YogAlign or Swimming?

By Renee’ Fulkerson

To the question above my answer would be yes and yes.

Swimming like YogAlign engages the entire body throughout the entire movement this was the perfect solution to our required body movement regime.

Many of you already know my son Joaquin age 15 has been diagnosed with Pectus Excavatum, Scoliosis and Scheuermann’s Disease.

Refer to blog post https://innerbreathyoga.com/2019/05/21/our-journey-so-far/

Quick recap – I started Joaquin on a regular YogAlign practice schedule of three to four times a week starting in January 2019 shortly after his diagnosis.

This was a one on one program, one to two hours per practice with YogAlign teacher Renee’ Fulkerson AKA mom. Needless to say we had a few challenging moments to say the least until we found our rhythm. Joaquin is dedicated he knows YogAlign will be a part of his life for the rest of his life.

After roughly a few months Joaquin began attending my regularly scheduled public YogAlign Classes with a bit of hesitation of course. Then as teens/ mothers and sons start the debate on comprise we started a new dialog on body movement (exercise).

Swimming  Joaquin requested he be able to have the option of practicing YogAlign half the time and swimming the other. Swimming like YogAlign engages the entire body throughout the entire movement it was the perfect solution to our required body movement regime.

Now we are not only seeing amazing postural shifts from the regular YogAlign practice but also from the regular for us Ocean swimming and hey if your going to swim why not swim with the turtles?

YogAlign Inner Breath Yoga Island Kauai Hawaii (1)

My ConclusionPectus Excavatum, Scoliosis and Scheuermann’s Disease. have many symptoms that can benefit from a regular YogAlign practice and a good swim a few times a week.

See you on the mat.

Definition of swim: propel the body through water by using the limbs.

 Health Benefits of Swimming (web MD)

Intensity Level: Medium
You’ll use your lower and upper body muscles for a steady workout. You can make your swim harder by going faster or longer.

Areas It Targets
Core: Yes. Swimming gives your entire body a great workout, including your core.

Arms: Yes. You’ll need your arms for most swim strokes, so expect them to get a workout.

Legs: Yes. You’ll use your legs to propel yourself through the water.

Glutes: Yes. Swimming uses your glutes.

Back: Yes. Your back muscles will get a workout, whether you’re doing the backstroke or a water-based exercise class.

Type
Flexibility: Yes. Swimming will make you more flexible.

Aerobic: Yes. Your heart will keep pumping as you use your entire body to move through the water.

Strength: Yes. You’ll get stronger from the resistance of the water, which is about 12 times the level of air resistance. Try using hand-held paddles, foam noodles, or a kickboard for extra resistance.

Low-Impact: Yes. Swimming is an excellent low-impact workout. The water gives you buoyancy, so you’ll float through your exercise session without putting pressure on your joints.

What Kind of Exercise is Healthiest?

By Todd Hargrove

Physical activity is now considered one of the “big four” lifestyle factors (along with smoking, nutrition and drug abuse) that have major effects on health. In 2015, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges put out a report summarizing the benefits of exercise, calling it both a “miracle cure” and a “wonder drug.” [1] The report observes that regular exercise can prevent dementia, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression, heart disease and other common serious conditions — reducing the risk of each by at least 30%. This is better than many drugs.

A recent analysis of data from more than 60,000 respondents found that people exercising 1-2 times per week had a 30% reduction in all-cause mortality compared to those who got no exercise. There was a 35% reduction for people who exercised 3-5 times. [2] Similar studies have concluded that a sedentary lifestyle is a primary cause of 36 diseases, and that exercise is an effective treatment to prevent them. [3, 4] Numerous experts have observed that if exercise came in a pill, it would be the most effective and widely prescribed medicine ever developed.

While the evidence supporting the health benefits of exercise is undeniable, I don’t find the metaphor of it being “medicine” totally appealing. First, medicine is something most people would rather not take, so the marketing is not very good. Second, the term medicine suggests cure of a particular disease, which is misleading. Physical activity can improve your health in many different ways, just as light, water and soil will nurture a plant. But it’s not a targeted intervention that “fixes” a specific problem.

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I think a better metaphor for the benefits of physical activity is one recommended by Katy Bowman and Nick Tuminello: movement is like food. This analogy works on many different levels. First, nutrients in food are beneficial when consumed in some goldilocks amount — not too much and not too little. For example, you need a minimum dose of iron to avoid anemia, but too much is toxic. Many kinds of inputs to the body follow this pattern, even water. With physical activity, some minimum amount is essential, too much is toxic, and there is a broad range of happy mediums.

Another analogy between food and movement is that you need a well-balanced diet of many different nutrients, all of which have a different optimum dose. If you have a deficiency in Vitamin A, it won’t help to double up on the Vitamin B. The same is true of physical activity. The bench press is a fine exercise, but if that’s all you ever did, you would become deficient in other areas of physical function.

If movement is like food, how do you eat a balanced diet? Part of the answer is that … it depends. A twenty-year-old athlete will need a different diet of movement than a 65-year-old with knee pain. In fact, two 65-year-olds with knee pain might benefit from completely different programs. To find what works best for an individual, you will need to explore a wide landscape of different options. The good news is that some parts of the landscape are more worth exploring than others. To get a rough idea where they are, we can look to two sources of data: (1) formal recommendations from government health groups; and (2) research analyzing the physical activity of hunter-gatherers living in natural environments. I think of these guidelines as major landmarks for orientation on the movement landscape. Fortunately, they both point in the same basic direction.

Recommendations from Health Groups

Numerous governmental agencies, including the World Health Organization, the U.S. Department of Health Services, and the National Health Service in the U.K., have published physical activity guidelines. [5, 6] They are based on expert analysis of the voluminous research looking at physical activity, fitness and health. Here is a brief summary of their advice, which is almost the same for each source.

