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active adults walking

Can movement be therapy for emotional stress?

The more rhythmic and intense the movement, the greater this effect, since it elicits focus.

Emotional stress makes life overwhelming. Sometimes, we experience an extremely stressful or disturbing event, while at other times we accumulate the stress of upsetting interactions over time. In either case we are left feeling emotionally out of control and helpless. Our minds feel like a hamster spinning away on a wheel, leaving us drained, heavy, disconnected and incapable of making rational inferences and decisions. Our bodies feel like logs being lugged around, making daily chores onerous.

Irrespective of how it’s triggered, emotional and/or psychological disharmony has wide-ranging physical reactions and symptoms. While most of us know of the emotional impact (feelings of sadness, anger, fear, guilt, self-doubt and many more) the physical impact is not widely spoken about. This could include muscular tension, aches and pains, difficulty sleeping or insomnia, breathlessness among others.

Everyone’s triggers and responses are unique. Healing from emotional stress, hence, cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution. If symptoms persist for long or are severe, do seek professional help. That said, there are a few practices that can aid in self-healing.

Movement

Movement can be therapeutic for a number of reasons. As we know, stress impacts mental and physical equilibrium, turning the body into a repository of unpleasant side effects. A prolonged state of negative emotions like anger, fear and hyper responsiveness in daily life, adversely impacts the muscular and nervous system. Movement and exercise can help address this at a dual level. At a physical level, it helps by releasing endorphins (aka happy hormones) and calming adrenaline. The more rhythmic and intense the movement, the greater this effect, since it elicits focus. Target at least 30 minutes of exercise/movement on most days. It could be any activity that interests and engages you, be it dancing, yoga, sport, running, swimming, cycling. It might feel better to do it in company, to help break any self-imposed isolation. You could split it up over intervals during the day (though half an hour is not much of an ask to reset yourself and get your mind, body and life on track!).

Mindfulness

Try to pay full attention to the activity and how you perform it. Stay with the process. The mind will eventually tune into the rhythm of the body, making you more ‘mindful’ of the activity and yield a positive sensory outcome, including from deep within. For some, this may be attained with gentler workouts, and for some more intense activities could derive the response, depending on one’s personality as well as physical capacity. Remember, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way here. The beauty of movement is that it serves all, and it can be scaled up and down dynamically to make you feel most connected and generate positive inner vibes.

Deep breathing

Focus on the act of breathing and on how the breath goes in and out of the body (‘mindful’ breathing). It acts as another powerful therapeutic tool. This is true even during movement. Movement becomes more mindful when you focus on the breath while executing it, maximizing positive benefits physically (more oxygen, less physical stress) and mentally (greater connection with self, less mental stress). It aids in giving the mind a much-needed break while energizing the body.

Good sleep

Try maintaining sleeping and waking up time and hours even though it may seem silly or impossible. For those with sleeping difficulties or insomnia, the body clock needs resetting, requiring some repetitive reinforcements to break the negative cycle. It’s essential to retrain the body and mind to rejuvenate, rest and recuperate.

Changes won’t happen overnight, but all these practices together can go a long way to impart a greater sense of control, which propels us towards a happier state. It’s about reclaiming peace, being kind to ourselves and catalyzing inner healing.


Vani Pahwa is a Functional Fitness specialist with over fifteen years of experience, and cutting-edge certifications from leading internationally-accredited and globally recognized fitness institutes. She is also a Cancer Exercise Specialist (perhaps one of the first in the country). Sought after for her multi-disciplinary fitness modules and expertise, Vani has conducted fitness workshops for leading corporate houses, conditioning and training camps for various sports communities, training programs for coaches, personal training programs for CEOs of multi-nationals, athletes, junior and senior sports professionals among others. Her combination of specialties, client profile and range, and extensive work experience makes her unique in the country. She is the founder of Body in Motion.

