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    • Lack of Exercise During Pregnancy Could Predispose Child to Obesity

      During pregnancy, a woman is responsible for both her own health and the health of her unborn child. Multiple studies have demonstrated the health of your growing baby is dependent not only on genetics, but also on the environment in which it's developing. Sometimes small changes during pregnancy may have a profound effect on life after birth. For instance, in one study tracing genes in over 21,500 people, researchers found those genes not transmitted to the children also had a major effect on education and health.1,2 Another study evaluated how a mother’s psychological state affected the developing baby and found babies who developed best experienced a consistent environment before and after birth.3 In other words, if moms were healthy before and after birth, or depressed before and after birth, those children did better than those born of mothers who were healthy before birth and depressed afterward. Maternal obesity has been linked to an increased chance a child may experience asthma. Second-hand smoke has also been tied to asthma and breathing problems, even when experienced before birth.4 Low levels of vitamin D may increase the risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia,5,6 and low birth weight. Outdoor air pollution may increase the risk of low birth weight and impaired lung development and function during childhood. A recent animal study has now found offspring born to mice made to exercise during pregnancy had a lower risk of weight gain after birth.7 Exercise During Pregnancy May Reduce Your Child's Risk of Obesity The current research builds on past studies evaluating the effects of exercise during pregnancy to prevent gestational diabetes and improve outcomes in women who are overweight and obese during pregnancy.8 The featured study was presented at the American Physiological Society’s annual meeting. The scientists recommend women, whether or not they are currently obese or have diabetes, should exercise regularly during pregnancy as it appears to benefit the future metabolic health of their children.9 Although previous studies have shown exercise by obese [pregnant women] benefits their offspring, this is the first research to demonstrate that the same is true when nonobese females exercise,” a press release from the American Physiological Society said.10 In this animal study, the researchers encouraged pregnant mice to perform 60 minutes of moderate exercise every morning. Offspring born to mice that did not exercise were used as a control group. After weaning, the mice born to the group who exercised had increased levels of protein associated with greater brown adipose tissue.11 The researchers also found the offspring in the exercise group had higher body temperatures, indicating the brown fat was more efficient than in those who were born to mice who did not exercise. This higher thermogenic function has been shown to prevent metabolic dysfunction. The mice then followed a high-fat diet for eight weeks after weaning. Those in the exercise group gained less weight and demonstrated fewer symptoms of metabolic disease. Based on these findings, the researchers plan additional studies, hoping to gain a better understanding of the protective biological mechanisms involved.12 Exercise During Pregnancy Is Important and Safe Although there are considerable physiological and psychological changes occurring during pregnancy that tend to promote sedentary behaviors, lack of activity is associated with an elevated risk of high blood pressure, greater weight gain, gestational diabetes and a long-term risk for obesity and cardiovascular disease. One reason women may experience difficulty getting adequate amounts of exercise is the increased amount of fatigue, nausea and complications they may experience during pregnancy. Some of the first studies on the relationship between physical activity and improved birth outcomes were published in the early 20th century.13 Prenatal exercise programs were introduced in the 1920s and 1930s with the goal of easing labor and delivery. In 1949, the U.S. Children's Bureau published a standard recommendation for physical activity in the absence of maternal complications. Those recommendations included housework, gardening, daily walks and swimming, with a recommendation to avoid participation in sports. In the 1970s and 1980s recommendations were highly specific and focused on improving fitness while easing labor and delivery. By 2002, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology updated their guidelines and recommended 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity during most days of the week.14 For the first time guidelines also included vigorous-intensity physical activity for women who habitually engaged in this type of activity before pregnancy. Researchers continue to find physical activity recommendations during pregnancy resulted in clear advantages for both mother and child.15 Exercise tends to reduce excessive weight gain, the risk of cesarean section, reduces lower back pain and urinary incontinence, while increasing the incidence of vaginal deliveries.16 Unfortunately, Maria Perales, lead author of a study from the Department of Physical Activity and Sports Science at Camilo José Cela University found:17 "The percentage of women who meet the recommendations for exercise during pregnancy is very low. This is due in part to uncertainty about what type of exercise should be recommended and which should be avoided." Exercise May Increase Brown Adipose Tissue in Offspring Researchers in the featured study found the experimental group increased the amount of brown adipose tissue found in their offspring, a positive effect of exercise. Although you might think of body fat as being something bad, there are two different types and several places where they it may be