Fix your back pain; don’t forget your glutes

Through proper exercise, movement, and posture, you can help low back pain.

Kevin Mullins, a master instructor for Equinox Sports Club in Washington, D.C. understands low-level chronic back pain and found three recurring issues that personal trainers can address with their clients. Excess bodyweight, sedentary lifestyles, and improper exercise selection, are areas a trainer can help a client with, all factors having a correlation to low back pain. It is estimated that over 84 % of the population will experience an episode of LBP, from children to the elderly, at some time during life.

As well, age, stress, occupational factors, lack of flexibility or hyper-mobility, sports, postural habits, and smoking are other contributing factors.

Recovering from low back pain is a long complex road. If you are in pain, but not dealing with any diagnosed or diagnosed medical issue, you fall into the category of mechanical low back pain, or LBP.

Unlike a car, says Dr. McGill, one of the most widely respected spine researchers in the world, where you change one thing and it’s fixed, fixing a back is different. Back pain is more complicated and is much more than just fixing one part. Because, McGill notes, it comes down to cold hard science.

How the  spine functions and it’s relationship the rest of the body is the key to being free of back pain. Through proper exercise, movement, and posture, even disc bulges can be made less painful, and usually pain-free, he notes. 

Of course it’s hard to stick to a program if you are in pain. You lose the very conditioning that could help treat LBP, or even more frustrating, gain unwanted weight.That extra weight is the number one reason clients turn to a trainer, with or without low back pain. Healing starts to occur when you keep the bigger picture in mind; a good diet,adequate sleep, and a matched activity/ training program.

Tip #1 The Big Picture 

A traditional strength training can improve strength and muscle mass. Overall body strength as well as a daily walking regime are important part of a client’s program to become free of back pain.

Tip #2  Bend at the hips, rather than the spine 

There is a direct correlation between posture and pain. You can reduce episodes of back pain by reminding yourself to bend at the hips, which is a ball and socket joint, not the back. The spine does bend, but repeated spine bending, whether it’s picking up a weight in the gym, or swinging a kettlebell, could eventually lead to delaminations in the layers of the discs. Someone swinging a kettlebell, along with their back, instead of stabilizing the spine while doing so, to protect the spine, risks further trauma to an already sensitive back. When you’re performing squats, for example, sink your hips back towards your heels, like sitting onto a low park bench. Keep your eyes forward. Use your hips rather than round your back.

Tip #3  Rethink the core 

To enhance back fitness, you need a strong focus on core strength, as theses muscles play a protective role. The internal and external obliques, transverse and rectus abdominals, and the erector spinae are arranged around the spine and act as guy wires to allow the spine to control movement, bear loads  and facilitate breathing. But all too often you see good athletes and gym members entirely focused on just the rectus abdominis, commonly known as the “6 pack”. If we go back to our car analogy, focusing on only one part won’t solve back pain.

The core musculature extends to the entire body,  from the upper back down to the pelvis, not just the 6 pack.The lats, trapezius, the gluteals, hamstrings, hip flexors and inner and outer thighs all have an impact on the spine. 

Typically what happens with someone experiencing low back pain, is that that pain hasn’t allowed them to adequately train. The outcome is weaker core and gluteal muscles. This is where science comes in.

To see how important the glutes are for strength, try this exercise; Stand on one leg and balance. Then sink your hips back slightly, behind your heel, and see how much more stable standing on one leg feels. This is a great demonstration of the role the gluteals play regarding core strength.

Your progression, with an awareness on good movement patterns, including planks, back rows, squats and bridges, for example, should be aimed at strengthening more and more of your whole body, back to health.

( edited )https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_d44c4e26-d581-11e9-bddf-b7175436d170.html
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Are you doing it right? How to do standing bicep curls

If you needed to work on your balance, standing on one leg, say for 30 seconds, is a good exercise. A good cue would be to imagine your stance leg as a wood post, or that you cement your foot into the ground. Besides helping improve your balance, the muscles of the lower leg play a role in helping you stand on your leg. An exercise like this, standing on one leg, offers a practical carryover to a real-life situation where you just might need to be strong on one leg. A goal of strength training is not only to improve strength, but also to improve function and prevent injury.

