Fitness Resources

Month: March 2017

Improve Stability and Mobility with These Beginner Core Exercises

Fit Life

January 20, 2016

If you are beginning an exercise program, you have probably heard that developing core strength is important. Although true, your goal at the start of an exercise program should be to reestablish stability and mobility in your body, which begins at the center of mass and the core. Thus, you want to develop stabilization throughout the core and spinal column muscles and then progress to training the core by mobilizing the limbs and incorporating movement.

Following are two phases of core exercises. The first trains stability while the second phase focuses on mobility. It is best to develop stability before progressing to mobility. Start by performing each exercise for 20 seconds and gradually increase to 30 or more seconds as your fitness level improves. If the exercise involves movement, start with eight repetitions and progress to 12 as your core strength improves. Finally, start with two sets and eventually increase to three sets of each exercise.

Stability

Core Bracing

This exercise teaches you how to stabilize your core throughout the exercises that follow. Stand tall with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms by your sides with palms facing forward. Contract the abdominal muscles for 10 seconds and continue to breathe deeply. You can progress this exercise by bracing the core and slowly lifting your right leg to 90 degrees in front of the body. Continue to alternate. The goal is to brace the core so that you are only moving the hip joint. You do not want to compensate with the torso or swing the leg with momentum. The slower the movement, the deeper you will brace the core.

Bird Dog

Assume an all-fours position, with hands shoulder-width apart and knees hip-distance apart. Brace the core and extend your right leg behind you. Keep the foot level with the hip. Next, extend your left arm forward with the thumb facing upward. Keep the hand level with the shoulder. Hold and repeat on the opposite side.

Plank

Assume an all-fours position, with hands shoulder-width apart and knees hip-distance apart. Extend the legs and place your weight on the balls of the feet. Keep the core braced and breathe deeply. To make the plank easier, keep the feet hip-distance apart; place the feet together to make the move more challenging.

Hip Bridge

Lie on your back and place the feet onto the floor, hip-distance apart. Keep the arms by your sides with palms facing the floor. Lift the hips upward to feel the contraction into the hamstrings, glutes and lower back. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and slowly release back to the floor, one vertebrae at a time.

Side Plank

Lie on your right side and place your right forearm on the floor. Bend the right knee to 90 degrees and lift the hips off the ground. Reach the left arm above the shoulder, with the palm facing forward.  Keep the right shoulder blade “down” and away from the ear. Hold and repeat on the other side.

Supine Toe Taps

Lie on your back and bend the knees 90 degrees. Activate and brace the core. Exhale and, while keeping the right knee at 90 degrees, lower the leg to “tap” toward the floor. Return to center and switch to the other leg. Alternate legs while maintaining core stability. Don’t let the spine pop on and off the floor.

Mobility

Bird Dog With Elbow to Knee

Assume an all-fours position, with hands shoulder-width apart and knees hip-distance apart. Brace the core and extend your right leg behind you. Keep the foot level with the hip. Next, extend your left arm forward with the thumb facing upward. Keep the hand level with the shoulder. Draw the left elbow and the right knee toward each other (most likely they will not touch) and then extend to the starting position. Complete one set on the first side and repeat on the opposite side.

Plank With Knee Drive

Assume an all-fours position, with hands shoulder-width apart and knees hip-distance apart. Extend the legs and place your weight on the balls of the feet. Keep the core braced and breathe deeply. Slowly, draw the right knee in toward the chest and release the foot back to the starting position. Alternate between driving the right and then the left knee forward.

Moving Hip Bridge

Lie on your back and place the feet onto the floor, hip-distance apart. Keep the arms by your sides with palms facing the floor. Lift the hips upward to feel the contraction into the hamstrings, glutes and lower back. Hold for three seconds and slowly release the spine and hips back to the floor. Continue lifting and lowering for your set.

Side Plank with Rotation

Lie on your right side and place your right forearm on the floor. Bend the right knee to 90 degrees and lift the hips off the ground. Reach the left arm above the shoulder, with the palm facing forward.  Keep the right shoulder blade “down” and away from the ear. Rotate your ribcage toward the floor and draw the left arm under the ribs. Rotate back to center and extend the left arm. Continue your set and switch sides.

