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Elder woman training with physiotherapist

Resistance Training: Programming and Execution

In my previous article I made a case for a comprehensive resistance training program as a way to “cut the odds” in our favor as  we “grow older and not old”. I  also strongly believe in developing a strong cardiovascular system since it is responsible for keeping the life giving oxygen and nutrients moving into the body’s tissues and organs in order to sustain our lives. These two beliefs are driven by my desire to keep my body as strong and adaptable (and flexible) as I can in order to “prevent” challenges of all kinds from entering my experience in the future.

I would like to examine programming and execution in this article in order to enable and empower you to “take up the challenge” of becoming more than you ever thought possible through a well planned resistance training program that enhances your life through an acquired discipline, focus and commitment to your own health and well being. This process – (and it is a process) – continues throughout our lifetimes and rests on the foundation of a desire to consistently learn new things about ourselves. It is a process of expanding not only our own consciousness, skill and knowledge of our potential health and fitness futures – but also includes our developing ability to maintain such a process over time.

TRACKING

I find the key to my success over the past 55 years has been my desire and commitment to retain my program of running and resistance training by tracking all of my workouts – both running and weightlifting – allowing me to know “where I am” at any point in time. These records keep me up to date on the factors influencing my growth and reflect my effort to attain my goals of improving strength. power, endurance, speed, quickness, flexibility and balance.

The reality is that today “tracking devices” are available through technological advances and now can serve us in ways that I never dreamed possible before. I still record my results in logs and journals and appreciate the way in which this form of tracking has enabled and inspired me to keep going and improve my results. The gym where I train is filled with people “wandering” through their time there and never really getting focused while staring at their electronic devices or “smart” phones. NO ONE ever is tracking their work and consequently they will never know when – or how – to improve.

RESISTANCE TRAINING

Resistance training is the progressive stimulation of muscle fibers in order to create a more adaptable and powerful muscle. The “loads” we place on particular muscle “groups” are in alignment with the capability, experience and knowledge of the individual executing the program. There are type I and type II fibers. Each type responds differently to the multiple “stimuli” applied.

Type I fibers handle loads “over time” and respond well to longer periods of stress thereby classifying them more as “endurance” fibers. Type II fibers do not become engaged until the load reaches a high enough level where they get “recruited” to assist in handling the applied load. They are power fibers and help with explosive movements such as sprinting from danger. They normally are not required in the day to day activities most people engage in and only when we need them will they enter the equation. If they never get trained to respond however, the odds of being able to engage them when needed becomes remote.

THE PYRAMID

BASE SET (8-12 reps): This set warms the muscle and allows it to perform under a minimal load preparing it for more work in subsequent sets. A set is a prescribed number of repetitions that puts the muscle through a complete range of motion and allows the muscle to “respond” to the load. This stimulus enhances the neuromuscular system to become more capable and ready to help our bodies move effectively throughout the day or when doing other activities requiring a response such as cycling, swimming or hiking.

STRENGTH SET (4-8 reps): This set increases the load and allows for a greater stimulus and response to the activity of moving a “heavier load” through a full range of motion. This set is a “building set” since its intention is to take the muscle to “fatigue” allowing for growth during recovery and down time. One can induce additional growth in this phase by adding sets and continuing the process – depending on your experience and readiness to train in this more advanced manner.

BASE SET (8-12 reps): The final part of the pyramid is to return to a lighter load – not necessarily the original load – and allow the muscle to “work through” the waste that accumulates in the fibers as a result of the prior stimulation.

SETS: Sets are the “pieces” – the individual components – to the puzzle of resistance training. “Putting it all together” in a cohesive program is very important in determining your success. Generally, it is advisable to seek professional guidance when assembling a resistance training program since determining proper training technique, loads and the types of exercises can become quite daunting if you are inexperienced and lack the proper knowledge to do it yourself.

I think of this issue in the following manner: If I am attempting an activity such as snow skiing that I have limited or no experience or skill in doing, I will hire an instructor to teach me the basics and allow me to LEARN how be safe while I learn and begin to enjoy this new activity SAFELY.

PROGRAMMING EXAMPLES

(Include free weights, machine assisted and body weight exercises in planning)

Chest: Push ups (regular and modified), bench press (free weights), or machine press.

Shoulders: Overhead press (dumbbells), lateral raise (machine), rubber tubing with handles.

Back: Lat pull (cable), seated row – tubing, machine, wall press (body).

Arms: Curl (free weights), tubing, machine curl.

Abdominals: Basic crunch (knees bent, upper body life), resistance balls (destabilized crunch), wall crunches with back flat on wall.

Legs: Squats (wall) and lunges (static or moving), leg press (machine) calf extension (stairs and machine).

IN SUMMARY

Resistance training is the “pay check” and cardio is the “bonus”. My former fitness manager said these words to me over twenty years ago and I cannot disagree with him today. You will not get an argument from me on the benefits and power of a well planned resistance training program – especially after the age of 40! The idea that we can maintain our muscular strength and endurance over time WITHOUT training is ludicrous.

