Walking to a Healthy Future

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
As the temperatures become milder and spring weather calls us to enjoy the world around us, we begin our summer fittness routines … and what better way to kick off the season than with daily walks! Walking is a great, low-impact exercise that comfortably takes you into a highly improved level of fitness. It’s a simple, everyday activity for most people and offers many health benefits. If you’re looking for a convenient way to improve your health, walking may be the answer.
 
What can walking do for you? A lot! Maybe these benefits will encourage you to go out for a walk today!
 
• Reduce symptoms of depression. In one study, walking for 30 minutes, three to five times per week for 12 weeks reduced symptoms of depression by 47%.
 
• Reduce the risk of colon cancer. Many studies have shown that exercise can prevent colon cancer. Exercise also has been shown to improve the quality of life and reduce mortality for colon cancer patients .
 
• Prevent type 2 diabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program reports that walking 150 minutes per week and losing just 7% of your body weight can reduce the risk of diabetes by 58%. Pretty sweet!
 
• Improve brain function. Researchers found that women who walked at an easy pace (2 miles per hour) at least 1 1/2 hours per week had significantly better cognitive function and less cognitive decline than women who walked less than 40 minutes per week at the same pace. Literally food for thought!
 
• Strengthen the heart. Mortality rates among retired men who walked less than one mile per day were nearly twice that among those who walked more than two miles per day in one study. Women in the Nurse’s Health Study who walked three hours or more per week reduced their risk of a heart attack or other coronary event by 35% compared with women who did not walk.
 
• Strengthen bones. Studies have indicated that postmenopausal women who walk approximately one mile each day have higher whole-body bone density than women who walk shorter distances
 
• Improve overall fitness. Walking three times a week for 30 minutes at a time can significantly increase cardiorespiratory fitness. Shorter walks improve cardiorespiratory health, too! A study of sedentary women concluded that short brisk walks — three 10-minute walks per day – were as effective in decreasing body fatness as long bouts and offered similar overall fitness.
 
Walking is the most popular activity among members of the National Weight Control Registry. The NWCR is a list of 5,000 men and women who have maintained a 30-pound weight loss for a minimum of one year. The current average weight loss among NWCR members is 60 pounds and the average time that loss has been maintained is about five years!
 
The Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes or more of accumulated moderate intensity physical activity on five or more days per week to improve health and fitness. Accumulated means you can do it in shorter routines throughout the day. Moderate intensity is indicated by a feeling of warmth and being slightly out of breath. Walking counts!
 
It’s easy to incorporate walking into your day and accumulate 30 minutes.
 
• Park your car farther from the store.
 
• Do you commute? Get off the bus a stop earlier, if you drive, park farther away from the building.
 
• Walk to pick up your lunch, or the newspaper.
 
• Walk for errands like picking up a gallon of milk or running to the post office instead of driving short distances.
 
• Finally, keep your walking shoes handy, and take a quick walk to relieve that stress instead of an aspirin!
 
If you’re beginning a walking routine for the first time, make reasonable goals to help motivate yourself. Try a daily ten minute walk and increase by a few minutes each week, you’ll be taking 30 minute walks in no time!
 
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Getting Fit for Summer Sports

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Spring fever has hit! That means many of you are looking forward to heading outside to hit the golf course, the basketball court, the baseball or soccer field. But before you step one foot out on the green, court or field are you ready? Yes I know you’re ready mentally, but what about physically? Are you in shape for summer sports? This is very important especially for people who have been cooped up inside all winter.
 
Start an Exercise Program-Now! The first thing you need to do before you participate in any sport is make sure you are working out on a regular basis. A good regular exercise program will increase your physical fitness and help reduce the chance of injuring yourself. Your program should include strength training and cardiovascular exercise. Then you can move on to more intense conditioning with plyometrics.
 
Make the most our of your cardiovascular exercise program you should keep your heart rate elevated for an extended period of time. (see chart below) The best way to do that is through repetitive activities such as walking, jogging, cycling or using machines such as the elliptical trainer or a stepper. Use the F.I.T. (Frequency, Intensity, Time) principle to determine what is best for you. (see chart below)
 
• Frequency: You should try to do cardio at least 3-5 times each week.
 
