Boost Immunity, Reduce Stress and Fight Common Ailments with YOGA

Practicing yoga can help unite the mind and body in a way that fosters health and well-being.  Numerous studies have shown that yoga positively affects the body’s musculoskeletal, circulatory, endocrine and nervous systems.  Yoga can also increase muscular strength, balance , flexibility, precision of movement and tonicity while reducing the risk of injury commonly found in contact sports and high-impact exercise.

Additional good news!  Yoga’s influence on health is gaining increased recognition in mainstream medical circles.  Studies from the Harvard Medical School and University of Massachusetts Medical Center conclusively show that yoga and meditative relaxation boost immunity, reduce stress and aid in the healing of many chronic illnesses.  This is why many prestigious hospitals and wellness centers now offer yoga classes to their patients. Powerful proof that yoga is beneficial to our health!  Ready to give it a try?

Yoga for Immunity and the Common Cold – Downward Facing-Dog

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Yoga helps keep the immune system strong on a day-to-day basis using poses, asanas, to lower stress hormones that compromise the immune system.  It also strengthens your resistance to viral and bacterial intruders that lead to infection.  Recommended asanas (like Downward Facing-Dog, Camel Pose, Child’s Pose, Supported Bridge, Cobra Pose, Back Bends, Forward Bends and Twists) also condition the lungs and respiratory tract, stimulate the lymphatic system to release toxins and bring clean, oxygenated blood to the organs.

Yoga for Insomnia – Standing Forward Bend

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If you have difficulty falling asleep, stress is a likely culprit.  Regular asana practice can reduce tension and help you wind down when it is time for bed.  Calming asanas such as forward bends, twists, simple inversions, lying with your feet elevated or up on the wall and gentle breathing can all help with insomnia.

Yoga for Back Pain – Wide Leg Standing Forward Bend

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When it comes to back pain, consistent stretching of the low back and hamstrings are your best bet.  Backaches can result from injury, overuse or mis-use, but the prime culprit often lies in mis-alignment.  A constant tug-of-war between your abdominals pulling the pelvis forward and the hamstrings counter pulling the pelvis back.  Yoga poses like the Wide Leg Standing Forward Bend give the spine and opportunity to lengthen horizontally while the hamstrings and inner thigh muscles lengthen vertically, thus reducing pressure on the back.  Another good way to stretch the low back is to lie down while drawing your knees into the chest and lifting your nose toward your knees (like giving yourself a big hug).

Yoga for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Cobra Pose

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Mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) can be treated with asanas that facilitate wrist rejuvenation and counteract repetitive movements, stress and strain on the upper back, neck, shoulders, hands, arms and wrists.  A regular practice of yoga can strengthen these areas and reduce overall physical stress by teaching you how to be aware of your posture, alignment and breathing – how to sit, lift, stand and stretch – when performing activities that contribute to CTS.

Yoga for Strained Eyes and Blurry Vision – Corpse Pose

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Blurry vision, distorted vision and stinging dry eyes are common in individuals who sit at a computer or mobile device for more than three hours at a time.  It is also common in individuals who study, read or do paper work for extended periods without a break. The best remedy – dim the lights, lie down and take a break.  If you are in an office setting and you cannot lie down, force yourself to get up and stretch at least once for every hour spent at the computer.  Close your eyes, quiet your mind, practice deep breathing and let your mind relax!

Maximizing Your Fat Burning Potential

fat-burnerA popular myth is that there is a specific range of heart rates in which you must exercise in order to burn fat.  In fact,  many cardio machines display a “fat-burning zone” on the main control panel to encourage people to exercise in a specific range.  Now what happens if you venture out of that range? Is your body going to stop burning fat?  Absolutely not!  Jason R. Karp, PhD, a nationally recognized speaker, writer and exercise physiologist and coach, RunCoachJason.com, sheds light on this issue.

