Thursday, February 27, 2014

The microscopic work out.

Working Out Is Good for Every Cell in Your Body!

Even the biggest fitness enthusiast may think that exercise mainly benefits muscle cells, building them up and stretching them, but exercise is actually healthy for every single cell in your body. You may notice that everyone’s favorite gym rat looks a little young for their age. They have a healthy glow. This is because not just their muscle cells are in top shape but working out actually changes you at the cellular level.

When I first began working out I listened to other trainers who encouraged me to get into the fitness business. I remember telling one friend how great I felt after my rigorous kickboxing class. I said that I felt cleaner on the inside, like every bit of waste and all the toxins were cleaned out of my body after a good workout. My friend told me I was weird and said that I was just getting an endorphin rush, a rush of natural ‘feel-good chemicals’ and by my own growth hormone which is released by exercise. It turns out that I was right.  A new study confirms the way I feel after working out; exercise does help clean out your body at the very deepest level.

The latest research reported in the publication, Nature, and in the New York Science Times this month, suggests that exercise helps a long a process called autophagy, by which cells rid themselves of waste products. A recent study was conducted by Dr. Beth Levine, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. The New York Times said, “Dr. Levine and her colleagues concluded that an increase in autophagy prompted by exercise, seems to be a crucial step in improving health.” They termed the findings, “extremely exciting.”

Exercise also increases your mitochondria, or the energy producers in your cells. This means that a person working out can potentially have millions more little energy producers in their bodies than someone who does not. This is one of the reasons why exercise increases your energy level.

Working out also helps your nerve cells, by preserving them and by increasing their power to channel the electrical currents that make the nerves function. As we age, our nerve endings begin to degenerate. This is one of the reasons why senior citizens lose their balance and are prone to falls. Exercise is proven to help preserve the nerve endings and increase nerve-to-muscle communication.  A proper exercise program for people over age 50 should include several  balance exercises to keep the nerve cells healthy, and help prevent falls. Exercise also helps improve the  parasympathetic nerves. These are your involuntary nerves, which, for instance, tell your heart to beat and your lungs to breathe. The increased heart rate and increased respiration brought on by exercise simulate the parasympathetic nervous system to its maximum capacity.

These are just some of the myriad ways through which working out benefits every cell of your being. As medical science continues to prove, as if you couldn’t recognize it on your own, exercise is not just for your muscles anymore.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Alternative Approaches to Pain Management

Pain is something that we all have to deal with at times. And it’s a valuable messenger because it tells us when something is wrong, when to stop doing something, and when to be careful with our bodies.

Traditional medications such as acetaminophen are great but I have some alternative suggestions if you are looking to go a different route with no side effects to get rid of some regular aches and pains.   

After an especially hard workout you may notice that you are sore for 2-3 days. This is called delayed-onset soreness, and it is a good pain. This means that there are microscopic tears in your muscles caused by working out that are going to heal over and create all kinds of new muscle cells for you and make you all buff.

The best remedy for this type of pain is some light stretching to the sore area, and hot baths with Epsom salts. The Epsom salt bath is not only is a very pleasant and relaxing way to get rid of pain but it is also a great way to get some magnesium into your system. Yes, all of that wonderful mineral absorbs right into your skin in an Epsom salt bath!

Another tip that I often give clients: Don’t clench up or stress out when you are in pain. Muscles tense up around painful areas as way of protecting the areas; this “protective muscle tensing” can cause pain to become chronic when muscles begin to lock up permanently. This muscle-locking process that causes chronic pain works in the following way: First, the muscles start to lock to protect the painful area, and then the nerves get constricted due to the muscle pressing down on the nerves. Then, because proper electrical conductivity is compromised, the way messages travel through nerves to the brain is off. The nerves start to misfire like short circuits and tell the muscle to contract all the time when such contraction is not needed.

The next thing you know you have a rock hard muscle that is painful. The locked muscles also constrict blood vessels in the locked area, preventing oxygen and nutrients from getting into the locked area, which makes the pain and locking even worse.

This process is a major cause of chronic pain, especially in the neck and shoulders. Understanding this process and consciously trying to relax can help prevent an injury from turning into chronic pain.  

