Posts Tagged ‘Physical exercise’

menI recently read a post by Cynthia Sass in the Huffington Post Healthy Living section on 5 mistakes people make with food and exercise that I thought I would summarize and share.  I have seen these same issues with people who I know.  Fix these missteps and the author feels you can better reap the rewards of all of your hard work.

  • Eating Too Little Fat – It seems like people these days are super fearful of fat.  Despite recommendations to include good fats in diet, people stay clear of any fat, often reaching for fat-free options.  Cutting back on fat too much can lead to fatigue, hunger, irritability, depression, weak immune system, and can increase risk of injury.  It is more of the most important nutrients in your diet.  Even if you are trying to reduce body fat, including good fats in your diet is essential to your health.  Look to add things like almond butter, avocado, or olive oil to get the fats you need.
  • Using A Sports Drink When You Really Don’t Need One – As a rule of thumb, if you are exercising less than 90 minutes in a climate controlled gym, water is all you need.  Sports drinks are for folks that work out for more than 90 minutes in hot or humid conditions.  They are meant to keep you going when you can’t stop to eat.  Sports drinks contain a lot of sugar so unless you are really pushing it, stick to water.
  • Not Eating After A Workout Because You’re Afraid To “Eat Back” What You’ve Burned – You may not want to over eat after a workout but you do need some nutrition to heal the body from wear and tear that you put on your body.  Again, you don’t want to overdo eating after a workout but eat with a goal in mind of delivering nutrients to your body to aid in recovery.
  • Only Eating Protein Post Workout – Protein is only one of the key nutrients for recovery.  You also need your share of healthy fat, whole grains and produce.  These help do things such as replenish nutrients, supply antioxidants, help muscles heal, replete glycogen, and optimize circulation.
  • Doubling Up On Recovery Meals – The author recommends eating something like a natural bar or shake 30 minutes before the end of a tough training or game to start the recovery process.  This has shown to maximize healing.  However, she recommends this for your pro athlete clients.  For the average person this can be overkill if it is followed by a full recovery meal.  As a tip she recommends that if you are going to eat within an hour after leaving the gym, skip the snack and wait for the meal.

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thStretching doesn’t take a lot of time and the benefits are pretty substantial.  Not stretching can lead to slower recovery and potential injuries.  The benefits are even greater.

  • Greater Strength – Stretching improves circulation to the muscles.  This helps provide greater nutrients to muscles and helps them recover faster between workouts.  With increased blood flow there is less soreness and muscle fatigue which allows for more frequent and high intensity workouts where the increased strength comes in.
  • More Flexibility – As you get older your muscles shorten and tighten.  This decreases the range of motion and you are at a greater chance for injury.  Stretching is the best way to improve flexibility.
  • Good for Circulation – As stated above, stretching improves circulation to muscles.  Increased blood circulation helps in promoting cell growth and organ function.  This also impacts the heart rate as it will be lower since it doesn’t have to work as hard.
  • Reduced Stress – The muscles loosed and built up stress is released when you stretch.  Additionally, it releases and endorphin that causes a feeling of calmness and wellbeing.  If you are having a tough time sleeping, try stretching the muscles in the neck and shoulders before you call it a night.
  • Increase Range of Motion – Stretching increases the range of motion of joints.  This helps with balance and performance.  With a greater range of motion you have more complete workouts with better form and comprehensive muscle recruitment.
  • Enhanced Coordination – Stretching increases range of motion which leads to better coordination and balance. This will help keep you mobile and less prone to injury from falls, especially as you get older
  • Better Posture – Stretching helps maintain proper posture through more flexible muscles and joints. Good posture can minimize discomfort and keep aches and pains at a minimum.

For some simple stretching guidelines:

  •  Stretch a minimum of 3 times a week, completing   at least 5 different stretches
  •  Hold stretch for 10 – 30 seconds each
  •  Hold stretch to the point of mild discomfort
  •  Repeat each stretch 3 – 4 times

Stretch on!

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thCAP370U2Everyone always told me that it was best for me to cool down after a workout.  I am not really sure why.  I think I remember something about muscle soreness or flexibility.  I didn’t listen well and skipped the cool down almost every time.  Now it looks like I may have not missed out on much.

The Journal of Human Kinetics conducted a study of 36 active adults that participated in a strenuous one-time program of forward lunges with barbels in hand.  This type of exercise is guaranteed to make most people very sore whether they are in shape or not.  In the comparison, one group warmed up before exercising by riding a stationary bike for 20 minutes.  In another group did not warm up but cooled down for 20 minutes after by the same method of cycling.  The third and final group just did the lunges without warming up or cooling down.

The next day all volunteered did a pain threshold test.  The ones that warmed up before exercising had the highest pain threshold and were relatively pain-free.  Those that cooled down had the opposite results.  They had low pain threshold and the much more pain.  This is equivalent to the control group that did not warm up or cool down.

There were two other studies published in The Journal of Human Kinetics and The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research where professional soccer players underwent a series of physical test to include vertical leap, sprinting speed, agility and leg flexibility.  After the assessment they participated in a regular soccer practice.  When all of this was complete some just stopped exercising and others did a cool down.  When questioned about how sore they were the next day there was no difference between those that did nothing after exercise and those that cooled down.  Both groups experienced soreness.

There are other studies like this that have had the same results so is there a really good reason to cool down after a workout?  Andrea Fradkin, an associate professor of exercise science at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania thinks there is a good reason to cool down.  She says, “A cool-down has been shown to prevent venous pooling after exercise.” When exercising the blood vessels in your legs expand and when you stop abruptly the blood pools in your lower body, which can lead to dizziness or even fainting. Walking for a few minutes or cooling down after can prevent this from happening.  Also, some feel that a cool down after a hard session can just feel good.

