Sitting to Death

According to a study done by the American Journal of Epidemiology stated that sitting more than 6 hours raises your death risk. The study said even if they exercised, women who sat 6 or more hours a day were 37% more likely to die over a 13-year period than people who sat less than three hours a day. Men who sat more than 6 hours a day had an 18% higher risk of death over a 13-year period than men who sat 3 or fewer hours a day.

The death risk was even higher for people who don’t work out and the least active women in the study who also reported the highest amount of sitting were 94 percent more likely to die than those who said they sat the least and exercised the most. For men, it was 48%, the study said.

Prolonged time spent sitting, independent of physical activity, has been shown to have important metabolic consequences, and may influence things like triglycerides, high density lipoprotein, cholesterol, fasting plasma glucose, resting blood pressure, and leptin,” American Cancer Society researcher Alpa Patel, Ph.D., said in a statement. By including an office workout as a vital aspect to your work day will add to a healthy lifestyle.


Avoid Long Weekend Weight Creep

After weeks or months of marking X’s on the calendar, the long weekend is finally here. If you’ve been diligently sticking to your fitness and nutrition plan, then there is no reason why you can’t let loose a little. The key here is to let loose ‘a little’ and not go overboard. You don’t want to sabotage all the progress made so far. Spending time with family and friends almost always involves food and lots of it. It’s easy to eat mindlessly when you’re in good company and there’s a smorgasbord of goodies all laid out. The calorie count can rack up real fast! Let’s not forget all the liquid calories we consume in sugary alcoholic beverages.

Here are some tips on how you can keep the long weekend festivities from destroying your efforts in the gym:

#1   Squeeze in a quick workout to allow for the extra calories and to keep the metabolism revved.

#2   Be mindful of portion sizes

#3   Choose healthier foods rather than calorie-dense foods. It’s ok to have a cheat day but even that should be within limits.

#4   Drink responsibly and wisely. Alcohol packs a double whammy, not only is alcohol high in calories but it also impairs your body’s ability to burn fat as efficiently. So, choose low-calorie alcoholic drinks and try to avoid sugary mixers.  Cheers!

#5  Have fun!

Happy long weekend everyone!

Weight Training is a Must for Women

There are still so many misconceptions about women and weight training.  Many women are still weary of weight training in fear of bulking up like a man, but this cannot be further from the truth.  It is genetically impossible for women to build bulky muscle mass like that of men for the simple fact that we do not have the same hormonal composition.  Women do not possess enough natural testosterone to build big bulging muscles, this is only possible by supplementing with steroids (synthetic testosterone), and only then does it start to look unnatural.  Testosterone, however, is only one factor, genetics plays a larger role.  Our DNA predetermines what type of muscle fibers we have and where on the body they are distributed, how we respond to exercise, and our body type.

As women, weight training is one of the best things we can do for our bodies, especially as we age.  Here are some reasons why women must consider weight training:

  • Reverse the loss of muscle mass.  After the age of 35, we typically lose 5% of our muscle mass every 10 years if we do nothing.  With strength training, we can reverse the loss of muscle mass by building toned, lean muscles.
  •   Stimulate fat loss.  As we age we our metabolism starts to slow down causing an increase in body fat, this typically starts around the age of 30.  How much body fat we gain depends greatly on our level of activity and lifestyle.  Weight training will increase lean muscle mass.  Lean muscle mass burns ten times more calories than fat mass and it continues to torch calories all day long.
  •  Prevent osteoporosis.  Regular weight training can significantly decrease your risk of developing osteoporosis and osteopenia by increasing bone density.  In order for bone to continue to renew itself, it requires regular overloading, otherwise, bone starts to lose minerals and becomes brittle and fragile. This is one of the main reasons why older adults are so susceptible to bone fractures.  Weight training can provide the bones with necessary overload for the generation of new bone tissue.
  • Prevent many chronic diseases.  Regular weight training can decrease your chances of developing heart disease by lowering your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and increasing your HDL (“good”) cholesterol.  Diabetes can be prevented or controlled with weight training by improving your body’s utilization of sugar.  The prevention and management of arthritis (osteoarthritis) is better possible by including weight training in your regular routine.  Weight training not only strengthens the muscles, but it also strengthens the connective tissues (tendons, ligaments) that surround and support the joints.  By increasing the integrity of your joints, you will also be preventing injury.
  • Become physically stronger.  Stronger muscles can greatly increase your quality of life and prevent injuries.  Even strength training 2-3 times a week can increase your overall strength by 30-50%This will make the activities of daily life requiring bending, lifting, climbing a lot easier and safer by reducing the risk of injury.
  • Stay positive and focused.  Exercise in general, has a mood altering effect.  The release of “feel good hormones” called endorphins, can help fight off depression and increase mental focus and clarity.
  • Look younger longer.  The anti-aging effects of weight training has been documented in numerous research studies.  The combination of all the other positive effects of weight training gives way to a more youthful body and mind.  People that are physically fit, healthy, happy, and active always seem younger.

