The importance of strength training in middle age and beyond

Everyone knows that as people age, they get frail. Our firm, toned bodies of our early twenties turn into the softer and rounder bodies of our thirties, forties, and fifties. These bodies in turn start thinning out into our sixties, seventies and beyond.

Most people don’t know that this phenomenon is called Sarcopenia, and it is a natural process that everyone experiences. This well-known medical condition is unavoidable.

Sarcopenia, also known as age-related muscle atrophy is one of the major causes of loss of quality-of-life. This loss of muscle and consequently strength, is often what causes people to stop participating in their favorite activities and hobbies. Sarcopenia is what makes it harder and harder for people to get out of low chairs and sofas. As we lose strength in our legs, it becomes harder to walk, harder to climb stairs and just generally, harder to get around.

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The importance of strength training in middle age and beyond

Posture and head position as causes of neck and back pain

Neck pain is only second to back pain as the primary musculoskeletal complaint that people have. There can be many causes for these pains and we definitely would not suggest that good posture is a solution to all these problems. However, posture in general and head position in specific are some of the most common causes and some of the most easily correctable causes for neck and back pain.

The mechanism of discomfort caused by posture is quite simple. When we have ‘natural’ or ‘proper’ posture, our muscles are in a state of balance. Most muscle groups operate as pairs: Antagonist and Protagonist, the Protagonist being the one contracting. As muscles can only work in contraction, in order to support a weight or position the Protagonist must contract. For example, if your head is tilted forward the muscles at the back of your neck must contract in order to support the weight of your head (approximately 14lb). As the neck muscles are connected along the spine, your other muscles along the spine must contract. This in turn pulls the rest of your spine out of neutral alignment. Each one of these muscle groups which remains contracted for a long period of time will result in pain all along the back and into the neck and head, often resulting in headaches.

One of the main difficulties with respect to correcting posture related discomfort is that the longer you have poor posture the harder it is to correct. As we allow our head to move forward from neutral, the contracted muscles eventually become longer and the opposing muscles become shorter. This process has to be reversed with stretching and strengthening exercises over some time in order to regain the balance that has been lost.

The simplest way to test your own natural position is to be supine (face up) on the floor and get points of contact with floor at the back of your head, upper back and butt. Try to relax in this position especially in the neck region and shoulders. If this position is difficult, for example, if you feel you need to support the head on a pillow or similar item, you know that the muscles in the front of your neck may have become shortened due to improper posture. Similarly, if it is difficult for you to have your shoulders and upper back flat on the floor, you know that the muscles in the front of your body may have shortened due to posture.

If you have one of the issues mentioned above you will need to use alternating contraction exercises to help you regain balance. If you don’t know what we mean, come by to the studio and we will help you learn.

Posture and head position as causes of neck and back pain

MIND over body really works yet again!

An article published earlier this year in the journal Alzheimer & Dementia (Feb 2015) showed unequivocally that the MIND diet (MIND = Mediterranean – DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) is more influential than genetics in affecting ones’ chances of suffering from the awful effects of dementia.

The MIND diet is simply adhering to a Mediterranean diet high in fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, beans berries poultry and fish….of course sprinkled with olive oil for good measure. The foods to avoid are red meat, butter and margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets as well as fried foods.

The amazing outcomes show that strict adherence to the Mediterranean diet reduced risk of Alzheimer by over 50% and even with some cheating risk is reduced by 35%.

There have been several research papers showing benefit and association of increased exercise on reducing the chance of dementia, now this confirmation of the benefit of the MIND diet shows yet again: eat well, simple and healthy, remain as active as possible, and you WILL increase your chances of a long healthy life.

 

Here’s to your health and well-being,

The team,

Vancouver Mind-Body Centre

MIND over body really works yet again!

Use it or lose it — science confirms what we already know

Most people are familiar with the adage: “Use it or lose it”. A recent article in the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine (June 2015) showed that even a very short period of no exercise will lead to dramatic loss of muscle mass.

If you experienced having a cast for several weeks or needing to recover after surgery, you know of the severity of atrophy (muscles getting smaller) you get. Most people don’t realize though, that even a 2 week vacation, where you do not exercise or continue your strength-training, will result in substantial loss. This phenomenon is not limited to muscle mass only. The research showed that there is loss of strength and endurance from even a few days of no exercise.

This article just reinforces a body of research showing that one should not stop exercising and in particular stop strength training, for more than a couple days.

Another very interesting fact born from the research is that cardio exercises are not a sufficient substitute for the strength training. This means that jumping on a bike or treadmill for a leisurely session will not prevent muscle loss. You need resistance/weight training to maintain your muscle mass.

So, what are the conclusions?
First, come to class at least 2 or 3 times a week. Second, if you are away from us for whatever reason, and you do not have room in your carry-on for a 15 kg kettlebell, substitute the exercises we do with body-weight exercises. Increase the weight not by eating more cake but rather by reducing the support you provide your body when exercising. This means do one leg squats instead of two-leg squats. Do planks and push-ups with elevated legs rather than feet on the ground… and of course, find a bar somewhere and do your leg-raises and chin-ups!!

Use it or lose it — science confirms what we already know