Leg Exercise and Your Brain Health

From:  Frontiers in Neuroscience  |   Reported By:  Science Daily

Excerpt: “Groundbreaking research shows that neurological health depends as much on signals sent by the body's large, leg muscles to the brain as it does on directives from the brain to the muscles.

The research shows that using the legs, particularly in weight-bearing exercise, sends signals to the brain that are vital for the production of healthy neural cells, essential for the brain and nervous system. Cutting back on exercise makes it difficult for the body to produce new nerve cells -- some of the very building blocks that allow us to handle stress and adapt to challenge in our lives.

The researchers gained more insight by analyzing individual cells. They found that restricting exercise lowers the amount of oxygen in the body, which creates an anaerobic environment and alters metabolism. Reducing exercise also seems to impact two genes, one of which is very important for the health of mitochondria -- the cellular powerhouse that releases energy the body can then use.

To read more, click here.


Compound Exercise: How It Can Jump-Start Your Fitness

Compound exercises involve multiple joints and work different muscles or muscle groups at one time. They are a core aspect of a well-rounded workout regime, and differ from isolation exercises, which are typically performed with commercial weight machines and target one muscle or muscle group.

Compound exercises include lunges, deadlifts, push ups, chest press, and jump rope, and can incorporate dumbbells and barbells. A deadlift, for example, is a multi-joint exercise because both the hips and knees are woking to execute the movement. This triggers a handful of connected muscle groups. Isolation movements include biceps curls, a single-joint exercise in which only the elbow is moving.

A major benefit of dynamic compound exercise is that it often simulates real-life activities, using a variety of movements through a wide range of motion, as outlined by Very Well Fit. We often perform compound exercises like squatting in our everyday life, engaging many different muscles in the lower body and core, including quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes, lower back and core. Given this nature of compound workouts, they translate well and into more types of common movement patterns than a traditional isolation workout.

Exercises that work different muscles at once are also more time efficient. According to BodyBuilding.com, it takes just eight to ten compound exercises to stimulate all the major muscles in the body at once. They can also help develop the body proportionately, and avoid overdoing any one muscle or muscle group.

Compound exercises can require minimal to no equipment, with as little as a barbell or body weight in a high-rep routine. According to BodyBuilding.com, compound lifts increase overall strength and size more effectively than single-joint workouts, because they signal the production of large concentrations of testosterone and growth hormone. This fact should not alarm women, who do not have enough testosterone hormone to accidentally build bulky muscles simply through a full-body weightlifting routine.

Overall, compound exercises are a great way to build strength efficiently, helping avoid injury and aid in everyday movement. That being said, isolation exercises can also be an important part of a workout regime, especially when there is muscle imbalance, or a certain part of the body that needs rest or work. 

Protecting Your Shoulders as You Build Your Fitness

The shoulders are the most mobile joint in the body, with the ability to move 180 degrees. They take on a great deal of responsibility in our everyday tasks, especially in our workout regimes, and move almost every time we do. Due to their frequent usage and importance in daily movement, they’re highly vulnerable to injury and can take a long time to heal. For the same reason, shoulder injuries are often the most frustrating to accept and manage. Luckily, there are practices that help both avoid these injuries, heal problems before attempting to fix them with surgery, and ease the pain following an injury.

  1. Posture

The complexity of the joints and surrounding muscles around the shoulder requires a lot of stability to avoid incident. The more stable the shoulders, the lower the injury risk. Maintaining good posture is key to stabilizing the shoulders.

Many of us spend most of the day hunched over, sitting at a desk, looking down at a phone or driving, creating tightness in the chest and weakness in the back, says Karena Qu, a physical therapist based in New York, per Mind Body Green. She notes that “putting yourself in better upright posture positions the shoulder complex better so that when you go to move the arm, you get less stress on the tissues.”

  1. Rest

Listen to your body. If your shoulders become sore after an activity, sometimes the worst thing you can do is overstretch or continue to work through the pain. It may be helpful to try meditation or a mindfulness practice through an app such as HeadSpace or Insight Timer to calm the nervous system and redirect attention.

  1. Strengthen

Many injuries are the result of repetitive movements, and from too much arm motion above the head. Be mindful of this and take breaks when doing activities like painting or focusing on overhead movements at the gym.

Eccentric muscle action, also known as braking contractions, or negatives, occurs when a muscle opposes a stronger force and reverses its initial trajectory. This type of strength training is known to increase size, strength and stability, as well as decrease the risk of injury. (Learn more here.)

“Evidence suggests that eccentric training may offer a greater anabolic response at the tissue, which is needed for recovery and repair,” says Morey Kolber, PT, PhD, associate professor in the physical therapy department at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, per Daily Burn.

  1. Stretch

“Stretching is important after exercising because when you use a muscle, it contracts and shortens,” says Karen Skolnik, MSPT, a physical therapist at the Infinity Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation in New York City. “In order to maintain flexibility and proper body alignment, it is essential to stretch.”

The Takeaway

Ultimately, these tools for preventing and easing shoulder injuries are useful even for those who feel that they’re just fine how they are. It’s always better to take extra care to the body, instead of paying for it later. That being said, these are just a few examples of ways to protect the shoulders, and there is no one size fits all. If the pain persists, it may be best to seek out professional help from a physical therapist.

Why Start Your Day with Exercise?

From www.FitTraining.net | By Linda T. Gottlieb, MA, CPT, CET

I won't lie. Exercising any time in your day is beneficial, and would make a personal trainer like me very happy! However, research continually emphasizes that exercising first thing in your day is the best way to get going.

