Category: Fitness Tips

NO PAIN, NO GAIN

No pain, no gain: easy to say when the pain is coursing somebody’s else’s body. But what is the healthy wannabe to do when injury or a chronic condition produces debilitating pain? In research on a dozen patients, doctors at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey have used the magnetic resonance (MRI) technology so common among professional sports teams to produce visual evidence that acupuncture really does relieve pain. When acupuncture needles were applied to these patients, the concomitant MRI showed a 60 to 70 percent decline in brain activity associated with the pain.

“We’re using a new technology to understand how this 2,500-year-old technique works,” says Huey-Jen Lee, a co-author of the research made public at the Radiological Society of North America meeting in Chicago, Illinois.

From its ancient origins in Asia, acupuncture has moved into the forefront as a natural remedy. Despite decent results with a small number of athletes – like Kevin Johnson, the retired Phoenix Suns point guard prone to hamstring pulls – the technique has not caught on with the mainstream of sports medicine.

“So many people with pain,” says Huey-Jen Lee, “whether from cancer, headache or a chronic, unexplained condition, rely on medications, such as morphine, which can become addicting. Acupuncture has no side effects, and other studies have shown the pain relief it provides can last for months.”

RESEARCH UPDATE: ACE RESEARCH TEAM COUNTS THE CALORIES AND CONFIRMS THE BENEFITS OF CARDIO KICKBOXING

Whether or not Billy Blanks’ Tae-Bo workout tapes have anything to do with it, exercise enthusiasts across the country are demanding cardio kickboxing classes at their neighborhood fitness centers. At gyms across the country, the classes are the hottest thing going, and now, thanks to a recent study by the America Council on Exercise (ACE), consumers can be assured they are getting a good aerobic workout.

The ACE study, the first publicly released research about the physiological effects and benefits of cardio kickboxing, found that the activity provides and workout sufficient enough to improve and maintain cardiovascular fitness.

To perform the study, Len Kravitz, Ph.D., headed a team of researchers from the University of Mississippi. They measured heart rate, caloric consumption, oxygen consumption and ratings of perceived exertion for each of four kickboxing concentrations: upper-body predominant (e.g., upper cuts, jabs); lower-body predominant (e.g., roundhouse kicks, front and back kicks); combination of upper and lower body; and conditioning (e.g., jumping jacks, simulated rope jumping).

Participants in the study – 15 women with an average weight of 135 pounds – burned the most calories while performing a combination of upper and lower body movements. Overall, caloric expenditure ranged from 6.45 calories per minute (with predominantly upper-body exercises) to 8.3 calories per minute (with upper/lower body combination).

The calorie findings indicate that most cardio kickboxing participants can expect to burn an average of 350 to 450 calories per hour – less than original estimates, but enough to be considered a good workout.

“Original estimates suggested that cardio kickboxing can burn up to 500 to 800 per hour,” ACE’s Chief Exercise Physiologist, Richard Cotton said. “Realistically, only a very large person exerting an above-average amount of energy for an extended period of time would be able to do that.”

Burning 350-450 calories, and hour-long cardio kickboxing session is roughly equivalent to an hour of brisk walking or light jogging. Cardio kickboxing, however, provides additional benefits not associated with walking or jogging such as increased strength and flexibility, as well as improved coordination and sharper reflexes.

Participants in the study also maintained a heart rate of 75-85 percent of maximum, well within the recommended 65-85 percent range for aerobic exercise.

TAKE A NAP EVERY AFTERNOON

Wouldn’t that be nice! Well, maybe not that practical, but the concept is what’s important. We all need to “take a break” once in a while. Whether it’s going for coffee with a teammate, taking off for a week and resting your body, or taking a mid-day break to do your own workout, the concept of taking time out to do something just for you will increase your productivity in the long run.

FEELING STRESSED? WORK IT OUT

Many people think of the holidays as the most stressful time of the year, but that stress doesn’t always dissipate when the time comes to change the calendar. The New Year, what with resolutions to keep and presents to return, carries its own set of stressors. But a new study confirms what many already know: One of the best ways to combat daily stress is with regular exercise.

Researchers at the University of Texas, Houston, asked 135 college students to fill out questionnaires to assess their daily stress loads as well as their moods, physical activity patterns and overall health. Those who reported exercising less often experienced 37 percent more physical symptoms and 21 percent more anxiety during periods of high stress than those who exercised more frequently.

Exercise, it seems, offered students a temporary respite from their problems, a period of rejuvenation before returning to the pressure of daily stress. According to lead researcher Dr. Cindy L. Carmack, “Minor, everyday stress contributes to the development and exacerbation of physical and mental health problems. However, people experiencing minor stress develop different degrees of symptoms, depending on their level of physical activity.”
(Source: Annals of Behavioral Medicine, November 1999)

EVERGREEN “GOOD POSTURE” TIPS

1. Activate the Abdominal.
Toss out those old abdominal exercises. Face it, you have washboard abs, you just may have a lot of wash to do before those washboards appear! Do more active stabilization training. Seek to strengthen those abdominals to hold the torso tights, keeping the pelvis in a neutral position.

