Can you really spot-reduce belly fat?

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

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

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

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

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

The control group maintained their normal activities and diet.

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

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

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

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


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

Breakfast: Better with or without before training?

Does it matter if you skip breakfast before a workout?

When it comes to your morning training, does it matter if you skip breakfast? For some, the idea of food early in the morning isn’t appealing. Currently, one-fourth of U.S. adults feel that way, and skip breakfast. But are there benefits of working out before breakfast?

Research varies on the pros and cons of eating in the morning before resistance training (lifting weights). A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning concluded that skipping breakfast before resistance training impairs performance. The small study group of 16 trained men between the age of 23 and 27 had better results with a typical breakfast prior to squats and the bench press.

We, as humans, are hard-wired, in that eating affects the central clock in our brain. This clock controls circadian rhythms and impacts all aspects of metabolism, including how our organs function. An over-scheduled or chaotic day can certainly thwart our best intentions to eat, and to refuel to be our best.

Renowned sports nutritionist Nancy Clarke explains that skipping meals can disrupt normal biological rhythms. The result, she says, is erratic meal timing that can impact the development of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity. Athletes who frequently skimp breakfast often get hungry and then devour way too many calories of ice cream and cookies, she says. If this is a nightly habit, the body is poorly programmed to deal with an influx of sweets, and can pave the path to health issues. A good solution, she suggests, would be to eat part of your breakfast prior to training and enjoy the rest afterward.

In terms of weight, it doesn’t matter if you’re dividing your daily calories into one, three, six or nine meals. Calories still matter, and dividing them up throughout the day doesn’t change your body fatness. But, as noted before, it can make a difference in your blood sugar levels.

There is new research to support the old adage of breakfast being the most important meal of the day. A study of more than 4,000 middle-age adults found that those who ate breakfast were less likely to have artery-clogging plaque (atherosclerosis) than those who didn’t eat in the morning. Published in the 2017 Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the evidence supported the idea that breakfast eaters typically ate healthier overall and were less likely to be obese or to have high blood pressure, diabetes or unhealthy cholesterol levels. But even with those factors taken into account, skipping breakfast was still linked to a higher risk of atherosclerosis.

So the question remains about whether it’s sensible to skip breakfast before morning training. A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism showed that men who performed exercise before breakfast burned double the amount of fat than the group who exercised after breakfast. While this didn’t have any effect on weight loss, it did dramatically increase their ability to respond to insulin.

In effect, exercising in an overnight-fasted state allowed their bodies to use more of the fat from their fat tissue and the fat within the muscle as a fuel. Though the study lasted only six weeks and excluded women, it showed that the muscle from the men who exercised before breakfast had greater increases in key proteins, specifically those involved in delivering glucose from the bloodstream to the muscles.

Everybody starts the day differently. Some people do better eating before a morning workout, while others do not. The choice is yours, so make it one that will energize you for this new day.

.https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_a0425aca-0188-11ea-9e5c-5f5b778f0f87.html

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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How weight-lifting can keep you young

 

One of the secrets to a longer life involves steel, rubber or your bodyweight.

One of the secrets to a longer life involves steel, rubber or your bodyweight. The steel is in the form of dumbbells or barbells, and rubber is what resistance bands or stability balls are made of. No equipment handy? No worries, because exercises such as pushups, squats, planks and lunges, exercises that you can do anywhere, all build muscle.

    New research all points toward strength training as a key factor in longevity and an extended life, and you need to lift or push weight to build muscle. Biking, running, walking and moving more are all important for cardiovascular health, but if you’re not hitting the weights, now is a good time to start a program. Strength training, or resistance training, is the use of progressive resistance exercises to increase your ability to exert or resist force.

    Starting as young as 7, when the nervous system is almost completely mature, strength training can lay down a lifelong regime that promotes increased bone density and muscle mass and decreased age-related body fat. By our early 40s, most adults achieve peak muscle mass, but after that point, a gradual decline begins. People typically lose 8 percent or more of lean muscle each decade, a process that accelerates significantly after age 70. However, the good news is that you can become stronger at any age. But can lifting weights keep you young?

There is a clear connection between strength training and a longer life, says Dr. Jennifer Kraschnewski, an assistant professor of medicine and public health sciences at Penn State College of Medicine. A recent study she led found that seniors who did strength training two times a week were 46 percent less likely to die from any cause. They were 41 percent less likely to die from heart disease and 19 percent less likely to die from cancer. The research was published in the journal Preventive Medicine. No one is immune from any unwanted condition, but consider this: If you suffer from obesity, diabetes, heart disease or arthritis, the decrease in strength is significant. What this means is that even if you think your muscle mass is adequate, if you have any of these underlying medical conditions, your strength is much less than someone without them, says Judith Wurtman, Ph.D., founder of a Harvard University hospital weight-loss facility. Adding resistance training also improves insulin sensitivity, improves cholesterol numbers and revs up your metabolic rate—more reasons to take action.

    I’ve worked with many older clients who say their balance is terrible, but it’s more that their legs are weak. On average, we have a genetically determined amount of both slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers in muscle. As we age, our fast-twitch muscles shrink in size and number, as does the speed of transmission of impulses from the brain to the working muscles. Are your legs really as strong as you think? Consider this: Decreased leg strength, not dementia, is the biggest predictor of loss of independence in older adults.

    For beginners, the most important aspect of strength training is to find a program you can do consistently. Essentially, aim to use eight to 10 large muscle group exercises, perhaps starting with the legs. Go slow and perform the exercises with good form. For trained individuals, new studies suggest that for both men and women, if you want to get stronger, exercise with heavier loads. Keep your program progressive and varied, and don’t keep it a secret that you’re getting younger every day.

