Category Archives: Fitness

Speed Drop

Golf And Age:

The vast majority of golfers experience a significant loss in club head speed and distance as they age. It’s a complaint I have heard from pretty much every golfer I have trained who is into their 50’s, and certainly 60’s. Golf score, and either directly or indirectly, level of enjoyment from the game starts to decline as this speed reduction occurs. Let’s make one point very clear. It’s not your chronological age that is primarily responsible for the decline in distance, it is your drop in strength and speed/power. There is a huge difference, because chronological age cannot be changed, but strength, power and speed levels most certainly can….at any age.

Why Does Speed Drop Off With Age?

By understanding the mechanisms that underlie this drop off in power it becomes much easier to try and apply appropriate training interventions.

1 Decrease In Muscle Activity / Neural Drive:

To carry out a movement, our Central Nervous System (CNS) must activate motor units (MU’s). Motor units are comprised of a motor neuron (nerve), and the muscle fibers that it innervates. In an effort to avoid complexity, the more MU’s that are recruited, and the faster that these signals to recruit MU’s are sent from the CNS, the stronger and faster our movements can be. This is of course extremely important for generating high club head speed. It has been well established that as one ages there is a loss in working MU’s which means generating high levels of force and speed becomes more difficult.

2 Muscle Fiber Type:

Going quickly back to MU’s, it should be noted that all muscle fibers in an MU are the same type. You have probably heard of “fast twitch” and “slow twitch” muscle fibers, and these differences in muscle fiber type are very real and very important. Fast twitch muscle fibers are capable of much faster, and stronger contractions, and are therefore vital for explosive movements like the golf swing. It is well established that as one ages, there is a decrease in the size and amount of these fast twitch muscle fibers. There is also some debate that fast twitch fibers start to “convert” to slow twitch fibers, and become innervated by a slow twitch neuron. Interestingly, slow twitch fibers don’t degrade anywhere near as much with age, compared to the fast twitch counterparts.

3 Sarcopenia:

This is the term given to the loss of muscle size and strength due to aging. Muscle power, which is a combination of force and velocity does not receive the same attention but it certainly warrants it. Due to the selective atrophy and loss of fast twitch fibers, and other more complex nervous system factors, muscle power is lost at approximately twice the rate of muscle strength (Skelton et al 1994). This is a very important point to note if maintaining high club head speed is a goal. With similar levels of muscle mass, and maximum strength, elderly populations tend to have much lower power levels.

What Can Be Done About It – Training

While the information above may make it seem all hope is lost, the great thing about muscle, and the CNS is that they’re very responsive to training, even in “old” people. The key word here is “training”. Recreational activity, or general exercise is not the same thing, and the training must meet some specific criteria for maximum benefit to be attained.

In particular, there are two types of training that have massive benefit for reversing/delaying the loss of muscle power in aging populations. The first is strength training, which concentrates on developing the maximum force one can exert in a particular movement or exercise. With strength training, our primary goal is force production. This is best accomplished with a “”heavy” load, relative to the person’s strength level. For the sake of this discussion let’s classify heavy as the most load someone can use in a particular exercise and complete 3-6 perfect reps, but no more.

The second type is usually labelled under speed & power training. Another term for this is Rate of Force Development (RFD). RFD is usually classified as the amount of force generated in the first 200ms of muscular contraction. This is the vital difference between strength and RFD. Strength measures do not take the time to produce maximum force into consideration, while RFD is concerned with the maximum amount of force that can be produced very quickly (usually classified as the first 200ms of contraction).

This point is important to understand and take note of because there is a difference in how quickly older populations decline in strength, compared to RFD. As alluded to earlier RFD declines much more rapidly. Due to very short, explosive nature of the golf swing, RFD is a critical component of high club head speed so increasing or maintaining it for as long as possible is an important training consideration.

In the next section of the article I am going to provide some key takeaways from the research I have studied in this area, and give some examples of how I try to implement these concepts in the programs I provide for clients both in person, and as part of my online training services.

