles, tendons and ligaments, including the rotator cuff muscles, which stabilize the joint during all the pushing and pulling activities that you do. Pulling a bar down behind your neck can lead to rotator cuff instability, suprascapular neuropathy and an increased risk of anterior capsule instability.

The same is true of behind-the-neck shoulder presses, with their risk of repetitive stresses on the joint because of the extreme range of motion. Bringing weights down behind the cervical spine causes excessive forward head tilt, or flexion, and has risk, as it could lead to transient upper-extremity paralysis or transient nerve injury. Aim for having your arms 30 degrees in front of you to allow your weights to be positioned in your body’s center of gravity throughout the lifts instead. You’ll have a better mechanical advantage, and better sports specificity.

Best abs ever

    What is the right workout that will preserve your back instead of destroying it? Dr. Stuart McGill, professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo, thinks that often the causes of back troubles are replicated in the exercises. When it comes to core work, often the public and even personal trainers focus on moves like sit-ups, often loaded with weight, or back hyperextension called ” Superman,” an extended posture that results in intervertebral disk loading. Similar exercises such as Pilates roll-ups or Russian twists, for strong abs, says McGill in his book “Back Mechanic,” put unnecessary loads, compression and strain on the discs. The loaded dumbbell side bend, for example, increases the likelihood of disc herniation.

  Planks and exercises like the framer’s carry improve core stiffness and trunk endurance—much better predictors of low back health. Super stiffness builds whole body stability, while sparing the joints. Splitting wood with an axe is an example that McGill uses as an analogy:  At the instant of impact, a total body “stiffness” is generated by a rapid contraction of all your core muscles, and spares your back. Check out link for safe alternative exercises~ /vimeo.com/251402324
Published in the Idaho Mt. Express January 19, 2018.

Is the 7-Minute Workout as good as it sounds?

When it comes to regular exercise, is 7 minutes all you need?  The Scientifically Proven 7- Minute Workout is a widely popular smartphone app, claims that you will lose weight, improves cardiovascular function, and has over 10 million downloads. The combination of only seven minutes and scientifically proven sounds pretty great when the number one reason people don’t exercise is lack of time.  To be healthy, you have to get your heart pumping through daily exercise, eating well, and doing things that promote your well being. By doing so, aside from genetics and age, you can save or extend your life. Yet the growing prevalence of preventable chronic disease in the United States and worldwide is alarming.  In the United States, 50 % of adults suffer from at least one chronic disease, and 48 percent of deaths can be attributed to heart disease and cancer. What we all have as a tool to promote wellness is cardiovascular exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine guidelines recommend 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every day, strength training exercises two to three days a week, and a flexibility regime at least two times a week. But can 7 minutes work?

The 7 minute program is a combination of twelve 30-second bouts consisting of these exercises in the following order: jumping jacks, wall sit, push-ups, abdominal crunches, step-ups onto chair, squats, triceps dips on chair, planks, high knees, lunges, push-up with rotation, and side planks. A 10-second rest follows each exercise bout.  Tough, yes, but you can obtain substantial changes in heart rate, oxygen uptake, and blood lipid levels.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Sports and Conditioning, researchers found that big bursts of activity, like jumping jacks and wall sits, both part of the 7 minute workout, require near-maximal effort, and pass the guideline recommendations as important moderate-exercise.

Because lack of time is one of the most common barriers to exercise, it isn’t surprising that time-efficient and simple programs are popular. Bodyweight training and high-intensity interval training is the second and third top fitness trends in 2016, respectively, behind wearable technology.  High- intensity interval training, or HIIT, consists of short bursts of all-out exercise interspersed with brief recovery periods. A review of 28 studies on healthy adults show that this type of training results in superior increases in maximal oxygen uptake than moderate-intensity exercise.  Typically, HIIT is used in cycling, running or treadmill workouts, and supervised by a trained instructor. In a 10 -week program of group-based, instructor-led HIIT cycling, VO2 max improved, as well as insulin sensitivity and improved blood lipid profiles.