The amount

The guidelines suggest at least 150 minutes per week of “moderate” physical activity, or half as much “vigorous” activity. (See below for definitions.) But this is just the minimum, and a better goal would be 300 minutes of moderate activity per week. Adding more exercise may continue to reduce mortality until as much as 750 minutes per week, after which point the health benefits of physical activity seem to flatline. [7]

“Moderate” activity defined

Moderate activities are usually light aerobic exercise — continuous cyclic movements done at an easy pace. Examples include:

  • brisk walking

  • hiking

  • gardening or yard work

  • jogging, cycling or swimming at an easy pace

Moderate exertion feels like you are working, but not in a way that is unpleasant or difficult to continue. Heart rate is about 60-80% of maximum, and breathing rate is elevated to a point where it would be difficult to sing, but easy to talk. You may break a light sweat but will not become significantly overheated. After finishing a session of moderate physical activity, you could probably complete another one if necessary.

“Vigorous” activity defined

Vigorous activity is higher intensity work that can be either continuous or intermittent. Examples include:

  • resistance training with weights, machines, bands, or bodyweight

  • sprinting or high intensity interval training on a cycle or rowing machine

  • continuous running, cycling, swimming, or rowing at a challenging pace

  • heavy manual labor

During continuous vigorous activity such as running or cycling, you are approaching the fastest pace you can sustain for twenty or more minutes. Your breathing rate is high enough that you cannot have a conversation. Intermittent activities like weight lifting, sports or sprint- ing cannot be performed continuously, but only in intervals. Vigorous physical activity feels hard and requires willpower to continue. When you are finished, you will probably want to rest at least a day before completing a similarly tough workout.

Movements that challenge strength

Most guidelines recommend that the above weekly totals should include at least two sessions that maintain or build strength in all major muscle groups. Although the majority of research on physical activity relates to aerobic exercise, there is a large and growing number of studies showing equally impressive health gains from strength training. Some of these benefits are not available with aerobic exercise, especially preservation of muscle mass, which declines with age, often to a point where function is significantly compromised. [8]

Movements that challenge mobility and basic coordination

Some popular guidelines, but not all, recommend inclusion of movements that maintain functional ranges of motion, and basic movement skills like squatting or single leg balance. This doesn’t mean you need exercises specifically devoted to this purpose, such as stretching or corrective exercise. Many common activities challenge mobility and functional movement skills, including dancing, swimming, martial arts, gymnastics, climbing, calisthenics, or classic compound strength exercises like pushups, pull-ups, rows, presses, squats and lunges. On the other hand, if all you do is bike or run, you will not be challenging your mobility or coordination very much.

Physical Activity Levels of Hunter-Gatherers

Another way to approach the question of how to move is to consider the physical activity levels of humans living in more natural environments. This is the same logic you would apply to analyzing the health needs of any other animal. If you had a pet cheetah and wanted to know how much running she should do to maintain good health, you would try to learn something about how much cheetahs run in the wild. If you had a pet chimp, you would take him to the climbing gym, not the swimming pool.

Anthropologists who study hunter-gatherer cultures observe that they generally enjoy excellent health and fitness, and have low to non-existent rates of chronic diseases associated with a sedentary lifestyle. [9] They engage in high levels of physical activity, but certainly do not consider it to be exercise or medicine. [10] Movement is simply inseparable from almost every meaningful event in their lives. Although each hunter-gatherer culture has a different lifestyle, there are some general patterns and averages that are informative.

Hadazbe_returning_from_hunt.jpg

Men usually spend the day hunting, which requires lots of walking, occasional jogging, and the odd sprint. They sometimes climb trees, dig to find tubers, and carry food back to camp, which must be butchered. Women generally spend their days gathering plants, and also caring for young children, who often must be carried. Back at camp, men and women engage in toolmaking, and food preparation. Down time is spent sitting on the ground in positions like squats that challenge lower body mobility. [9]

Although they are moving all day, the pace is not grueling. Recent studies on the Hadza tribe in Tanzania show that they do about 135 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity. [11] That’s about 900 minutes of activity a week, just a bit past the point at which recent studies have found that adding more exercise stops providing any significant additional health benefits in terms of reduced mortality.

Some days involve hard work, but they are usually followed by easy days. Presumably some days will involve maximum intensity effort, such as sprinting or carrying a heavy load. Interestingly, activity levels do not decline much with age. The 65-year-old elders keep up just fine with the young adults. A good percentage of the total workload is walking 5-10 miles per day. If you think in terms of steps, this is about 10 to 20,000.

How does this organic, all-natural program for fitness compare to the standard issue government cheese? There are some obvious similarities. The majority of the work is moderate continuous movement like brisk walking. Vigorous activity is a smaller percentage of the whole, and includes work that challenges strength (climbing, digging, carrying, butchering) or power (sprinting). Many of the activities require mobility, coordination, and balance, such as walking over uneven terrain, climbing and scrambling, digging, lifting and carrying odd-shaped items, throwing, and sitting on the ground. One major difference is that hunter-gatherers do a higher volume of low intensity work, even compared to highly active modern humans. They are not doing more bench presses, but they are getting in more steps.

Interestingly, walking is exactly the type of physical activity that modern humans would probably like to do quite a bit more, if only they had the time. Paddy Ekkekakis studies motivation to exercise, and observes that although high intensity exercise is quite effective at delivering health benefits quickly, most people don’t do it because … (prepare to be shocked) … they don’t like it. But people tend to enjoy walking. Under the right circumstances, say being with a friend in a nice environment, they do not consider it to be exercise at all, but an enjoyable and invigorating experience that delivers immediate rewards.

Another notable feature of walking is that it provides health benefits with only a minimal risk of injury. More intense exercise (e.g., a set of barbell squats) offers a relatively narrow window between too much and not enough. The difference between a good workout and an injury might be just a few extra reps or plates on the bar. But the margin of error with walking is huge. After a healthy dose of walking, most people could double it and recover easily.

It makes sense that walking delivers the highest bang for your buck, because this is the movement we are best adapted to perform. Like any other animal, our primary physical function is locomotion, and walking is the most energetically efficient way to get the job done. If you did nothing else but walk a lot, you’d be in better shape than most Americans.

A Quick Summary

If you want to “play” with fitness as a way to improve general health, here are some “rules of the game” to keep in mind. Have as much fun as possible within these basic constraints:

  • Aim for at least half an hour and up to two hours of physical activity almost every day.

  • Movement should be varied in terms of volume, intensity and type. Most activity can be fairly light. Walking is the most natural and beneficial movement for human beings.

