It's About Time

If you have ever spent more that 5 minutes with me, it is fairly obvious that I love fitness. I have learned so much (sometimes the hard way) in the 30 years that I have been teaching. What better way to share my passion than to start a blog and pass on the information that I share with clients on a day-to-day basis.

Monday, February 25, 2013

How To Exercise to Boost Your Immune System

There are so many things that can affect how we feel. Everywhere we go, we are exposed to germs and some of those aren’t very nice.  Add busy schedules that don’t allow us to get proper rest, hectic routines that don’t allow us to eat properly and everyday stresses that can weaken our body’s efforts to stay healthy and we may just come down with something ugly.  Exercise has so many benefits and several studies show that moderate, consistent exercise can actually help your immune system. 

The intensity and duration of exercise needed for supporting the immune system is less than the required amount needed for the best cardiovascular training.  Regular exercise such as brisk or moderate walking for 20-40 minutes every day, 5 days a week will increase the body’s ability to deal with infections.  During moderate exercise, immune cells circulate through the body more quickly and are better able to kill bacteria and viruses.  Some studies have shown that a regular program of brisk walking can bolster the immune system including the antibody response and the natural killer (T cell) response. 

After exercise ends, the immune systems generally returns to normal within a few hours, but consistent, regular exercise seems to make these changes a bit more long lasting.  “When Moderate exercise is repeated on a near-daily basis, there is a cumulative effect that leads to a long-term immune response.” Dr. David Nieman.

We know that exercise also can boost our mental wellness as well. Psychological stress can also impair immunity and lead to an increase of cold and flu infections.   It is not always clear whether exercise alone boosts the immune system directly or if it works through a link with the brain and the nervous system. 

Too much exercise at high levels can affect your immune system in a negative way.  Exercising at a higher intensity or lasting for more than 90 minutes can actually temporarily suppress your immune system.  It can also make you susceptible to illness for up to 72 hours after the exercise session.  When the body is stressed from higher levels of intensity, the body will produce certain hormones that temporarily lower immunity.  Cortisol and adrenaline (stress hormones) have been linked to increases susceptibility to infection to extreme exercisers.  If you are training for a long distance event or an extreme exercise situation, allow your body and your immune system to recover properly.   If you are already ill, you should also be careful of working out too hard.  Your immune system is already taxed by fighting your infection and additional stress from a tough workout could prolong your recovery. 

In general, if you have mild cold symptoms and no fever, light or moderate exercise may help you feel a little better and actually boost your immune system.  Intense or long duration exercise will only make things worse and keep you down long.  

Friday, February 22, 2013

Timing Your Calories

Study: A Calorie is just a Calorie.

In life, they say, timing is everything. The same may be true for losing weight as well. New research suggests that, while calories are important, whenyou consume them may have a significant effect on how much weight you lose.
Most weight-loss plans center around a balance between caloric intake and energy expenditure. However, new research sheds light on a new factor that is necessary to shed pounds: timing. Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), in collaboration with the University of Murcia and Tufts University, have found that it's not simply what you eat, but also when you eat, that may help with weight-loss regulation.
“This is the first large-scale prospective study to demonstrate that the timing of meals predicts weight-loss effectiveness,” says Frank Scheer, Ph.D., M.Sc., director of the Medical Chronobiology Program and associate neuroscientist at BWH, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and senior author on this study. “Our results indicate that late-eaters displayed a slower weight-loss rate and lost significantly less weight than early-eaters, suggesting that the timing of large meals could be an important factor in a weight-loss program.”
To evaluate the role of food timing in weight-loss efforts, researchers recruited 420 overweight participants to follow a 20-week weight-loss treatment program in Spain. The participants were divided into two groups: early-eaters and late-eaters, according to the self-selected timing of the main meal, which in this Mediterranean population was lunch. During this meal, 40 percent of the total daily calories are consumed. Early-eaters ate lunch anytime before 3 p.m. and late-eaters, after 3 p.m. They found that late-eaters lost significantly less weight than early-eaters and displayed a much slower rate of weight-loss. Late-eaters also had a lower estimated insulin sensitivity, which is a risk factor for diabetes.
Researchers found that timing of the other (smaller) meals did not play a role in the success of weight loss. However, the late-eaters—who lost less weight—also consumed fewer calories during breakfast and were more likely to skip breakfast altogether.
In the study, which was published in the January 29, 2013, issue of International Journal of Obesity, researchers also examined other factors that often play a role in weight loss, such as total calorie intake and expenditure, levels of the appetite hormones leptin and ghrelin, and sleep duration. Among these factors, they found no differences between the late-eater and early-eater groups, suggesting that the timing of the meal was an important and independent factor in weight-loss success.
“This study emphasizes that the timing of food intake itself may play a significant role in weight regulation,” explains Marta Garaulet, Ph.D., professor of physiology at the University of Murcia Spain, and lead author of the study. She suggests that weight-loss efforts should focus on not only caloric intake, macronutrient distribution and exercise, but the timing of meals as well.
In other words, it appears the old adage to "breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and supper like a pauper" may be good advice after all.
Garaulet, M. et al. (2013). Timing of food intake predicts weight loss effectiveness. International Journal of Obesity, DOI: 10.1038/ijo.2012.229.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Information About Back Pain