Practical Application:

Research results like those provided above and real world observations make the benefits of these training modalities impossible to ignore, and I always try to include them as an element of my clients training programs both in person and online. With this being said, some sense must be applied when deciding on how to train high force (strength), and high velocity (RFD) movements in older populations.

This is where having the experience of scaling, regressing & progressing different exercises and modes becomes invaluable. An accurate assessment of the clients readiness will dictate the training starting point, and the time and resources they are willing to commit will give an indication of where you can expect to help them progress to.

Maximum strength training, by nature is best accomplished with exercises where the client is in an environment where high forces can be produced, and likelihood of injury or mishap is low. Basic compound movements like variations of hip hinges/deadlifts, squats, and upper body pushes and pulls tend to do work quite well in my experience. Once the athlete is competent in the mechanics of the exercise, a simple Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale is an excellent way to choose the weight to use for the exercise. Lets use the hip hinge / deadlift as an example, and you have programmed for the set to consist of 6 reps. Start with a conservative load and once the set is finished, ask the client/yourself to give the set a difficulty rating out of 10. I tell clients that 1 is nothing, and 10 is complete maximum effort, extremely hard, and no way another rep would have been possible. The sweet spot is somewhere between 7-9, so adjust accordingly until you have a load that can lifted in perfect form with an RPE of 7-9/10. If technique starts to drift as the load increases, lower it to the heaviest load that can be done with perfect form. Load should never change technique.

Muscle Fiber

Type of Muscle Fiber

One of the most influential factors is muscle fiber type. We have two basic types of muscle fibers, often referred to as “slow twitch” and “fast twitch.” Slow twitch muscle fibers are best used for cardiovascular (aerobic) activities. They produce small levels of force for long periods of time and thus are better suited for endurance activities. Fast twitch fibers are best used for anaerobic activities. They produce high levels of force for short periods of time and are best suited for power activities such as weightlifting.

Most men and women have an equal combination of both slow twitch and fast twitch fibers. However, some people inherit a high percentage of slow twitch fibers that enhance their performance in endurance activities, such as long distance runners. Most world class marathon runners have a very high amount of slow twitch fibers. World class sprinters or football players, for example, have relatively more fast twitch muscle fibers. Although both fiber types respond positively to strength training workouts, the fast twitch types experience greater increases in muscle size and strength, and thus may obtain greater and/or faster results from a strength training program.

Age

Another factor over which we have little control is age. Studies show that people of all ages can increase their muscle size and strength as a result of a safe and effective strength training program. However, the rate of strength and muscle gain appears to be greater from age 10-20, the years of rapid growth and development. After reaching normal physical maturity, muscular improvements usually don’t come as quickly.

Gender

Gender does not affect the quality of our muscle, but does influence the quantity. Although men’s and women’s muscle tissue are characteristically the same, men generally have more muscle tissue than women do because muscle size is increased by the presence of testosterone, the male sex hormone. The larger the muscles, the stronger the person; this is why most men are stronger than most women.

Limb and Muscle Length

Another strength factor that is naturally determined is limb length. Persons with short limbs tend to be able to lift more weight because of advantageous leverage factors (arms and legs). Similarly, differences in strength development may come about because of variation in muscle length. Some people have long muscles, and some people have short muscles. Persons with relatively long muscles have greater potential for developing size and strength than persons with relatively short muscles.

Point of Tendon Insertion

Muscle strength is also influenced by the point of tendon insertion. For example, let’s say Jim and John both have the same arm and muscle length. However, Jim’s biceps tendon attaches to his forearm farther from his elbow joint than John’s does. This gives Jim a biomechanical advantage: he is able to lift more weight than John in biceps exercises such as the Biceps Curl.

Other Important Factors

All of these factors affect our ability to gain strength and muscle development through training. Keep in mind, however, that the most influential factor in achieving good results is using a very slow, controlled lifting movement and lifting to the point of muscle fatigue.

In addition to using good lifting technique, it is absolutely imperative that you not only train with intensity on a well-balanced program, but also give your muscles enough resting time between training sessions. Overtraining is a common mistake people make; it happens not only when you don’t allow your muscles enough rest, but also when you train with too many sets and exercises for each muscle group.