Here are 5 reasons why:

1. Better performance - at work or at anything you do

We know that exercise helps to dramatically decrease stress levels. When you begin your day with exercise, you are more focused, more energized and so much more ready to tackle whatever the day has in store. Workers demonstrate increased productivity and are able to handle complex tasks more successfully when their day starts with a workout.

2. Metabolism boost

Exercise causes your metabolic rate to increase, so your body burns calories quicker and more efficiently, and I can't think of anyone who wouldn't love that! Also, people who exercise earlier in the day make better food choices for their entire day.

3. Better sleep

A study at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found that participants who exercised in the morning had better quality sleep than those that worked out later in the day. Sleep is critical to healing and managing stress; moving earlier in the day allows your evenings to be a time for relaxation, leading to an improved night's rest.

4. Increasing your commitment to sticking with exercise

The top reason for not exercising is always "I simply don't have the time". Exercising first thing in the morning helps you get this critical self care activity accomplished before the days inevitable interruptions derail your good intentions. Also, the more time you have to think about it, the more time you have to make excuses. A study at the University of Texas confirms that morning exercises were more consistent than afternoon or evening exercisers.

5. A happier YOU

One of the major reasons exercise helps manage stress is that it releases endorphins, those happy chemicals that elevate your mood and decrease pain levels. Ever heard of "runners high?" Well, you don't have to run a marathon to benefit from boosted spirits and improved calm. Researchers at Glasgow University concluded that people who exercised in the morning experienced more dramatic increases of well-being than those who exercised later in the day. Why not get those happy chemicals switched "on" earlier?

No matter when you choose to exercise, the benefits are significant. Making exercise a routine part of your day is a great way to support your healing and good health.

Good News: Muscle Knows No Age

From www.fittraining.net | By Linda T. Gottlieb, MA, CPT, CET

It's true, muscle knows no particular age, and it's great news for you and your lifetime fitness plan. The muscles in your body do not know whether you are 17, 47 or 77. What they know is that they are either in action or not. Either they are highly metabolic tissue, or inactive and decreasing their amazing power to keep you lean, toned and fitting well in your clothes, every day of your life. For cancer patients and survivors, some of your lifesaving treatments render you with more fat than muscle, or your inactivity due to recovery has decreased your physical activity and caused you to gain weight (mostly as fat). It is said that in one year, women who needed chemotherapy for their breast cancer can see a swapping of muscle for fat that's equivalent to 10 years of normal aging!

Add to that the fact that we are chronologically aging every day. Many of us are well aware of some of the other signs of "normal" aging, but losing your muscle doesn't (and I say shouldn't!) be one of them.

However, since most of us do less as we age, we set ourselves up for sarcopenia, the degenerative loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength associated with aging (0.5-1% loss per year after the age of 25). Sarcopenia is a component of the frailty syndrome; the word is translated from the Greek meaning "poverty of the flesh."

Eeew! Who wants that?

Nobody! Having more muscle is important. You want to be able to get in and out of a chair without assistance, right? To pick up and put away your own groceries in the top cupboards and lift your suitcase when you travel too? Of course!

Just a few minutes of weight bearing exercise - your own weight as in modified wall pushups or sitting sit backs - or with resistance bands or light dumbbells will help you retain and perhaps even increase your lean muscle mass. It will help make your body a fat and calorie burning furnace, giving you abundant strength to lift what you want, carry a gallon of milk in each hand and help keep your hormones balanced.

And, abundance is so much nicer than poverty, any day!



The Importance of Strength Training

From everydayhealth.com | By Chris Iliades, MD | Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH

Excerpt: "If you knew that a certain type of exercise could benefit your heart, improve your balance, strengthen your bones, and help you lose weight as it made you look and feel better, wouldn't you want to get started? Well, studies show that strength training can do all of that and more. Strength training is not just about bodybuilders lifting weights in a gym. It can benefit people of all ages and may be particularly important for people with health issues such as arthritis or a heart condition.

"If you have any health issues, ask your doctor what type of strength training is best to meet your needs and abilities. You can also work with a fitness expert to design a strength-training program that will be safe and effective for you."

For more detail on the many benefits of strength training and how to get going with it, click here for the complete article.

All About Tabata

From active.com | By Fara Rosenzweig

Excerpt: "Tabata training is a high-intensity interval training workout, featuring exercises that last four minutes. You push yourself as hard as you can for 20 seconds and rest for 10 seconds. This is one set. You complete eight sets of each exercise.

Tabata was discovered by Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata and a team of researchers from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo. Tabata and his team conducted research on two groups of athletes to examine the difference between moderate intensity level and high-intensity level training.

They found that athletes who trained at a moderate-intensity level increased their aerobic system (cardiovascular), but showed little or no results for their anaerobic system (muscle). The group that trained at a high-intensity level showed a greater increase in their aerobic system, and increased their anaerobic system by 28 percent.

For the complete article, click here. 

More is Merrier: Why It’s Better to Work Out With a Group

From active.com | By Joe Decker 

Excerpt: "Human beings are social creatures. Yes, a few are hermits and recluses, but the majority of us love to be around other people. We love to laugh, joke and have fun. I feel this is one of the greatest products of a group workout setting.

"...Whether you join a workout group or get your own group of friends together for a workout, here are three reasons, including camaraderie, that more is merrier for earning your fitness gains."

To read the complete article, click here.

Running and Longevity

From The New York Times  |  By Gretchen Reynolds

As far as longevity is concerned, running could be the most effective form of exercise. So says a study of exercise and premature death form the University of Iowa.

Turns out that running just a two hours each week could reduce the risk of early death by nearly 40%. Even one hour of running at a slow pace lengthens life expectancy by seven hours. People who run consistently tend to live about three years longer than their non-runners, according to the study. Gut there is a limit to the benefits:  life expectancy gains plateau after about four hours of running a week.

To read more about it, click here.