Fuel Use During Exercise

You use both fat and carbohydrates for energy during exercise, with these two fuels providing that energy on a sliding scale. During exercise at a very low intensity (e.g., walking), fat accounts for most of the energy expenditure. As exercise intensity increases up to the lactate threshold (the exercise intensity that marks the transition between exercise that is almost purely aerobic and exercise that includes a significant anaerobic contribution; also considered the highest sustainable aerobic intensity), the contribution from fat decreases while the contribution from carbohydrates increases. When exercising just below the lactate threshold, you are using mostly carbohydrates. Once the intensity of exercise has risen above the lactate threshold, carbohydrates become the only fuel source.

If you exercise long enough (1.5–2 hours), your muscle carbohydrate (glycogen) content and blood glucose concentration become low. This metabolic state presents a threat to the muscles’ survival, since carbohydrates are muscles’ preferred fuel. When carbohydrates are not available, the muscles are forced to rely on fat as fuel.

Since more fat is used at low exercise intensities, people often assume that low-intensity exercise is best for burning fat, an idea that has given birth to the “fat-burning zone.” However, while only a small amount of fat is used when exercising just below the lactate threshold, the rate of caloric expenditure and the total number of calories expended are much greater than they are when exercising at a lower intensity, so the total amount of fat used is also greater.

The Bottom Line

For fat and weight loss, what matters most is the difference between the number of calories you expend and the number of calories you consume. Fat and weight loss is about burning lots of calories and cutting back on the number of calories consumed. For the purpose of losing weight, it matters little whether the calories burned during exercise come from fat or carbohydrates.

Workouts For Fat Loss

To maximize your fat loss, try these workouts. For assistance in designing effective, safe workouts, contact the Iverson Fitness & Wellness Consulting Team!  http://www.IversonFitness.com

Go Hard

A great way to perform high-intensity exercise and decrease your body fat percentage is through interval training, which breaks up the work with periods of rest. Not only does interval training allow you to improve your fitness quickly; it is also more effective than continuous exercise for burning lots of calories during exercise and increasing your post-workout metabolic rate. Try one or two of these workouts each week:

  • 5–6 x 3 minutes at 95%–100% maximum (max) heart rate (HR) with 2-minute active recovery periods
  • 4 x 4 minutes at 95%–100% max HR with 3-minute active recovery periods
  • 8–12 x 30 seconds fast with 1-minute active recovery periods

Each of these interval workouts should include a warm-up and a cool-down.

Go Very Long

Long runs or bike rides (≥ 1.5–2 hours at 65%–70% max HR) that stimulate mitochondrial synthesis and promote the depletion of glycogen threaten the muscles’ survival, since carbohydrates are muscles’ preferred fuel. In response to this threat, muscles “learn” how to use fat more effectively and over time become better fat-burning machines.

This handout is a service of IDEA, the leading international membership association in the health and fitness industry, www.ideafit.com.

IDEA Fitness Journal, Volume 7, Number 5

Balance Training for Older Adults

According to research provided by the American College of Sports Medicine, Balance Training can assist with activities of daily living for the aging, adult population.  “Balance is key to activities of daily living, performance, fall prevention and independence. Balance can be affected by muscular strength and endurance, as well as proprioception, inner ear function and eye-sight. It can be maintained and even improved as we age through practicing balance-specific training exercises. Research has shown that using specific tools in a safe environment can be particularly effective in improving your balance and enhancing your postural stability. Research has also shown that this type of training helps to reduce back, knee and ankle injuries.”

BALANCE AND AGING

With age, balance tends to decline due to lower muscular strength and flexibility, as well as numerous other causes including loss of proprioception and inner ear problems. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), nine percent of the adult population ages 65 and older report having difficulty with balance. This, along with a decline in lower body strength and stability, leads to an alarming 300,000 hospital admissions for fall-related injuries among older adults each year. The good news is that balance can be improved with simple exercises that can be done in therapy settings, health clubs or even at home.