The barbell or dumbbell bicep curl is an arm strengthener, common in resistance training. The action involves elbow flexion, or bringing the hands toward the face. Most people stand with their feet side-by-side, or parallel, to perform them. Front-loaded exercises, like the barbell biceps curls, shift the body’s center of gravity forward, outside of your base of support. What typically ends up happening is that most people sway their trunk backward to counter the added weight in front of them, lose their postural control and end up stressing the lumbar spine.

It’s always a good idea to limit compressive forces on the back. Research shows that having weights alongside the body, rather than held out front of the body at shoulder height, is much more spine-friendly.

If you think about daily activities, such as lifting a big UPS package, or carrying something in front of you, most people would lift or stand in a staggered stance, as it is more stable.  As training is meant to improve function, it makes sense to train in positions that mimic real life, not just a single muscle.

As we age, it becomes even more important to train not just muscle, but movement. Countering muscle disuse through resistance training is a powerful intervention to combat the loss of muscle strength and muscle mass. Independence, mobility, psychological well-being and healthy life expectancy are all benefits.

Lifting groceries or a basket of laundry requires not only strength and mobility, but also good postural control, much like the front-loaded bicep curl. What foot position would give you a larger base of support so you don’t fall? What foot position would give you better stability and balance when doing tasks such as lifting?

Getting back to the bicep curl, the question of which stance was better—parallel or staggered—was recently addressed by two studies at the National Strength and Conditioning Association national conference. The studies showed that the staggered stance provides a bigger base of support anteriorly. Keep in mind that any front-loaded exercise, like the bicep curl, shifts the body’s center of gravity forward. Standing in a staggered stance helps maintain overall stability and balance. It turns out that all muscle activation is the same, no matter your foot position. This includes forward-and-back trunk sway, external obliques, lumbar erector spine, front shin and side shin activity. Whatever stance, staggered or parallel, that you are most comfortable with, without back sway, is good lifting technique. Add an image such as your legs as wood posts, or Krazy glue your feet into the ground, and your bicep curls will look and feel great.https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/fitness-guru/article_a6726150-bf8f-11e9-b702-0348f49bc0a0.html

Good posture is relaxed, not forced

Image

Wouldn’t it be nice if our posture was always perfect, vertical and symmetrically balanced? Yet as in life, it’s never that way. When it comes to our posture, many of us tilt, shift, slump, and bend, and it can feel like an uphill battle against the gravitational field of the earth. Yet if your goal is to improve your posture and have a healthy spine, we want to continually practice healthy movement habits. We all have some imbalances, and old habits. Tensing your shoulders, holding your breath, or a forward head are counterproductive not only in weight training, but in any sport.  Tomas Myer in his book Anatomy Trains, writes that everyone has a story, and good stories always involve some imbalance.

Good posture is relaxed, not forced.

Good posture is an easy upright alignment, where the body weights of your head, chest, and pelvis are poised one atop the other, like a stack of colorful wooden building blocks. The spine’s “ home-base” is it’s natural neutral position, where it is in the least stressed position.


The ease of good posture allows for its’ three natural curves; the neck, or cervical spine, the mid-back, or thoracic spine, and the low back, or lumbar spine. Standing or sitting up straight allows for the presence of each of these three natural curves. Beyond looking symmetrical though, there are copious muscles and connective tissue webbing working to support the spine. It isn’t a freestanding pillar, writes Dr. Stuart McGill, Professor Emeritus at the University of Waterloo and author ofBackMechanic.  Instead, he says, think of it more like a radio tower, a tall metallic structure stabilized by guy-wires that are connected to the ground.  The guy-wires act in the same way that the network of muscles and ligaments that surround our spinal columns do, providing strength and support.