Another mistake people make is doing the same program over and over again even after they have reached a plateau. Any time you 1) stop gaining strength or muscle size or 2) get bored, it is crucial that you change the program, so that you can go through a whole new phase achieving new results.

We inherit most of these factors affecting strength from our parents, and they have a big impact on our size, strength, and appearance. It is very important that you not become obsessed with trying to look like a world-class body builder—or any other body type that is not your own. We are not all meant to look the same. It is very important that you learn about and accept your own body’s characteristics and type, so you can develop a reasonable program specific to realistic goals and personal interests.

Genetics does clearly play a role in your health and appearance, but they certainly do not determine how often or well you train. Even if you are born with a genetic predisposition to being overweight or weak, the way you live is what will ultimately determine whether you become fit and strong or fat and weak.

Weightlifting provides many important benefits that cannot be achieved by any other exercise or activity. Physiologically, the benefits of consistent strength training include an increase in muscle size and tone, increased muscle strength, and increases in tendon, bone, and ligament strength. Strength-training has also been shown to improve psychological health as well, by increasing self-esteem, confidence and self-worth. If you understand and accept your body, you will be able to work with it, not against it. Everyone can improve their strength, appearance, and performance level by consistently implementing an effective strength training program.

Exercises to become a better runner

There are a variety of exercises that can be performed in order to strengthen the appropriate muscles to improve your running economy and decrease your risk for running induced injuries.  Runners need to focus on strengthening that will keep their body well balanced.

Planks can be performed in order to improve core strength, lower back strength and shoulder strength.  In order to perform a plank exercise you will prop yourself up on your elbows with your feet slightly apart.  You need to make sure your body is aligned and you keep your abdominal muscles tight and your shoulders are directly above the elbows. You will hold this position for 45 seconds to 1 minute (holding as long as possible, taking quick breaks when necessary) and then add time as you get stronger. You can perform 3 to 5 reps. You can modify this exercise to include side planks that target the obliques, single leg planks, mountain climber planks and supine planks.

 Another helpful core exercise for ruce athletenners is windshield wipers.  In order to perform this exercise lie on your back with your upper legs perpendicular to the floor with your knees bent to 90-degrees.  Keep the bend in your hips and knees and lower your legs to the left and then bring them back to the starting position and repeat to the right side of your body.  Make sure to keep your shoulders in contact with the floor.  Perform 10 to 12 repetitions. You can make it harder by keeping your legs straight. Build up to 1-4 sets.

Back extensions can be performed in order to strengthen the lower back, glutes, middle back and shoulders. In order to perform this exercise lie face down on a stability ball with your feet spread wide for balance.  Your elbows should be bent with your hands lightly touching the ground for initial support.  Then squeeze your glutes and lift your torso up until your body forms a straight line.  As you lift up your torso, allow your hands to come off the ground and keep your elbows bent.  Extend your arms overhead and then hold for one to two seconds.  Relax your arms and then your torso back down to the start position. Perform 10-12 repetitions.  You can also perform this exercise on a mat by raising your thighs and arms off the ground while your torso stays in contact with the ground. To make it harder your can hold light dumbbells. Build up to 1-4 sets.

Squats with overhead prescan be performed to strengthen glutes, quads, hamstrings, lower back, upper back and shoulders.  You can hold weight- either dumbbells or kettebells – in both hands in front of your chest.  Stand with your feet hip-width apart and push your hips back like you are going to sit in a chair. Lower your body into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor (use less depth if form starts to suffer). Press the weight overhead and as you stand back up return the weight to the original position.  You can also do the squat without the overhead raise by just keeping the weight in the center chest position.  Perform 10-12 repetitions. Build up to 1-4 sets.

Overhead lunges are performed to strengthen quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, shoulders and core.  Hold a pair of dumbbells straight above your shoulders with your arms straight and elbows locked.  You will step forward with one leg and then lower your body until your front knee is bent to 90 degrees. Then return to the starting position and repeat with the other leg. Perform 6-8 repetitions on each leg. If you need to make it easier hold the dumbbells at shoulder level. Build up to 1-4 sets.