Original article published in a leading national daily:  https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/movement-as-a-therapy-for-emotional-stress/article26566357.ece

All-Ages-Senior-Yoga-Fitness

Turning Back the Clock on Aging

Consistent exercise and physical activity may be the closest thing we have to the “fountain of youth” in our society today. Dr. Michael Roizen, author of “The RealAge Workout”, cites studies on identical twins that show genetic inheritance influences only about 30% of the rate and way one ages – the rest is up to you!

seniors-biking-in-gym-group

Aging and Exercise

Time dictates so many aspects of our lives. When beginning this article, I thought to myself how much time controls my day from the seconds, minutes, and hours. And of course in relation to this piece of writing, it is the measure of our age. The aging process is unique to each of us. But ultimately, it does impact our life decisions, and that includes our exercise choices. So let’s take a look at the relationship between aging and exercise.

Naturally, activity level changes when we get older. As one of my long time clients put it, “Man, I don’t just roll out of bed anymore ready to go”. This isn’t to say that one is less motivated, rather, the energy expenditure levels are different. This is mainly due to the fact that, “A major fraction of total daily energy arises from resting metabolism, and it is thus important to note that resting metabolism decreases with aging, by about 10% from early adulthood to the age of retirement, and a further 10% subsequently.” (1) Adding to this, “One reason is the loss metabolically active muscle mass and parallel increase in metabolically inert depot fat. In later old age, there may also be some overall reduction in cellular metabolism.” (1) When muscle mass decreases, this can cause body fat to increase. Keeping the excess pounds off can get harder. As such, “Your body fat can increase by up to 30 percent, which leads to a loss of lean muscle tissue and can affect your sense of balance. This can make it difficult for you to perform exercise activities you once enjoyed.” (2)

We need to continue a strength training program in order to not let our bodies replace muscle with fat at the rate it would like to. Not to use a scare tactic but here you go: “Strength peaks around 25 year of age, plateaus through 35 or 40 years of age, and then shows an accelerating decline, with 25% loss of peak force by age of 65 years.” (1)

Exercise becomes so extremely important as we grow older. We tell ourselves that we used to be able to eat whatever we wanted and still look fabulous, but now the odds aren’t necessarily the same anymore. We have to take care of our bodies, and we can help prevent certain diseases with exercise. For example, “Your bone mass begins to decline once you enter your thirties, putting you at risk for conditions such as osteoporosis. If you are concerned about developing this condition, perform more weight-bearing exercises, such as running and tennis. Regular cardio activity will also help you control high blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well as ward off type 2 diabetes and some kinds of cancer.” (2)

As I always say, there is no can’t. That word is not allowed in my studio. There are modifications for so many exercises, and I will be by your side as we run, walk, or crawl to get it done. If we don’t use it, we lose is, right? Not every day is a peak performance day, but we do we can. As long as we are active, we are being productive to our bodies. Running a marathon might not be in the future, but what about making to your training session twice a week and keeping that commitment to your body? Goals should be realistic. Remember the glory days fondly, but know that you are keeping your mind and body in better condition and sticking around longer for your family and friends by maintaining an exercise program. Fitness is a way of life and the destination involves progress not perfection so just keep going one rep a time, one day at a time, and with every age of your life.


Originally printed on the Every BODY’s Fit Blog. Reprinted with permission.

Dr. Megan Johnson McCullough, owner of Every BODY’s Fit in Oceanside CA, is a NASM Master Trainer, AFAA group exercise instructor, and specializes in Fitness Nutrition, Weight Management, Senior Fitness, Corrective Exercise, and Drug and Alcohol Recovery. She’s also a Wellness Coach, holds an M.A. Physical Education & Health and a Ph.D in Health and Human Performance. She is a professional natural bodybuilder, fitness model, and published author.

References 

  1. http://www.sportsci.org/encyc/agingex/agingex.html
  2. http://www.livestrong.com/article/418037-how-does-age-affect-exercise/
jump videostart

Stop Sitting: It’s Time to Take a Stand!

