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Pregnant-woman-at-gym

Building Strength is an Important Component in a Prenatal Fitness Routine

You may have heard people warn that pregnant women shouldn’t raise anything over their heads or lift objects that are heavier than ten pounds when pregnant. These are warnings that still make the fitness trainer rounds when working with pregnant clients, yet these warnings aren’t based on science.  In fact, there’s no evidence for warning pregnant women to avoid lifting over their head unless it causes discomfort or balance issues, and the ten-pound limit is even more questionable, as ten pounds would be too heavy for some women and as easy as a feather for others.

It’s important to always remember that each pregnant woman has a specific fitness level and ability, so setting arbitrary limits is an ineffective way to provide guidelines for this population. In addition, when confronted with statements such as these, always review the research that supports the claim before implementing the information into your training guidelines.

Many women choose to continue their pre-pregnancy strength training program while they are pregnant, and most women may safely start strength training during their pregnancy as long as they are cleared for exercise by their healthcare provider. When developing a pregnant woman’s fitness program, you should take into account her current level of fitness and strength and pay close attention to how she feels during and after exercise. The key to maintaining a safe and effective routine is through consistent modification of the exercises for comfort as pregnancy progresses.

Strength training is an essential prenatal fitness component, providing the muscle power needed to compensate for posture adjustments and weight gain that occurs with pregnancy. Women who continue or even start a strength training routine during pregnancy can help prepare her body for all the lifting done with a new baby and reduce the risk of low back pain. Strength training has not been shown to pose any harm to either the fetus or the mother as long as these general guidelines are followed:

  • A gradual reduction in weight loads from pre-pregnancy will likely occur as the pregnancy progresses.
  • Women may continue their pre-pregnancy strength training routine (wt/reps/set) as long as they modify the exercises for comfort as pregnancy progresses.
  • If training causes muscle soreness during the pregnancy, it is recommended that overload be progressed by increasing the number of repetitions versus the resistance/wt.
  • Monitor exercise techniques carefully by mirror observation or supervision in order to correct for progressive postural changes that occur with advancing pregnancy. Improper lifting techniques may aggravate back problems and increase soft tissue injuries.
  • Avoid maximal static lifts. They may cause a sudden increase in cardiac output and blood pressure and employ the Valsalva maneuver. During the Valsalva maneuver, there is a significant diversion of blood from the internal organs (such as the uterus) to the working muscles.
  • Maximal lifts may also place extreme stress on the lumbar spine and other joint areas. Never overload an unstable or weakened joint.
  • Modify supine positions after the first trimester of pregnancy by using an incline board or wedge.
  • A strength-training workout involving all the major muscle groups should be performed three times per week, with a rest day between each muscle group training bout.
  • Machines, free weights, resistance bands, and body weight
  • are all options for building a strength training routine.
  • Remind client that she should exhale with the lift and avoid holding her breath or bearing down and straining as she lifts.
  • If a particular exercise continues to produces pain or discomfort are modification, it should be discontinued. If pain persists, the client should consult with her healthcare provider.

As always, all pregnant women should check with her healthcare provider before starting or continuing an exercise program during pregnancy.


Catherine Cram, MS started her company, Prenatal and Postpartum Fitness Consulting, in order to provide current, evidence- based guidelines maternal fitness guidelines to health and fitness professionals. She was a contributing author for the textbook, “Women’s Health in Physical Therapy” and co-authored the revision of “Exercising Through Your Pregnancy” with Dr. James Clapp.  Her company offers the certification course, “Prenatal and Postpartum Exercise Design” which provides continuing education credits for over 30 health and fitness organization, including ACSM, ACE, ICEA, and Lamaze.

deep-breathing

How to Stay on Top of the Game and Not be Vulnerable in Hectic Times

There are a lot of uncertainties currently.  We may feel confused, anxious and fearful — which may lower the frequency of our EMF (1) and our defenses. A depressed immune system is more likely to get sick with anything, not just the Coronavirus. Take this time positively, as a way to be introspective and find new things to do for yourself, your career and relationships. Obstacles are like gifts because without them, life would stagnate. Obstacles create evolution in our lives, taking us to the next level.