Every day that passes without proper stimulation of our major muscle groups is a day that we will never recover. The outcome could become catastrophic if we break a hip or suffer some other major injury that could eventually end our lives. I schedule my own resistance training sessions on Monday and Thursday so as to maximize my training and recovery times. Each program is varied by the number of sets I do, the resistance I engage and the time I take to execute the program. Each session is designed with this thought in mind: MAINTAIN my current lean muscle mass and strength for the years to come.

Your programming efforts are waiting for your decision to begin this new phase of your life and it is MOST definitely a “life affirming” decision. Take the time today to evaluate your needs and make the decision to begin TODAY! If you need help to get started – as I would with my skiing example – then get it! Don’t be afraid to learn new skills that could possibly save your life “down the road” because you – and your body – will be grateful you took a positive step that will NEVER let you down. I embrace this message myself everyday – and KNOW you will too! Travel well.

Reprinted with permission from Nicholas Prukop.


Nicholas Prukop is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer & a Health Coach, a fitness professional with over 25 years of experience whose passion for health and fitness comes from his boyhood in Hawaii where he grew up a swimmer on Maui. He found his calling in writing his first book “Healthy Aging & You: Your Journey to Becoming Happy, Healthy & Fit” and since then he has dedicated himself to empowering, inspiring and enabling people of all ages to reach for the best that is within them and become who they are meant to be – happy, healthy and fit – and be a part of a world where each person can contribute their own unique gifts to life.

If you need help in designing a fitness plan, you can contact Nicholas Prukop via email at runningnick@sbcglobal.net or read his inspiring book Healthy Aging & YOU.

DL-OG-800x451

A Doctor, a Lawyer, and a Quitter Walk into a Bar…

No, it’s not the beginning of a joke. It’s just what happens every time I go into a bar. I have a medical degree and a law degree…and if there were a professional certification for quitting, I’d not only have it, but I’d display it in my office as proudly as I do the other two.

I consider myself an expert-level quitter, and it’s a distinction to which I firmly believe more people should aspire.

Why? Because quitting is the most underrated tool for achieving success not only in business, but in relationships, personal happiness and well-being. In fact, it’s one of the most underrated self-care tools out there.

The walls of Amazon’s virtual bookstore are overflowing with self-help books telling us to live our best lives. But rarely do they address one of the main reasons that people get stuck in something less than their best life: no one tells them how to get through the necessary quits to leave whatever isn’t working. They just tell you to transform your life and strive to make progress…until one day you’ve suddenly arrived at said ideal life.

And quitting ain’t easy.

It’s a process fraught with unwarranted stigma -partially thanks to unhelpful sayings like “quitters never win and winners never quit.” And if you can get past the stigma, you’re then smacked in the face with many of the fears associated with quitting, like wondering if another opportunity will arise to replace whatever you’re leaving, or wondering what people will think about your quitting, or fear that the new scenario you find post-quit won’t truly be more fulfilling than the original one.

It’s enough to make someone just stay put. Stuck in the less-than-ideal.

But it doesn’t have to be. Quitting can be your best friend. But not just regular old quitting. Strategic quitting.

Now I could tell you theoretically about why strategic quitting is the greatest thing since avocado toast, but I think it will be slightly more effective if I show you what it looks like in the real world. Because at this point you may be (understandably) wondering how someone with both medical and law degrees has ever quit anything.

I quit all the time.

Because what does it take to get through that much school and training? Time, money, and energy. How was I able to make sure I had enough of all three to get through? By quitting things that were draining my time/money/energy and focusing only on the things that served me.

So what does it look like in action? Before medical school, I was a multimedia designer, but the sinking feeling I got while sitting in coding classes learning new programming languages told me this was not the field for me — so I quit. I started completely fresh and decided to try to get into medical school.

And after I finished medical school and residency in family medicine, I finally got to my sports medicine fellowship, as I had decided I wanted to be a sports doc. However, I got that same feeling when I was doing sports medicine — like something just wasn’t right. Mostly I didn’t like that the hours were somehow both 9 to 5 and nights and weekends, leaving little time for myself.

So I quit. Again.

At this point you may be thinking, “whoa…but what about all of that time and money you wasted on medical school?” Well that’s where strategic quitting comes in. With regular quitting, I would have walked away from medicine altogether and tried some other career that may have had all the same attributes I disliked about medicine.

But with strategic quitting, you take stock of exactly what parts of a job or relationship, etc. aren’t working for you, and quit only those…and you stay vigilant not to get in new situations that have features that didn’t work for you previously. And as long as you learned something from a past situation, it wasn’t a waste.