Stability Ball Hip Extension with leg curls can be done to increase hamstring, glute and core strength.  Lie on your back on the floor with your calves on a stability ball. You can extend your arms to your sides to help support and balance yourself.  Push your hips up so that your body is in a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Without allowing your hips to sag, roll the ball as close as you can to your hips by bending your knees and pulling your heels towards you. You can make it easier by only doing the bridge on the ball and to make it harder your can do a single leg curl while holding your other leg in the air above your hips. Perform 6 to 8 repetitions per side. Build up to 1-4 sets.

 

Interval training

HIIT is defined as short, intense, unsustainable bursts of physical activity, paired with intervals of quick rests.  This type of intense training causes a sort of metabolic disturbance which can result in the body burning calories at a higher rate up to 48-72 hours later. HIIT can also increase metabolism, reduce insulin resistance, improve cardiac function, produce faster gains in endurance levels than steady state cardio training and can be an effective way to recruit/build type 2 fast twitch muscle.

This type of training can be done anywhere and usually doesn’t require equipment and may be more efficient in terms of time commitment. This type of training also burns more fat effectively than typical endurance cardio.   The body has to heal after this type of training so it is not recommended that you perform HIIT every day – usually it is recommended to perform this type of training a maximum of 2-3 days per week (it’s important to note that more is not better).

This training program involves intense work periods that are performed at 80% to 95% of a person’s estimated maximal heart rate which is the maximum number of times your heart will beat in a minute without overexerting yourself.  The recovery periods may last as long as the work periods and are usually performed at a rate of 40% to 50% of a person’s estimated maximal heart rate.  The workout involves alternating between the work and recovery periods.

HIIT can be modified for people of all fitness levels and people with various medical conditions including being overweight and people with diabetes.  HIIT workouts can be performed using various methods of exercise including bodyweight exercises, strength exercises, cycling, walking, swimming, or running or group fitness classes. HIIT workouts tend to burn more calories than traditional workouts and you can burn more calories during the post-exercise workout period.  During the excess post exercise, oxygen consumption or EPOC which is generally about a 2-hour period after an exercise bout where the body is restoring itself to pre-exercise levels and using more energy.  HIIT workouts tend to generate about 6-15% more calories burned during the EPOC period which adds to the overall workout energy expenditure.

HIIT workouts are more exhaustive than traditional steady state endurance workouts.  A longer recovery period is often needed.  If you are going to start HIIT type training workouts it may be beneficial to start with one HIIT training workout per week and then as you feel ready for a greater challenge add a second HIIT workout during the week while still making sure you spread out the workouts and never do them on back to back days.

When developing your own HIIT program you need to consider the duration, intensity and frequency of the work intervals and the recovery intervals.

What should my rest and active HIIT intervals feel like? How do I know if I’m working hard enough?
Intervals during the high intensity work period should be performed at > 80% of your estimated maximal heart rate.  The work period should feel like you would describe your workout as being hard to very hard. If you use the talk test as your guide it would be very difficult to carry on a conversation.  The recovery period should be performed at 40-50% of your estimated maximal heart rate.  This type of exercise would be described as comfortable, to help you prepare for your next high intensity work interval.

One example would be to do a ratio of 1:1 which may be a 3-minute hard work or high intensity period followed by a 3-minute recovery period. 20 on and 10 off is very popular. Another training protocol is where the exerciser does about 30 seconds of sprint or near full-out effort which is followed by 4 to 4.5 minutes of recovery.  This type of combination can be repeated 3-5 times.  These exercises are typically performed in shorter bouts.

If you are considering giving HIIT a try make sure you are cleared by your physician or take a physical activity readiness questionnaire in order to determine if it is appropriate for you to begin this type of training.

Exercise to diabetes

Risk factors
Obesity and inactivity are two of the main risk factors of acquiring diabetes.   Environmental factors may be mostly modifiable which means that many people that acquire diabetes may have been able to avoid this condition and may also be able to reverse this condition with lifestyle changes.  Diet is a crucial aspect of the overall management of diabetes as well as exercise and physical activity.