Supine Leg Extension

Lie on your back and bend the knees 90 degrees. Activate and brace the core. Exhale and push your right foot “away” to extend the right leg. Return to center and switch to the other leg. Alternate legs while maintaining core stability; don’t let the spine to pop on and off the floor.

Elizabeth Kovar

Elizabeth Kovar, MA, has studied yoga in five different countries. Her master’s thesis, “Creating Yoga Programs for People with Movement Disabilities,” was implemented on a 12-week study for people with Stage 1-2 Parkinson’s disease. Based in Seattle, she serves as fitness coordinator at a local recreation center.

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Bio – Intervention — Making Your Health Span Match Your Life Span by Mark Mayes

Ponce de León supposedly searched for it in the New World. Herodotus thought it might be near Ethiopia. People have sought a fountain of youth for centuries. Disappointed by the fruitless search for a miraculous pool that could rejuvenate them, people turned instead to elixirs, creams, and cell-rejuvenating drugs—anything that offered glimmer of hope for retaining youth. No one yet has discovered a magic formula that can guarantee a never-ending life span. Diet and exercise researchers, however, have made significant progress discovering ways to extend one’s health span and, thereby, one’s life span.

 

William Evans, Ph.D. and other researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University (HNRCA) have identified ten biomarkers that may slow down the aging process. “Advanced age is not a static, irreversible biological condition of unwavering decrepitude,” Dr. Evans says. “Rather, it’s a dynamic state that, in most people, can be changed for the better no matter how many years they’ve lived or neglected their body in the past” (14–15). Evans and his colleagues at the HNRCA have outlined the following ten biomarkers of vitality that they believe we can alter through exercise and proper nutrition: muscle mass, strength, basal metabolic rate, body fat percentage, aerobic capacity, cholesterol/HDL ratio, blood/sugar tolerance, blood pressure, bone density and regulation of internal body temperature.

Vital to extending one’s health span, according to Evans, is to concentrate on building muscle while decreasing fat. “Losing weight is the wrong goal,” he points out. “You should forget about your weight and, instead, concentrate on shedding fat and gaining muscle”. One might ask in reply, “I’m 65 years old, and I weigh much the same as I did when I was 21. How would increasing my muscle mass improve or extend my life?” As we get older, we lose muscle tissue at a rate of about 6.6 pounds per decade, and we tend to replace this lost muscle tissue with fat.

Muscle mass, Evans first biomarker, is a key component to other biological functions and in some way, affects the other nine biomarkers. A strong and toned musculature contributes to overall well-being, especially for older adults. Evans and other researchers have found that an increase in musculature:

  • increases the body’s metabolism, thus enabling one to burn more calories, which, in turn, helps decrease body fat.
  • increases one’s aerobic capacity because denser muscles require additional oxygen; an increased aerobic capacity allows one to be more active.
  • increases the body’s ability to utilize insulin, which decreases the chance of developing diabetes later in life.
  • helps one maintain a high level of HDL cholesterol— “good cholesterol”—in the blood.
  • adds to bone density because strength training and other exercises that increase musculature also stress bones, causing them to become harder.

 

Many researchers believe that old age is not a time to relax and become idle. Many of the diseases and much of the deterioration that we see in our bodies during our senior years can be prevented or mitigated through exercise. Improvements in Evans’s second biomarker, strength, provide abundant examples.

Among many misconceptions concerning the bodies of older adults are that they cannot improve their strength or that they should not stress their muscles the way that a younger person does. Studies reveal that between the ages of 20 and 70, we lose almost 30 percent of our muscle cells due to inactivity. But research at Tufts has shown that a decline in muscle strength and size is not inevitable. Through strength training, a 70-year-old male could regain the strength of a 20-year-old sedentary male.

 

 

Another misconception is that with old age comes an increased likelihood of falling. Evans, however, has demonstrated that the increased incidence of falls in seniors is caused by a decrease in muscle tissue and strength in the legs. With the decrease in muscle mass the ability to balance and stabilize the body also decreases.  Falling in one’s senior years is not due to age but rather to a sedentary lifestyle and a lack of exercise!