found. White fat is much more plentiful than brown fat and has the job of storing energy and producing hormones secreted into your bloodstream. However, those who are lean tend to have more brown fat than those who are obese.18 Researchers have found that, when stimulated, brown fat burns calories. Children also have more brown fat than adults, which is what helps keep them warm. When activated, brown fat burns white fat.19 Your body stores fat directly under the skin, called subcutaneous fat, or wrapped deeply around your inner organs, called visceral fat. Belly fat is a combination of visceral and subcutaneous fat. Researchers have investigated the potential use of brown fat as a therapeutic intervention for obesity and diabetes. The thermogenic capacity of even small amounts of brown fat may produce disproportionately large results.20 Scientists have reported transplantation of brown adipose tissue in mice could reverse anabolic abnormalities.21,22 However, you may increase your brown fat stores without resorting to pills or surgical procedures. How to Increase Your Brown Fat Thanks to improving technology, researchers are better able to locate and study brown fat, improving your ability to determine ways to boost your existing brown fat activity and increase stores. Research has already determined several ways you may improve your ability to generate and use energy through brown fat thermogenesis, including the following. • Temperature — Most crave an effortless state in which the environment meets your physical needs. Western living has enabled many to achieve this through indoor plumbing, central heating and artificial lighting. In fact, most people spend only a few minutes outside every day.23 Exposure to cold temperatures may help you burn body fat, increase mitochondrial biogenesis and increase the production of norepinephrine in your brain. Interestingly, cold temperature helps you think more clearly24 and perform tasks better. Cooler temperatures are also better for sleep as your body's core temperature naturally drops as you're falling asleep.25 Research has found male animals that spent time in lower temperatures before mating produce offspring with more active brown fat tissue.26 Exposure to cold changes some functions in your body to help you better prepare for the next time you're exposed to cold weather. This acclimatization is the result of your body's ability to generate more heat. Researchers have demonstrated when men are exposed to cooler temperatures, they increase the amount of brown fat in their body and enjoy a corresponding boost in metabolism.27 To activate your own brown fat, consider using an ice pack on your upper back and chest for 30 minutes each day, taking cold showers or immersing yourself in a cold bath to your waist for 10 minutes three times each week. • Exercise — In 2012, Harvard scientists28 discovered a previously unknown hormone, irisin, was created in the working muscles in mice and would then jump-start the process of triggering white fat into brown. Scientists questioned whether this hormone might have an effect on human cells as well. In a study published in the Journal of Physiology,29 researchers from the University of Florida used white fat tissue from women who had undergone breast reduction surgery and brown fat tissue from those who had surgery to treat kidney cancer. The cells were bathed in irisin for four days, during which the scientists checked the levels of a protein, UCP1, known to contribute to the change of white fat to brown fat. White fat exposed to moderate or high doses of irisin began producing significantly more UCP1 cells, but the hormone had no effect on brown fat. This suggested moderate to high intensity exercise, which produces moderate to high doses of irisin, may also contribute to developing brown fat stores. • Sleep — Sleep is highly influenced by the hormone melatonin, and research shows melatonin also has an effect on how your body uses brown fat. This may answer, in part, why weight loss efforts often stall when you don't get enough quality sleep. In a study published in the Journal of Pineal Research,30 data demonstrated rats with higher levels of melatonin had more activated brown fat and higher calorie burning capabilities. Without affecting food intake or activity, melatonin appeared to help lower the obesity levels in rats. Eating These Foods May Help Nourish You and Your Baby During Pregnancy Exercise is an important part of taking care of your body and the health of your unborn child. Your nutrition is as important, since there's rarely a more demanding time during a woman's life than pregnancy. Your intake of nutrients are needed to keep your body running, and nourish and support your rapidly growing baby. Good nutrition is crucial at all stages of development, and even before conception. My optimized nutrition plan offers a succinct and easy-to-follow strategy for getting all types of foods and nutrients supporting a healthy pregnancy. It's important to focus on minimizing processed foods and increasing your intake of vegetables, healthy fats and high-quality sources of protein. If your diet to this point has been filled with processed and packaged foods, you may think cooking with whole food will be more difficult or not as tasty. Thankfully, you'd be wrong! A quick search through our recipe section will help you find main meals, snacks, breakfast foods and desserts to meet your growing nutritional needs in a healthy and satisfying way. For a shortlist of important foods while you're pregnant, see my previous article, "Top Foods to Eat When You're Pregnant." Dr. Mercola

    • Six Benefits of Massage Therapy