We probably know that sitting can be bad for our health. In fact, sitting has been called the “new smoking.” So, if you’re laid out on a couch, or plopped in a chair right now, you might have the most common health problem in America today — Sitting Disease. That might sound silly, but prolonged sedentary living plays a substantial role in a lot of the health concerns of our time.

The U.S. is a world leader in sloth. Seventy-five percent of the population of the United States fails to meet even the minimum government recommendation for daily exercise. And latest statistics shows that the highest rates of inactivity remain among those ages 65 and over. This epidemic is not confined to any region of the United States either. It is ubiquitous in both rural and urban communities and both the wealthy and the poor. (1) (2)

Chronic diseases are major killers in the modern era, and physical inactivity is a primary cause of most of them. Depressing, huh! Well, it doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Increasing our physical activity can result in substantial increases in both the number and quality years of life. Adults who are physically active are healthier and less likely to develop many chronic diseases than adults who aren’t active — regardless of their gender or ethnicity.

Physical activity/exercise is also the primary way we can slow down biological aging, as well as prevent or delay premature death from 35 chronic conditions, including: low cardiorespiratory fitness, obesity, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke, depression and anxiety, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, balance, bone fracture/falls, many cancers, erectile dysfunction, and pain. (3)

Get Up and Move

It’s time to take a stand! Get on your feet and out of the computer-typing, cell phone using, freeway-driving position you find yourself in all too often.

Of course, it can be tough to schedule time to exercise when you want to see the hottest thing on Netflix, there’s Haagen-Dazs in the freezer; actually, if you’ve got anything better to do with your time. For a lot of us, the most pressing question about exercise is: How little can I get away with?

It turns out, doing anything is better than doing nothing. This means you can get the same health benefits as people who work out in a gym but spend the rest of their time sitting. Staying active throughout the day results in similar benefits to doing a rigorous workout.

We can reverse three to four decades of inactivity by performing easy, bodyweight, multi-joint movements that use more muscles. Even doing twice-a-week leg exercises strengthens them. And small gains in leg strength make a big difference in everyday life. It can get easier to get out of that chair, climb stairs, and carry groceries. Incorporating exercises for leg strengthening into your regular workouts may also aid in fat loss. And you’ll improve your balance. (4)

So, What’s the Drill?

Most government guidelines define physical inactivity as anything less than 150 minutes of walking or moderate physical activity per week. Physical activity is anything that gets your body moving — not just traditional exercise. The process of adding activity to your busy life can be difficult, but it can be done. Even lifelong exercisers had to start somewhere.

150 minutes each week may sound like a lot of time, but the good news is you don’t have to do it all at once. You can meet this goal by breaking it into smaller chunks of time during the day to. Take a 10-minute brisk walk and repeat it three times a day, five days a week. By adding structured, planned, intentional movement to your days, you can reap additional life benefits, increasing the health of your heart and lungs, improving muscular and bone strength, and increasing flexibility. (5)

Look for ways to be active that are fun and work for you. My vision is to guide you to live, work, and play actively, no matter your age, where you live, or your ability.


Jacqueline Gikow, whose holistic, health and wellness practice centers on pain relief through better movement, is the owner of Audacious Living NYC™. She is certified through the National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM), the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBCHWC), the Functional Aging Institute (FAI), Medfit (MFN), and the Arthritis Foundation (AFAP/AFEP). Her fitness practice includes in-home and remote, one-on-one fitness training and coaching in New York City. Visit Jacqueline’s website at audaciouslivingnyc.com, or on Facebook.

 

References

  1. http://www.physicalactivitycouncil.com/pdfs/current.pdf
  2. http://harvardmagazine.com/2004/03/the-power-of-exercise
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4241367
  4. http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/older_adults/
  5. http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/
trainer-with-senior-woman-at-treadmill

How the Human Body Changes As It Ages

The human body undergoes a lot of changes during its lifetime. From infancy to old age, there are biochemical processes in the body that define these changes.

