Learning to sit still. How meditation works.

 

Learning to sit still-how meditation works

If you think you can’t sit still for five minutes and have absolutely no time, you aren’t alone. You might think you can’t add another “to do “list to your day, as modern life is fast- paced and stressful enough already. Sometimes you’re just pissed. So many diversions, like Facebook, or shopping online, steal our precious time. But sitting still, in meditation, can have tremendous benefits for your health and happiness. Stress levels in the US are steadily rising, with over 53% burnout across industries, (even non-profits), now more than ever, according to a Regus Group study. Antidepressants use alone has increased by 400 per cent this last decade. Meditation was once thought of as an esoteric practice, but scientists are showing that it makes you smarter, less anxious, less depressed, and increases resilience and social connection. Better yet, there’s no right or wrong way to meditate. What’s important is the support and empowerment it gives to your day.

Relax a little more

In studies of happiness, says Emma Seppälä, Science Director at Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research, Americans are all about high intensity. Happiness is more of the “thrill’ and “excitement “ variety, with little value on calmness-that is, low-intensity positive emotions. For example, if you ask Americans to describe “happiness” they won’t say “inner peace”, says Seppälä.

When we’re stressed or angry, called unpleasant high-intensity negative emotions, we’re more likely to counter with even higher intensity doings-like running, to “ blow off some steam”. We’re more likely to turn to a myriad of distractions. Anything than sitting still. That’s where meditation comes in, as practicing sitting still helps you develop perspective and relax.

We need to take time for ourselves. We all want a purposeful, rich, and diverse world. When you take time for yourself, engage in a purposeful or idle pastime, you become more imaginative and grounded. Giving yourself space for quiet and stillness boosts happiness and encourages a healthy lifestyle. That stillness is why you need to meditate.

How to sit

There are so many ways to meditate, but one of the most profound yet simple ways is to sit tall. Sitting tall though, is really hard for most people. A bad back, inflexibility, or other physical barriers make sitting awfully uncomfortable. Aligning the spine straight and tall has an inherent subtle dynamic. Try these tips to work with posture limitations. Now you’re ready to slide into meditating:

1 .Use a pillow, or folded blankets under your sitting bones, to help tip your pelvis forward. If you don’t know what that feels like, it means your bum is a little higher than your pubis. You can also kneel with one or two yoga blocks underneath your rear, which can feel very comfortable. If you are sitting, your legs can be crossed, or more extended.

Shift your hips back a few times, to make sure you are grounded into the floor beneath you. Wiggle around a bit. Shifting or snuggling your hips back helps your spine be tall. If that isn’t comfortable, you can lean against a wall to support your back. Once you feel more grounded, feel yourself settle down. If you feel you need to just lie down to be comfortable, do it!

 

  1. Start to focus on your inhales and exhales. Let your breathing be soft and leisurely, not forced. Be leisurely about it, so you are not rushing.

Imagine your body feeling like Jell-O. When you tap Jell-O gently, it wobbles slightly, teaches yoga master Erich Schiffmann, author of Yoga-The Sprit and Practice of Moving into Stillness. That movement is your breath moving through you. Notice that you are starting to sit quietly, yet the body does have movement going on, and that movement is your breath rippling through you.

4. Stay as relaxed as you can be.

With a little time, patience, and practice, meditation gives back more than you thought possible.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

The Key to Behavior Change-Create Tiny Habits

 

Create tiny habits every day to reach your desired goal.

It’s a given that we cling to what we’re familiar with, and change is very hard. If only you could change your behavior, reach your big goal and lose that last 10 pounds.

There are multiple tales of accidents in the Himalayas when the warmth of the snow was so inviting to the victim that they simply wanted to stay resting where they were, comfortable in the snow. Getting up, and walking around shaking out their limbs to warm up would save their life, yet they don’t, and die there in the snow. We cling to what’s comfortable. Though I’m not suggesting camping out in your backyard to test your winter survival skills, you needn’t feel like you can’t change. For instance, if weight loss is your goal, you don’t have to just wish you had more willpower.