 

Our body’s ability to shed fat and burn calories at rest is called basal metabolic rate (BMR), Evans’ third biomarker. BRM is an indicator of how efficiently our bodies break down tissue and release energy so we can perform daily functions. However, if we take in more fuel (calories) than our bodies can use given our BMR, those calories are stored as fat. After age 20, our BMR drops by about two percent every decade. But studies have shown that no matter what our age, through exercise and increased muscle mass we can stop this decline and even restore our BMR and our ability to burn calories.The fourth biomarker, percentage of body fat, is directly related to increased disease in older individuals. Excess body fat places an added stress on the heart and increases the chance of stroke and diabetes. Seniors have the ability to lose fat weight—the same as a younger person—through diet and exercise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aerobic capacity is Evans’ fifth biomarker. It describes the body’s ability to move large amounts of oxygen through the bloodstream to tissue in a given amount of time, a process that depends on a good cardiopulmonary system—the heart, lungs, and circulatory mechanisms. It is true that aerobic capacity declines 30 to 40 percent by age 65. However, the decline is less pronounced in individuals who exercise regularly. Evans believes that inactivity in seniors reduces the muscles’ oxidative capacity and causes the muscular fatigue that many aging people experience. Exercise physiologists have shown that seniors who start to exercise make greater improvements to their aerobic capacity than younger adults. Certainly, older adults who have been inactive and then begin to exercise have much more room to improve, but it’s important to note that drastic improvements to aerobic capacity can be made even in advancing years.

 

 

 

 

 

Everything in the supermarket these days seems to claim to be cholesterol-free; cholesterol is Evans sixth biomarker, but what is it? Cholesterol is a fatty substance produced by the body that is a necessary component in cell membranes and certain sex hormones. It circulates in the bloodstream and is associated with a protein called lipoprotein. There are several types of cholesterol that we need to be concerned with: HDL, LDL, and VLDL. HDL is known as “good cholesterol” because it helps remove plaque or LDL from the arteries. LDL and VLDL are known as “bad cholesterol” because in excess, they can cause a narrowing of blood vessels. As with the other biomarkers, several factors influence our control over cholesterol: genetic make-up, a lack of exercise, obesity, and diet. All but one of these components can be altered through lifestyle changes—we have little control over genetics.

If the body produces too much cholesterol or if one’s diet is high in cholesterol, lipoproteins can start to collect in the body tissue. “Atherosclerosis” is a condition in which excess lipoproteins collect in the blood vessels, and it can eventually develop into heart disease and other circulatory problems. Since the body produces its own cholesterol, it is NOT important that we include it in our diet, but we should be concerned about consuming foods with too much of it. LDL and VLDL levels can be lowered through changes to our diet, but according to the latest studies, HDL can only be increased by lowering body fat and through exercise.

 

 

The body’s ability to control blood sugar is the seventh biomarker. With advancing age, the body’s ability to take up and utilize blood sugar decreases. This, in turn, causes the sugar level in our blood to rise, which can develop into mature-onset diabetes, also known as “type 2 diabetes.” By age 70, 20 percent of men and 30 percent of women have an abnormally high blood sugar level. Researchers have found that a decline in sugar tolerance is due to a decrease in the activity level of older adults, an increase in body fat and reduced muscle mass, which leads to a reduction in the body’s ability to absorb insulin. The body produces insulin to regulate the level of sugar in the blood; insulin causes the muscles to use the sugar for energy. The bodies of older adults cannot absorb insulin as readily because their muscle mass has been reduced as they have aged. This lack of muscle mass also continues the cycle of fat storage; excess sugar in the blood that is not used over time is converted to body fat. Age, however, has been shown NOT to decrease one’s ability to influence blood sugar.

Blood pressure is Evans’ eighth biomarker. Increased blood pressure is caused primarily by obesity; smoking; a high-fat, high-salt diet and a lack of exercise. Heredity and race do have some effect on blood pressure, but even considering risk factors beyond our control, blood pressure can be controlled with medication, diet and exercise. High blood pressure, or hypertension, does not have to be a limiting factor for the older person. Scientists at Copper’s Clinic for Aerobic Research in Dallas found that people who maintained their fitness level had a 34 percent lower risk of developing hypertension.