ABOUT BALANCE 
TRAINING TOOLS

Balance Training tools come in all shapes and sizes. They can be as simple as your own two feet or a pillow, or they can be made of foam, wood, rubber, springs, etc. These tools, along with balance training exercises, can rehabilitate, strengthen muscles and condition the body, as well as improve stability and postural alignment and help prevent falls. Men and women of all ages and activity levels can benefit from balance training. Start simply and progress slowly, gradually increasing the difficulty of the exercises.  You may start with exercises such as balancing on one foot and then progress to using simple foam filled balance pads to challenge the body on an unstable surface.

BALANCE TRAINING TOOLS
 YOU CAN USE

Regular exercise, such as walking, can increase your strength and coordination, which are important for maintaining balance. The following provide more targeted balance training.

Balance Pillow – This foam-filled pad allows you to sit or stand (with one foot or two) on a spongy, unstable surface to improve posture and stability. This is a great tool for someone starting a Balance Training program.

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Balance Disc – This tool is a round rubber disc inflated with air to create an unstable surface. Balance discs can be used while seated or standing to improve balance and coordination or to add intensity to body-strengthening exercises.

Blue Half-Ball – This is a stability ball cut in half with a flat, hard bottom. You can stand, sit or kneel on the air-filled ball portion of the tool or on the hard plastic side with the round surface down to create a rocking balance exercise. Blue half-balls are great for balance, core stability and proprioception training.

Foam Roller – This tool comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. These foam- filled balance, posture and core training tools can be round, half-round, short (1′) or long (3′). To use this tool you may kneel, stand, lie or sit on the device.

Balance Board – The flat top to this tool allows you to stand and practice your balance while elevated on a spherical base. The range of motion that the device allows can be adjusted for changes in difficulty.

Stability Ball – This inflatable ball comes in different sizes and can be used as a balance and/or strength-training aid.

SAFETY AND CONSIDERATIONS

Balance training tools should only be used on a flat, stable, non-slip surface. Be sure to consult with your physician prior to starting a Balance Training program. Always practice balance training near a stable structure (such as a wall, bar or counter) to give you some assistance if you slip or begin to fall; or practice under the supervision of a qualified professional.

IMPLEMENTING A BALANCE TRAINING PROGRAM
When starting any new training program, it is important to use a gradual progression. Begin with low-intensity exercises and progress to more challenging exercises. When performing balance exercises, it is helpful to establish a stable, non-moving focal point. This will keep your attention and allow you to focus your eyesight for better stability.

GETTING STARTED

At first, you may start with simple balance training exercises – such as standing on one foot for a few seconds, and then gradually increasing your time for more difficulty. General guidelines for Balance Training include:

• Start with a relatively stable foundation or position before progressing to a less stable foundation or position.

• Start with static or stationary position (holding a position) before adding any movement (e.g., walking or stepping) or resistance (e.g., adding a hand weight).

• From there, you may add movement to your balance pose, such as lifting your arms while still keeping your balance on one foot.  When you need to be challenged beyond this exercise, add a balance tool of your choice.

You might start by sitting on a blue half-ball with two feet on the ground, and then move to one-footed contact while seated. You can move to standing on a blue half-ball with both feet while using a stationary aid like a wall, railing or chair for balance assistance. Finally, you can progress from standing on a blue half-ball without assistance to stepping on and off the half-ball with assistance, then without.

To get set up with a personalized program, one that is appropriate for your current fitness level and balance abilities, consult your physical therapist or fitness professional. To reduce risk of injury from falls, community dwelling older adults with substantial risk of falls (e.g., with frequent falls or mobility problems) should perform exercises that maintain or improve balance. Balance Training should be performed daily for improvement in overall stability. Perform balance training before you do resistance training, so your muscles are not fatigued, to ensure that it works.

Reprinted with permission of the American College of Sports Medicine. Copyright © 2011 American College of Sports Medicine. This brochure was created and updated by Jennifer Jens, B.S, and is a product of ACSM’s Consumer Information Committee. Visit ACSM online at http://www.acsm.org.