So I quit the long hours of sports medicine, and took a job where I make my own schedule. And in the future, you can bet that I won’t be taking any new jobs that have night or weekend hours, because I learned from my previous experience. And as for the money and time I spent? Well having spent a lot of time or money on something that isn’t working for you is a terrible reason to spend more time or money on it. Sticking it out doesn’t get you back your investment, it just gets you further from where you want to be.

Now you may be plenty happy in your job or relationship, but what about some smaller things that may be stressing you out?

Here’s another real-life example. I finished yoga teacher training last year, and during my training I had an unlimited membership to the yoga studio. However, shortly after receiving my instructor certification, I started volunteering with a political campaign and didn’t have time to go often enough to make the membership worth the money, which started to stress me out. Yes, you heard that right, yoga was stressing me out.

So what did I do? Did I quit yoga? Obviously not! I just quit the unlimited membership and switched to a class card, thereby taking away all the guilt and stress I felt over not being able to make it to class as much as I needed to.

Now look at your own life…is there something that brings you stress or causes a sinking feeling in your stomach? Is your body subtly trying to tell you to make a change by giving you heartburn or keeping you awake at night? As a doctor, I can tell you the effects of staying in something that is wrong for you are not minimal. Stress is a leading health risk these days, and a major cause of stress is doing something that’s not in line with your own personal good.

So if your job doesn’t light you up, or your relationship brings you anxiety, or your city just isn’t working for you anymore, I urge you to make close friends with strategic quitting before your body stops whispering to you and starts yelling in the form of chronic pain, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and more.

Strategic quitting is the self-care tool you never knew you needed, but that you’ll never give up once you’ve got it down.


Dr. Lynn Marie Morski is a Quitting Evangelist. She helps people to and through their quits through her book “Quitting by Design” and her podcast Quit Happens, along with speaking and coaching. She is also a board-certified physician in family medicine and sports medicine, currently working at the Veterans Administration. In addition, she is an attorney and former adjunct law professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law. Visit her website, lynnmariemorski.com

Walk Park

The Hijacking of Exercise

I have been involved in exercise personally and professionally since I was in grade school.

My introduction to exercise was initially through sports.

I remember doing the President’s Council on Physical Fitness assessments while in grade school in the late 1960’s. (I know, I know – I’m getting old). For those readers as ancient as I, can you remember those tests?

Max pull-ups
V-sit-and-reach
Sit-ups (one minute)
30-foot shuttle run
One-mile run

There were comparisons for each test that placed the individual in some percentile of a normative value system. This set of supposed tests of fitness were the standard in schools for decades. They underwent some changes in the 80’s and I think are now known as “Let’s Move”.

The idea that fitness is attached to some performance standard is alive and well. In the modern philosophy of exercise process, known as “Functionalism”, the exercise and fitness enthusiast are all considered “athletes”. This notion of exercise being an athletic endeavor, and that all exercisers are treated like (and should consider themselves) as athletes, dominates the fitness and – even physical therapy – landscape.

I think sports has hijacked exercise.

I think this is a mistake.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand and support that athletic individuals participating in sports need to exercise. I understand that athletes working to achieve high levels of physical capabilities use the exercise process in ways that a non-athlete might never even consider, let alone need, to achieve a modicum of fitness. But, athletes seem to accumulate physical injury. When the exercise process expects the exerciser to push their limits in order to squeeze out ever-increasing physical performance feats, an injury is not far behind. Getting injured using exercise for general fitness is not fitness. Why would a non-athlete want to pursue exercise under these conditions?

It sometimes seems as if the modern message of “everyone is an athlete” coming from the exercise and fitness community to the general population, most of which are not athletes and have no interest in sports, dissuades the non-athlete from pursuing exercise. The images used to promote exercise are composed of athletes pushing their physical limits and expressing the pain and discomfort that comes with that pursuit. This can be intimidating to the non-athlete. The exercise processes used to exercise individuals under the “everyone is an athlete” paradigm are high risk and unnecessary for general fitness and wellness.

My thesis is this: The message and delivery of exercise and fitness as an athletic endeavor truncates the already difficult process of getting more individuals to start and maintain an appropriate lifelong exercise process that achieves the powerful benefits regular exercise can bestow.

My answer is this: The modern message needs to be more balanced in order to avoid stereotyping exercise as only for those that are athletically inclined. One that presents images of average everyday folks exercising and enjoying non-athletic physical pursuits. It is our responsibility as exercise and healthcare providers to stimulate and inspire more of the general population to engage in a regular and reasonable process of exercise. One that does not tell them that they have to be an athlete, nor will be treated like one during exercise whether they like it not. Let’s create messaging that encourages and exhorts participation at all levels for all classes. Let’s move away from just offering a protocol based athletic exercise process. Let’s customize the process to not just the client’s physical needs but their mental perspective of self and how they want to experience exercise.