Featured Exercise: The Plank for Toned Abs

The Low-PlankWhen it comes to abdominal exercises, the Plank gets rockstar status.  It is ranked one of the top 10 most effective ab excercises.  The plank is an isometric exercise that primarily strengthens the abdominal muscles (rectus abdominus and transverse abdominus), but also recruits the core muscles as synergists and stabilizers.

There are different variations of the plank, starting with the low-plank, as shown on the left.  Begin by holding the pose for 20 seconds at a time.  Over time, as your muscles gain strength, increase the time held up to a minute or longer.  Proper form and alignment  is essential for the safety and effectiveness of this exercise.  View the detailed step-by-step instructions by the American Council on Exercise for the proper execution of the Low-Plank.

Modified Low Plank
Modified Low Plank

If the low plank is difficult for you or causes any pain (especially in the back), then try the Modified Plank.  This version takes the pressure off the lower back and allows for more support by using the knees.  Progress to the low plank once you’ve mastered this modified pose and feel stronger in your back.

High Plank
High Plank

There are several progressions of the plank that can be followed, it really depends on your strength.  The length of time you can hold a pose will be an indication of your increasing strength and when it’s appropriate to progress.  The next progression from the low plank is the high plank.  The high plank is done by using straight arms and requires a strong lower back and shoulders.  This is a yoga inspired exercise that works not just the core, but the chest, shoulders, triceps, hamstrings, and glutes.

The Side Plank and Modified Side Plank are yet another version that target different abdominal and core muscles.  This exercise targets the obliques and the deep ab muscles (transverse abdominus) along with the glutes and adductors.  Once again, start with the modified version and work your way up.  View the step-by-step instructions by the American Council on Exercise.

Modified Side Plank
Modified Side Plank
Side Plank
Side Plank
High Side Plank
High Side Plank

Periodize Your Weight Loss for Maximum Results

Starting a new exercise program can be an exciting prospect.  It’s a step towards taking  responsibility for your health and well-being.  You’re all revved up with the expectations of this new dream body that you’re going to achieve.  However, after a few weeks into this program, do you find that your initial enthusiasm fizzles a bit?  Do you find the predictability of doing the same routine and the same 10-12 reps for weeks or months on end boring?

Well not only are you bored, but, by this point your body is experiencing adaptation to the exercises and is no longer feeling challenged.  In other words, you’ve reached a plateau and you’re no longer receiving any benefits from your current exercise regime, continuing with this program would be like spinning your wheels, a waste of effort.  This is a very common draw back of a traditional non-periodized program.

Most pre-designed generic programs you find online or in magazines lack any variability, they are simply cookie-cutter programs, a one-size-fits-all solution.  The only way to have success using a generic program is to customize it and periodize it to fit your particular goals.  This is where the help of a certified fitness professional familiar with periodized program design comes in handy.

Periodization 101

To understand how periodized programs differ from other programs, you will need to have some basic knowledge of the structure and how it works.  Periodization refers to the breaking up of a long-term plan into smaller cycles or periods of time in order to manipulate volume and intensity.

The entire long-term plan is called the macrocycle (usually 6-12 months), which is then broken down into a series of smaller mesocycles (1-4 months).  The mesocycles are further sub-divided into microcycles (1-4 weeks).  It is at the microcycle level that all the exercise programming occurs and program variables (reps, sets, intensity, volume) are altered.  Each cycle has its own particular goals (conditioning, strength, hypertrophy, rest ) and the program variables are manipulated to accomplish those goals.

How is Periodization Different?

For the purpose of this article, we’ll look at 3 characteristics that set apart the periodized program from its traditional counterparts:  (1) regular program changes, (2) a systematic variation of program factors, (3) and the use of active rest periods where training workload is reduced.  All three characteristics are a form of variation, which are uncommon in non-periodized programs.  By changing up your routine in cycles, you’re facilitating continual adaptation and preventing plateaus, which leads to optimal health and fitness results in far less time.

Why is Periodization Better?

Periodization is not a new technique by any means.  It was developed in Eastern Europe in the 1950’s to train their Olympic athletes who, as a result, out performed their competition.  Since periodization is not a new technique, there is ample research to prove its effectiveness.  Today, periodization is used all over the world, however, it still seems to be a technique reserved for elite athletes and bodybuilders.  Much of the information available on periodization seems to be in reference to athletic competition and bodybuilding.

The question then remains, if this techique is good enough for elite athletes, then why is not used for everyone?  Why should a program with the potential to deliver such superior results be kept exclusive?

One reason could be that, although periodization programs are not particularly complicated to design, they are technical and time consuming and, perhaps, that’s one of the reasons why they are used for athletes.

The general population, however, could greatly benefit from the principles of periodization, when applied in a more simplified form.  This is exactly what seems to be the trend lately.  Certain principles of periodization (such as variation in training, active rest periods, continual adaptation) are finding their way into general fitness programs to offer people a chance to optimize their fitness results.  The periodization program design has proven to elicit superior results in body mass increases, body fat reduction, and strength gains as compared to traditional non-periodized programs.  Variation in an exercise program is the key to successful weight loss. The periodization method adds variation in a cyclical manner, making these programs interesting more enjoyable, whereby, the individual is more likely to follow through to a successful outcome.