Reminding yourself to pull your shoulders back is only part of the posture picture. Alignment is dynamic, neurologically adaptive, and certainly has an emotional component. Finding out where your muscle tension lives, your neck, for example, is helpful to find that particular pattern that causes the trouble in the first place. It’s known by the “ everything-connects-to-everything-else principle. “ It helps to understand which muscles are shortened or tight, or which emotions might be contributing to that feeling, and how that affects the whole body. 

Using imagery to improve spinal alignment

Using imagery can help you experience an incredible release of muscle tension. The Franklin Method uses imagery metaphorically, and is helpful if you are unfamiliar with anatomy. Here are some images from Eric Franklin’s book Dynamic AlignmentThrough Imagery, to try to help improve your spinal alignment. You just might discover a very fixable imbalance.

Lighting designer aligns the spine (lying, sitting, or standing):

1.Visualize the spine as a chain of spotlights. Turn on all the lights and observe their focal directions. If they shine in many confused directions, adjust them so that they all focus in the sagittal plane. Now adjust them so that they shine with equal brightness.

Head on geyser

2. Imagine your central axis to be a waterspout or geyser. Your head floats effortlessly on top of this column. Visualize your shoulders and your body as the water falls back down to the ground. Allow your head to bob on the top of the column of water. As the geyser become stronger, your head is buoyed upward. Let the power of the water increase the height of your head.


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Take a nap—it doesn’t mean you’re wimping out

Take a nap-it doesn’t mean you’re wimping out

Being busy is overrated. Society expects that we need to be busy, and always on the go. Well, some days you just need a nap, and it doesn’t mean that you are lazy or have a lack of ambition. It’s a very important aspect of many cultures, yet in the U.S., it’s a badge of honor. As a result, we are becoming more and more sleep deprived.

A short nap of 20-30 minutes can help improve your energy, alertness and performance. A study on NASA military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34 percent and alertness 100 percent. Think of a nap as a mini-vacation, not a guilty pleasure only for young children and the elderly. Elite athletes can benefit from them, as new studies show that naps contribute to better performance results.

There have been a substantial number of studies on the benefits of short naps outside the sports sphere, and in an athlete’s daily life, they can help recovery when he or she is faced with multiple training sessions in one day.

An athlete in an individual sport is more affected by poor sleep than are athletes in team sports, and studies have looked at how circadian rhythms affect performance. This new study recently published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise examined the effects of a post-lunch short nap, after a full night sleep, on the athlete’s alertness and fatigue, involving 13 male karate athletes. In experimental sessions, athletes were randomly assigned to experience both nap and no-nap conditions. The Karate-Specific Test, one of the protocols used, was composed of two attacks toward a body opponent bag. Every punch and kick had to be made with the maximum power possible. Reaction times, mental rotation tests and tests involving online visual stimulus, as well as jump squats, were measured.

Karate encompasses strength, power, speed and cognitive skills needed to offend and defend against opponents. These athletes need lightning-fast decision-making and fast-reaction skills, and lack of sleep can be a major problem if they are in a competition, where they have to compete in several matches on the same day.

The 30-minute nap came out as a winner in counteracting a bad night’s sleep, resulting in significant improvements in alertness, fatigue and better overall performances. There was also noticeable improvement in response time, which can give an elite athlete an edge in high-level sports. An added benefit is that for a professional athlete, a nap has no chance of violating doping regulations.

Get the most benefit of a nap by doing it right. Twenty minutes is ideal to enhance motor skills and attention, and the best time to do so is between 1 and 3 p.m. Ninety minutes of napping offers rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep, which helps make new connections in the brain and helps solve creative problems. If you take a nap too late in the day, it could affect your sleep. Also, if you are prone to sleep inertia, which is a feeling of grogginess and disorientation that can come with waking up from a deep sleep, it’s best to wait a few minutes to a half hour before doing something, well, like a karate match.

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_501c5e32-3b9b-11e9-bdf4-e34818028c07.html

Handle your habits

You just come home from work. You aren’t particularly hungry, but there you are standing in front of the refrigerator.