Protect yourself physically and mentally

Keep up good hygiene by washing hands when you touch surfaces that could have been touched by others — door handles, street light buttons, credit cards, gas nozzles. Use common sense. You can carry an alcohol spray bottle to spray surfaces and your car floor. Antibacterial can be used also but it is loaded with chemicals. If you go to public bathrooms and have to touch handles, use a paper towel to open doors and then trash it. Try to use your elbows instead of your hands when you can.

Maintain regular positive conversations and support with your friends and family, even if it’s on the phone. It’s not good to be isolated when you have to stay home. Communicate with positive people and not those who only speak negatively or with fear, especially if you are empathetic. This will keep your vibrations high.

There are 2 main things with scientific evidence that you can do to maintain your high vibes and feel calm – which will help your immune system.

1. Meditation & Deep breathing:                        

When challenges are high, our emotions are also high and the situation becomes chaotic.

Our the body doesn’t know the difference between real danger ( i.e., being in war or being chased by a jaguar) and an imaginary one (i.e., not meeting a deadline, final exams, arriving late to a class). So, we can control these emotions as to not create more chaotic ones. Acute stress from these situations raises our cortisol levels, affects our cells and overall health. The mind gets blurry with a lot of thoughts and you cannot see the solution.

We don’t have to repress the situation but be aware and start controlling our breath. CONTROLLING OUR BREATH, concentrating in equal inhales and equal exhales, the body and the cells will understand they are safe and there is time to heal. The body will know that there is no way we are in a dangerous situation,  that it is time to relax, that we are safe, we are healing and we open our energies to receive better answers for our life choices.

Exercise:

Sit in a quiet area and concentrate on your breath. Start with 2 inhales and 2 exhales for one minute, then pass to 3 inhales and 3 exhales for 2 minutes,  then 4 inhales and 4 exhales for 2 minutes, until at least 6 minutes — or the most you can do. Observe how the more you concentrate on your breath, the less thoughts come to your brain.

Difference between deep breathing and shallow breathing

SHALLOW BREATHING is superficial breathing using only the lungs. The lungs have a limited air capacity contrary to what we think. This is the everyday breathing pattern we use in this fast paced society. It is the cause of stress, ailments, panic attacks, asthma, pneumonias, hyperventilation and many more problems. It makes stress a habit. It reduces the production of white blood cells that defend our bodies from external organisms that weaken the immune system. It also tightens the back, neck and shoulder muscles causing back pain and headaches.

DEEP BREATHING (2) is done using the diaphragm and the abdomen, which have more capacity for storing oxygen than the lungs. It is the breathing of babies. You inhale with a controlled rhythmic pattern (Pranayama). Retention of the air, exhalation and deep breathing every time, as practiced by the Yogis, can reverse health conditions, strengthen the immune system, lower high blood pressure,  alleviate heart conditions, muscle pain and respiratory conditions, like asthma and bronchitis.

Exercise:

Sit or lay down in a quiet area and put your hands on top of your diaphragm. Feel the diaphragm expanding as the air is filling your abdominal cavity like a balloon and then exhale feeling the air leaving the cavity. This will utilize the best amount of oxygen, keep thoughts away and relax the whole body. Do it for at least 5 minutes or the most you can do. Increase time progressively.

Maintaining the same breathing pattern concentrate on each part of your body especially where you feel pain or tension. Imagine a white light while you inhale and release. Visualize the tension leaving your body and evaporating.

2. Physical exercise and your immune system                                                                      

Gyms closed? No excuse to not keep or bodies moving. Exercise has something no other medicine can provide. When you move you are telling the cells, “I am alive, I am strong”. Even if we are not doing it consciously, our subconscious mind picks up the exercise habit and incorporates it as a pattern. This can change our subconscious from “I am weak” to “I am strong”. Thoughts can shape our whole body and our cells will benefit tremendously.

If you have to stay indoors, you can use any equipment you have to do at least 20-30 minutes of cardio to work on your strength and abs. You can see some ideas on my YouTube channel.