Type 1 versus Type 2
Type 2-diabetes can be difficult to treat and can be expensive to manage and that is why avoiding this diagnosis is imperative.  Diabetes occurs because the body does not produce or does not properly use insulin.  Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreases that allows glucose or sugar to enter the cells.  If the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin or when muscle, fat, and liver cells do not properly respond to the insulin that is there then glucose builds up in the blood which can become toxic.  Hyperglycemia is a condition that occurs when there is too much glucose in the blood.  Type 1-diabetes is not related to diet and inactivity but is the type of diabetes that occurs in children and young adults and is the result of the immune system destroying the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.  This article will focus now on how to reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes and how to reverse or reduce the effects with the use of exercise.

How can exercise help?
Exercise can help the cells of the body take up glucose and lower blood glucose levels.  Physical activity can help with weight loss and can decrease the overall effect that diabetes has on the body.  Regular exercise can decrease the need for insulin, the risk of obesity and the risk of heart disease.   The exercise recommendations from the American Diabetes Association include participating in physical activities of high or moderate intensity exercise lasting for more than 150 minutes a week in order for the activity to counteract the effects of diabetes. Walking is an easy exercise to get activity and if someone is at a lower level in regards to cardiovascular ability or aerobic capacity this may be a good place to start. It is important that this activity is supervised or monitored to decrease the risk of insulin imbalance.

Physical activity can help body cells take up glucose and lower blood glucose levels.  Regular physical activity also helps with weight loss as well as controlling blood cholesterol and blood pressure.  Physical activity needs to be balanced with medication and diabetic meal planning and the doctor and the dietician should be made aware of the amount of physical activity the patient is getting.

The benefits of regular aerobic exercise in diabetes management include decreased need for insulin, decreased risk of obesity and decreased risk of heart disease.  Exercise can help to decrease total cholesterol and can improve the ration of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) to high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) and reduce blood triglycerides.  Physical activity may also decrease blood pressure and lower stress levels.

How much exercise and what kind?
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends exercising at least three times a week for 20 minutes a day at a high intensity or exercising at least 5 times a week for 30 minutes at a moderate intensity.

Walking is one of the easiest ways to get exercise.  Walking can be done throughout a person’s lifetime without any special equipment and with little risk of injury.  Supervised activity may be best due to the risk of insulin imbalance.

Other aerobic activities may also be performed in order to get in the amount of exercise necessary to reduce the effects of diabetes on the body including bodyweight cardio, swimming, biking, running and any other aerobic activity that someone may enjoy to get in the exercise time required.

Resistance training is also beneficial for those with diabetes.  Resistance training can help to improve the biological effects of diabetes.  The guidelines suggest that in addition to the aerobic exercise a person should perform resistance training should be performed between 2-3 times per week at a duration of at least 60 minutes each.  A combination of aerobic activity and resistance training has additive benefits on glucose control and can help to achieve a greater reduction in Type-2 diabetes than performing one or the other.

Lifestyle interventions such as changes in a persons’ diet, increasing physical activity throughout the day and participating in regular exercise can make an impact on the diagnosis and treatment of diabetes.

It is important to realize that you can decrease your risk of diabetes with lifestyle changes and that even if you have an increased risk of diabetes due to genetics you can influence your environmental risk factors to decrease the overall risk of acquiring this condition.  It is also important to realize that if you do get diagnosed with diabetes you can still make lifestyle changes to decrease the impact of this disease on your body.

Prevent knee problems in the future

One way to prevent knee pain is to manage your weight. Increased weight can increase stress on the knee joints and lead to pain and other conditions. Increased weight also increases the risk of getting osteoarthritis in the knees which can lead to pain, limited mobility and a possible knee replacement surgery down the line. Taking extra weight off your body can improve your ability to function and can also decrease your risk for knee conditions in the future. Evidence shows that losing weight helps treat knee osteoarthritis so if you never gain the weight you can decrease your risk of acquiring osteoarthritis in the first place.