 

 

 

 

Bone density, the ninth biomarker, is, in part, affected by hormonal changes in women, poor eating habits, deficient calcium absorption and a sedentary lifestyle. Research has shown that an individual’s bone loss is about one percent per year. “Osteoporosis” is a substantial bone loss that increases the risk of bone fractures. Osteoporosis is associated with growing old, but, Evans argues, “Osteoporosis is not a necessary or normal component of aging”. The loss of bone density can be influenced by diet and exercise. Researchers at Tufts found that women who exercise have a higher level of Vitamin D, which aids in the absorption of calcium. They also found that weight-bearing exercises that continually apply stress to the bone cause the bone to become harder. Research to date has not concluded that an increase in calcium intake prevents or slows the effects of bone loss. Tufts researchers combined high-calcium intake with exercise in their study and found that only exercise affected bone loss.

 

Biomarker ten is the body’s ability to regulate its internal temperature. The body has its own built-in thermostat, but the effects of aging can impair this control mechanism. In a typical older adult, cardiac output, including blood flow to the skin, is reduced. This diminished blood flow to the skin makes sweating harder for the older person’s body because blood flow brings heat to the skin, causing the body to sweat and release that heat. When the body cannot sweat, it cannot release heat as effectively, so it’s internal temperature rises. On the other hand, shivering, which is the body’s way to produce heat, is also decreased in older adults—primarily due to a loss in muscle mass. An inability to shiver makes it more difficult for an older person’s body to raise its internal temperature.The older adult who stay in shape is better equipped to keep his or her body’s internal temperature at a safe level through increased blood flow to the skin and through an improved BMR.

Unfortunately for us, Herodotus and Ponce de León’s searches were in vain.There is no magic formula to slow the aging process. The latest research shows, however, that it is possible to close the gap between one’s health span and one’s life span through regular exercise and proper nutrition. Dr. Evans’ ten biomarkers map it all out for us.

Mark Mayes founded Fitness Resources in 1991 and has over 30 years in the fitness industry. He is certified Exercise Physiologist by the (ACSM) American College of Sports Medicine  and ACSM Certified  for Seniors. Mayes works with individuals who wish to improve their health and fitness levels.

 

Reference: William Evans, Ph. D., and Irwin H. Rosenberg, M.D., Biomarkers: The 10 Determinates of Aging You Can Control, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991).

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Fat: Friend or Foe? And How Much Should You Eat?

ACE Fit Life

Fat: Friend or Foe? And How Much Should You Eat?

February 23, 2017

fats

For years we were told that eating fat would make us fat and increase our risk for heart disease. But now we’re told that the old recommendations were incorrect and we should be eating fat with every meal. So, who’s right? Well, it’s not a cut-and-dry answer. Let’s separate the fat facts from fiction to figure out how much each of us really should be eating.

In the late 1970s, there was a spike in sudden death from heart attacks and new legislation was passed creating the first set of dietary guidelines for Americans. We were told to decrease our intake of fat because fat increased cholesterol levels, which would increase the risk of a heart attack. As a result, the 1980s and 1990s saw the boom of the “fat-free” movement, and fat-free cookies, cakes and crackers flooded the market shelves. Pasta, rice, pretzels and bread became the focus of the diet because they contained no fat. People shunned olive oil, butter, nuts and avocados because they were high-fat foods. But instead of lower rates of heart disease, we saw an increase in obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. How could this happen?

High-carbohydrate diets, especially carbohydrates from processed foods, cause an increase in insulin production that can lead to fat storage and inflammation. Numerous studies over the past two decades that have compared high-fat/low-carb diets with low-fat/high-carb diets have consistently found that lower-carb/higher-fat diets promoted more weight loss and better lipid profile numbers. Population studies of people who consume higher-fat diets, such as the Mediterranean and France (French Paradox) approaches to eating, as well as numerous tropical regions, have shown lower rates of heart disease, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease. These diets also are high in fruits and vegetables and have little-to-no processed food.

FUNCTIONS AND BENEFITS OF FAT

Fat is one of three macronutrients (protein and carbohydrates are the other two). All fat contains 9 calories per gram, making it very energy-dense. Fat has many important functions in the body, including:

  • Energy
  • Hormone production – sex hormones, steroid, and cholesterol
  • Brain function and mood
  • Absorption of fat-soluble vitamins – vitamins A, D, E and K
  • Flavor – fat carries flavor and provides mouth-feel that improves meal satisfaction
  • Satiety – fat takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, so you feel fuller for longer

TYPES OF FAT

Fat can be divided into different types based on their chemical structure. Most foods contain a combination of these different fats, with one being the predominant type.