Greg Mack is a gold-certified ACE Medical Exercise Specialist and an ACE Certified Personal Trainer. He is the founder and CEO of the corporation Fitness Opportunities. Inc. dba as Physicians Fitness and Exercise Professional Education. He is also a founding partner in the Muscle System Consortia. Greg has operated out of chiropractic clinics, outpatient physical therapy clinics, a community hospital, large gyms and health clubs, as well operating private studios. His experience in working in such diverse venues enhanced his awareness of the wide gulf that exists between the medical community and fitness facilities, particularly for those individuals trying to recover from, and manage, a diagnosed disease. 

live-your-dream

Keep the Goal

I think you’d agree that we are in an age of information overload. Between internet search engines and social media, ALL the advice and opinions are available to you. It is really easy to get caught up in the shiny object syndrome. It is hard to Keep the Goal.

The noise of everything can become too loud! And it’s hard to tune out that noise.

But I’m here to remind you today to stay focused on your goal(s). If you’re doing something that’s working, don’t change it up because of a shared article you read on Facebook about a new wonder food or supplement! Yep, don’t go down that rabbit hole…

Is your goal weight loss? Then, take daily actions that are focused toward that – clean whole foods, weight and cardio training, hydration, stress management and good sleep. If the goal is performance for an endurance race, follow your training plan. If the goal is pain management, do the required exercises. Even your goal is just basic movement and get in the gym 3x/week, stick to that, ok?

It’s a simple concept, but it’s not easy to execute when everything is so loud and in your face. Quiet the noise and keep things out of your face by staying laser focused on you.

So, stay focused on the goal and take the daily necessary steps to get there. If you aren’t sure what those are, hire a coach (like me) who can help you get there.

In conclusion, Keep the Goal!

Originally printed on Move Well Fitness blog. Reprinted with permission.


Maurice D. Williams is a personal trainer and owner of Move Well Fitness in Bethesda, MD. With almost two decades in the industry, he’s worked with a wide range of clients, including those with health challenges like diabetes, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, hypertension, coronary artery disease, lower back pain, pulmonary issues, and pregnancy. Maurice is also a fitness educator with Move Well Fit Academy and NASM.  

healthy middle aged man workout at the beach

The Aging Athlete

If you’re reading this you are likely interested in beginning or improving in a recreational activity or sport. You might want to train for stadium football, a rec team, fun runs, obstacle courses or something as major as a triathlon. While you may be anxious to jump right into a training program there are a few things you should consider such as your current activity level, current physical condition (i.e. chronic conditions, aches, past surgeries, injuries), and knowledge of physical fitness programming.

Who is the Aging Athlete?

The aging athlete can be anyone who needs to rethink their recovery strategy as it relates to the rigors of the desired/continued activity due to the aging process. Likely this is any athlete or recreational athlete in their 30’s, 40’s and beyond. The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) states, that while the cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength of older competitors or athletes are truly exceptional, even the most highly trained athletes experience some decline in performance after the age 30. As such participating in recreational sports or activities fully depends on your health and preparation and the sport or activity you are pursuing.

Before you begin you should consult with your primary health care provider (PHCP). If you’ve been cleared but inactive for any period of time complete a physical activity readiness questionnaire (PAR-Q) to ensure nothing has changed. Additionally, if you have a chronic condition, chances are your PHCP has already discussed exercise with you, and most likely gave you some general guidelines. A chronic condition defined by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a condition that lasts one year or more and requires ongoing medical attention or limits activities of daily living or both. This does not preclude you from participating in recreational sport or activity necessarily, but it is a factor to be taken into consideration. You may be asking yourself, is this something I can do? Is this something I can do on my own? Do I need a trainer? How do I know what trainer I should go to?

Is this something you can do on your own?

The answer is yes, with this caveat. Unless you have a background in exercise, likely there will come a point when you will need someone to reach out to for advice. If that happens reach out to a professional with the appropriate qualifications. Frequently, I have heard gym members echo comments questioning the validity or worth of paying someone to do something they can do on their own. They often do not realize or recognize that hiring a professional who is educated and experienced in strength and conditioning is more than just programming exercise, it’s also injury prevention. Activities, movements, or lack of recovery may not have caused injury in the past, but as we age the dynamic changes, and to remain healthy and injury free, we must change. Commonly people just work around injuries, avoid certain exercises, or reduce intensity and accept that’s just part of aging, so they press forward. However, if they would have consulted with a fitness professional they may have found a better more comprehensive solution.

Working around past injuries is a useful and worthy approach, if done correctly. However, the truth is that most of those injuries are a result of their habits. Perhaps they have been predominantly inactive, spending much of the day sitting. Perhaps they were training hard without any or little variation in intensity, without any or little variation of joint movement, and without any or little variation in program design. These all add up to repetitive stress injuries. Common repetitive stress injuries often appear as bursitis, arthritis, tendonitis, and lower back pain/injuries.