Proper shoe wear/footwear can be important in preventing knee injuries, particularly in workouts of long duration, outside workouts or those that are on uneven/hard surfaces. Poor alignment of the foot and ankle can increase dysfunction up the chain and can affect the knee and hip joints. If you have poor alignment of the foot and ankle this can lead to muscle imbalance and ultimately knee dysfunction and pain. Proper footwear is especially important for runners due to the high impact that running causes on the knee joints itself and without the proper footwear you may set yourself up for risk of knee conditions and injury.

Participation in low impact exercises can also help to decrease risk of knee injuries and pain in the future. Functional bodyweight workouts, walking, swimming and biking – in moderation – are low impact activities that you can perform to increase cardiovascular endurance while not putting increased stress on your knees. Properly implemented weight training and strength training (with great form and adequate rest in between sessions) can also better support your knee joints and decreased risk of injury.

Other quick tips to prevent knee pain:

If you are having mild pain, try not to discontinue activity all together because this can cause weakness and make the pain worse

Don’t change the intensity of your workout suddenly, instead, gradually increase intensity as tolerated. It may be tempting to jump into brutal workouts straight away but the truth is that not scaling in difficulty gradually may significantly improve the likelihood of injury.

Consider going to see a physical therapist to address any pain and limitations you may be having before things get worse, and always talk to a professional with your specific health history before making any changes or starting into a new workout program.

Beware of overtraining; when it comes to almost literally any training style, more is not necessarily better.Allow for proper healing in between workouts.

Protecting your knee joints now can minimize pain and injury in the future.  Even if you are not having issues now you need to take preventative measures to maintain the health of your knees or you may be setting yourself up for injury and pain in the future.

The exercise for lowering stress

The key to stress management is finding a way to relieve your stress so you can cope with any situation that unfolds.  Luckily there are many proven strategies to help someone handle and decrease stress.  Fortunately exercise falls among the many tools that can help you to get a handle on the stress in your life.

Stress not only affects your brain, but with so many connections to your nerves, it can be felt throughout your body.  For many, stress can manifest in sadness, anger, exhaustion, mood swings, insomnia, poor eating, panic attacks and many other ways.  The key to helping to reduce or manage stress is linked with learning coping skills and raising the endorphins in your brain to counteract these feelings.  While exercise has been found to be a great outlet for stress, others turn to meditation, acupuncture, massage therapy, conventional therapy and music as other ways to manage stress.

 Studies show that it is exercise that can play a very significant role in helping stress reduction and management.  As you engage in physical activity, your body reacts by releasing endorphins.  These endorphins are actually hormones that work to fight stress.   As the endorphins are increased your brain can start to feel more clear, energized and alert.  These will all play a role in allowing you to manage stress and find new ways to prioritize and cope with emotions.

Strength Training – Strength training can have a profound impact on stress levels and mood. Just like any form of exercise, strength training provides feel good hormones, but lifting is one of our favorites because of the satisfaction you can get from really pushing yourself, and subsequently, feeling and seeing yourself get stronger. Try this free workout: Squats and Deadlifts Workout – At Home Lower Body Workout or this: Upper Body Workout for Great Arms, Back, Chest, and Shoulders

Aerobic Exercise –  Participating in aerobic activities such as running, spinning, cardio or dance also offer the benefit of an increased heart rate. When your heart rate goes up, your body will release an increased amount of endorphins, which are natural opiates that allow you to “feel good”.  These activities help you to feel better both physically and mentally. HIIT workouts may be a good way to keep the workout quick and maximally effective for healthy, weight management, and time efficiency. Try this abs & HIIT cardio workout

Yoga ,This type of exercise is considered a mind-body exercise, which in itself can strengthen your bodies internal response to stress.  Yoga often involves various poses with deep breathing, which allows you to learn to relax while strengthening your body and improving your posture. Check out Fitness Blender’s 3 Day Flexibility Challenge

Martial Arts ,For many people martial arts is the perfect way to get in shape, release energy and let off tension.  Learning the techniques is helpful in keeping your mind occupied and away from stressors. The many forms of martial arts allow you to learn self-discipline and self-defense while keeping you in shape.