If you can go outdoors bike, hike, walk and run at beaches and parks.  The open environment is safer than indoors, especially because you can maintain the distance from others easily. You can do any routine or use my Beachblast video that can be done anywhere – in a park, at the beach or in a pool.  It combines cardio drills, core strength, pilates for abs and legs followed by relaxing Yoga posses.


Graciela Perez is a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Personal Trainer, Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) Aquatic Specialist, CETI Cancer Exercise Specialist, Health & Wellness Coach and Energy Healer. She’s been helping people reaching their health and fitness goals since 2003. Visit her website, hollywoodfitness.org

Resources

(1) EMF: Electro Magnetic Field is the energy that surrounds our bodies and it is influenced by our thoughts and emotions. Our thoughts and emotions can pass to our EMF and can shape matter (the body, cells and how healthy we are). If we are in fear, this negative emotion will affect EMF (our energy) and affect our body’s immune system. For more info on Energy Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2952118/

(2) For deep breathing:

exercise-fitness-at-home

Managing Your Exercise In a Pandemic: 10 Easy Exercises to Build a Strong Core Without Leaving the House

Just in time for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) social distancing and closures of gyms and fitness centers in many areas, here’s a revisit of many important core exercises you can do at home to keep yourself strong and healthy. Download the free illustrated PDF (Chapter 21 of Diabetes & Keeping Fit For Dummies) for illustrations of the exercise listed below. (You can also find a variety of other at-home exercises on Diabetes Motion Academy Resources for free download.)

Many people are stuck at home for one reason or another think they can’t work on staying fit, but the truth is that you can get a stronger core and stay fitter without leaving home. You’d be amazed at how easy it is to get your fit on.

Remember: Your body core — the muscles around your trunk and pelvis — is particularly important to keep strong so that you can go about your normal daily activities and prevent falls and injuries, particularly as you age. Having a strong body core makes you better able to handle your daily life, even if that’s just doing grocery shopping or playing a round of golf.

Core exercises are an important part of a well-rounded fitness program, and they’re easy to do at home on your own. To get started on your body core workout, you don’t need to purchase anything. (Some of the advanced variations do call for equipment like a gym ball or dumbbells.)

Tip: Include all 10 of these easy core exercises in your workouts, doing at least one set of 15 repetitions of each one to start (where appropriate). Work up to doing two to three sets of each per workout, or even more repetitions if you can. For best results, do these exercises at least two or three nonconsecutive days per week; muscles need a day or two off to fully recover and get stronger. Just don’t do them right before you do another physical activity (because a fatigued core increases your risk of injury).

#1: Abdominal Squeezes

This exercise (Figure 21-1) is great for working your abdominals and getting your body core as strong as possible. If you’re female and have had gone through a pregnancy at some point, getting these muscles in shape doing these squeezes is a must.

  1. Put one of your hands against your upper stomach and the other facing the other direction below your belly button.
  2. Inhale to expand your stomach.
  3. Exhale and try to pull your abdominal muscles halfway toward your spine.

This is your starting position.

  1. Contract your abdominal muscles more deeply in toward your spine while counting to two.
  2. Return to the starting position from Step 3 for another count of two.

Work up to doing 100 repetitions per workout session.

#2: Planks or Modified Planks

Nobody likes doing planks, but they get the job done when it comes to boosting the strength of your core. Both planks and modified planks (Figure 21-2) work multiple areas, including your abdominals, lower back, and shoulders.

  1. Start on the floor on your stomach and bend your elbows 90 degrees, resting your weight on your forearms.
  2. Place your elbows directly beneath your shoulders and form a straight line from your head to your feet.
  3. Hold this position as long as you can.

Repeat this exercise as many times as possible during each workout.

#3: Side Planks

A modification of regular planks, this side plank exercise (Figure 21-3) works some of the same and some slightly different muscles that include your abdominals, oblique abdominal muscles, sides of hips, gluteals, and shoulders. Try doing some of both types for the best results.

  1. Start out on the floor on your side with your feet together and one forearm directly below your shoulder.
  2. Contract your core muscles and raise your hips until your body is in a straight line from head to feet.
  3. Hold this position without letting your hips drop for as long as you can.
  4. Repeat Steps 1 through 3 on the other side.