  • Every few days, include some high intensity work that significantly challenges your strength, power, and/or capacity to sustain high energy output for a short period of time. Climbing, running and resistance training are logical choices.

  • Include movements that challenge coordination, balance, and range of motion.

Or to put this in even simpler terms:

  • Move around a lot at a slow easy pace.

  • Frequently move with some urgency or pick up something heavy.

  • Every once in a while, move like your life depends on it.

And have fun!

Physical activity activity isn’t like taking medicine, you know.

6 Exercises to Stretch Your Hands and Feet

BY GINA HARNEY

You probably know that it’s important to stretch your legs, arms, back, core – but did you know that your hands and feet need stretching, too?

The purpose of stretching is to maintain full range of motion around a joint. When we have full range of motion, we’re less likely to compensate and alter our movement patterns. Altered movements can lead to muscle imbalance, distorted posture, and can lead to injury.

So, think about your feet and hands and how often they are in a flexed position throughout the day – your feet flexed as you walk or stand, your hands flexed while driving or typing. It’s pretty easy to see that we’re not usually moving our hands and feet through their full range of motion. I thought I’d share some of my favorite stretches for hands and feet that help to reduce unwanted tension (often, tension we didn’t know was there until we stretch!) and possibly prevent injury.

Stretches for hands:

  • Start seated in a comfortable position. Extend your arms out to your sides. With your index finger and thumb of each hand, make an “O” shape. Tap each finger to your thumb (on the same hand), making the “O” shape as round as possible with your fingers. After you’ve done each finger, tap each finger to your thumb again, trying to keep your fingers as straight as possible.
  • Extend your arms out to your sides again, then wrap your thumb into your hand and the rest of our fingers around your thumb. (So you’re making a fist.) Keeping your fist clenched, angle your fingers, down towards the floor, feeling the stretch on the inner part of your forearms and wrists.
  • Place your fingertips on the floor towards your body (so the top of your hand is on the floor) then gently press your palm towards the floor. This is a great stretch to open up the tops of the wrists that are so often flexed and shortened.

Stretches for feet:

  • Sit in a comfortable chair and place a towel on the floor in front of you. Use your toes to grab the towel, and maybe lift it off the floor an inch or two. Hold it here for 3 deep breaths, then release. This stretch is especially helpful for those who experience plantar fasciitis.
  • Stand, holding onto something sturdy like a countertop for balance. Bring your weight into your left leg and slightly bend the knee. Lift up your right foot, and put it back down (top of your foot to the floor); press your toenails into the floor and try to get as much of the top of that foot onto the floor as you can. Take a deep breath and slide your right foot forward 2-4 inches. You’ll feel an amazing stretch on the top of the foot, opening up the ankle that’s so often flexed.
  • Still standing, using a tennis ball or small soft ball, gently roll each foot on top of the ball. When you find a spot that feels particularly sticky, hold it here for a few breaths.

 

The 10 Biggest Fitness Myths

By Gretchen Reynolds

Does stretching prior to a run prevent injuries and improve performance? Does guzzling water prevent cramps? Here’s the truth about the top 10 fitness myths.

Chances are some bogus training advice has wormed its way into your fitness regimen. Time to root it out. Here are the ten performance myths holding you back, from pre-race stretching to the evils of high-fructose corn syrup. Plus: Three truisms that are still up for debate.

Myth #1: Stretching Prevents Injuries

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Static stretching decreases short-term muscle strength. (Inga Hendrickson)

Myth: Stretching Prevents Injuries
Truth: It could ruin your 10K time

In 2010, researchers at Florida State University asked ten male athletes to stretch for 16 minutes, then run for an hour on a treadmill. In a later session, the same crew sat quietly for 16 minutes, then hit the treadmill for the same duration. Without the pre-run stretch, the men covered more distance while expending less energy. The researchers’ blunt conclusion: “Static stretching should be avoided before endurance events.”

Still, the pregame ritual endures. Most of us were taught by our third-grade PE ­teacher that we need static stretches—like touching your toes and holding for 30 seconds—to be fast and flexible. Most physiologists now believe that when you elongate muscle ­fibers, you cause a “neuromuscular inhibitory ­response,” says Malachy McHugh, director of research for the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and an expert on flexibility. By triggering this protective ­counter-response in the nervous system, which tightens the muscle to prevent it from overstretching, you render yourself less ­powerful. In ­experiments, static stretching temporarily decreased strength in the stretched muscle by as much as 30 percent, an effect that can last up to half an hour.

But stretching prevents injuries, right? Actually, in several large-scale studies of athletes and military recruits, static stretching did not reduce the incidence of common overuse injuries such as Achilles tendino­pathy and knee pain.

Your Move: The jury is still out on the best pre-workout alternative, but dynamic stretching, which incorporates a range of body movements rather than muscle isolation, doesn’t stress tissues to the point of activating the nervous system’s protective instincts. If you’re a diehard stretcher, use this five-minute dynamic-stretching routine to warm you up for the race:

  1. Jumping jacks (set of 20)
  2. Skipping, forward and backward (one minute)
  3. High-leg marches: walk forward, ­kicking each leg up in front of you with knees locked, like a tin soldier (one minute)
  4. Kick your own butt: hop on one leg, kicking the other leg backward, touching your buttocks (set of ten per leg)

Myth #2: Running Barefoot Is Better

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Going barefoot isn’t a cure-all. (Inga Hendrickson)

Myth: Running Barefoot Is Better
Truth: It all depends on body type and discipline

Shoes alter how we move. As soon as you put toddlers in cute little loafers, their walking changes: they take longer steps and land with more force on their heels. In the January 2010 issue of the journal Nature, Harvard scientists reported that urban schoolchildren in Kenya who wore shoes ran differently than unshod rural youngsters. Most of the urban children struck the ground with their heels, causing impact peaks, or shock waves, to travel up their legs. The barefoot runners landed lightly near the front of their feet.

A compelling finding, sure, but practically useless. Unless you were raised in the bush, you grew up wearing shoes, and as repeated biomechanical studies show, our bodies cling stubbornly to what they know. When researchers from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse outfitted recreational runners with barefoot-style running shoes, about half of the runners continued to strike the ground with their heels, just as they had in their old shoes. But if you hit with your heels and no longer have cushioning to dissipate the force, you amplify the pounding instead of reducing it. “It’s tough to relearn to run,” the scientists cautioned in their report.