You aren’t alone in feeling like another trendy diet might be too hard to stick with, as research shows that fewer than 5 percent of dieters can keep weight off. Keep it simple. For long-term health behavior change, learning a skill, a new tactic, can help you succeed in your goals. Acquiring a new skill is a breakthrough as it becomes an action that creates change. And that action can be as simple as saying, “No dessert tonight,” rather than saying, “Stop eating sugar.” When you take that newly acquired skill and change it into a habit, you can gain an increased ability to change. What if you took tiny steps, and were able to build those steps into your life to meet your biggest challenges?

Shrink the problem

Don’t blame your willpower or motivation if you want to create new behaviors in your life. In many cases, you need a skill to fix things. B.J. Fogg, a behavior scientist at Stanford University, brilliantly describes this as a “skill scan.” The above-mentioned “stop eating sugar” is a principle, and ultimately not very helpful over time. Saying “No dessert tonight” is an action. Take four minutes to do the skill scan.

Step 1—Set a timer, and write down every skill you can think of that you might need to accomplish what you want. Let’s say the problem is fat loss, and you’ve listed eat less, move more, eat clean, stop eating sugar and go gluten-free.

Step 2—Take a colored pencil and cross off anything that you wrote that is not an action that can go on a calendar. On my fat-loss list, all of my skills are principles. These principles are a tall order to fit in the real world, especially during the holidays. If you wrote, for example, “Don’t have bread with dinner,” you now have a viable, simple action. No bread with dinner. Fogg’s approach eliminates guilt and feeling bad about why you don’t have enough willpower. Instead, this approach shrinks the problem, by giving you a new skill, which over time, becomes a desired habit.

Step 3—Write down your new habit that you want to build into your life. Fogg’s favorite example is to ask his students to floss just one tooth, a perfect example of building tiny habits into your daily life.

 Step 4—Celebrate your success in a healthy way. Be proud of your accomplishments, as change is as natural as our world is.

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas filled with happiness, hope and joy!

Published in the Idaho Mountain Express, December 22, 2017

http://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_8c5e8a6a-e69b-11e7-915c-6bdb90b24b3e.html

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.

Extend your spine~ The Roman Chair for back health

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Our spines need to be subtle and strong

When it comes to musculoskeletal pain, the lower back reigns as king. About 80 to 85 percent of people will experience some sort of low back pain in their life. According to the National Health Statistics Survey in 2012, more than 28 percent of Americans live with lower back pain. Back troubles are the No. 1 reason people under age 45 miss out on activities.

Ironically, most people with low back pain overuse their backs, exacerbating the trouble even more. It’s better to use your legs to bend or squat down, or to use your hips in rotational sports like golf or yoga to spare stresses on your lower back.

Our spines need to be supple and strong, as daily tasks demand that the vertebrae bend, flex, rotate and side bend. The spine does an amazing job of handling loads straight down the back, but over time, poor mechanics repeated hundreds of times in daily life and activities can cause low back pain. Even more problematic is our forward bending posture, especially with aging. It seems we’re all forgetting to stand up and extend our spines. Our preference for slumping, sitting or driving is very hard on our back ligaments, and at worst, it becomes structural, resulting in bad posture or back problems. The end result is that greater compressive forces are placed on the intervertebral discs.

If you go to a gym, there is an overlooked piece of gym equipment to help strengthen your back. Typically used as a place to hang your gym towel, the Roman chair, looking somewhat like a stand, can isolate and strengthen the spine extensor muscles.

Exercises such as squats and deadlifts help strengthen your back, but the larger hip extensor muscles do much of the work. The lumbar extensors, multifidi (the deepest muscles near your spine) and the quadratus lumborum are the important muscles for spine health, as they help provide stability in the area of the spine most prone to injury. Think of your spine as two stacked boxes, called the vertebrae, with lots of padding between them—the discs, where most back problems begin. The natural curves of your spine help the discs cushion compressive forces.