Switch back and forth between sides as many times as you can.

Tip: Try these plank variations to mix things up a bit:

* Raised side plank: Lifting both your top arm and your leg upward brings other muscles into play and makes your core work harder to maintain balance, but don’t let your hips sag.

* Gym ball side plank: Resting your supporting arm on a gym ball, use your core muscles to control the wobble to further strengthen your side muscles.

* Side plank with lateral raise: While holding the side plank position, slowly raise and lower a light dumbbell or other weight with your top arm to improve your coordination and strength.

* Side plank pulse: From the side plank position, add a vertical hip drive by lowering your hips until they’re just off the floor and then driving them up as far as you can with each repetition of this move.

#4: Bridging

If you work on your abdominal strength, you also need to build the strength in your lower back to keep things balanced. Bridging (Figure 21-4) is a good exercise to do that as it works your buttocks (including gluteals), low back, and hip extensors. Remember to breathe in and out throughout this exercise.

  1. Slowly raise your buttocks from the floor, keeping your stomach tight.
  2. Gently lower your back to the ground.
  3. Repeat Steps 1 and 2.

Tip: Try the bridging with straight leg raise variation: With your legs bent, lift your buttocks up off the floor. Slowly extend your left knee, keeping your stomach tight. Repeat with the other leg. Do as many repetitions as possible.

#5: Pelvic Tilt

An easy exercise to do, the pelvic tilt (Figure 21-5) works your lower back and
lower part of your abdominals.

  1. Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Place your hands either by your sides or supporting your head.
  3. Tighten your bottom, forcing your lower back flat against the floor, and then relax.
  4. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 as many times as you can.

#6: Superhero Pose

Whether you want to leap a tall building with a single bound or not, try doing this superhero pose exercise (Figure 21-6) to get a stronger core. It works many areas, including your  lower back, upper back, back of shoulders, and gluteals.

  1. Lie on your stomach with your arms straight over your head.
  2. Rest your chin on the floor between your arms.
  3. Keeping your arms and legs straight, simultaneously lift your feet and your hands as high off the floor as you can.

Aim for at least three inches.

  1. Hold that position (sort of a superhero flying position) for 10 seconds if possible, and then relax your arms and legs back onto the floor.

Tip: If this exercise is too difficult, try lifting just your legs or arms off the floor separately — or even just one limb at a time.

#7: Knee Push-Ups

Push-ups are hard to do if you haven’t built up the strength in your shoulders yet, so this knee version (Figure (21-7) is an easier way to start for most people. This exercise works your chest, front of shoulders, and back of upper arms.

  1. Get on your hands and knees on the floor or a mat.
  2. Place your hands shoulder-width apart on the floor.
  3. Tighten your abdominal muscles to straighten your lower back and lower yourself down toward the floor as far as you can without touching.
  4. Push yourself back up until your arms are extended, but don’t lock your elbows.

Tip: If knee push-ups are too hard for you, try doing wall push-ups to start instead. Stand facing a wall at an arm’s length and place your palms against it at shoulder height and with your feet about a foot apart. Do your push-ups off the wall.

#8: Suitcase Lift

This exercise (Figure 21-8) is the proper way to lift items from the floor. Before you begin, place dumbbells or household items slightly forward and between your feet on the floor. You work the same muscles used in doing squats (lower back and lower body) with this activity.

  1. Stand in an upright position with your back and arms straight, with your hands in front of your abdomen.
  2. Bending only your knees, reach down to pick up the dumbbells.
  3. Grab the dumbbells or items in both hands and then push up with your legs and stand upright, keeping your back straight.

#9: Squats with Knee Squeezes

These squats (Figure 21-9) are not your normal squats. They’re more like a combination of squatting and wall sitting with a twist. You work the front and back of thighs, inner thighs (adductors), hip flexors and extensors all with this one exercise.

  1. Stand with your back against the wall, with your feet aligned with your knees and straight out in front of you.
  2. Place a ball or pillow between your knees and hold it there with your legs.
  3. Inhale to expand your stomach and then exhale and contract your abdominal muscles.
  4. Bend your knees and lower yourself into a squat.