MONOUNSATURATED FATS (MUFAs)

Monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and can hold up well under high temperatures. Found commonly in avocados, olive oil and almonds, MUFAs get a big “thumbs up,” as numerous studies have linked diets high in MUFAs with reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes.

POYLUNSATURATED FATS (PUFA)

Also liquid at room temperature, PUFAs are a large category of fats that are better understood when further split into two groups: omega-3s and omega-6s.

OMEGA-3 fats are known to be anti-inflammatory and associated with lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression and obesity. Foods rich in omega-3s include wild Alaskan salmon, mackerel, sardines anchovies, herring, chia, flax and walnuts. The two important forms of omega-3s are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and are found in fatty fish. Plant forms of omega-3s contain ALA (alpha linoleic acid), which has to be converted to EPA and DHA in the body. Unfortunately, this conversion is a slow process, but even so, plant-rich omega-3s, such as chia and flax seed, are high in fiber, lignans (a cancer-reducing type of fiber) and protein and should be consumed regularly.

OMEGA-6 fats are found widely in nut and seed oils and many processed foods commonly eaten in a Western diet. These fats can become pro-inflammatory when consumed in excess (as in a typical diet) and when omega-3 intake is low. The ideal ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s in the diet is 1:1 to 1:4. However, the standard American diet (SAD) has a ratio of 1:20 or greater! With a diet like this, it’s no wonder that chronic systemic inflammation plagues so many people.

SATURATED FATS

Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and stable at high temperatures. Found in foods such as butter and lard, saturated fats can raise LDL (“bad” cholesterol”) but also raise HDL (“good” cholesterol). Once thought to be a major cause of increasing one’s risk for heart disease, saturated fats are now considered neutral in terms of their impact on health. Coconut oil, which is a saturated fat and high in medium chain triglycerides (MCT), is favored for its heart and brain benefits.

TRANS FATS

Although some trans fats occur naturally in dairy and other animal food, most are artificially produced and can be identified on a food label by the words, “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.” Trans fats are commonly found in processed foods because they can help extend the shelf life of food. These fats are the most dangerous to consume as they increase inflammation, cause multiple alterations in lipid levels, affect arterial function, increase insulin resistance and promote excess belly fat. There is no recommended level for trans fats and should be avoided.

SO HOW MUCH FAT SHOULD YOU EAT?

More important than quantity is the quality of fats you consume. Adding MUFAs, omega-3 PUFAs and/or MCT-rich coconut oil to every meal will ensure that you are getting enough of the right kinds of fat. Including fat at each meal will help you to feel fuller for longer, balance blood sugar level, and increase your satisfaction with each meal. Cook with virgin coconut or olive oil, add chia or ground flax seeds to smoothies or yogurt, spread mashed avocado on your sprouted grain toast, or snack on a mix of almonds, walnuts and pecans.

There’s no single recommended amount of fat to consume. How much you need depends on your calorie requirements for weight loss, gain, or maintenance as other health conditions you may have. The American Heart Association recommends a diet containing 20-35% of calories from fat. The Mediterranean diet usually averages 35-40% fat. A Ketogenic (low-carb/high-fat) diet clocks in at 50-75% of calories from fat. So many different recommendations can be confusing.

We have found that it takes a little experimentation to determine how much fat works best for each person. Just know, that when you increase fat intake, you need to decrease calories from another macronutrient so that you stay in energy balance to prevent weight gain (unless weight gain is your goal). Usually, we recommend that refined and processed carbohydrates be swapped for healthy fats.

For an idea of how much fat you should consume, we recommend the following calculation:

0.4 x body weight (lbs.) = ______

0.5 x body weight (lbs.) = ______

For example, using this calculation, the recommended fat intake for a 150-pound person is 60-75 grams of fat per day.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Fat is involved in many vital functions in the body and is one of three macronutrients that must be eaten each day for optimal health. Choosing high-quality fats is of primary importance and the total amount of fat you consume ultimately depends on your weight and health goals.

Rock Girl! ContributorTiffani Bachus, R.D.N., and Erin Macdonald, R.D.N., are the co-founders of U Rock Girl!, a website designed to nourish the mind, body and spirit of women of all ages and stages of life. They have just authored the rockin’ breakfast cookbook, No Excuses! 50 Healthy Ways to ROCK Breakfast! available at www.URockGirl.com