Any exercises you do should keep spine stability in mind, and be done with muscle control rather than momentum. Avoid excessive range-of-motion movements that damage spinal ligaments or discs. End-range extension, or forceful hyperextension, places the posterior elements of the spine at risk of damage, especially with spinal stenosis or sports hernia.

 To use the Roman chair, you lie face-down, with the back of your ankles supported, and your navel in line with the edge of the pad. Round your back over the pad, slowly extend your torso parallel to the floor so that you are horizontal from your heels to head, hold for one second and lower for three seconds.  ( View video IMG_3055 )
Published in the Idaho Mountain Express June 30, 2017

Deep sleep for glowing health

    Starting as early as 30, improving the quality and quantity of sleep can eliminate future risk of memory loss and a wide range of mental and physical disorders. UC Berkeley researchers think that nearly every disease killing us in later life has a causal link to lack of sleep.

    If you have trouble sleeping more now than when you were younger, don’t worry that this is how your nights will be from here out. Generally, you will be able to fall back asleep as fast as you used to with a strategy. Researchers find that the aging brain has trouble generating the kind of slow brain waves that promote deep restorative sleep, called deep non-rapid eye movement. This time-out for the brain helps sort the unimportant to important information from the hippocampus, to the prefrontal cortex, which consolidates information into long-term storage.

Here are some suggestions to how you can get the sleep you need:

Daytime routine

 Caffeine: Generally, caffeine lasts for five to six hours in the body. Try to not have caffeine later than mid-afternoon.

  Naps: Naps are great, but no later than mid-afternoon.

  Late-night eating: Try to avoid eating less than three hours before bedtime or overeating at dinner.

Evening routine

 Minimize screen time: Turn off your iPhone, iPad and TV to minimize screen time.

Bedroom: Have your bedroom quiet and dark, and a cool temperature. Core body temperature drops with the onset of sleep, but then increases because of a greater blood flow to the skin, so have comfortable bedding. Around 9 p.m., your body produces melatonin, which helps control your sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin is a natural hormone made by the pineal gland, located just above the middle of the brain. When the sun goes down, the pineal turn on signals in the brain that controls hormones, body temperature and other functions that play a role in making us sleepy or very awake. Its transmission is better promoted in a dark environment. Melatonin level stays elevated typically throughout the night, and drops before the light of a new day. When traveling, pack an eye mask and earplugs.

    Meditate in bed: Promote relaxation by relaxing as much as you can once you get into bed. It takes practice, but focus on slow, quiet breathing. A simple breathing practice can consist of only a few minutes to reconnect to mind, body and spirit. Keep focusing on your breath, and let any thoughts go. If you start to think about things, give yourself credit for noticing that your mind has wandered, and return to gentle breathing.


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

Published in the Idaho Mountain Express May 5, 2017

More good news for coffee drinkers


More good news for coffee drinkers

Caffeine could protect against dementia

    Caffeine is one of the strongest of 24 compounds that Indiana University scientists recently identified that can protect against dementia. Caffeine boosts an enzyme in the brain, called NMNAT2, that guards neurons from stress and combats the formation of plaques due to aging. Plaques, tangled and oddly folded proteins, called tau, have been linked to debilitating neurological  disorders  such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Lou Gerhig’s diseases. Alzheimer’s disease, the most common condition, affects 1 in 9 people over age 65—almost 5.5 million people—and the numbers are expected to grow as our population ages. As scientists continue to identify compounds that could play a role in halting the deterioration of proteins in the brain, don’t feel bad about your coffee fix.

 Golf performance, fatigue, and caffeine

    From an intensity perspective, the physiological demands of playing 18 holes are half the energy expenditure of running. But competitive golfing can be mentally and physically exhausting. Critical shot-making decisions, hand–eye coordination, high-level motor and biomechanical skill and numerous maximum-effort shots all play a role in competitive golf. Caffeine is one of the most common go-to ergogenic aids for elite athletes, and that extra jolt of caffeine might help improve concentration, energy, reaction time, fatigue and overall confidence during an 18-hole round. A recent study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise suggests that caffeine-containing supplements before or during golf can improve iron club accuracy, drive distance and overall golf scores.