Kickboxing ,For many people under stress, there is a strong feeling of tension and anger.  Taking up kickboxing is a great way to reduce your stress through a series of punching and kicking movements.  Improving your balance, burning calories, and becoming more flexible are among the many benefits of this form of exercise. Cardio Kickboxing and Bodyweight Cardio or this Cardio Kickboxing & Abs – Kickboxing for Stress & Cardio Benefits

Pilates ,Despite the fact that Pilates is considered an anaerobic exercise, it is also a stress relieving exercise to consider learning.  Pilates focuses on mat exercises with a series of controlled movements.  This workout was created to improve strength, endurance and flexibility.  Here’s a free Pilates workout: Lower Body Pilates Workout – Butt and Thigh Workout

Fixing a damaged metabolism

How does your metabolism get damaged in the first place?  Quite often after long periods of excessive caloric restriction and over exercising, your metabolism can be negatively affected.  You start out thinking that dieting is all about calories in and calories out. Slowly but surely you start to take in less and less calories, and increase the time spent working out.  As you jump on the scale, it is baffling why your body doesn’t seem to want to lose the weight you calculated should have happened.  Week after week you start to decrease your intake hoping to see bigger numbers but that never happens.

What actually is happening is related to your metabolism regulating hormones.  As you take in less and less, your body’s hormones, such as thyroid and leptin, begin to drop in an effort to create homeostasis in the body.  At the same time the muscle tissue begins to break down and be used for energy (which will lead to an even slower, more depressed metabolism).

At the same time, as your body gets used to eating less calories, it also adapts to the increase in exercise.  And over time it will expend fewer calories to do the same amount of physical activity.  More time exercising will eventually be needed to get the same results.

As you can imagine, this slowing of your metabolism can turn into a vicious cycle.  What happens is you wind up eating fewer and fewer calories, while increasing the hours spent exercising as a way to lose weight and maintain that lower number.  This cycle is one that eventually peters out as you get tired, run down or give up as it becomes to obsessive or difficult. Read: Can starvation diets lead to weight gain?

So now that you understand what caused your metabolism to plummet, what can you do to repair it and speed it back up? Luckily with the right plan of action you can help to restore your metabolism, so that you can lose weight more healthfully and be able to maintain it.   This process relies on the same two things:  caloric intake and exercise.

Fixing a damaged metabolism: Exercise
Lets start with exercise and how much time you should be designating to your work out regimen.  Take a look at the time you are spending working out and taper it to about 3-5 days a week, maximum, with an hour at a time – as a maximum. Really, 30-45 minute workouts are more than enough. Keep in mind that resistance and weight training is the best way to enhance metabolism, as muscle burns more than fat – building muscle this way may be a good way to help repair your metabolism, as muscle content requires more calories than fat.  Cardio workouts should be considered secondary and can be added in as part of the 3-4 day regimen, but a combination is best.

Fixing a damaged metabolism: Eating habits
The next step is to look at your caloric intake, and be prepared to increase this slowly.  It is important to take this slow as to not gain weight back too rapidly, which will discourage you and may lead to another cycle of restricting your intake.  Try to calculate how many calories you are taking in and add about 50-100 calories a week.  The goal will be to have added about 500 calories after the course of a few weeks.  As your body starts to be fed correctly, your body will be able to slowly lose weight once again.  Keep it mind this takes some time and patience, but resist the temptation to over exercise and decrease your calories. The goal is to feed your body enough to allow your hormones to start to work efficiently once again.  The thyroid hormones will increase, leptin levels will no longer think you are in starvation mode and muscle tissue will increase.

It is also important to keep mixing things up.  For your body to continue to work efficiently it is important to “keep it guessing”.  This can be achieved by changing up your exercise routine every so often and varying the foods you are opting to eat.  These both will ensure that your body’s metabolism is fed, working hard and restored.  Lastly, it is important to recognize that losing weight should not be a race, take your time and understand that weight that is lost more slowly is more likely to stay off for good.