One technique that I use when I am in pain is mental technique I call “relax into the pain.” Our normal reaction to pain is to get upset and think “I am in pain, oh no,” which makes us get all stressed and clench up our bodies. This is good for a new pain that needs attention. But for pain where the cause is known, such as chronic back pain from stress or menstrual pain, using this relaxation technique instead can keep pain from getting worse, help to relax your mind, and help the stress levels that are caused by pain to lower.

Whenever I have this type of chronic pain I try and relax and tell myself, “Yes you are in pain, but it will go away soon, so just relax.” And then I try not to tense up. It may not be the same as taking a Codeine pill, but it does keep the pain from getting worse and/or chronic due the constant stressing out and muscle clenching. The Epsom salt baths are also very helpful for locked-muscle pain and stress-related pain.

There are all kinds of analgesic balms and ointments available at all different prices; they work pretty well, but my favorite from traditional Chinese medicine called White Flower Analgesic Balm works wonders.

White Flower Analgesic Balm has no side effects, but like most skin creams, it shouldn’t be used on sensitive areas, mucus membranes, or cut or broken skin. This balm has some very simple but effective ingredients such as camphor, menthol, wintergreen, lavender, eucalyptus, and peppermint. At about 3 or 4 dollars for a 20 ml bottle at most Asian markets, the price also cannot be beat. Even better, I have seen small bottles for a little as $1.25. This stuff lasts forever, too; you only need a few drops. It’s a great deal that really works. The balm does have a strong smell, is but it is not unpleasant.

Arnica creams and preparations, also known as “Dancer’s Secret,” are also recommended for pain. Although I do not find Arnica as helpful as the White Flower Balm for pain, Arnica does seem to help tremendously with bruising. Arnica preparations should cost you about $10 a tube. They are available in homeopathic and herbal compositions. I have found both kinds helpful. Again, Arnica has no known side effects.

Pain can be unpleasant but these easy, inexpensive, and gentle pain-relief techniques have worked for my clients and me. So relax and enjoy a nice Epsom salt bath next time you feel hurt.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

8 Surprising Benefits of Cardio post by Brooklyn Personal Trainer Sharissa Reichert

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Train your Brain.

 Train Your Brain!

As many of you who do read my blog  already know, I have been learning Qi Gong in my local park from a group of elderly Chinese women. I can’t ask any questions, because none of them speak any English, but I am learning just the same.

Qi Gong involves many, very slow, hand movements. I am still having trouble learning one of the more complicated ones. It looks so fluid when the others do it, but when I try, it is another story.

When I went home this holiday weekend, I learned what I had suspected; many of these Qi Gong exercise are neurological exercises, or exercises to improve balance and nerve-to-muscle communication. I found this out while I was teaching my mother some of the Qi Gong moves. She loved it, and she commented that a few of the moves immediately removed some of the chronic pain she has been experiencing for 20 years. My mom is in great shape – at age 65, she has less loose skin under her arms than I do, a trait I am very jealous of. But when it came to some arm movements and some simple exercises that involved hand movements switching, switching from arm to arm, she had a very difficult time executing them. This confirmed my notion that the Qi Gong exercises are excellent brain and coordination stimulators.
Moving one’s hands in front of the face is a technique I have used for years for my clients over age 60. Brain-to-muscle communication starts to break down after a certain age, making it difficult for an older person to work out and to perform other tasks. Exercising and watching your hands helps preserve this brain-to-muscle communication.

Why does your brain matter so much when you exercise, you might ask? Doesn’t exercise have to do with the body and not the brain? I have been asked this many times, and I have actually had a few fitness directors tell me to get on with my clients’ weight-loss workouts and cut it out with all this balance and coordination stuff. But I know that Olympic athletes and exercise professors who conduct personal training begin their training regimens with brain-training or balance and coordination exercises. Some of these highly qualified instructors will keep a client exercising on the floor and practicing balance exercises for weeks before having them do a single squat.
Why?  It is because the brain is your single most important tool in your own health and fitness. I cannot stress enough that as simple a thing as having a positive attitude toward working out can improve your results when you exercise. I speak more specifically about this in my seminar, “Thought for Food,” and also about how food effects the brain.
Always remember that when your balance is in healthy form and your brain-to muscle-communication is at it’s peak, you are able to build more muscle and get more benefits out of your exercise program than you ever will if you ignore this very important starting point of fitness.

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