Meanwhile, landing near the front of your foot, as adept barefoot runners do, can be beneficial but is no guarantee against injury. Biomechanics research shows that forefoot striking sends shock waves up your leg, too, but in a different pattern than when you heel-strike. These forces move mostly through the leg’s soft tissues instead of the bone, meaning less risk of a stress fracture—but more chance of an Achilles injury. In other words, your body takes a pounding from running, barefoot or not.

Your Move: The truth is, going barefoot can be good for your body. It all depends on your susceptibility to specific injuries and how you make the transition. If you’re ready to give it a try, experts agree you should start slowly. “Go for a ­typical run,” says Stuart Warden, an assistant professor at Indiana University’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. “Then take off your shoes for the last quarter of a mile.” Gradually increase the barefoot distance by a quarter-mile at the end of each run. And, above all, concentrate on form: land lightly, don’t overstride, and try not to hit the ground with your heel.

The biggest mistake barefoot newbies make is overstriding. Adopt quicker movements that cover less distance. If you’re on the fence about whether barefoot is right for you, use the following as your guide.

Will Barefoot Running Help My Injury?

  • Sore Knees: Barefoot running is worth a try; it can lessen knee pain.
  • Achilles-tendon problems: Barefoot running is probably not worth trying. Striking your forefoot increases stress on the Achilles.
  • Heel pain or plantar fasciitis: Do not swith to barefoot running. Without perfect form, you’ll be pounding that sore heel without any padding.
  • Sprained ankle: Barefoot running could be beneficial after the ankle heals. Going shoeless can improve the body’s pro-prioception, or spatial awareness, reducing risk of another sprain.

Myth #3: You Need to Focus on Your Core

Myth: You Need to Focus on Your Core
Truth: Core strength is probably overrated, and you risk injury by focusing too specifically on it

First off, many athletes erroneously cling to the notion that six-pack abs are a sure sign of a strong core. More to the point, it’s unclear whether core-specific training benefits athletic performance at all. In one study, a group of collegiate rowers who ­added an arduous eight-week regimen of core exercises to their regular rowing ­workouts wound up with stronger, tauter cores. But they didn’t become better rowers: their performance levels remained the same. Similarly, researchers at Indiana State University ­measured core strength among a group of Division I varsity football players and then had them complete sets of standard exercise drills like shuttle runs. The researchers found almost no correlation between a super­charged core and athletic performance.

What’s more, the crunch, that ubiquitous exercise that promises a solid midsection, is often harmful, because many gym rats are pumping them out with terrible form. When researchers simulated crunches using spines from pig cadavers, the spinal disks usually ruptured after a couple thousand reps. “Crunches are totally unnecessary,” says Thomas Nesser, a professor of physical education at Indiana State University.

Your Move: Core strength is important, but most people get what they need simply by practicing their sport. Common routines like squats, deadlifts, and kettlebell drills add plenty of core strength. And new studies show that running—long thought to provide little or no core benefit—does work your midsection. “Train for your sport and core strength will develop,” advises Nesser.


Myt#4:  Guzzling water prevents crampsTruth: Water and electrolytes have little to do with muscles seizing upMyth:Guzzling water prevents cramps
Truth: Water and electrolytes have little to do with muscles seizing up

Myth #4: Guzzling Water Prevents Cramps

Myth: Guzzling water prevents cramps
Truth: Water and electrolytes have little to do with muscles seizing up

For years we’ve heard that exercise-­induced cramping is caused by dehydration and the associated loss of sodium and ­potassium. We’ve been urged to load up on bananas or chug salty sports drinks before and during workouts. But in 2011, South African researchers studied hundreds of Ironman triathletes, a group frequently felled by muscle cramps. To check for signs of clinical dehydration, researchers took blood samples just prior to the event’s start, for measuring levels of sodium and other electrolytes, then drew blood again at the finish line. Forty-three of the Ironmen cramped during the race, but the afflicted were no more dehydrated than the other competitors were, and they had comparable electrolyte levels. The principal difference between the two groups was speed: the tested group finished faster.

A team of scientists at North Dakota State University in Fargo reached similar conclusions. In a 2010 study, the researchers asked a group of fit young men to fill up with ­water, then induced cramping by zapping them with a series of low-level electric pulses. They did the same after the men rode stationary bikes in a heat chamber, with some of them losing up to 3 percent of their body weight to sweat. Since it took the same number of electrical shocks to induce cramping again, the spasms “were likely not caused by dehydration,” says professor Kevin Miller, who led the study. Instead, he believes that muscle cramps are due to exertion, fatigue, and a cascade of accompanying biochemical processes.

Get over it: Miller can’t tell you how to eliminate cramps altogether—there isn’t enough research—but stretching seems to be the best option to relieve acute cramping once it’s set in. That and pickle juice. In one of Miller’s recent studies, cramp-stricken ­cyclists who drank 2.5 ounces of it recovered 45 percent faster than those who drank nothing. Miller speculates that something in the acidic juice disrupts the nervous-system ­melee in the exhausted muscle.


Myth #5: Popping Ibuprofen Prevents Soreness

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Ibuprofen may make sports pain worse. (Inga Hendrickson)

Myth: Popping ibuprofen prevents soreness
Truth: It does more harm than good

At the 2006 Western States 100, an ultra-endurance marathon in Squaw Valley, California, seven of ten racers polled said they had swallowed ibuprofen before or during the race, while almost 60 percent of racers polled at the 2008 Brazil Ironman said they popped painkillers. “It’s become part of their ritual of getting ready,” says ­Stuart Warden, director of the Center for Translational Musculoskeletal Research at Indiana University and an expert on rehabilitation of sports-related injuries.

After the Western States race, however, competitors who’d used ibuprofen were just as sore as those who hadn’t. Surprisingly, they also displayed more blood markers of inflammation than other competitors, even though ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory. Recent work from others has suggested that frequent use of painkillers can blunt the ability of muscles to adapt to exercise. In a 2010 study of distance-running mice, researchers determined that “ibuprofen administration during endurance training cancels running-distance-dependent adaptations in skeletal muscle.” In other words, the rodents’ muscles stopped building strength in response to the training. In an editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2009, Warden went so far as to say that “ritual use” of ibuprofen “represents misuse.”

