A to Z Challenge: E is for Excuses

E

 

“There isn’t enough time in the day to workout”

too-busy-to-exercise

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Organic food cost too much”

organic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I will take my dream trip when I loose some weight”

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“I am too old to workout”

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“lifting weights is boring”

 

 

 

 

 

“I don’t like to work out alone, but I can’t afford a gym membership”

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Do you see your favorite excuse on this list? Perhaps you have more than one “goto” reason that keeps you from getting started on your fitness goals? Maybe you love to start a new health/fitness program, but find that you loose your motivation quickly thereafter.

You may have heard that it takes 21 days (or three weeks) for a lifestyle change to take root. And that timeline may be true for a committed individual who is making a modest change (let’s say, drinking a glass of water before a meal). However, when the change is more complicated, like adding in walking for 30 minutes a day, the time frame shifts dramatically. Study participants took anywhere from 50 to 84 days to incorporate just a simple 10 minute walk after breakfast! Clearly exercise habits are tough for people to add into their already hardwired routine.

The study I am referring to was published in The European Journal of Social Psychology. Study participants were given modest exercise goals, such as 50 sit ups after dinner, or a 10 minute walk after a meal. The subjects reported their success at maintaining the task. The results were quite varied, and it took anywhere from 18 to 254 days to create the new habit. 254 days! That is almost 1 year 😳.  This study puts that average closer to 66 days, nowhere near the 21 days that we have all heard about!

If you had been expecting that your new goals would get easier in just 21 days, and after 5 weeks you still have to struggle to accomplish the task, you might be thinking that this just will not work for you. It will work! It will get easier! Persistence is the key. We just need to understand that this is a lifestyle change and not a quick fix!

If you are interested in stopping the excuses, I would like to direct you to a blog that I find really helpful.

Beachbody On Demand has articles, recipes and simple, healthy food swaps to get you going in a healthier direction. The link below will take you to a discussion on breaking those excuses!

 

12 Top Weight-Loss Excuses and How to Stop Making Them

 

invisible-no-more

References:

https://health.usnews.com/health-news/diet-fitness/fitness/slideshows/fitness-excuses?slide=5

Good habits

https://fee.org/articles/how-long-does-it-take-to-form-good-habits/

Breaking a habit

https://www.blackmores.com.au/everyday-health/how-long-does-it-really-take-to-break-a-habit

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A to Z Challenge: C is for Core

C

pe teacher

If you are of “a certain age”, you will remember the mandatory PE classes in school. My classes were always taught by the grumpiest individual they could find that year. He or She always fancied themselves, not only as fitness expert, but it appeared that they did not need to follow any exercise or nutrition plan of their own. I never saw one of them do any of the activities they forced upon us, and I saw the high school track coach at McDonald’s, having lunch off campus, on more than a few occasions!

I swear they were only happy if the students were miserable. A favorite torture moment often came in the form of sit ups, now referred to as “crunches”. Among all moans and groans, one would hear the teacher say, “don’t you all want to have six pack abs?”

Back in the day, it was believed that this one motion would lead to a defined muscle set, make you look instantly healthy and increase your odds of finding a gorgeous mate.

abdominal-crunches

That is a lot to ask of this simple movement, but everyone believed it was true.

 

 

Fast forward a few decades. You are in a yoga class, or pilates, kickboxing or just about any other fitness workout, and the instructor yells out, “time to work on our core!”

What is the difference between now and then? When did your ab workout become a core workout, and is there really a difference?  Yes!

Abdominal muscles ≠ Core muscles. The core is made up of 9 different muscle sets!

 

core_strength_II

Depending on which medical text you consult, the list varies a bit. But all sources seem to agree to include: Pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominis, multifidus, internal obliques, external obliques, rectus abdominis, erector spinae (sacrospinalis), longissimus thoracis and the diaphragm.

It is a big ask for the humble sit up to train all theses muscles! Most of us just want a flat tummy to show off at the beach, or to loose a few pounds around the midsection because we know that abdominal fat is unhealthy. But the core region is much more than just aesthetics.

Unknown

 

The center of the  core stability is responsible for our overall endurance, strength and flexibility. It also contributes greatly to motor control and function. In short, these muscles combine to make our daily activities easier.

 

This is not just for athletes looking for a competitive edge. These muscles are recruited at the grocery store, as you walk around without falling over,  and when you bend, twist and lift the bags from your trunk and carry them into the house. When you pick up your toddler and hold him or her on your hip, every one of these muscles is engadged. You get my point!

What we have learned, all these years later as exercise science has evolved this understanding, is that strength training can not be done with a singular movement.

How many times do you need to stop, drop and perform a crunch in your daily routine? Probably never! Strengthening the muscles of the core is a dynamic process. Anytime your balance is challenged the smaller muscles, such as the multifidus are firing. You may not feel that work being performed, but those smaller muscles are working to stabilize your entire body.

Have you ever held a plank? You are in a stationary position, but that takes work!