Since there is not research showing any negative effects when cooling down if probably won’t hurt you.  If cooling down isn’t for you then don’t feel the need to have to do it.

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Would you like to be part of an organization that is flexible, adaptive, and firing at peak performance a majority of the time?  Find out how to achieve and maintain this peak performance by directing energy in the right direction through physical, social and mental fitness.

Maintaining Physical, Social and Mental Fitness for Peak Performance 

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Exercising and going to the gym should leave you feeling pretty good for the most part.  I reviewed this article on-line (fitbie.msn.com) about exercises that personal trainers, exercise physiologists and physical therapists recommend you skip when working out.  These exercises can leave you sore or even injured.

  • Plow Pose – This yoga pose is meant to be soothing to the mind and body.  In this pose you lie on your back and flip your legs over your head until your feet touch the floor behind you.  However, this can put a lot of pressure and excessive flexion on the neck if not done properly.  The pressure should be on the shoulders rather than the neck.   You may opt to skip this pose or try an alternative pose.
  • Straight-Leg Lifts – Many people do this exercise to tone the abs but it is not a good exercise for the lower back.  During this move the person lies face up, lifts the legs up over the hips and then lowers them down.  During the course of this move a muscle attached to the lumbar spine pulls the lower back into hyperextension.  This squeezes the discs and can lead to herniated discs.  A safer move is the reverse crunch.
  • Deep Squat – Deep squats are similar to regular squats but in this move you bring your butt very close to your heels.  Some claim this will build more muscle but it puts extra pressure on your knees.  When doing a squat your hips should not go below your knees.  If this still causes pressure to your knees, try squatting while keeping your back against a wall for added support.
  • Power Clean – This move should be reserved for those that compete in Olympic lifting.  It is an extremely technical move and you don’t need to master this move to be in fantastic shape.  The move requires you to pull a bar from the floor and catch it at the shoulders.  Doing this move incorrectly can lead to injuries to the wrist, elbow, shoulder and back.  I personally know someone who broke their arm doing this move.  For explosive moves stick to plyometrics.
  • Knee Extension Machine – You have probably seen one of these machines at the gym.  They look like a chair that has a bar which you rest your ankles below that sits in front of you.  This exercise also puts a lot of pressure on your knees.  When you press a weighted bar at your ankles, a lot of torque is created at your knee.  Doing very light weight may be better but consider strengthening your quadriceps by climbing stairs instead.
  • Full Situp – This is another move that is hard on the back.  When a person rounds their back when doing the sit up move, pressure is put on the discs in the spine.  This move can lead to herniated discs.  A better move to work the core is the plank or half-crunch.  For more information on other ways to build your core, read this article written earlier this year:  https://notsocorporatewellness.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/back-saver-core-builder/

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Most people who are trying to lose weight start off by exercising.  However, we have been told that without incorporating changes to the diet at the same time weight loss can be pretty minimal.  This is not necessarily true per a recent study through the University of Copenhagen.  They found that if you do the right amount of exercise it can contribute to weight loss.  What is the right amount of exercise?  In this study that amount was about 30 minutes a day.

For the study, researchers put together three groups that were composed of pudgy, sedentary young men in their 20’s or 30’s.  One of these groups was used as the control group that did no exercise.  The second group were told to exercise 30 minutes a day or until they burned 300 calories.  The third group exercised 60 minutes a day or until they burned 600 calories.  This study lasted 13 weeks and during this time all groups were told to keep daily food diaries and not alter their eating prior to the start of the study or during the study.

When the study concluded, the control group did not lose or gain any weight as expected.  Their body fat also remained the same.

The group that worked out 60 minutes a day lost an average of five pounds each.  However, based on their food intake and lifestyle prior to the study, if they men were burning 600 calories a day they should have lost 20% more weight.

Finally, the group that exercised 30 minutes a day lost an average of seven pounds each.  With the small amount of calories they were burning and no changes to their diet prior to the study this represents 83% more weight loss than expected.

Though it is not completely clear why those exercising less lost more weight there were some indicators.  First, those that burned 600 calories a day were increasing their food intake indicated by their food diaries.  It is even likely they were eating more than documented and not writing it down.  Also, because each person wore motion sensor scientists were able to see that these men were pretty inactive outside the time they were exercising.  It may have been from the fatigue of exercising so long.

The men that exercised half as much and burned 300 calories may have been more energized by their activity because motion sensors showed them being active outside of exercise time.  They were moving around much more, taking the stairs and walking.  Also, they did not increase their caloric intake during the study.

It seems like the shorter the exercise session the more it allowed the men to burn calories without wanting to replace them.  It also left room for them to be active outside their exercise activity since it didn’t completely drain them.

Though there are several factors that may have impacted the results of this study the message is still clear.  Do nothing and lose no weight.  Do something and shed some pounds.

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If good health is not motivation enough to get you exercising, perhaps more money in your pocket will get you to the gym more often.  A recent study on The Effect of Exercise on Earnings was recently published in the Journal of Labor Research and found that workers who exercise regularly earned 9% higher salaries than those that did not exercise.  The study used a method called propensity score matching to determine if employees who earned more were people who always led healthy lives and were good at their jobs or specifically made a point to exercise on a regular basis.  They also found that people who did not display healthy behavior in the past performed better at work and were rewarded by their employers when they started working out on a regular basis.  Perhaps these findings coupled with prior research connecting job satisfaction and exercise can convince employers to embrace corporate wellness in their environment.  Whether it is a formal corporate wellness program, an on-site gym, sponsored gym memberships, or company sports team support these programs may have a positive impact on the financial health of the company by attracting and retaining employees while lowering health insurance costs.

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