      Massage is one of the oldest and simplest forms of medical care used to promote general well-being and ease pain and anxiety. Your skin is your largest sensory organ and specialized receptors in the dermis, the second layer of skin, react to external stimuli such as heat, cold and pressure by sending messages through your nervous system to your brain that stimulate the release of endorphins. Endorphins promote relaxation and a sense of well-being, relieve pain and reduce levels of stress chemicals such as cortisol and noradrenaline, thereby slowing your heart rate, respiration and metabolism, and lowering your blood pressure. Deeper, more vigorous massage stimulates blood circulation to improve the supply of oxygen and nutrients to body tissues and helps your lymphatic system flush away waste products. It eases tense and knotted muscles and stiff joints, improving mobility and flexibility. Massage is also said to increase activity of the vagus nerve, one of 10 cranial nerves that affects the secretion of food absorption hormones, heart rate and respiration. It has proven to be an effective therapy for a variety of health conditions — particularly stress-related tension, which can play a significant role in the development of both psychological and physical health problems. Here, I review six areas where massage has been shown to produce beneficial results: pain, mental health, inflammation, immune function, muscle spasms and flexibility. Massage Therapy for Pain Relief Pain is an extremely common problem — so much so, deaths from opioid addiction are at an all-time high, killing an estimated 47,600 Americans in 2017 alone.1 As of June 2017, opioids became the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50. Massage is just one of many alternative pain treatments that can be helpful. A systematic review and meta-analysis2 published in 2016 included 60 high-quality and seven low-quality studies that looked into the use of massage for various types of pain, including muscle and bone pain, headaches, deep internal pain, fibromyalgia and spinal cord pain. The review revealed massage therapy relieves pain better than getting no treatment at all, and when compared to other pain treatments such as acupuncture and physical therapy, massage therapy still proved beneficial. More specifically, studies have shown massage therapy can relieve pain associated with: • Tension headaches and migraines3,4 — In one study,5 participants who received two 30-minute traditional massages for five weeks reported a decrease in the frequency of migraine attacks compared to controls who did not receive massage therapy. They also had fewer sleep disturbances and testing revealed an increase in serotonin. In another,6 the effect of Thai massage — which focuses on compression, stretching, pulling and rocking motions7 — was assessed on patients with either chronic tension headaches or migraines. Participants received either ultrasound treatment or three Thai massage sessions per week for three weeks. Those receiving Thai massage reported an increase in pain pressure threshold, while those in the ultrasound group experienced a decrease. Both groups had a significant reduction in migraine intensity. • Labor pain — According to Rebecca Dekker, who has a Ph.D. in nursing and founded Evidence Based Birth, one hypothesis for how massage works to reduce pain is the gate control theory.8 "Gentle, or nonpainful massage, can act on the Gate Control Method by flooding the body with pleasant sensations so that the brain does not perceive the painful sensations as much," she says. Intense, deep massage, on the other hand, is thought to act via diffuse noxious inhibitory control. "The idea is that the stimulation from painful massage is so intense that it stimulates the brain to release its own natural pain-relieving hormones called endorphins. Your body is then flooded with endorphins that help you perceive less pain from contractions," Dekker says, adding, "Researchers also think that massage might work by decreasing cortisol, or stress hormones and increasing levels of serotonin and dopamine in your brain." • Fibromyalgia — The National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association recommends massage for fibromyalgia pain, noting it can ease symptoms.9 A systematic review and meta-analysis10 of nine randomized controlled trials involving 404 patients looking at the effects of massage therapy for fibromyalgia concluded "Massage therapy with duration ≥5 weeks had beneficial immediate effects on improving pain, anxiety and depression in patients with FM [fibromyalgia]. Massage therapy should be one of the viable complementary and alternative treatments for FM." • Cancer pain — According to the Australian Cancer Council,11 massage therapy can be helpful for relieving side effects associated with conventional cancer treatment, citing evidence showing massage can reduce pain, fatigue, nausea, anxiety and depression in cancer patients. The Council notes that while some worry cancer may spread through massage, such fears are unfounded, and light massage "can safely be given to people at all stages of cancer," as "the circulation of lymph — from massage or other movement — does not cause cancer to spread." A scientific paper12 discussing massage therapy for cancer patients published in Current Oncology in 2007 also noted that massage is "very safe" and that "complications are rare … Adverse effects were associated mainly with massage delivered by laypeople and with techniques other than Swedish massage." One of the largest observational studies13 on massage and cancer was done at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, which evaluated symptom scores for pain, fatigue, stress and anxiety, nausea and depression among 1,290 cancer patients. Patients had the option of three styles of massage: Swedish, light touch and foot massage. Findings revealed "Symptom scores declined in severity by approximately 50%. Swedish and light touch massage were found to be superior to foot massage." • Back pain — A number of studies also support the use of massage for back pain. Among them: ◦ A 2017 study reported that 49.4% of patients with persistent lower back pain who received 10 massage