We NEED. More. Yoga.

Yesterday I practiced yoga for the first time in months. It was a basic practice – relatively speaking. Very different from the forms of power yoga that I prefer. But this practice was a gentle reminder of what I have been missing in my training regimen. Yoga. Stretching. Lengthening.

What we often miss photo (33)

Stretching. Lengthening. Decompressing – both physiological and psychological.

I am guilty of not stretching as much as I should. I diligently stretch after running – other than that, rarely.

Our muscles need stretching – especially if we are putting in the work. Weight lifting involves continually contracting muscles. While proper form also includes lengthening, this is not always enough to allow the muscles to reach full length. I will not pretend to be a yogi – I am far from being a yoga expert. But I have done my research! (Don’t I always?)

Injury prevention – Research has shown that yoga has injury prevention properties. I would attribute this to the lengthening of muscles. The National Academy of Sports Medicine’s Corrective Exercise protocols incorporate lengthening into the four step program design. Unfortunately, corrective exercise is often only incorporated into training regimen after an injury has occurred. Why not use yoga as a tool for injury prevention?

Yoga & mental health – Yoga is known to be a ‘mind-body’ fitness practice. Some view this as getting in touch with your soft, gooey insides. I argue that ALL exercise requires mind-body awareness (Markula, 2004). Yoga has been shown to improve self efficacy and confidence and reduce depression and anxiety symptoms (Junkin, Kowalski, & Fleming, 2007; Markula, 2004; Rahimi & Bavaqar, 2010).

Relaxation – At the core of any yoga  practice is centered breathing. This necessitates focus on breathing. This allows our minds to relax and be free of the thoughts and worries that bog us down. Further, focusing on lengthening muscles allows those and other muscles to relax. Tension melts away.

Pain management – The benefits of pain management are well known and widely accepted. Time and time again, research has shown that yoga reduces back pain and other chronic aches and pains.

The bottomline

We could all use a little more stretching. I like the structure of incorporating a consistent yoga practice – and now realize I need to add that focus back into my program. As with all fitness professionals, not all yoga instructors are created equal. I would strongly urge you to read the American College of Sport Medicine’s resource on Selecting and Effectively Using a Yoga Program. Further, it is my personal opinion that instructors with 500+ hours of training are leaps and bounds ahead of their counterparts.

Looking for yoga that you can do at home? Debbie Williamson is your woman, with both DVDs (kids too!) and downloads. After traveling the country and experiencing many different styles of yoga and instruction – she is by far my favorite!

References

Junkin, S. E., Kowalski, K., & Fleming, T. (2007). Yoga and self-esteem: Exploring change in middle-aged women. Journal Of Sport & Exercise Psychology29S174-S175.

Markula, P. (2004). “Tuning into One’s Self:” Foucault’s Technologies of the Self and Mindful Fitness. Sociology Of Sport Journal21(3), 302-321.

O’Donovan, G., Blazevich, A. J., Boreham, C., Cooper, A. R., Crank, H., Ekelund, U., & … Stamatakis, E. (2010). The ABC of Physical Activity for Health: A consensus statement from the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences. Journal Of Sports Sciences28(6), 573-591.

Rahimi, E., & Bavaqar, S. (2010). Effects of yoga on anxiety and depression in women. British Journal Of Sports Medicine44i68-i69.

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Today is World Health Day, but we missed World Physical Activity Day

April 6 was World Physical Activity Day. I did not see anything about it – not on Facebook, not on the news – I did not see anything anywhere. Organized by the International Society for Physical Activity & Health, it is not highly publicized. The American College of Sports Medicine did issue a press release, but I needed to dig for it – they did not even bother to post to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

World Physical Activity Day was developed to augment the World Health Organization’s World Health Day. TODAY, April 7, 2013, is World Health Day. World Health Day marks the anniversary of the World Health Organization (WHO). Click the link and you will see that even WHO does not make much ado about World Health Day.