Warning: To avoid injuring your knees, don’t bend them more than 90 degrees.

  1. Squeeze the ball with your thighs, drawing your stomach muscles more deeply toward your spine.
  2. Do as many squeezes as you can up to 20 and then return to the starting position.

#10: Lunges

Lunges (Figure 21-10) are a common activity to work on the front and back of thighs, hip flexors and extensors, abdominals, and lower back all with one exercise. Do them with proper form to avoid aggravating your knees, though.

  1. Keep your upper body straight, with your shoulders back and relaxed and chin up.
  2. Pick a point to stare at in front of you so you don’t keep looking down, and engage your core.
  3. Step forward with one leg, lowering your hips until both knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle.

Make sure your front knee is directly above your ankle, not pushed out too far, and don’t let your back knee touch the floor.

  1. Focus on keeping your weight on your heels as you push back up to the starting position.

Tip: To prevent injuries, if you feel any pain in your knees or hips when you do a lunge, do the following instead:

* Take smaller steps out with your front leg.

* Slowly increase your lunge distance as your pain gets better.

* Try doing a reverse lunge (stepping backward rather than forward) to help reduce knee strain.


Reprinted from Colberg, Sheri R., Chapter 21, “Ten Easy Exercises to Build a Strong Core Without Leaving the House” in Diabetes & Keeping Fit for Dummies. Wiley, 2018.

Sheri R. Colberg, PhD, FACSM, is the author of The Athlete’s Guide to Diabetes: Expert Advice for 165 Sports and Activities (the newest edition of Diabetic Athlete’s Handbook). She is also the author of Diabetes & Keeping Fit for Dummies, co-published by Wiley and the ADA. A professor emerita of exercise science from Old Dominion University and an internationally recognized diabetes motion expert, she is the author of 12 books, 30 book chapters, and over 420 articles. She was honored with the 2016 American Diabetes Association Outstanding Educator in Diabetes Award. Contact her via her websites (SheriColberg.com, DiabetesMotion.com, or DMAcademy.com).

stretch_2

Did You Hear? Stretching is Back in Fashion, Part 2

For any person, a regular stretching routine can bring some surprising benefits. While you might think that stretching right before activity is beneficial, it needs to be done on a regular basis for a minimum of 10 minutes in order to bring some major changes to muscles and tendons. Research shows that people with the least flexibility have increased chances of injury…

strength-training-2

Healthy Aging and You: The Power of Strength Training

I recently thought about why we exercise and what we choose to do first – and it isn’t generally strength training. Why is that? I believe it’s because we feel we CAN’T do something about becoming stronger unless we join a gym – and then we always seem to gravitate to cardio exclusively as if that is all we can do. We want to lose weight, feel better about ourselves, burn stored fat or just increase our energy level, but what if there was a better way?

brain

Neuroplasticity and the Aging Brain

One of the greatest concerns for the aging population is cognitive decline which leads to loss of independence as well as an extreme burden on the caretakers.  Individuals worldwide are fearful of being diagnosed with any of the various cognitive issues: Dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and other forms of cognitive debilities.  In 2015 there was an estimated 47 million people living with dementia and this number is expected to triple by 2050.  In 2014, the Alzheimer’s Association reported that they believe there is sufficient evidence to support the link between several modifiable risk factors and a reduced risk for cognitive decline and sufficient evidence to suggest that some modifiable risk factors may be associated with reduced risk of dementia. Specifically, that regular physical activity and management of cardiovascular risk factors (diabetes, obesity, smoking, and hypertension) reduce the risk of cognitive decline and may reduce the risk of dementia. The Association also believes there is sufficiently strong evidence to conclude that a healthy diet and lifelong learning/cognitive training may also reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

Positive association between aerobic exercise or CV fitness and executive functions is highly consistent but cannot determine causality.  Aerobic exercise (AE) has shown moderate to medium sized effects on executive function and memory. Resistance Training (RT) has improved executive function and memory. Combined AE and RT has the biggest (potentially synergistic) effect. It has been proposed that the physical and cognitive exercise might interact to induce larger functional benefits.  Larger benefits on cognitive test performance were noted for combined physical and cognitive activity than for each activity alone.  “Claims promoting brain games are frequently exaggerated and at times misleading. … To date, there is little evidence that playing brain games improves underlying broad cognitive abilities, or that it enables one to better navigate a complex realm of everyday life (Consensus statement, 2014).