Some of them are visible externally, such as the greying of hair, skin becoming less supple, etc.

But beneath all of this, some processes happen to make all of this possible.

Walking-Sneakers

A Clearer Vision in Training

As fitness professionals, what we can expect is the unexpected. Often the last person we think may send an inquiry, does. If you’re like me and the majority of your training is in-home, you often get the privilege to work with so many you may not otherwise in a traditional gym or studio setting.

The Unexpected Client

While I was used to receiving various inquiries from those with different chronic conditions or disease, disabilities and other limiting factors, the one I didn’t anticipate was a blind client. The first thing I did before responding was see what trainers in my area may be willing to work with this individual, no response, no one was interested. My first thought was my “scope of practice”. Surely this wasn’t in that category for me. While I took time to reflect on how I could possibly help this person, I did some asking around to a well-respected fitness professional not in my area. I asked him, “How do you train a blind person?” He responded by saying, “I have never had the chance to do that but I would say you train him just like anyone else.” That made complete sense to me in that moment. What I didn’t know I would research. Next, I would fully disclose that I did not have prior experience with training a blind person, but I would be happy to take him on. So, I did.

Learning Curve

In researching training the blind community and speaking with a few people in various agencies, I couldn’t get much beyond the science and statistics. No methods, no accommodations, no modifications, no advice, not much to guide me. I did learn about Orientation and Mobility Specialists and while that was needed in the beginning for my client, it was not needed for him to have at the time for the training to take place.

You adjust everything you know about training. A huge eye opener for me was learning that I had a vision dependency on cueing. My verbal cueing was subpar. Too often I was used to saying, “Watch me first, then you try,” then correcting form as needed. In programming for my client, I needed to better learn to be descriptive so that what he could not see, he could imagine in the mind. It had to make sense.

Tips

What helped me to make progress, not just with my blind client but in general, was to really read the descriptions of exercise, movement and anatomy. Even if I had to read it continuously to better explain, that is what I did. When something didn’t make sense, we just eliminated it and found a better option.

Learning to count steps was another big deal. It was critical to know how to express inches, feet, yards when walking or moving around. For example, we are 2 yards from your driveway, in 2 feet there is a table, it is 35 steps to your mailbox.

Blindfold yourself. Close your eyes when exercising. Have another trainer, family member or friend, tell you some of the exercises that you find hard to describe and learn from those examples. Get a real feel for what your client may experience. Learn how they use their cane and the types of canes (sticks). One wealth of information came to me from a blind athlete. He took time to talk to me and just reinforce how important it is for my client to be independent.

Announce what you’re doing before you do it. It’s the same with asking to touch a client, “Is it okay if I touch your elbow?” Or, “I am going to pick up these dumbbells.”

Challenges

Learning to not be so protective, smothering and motherly, as was my nature as a mother of five. I was scared every moment, what if my client falls, trips, bumps into the wall, anything. I felt I had to always be on guard and with the slightest change in movement or awkward movement, I would have my arm ready to catch if I needed. Too much! It was very helpful that a few times I had another trainer in training (my husband) come along with me and he brought it to my attention. I told him, I know I can do it, but what if something happens? He said, it just will and I can’t spend every minute in protection mode. It’s not good for me or the independence of my client.

Programming always changed. There were days we just walked because that was as much as my client could handle. Cancellations due to various reasons required me to step up and not be taken advantage of as well. Adapting to all of that and being patient in what my client needed took time.

Addictions (substance abuse). While I won’t get into much depth on this topic, there were many other challenges within this area that I was exposed to and needed to refer out and gain help for. Again, it was the unexpected.