That is not to say you cannot do this on your own nor that you need a trainer or will always need a trainer. It is to communicate the point that we do not inherently know how to exercise properly. Many in their youth have participated in sports, and the programs they were taught may be missing some crucial elements to keep them healthy and pain free. These elements are missing sometimes because years ago we did not have the information we have today. Sometimes it’s because we only remember some of what we were taught, and other times it’s because we have aged, or our physical needs have changed and require a change in programming.

If you’ve never exercised before, it’s recommended you either take a few classes (not a fitness class such as spin, but an instructional class offered at a gym, YMCA, or college) or hire a trainer for a short period of time. Perhaps you are on the fence on taking a class or seeing a trainer. If that is the case, ask yourself these questions:

Are you developing aches and pains that are lasting for longer periods of time?
Do you know what a plane of motion is, and how to exercise your joints in each plane of motion?
How often do you change your program? Do you have a chronic condition?
Are you developing lower back, knee, or hip pain?

The answers to these questions can give you a good sense of whether you may benefit from seeking professional assistance or instruction.

The Key is Individualized Programming

Assuming your destination is recreational sports and activities or even occupational activities the program should be appropriately progressed in intensity, duration, and specificity to get you to your desired destination.  Repetitive stress injuries occur because one set of tissues in the body/muscle/joint continue to be challenged in the same way at the same spot over, and over again. By taking your occupation, past activities or recreational sports into account your program can be structured to bring the proper balance of strength, and flexibility to the areas that may be neglected or strained. Below is a list of general guidelines if you’re choosing to do this on your own:

General

  • It is recommended you undergo a health screening by your PHCP prior to beginning
  • Cardiovascular and resistance training are both recommended, intensity in both depend on your medical clearance, training status, and sport of choice
  • Perform exercise through a full pain free range of motion, and do not exercise if the joint is in pain or inflamed3
  • Listen to your body, and when in doubt seek guidance from a qualified fitness professional

Resistance, Cardio and Sport Specific Exercise

  • Warm-up for 5-10 minutes with low-moderate aerobic activity and calisthenics, and perform static stretching after the warm-up and at the end of the workout2
  • For cardiovascular/endurance perform 20-60 minutes of large-muscle aerobic activity most days at an intensity of 60%-90% of age-predicted heart rate1
  • If you have been sedentary or are just beginning, resistance train no more than twice a week, allowing 48-72 hours to recover, as you progress you can workout daily with different muscles groups at different intensities each day2
  • Focus on mastering basic resistance exercises then implement exercises that are more sport specific, as well as balance, free weights, multi-directional, multi-joint, and power/agility exercises2
  • Begin doing 8-12 repetitions of a weight that is equal to 50% of your maximum weight and gradually increase to up to 80% of your maximum weight, weight should be lifted and lowered in a controlled manner, and at a slower speed in the beginning (2 seconds for the lifting phase, and 2 seconds for the lowering phase), for 1-3 sets2
  • Take 1-3 minutes of rest between sets3
  • Avoid holding your breath during exercise2
  • Once you’ve advanced to power/speed training, perform 1-3 sets per exercise at 40-60% of your maximum weight and 6-10 repetitions at a high (but controlled) speed2
  • Train each joint in multiple directions (ie. planes of motion). For example, the hip can perform flexion, abduction, adduction, or circumduction.

What Should I look for in a Trainer?

If you elect to see a trainer there’s a few things you want to look for. You want a trainer with verifiable experience, an accredited certification/college degree, and liability insurance. The fitness industry is largely unregulated and there is some debate among which certifications are the best. A good place to start is the MedFit Network as trainers have to meet professional criteria in order to be listed. Additionally, it is important that their experience and background suits them to your specific needs. If you have a chronic condition, dealing with pain or have past injuries these are areas you want to be confident they can serve. As you are either engaged in athletic activity or want to engage in athletic activity it is important that the trainer have a solid foundation of periodization, and athletic performance. Quack science and self-professed gurus have no place here. The trainer’s practices should be founded in the principles set forth by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). Most trainers offer a free assessment, which gives them an opportunity to learn about you, and you to learn about them. Be sure to meet with several trainers and ask for client references. This is a reasonable request and a quality trainer will not take offense. Lastly, if something feels off, seek a second opinion.

When undertaking rigorous activity and sport, there are other services you may want to consider, or discuss with your PHCP such as massage therapy, nutritional counseling, or chiropractic care depending on your needs. Remember one size does not fit all and by keeping your health in balance now you will be able to continue to enjoy the activities and sports you love for years to come.


Jeremy Kring, holds a Master’s degree in Exercise Science from the California University of Pennsylvania, and a Bachelor’s degree from Duquesne University. He is a college instructor where he teaches the science of exercise and personal training. He is a certified and practicing personal/fitness trainer, and got his start in the field of fitness training in the United States Marine Corps in 1998. You can visit his website at jumping-jacs.com

References

  1. Jacobs, P. L. (2018). NSCAs essentials of training special populations. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
  2. Haff, G., & Triplett, N. T. (2016). NSCAs essentials of strength training and conditioning. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
  3. Brown, L. E. (2017). Strength training se/National Strength and Conditioning Association. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
stress-woman

Stress Management in the Modern World

It’s exhausting being a human today – there are over one million Google hits per day for the word “stress”. Good and bad stress is a part of the human condition and it can be real or imagined and it is certainly a broad societal issue. By making a positive “next step” in managing your stress you can avoid becoming worn out by the journey of life.

