I’ve been a fitness trainer for over 35 years and I’m suddenly feeling the urge to share the many things I’ve learned that will most definitely increase my chances of living a longer, healthier and happier life!
And they’re not complicated, time-consuming or expensive – that’s not my style. Here you’ll find practical methods and tips that work for me and many others. And no sales pitches! I just want to share what works and hear from those of you who are fellow travelers on this path!
So welcome. And if you would like to contribute just contact me.
Research just keeps growing on the benefits of exercise for the aging brain.
But this latest research has a surprisingly different result! Up to now lots of studies have found that maintaining strength reduces the risk of illness and injury as we age. Now for the first time this research finds that exercise creates some kind of protection for the brain apart from the benefits of muscle strength.
This latest study out of Tufts University shows that physical activity significantly helps preserve mobility and motor skills and not just by keeping the body in shape.
The study has just been published in the journal “Neurology.” It extensively tested 167 people with dementia, aged 60 to 96 over just 11 days. Those who exercised (walking) showed no changes in the physical signs of dementia in their brains, but had far fewer impairments in their actual movement and mobility.
Lead author Debra Fleischman, PhD remarked, “Physical activity may create a
‘reserve’ that protects motor abilities against the effects of age-related brain damage.”
The study also showed that the more walking people did the more mobile and unimpaired they were. So be sure you do some kind of physical activity each day – the more the better! With a walking pole in each hand my 101 year old neighbor Jack still gets outdoors and walks a couple miles every day! A longer and healthier life is literally just a few more steps away!
The future of protein bars is… well, it’s bugs! Get ready for insect protein bars! They’re in development and for
Ounce for ounce insects provide more protein than beef. And
it’s better protein with more amino acids, 5x more magnesium and
3x more iron. And in blind taste tests people find powdered cricket
tastes just like flour and even preferred wormballs over meatballs!
Yuck! But wait!
It’s estimated that 25 small companies are now selling or
preparing to sell ground-cricket foods right now in the US. My
suggestion? Eat it and just don’t look at the ingredients! If you’re
ready to try, check out bittyfoods.com, hotlix.com or worldento.com.
Another study has just shown that aerobic activity, such as brisk
walking, actually increases the size of the hippocampus which is
where memories are formed, stored and processed. It also concludes
that aerobic exercise offers greatest benefits to those who need it
most such as anyone with mild cognitive impairment.
This new finding is published in the British Journal of Sports
When it comes to improving your mental function, physical exercise is not as effective as certain games!
A study reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that ONLY mental – not physical – exercise was associated with improved mental performance.
In this study scientists looked at 32 randomized and controlled trials comparing cognitive decline in otherwise healthy participants over 65 who had received a variety of interventions including nutritional supplements, physical exercise, hormone therapy, brain-boosting drugs, and mental exercises. The studies tested cognitive function after 5 years and only the studies that involved mental exercises resulted in significant improvements in memory, reasoning, and information processing speed over those who received no training.
The researchers declined to share what mental exercises were used. However, other research has shown that games involving memory and pattern recognition are particularly helpful. One game, Mahjong, combines both and is available free online.
A recent study shows that aerobic exercise is the best for delaying the aging process of the brain. It reduces brain tissue loss and slashes in half the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
It does this by increasing blood flow to the brain which releases BDNF, a brain chemical that creates neurons involved in memory, learning, planning and decision-making.
Researchers at the U of Illinois divided a group of 60-79 year olds into 3 groups. One group did brisk walking regularly for 6 months. Another did stretching and toning exercises regularly for the same time period. And the third group did no exercise. Only the group who did brisk walking showed changes in the brain, and the change was an increase in the hippocampus and levels of BDFN.
So it is never too late to start exercising, your cognitive functions are not destined to decline, and dementia is not inevitable.
First, it’s a quick and easy way to get all your daily requirement of fresh fruits and veggies. Kids and adults just don’t get enough of the disease-preventing nutrients ONLY found in fresh uncooked foods. And we’re all paying a shocking price with the alarming rise of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and many other diet-related illnesses!
OK well why not just drink more V8 Juice? That’s even more convenient. Lots of veggies right? Actually no store-bought beverage – even the priciest organic brands – give you even a fraction of the nutrients found in a fresh juice or smoothie. Really! This is no hype! They have to be heated – all of them – it’s called pasteurization and it destroys many nutrients.
Then the beverage is stored and shipped destroying even more nutrients – some nutrients are gone in just minutes!
Another amazing juice and smoothie benefit is ‘nutrient synergy‘ – a fancy term for a phenomenon which only happens when you consume whole foods such as fresh juices and smoothies. What synergy refers to a special effect that occurs when you consume more than one fresh nutrient and you get more benefits than if you consumed each nutrient separately. Science has confirmed this. It happens with black pepper and turmeric, basil and tomato and many other foods. Something happens that makes the nutrients more potent when consumed together instead of separately.
And finally there are all those special nutrients that prevent and even fight diseases! You can create certain smoothie and juicing recipes that heal! This is science we’re talking about! Nutritional research is discovering almost every day new compounds in fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices that truly heal! Whether it’s cancer, diabetes, depression, asthma, and so many more diseases, science is uncovering natural chemicals that significantly prevent and even treat these illnesses. They’ve found compounds that boost memory (blueberries!), increase energy (beets!), improve sleep (kiwi!), reduce pain (tart cherries!), improve sex (pineapple!), delay aging (grapes!) and so much more! Juicing and smoothie benefits just astound me! And we haven’t even touched the surface – wait until we talk about wheatgrass!
So start making your own juice and smoothie recipes today!
Pilates is the most popular exercise method with millions of enthusiasts worldwide. This is not surprising given the fact that Pilates is so effective and beneficial. Here’s what sets Pilates apart.