Nutrition problems. Making sure my client was eating, what and when. There were many discussions we had regarding proper nutrition. Much of it would lead back to other barriers, such a cigarettes or substance abuse. It required other professional intervention, as I am not a Registered Dietitian, but we did review general eating habits and good vs bad. Occasionally, we got it just right.

Dawn working with her client

The Workouts

While the primary goal was weight loss and increased strength for my client, we tackled everything. We incorporated cardiovascular activities and ones we did often were running together with a rope (tether), jumping jacks, and walking. But every part of the programming goals were to incorporate functional exercises which all required flexibility, balance, core, resistance, strength training, and what my client could focus on doing alone. We used dumbbells, resistance bands, sandbells, medicine balls, jump ropes, tires, picnic table, stairs, Airex pad and simply bodyweight. The most important use of all the exercise was in how it would further benefit my client and the goals we set. Nothing should be useless training.

In closing

While there is so much more to be said on how I trained my blind client, the most important message to relay is to not be afraid of what you can’t do, but do what you can. We should always ask questions, always expand our knowledge and do what we as fitness professionals are here for — to assist in living a healthier, active lifestyle. We can’t promise the moon, but it is our responsibility to do the very best we can within our scope, and what we are hired for. If you’re doing that, than you are probably doing it well.


Dawn Baker is an Independent Contractor Personal Trainer, founder of One Accord Fitness LLC and has been changing lives in the fitness industry for 6 years.

senior-man-and-trainer-treadmill

Exercise and Cardiovascular Disease

Regular exercise has a favorable effect on many of the established risk factors for cardiovascular disease. For example, exercise promotes weight reduction and can help reduce blood pressure. Exercise can reduce “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood (the low-density lipoprotein [LDL] level), as well as total cholesterol, and can raise the “good” cholesterol (the high-density lipoprotein level [HDL]). In diabetic patients, regular activity favorably affects the body’s ability to use insulin to control glucose levels in the blood. Although the effect of an exercise program on any single risk factor may generally be small, the effect of continued, moderate exercise on overall cardiovascular risk, when combined with other lifestyle modifications (such as proper nutrition, smoking cessation, and medication use), can be dramatic.

Benefits of Regular Exercise

  • Increase in aerobic capacity
  • Decrease in blood pressure at rest
  • Decrease in blood pressure while exercising
  • Reduction in weight and body fat
  • Reduction in total cholesterol
  • Reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • Increase in HDL (good) cholesterol
  • Increased insulin sensitivity (lower blood glucose)
  • Improved self-esteem

Physiological Effects of Exercise

There are a number of physiological benefits of exercise. Regular aerobic exercise causes improvements in muscular function and strength and improvement in the body’s ability to take in and use oxygen (maximal oxygen consumption or aerobic capacity). As one’s ability to transport and use oxygen improves, regular daily activities can be performed with less fatigue. This is particularly important for patients with cardiovascular disease, whose exercise capacity is typically lower than that of healthy individuals. There is also evidence that exercise training improves the capacity of the blood vessels to dilate in response to exercise or hormones, consistent with better vascular wall function and an improved ability to provide oxygen to the muscles during exercise. Studies measuring muscular strength and flexibility before and after exercise programs suggest that there are improvements in bone health and ability to perform daily activities, as well as a lower likelihood of developing back pain and of disability, particularly in older age groups.

Patients with newly diagnosed heart disease who participate in an exercise program report an earlier return to work and improvements in other measures of quality of life, such as more self-confidence, lower stress, and less anxiety. Importantly, by combining controlled studies, researchers have found that for heart attack patients who participated in a formal exercise program, the death rate is reduced by 20% to 25%. This is strong evidence in support of physical activity for patients with heart disease.

How Much Exercise is Enough?