The question researchers are asking is that is it really “scientifically proven”? Could you reproduce that intensity, by yourself, doing jumping jacks and triceps dips for example, at home, and get the same results as from HIIT training?  It’s not, as the gains aren’t as great as true HIIT, but results are encouraging.  One study of healthy individuals doing 6 weeks of the 7-minute workout, daily, helped lower body fat and waist circumference.  Another study of active men and women showed that 24 sessions of 7 minutes led to significant increases in muscle endurance, yet no change in body fat or VO2 max.

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning study concludes that this is a great workout to do at home, without special equipment and obtain substantial changes in heart rate, oxygen uptake, and blood lipid levels. If you’re timed pressed, certainly 7 intense minutes is better than nothing at all. Seven can be your lucky number.

http://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/is-the–minute-workout-as-good-as-it-sounds/article_67280aba-b4ea-11e7-afbf-3b5a5e42d7ee.html

Are fitness trackers motivating ?

Fitness trackers can be a good tool for helping you move more.

The Fitbit is sleek and novel, as are many of the new fitness trackers and apps, such as the Adidas or Human App, with gorgeous images, charts, and graphics. What’s not to like being called a hero for walking 30 minutes? Graphs and feedback in fitness trackers are fun and motivational. This year, activity trackers and wearable’s retained their number one ranking by the American College of Sports Medicine’s Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends, and an estimated 485 million wearable devices will be in the market by 2018. But do they really make a difference in terms of long-term lifestyle change?

As with any new trend, going way back to Jane Fonda workout videos, Cooper Aerobics, Jim Fixx and running, or today’s P90X, the initial novelty wears off. Dr. Michelle Segar, Ph.D., a motivational scientist at the University of Michigan’s Sport, Health, and Activity Research Center says that they are still just tools, not the holy grail of motivation. Yes, some people love graphs and charts, but it is your relationship with physical activity that counts in the long run. Is exercise a chore, or a gift?

Studies are mixed and ongoing in showing how effective tracking apps are to help people lose weight. Research shows that only some types of trackers can help. For instance, a study of inactive postmenopausal women found that a standard pedometer didn’t help increase their activity, while the Fitbit did. Another study published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology showed participants increased their physical activity by 16 minutes per week. However, by 6 months, 40% of the participants stopped wearing their devices, and at the year’s end, only 10 % of them were still wearing them.

The Right Why

If only a small percentage of people wear trackers after a year, where is the missing motivational link? Human nature dictates that we all want to have positive experiences and ownership of our behavior. Is your underlying reason why you would want to include more exercise is because your doctor said so, or societal pressures to be thin? When I set up exercise programs for new clients, I always ask what is the specific number one goal that they want to achieve. Your reason for initiating a behavior change has to be compelling enough that you would want it in your life. Feel better. Have more energy. Be in a better mood. All these reasons have a domino effect and can positively influence your motivation, says Dr. Segar. In her book No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness, Dr. Segar points out that physical activity that is enjoyable and makes people feel good right now is more motivating than a noble far-off goal such as “ better health “. When you focus on an immediate pleasure, like an evening walk around your neighborhood, moving more then becomes a gift. This is what Dr. Segar calls the right why.

When you enjoy something and do it willingly, you are highly motivated, autonomous. Within this theory, you’ve created a sense of ownership. Regarding exercising, you also develop a sense of self-care. The rewards are instant- perhaps your headache is gone, or feel better for doing some stretching. By taking these little steps, you reinforce the rewards of being more active. The brain begins to associate sweat with a surge of endorphins- those feel-good chemicals. Keep using your tracker. It’s a good partnership for staying motivated.

Published in the Idaho Mountain Express July 25, 2017

http://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_5421f864-7312-11e7-afcb-dff831782410.html