 

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In fact planks are the new crunches! The side plank challenges these muscles from a different angle, causing them to strengthen in the process. And this is before you add in any extra movements such as extending your arm, or lifting the top leg. Those modifications challenge even more muscle fibers than are listed in this, blurry graphic! 😔 Sorry for that!

 

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Planks are not the only way to strengthen your core. For those who are already comfortable with the chart below, adding a twist or some movement to the static pose will present a greater challenge.

Any movement that challenges your balance will recruit and strengthen your core, providing huge benefits particularly as we age.

 

complete_core_workout

 

Consider doing a few moderate core strengthening movements, if your physical fitness allow for it. Your future self will thank you for it! 💕 😊

 

References:

https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/do-you-know-what-your-core-really-is-and-what-it-does

http://arcphysicaltherapy.com/2014/what-is-the-core/

 

 

A to Z Challenge: B is for BMI

B

BMI stands for Body Mass index, most of us have heard of it, may even fear it! But, do you really understand what doctors use this for?

The body mass index was developed by Adolphe Quetelet. He was a Belgium astronomer, mathematician, and sociologist who enjoyed accumulating and studying statistics from 1830-1850.

His equation was originally called the Quetelet Index. It was not until 1972 that the term BMI was introduced.  Quetelet developed the formula as an attempt to quantify the amount of tissue -bone, fat and muscle in a human-taking into account their height and gender to determine their fitness.

The formula is rather straight forward and it is easy to calculate your BMI.

body-mass-index-formula

 

But there are many debates as to how accurate or useful this number, by itself, is for categorizing an individual as normal, overweight or obese.

 

 

After calculating your BMI, your health care professional uses that number to determine your category, which should help determine your likelihood of developing a number of disorders such as Type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease or certain types of cancers.

BMIFinal

 

 

 

 

But, how accurate is this really?

 

 

 

I found this out first hand, when our daughter the nationally ranked gymnast, went for her annual checkup. She was 8 years old and just beginning to compete. She was a burly 2nd grader, to be sure, as most kids in her class did not have washboard abs and cut triceps.

She was short, barely making it above the x axis on the growth chart. The pediatrician looked at her weight and calculated her BMI, something that was pushed for by the state, as they were collecting data on childhood obesity rates. The doctor laughed as she turned toward us and said, “Alexandra, you are overweight!”

I understood the joke but Alex did not, and was confused since she had some friends who were truly overweight, and she did not believe that was her situation. We had our first “this is what healthy looks like” talk.

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The reality is that, when Quetelet developed this equation, there were factors that he was not able to control. It was impossible for his formula to take into account that muscle is heavier than fat. Dense bones are heavier than light ones.

 

 

The fact that athletes, who tend to have more muscle and less fat, and the elderly, who tend to have less muscle mass in general, demonstrates that the BMI equation can not accurately categorize their health.

Great examples of those for whom the BMI system does not apply are gymasts, who tend to be muscular and short, and basketball players, who tend to be muscular and taller than average, these extreme body types throw the equation off.

Additionally, bigger muscles need denser, stronger bones in order to form the correct attachment points. The elderly generally have bone density loss and smaller muscles.

Unfortunately, there are those individuals who use this discrepancy to disregard this information, when they should not!

 

body-mass-index-limitation

While it can be misleading, BMI can be a real diagnostic tool for those people who are not muscular or elderly! There will always be people who prefer to lie to themselves then face the facts!

So we have a system that the government, and insurance industry, use as their standard of relative health that discriminates against athletes and the elderly population.

Another level of confusion is introduced when arbitrary categories are assigned to the BMI values. For example the World Health Organization (WHO),working in conjunction with the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) lowered the overweight cutoff from a BMI of 27, to 25. This decision moved millions of Americans from the overweight to obese classification. What a nice surprise to wake up to that day!

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And that leads to a lot of confusion and misunderstanding as we all try to sort out what information is helpful, and what is not.

So what should we be using?

 

 

 

 

Waist circumference is a potentially useful tool to determine how much visceral, or abdominal fat one is carrying. Studies have linked high levels of abdominal fat to a variety of life shortening ailments.

Regardless of your height or BMI, you should try to lose weight if your waist is:

  • 94cm (37ins) or more for men
  • 80cm (31.5ins) or more for women

bush confussed

 

 

 

Even so, there is debate about how best to measure your waist circumference, as many people take this measurement differently.

 

 

 

 

Still harder to define is the waist to hip measurement, also used, in order to determine a healthy ratio. When researches observed people taking these two measurements the subjects rarely placed the tape measure in the correct “waist’ or “hip” areas, skewing the numbers.

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So, if you are really wondering about your overall health, what can you do?

 

 

 

Get your percent body fat measured! This is the best measurement to take to determine if you are at risk for problems down the road. Generally speaking, less than 20-25% total body fat is the goal, and ladies we have a higher percentage of fat than the men. It ok!

168751-425x314-body-fat-percentage-chart-thumb

There are a number of ways to calculate body fat percentages, and I have included two great references for more information for you to consider.