2. Extend Your Back.
Research has shown that correctly performing back extension movements will reduce lower back pain and lead to a better pain free posture. Do some strength training for the lower back.

3. Seek Neutral Alignment.
This is the position in which the spine is best adapted to deal with external stress. Talk to a personal trainer and ask them to help you find and maintain a neutral spine position.

4. Train Your Hip Muscles.
A Muscle imbalance within the hip flexors, abductors, adductors, extensors, or rotators may cause poor posture and possibly pain. A proper stretch regime is important for these muscle groups.

5. Train Your Upper Back Muscles.
Strong traps will help keep the chest lifted. Constant daily forward movement may cause a tight chest area and a weak upper back. Stretch the chest muscles & strengthen the upper back muscles.

6. Think Tall and Long and Lean.
Visualize proper body alignment. When sitting or standing, try to grow a couple of inches. As far as lean, a well balanced diet and keeping trim will not only strengthen your bones but will help you look and feel better.

7. Use Reminders.
I have an alarm on my computer that goes off every hour. When I hear that ring, it reminds me to sit up straight. A small note on your car’s rear view mirror will help when driving. A note in your day planner will help you as you sit in that meeting or on the airplane.

8. Change Position Frequently.
Sitting does the most damage to proper body alignment. Try changing your position as often as possible, or better yet, alternate between standing and sitting. Lie down when watching TV or talking on the phone.

9. Try Some New Exercise Methods.
If you are a fan of one type of training activity, try to add one or two training variations that compliment and improve your favorite training activity. For example, adding Yoga to your strength program will not only improve your posture and flexibility, but your kinesthetic awareness as well.

10. Stretch.
Tight muscles pull muscles out of alignment, causing poor posture. Research has shown that proper muscle flexibility adds to proper posture.

11. Treat Yourself!
This is the Joker . . . Treat yourself to a massage. Increased blood flow to the muscles will help repair any damage, reduces stress, and face it; a good massage feels great!

TOP 10 STRENGTH -TRAINING EXERCISES

LEGS
1. Squats (hamstrings, quadriceps, and gluteals):
With feet shoulder-width apart and a barbell balanced across your shoulders, lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the ground, then raise yourself to the starting position (make sure you don’t lean too far forward). That’s a rep. You can also perform this exercise without weights.

ARMS
2. Dumbbell Bench Press (pectorals, deltoids, triceps):
Lying on a bench (flat, incline or decline) with your feet planted firmly on the ground, fully extend your arms upward until the inner plates of the dumbbells touch. Lower them until they almost rest on your upper chest; your elbows should be away from the body, pointing towards the floor. That’s a rep.

BACK
3. Seated Row (upper back):
Sit at the edge of a bench, bent at the waist, with your chest parallel to the floor, your arms perpendicular. Grasping a dumbbell in each hand, lift the weights, bringing your shoulder blades together and pointing your elbows straight back toward the ceiling, then lower the dumbbells to the starting position. That’s a rep.

4. Alternating Lower-Back Extensions (lower back):
While lying flat on your stomach with your arms stretching in front of you, simultaneously lift your right arm and left leg off the ground a few inches, then lower them back down. That’s a rep. Repeat the movement with your left arm and right leg.

SHOULDERS
5. Lateral Raise (deltoids):
Stand up straight with a dumbbell in each hand. Your arms should be at your sides, palms facing inward. Keeping your arms straight, raise the dumbbells in a 45-degree arc until your arms are parallel to the floor, then lower the dumbbells back to your sides. That’s a rep.

BACK
6. Pull-ups, palm-forward grip (upper back), palm-backward (biceps):
With a wide grip, hang as low as possible from a pull-up bar. Cross your ankles and keep your shins parallel to the floor. Now pull your body up until your chin passes the bar. Lower to the starting position. That’s a rep.

ARMS
7. Dips (triceps):
Support yourself by gripping both sides of parallel bars. Your upper body should be upright, with your arms straight at your sides, and your ankles should be crossed with your shins parallel to the floor. From this position, use your arms to lower yourself, stopping when your upper arms break parallel to the floor, then raise yourself up to the starting position. That’s a rep.

8. Biceps Curl (biceps):
Sit with a dumbbell in each hand, your arms at your sides, palms facing forward (away from your body). Bending at the elbows, bring the dumbbells in an arc toward your shoulders, then lower the dumbbells back to your sides. That’s a rep.

LEGS
9. Single-leg Calf Raise (calves):
Holding a bench or something else for support, place the ball of one foot or step so that you are approximately two inches off the ground. Raise yourself as high as you can on your toes, then lower your heel towards the ground, then raise yourself again. That’s rep. This can be done with or without weights. If you want to use weights, grasp a dumbbell in one hand while maintaining your balance with the other hand.

ABDOMINALS
10. Crunches (abdominals):
In a lying position, keep your thighs perpendicular to the floor and bend your knees so that your lower legs are parallel, ankles crossed. Rest your hands on the back of your head for support (don’t pull with your hands!) and bend slightly at the waist, drawing your upper body toward your knees. Lower your body back to the floor. That’s a rep.