Published in the Idaho Mountain Express 2/10/2017

Slowing down aging with strength and grace

3 generations living well!

3 generations living well!

“It’s paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn’t appeal to anyone.”- Andy Rooney

Older adults need exercise training to improve their functional fitness that results in their independence, reduced falls, and a positive and profound impact on their mental and emotional health. Programs that involve strength, agility, dynamic balance, sensory enhancement and joint mobility ( think chest- up-confident stride ) all contribute to helping slow down the aging process.As we age, the size and quality of our muscles shrink at a loss of .5-1% per year. From the age of 60-80 years, the natural prevalence of muscle loss, or sarcopenia, jumps exponentially  from 15-32% for men , and 23- 36% for women. At 80, the values increase to about 51% -55% respectively for women and men.

Shrinking  muscles affect strength, power, endurance and speed.According to the US Center for Health Statistics, a person spends about 15% of their lifespan in an unhealthy state because of disability, injury or disease occurring in old age. The good news is that only one day a week of training will help you. A recent study of healthy women aged 60 years and older, showed that as little 1 day per week of aerobic activity and 1 day per week of resistance training may be just as good for improving strength,endurance, and quality of life as more frequent training. The study, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, sited significant  improvement of daily activities such as standing, sitting climbing stairs and walking. The majority of studies suggest that older less conditioned people adhere to training 2-3 times a week, with 48 recovery hours, performing 3 sets of 10-12 exercises.

Functional fitness involves dynamic balance, and it is not necessarily your fate to be the 1 of 3 people over 65 that suffer a bad fall. In younger people balance is largely an automatic reflex. A variety of movements, with practice, can make your legs stronger, ankles,hips and spine more flexible, and challenge the nervous system. Optimal balance requires information from both our body in space and our external environment. It also involves using all 360 degrees of thigh muscle, as these are the muscles that need to be strong. Try the following mobility and sensory-enhancement exercises adapted from Christian Thompson, PhD, associate professor in the department of exercise and sport science at the University of San Francisco:

1. Ankle Circles .
Stand tall with feet hip- width apart. Hold onto a stable object with one or two fingers only. Lift one leg off the floor slightly, in front of the body. Do 15 slow, clockwise ankle circles, moving your foot to the greatest degree possible. Repeat counter clockwise; switch legs. ( www.ideafit.com/ST-older-adults.com)

2. Rotating Head.
Stand with feet hip width apart while holding a shortened TRX Suspension strap in a single- handle mode, palm down, with arm partially extended at chest height. Repeatedly turn head fully from right to left at a brisk pace while keeping eyes fixed on anchor point.Try for 60 seconds. To progress exercise, march while turning head.

http://ketchumkeystone.com/2013/09/30/slowing-down-aging-with-strength-and-grace/PPriscilla Woods @ Huntsman World Senior Games

Training Muscles to Excel for Life

Sometimes I get in my car and wonder how much longer it will hold out. I’ve had my car awhile and it’s reliable. All it really needs is an oil change, some gas in the tank and a look at the owner’s manual now and then.

Some of us may feel that way about our own bodies. We don’t want to get injured or hurt. You’ve probably heard that strength training increases muscular strength and endurance, bone mass, connective tissue and lean muscle mass, and reduces the risk of osteoporosis. Strength training makes everyday tasks easier. It also develops the quick reactive muscle actions necessary to avoid falls. All ages benefit, even people over 90 years old, and in particular, postmenopausal women who may experience a more rapid loss of bone mineral density. As the new year unfolds, here are some convincing facts about why and how you might want to do some strength training for some of the 430 muscles in your body.

Moderate-intensity strength training has many health and fitness benefits. The term covers a broad range of resistive loads and modalities, from light manual resistance to plyometric jumps, weight machines, barbells, dumbbells, elastic tubing, medicine balls, stability balls and body weight.

In each example, the exercise causes the muscle to work against a resistance that will lead to muscular adaptations and strength gains. Both men and women respond very similarly to weight training. Women shouldn’t worry about getting “big.” Men have 10 to 30 times more testosterone than females, which causes muscle build-up. In fact, you just may become leaner. Typical increases in lean muscle mass in up to six months of training range from 1 to 4 pounds. However, muscle is more metabolically active than fat, and we lose muscle as we age—two important facts.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a minimum of eight to 10 exercises that train the major muscles of the lower body, upper body, abdomen and back, on two to three non-consecutive days per week. The range of movement should be comfortable throughout the full, pain-free range of motion. If it hurts or feels wrong, the exercise needs to be modified to suit your particular muscular or skeletal bio-mechanics.

Beginners will experience adaptations with just one set of exercises, mostly attributable to neurological adaptations than to bigger muscles, but as experience progresses, the sets and repetitions vary. Generally eight to 12 repetitions of an exercise are recommended, but you can vary the reps within the week also.

For example, on Monday try 12 to 15 reps, on Wednesday eight to 10 reps and on Friday three to five reps. That type of undulating system builds in a recovery that allows for better muscle tissue adaptation. Recent studies have shown that women predisposed to osteopenia or osteoporosis build bone better by lower repetitions (six to eight) and heavier weights for site-specific bone improvement, as in a single-arm shoulder raise, or weighted step-ups. Everyone should make sure to warm up for five to 10 minutes beforehand to increase muscle temperature and blood flow. Remember to breathe normally in the lifting and lowering phases of all exercises.

Originally published in the Idaho Mountain Express – Friday, January 11, 2008

Connie Aronson, an American College of Sports Medicine Certified, ACE Gold Certified, & an IDEA Elite personal trainer, works at the YMCA and High Altitude Fitness in Ketchum.