Stress was first described in 1915 and the theory states that we react to threats with a general discharge of the sympathetic nervous system, priming the person for fighting or fleeing. Biologically, physical activity gives the body a chance to practice dealing with stress. Physical Activity releases mood-elevating endorphins, self-confidence and improves your sleep. Studies show that one can access the REM state (the most restorative phase of sleep) quicker on days you include physical activity. Under stress, our raised heart rate and blood pressure but tensions in our arteries and cause damage. Chronic stress which goes on longer than 20 minutes contributes to heart attacks just as acute stress does. It also causes constriction of the blood vessels, dilation of pupils, auditory exclusion and decline of peripheral vision. As the body heals this damage, artery walls scar and thicken which can reduce the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart (occluded arteries). Since the brain uses 20% of the oxygen delivered by the heart foggy-thinking may result. Stress can also cause the telomeres to shorten and erode. The telomeres protect the end of the chromosomes and if they shorten too much, they cannot multiply and die off resulting in quicker aging.

The President of the Salk Institute, Elizabeth Blackburn, and the recipient of the Nobel Prize states, “We’ve found that the better your telomeres are protected, the less chance you’ll have of getting any of the big diseases.” She suggests to stop the erosion, do physical activity of various types and don’t have long-term stress.

Begin to take charge of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule, your spending, your environment and the way you deal with problems – especially family system challenges. Ask yourself, is it worth my health? Is this situation/person worth negatively impacting my health? Choose to be happy – it can boost your emotional well-being as stated in studies published in the Journal of Positive Psychology. Be mindful of good and hard-earned accomplishments and enjoy your small victories. Appreciate the simple pleasures, devote time to giving, make a point to listen to the other person’s ideas and UNPLUG! Ferris Bueller said – “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it”.

Hamlet said, “There is nothing good or bad…but thinking makes it so.” Positive thinking is medicine and every thought can enhance or diminish our health, happiness and stress level. Dr. Robert Sapolsky of Stanford proposes in his book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, “If you are a normal mammal, stress is the three minutes of screaming terror in the jungle which either it is over with OR you’re over with. Perceived threats spark the same physiological survival responses (fight or flight) that crocodile attacks do.” Our modern-day stressors have changed. Fighting off prehistoric predators and trying to find food are replaced by juggling deadlines, multitasking and always being “connected” and available. Modern day saber tooth tigers are bills, traffic, family pressures but our bodies react the same way without the natural release that we would get from fighting or fleeing. Try not to turn to sugar and caffeine which can result in swings in blood sugar levels, limit alcohol to one drink per day and try to achieve a balanced, clean diet on most days of the week to even out your beautiful life.

The United States Government has suggested 150 minutes per week of physical activity in addition to two days per week of strength training for 20 minutes and stretching every day. There are many meditation, relaxation response and calming apps which you can download to have with you and use when you are having a challenge with managing stress. Sit and stand tall and do not “slump” as this can cause shallow chest breathing which can trigger the fight or flight response. Try not to make important decisions while under undue stress as this may result in poor or faulty decisions.

A 2016 study by the American College of Sports Medicine stated if workers do not have emotional resilience skills and habits to help support them during stressful times, their productivity declines. Work-related requirements such as precision and accuracy, problem solving, interpersonal communications as well as speed and quality of work output will suffer. We  need to adjust to change without disruption or difficulty while maintaining good functional capacities. We need to bounce back without breaking and without giving in, giving up or breaking down. Stress Management is an integral component of Global Employee Health and Fitness Month (every May) healthandfitnessmonth.org and as the Architect of this initiative I felt passionately about including this component along with nutrition and physical activity, to give each and every worker the opportunity to go home “whole.”

Each and every day when confronted with stress, think about what advice you would give to a friend and then take this advice yourself!


Diane Hart, Owner of Hart to Heart Fitness, (www.harttoheartfitness.org) is a Nationally Certified Fitness Professional, Personal Trainer, Health Educator and is current President of the National Association for Health and Fitness (www.physicalfitness.org) founded in 1979 by the U.S. President’s Council on Sports and Fitness. 

 

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.  Three 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).

 

Resistance Training: Principles and Planning

As I have grown in my own understanding of strength training over the years, I have  come to realize that many people are aware of the need to develop strength but appear to miss the point when applying their efforts to the actual process. I have observed over the years that men tend to want to “load up” their exercises and do minimal repetitions (maximizing the resistance) while women tend to work with very light weight and do greater numbers of repetitions.