Unfortunately, most Americans do not meet the minimum recommended guidelines for daily exercise. In 1996, the release of the Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health provided a springboard for the largest government effort to date to promote physical activity among Americans. This redefined exercise as a key component to health promotion and disease prevention, and on the basis of this report, the Federal government mounted a multi-year educational campaign. The Surgeon General’s Report, a joint CDC/ACSM consensus statement, and a National Institutes of Health report agreed that the benefits mentioned above will generally occur by engaging in at least 30 minutes of modest activity on most, if not all, days of the week. Modest activity is defined as any activity that is similar in intensity to brisk walking at a rate of about 3 to 4 miles per hour.

These activities can include any other form of occupational or recreational activity that is dynamic in nature and of similar intensity, such as cycling, yard work, and swimming. This amount of exercise equates to approximately five to seven 30-minute sessions per week at an intensity equivalent to 3 to 6 METs (multiples of the resting metabolic rate*), or approximately 600 to 1200 calories expended per week.

How Can a Personal Trainer Help?

If you have cardiovascular disease or are at risk for developing disease, you may be apprehensive at starting an exercise program. You may have questions such as:

  • Is exercise safe for me?
  • How long should I exercise?
  • How frequently should I exercise?
  • Do I stretch before or after exercise?
  • Can I do strength training and lift weights?
  • How do I know if I’m exercising at the right intensity?
  •  What if I develop symptoms such as dizziness, light-headedness, or nausea?

A personal trainer or exercise professional can answer all of these questions for you and establish a well-rounded exercise program that is safe and effective.

A personal trainer will tell you what types of aerobic exercise are most appropriate for you and devise an exercise program tailored towards your needs. This will include guidelines for frequency (how many times per week), intensity (how hard you should exercise), and duration (how long each exercise session should last). A well-designed exercise routine will start with a warm-up that includes dynamic movements designed to raise the heart rate, increase core temperature, mobilize the major joints in the body, and prepare the body for more intense exercise. Warm-up can be followed by either aerobic exercise or weight training. Your trainer can monitor your heart rate and blood pressure during both activities to make sure you are exercising at the proper intensity. If heart rate and blood pressure get too high, your trainer will have you decrease the intensity of exercise or stop. If you develop any symptoms while exercising, your trainer will be right there to advise you and check your vital signs. Weight training is very safe as long as it is performed with proper supervision. Your trainer will recommend the most appropriate exercises for you to do and emphasize proper breathing and technique. Under the guidance of an exercise professional, you can help to improve aerobic capacity, decrease blood pressure and cholesterol, improve good cholesterol, lower blood glucose, improve muscular strength, increase joint range of motion, and lower weight and body fat. All of these will result in a lower risk for developing cardiovascular disease or if you already have disease, it will decrease the chances of subsequent cardiovascular events. Most importantly, working with an exercise professional will extend your lifespan and greatly improve the quality of your life.


Eric Lemkin is a certified personal trainer, strength & conditioning specialist, corrective exercise specialist and founder of Functionally Active Fitness. Lemkin has been a certified personal trainer for 17 years and has helped people ages 8-80 reach their fitness goals through customized personal training – specializing in exercise for the elderly or handicapped. 

References

  • Kochanek KD, Xu JQ, Murphy SL, Miniño AM, Kung HC. Deaths: final data for 2009 [PDF-2M]. National vital statistics reports. 2011;60(3).
  • Roger VL, Go AS, Lloyd-Jones DM, Benjamin EJ, Berry JD, Borden WB, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2012 update: a report from the American Heart Association . Circulation. 2012;125(1):e2–220.
  • Heron M. Deaths: Leading causes for 2008 [PDF-2.7M]. National vital statistics reports. 2012;60(6).
  • Heidenriech PA, Trogdon JG, Khavjou OA, Butler J, Dracup K, Ezekowitz MD, et al. Forecasting the future of cardiovascular disease in the United States: a policy statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2011;123(8):933–44.
  • CDC. Million Hearts™: strategies to reduce the prevalence of leading cardiovascular disease risk factors. United States, 2011. MMWR 2011;60(36):1248–51.