Your Move: Don’t take ibuprofen unless you have a legitimate injury. Muscle pain is part of the body’s training response, and nothing has been shown to effectively ward it off.


Myth #6: Dehydration Hurts Performance

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Overhydrating? It’s hurting your performance. (Inga Hendrickson)

Myth: Dehydration hurts performance
Truth: Overhydrating is more likely to sabotage your personal record.

In the 1990s, endurance athletes were advised to stay ahead of their thirst and drink as much as they could stand during training and races. A decade later, almost everyone had been schooled with the knowledge that hydrating to excess can cause hyponatremia—essentially, intoxication caused by consuming too much water, a ­potentially fatal condition in which cells swell with the excess fluid.

However, whether dehydration is ­equally troublesome and a hindrance to peak performance remained up in the air. But ­according to a 2011 review of time-trial studies of dehy­dration, losing up to 4 percent of body weight during exercise does not alter performance. Results from endurance events seem to bear that out: during the 2009 Mont-Saint-Michel Marathon in France, researchers measured the weight loss of 643 competitors and compared it with their finish times. The runners who lost the most water weight were also the fastest. Most of those who finished in less than three hours lost at least 3 percent of their body weight to sweat.

Your Move: “Drink when you feel thirsty,” says James Winger, M.D., assistant professor at Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine in Chicago, who conducted a survey of distance runners last year and found that misconceptions about hydration were rampant, even among endurance athletes. “Thirst is an exquisitely finely tuned indicator of your body’s actual hydration status,” Dr. Winger says. “Listen to it.”


Myth #7: Ice Baths Speed Recovery

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Post-race icing: proof that the placebo effect is alive and well. (Inga Hendrickson)

Myth: Ice baths speed recovery
Truth: They’re not worth the chill

Many elite athletes, from marathoners to gridiron stars to starting pitchers, practically swear by icing up as a way to promote healing. But this nearly universal post-race/game/workout ritual now looks like nothing more than proof that the placebo effect is alive and well. In a 2007 study in the Journal of Sports Sciences, men who completed a punishing 90-minute shuttle run and then eased themselves into a 50-degree bathtub for ten minutes told researchers afterward that they were sure they were less sore than they would have been without the bath. Yet their levels of creatine kinase, a hallmark of muscle damage, remained the same as in runners who hadn’t soaked. Also in 2007, in one of the few randomized controlled tests examining the popular practice, 40 volunteers did seated leg extensions until near exhaustion. Afterward, half sat in lukewarm water while the other half sat in an ice bath. Next day, those who’d ice-bathed were just as sore as the control group. In fact, the ice bathers reported more pain than the others during a test in which they were asked to rise out of a chair using their tired leg for support. The authors concluded that the “protocol of ice-water immersion was ineffectual.”

Get over it: If you like freezing your butt off, soak away, but the benefits are strictly psychological. Any physiological effects won’t last longer than the ice itself.


Myth #8: Long and Slow Burns More Calories

Myth: Long and slow burns more calories
Truth: You need to pump up the intensity

For years it’s been assumed that you eliminate more lipids in the magical fat-burning zone—exercising between 68 and 79 percent of your maximum heart rate—than when you ­really exert yourself. Why? Because, the ­theory went, low-intensity exercise allows the body to fuel itself from the midsection rather than from readily available food calories.

But a report by David Nieman, a professor in the Human Performance Laboratory at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, showed that strenuous exercise burns more calories per minute than easy sessions. Which isn’t surprising: higher intensity equals more calories. But that study also determined that intense exercise increases your metabolism for up to 14 hours afterward. In other studies, light-duty exercise produced no such caloric afterburn. “We’ve become a nation of exercise wimps,” Nieman says. “Too many people don’t bother or are afraid of exercising hard. But intensity is probably the only way to lose weight with exercise.”

Your Move: Start sprinkling high-speed intervals into your slow runs. Do hill repeats on your bike. Try to maintain a heart rate at or above 80 percent of your max for about 45 minutes several times a week.


Myth #9: Fructose Is a Performance Killer

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Athletes should embrace fructose. (Inga Hendrickson)

Myth: Fructose is a performance killer
Truth: Fructose can be a performance superfuel

The warnings are stern: avoid fructose, ­especially in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, because it’s contributing to an obesity epidemic. And the evidence is strong that people who are sedentary should avoid it. But for active individuals, it’s a different story. “All athletes who compete or train for a period longer than 45 to 60 minutes will improve their performance by ­ingesting a ­solution containing carbohydrates,” or sugar, says Luc van Loon, a professor in the Department of Human Movement Sciences at Maastricht University Medical Centre in the Netherlands. And you’ll get more performance bang if that ­sugar is, in part, fructose. When cyclists in a British study drank a beverage containing both fructose and glucose (a simple sugar that typically appears on ­labels as maltodextrin), they rode almost 8 percent faster during a time trial than riders who drank fluids with glucose alone. “Fructose and glucose are ­taken up in the intestine by different transport proteins,” van Loon says. “This allows for a more rapid uptake of carbo­hydrates from the gut.” Which means you have more calories available to you more quickly if you drink or eat carbo­hydrates containing fructose.

Most high-fructose corn syrup contains approximately equal portions of glucose and fructose and is perfectly acceptable for athletes. The concerns about high-fructose corn syrup have more to do with the highly processed foods they often show up in ­rather than the intrinsic characteristics of the ­sugar. The drawback for endurance athletes is that the ideal ratio of glucose to fructose is 2:1 (not the 1:1 of corn syrups). “There are very few drinks on the market that provide that perfect mix,” says Asker Jeukendrup, a professor of exercise metabolism at the University of Birmingham in England, who led the study of cyclists.

Your Move: Read labels. Some drinks, such as PowerBar’s Ironman Performance beverages, tout their 2:1 glucose-fructose mix. For do-it-yourselfers, sports nutritionist Nancy Clark’s homemade sports drink, from the fourth edition of her Sports Nutrition Guidebook, is an ideal performance boost. Gather ­together these ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Then, in a quart pitcher, dissolve the sugar and salt in ¼ cup hot water. Add the orange and lemon juice and 3 1/2 cups cold water.