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize and rebuild itself by forming new neural connections. The more neural pathways you have, the more resilient your brain is. Neurogenesis is the process of creating new neurons (brain cells).

Contrary to popular belief, neurogenesis continuously occurs in the adult brain under the right conditions such as with exercise.  Substantial benefits on cognitive test performance were noted for combined physical and cognitive activity than for each activity alone. It was also noted that the physical and cognitive exercise together might interact to induce larger functional benefits.  “We assume, that physical exercise increases the potential for neurogenesis and synaptogenesis while cognitive exercise guides it to induce positive plastic change” (Bamidis, 2014).  To maximize cognitive improvement, combine physical exercise with cognitive challenges in a rich sensorimotor environment that includes social interaction and a heaping dose of fun.

Brain health is becoming extremely important as individuals live longer.  Today there is much more information available on how to train the aging brain.

Some great resources are:


Dianne McCaughey Ph.D. is an award winning fitness specialist with more than 35 years experience in personal training, group exercise, coaching, and post-rehabilitation. She is a master trainer for multiple companies and practices and teaches optimal wellness emphasizing the mind, body and spirit. She works with special populations and focuses on posture, gait, balance and corrective exercise programs for better function and health.

Cody Sipe, PhD, has an extensive background in the fitness industry with 20 years of experience as a personal trainer, fitness instructor, program director, exercise physiologist and club owner. He is currently an Associate Professor and Director of Clinical Research in the physical therapy program at Harding University. He is the co-founder and vice president of the Functional Aging Institute (FAI).

 

new year

Fitness New Year’s Resolution Tips

The holidays were here and there was plenty of running around and parties to attend. As we said goodbye to this year, we are ready to take on the new year. Many individuals have decided to make fitness a resolution and made the commitment with themselves to get into better shape.

Many individuals do not plan for this transition and end up stopping within three months. There are some things you can do to be successful if fitness is on your list of resolutions.

The first thing you want to do is to choose a fitness facility where you feel comfortable. By comfortable I mean, do you like the atmosphere? Is the gym to big or small for you? When you look into fitness facilities, make sure they’re not too far from your home. If the gym is too far, you’re less likely to go consistently. Try to plan for when the best time would be to go. Decide if morning, afternoon or evening works better for you and your schedule.

When you find your gym and figure out a time, make an appointment for an assessment and consultation. There are some people who decide to do this after a couple months of joining. Try to see a fitness professional within the first two weeks. We are able to help you figure out a plan for your workout and keep you on track. Some fitness centers call new members after the first week to see how everything is going.

It’s also important to not have an “all or nothing” mentality. If you decide to go to the gym three days a week, but sometimes fall short, it’s OK! Just get back to your schedule the following week. It will take about three months to adapt to your new transition.

Another tip is to have fun! Look at class schedules and try new classes. If you are new to classes, don’t worry about keeping up with everyone else. I always suggest that clients show up to class ten minutes early. This enables you to speak with the instructor about any injuries or concerns you may have. You can also leave class early if you need to. Some new students may only be able to do a warm up and have to leave. Remember that everyone in the class was in the same boat as you at some point.

It may seem tough to add fitness to your life at first, but it will get easier. You will start to feel better overall. Many people are able to sleep much better, bring down their blood pressure and cholesterol, reduce stress, and prevent osteoporosis. The benefits are really endless! The best thing is that you are setting the stage for a healthy lifestyle as you get older. You will be able to do more and live independently longer.

Good luck to everyone this year who has fitness as one of their resolutions. You will be able succeed if you keep positive and plan for success. Have a happy and healthy new year!


Robyn Caruso is the Founder of The Stress Management Institute for Health and Fitness Professionals. She has 15 years of experience in medical based fitness.