Bottom line: No one number or calculation can accurately asses your overall health. But that is not an excuse to ignore it either! Be honest with yourself and stop stressing over numbers. Get moving and eat good food, and see your doctor regularly. 😊

 

References:

BMI information

https://web.archive.org/web/20090505180701/http://www.maa.org/devlin/devlin_05_09.html

https://web.archive.org/web/20070804113535/http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/featr/content/shared/health/stories/BMI_INDEX_0830_COX.html

https://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/849.aspx?CategoryID=51

Body Fat Percentage information

http://www.kingofthegym.com/body-fat-percentage/

http://exercise.lovetoknow.com/Body_Fat_Percentage_Chart

A to Z Challenge: A is for Aging

A

We all have a personal definition of aging, and most of us can pinpoint the exact moment we realized we may have lost a step or two. For me, that revelation hit in my late 30s.

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It was at my annual physical when my doc asked me to describe the quality of my sleep. I laughed and said “what’s sleep?” She didn’t laugh, but began really quizzing me about my sleep patterns. I told her that I assumed my slumber issues would resolve when my kids got older, to which she naturally inquired, “how old are the kids now?” I sheepishly replied truthfully, “8 and 9 years old”  and she replied, “your sleep problems are not going to get better.” Ouch!

 

It was at that moment that I realized this was not going to get better without some effort on my part. I was at that annoying age where problems and issues stop healing on their own. I had to help my body along the correct path.

My options were simple. Take sleeping aids which could lead to more problems and dependencies, or accept that I had to take a more active role in the aging process. I joined a gym that week and began to exercise.

This was tough to manage. At the time our daughter was a nationally ranked gymnast and had to practice 20+hours a week, with travel to competitions. Our son was a competitive rock climber with a practice and travel schedule of his own. They both had homework and I was a tenured professor with a full teaching schedule to maintain.

end aging

In the beginning I was only able to fit in a few hours a week. But I immediately started seeing and feeling the benefits! I was falling asleep easier at night, and more importantly, sleeping until the alarm sounded the next morning. I found it easier to work exercise into our tight schedules and realized that my overall mood increased as well. In fact, if I missed more than a few consecutive days in the gym, I was grumpy and in a foul mood. Exercise had improved my mental health as well as my physical state.

There are numerous studies that demonstrate a positive correlation between maintaining good health, and the quality of life through the aging process. And, the good news is that it is not too late to start earning these benefits.

Any physical activity will help reduce the overall levels of inflammation in the body. Inflammation is one of the biggest contributors to heart disease, decreased mental functions and even depression. Inflammation accumulates in the body as a normal by product of the aging process and the body is slower at removing those molecules the longer we live.

Inflammation

 

It makes sense! How many times have you heard that our metabolism slows down as we age? That means we are slower at removing toxins and internally generated molecules, our cells need our help.

 

What we eat and how much we move are the two most important factors to lowering our overall levels of inflammation. Coincidentally, regulating diet and exercise also correlates to higher cognitive levels as we age too!

memory

Limiting process foods and consuming less saturated fats are crucial to reducing overall inflammation. Foods that help lower inflammation (as well as cholesterol and assist in lowering blood pressure) include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, as well as consuming omega-3-fatty acids found in salmon and tuna. Just about any plant based protein will be beneficial as well, such as beans and nuts.

Once you have the proper fuel, it is time to consider exercise! Even moderate physical activity will earn huge returns on your health investment. The goal is to strike a balance between moving enough to lower inflammation but not to overtrain to the point of generating more inflammation. Confused yet? omg

Moderate activity, which is any low impact activity, will help your heart and kidneys flush out inflammatory molecules. Yoga, walking, hiking, swimming and cycling are great activities that will not tax your muscles or joints.

That means you do not have to run a marathon, become a triathlete or perform at an Olympic level to stay young! The government guidelines are 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week. That may sound like a lot, but here are some tips:

  1. Break up the 150 minutes into 30 minute intervals. That is just 5 times a week where you could be walking your dog, going on a hike, riding a bike, swimming-all low impact for bad joints or just getting started.
  2. If you already have a fitness base, try out interval training. This is a great way to get in a lot of effort in a shorter time span.
  3. Try to avoid activities that cause inflammation, at least until you are stronger and fitter. Don’t start out doing HIIT circuit work, or jump into the latest fitness trend,  until you have conditioned your body and are stronger.
  4. Your body will become accustomed to your new fitness level, called plateaus. Gradually build up your fitness level. It won’t take long for you to be able to easily walk or hike 5 miles. When it is, you start jogging!

 

Bedlam and Daisies, A wonderful blog from my friend Amy Lyon recently used this quote that I “borrowed”, which sums it up perfectly.

david bowe

Invest in yourself today, you are worth the time 😊💕

References:

https://www.mensfitness.com/life/anti-aging-news-can-exercise-help-you-stay-young

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/315255.php

https://www.webmd.com/women/ss/slideshow-what-is-inflammation

 

If you want more of a scientific explanation, this is a great academic article,

https://academic.oup.com/biomedgerontology/article/72/9/1218/2731236