• Intensity: You should strive to maintain a target heart rate between 70 and 80% of your max heart rate. Use the formula below to determine your range.
 
• Time: Each of your cardiovascular workouts should last for 30 to 60 minutes or more.
 
HEART RATE INTENSITY FORMULA

220 – Age = Max HR
Max HR x .7 = Low end of range
Max HR x .8 = High end of range
 
The second part of your exercise routine should be resistance training. This is the best way to build muscle. Try to do two to three sets of 10-15 repetitions for each muscle group.
 
Plyometrics
 
Now if you want to put some power behind your conditioning, try plyometrics. This type of exercise is used by many athletes to increase their speed and strength. The exercises were developed for Olympic competitors to make a muscle reach full movement as quickly as possible. During each exercise your muscle will reach its concentric contraction (muscle shortens) immediately followed by an eccentric contraction (muscle lengthens). Then the force of each exercise will increase. Here are some examples of lower body and upper body plyometric exercises.
 
Lower Body:
 
• Drop Jumping- For this exercise you will drop-not jump-to the ground from a raised platform and them immediately jump up. The drop down gives the pre-stretch to the leg muscles, the intense jump up causes the concentric contraction. The exercise is more effective the faster you do it-meaning the shorter your feet are on the ground. Start slow and then build up to 3 sets of 10 drops.
 
• Bounding- This exercise will help with your speed. Push off with your left foot and bring the left leg forward. Your knee should be bent and thigh parallel to the ground. At the same time you’ll reach forward with your right arm. As the left leg comes through, the right leg extends back and remains extended for the duration of the push-off. Hold this extended stride for a brief time, then land on your left foot. Make sure you’re landing flat footed and you feel the energy pumping through your leg. The right leg then drives through to a forward bent position, the left arm reaches forward and the left leg extends backward. Think of it as a slow, exaggerated run. You want to make sure each stride is long and cover as much distance as possible. Do 1 to 3 sets covering 30 to 40 meters each set.
 
• Hurdle hopping- Jump forward over barriers or hurdles with your feet together. The movement should come from your hips and knees. Another form is with one leg. Push off with the leg you are standing on and jump forward, landing on the same leg, then immediately jump again. Do one leg then switch and do the same thing with the other leg. Do 1 to 3 sets jumping 6 to 8 hurdles each set.
 
• Jumping- With a box in front of you, start in a deep squat with your feet shoulder width apart. Keep you arms behind your head and jump onto the box. Stay in the squat position and then jump off. Do 1 to 3 sets jumping up on the box 6 to 8 times per set. You can also jump without a box. Start in the standing position, then jump up grab both knees as they come up to your chest and return to the standing position-then immediately jump up again. Do 1 to 3 sets with 5 to 10 repetitions per set.
 
Upper Body:
 
• Clap push-ups- Begin in the push up position then lower your chest to the floor, explosively push upward to cause your hands to leave the floor, clap and put your hands back on the floor, then immediately explode upward. Do 10 repetitions.
 
• Medicine Ball- Lie on the ground face up, a partner drops the ball, you catch it and immediately throw it back up to your partner who drops it again. Do 10 repetitions.
 
Specificity is key! Think of the movements you perform in your sport and condition your body properly. If you’re a basketball player jumping and bounding plyometrics are areas you should concentrate on. For golf, upper body plyometrics and stretching are important. But remember, it takes overall full body conditioning to avoid a sport injury.
 
Start your program now to be ready for the fun and games this summer.
 
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Expand Your Fitness Regimen

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Expanding the variety while focusing on the quality of your fitness regimen is more important than adding on extra hours in the gym according to new research recently published in the The Journal of Applied Physiology. The study was authored by Paul J. Arciero DPE, the director of the Human Nutrition and Metabolism Laboratory at Skidmore College.
 