Myth #10: Supplements Help Performance

Myth: Supplements help performance
Truth: There’s no such thing as a magic pill. (At least a legal one.)

Antioxidants, Including Vitamins A, C, and E

Conventional Wisdom: They destroy free radicals, molecules created during exercise that are thought to contribute to cell damage.
Science Says: According to recent studies, some free radicals appear to trigger chemical reactions that actually help strengthen muscles after exercise and improve health. So taking antioxidants in excess may curb the benefits of exercise.

Quercetin

Conventional Wisdom: A flavonoid found naturally in apples, red wine grapes, and other fruits and vegetables, it’s thought to improve endurance capacity and fight fatigue.
Science Says: Athletes get little or no benefit from it. An upcoming review of seven studies concluded that quercetin may be useful for out-of-shape people who start exercising but does next to nothing for the already fit.

Creatine

Conventional Wisdom: It’s the most ­popular supplement in the country, and power athletes insist it helps build muscle strength and bulk.
Science Says: It does—to a point. College football ­players who used creatine bench-pressed more weight, and Australian soccer players sprinted faster. But if you’re an endurance athlete, creatine draws extra water into cells, leading to diarrhea and even cramping.

DHEA

Conventional Wisdom: DHEA raises testosterone ­levels and helps build muscle and increase power.
Science Says: Yes and no. DHEA is a naturally ­occurring hormone that affects the body’s ability to produce testosterone. But a 2006 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that daily doses in men with normal levels did not increase muscle strength.


Up for Debate

Massage Boosts Recovery

In a 2010 study, Canadian researchers had 12 healthy young men squeeze a hand grip until their arm muscles were spent, then had a certified sports-massage therapist give half of them a rubdown. The other half received no such pampering. Surprisingly, the ­massages did not increase blood flow to the men’s muscles—one of the primary reasons athletes seek bodywork after a strenuous workout. Additionally, researchers concluded that a massage “actually impairs removal of lactic acid from exercised ­muscle.”
Missing Link: Studies are needed that examine whether post-exercise massage might have other benefits. Most athletes swear they feel better after being kneaded, but so far there’s no evidence at the cellular level to justify the indulgence.

Surgery is best for an ACL tear

A landmark study on torn ACLs published in 2010 in the New England Journal of Medicine led to heated disagreement about the effectiveness of going under the knife. Researchers randomly assigned either surgery or physical therapy to a group of 121 active adults who’d suffered an ACL tear. After two years, the groups’ knees were similar in terms of function and pain, showing that there was little advantage to the surgery.
Missing link: Finding a better way to repair wracked knees. While plenty of athletes have come back from an ACL tear at an extremely high level—surgery and physical therapy can usually restore basic knee stability—many never reach peak performance again. In current ACL surgery, injured tissue is often replaced. But some surgeons are experimenting with reconstructing the ligament with new forms of tissue grafts, which could produce better long-term outcomes.

Cortisone Shots Speed Healing

Although they can provide immediate pain relief for soft-tissue injuries such as tennis ­elbow and Achilles tendinopathy, the shots can slow healing over the long term, according to a number of new studies. A comprehensive review of the available research published last year found that people who’d received cortisone shots had a much lower rate of full recovery than those who’d done nothing at all. Plus, they had a 63 percent higher risk of relapse.
Missing link: Trying to figure out exactly what’s going on inside overtaxed tendons and ligaments. In fact, scientists don’t fully understand the mechanics of injuries like tennis elbow and Achilles problems, so they don’t know how best to treat them—except to say that cortisone shots don’t appear to do the trick.

Exercise Wins: Fit Seniors Can Have Hearts That Look 30 Years Younger

By PATTI NEIGHMOND

We know we need to exercise for our health, but a lifelong exercise habit may also help us feel younger and stay stronger well into our senior years. In fact, people in their 70s who have been exercising regularly for decades seem to have put a brake on the aging process, maintaining the heart, lung and muscle fitness of healthy people at least 30 years younger.

Take 74-year-old Susan Magrath, a retired nurse practitioner who lives in Muncie, Ind. Magrath has been running almost daily for 45 years. She often runs outdoors and describes it as addictive. “It’s just such a release, just a wonderful release,” she says. “I ran today and there were little snowflakes coming down, and I was down by the river and it’s just wonderful. And I think it’s become more of a contemplative meditative process for me.”

Magrath may be living proof that lifelong exercise helps with cardiovascular and muscle health. She recently took part in a study at the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University, also in Muncie, headed by exercise physiologist Scott Trappe. Trappe is among the first to study the enticing new population of lifelong exercisers.

After the running and aerobic boom of the 1970s, large numbers of septuagenarians stuck with it and have been exercising regularly for the past 50 years. In this population, Trappe says, “We were interested in basically two questions: One, what was their cardiovascular health? And two, what was their skeletal muscle health?

What he saw surprised him. “We saw that people who exercise regularly year after year have better overall health than their sedentary counterparts. These 75-year-olds — men and women — have similar cardiovascular health to a 40- to 45-year-old.”

” ‘Exercise wins’ is the take-home message,” he says.

In the study, Trappe divided 70 healthy participants into three groups. Those in the lifelong exercise group were on average 75 years old and primarily kept their heart rates up through running and cycling. They had a history of participating in structured exercise four to six days a week for a total of about seven hours a week.

The second group included individuals who were also, on average, 75 years old but did not engage in structured exercise regimens, although they might have participated in occasional leisure walking or golf.

The third group consisted of young exercisers who were, on average, 25 years old and worked out with the same frequency and length of time as the lifelong exercisers.

All participants were assessed in the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University. Cardiovascular health was gauged by having participants cycle on an indoor bike to determine VO2 max, also known as maximal oxygen uptake, which is the measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen a person can use during intense exercise and is an indicator of aerobic endurance. During the cycling test, which became increasingly challenging, individuals exhaled into a mouthpiece that measured oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.

The aerobic profile of the participants’ muscles was measured by taking a sample via a biopsy about the size of a pea, says Trappe. Then in the lab, researchers examined the micro vessels, or capillaries, that allow blood to flow through the muscle itself.