Handle your habits

You’ve just come home from work. You aren’t particularly hungry, but there you are standing in front of the refrigerator. It’s as if unseen forces have led you there. Are you more likely to have a glass of water or go for the ice cream? What if you could see the ways in which you get caught in habitual responses, and learn to choose a fresh approach? What if that approach taught you how empowering every choice you make helps you grow?

Understanding habits can serve us really well, as they are fundamental to skill development. The good news is that your routines get things done. The brain, cites Frank Forencich in “Beautiful Practice,” is an incredibly powerful habit-forming organ. Every second of every day, he writes, our nervous system builds patterns of sensation and motor activity, always building on what came before, always seeking more efficient ways to process information into adaptive behavior. An easy action, choosing a glass of water over ice cream, creates a new and healthy behavior.

The habit loop

Habits work in a three-part loop of trigger, routine and a reward.

1. The first is the trigger that tells your brain which pattern to use. You are tired and see a pumpkin-spice triple latte advertisement. You are bored, and plop down on the couch with a remote.

2. The routine is the habit itself; you get in line at Starbuck’s. Or you’ve spent the last hour scrolling on Facebook.

3. The reward is what makes the habit persist. That could mean the boost of caffeine or a feeling like you finally get to relax after a busy day (which you deserve). To break the three-part loop means only changing one thing. You get to keep the reward, but you have to change your routine. Keep it very simple—a five-minute walk or a familiar slow stretch.

Scientists tell us that we are not one self, but multiple selves. There is a part of us that wants immediate gratification, and a part that wants to be our best self. Kelly McGonigal, psychology professor at Stanford and author of “The Willpower Instinct,” writes, “If there is a secret for greater self-control, the science points to one thing—the power of paying attention. It’s training the mind to recognize when you’re making a choice, rather than running on autopilot.”

3 Simple Things

Here are three simple steps from James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits,” that you can do right now:

1. Start with a habit that is so easy you can’t say no. Want to exercise more, but always tell yourself you don’t have time? Your goal is to exercise for one minute today. That could be 10 jumping jacks.

2. Take time to understand exactly what’s holding you back, so you can begin to finds ways to interrupt your knee-jerk responses.

3. Develop a plan for when you slip and get down on yourself. Replace the guilt, stress or shame with a motto. Clear suggests making this your motto: “Never miss (a workout, good night’s sleep) twice.”

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_e70e9be8-d8a4-11e8-a572-03310d489898.html

 

The right way to train

The best exercise programs don’t have to be complicated to be effective, but you need a plan. It’s not uncommon to see someone in a gym pick up a set of dumbbells, half heartily knock out a few biceps curls, and call it a day. When it comes to strength training, you need is a safe, simple and effective resistance-training program that you can perform at least twice a week.

At any age, strength training increases the amount of muscle and bone density. As we age, it helps boost our energy and vitality, and helps to prevent and treat chronic diseases as arthritis and osteoporosis. For men and women, strength training, or resistance training, helps you achieve a more toned appearance, and contributes to maintaining independence in performing activites of daily life. It improves your balance and coordination, and helps reduce your risk of falling. Strength training allows for a sense of pride, capability, and confidence for older adults. However, you want to ensure that your time in the gym is worthwhile and what you do in your time there transfers to your daily living. If there is one aspect of aging that you can control, it is strength training.

 Get with the free weights

If your workout consists of using only machines, you might want to consider adding free weights, or the suspension trainers. Research shows that functional strength increases over 57 percent in machine-trained individuals, compared to 115 percent in free-weight groups.

Functional training is a popular buzzword in fitness programs and is used to help design effective programs. The dictionary defines the word functional as “ of having activity, purpose, or task or, alternately, “ designed to be practical and useful, rather than attractive.” With regard to what you do in your workouts, functional training is all about positive transfer to your goals, which is the purpose of training, says Nick Tumminello, owner of Performance University, author and educational provider for fitness professionals worldwide.