Physical exercise

Numerous studies have shown that physical exercise seems beneficial in the prevention of cognitive impairment and dementia in old age. Now researchers at Goethe University Frankfurt have explored in one of the first studies worldwide how exercise affects brain metabolism.

In order to further advance current state of knowledge on the positive influence of physical activity on the brain, gerontologists and sports physicians at Goethe University Frankfurt have examined the effects of regular exercise on brain metabolism and memory of 60 participants aged between 65 and 85 in a randomised controlled trial. Their conclusion: regular physical exercise not only enhances fitness but also has a positive impact on brain metabolism.

As the researchers report in the current issue of the medical journal Translational Psychiatry, they thoroughly examined all the participants in the SMART study (Sport and Metabolism in Older Persons, an MRT Study) by assessing movement-related parameters, cardiopulmonary fitness and cognitive performance. In addition, magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) were used to measure brain metabolism and brain structure. Following this examination, the participants mounted an exercise bike three times a week over a period of 12 weeks. The 30-minute training sessions were individually adapted to each participant’s performance level. The participants were examined again after the end of the programme in order to document the effects of this physical activity on brain metabolism, cognitive performance and brain structure. The researchers also investigated to what extent exercise had led to an improvement in the participants’ physical fitness. The study was conducted by the Gerontology Department of the Institute of General Medicine (headed by Professor Johannes Pantel) and the Department of Sports Medicine (led by Professor Winfried Banzer).

As expected, physical activity had influenced brain metabolism: it prevented an increase in choline. The concentration of this metabolite often rises as a result of the increased loss of nerve cells, which typically occurs in the case of Alzheimer’s disease. Physical exercise led to stable cerebral choline concentrations in the training group, whereas choline levels increased in the control group. The participants’ physical fitness also improved: they showed increased cardiac efficiency after the training period. Overall, these findings suggest that physical exercise not only improves physical fitness but also protects cells.

Physical Fitness

Benefits of Physical Fitness

Staying active means keeping your body functioning at a high level. Regular exercise will maintain the performance of your lungs and heart to most efficiently burn off excess calories and keep your weight under control. Exercise will also improve muscle strength, increase joint flexibility and improve endurance.

Another main benefit of physical activity is that it decreases the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in America. Additionally, it can decrease your risk of stroke, colon cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. Regular exercise has been long associated with a fewer visits to the doctor, hospitalization and medication.

Exercising does not have to be something boring and dreaded. It can be something that you enjoy that helps to increase the overall happiness in your life, as well as relieve symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety. Try to find some activities that give you pleasure, or even a buddy to do them with so that exercise is a fun and enjoyable activity (and one that you continue on a regular basis because it adds something good to your life).

What Activities Are Beneficial?

It is not what you are doing, as much as it is whether or not you are doing something. Any type of moderate activity like walking, swimming, biking or organized sports can contribute to your physical fitness. Explore your fitness options at your local gym, community center or community college for courses and organized activities that may suit your lifestyle and interests.

To get the most benefit, you should begin by warming up for 5 to 10 minutes to increase your blood flow and prepare your body for activity. Follow the warm up with several minutes of stretches to increase your flexibility and lower your risk for injury. Complete your selected exercise or activity for 20 to 30 minutes and conclude the workout with 5 to 10 minutes of cool down and stretching.

Who Needs Physical Fitness?

Everyone! It is important for all people to stay active throughout their lives. Because of busy work and home lives, more than 60% of Americans do not get the recommended amount of physical fitness daily and these numbers generally increase with age.

Throughout adulthood is one of the most important times to maintain an exercise regimen. This is the ideal time to maintain your weight, build strong bones and prevent many chronic health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

Many adults do too much exercise at once. After a long work-week, many people try to fit lots of activity into the weekend and push their bodies excessively. This sudden increase in activity can raise the risk of injury which would then stop activity for weeks. Experts recommend working out several times over the course of a week with varying exercises for the most benefit to your health.