They also looked at specific enzymes that provide fuel to the working muscle and help break down carbohydrates and fats.

Although the study was relatively small, the findings, which were published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in August, suggest a dramatic benefit of lifelong exercise for both muscle health and the cardiovascular system.

“Lifelong exercisers had a cardiovascular system that looked 30 years younger,” says Trappe. This is noteworthy because, for the average adult, the ability to process oxygen declines by about 10 percent per decade after age 30.

“It’s kind of a slow decay over time that’s probably not so noticeable in your 30s or 40s,” says Trappe, but eventually as years go on, becomes apparent. People can get out of breath more easily and may have difficulty pushing themselves physically.

The age-related reduction in VO2 max is directly associated with an increasing risk of multiple chronic diseases, mortality and loss of independence. Maintaining a strong heart and lung system has been shown to decrease these health risks.S

As for muscle health, the findings were even more significant, says Trappe. Trappe says researchers were surprised to find the 75-year-old muscles of lifelong exercisers were about the same as the muscles of the 25-year-olds. “If I showed you the muscle data that we have, you wouldn’t know it was from an older individual. You would think it’s from somebody that’s a young exerciser,” he says.

David Costill, 82, was not part of the study but is a former colleague of Trappe’s and professor emeritus of exercise science at Ball State University. As an exercise physiologist, he has always known about the benefits of exercise and has been committed since high school.

He says he has spent about “60 years actively exercising.” Costill ran marathons for about 20 years until his knees started to bother him, so he headed to the pool. “And I’ve been swimming for the last 35 years.”

When Costill looks at his friends, he says he finds he can do a lot more physically than they can. “If I’m out with a group of my peers, guys who are near 80, and we’re going someplace, it seems to me they’re all walking at half speed.”

Trappe says the findings are clear: 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day may be the key to a healthy life. But you don’t have to run marathons or compete in cycling events. “If you want to do 30 to 45 minutes of walking a day, the amount of health benefit you are going to get is going to be significant and substantial,” he says. “Will it equal the person training for competitive performances? No. But it will outdo the couch potato.”

Unfortunately, couch potatoes are the norm. Federal guidelines recommend two hours and 30 minutes of moderate exercise a week, or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. Yet 77 percent of Americans do not come close to getting that amount of exercise.

Dr. Clyde Yancy, spokesperson for the American Heart Association and chief of cardiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, says the findings suggest “a lifelong investment in health and fitness appears to be associated with a really sustainable benefit out until the outer limits of life.”

Since we are living longer, maintaining a good quality of life is more important than ever. While the study was small and the findings need to be confirmed, they present a “strong argument” for lifelong exercise that is inexpensive and accessible for everyone. “If you can swim, do yoga, cycle, or walk,” you can benefit,” Yancy says.

Yoga Injuries: When East Meets West

By Charlotte Bell.

Thirty-some years ago, when I was beginning to teach yoga, injuries related to yoga practice were relatively rare. They did happen, of course, but they were an anomaly. In recent years, yoga injuries have become a hot topic of conversation in Western yoga culture. A recent study, published in 2017, found that injuries are on the rise.

From a Yoga Journal article about the study:

“The study, titled Yoga-Related Injuries in the United States From 2001 to 2014, found that there were 29,590 yoga-related injuries seen in hospital emergency departments from 2001 to 2014. Overall, yoga injuries became almost twice as common in 2014 as in 2001. But among seniors especially, yoga injuries truly skyrocketed. During the same time period, the rate of yoga injuries among adults 65 and older increased more than eightfold.”

There are many possible reasons for the rise in yoga injuries. First, with the sheer numbers of people practicing asana these days compared to 30 years ago, it would be odd if there weren’t more injuries. Second, the popularization of yoga in the West has required that yoga look more like what we interpret as exercise—raising your heart rate, sweating, etc. Third, we’ve imported just one aspect of a comprehensive practice into our culture, independent of its larger context. Finally, Eastern ideas about practice are fundamentally different from Western ideas. In the West, we approach asana practice from a completely different intention.

It makes sense that in transferring a foreign practice into a completely different culture, adjustments must be made to fit Western practitioners. For example, most of us who practice yoga are not holed up in caves practicing all day. We are householders with families, jobs and other competing interests.

The yoga tradition actually makes plenty of room for the householder. You might be surprised to find that the philosophy of one of yoga’s ancient and defining texts, The Bhagavad Gita says that a yogi need not leave the world in order to find freedom. According to Mircea Eliade, scholar and author of Yoga, Immortality and Freedom, Krishna encourages Arjuna to continue to be a “man of action,” finding his freedom in the midst of his life in the world.

Conditioned to Compete

The problem with plopping one small component of a practice as vast and deep as yoga into a completely different culture is one of context. In the West, from an early age we are conditioned to interpret physical endeavors through the lens of competition. Think about it:  We watch competitive team sports for entertainment. Even sports where the judging is clearly subjective—think ice skating and gymnastics—are subject to competition.

For many of us physical endeavors like running, hiking and bicycling that could be seen as purely pleasurable are subject to the “no pain, no gain” conditioning we’ve all grown up with. We almost expect to injure ourselves in physical practice, so on the surface, yoga injuries might even seem completely normal.

When asana practice is severed from its roots and brought to a culture that celebrates competition, it will be interpreted through the competitive lens because that is the lens we know. This is why much of the yoga that is popular today is active and fast paced, with a focus on a high-intensity physical workout.

I’m not saying, “Western culture=bad, Eastern culture=good.” Nor am I knocking healthy competition. I’m just pointing out that most of us have been conditioned, simply by growing up here, to equate physical activity with pushing oneself, striving for excellence, etc. This is neither good nor bad. It is simply the context from which most of us, at least initially, will perceive and interpret asana practice because that is our most familiar filter. When competition, striving and forcing are our context, yoga injuries are more likely to occur.

Early in my practice it was easy for me to see my own competitive tendencies. I was born with a body that is capable of doing fancy poses, and I practiced them regularly for years. Practicing fancy poses is fun. But when I was in the stage of practice where these poses were important to me, I did not find that performing them made me a kinder, wiser or more compassionate person. They did not make meditation any easier either. Since that is the putative purpose of practicing asana, I began to question and shift my practice.