I suppose, I could have written about World Physical Activity Day yesterday. But I did not have much to say. I wonder what it will take for WHO or another organization to promote World Physical Activity Day or something of the like. World Health Day has an annual theme, this year the focus is on high blood pressure. According to WHO, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy bodyweight are a few strategies for lowering blood pressure. So, to be fair, WHO’s World Health Day  – in a sense – does promote physical activity.

To learn more about World Physical Activity Day Google it, like I did – the best information can be found on Spanish-written websites.

Response: Why four workouts a week may be better than six

Are you a sedentary woman between the ages of 60 and 74? If not, then the research recently reported in the New York Times does not exactly apply to you. The article, Why Four Workouts a Week May Be Better Than Six, boasts a large picture of a young woman holding a dumbbell – in the online version this is all you see before you scroll down to begin reading. Let us assume that the girl in the picture is 30. Does a 30-year-old female have the same physical needs as a 60-year-old female? Maybe.

And honestly, this research is telling us something that fitness professional already know (or should know). Lifestyle and general health exercise guidelines recommend exercising 4-5 days a week.

Getting the right dose of exercise

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is dedicated to researching (including meta-analyses) human needs for exercise and the benefits associated with exercise. The ACSM designates experts to develop annual position statements – incorporating ALL research into a concise recommendation. These statements are free and available to the public on www.acsm.org. You will notice that Apparently Healthy Adults and Older Adults have different statements and recommendations. This is because of the obvious differences in needs and concerns for contraindications (older adults also have different dietary needs, requiring far fewer calories with age). Further, there is a position specific to weight loss and prevention of regain. Another specific to resistance training. And more.

If you currently work with a fitness professional, ask him/her if they have read these. Seriously! If he/she has not, you may want to consider spending your money more wisely, for example find yourself a new, qualified fitness professional. While these documents are somewhat dense in information, a fitness professional should not have issues reading and applying the recommendations. And it is my opinion that not reading these documents and applying the recommendations to the needs of your clients is professional negligence.

Apparently healthy adults

According to the ACSM, an apparently healthy adult (i.e., asymptomatic) is encouraged to engage in strength or resistance training 2-3 times a week and cardiovascular/aerobic training 2 times a week. Further, a healthy adult should set a goal of 150 total minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. More activity may be required for significant weight loss goals (see the weight loss position statement). More activity may also be required to achieve certain fitness and athletic improvements. NOTE: These recommendations do not include 6 days a week, as the research for the older adults looked at, but to state 4-5 days a week. Interesting? Sure reads to me like the research is adding validity to what we professionals already know!

photo (13)Increasing physical activity

Ideally, in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, we should not have to think so hard about it – “did I get all my exercise in this week?” In the beginning, maybe. But is is important that you work on comfortable increases in activity (i.e., not forced activity). Research shows that doing too much too soon will lead to burnout more quickly. This is often because we do not see the anticipated – often unrealistic – results, therefore the costs do not outweigh the benefits and we quit.

The bottomline

Popular media distorts research and cherry picks information to fit their needs and make it appealing to the audience. While the article does state that the research was performed in older women, they use the image of a younger woman and the author never clarifies that the recommendations based on this research is truly limited to a subpopulation – older, otherwise sedentary women. (Journalistic ethics frustrate me to no end!)

Also, you cannot rely solely one piece of research. You may not know who funded it, what biases exist, what the limitations were, etc. And the ACSM has done the meta-analyses for us in many instances. NOTE: ACSM is just one example of a reputable agency that has done this.

Lastly, I do not expect YOU to read all the position statements, but fitness professionals should. If you are dedicated to developing your own fitness program, GO FOR IT! Read it and apply it. Is it too much information for you to digest? Many fitness professionals will sell you a program to follow (I know I do) and it is much more cost efficient than personal training.

P.S.

My friends are beginning to instigate me by sending me articles (like this one) that they know will aggravate me! You can blame them for feeding my soap box!