Both approaches are not wrong but in applying their effort in this way they will both get minimal results. Men tend to get fatter in the abdominal cavity and women tend to gain fat mass in the hips and thighs – and eventually arms. Both approaches will not solve the “fat storage” problem and I suspect the frustration both groups feel grows ever time as each attempts to change the outcome by going with what they “think” will work.

I feel that if I can highlight the PRINCIPLES of resistance training while identifying the underlying benefits of a successful resistance training program I will hopefully “shed light” on the mystery of getting a “lean body” which we all seem to want.  Lean and strong beats fat and weak any day -doesn’t it? I know it does because I am able to say that after 30 years of weight training I AM lean and strong! Would you want that too? Of course!

PRINCIPLES OF RESISTANCE TRAINING

RESISTANCE: Applying a predetermined  “load” to a particular muscle group in order to create a deficit of stored energy and allow the muscle to respond to the “stimulus” by “adapting to the load presented” – and getting stronger over time. The muscle grows in size and strength by responding to increased loads and gives the joint more stability while creating a more flexible and adaptable joint.

REPETITIONS: The number of movements around the joint that create the result. The lower the number of repetitions – the greater the load. The higher the number of repetitions – the lower the load. Repetitions can range anywhere from (6 for “power sets” to 15 for “endurance sets”. The number of sets one can do will determine how quickly – or slowly – the muscle will respond to the stimulus. When it can no longer perform the movement (1-3 sets for beginners to 4-6 – or more – sets for experienced individuals) it has reached a “failure point”.

EXERCISES: The number of exercises is determined by the condition of the individual and the outcome desired. The form (body weight, machine, free weights) the exercises take is determined by the experience, knowledge and acquired skill of the individual. The process is always dictated by the conditioning and “readiness” of the person to train and MUST always include the safety and effectiveness of the exercises selected. Examples of exercises are: Leg extension, calf extension (seated or standing), shoulder press, chest press, back – rowing or pulldown, arm curls, lunges, and squats.

SPEED/TIMING: Timing refers to the speed with which we do the movements needed. The 2/4 count is a common tool used to either “speed up” or “slow down” the movements. (2 is for raising the weight and 4 for is for lowering the weight slowing the movement). Each has value but the faster we do the movements the more likely we are to increase the risk of injury. The heavier the load the more speed will have to be employed to “move the weight”. The lighter the load the slower the movement can done increasing fatigue and allowing the muscle to respond over time to the stimulus. Do a movement that is comfortable for you and remain in control of both the positive and negative resistance.

RANGE OF MOTION: The principle of range of motion comes into play when we attempt to move a heavier “load” through a “full range of motion” when our muscle is unable to do it without assistance from another joint. A classic example would be a standing arm curl where we are applying a weight against our bicep and attempting to raise the weight to our shoulders without using our back or lifting with our shoulders. I see this all the time. If you can’t “curl the weight” slowly – at the elbow for example – without assistance the weight is too heavy.

PROGRAMMING: Programming applies to the overall effort – and the result one is attempting to achieve. Starting with lower weight and doing more repetitions correctly is always preferable since safety must come first. The muscle develops over time and then additional “reps” can be applied with higher resistance since the muscle “adapts to the loads” over time. Patience is important and “going slowly” at first is always advisable. Weight training can show results in as little as 30 days so keep going!

THE PRINCIPLE OF ADAPTATION: This principle is the most important to keep in mind. All muscles get stronger over time if consistent effort is made and the issue of safety is always kept foremost in mind. My own training is now focusing on high numbers of repetitions while maintaining the weight I have been using to this date. The endurance and power issues are  being addressed in this manner since I am older now and my goal is to “maintain” my existing lean muscle mass”. We should ALL want to maintain our lean muscle mass since it is the most active tissue in our bodies – and burns lots of calories! The aging process WILL have a long term – and negative – effect if we do nothing!

PLANNING

Do “something” every week for the rest of your life when it comes to building – and maintaining – your existing lean muscle mass. Strength and endurance decline with the years – especially after the age of 40. The process actually begins in our 30’s but accelerates in our 40’s and beyond. I am fighting for a lean and strong body every time I train with weights.

I am building ENDURANCE through massive numbers of sets and reps. I am creating more POWER and STRENGTH through increased loads. I am increasing my CAPACITY when I keep the time between sets down to 30 seconds or less. I don’t waste time sitting or talking with people. I don’t allow myself to be distracted (no PHONE). I work toward the completion of my weight training workout in under an hour and fifteen minutes twice a week.

Scheduling time to work on building muscular strength and endurance is critical to a healthy and fit body. Your commitment to creating and maintaining your existing lean mass is VITAL so start with 2-3 days and build your program to suit your needs. Consider all your options (machines, free weights, body weight exercises etc.). Seek guidance from a fitness professional to assist you in planning your training especially if you lack proper training and experience – better “safe than sorry”!