The buzz on health risks and benefits

    Coffee keeps us awake or makes up for inadequate sleep, and has been revered for just that as far back as the sixth century. However, caffeine’s ability to stimulate the central nervous system doesn’t hide the fact that it is still a drug. Some people are genetically more susceptible and don’t enjoy the jittery effects of it.

    But the good news is that it can be a good habit. Recent scientific studies show that coffee shines from a cardiovascular standpoint in that it can decrease the onset of type 2 diabetes and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. More so than fruits and vegetables, coffee is the No. 1 source of antioxidants in the U.S. diet, having more antioxidants than blueberries, raspberries or green tea. Your morning joe (or tea, coming in second) contains large amounts of several powerful antioxidants, including phenols and polyphenol compounds that help neutralize free radicals and prevent oxidative stress.

    The bottom line is that if you enjoy it, moderate caffeine use offers much from an overall cardiovascular standpoint and numerous health benefits.


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

Published in the Idaho Mountain Express April 7, 2017

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Breathe out to lose fat?

Breathe out to lose fat?When you stand tall and lift your chest, don’t you feel much better? You look better also, as your posture improves. Breathing capacity improves, as your diaphragm lifts to help expand your lungs. We need to breathe to live. Breathing sustains us and can also teach us about our current physical and psychological state. You get some great news, hold your breath in anticipation, or exhale out to relax more. Our wavelike breathing is our life force, but did you know that breathing out makes you lose fat?

    The rate and depth of breathing is influenced by changing levels of carbon dioxide, oxygen and hydrogen ions in our blood. When it comes to losing weight, why is breathing so important? And where does the fat go? Does it turn to energy or convert to muscle, as commonly thought? The process is all about biology, as fat mostly converts to carbon dioxide and leaves the body through breathing. Scientists, in a report published in the British Medical Journal, explain how our lungs unlock the carbon stored in fat cells. Replacing one hour of sitting with jogging, for example, raises the metabolic rate to seven times that of resting and removes an additional 39 grams of carbon stored in fat cells. Our lungs are responsible for weight loss, via our inhalations and exhalations. The diaphragm, like a big parachute, contracts and relaxes nonstop, drives respiration and is the central breathing muscle.

Get good at breathing

  Running up a flight of stairs is one of the best ways to improve cardiovascular fitness. It’s a practical, quick and easy way to breathe hard, and gain some fitness in a busy day. But for the rest of the time, what if you became really good at breathing?

     It helps to understand just how much space the diaphragm needs to expand and fall with inhalations and exhalations. The diaphragm sits beneath the lungs and is above the organs of the abdomen. It is the major muscle that drives respiration. Respiration consists of moving gases in and out of the lungs, and circulation is the transport of these gases to the tissues.

    Like a lopsided mushroom, the diaphragm is attached to the sternum and the lower six ribs, and to the first three lumbar vertebrae, via two tendon-like structures called crura. The crura, like strings, extend down to the psoas and lower back muscles. The joints of the lumbar spine and upper back also play a part in how well the diaphragm expands and contracts, and therefore the quality and depth of breathing.

    At the top of the diaphragm, a central tendon attaches in front of the pericardium, the covering of the heart. Equally, the muscles of the abdomen and the external and internal intercostal muscles assist in drawing the ribs in and out. Normal breathing is rhythmic, driven by neuronal networks within the brain. Breathing also depends on the elasticity of the lungs; they have to lift and fall back. Breathing needs a lot of space, from the heart riding up and down on the lungs, to the spine stretching to accommodate inhalation, as well as the stomach muscles and pelvic floor. So it comes as no surprise that posture, standing or sitting tall, with the chest lifted, stomach in, can help you breathe and move better. Worth a big exhale.

Parachute breathing exercise

  Imagine the diaphragm to be a parachute. As you breathe in, the center of the parachute drops downward, the sides billow and the cords loosen. As you breathe out, the canopy expands upward as the cords become taut and anchor down toward the pelvic floor. (Adapted from the Franklin Method )

Published in the Idaho Mountain Express March 10, 2017