The sixteen-week study included fifty-seven participants, 36 women and 21 men, between the ages of 35 and 57 years old. The participants were obese or overweight and exercised less than 60 minutes each week. Participants were then randomly separated into three groups. One group was sedentary throughout the study, one group did intense resistance training four times per week, while the third group’s training sessions included resistance, interval sprints, stretching, and endurance exercises. All included the same amount of whey protein in their nutrition regimens.
 
At the end of the study all participants demonstrated a decrease in body fat, which is attributed to the addition of the whey protein to their diets. However, the group that followed the varied, multidimensional regimen had significantly more health improvements than the other two groups — the largest reduction in body weight, total fat and abdominal fat mass, smaller waist circumference, healthier blood glucose levels, and the largest increase in lean body mass.
 
This study indicates why you round out your fitness routine with:
 
• Resistance exercise or strength training to increase the strength and mass of muscles, bone strength and metabolism.
 
• Sprint interval workouts to help build endurance, increase your anaerobic threshold and burn more calories and fat both during and after your workout.
 
• Stretching exercises increase flexibility and improve the range of motion of joints.
 
• Endurance (aerobic) exercise to increase your breathing and heart rate and keep your heart, lungs, and circulatory system healthy while improving overall fitness.
 
A well-rounded exercise regimen can help you maintain interest in your fitness program while preventing injuries that can occur from overuse of the same muscles. Combine the four basic types of exercise in your fitness regimen; you’ll notice the difference … and feel it!
 
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Brain Workout

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
The benefits of exercise for brain health have long been accepted, but new research just added a big item to the long list of bonuses for the brain from physical fitness!
 
We know that the benefits of physical exercise, especially aerobic exercise, have effects on brain functions. A study done by the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Studies has shown that even 20 minutes of exercise will improve information processing and memory functions. Exercise increases heart rate and pumps more oxygen to the brain. It aids the release of a number of hormones which aid in and provide a nourishing environment for the growth of brain cells. Exercise also stimulates the brain by boosting the growth of new connections between cells in cortical areas. Researchers also found that the antidepressant-like effects associated with “runner’s high” is caused by a drop in stress hormones which is associated with added cell growth in the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for learning and memory. This increase in brain activity increases the brain’s need for food.
 
Scientists used to believe that the brain absorbed glucose from the blood, but about 10 years ago, they found specialized cells in the brain, known as astrocytes, that act as support cells for neurons and contain stores of glycogen, or carbohydrates. Glycogen turned out to be critical for the health of cells throughout the brain. However, there was no way to measure the levels of the glycogen, in order to understand how it works to support brain health.
 
This spurred researchers to develop a method that could measure how much brain glycogen uses. Scientists at the Laboratory of Biochemistry and Neuroscience at the University of Tsukuba gathered two groups of adult male rats. One group was put on a daily treadmill running program, while the other group was sedentary for the same period of time each day. They discovered that prolonged exercise significantly lowered the brain’s stores of energy, particularly in the areas of the brain that are involved in thinking, memory, and movement. After a single session on the treadmill, the animals were allowed to rest and feed, then their brain glycogen levels were studied. The scientists found that the levels of glycogen had not only been restored to what they had been before the workout, but had increased by as much as a 60 percent in the frontal cortex and hippocampus. The astrocytes had overcompensated, resulting in a kind of brain carbo-loading. The levels returned to normal within about 24 hours.
 
However, when the animals continued the exercise program for four weeks, heightened levels became the new normal, with levels of glycogen showing substantial increases compared to the sedentary animals. These increases were especially notable in the parts of the brain critical to learning and memory formation — the cortex and the hippocampus. In other words, this energy balance affects how well the brain functions during exercise, and how well our thinking and memory work the rest of the time!
 
This is more proof of the overall importance of exercise for good health!
 
• Aerobic exercise is great for body and brain.
 
• Exercise in the morning before going to work. It prepares you for mental stresses of the day, and improves your reaction to complex situations.
 
• The best brain health workouts involve routines that integrate different parts of the brain such as coordination, rhythm, and strategy. Try a new activity that incorporates coordination along with cardiovascular exercise, such as a dance or zumba.
 
Keep these tips in mind when designing your fitness regimen. They give ‘work smarter’ a new meaning!
 
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