Set a firm schedule for yourself and stick to it! I strength train on Mondays and Thursdays – and train HARD each time. I want to keep what I have as long as I can – and enjoy every minute at the same time! You should too! Find a way and commit yourself to your purpose and NEVER QUIT!

IN SUMMARY

Strength training is vital to a healthy and fit body as we age. Without our muscles we WILL become frail and weak – and our spine will collapse along with our ability to take care of ourselves – which I never want to experience. I see this outcome every day and walkers are becoming more commonplace for the “elderly”. I NEVER want to be called “ELDERLY”. That to me is the kiss of death. Remember after the age of 40 “all bets are off”. If you haven’t been active and developing your body before that age then get started and don’t waste a minute – or even ONE DAY.

Once the time is gone it can never be recovered. I am off to do my weight training for the start of my week and I can’t wait to “get to it”. My energy levels will go up and my attitude will be positive – and happy. I will accept the challenges of my day and start my week off on the “right foot”. Will you do the same? Only you can answer this question. I am guessing that if you do all you can today to get stronger – your body – and your mind – will be forever grateful that you charted a course that will forever keep you young and vital – and that is priceless!


Nicholas Prukop is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer & a Health Coach, a fitness professional with over 25 years of experience whose passion for health and fitness comes from his boyhood in Hawaii where he grew up a swimmer on Maui. He found his calling in writing his first book “Healthy Aging & You: Your Journey to Becoming Happy, Healthy & Fit” and since then he has dedicated himself to empowering, inspiring and enabling people of all ages to reach for the best that is within them and become who they are meant to be – happy, healthy and fit – and be a part of a world where each person can contribute their own unique gifts to life.

If you need help in designing a fitness plan, you can contact Nicholas Prukop via email at runningnick@sbcglobal.net or read his inspiring book Healthy Aging & YOU.

selfcare

Self-Care Is Good For Your Mental Health

Stress and addiction are closely linked together. In fact, stress is one of the key factors(1) of addiction initiation, maintenance, relapse and treatment failure, according to Psychology Today. It is important to differentiate between chronic stress and normal stress. Normal stress can be healthy and even seen as pleasant.  However, chronic stress can have harmful effects on your physical and mental health.(2) One of the biggest sources of chronic stress is in the workplace. As a result, chronic stress can cause employees to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drugs and alcohol.(3) Luckily, self-care can help you cope with this stress in a healthy way.

Mental Benefits of Self-Care

Self-care has a number of key health benefits. In its most basic form, self-care is simply taking care of yourself. Exercising, for example, can prevent several diseases and disorders including heart disease.(4) However, self-care also has a number of mental benefits as well.

Taking time away to take care of yourself provides you with a way to recharge your batteries. After a long, hard day at work, coming home and taking a relaxing bath can be akin to hitting the reset button. This makes you able to withstand everyday stressors better and enables you to stay focused and more productive when you are working.

But, now that you know the benefits of self-care, how can you actually implement it in your everyday life?

Sleep

Sleep is important for our mental and physical health, but it is very often overlooked. According to ResMed, sleep helps you heal damaged cells, boost your immune system, and recharge your heart and cardiovascular system for the next day.(5) On top of these physical benefits though, getting the correct amount of sleep also has tons of mental health benefits. No one feels 100 percent when they haven’t had enough sleep.

Sleep deprivation can prevent you from focusing, make your irritable, and cause you to crave unhealthy foods. It is hard to deal with even basic, everyday stress when you haven’t had a good night’s sleep. To help you get the sleep you need, it is important to have a set sleep routine and schedule. While it might seem like you can get more work done if you stay up, it is generally a much better idea to get the sleep you need and come back to your work later.

Take a Break

Taking a break can be helpful when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed. No one can concentrate on one task for long, especially if it isn’t a task that is fun or exhilarating. So, instead of trying to focus on a task for longer than you could do accurately, take regular breaks. This can help you stay focused while you do work and decrease the amount of stress you’re under, especially at work. We recommend taking at least one break an hour and possibly even more if the task you’re doing is particularly difficult.

Eat Healthily

Eating healthy can improve your physical and mental health. Healthy food helps to boost your mood and can keep you from being stressed. Keeping healthy snacks close at hand and having regular meals can greatly enhance your overall mood and your mental stability.

Self-care can do wonders for your mental health and can prevent relapse. By preparing your body to handle stress well, you can keep your outlook positive and handle whatever the world throws at you.


Henry Moore is the co-creator of FitWellTraveler. The site blends two of his favorite subjects (travel and health) to provide readers with information about how to get the most out of both.

References:

  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/science-choice/201705/stress-and-addiction
  2. https://www.verywellmind.com/chronic-stress-3145104
  3. https://rockrecoverycenter.com/blog/work-stress-and-substance-abuse/
  4. https://draxe.com/benefits-of-exercise/
  5. https://www.resmed.com/us/en/consumer/diagnosis-and-treatment/healthy-sleep/what-happens-during-sleep.html