Competitive Mind vs. Wisdom Mind

Even now, I sometimes catch my competitive mind feeling the need to justify a slow, quiet practice. I’ve found myself wondering if I’m really doing a legitimate practice when I simply lie on tennis balls for an hour to help alleviate back discomfort from spending too much time in chairs.

My wisdom mind helps me remember that whatever practice brings my body/mind to balance in a given moment is the best practice. I continue to learn that asana practice must be flexible. I must stay flexible also—mentally and emotionally—to remember that asana practice is designed to serve the individual needs of each person in each moment. We are not here to serve asana practice; it is the other way around.

Even if you don’t count yourself among the Type A crowd, the process of rewiring the competitive mind can take time. While I rarely act from competitive mind in my asana practice anymore, it still makes its voice heard. The difference is that I now have the power to choose which mind to listen to.

How to Avoid—Or At Least Lessen the Possibility of—Yoga Injuries

  • Assess your needs. We’re not all the same. Each person who comes to yoga practice has different strengths and weaknesses. If you are just starting out, and you want to ease into practice, steer toward classes titled “Hatha Yoga,” “Iyengar Yoga,” or “Viniyoga” rather than those titled “Power Yoga,” “Ashtanga” or “Vinyasa.” The latter are fast-paced classes where it’s much more difficult for students to practice healthy alignment and for the teacher to give individual assistance. If you want to practice a faster-paced yoga at some point, attend those classes after you’ve built a strong foundation.
  • Find a qualified teacher. Not all yoga teachers are the same. Experience and education of teachers can vary widely. You may need to do some research here. The number of education hours required for a Yoga Alliance-registered teacher is relatively small—200 hours. Make some phone calls. Interview teachers to find out about their experience and their philosophy for practice.
  • Respect your body. We all come into the world with vastly different structures, which means our levels of natural mobility and stability are all very different. Some people’s structures will never do fancy poses, while others will perform amazing feats of flexibility from day one. Turn your mind inward to what’s actually happening in your body in the moment, rather than comparing yourself to others.
  • No pain, no pain. One of my main asana teachers, Judith Hanson Lasater, has modified the old “No pain, no gain” philosophy. Instead, she says, “No pain, no pain.” This means that no pain in your present practice will more likely yield no pain in your future. Of course, you need to distinguish between pain and the sensations of stretching. (That’s a whole different post!) But in general, if you feel painful sensations, especially in any of your joints, it’s a good idea to back off. Pain is a signal to stop doing what you’re doing, not to try to “push through it.”
  • Meet your body where it is today. It’s helpful to remember that each time we come to our yoga mat, our bodies are different. Today’s Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) is absolutely unique, no matter how many times you’ve practiced the pose in the past. Let go of the expectation that today’s practice should be like your last practice. Also, let go of the idea that because you’ve been practicing for x number of years, you ought to be able to perform certain poses like the hot Instagram yogis do. What does your body need today?

What is the Most Popular Exercise Activity in Each State?

Here at Fitness-Equipment-Source, we make it our business to understand how people exercise throughout the country.  That is why we are one of the top trusted sources for Elliptical Reviews and Ratings.

But what about other types of exercise?  What activities get our American red blood pumping?  We did a little research and found some pretty gnarly information.  Check it out!

State-by-State:  Here are the Most Popular Exercise Activities in America

National Search Results: Here are the Top 14 Exercise Activities in the United States

Here are the top 14 exercise activities in the USA based on estimated average monthly search volume on Google’s search engine

  1.  Yoga is by far the most popular activity in the United States with 361,860 related keyword searches per month (according to Google AdWords.)
yoga

2.  Running is the second most popular activity with 289,190 related keyword searches per month.  You’ll find the most runners in California.

running

3.  238,870 was the total number of related keyword searches for hiking which is popular in Colorado, California, and Texas.

hiking

4.  CrossFit had 138,290 related keyword searches for 4th place.

crossfit

5.  Swimming had had 117,390 related keyword searches with the highest per capita rate in the state of New Jersey.

swimming

6.  Kayaking had 93,500 related keyword searches and is most popular in Florida.

kayaking

7.  Gymnastics reigns supreme in Texas with 64,430 related keyword searches.

gymnastics

8.  57,810 related keyword searches were logged for general cardio workouts.

cardio

9 & 10.  Bodybuilding comes in 9th place with 47,790 related keyword searches.  Weightlifting follows close behind with 45,590 related keyword searches.

bodybuilding

11.  Aerobics logged 44,670 related keyword searches per month.

cardio

12 & 13.  Mixed martial arts (MMA) had 38,670 searches while martial arts had only 15,690.

mma

14.  Finally, 4,970 searches were found for jogging to round out the top 14 activities.

jogging

How Did We Get These Results?

To figure out the most popular exercise activity in each state we used Google AdWords Keyword Planner Tool to examine the estimated average monthly search volume for keywords related to an exercise activity in each state.

Our study looked at 14 different exercise activities; MMA, Kayaking, Hiking, Running, Jogging, Swimming, Weight Lifting, Yoga, Aerobics, Cardio, Gymnastics, Bodybuilding, Martial Arts, and Crossfit. We were unable to use the exact keyword for each activity due to Google’s recent policy of adding in what they call ‘close variants’ into the search volume for some keywords that would have made the data unreliable (i.e. the data for the keyword ‘jogging’ includes search volume from searches for joggers which is a type of clothing).

Instead we performed in-depth keyword research to find keywords that might be used by individuals performing the exercise activity or looking to get involved in the activity (such as “yoga studio near me” or “marathon training” among hundreds of other keywords) and then pulled the estimated search volume for those keywords with the geographic location set to only include searches from a specific state. We had to pull the data across several days to avoid getting data in ranges provided by Google after so many queries using the tool and verified the data with at least one more pull to ensure the numbers reported by the Keyword Planner Tool were consistent.

Once we had all of the data, we added up the estimated monthly search volume for keywords related to one of the 14 types of exercise for each state and selected the type of exercise with the most search volume as the most popular exercise activity in that state. You can see the results from this research in our map above.