Functional training is described as the ability to produce and maintain a balance between mobility and stability along a kinetic chain while carrying out fundamental patterns with accuracy and efficiency. Greater results are seen in movements taking place in three-dimensional spaces, which is where free weights come in. For example, you might step-up onto a step or bench holding weights, rather than simply use a seated leg machine for leg strength. Both exercises are valuable for enhanced performance, and each offer unique training benefits. However, training in a three-dimensional space, as in a box step-up exercise, is important because for one, you are standing up, which is what we do in life, and also involves mobility and stability, which contribute to good movement skills.

You want your workouts to include the basic movements that you do in daily life: squatting, lunging, pushing, pulling, and rotating.

Little tweaks and offset positions.

Repeatedly doing the same exercise the exact same way can place repetitive stress on the joints, muscle, and connective tissue.  In a squat, for example, try an offset staggered or a narrow stance in a set. (A set is a group of consecutive repetitions.)  By changing or tweaking the position of major joints like the hips and knees, you help dissipate stresses to the connective tissue. Changing hand positions in upper body exercises also helps reduce overuse injury to the shoulder joint.

Helping Aging Bodies.

If you’re over 50 and have unavoidable age-related changes, or chronic conditions, you can still gain skills so you don’t rely solely on exercise machines. Here are some fixes so you can do some great functional exercises:

Crunches. Put a pillow behind your head if your neck flexors are long and weak.

Push-ups. Instead of regular push-ups where you feel like you hunch your shoulders, or to avoid too much weight-bearing to already sore shoulders, lay flat on your stomach, with palms on the floor and elbows back. Press through your palms. Or do push-ups against a wall.

Plank. Elevate your shoulders higher than your toes by placing your forearms on a bench or chair.

Balance. Stand on one foot. Lift your other knee up towards your chest.  Open the leg using your thigh and knee, back a forth 8 times, like a windshield wiper, to challenge your center of gravity.

Keep your program safe and  simple to stay young and strong, your way.

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/valley_people/fitness-guru/article_fd243020-3e79-11e8-8d77-0beb68f12809.html

Ageless-how a lifetime of exercise keeps you young

Count yourself lucky if you’ve exercised most of your life, as you haven’t aged much. Hippocrates said it best in 400 BC, in that exercise is the best medicine. Two new research papers published last week in Aging Cells set out to assess the health of older adults who had exercised most of their adult lives and found that they hadn’t aged much. They hadn’t lost muscle mass, strength, or increase their body fat or cholesterol levels. The men in the study may have even avoided most of the male menopause, as their testosterone levels also remained high.

The study participants were man and female amateur cyclists aged 55 to 79 and underwent a series of tests in the lab and compared to a sedentary group of adults. This group included healthy people aged 57 to 80, and another group of healthy young adults aged 24 to 36. A surprise finding was that the benefits of exercise went beyond muscle, as their immune system did not seem to age. Immune cells, called T cells, are made in the thymus, which starts to shrink, at the age of 20. The study found that the cyclists were making as many T cells as would be expected from those of a young person.

Their research debunks the assumption that aging automatically makes us more frail, and that as a society, we shouldn’t have to accept that old age and disease comes next.

“There’s strong evidence that encouraging people to commit to regular exercise throughout their lives is a viable solution to the problem that we are living longer, but not healthier, Janet Lord, the director of the Institute of Inflammation and Aging at the University of Birmingham, said in a statement. What’s compelling about the research is that the cyclist’s didn’t cycle because they are healthy, but that they are healthy because they have been exercising for most of their lives.

It’s well known that exercise impacts nearly every system in the body, and there’s no more encouraging news in that the brain also benefits, both physiologically and psychologically. If you are still on the couch about starting or getting more exercise, exercise can enhance and protect brain function. We all want that as we age. When you exercise, at the cellular level, the brain is drenched with serotonin, glutamate, norepinephrine, dopamine and growth hormones Mood, anxiety, attention, stress, aging, and hormonal changes in men and women can all be positively affected. A staggering network of 100 billion neurons, each of what might have up to 100 thousand inputs, all are stimulated to spur new growth.