Strengthening all the muscles around the center of the body – the ‘core’ – is the hallmark of the Pilates method, and this is why you find elite athletes everywhere including Pilates in their conditioning programs.
There are three muscle groups in the core that are virtually ignored by other exercise methods – inner abs, inner obliques, and the psoas. When these are strengthened, everything changes including posture, mobility, balance, and athletic performance.
Another benefit of core strength is that most back problems disappear. Since Joseph Pilates developed this method nearly 100 years ago, science has found that core strength does relieves most back pain. In fact, core strength is more effective for most back problems than surgery or medication which is why it is a key principle in physical therapy.
Research has found that dynamic stretching as found in Pilates, swimming, and gymnastics is more beneficial than any other kind including static stretching found in yoga. Dynamic stretch is simply stretching while you move, and it creates greater range of motion and less risk of injury. Every Pilates exercise includes dynamic stretching.
Special Strength Training
Pilates primarily involves an unusual form of strength training known as ‘eccentric contraction’. This is the lowering of weight as distinct from the lifting of weight which is known as concentric contraction and found in most strength training methods. Research has found that concentric contraction is more beneficial because it develops long and lean muscle tissue which is equally as strong and less susceptible to injury.
As I get older I notice the wear and tear from exercise, particularly on my knees and lower back. I foresee a time in the not too distant future when I won’t (or can’t!) do certain activities that leave me with pain in my knees and other joints.
Not so with Pilates! The controlled and fluid movement central to this method does not cause joint irritation and pain. It is the safest way to move our joints, and thus, it is exercise that we can do for the rest of our lives! That’s not true for so many other exercise activities such as running and hiking.
Uniquely ‘Complete’ Exercise
Aerobic exercise is generally recommended for 30 minutes a day. Strength training is best every other day to allow muscles to recover and build. Recent research on stretching indicates that as little as 3 times a week is beneficial, but those who do more will benefit more. Fitness programs that include all three of these essential exercises – aerobics, strength training, and stretching – are considered ‘complete’ methods. Few exercise techniques combine all three of these into one quick and complete workout. Pilates mat exercise is one of them.
The emphasis on breathing in Pilates has a fascinating side effect – you feel energized rather than exhausted after a workout. Breathing oxygenates the bloodstream and every cell of the body, and movement stimulates circulation of the nervous and lymph systems creating more energy, well being, and even positive thinking.
One of the most striking differences between Pilates and other exercise methods is an emphasis on connecting the mind and body. This is accomplished by shutting off the music and taking off the earphones, at least in the beginning. We also slow down our movement to coordinate it with our breathing. We add precise and fluid movement, and pay attention to how all of this feels.
Such awareness is the best defense against injury, and a new relationship with the body. No more ignoring pain. No more fighting the body. And what rewards! – strength, flexibility, balance, painless joints, and a healthy back!
I want to introduce those of you who do not know about ‘dynamic stretch’ to this fascinating kind of stretching. We all need to stretch regularly, but did you know that there are different kinds of stretching, and that some are good for you and some are not.
There are 3 basic kinds of stretching: static, dynamic and ballistic. ‘Static stretch’ is holding a position until muscle tissue lengthens. This is what we do in yoga. ‘Dynamic stretch’ is stretching muscle while moving, and this is typically found in Pilates, gymnastics and swimming. The third type of stretching known as ‘ballistic’ forces muscle to stretch with harsh bouncing movement. Ballistic stretching is universally discouraged due to the high risk of muscle injury.
I’m now going to talk primarily about dynamic stretching in the exercise method known as Pilates because it’s hands-down the best exercise for living longer. It doesn’t have to be the only exercise you do, but it definitely should be one of the methods you learn and keep in your “exercise tool bag.” Why? Because it does not harm your joints, you can do the mat Pilates routine anywhere and anytime, and it focuses on core exercises which strengthen your body without adding extra weight.
Dynamic stretch occurs in each and every Pilates mat and machine exercise. You know it’s happening whenever you feel the discomfort of a tight muscle while doing any kind of movement as, for instance, when you circle your straight leg in ‘Leg Circles,’ or try to straighten your legs in ‘The 100.’ This muscle discomfort when you straighten your legs is the muscle actually stretching and lengthening.
Straight Legs in ‘The 100’
Straight Legs in ‘Leg Circles’
This is why we seek to find the difference between good and bad discomfort in a Pilates routine. We apply awareness to our movement to connect body and mind so that we can back off when the pain is saying we are about to hurt ourselves, but keep going when the pain is that healthy pushing and stretching.
Several studies have shown that dynamic stretch has advantages over static stretch. It creates more stretch in less time and with less discomfort. Studies also indicate that dynamic stretching is less prone to injury.
So next time you do your Pilates routine look for that muscle tightness. See if you can tolerate a bit more by straightening those legs just a bit more, or reaching those arms a little longer. Studies have shown that dynamic stretch has advantages over static stretch. It creates more stretch in less time and with less discomfort. Studies also indicate that dynamic stretching is less prone to injury.
Reach the arms to the back wall in the ‘Double Leg Kick’
Reach the legs up and back in ‘Coordination’
Make sure when you’re learning Pilates that you choose the ‘mat exercise method’ which doesn’t use any equipment. And find a teacher that does the classic athletic style which is rigorous exercise – a great workout. An excellent source of free lessons for beginners can be found at PilatesLessons.org. The teacher featured on that site also has an excellent video book available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iBooks. And for free daily exercise tips, motivation and news go to Facebook.com/PilatesWithBob.
So put Pilates on your list of things to do if you’re truly interested in living a longer and healthier life! It’s the same core exercises used by elite athletes and celebrities and prescribed by physical therapists. And Pilates is an unsurpassed home workout.