Degenerative Disk Disease (DDD) is the most common catch phrase for back pain.  It afflicts many people and can be very painful and frustrating.  It occurs naturally as we age but can be aggravated or induced by trauma, injury, heavy lifting, obesity and heredity.  Nearly everyone experiences some disc degeneration after the age of 40.  Some people may even have some degeneration but don't have any symptoms.  DDD is not actually a disease but a condition where there is a breakdown in the disks.

"Part of the confusion probably comes from the term "degenerative" which implies to most people that the symptoms will get worse with age.  The term applies to the disc degenerating, but does not apply to the symptoms.  While it is true that the disc degeneration is likely to progress over time, the low back pain from degenerative disc disease usually does not get worse and in fact usually gets better over time.  Another source of confusion is probably created by the term "disease", which is actually a misnomer.  Degenerative disc disease is not really a disease at all, but rather a degenerative condition that at times can produce pain from a damaged disc."
Exercise can help prevent, and relieve back pain.  Most people with low back pain reduce their activity to avoid the discomfort and that is very understandable.  Others want to stretch to help relieve the back which may help in some circumstances but  can further traumatize strained muscles.  My solution is to strengthen the muscles that support your spine.  Avoiding movement or holding the back in a fixed position for too long can have an adverse affect on your healing and even cause other compensation issues.  The remedy is to pick the right exercises and strengthen your core.  Exercise in a controlled and progressive environment can help heal the back by bring blood to the injured area.  

Here are some exercises that can help you strengthen your core.

Dead Bug Series-  Lay on floor with feet on the floor, compress abdominal wall then alternate picking up  feet.  Do not let your body shift or  allow your low back lift off the floor as leg lifts up.  Vary timing for more of a challenge

Dead Bug-Start with legs in the air, alternate slowly dropping one leg towards the floor.  Avoid quick movement.  As leg is dropping concentrate on pulling in abdominals to avoid back lifting off the floor. You can also length the leg as it drops down towards the floor for an added challenge.

4-Part back stability series.  Lay on back,  Flex spine and curl up.  Press hands against  legs and  simultaneously pull knees into hands creating an isometric contraction.  Hollow and compress abdominals.  Hold for 15- 30 seconds depending on strength.  If you are straining at your neck, place a pillow under upper back for support.  

Part 2-Same starting position but arms are pulling and legs are pushing away to create the isometric contraction.  Hold  15-30 seconds
Part 3 and 4- Using opposing forces, push with one arm and pull with the other.  Keep shoulders square and  thighs parallel.  Hold on one side for 15-30 seconds and then repeat on other side for the same amount of time.   Thanks to my lovely model Theresa.  She is amazing.  Repeat this series 3 times.  

Monday, February 4, 2013

Don't Sweat It.. . . Not

This article was inspired by my workout today.  We did all lower body exercises with a 20 LB. weight vest on. Oh my.  It is a killer and every time I do it I sweat a ton.  As I removed my vest I noticed a distinct pattern on my top.  It was a heart.  I thought "How appropriate."  I love to sweat.  We all should "love" to sweat and there are many benefits to getting a little soggy when you train hard.
I asked my husband what shape he saw and he said "Mickey Mouse flexing."  For the sake of this article  look for the heart.
  • Sweat is like you body's air conditioning system.  It cools you down when you body gets overheated by exercise.
  • Sweating is very cleansing.  Because circulation is increased during exercise, many toxins and impurities may exit your body through your skin.
  • Sweating can help your skin.   When pores open up and it allows dirt and impurites to leave on the surface layers.
  • Effective exercising and sweat go hand in hand and those things can reduce stress.
  • Can also possibly help with your immune system.  As the body works hard it produces more white blood cells which in turn can help you keep from getting sick.
Don't worry about your hair or clothes.  Just get out there and sweat a little.