We need these neurons in the brain to last the 80 plus years of a lifetime.  With exercise, not only can you stay young, but also gene expression in the hippocampus, a brain region responsible for learning and memory, can benefit. We can all benefit by being pro-active, by exercising for body and brain health. It’s never too late to start.

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_13a26928-286a-11e8-a263-376f5f49136e.html

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

The mystery and myths of muscle cramps

Many myths surround the how and why we get sudden cramps.

You’re not alone in jumping in the night because of one. Muscle cramps happen suddenly and often excruciatingly, leaving a palpable knotting of the muscle. They can happen to anyone, with or without a history of nervous or metabolic disorders. Cramps can occur during sleep, strenuous activity, or pregnancy. It’s not clearly understood why we get these sudden cramps, but research shows that the likely causes of these types of cramps are multifactorial and caused by changes in the neuromuscular system. One hypothesis is that nerves malfunction. Overly excited muscle neurons go a little haywire in a feedback loop either from the receptors in the muscle, or spinal nerve pathways.

Other causes of cramping are straining or overusing a muscle, or not enough blood getting to the muscle. Sometimes this malfunction is related to metabolic disorders, or a health problem such as a spinal cord injury, medications, or a pinched nerve in the neck or back.

But still, many myths surround the how or why. Regarding exercise- associated muscle cramping, 92% of athletic trainers and most people believe that dehydration or electrolyte imbalance is the cause. Or, perhaps eating more bananas is the answer? If you have a family history of cramping, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor for any possible calcium or potassium supplement recommendations. If you are healthy, there are few well-designed experimental studies supporting dehydration or electrolyte imbalances. First, the best immediate response for cramps is gently stretching the taut muscle. It’s been argued that since static stretching quickly relieves cramping, then how could it be that dehydration is the problem, as no liquids or electrolytes are added to the body with simple stretching. Second, cramp- prone athletes often drink more fluid than athletes without a history of exercise- associated muscle- cramping, ( EAMC ) and it’s found that even when sport drink consumption matched sweat loss, EAMC still happened 70 % of the time. The most interesting argument against dehydration being the culprit is that dehydration affects the whole body, not just the calves, quads or hamstrings, the muscles that are more prone to cramping.

Myths 2 and 3 : Sports drinks and bananas for electrolytes.

If you’re active, you need to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. But you don’t want to overdo it, whether you are simply gardening, or playing two and a half hours of tennis. If you did play tennis, or any other sport for that amount of time, you would need the equivalent of approximately six and half teaspoons of salt replaced. Keep in mind that a typical sports drink contains only 0.44g/L of sodium. That would mean you’d be drinking gallons of fluids, which can be deadly. It’s not uncommon, sadly, that sports enthusiasts and athletes can die from water intoxication, called hyponatraemia. Rather than relying on sports drinks, it’s important to replace electrolytes at meals. Drink enough water throughout the day. As we age, we sometimes forget to drink enough because the thirst impulse becomes weaker.

Another myth about cramping is to reach for a banana, as the potassium in bananas can relieve cramping. Bananas are a healthy snack, but it takes at least 30 minutes to see an increase in new potassium ions in the blood after eating one. So far, there isn’t any evidence that eating bananas effectively prevent or treats EAMCs.

Because immediately stretching a cramp helps it subside, another factor may be in play. Tiny fibers, myofilaments, in muscle may overlap each other when muscles are already tight, and can bunch up even more, resulting in a sudden cramp. I’ve often experienced hamstring cramps going into an advanced yoga lunge if I haven’t previously stretched them enough beforehand. Though the cause of muscle cramps is still a bit elusive, recent evidence suggests that muscle overload is a factor. Stretching still appears to the the best treatment for those sudden cramps.

Click on the link for an effective calf stretch . https://vimeo.com/230657677

Published in the Idaho Mountain Express August 25, 2017.