sessions over a 12-week period were clinically improved at 12 weeks, and of those, 75% were still clinically improved at 24 weeks.14 ◦ A 2011 study15 concluded massage therapy (one hour of weekly sessions for 10 weeks) "may be effective for treatment of chronic back pain, with benefits lasting at least six months." Both relaxation and structural massage were helpful, providing about the same amount of benefit. ◦ A 2016 study16 evaluating the effect of Thai massage on patients with upper back pain lasting at least three months found the treatment significantly decreased muscle tension and pain intensity at the end of the treatment session. ◦ A 2016 meta-analysis by the Cochrane Library looking at 25 trials, a majority of which were funded by nonprofit organizations, concluded massage was better than inactive controls for acute, sub-acute and chronic low back pain. When it came to function, massage was effective for sub-acute and chronic pain but not acute cases. ◦ A 2007 study17 found patients who had low back pain for at least six months who received 30-minute massages twice a week for five weeks reported less pain, depression, anxiety and sleep disturbance than controls who received relaxation therapy instead. Frequency and Dosage Matter for Certain Types of Pain Some people experience immense relief from massage, anecdotally speaking, while others do not. The difference might come down to the dose. Researchers from the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle looked into the optimal massage dose for people with chronic neck pain.18 Study participants received 30-minute massages two or three times a week, or 60-minute massages one, two or three times weekly. A control group received no massages. Compared with the no-massage group, those who got massages three times a week were nearly five times more likely to report a significant improvement in function and more than twice as likely to report a significant decrease in pain. The best pain-relief results were obtained by those who received 60-minute massages two or three times a week. It appears that longer massages worked best for neck pain, as did multiple treatments a week, especially during the first four weeks. If you try massage therapy and find you're not getting relief, you may want to try increasing the dose and frequency. There are other variables that impact massage effectiveness as well, such as the technique used and the skill level of the massage therapist. When choosing a massage therapist, ask your holistic health care provider to recommend a certified massage therapist who is experienced in the type of pain relief you're seeking. Massage Therapy for Mental Health Another area where massage therapy can be helpful is in the treatment of stress, anxiety and depression, including stress experienced by dementia patients. As mentioned, massage affects your nervous system through the nerve endings in your skin, which stimulates the release of "feel good" endorphins that help induce a sense of relaxation and well-being. A 2015 study19 found Thai massage significantly reduces a stress marker called salivary alpha-amylase (sAA), suggesting it "may have a modest effect on stress reduction." The American Massage Therapy Association also cites a number of studies20 showing massage helps ease stress, lowering heart rate, blood pressure21 and cortisol levels. Studies22,23 looking at psychological states specifically have also demonstrated massage results in lower scores on the perceived stress scale, the POMS depression scale and the anxiety state scale. A meta-analysis24 looking at massage therapy in depressed patients concluded "Massage therapy is significantly associated with alleviated depressive symptoms." Similarly, a proof-of-concept randomized controlled study25 assessing the effects of Swedish massage on patients with generalized anxiety disorder found two weekly sessions for six weeks to be an effective treatment. Massage May Help Quell Inflammation The benefits of massage therapy for pain relief are established enough that it's commonly used during physical therapy and rehabilitation from injury. In one study,26 researchers took muscle biopsies from study participants who had received massage therapy or no treatment for exercise-induced muscle damage. According to the authors, massage therapy reduced inflammation and promoted mitochondrial biogenesis in the skeletal muscle. The study is not without detractors,27 however, who have pointed out its flaws. Still, there's reason to suspect that massage does have a beneficial impact on inflammation, as pain and inflammation tend to go hand in hand.28 By lowering one, you lower the other, and as discussed above, there's plenty of evidence supporting the claim that massage can ease pain. Other research29 from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, which I'll discuss again further below, has also found Swedish massage decreased levels of several interleukins, which play a role in inflammation. According to the authors: "Preliminary data suggest that a single session of Swedish Massage Therapy produces measurable biologic effects. If replicated, these findings may have implications for managing inflammatory and autoimmune conditions." Timing of Massage Therapy May Affect Pain Relief and Inflammation Timing of treatment may be of the essence here. As noted by licensed massage therapist Amy Bradley Radford in an article in Massage Magazine:30 "If pain is a signal for inflammation to start, then you must limit how much pain you give someone in higher levels of inflammation, or you just feed the fire … There are two ways massage therapists can approach inflammation: directly and indirectly, and which way we choose depends on each client's ability to heal … Some clients' bodies … can heal from pain well through deeper work, stretching or trigger-point therapy. Then there are others … in which that same treatment completely backfires, with the person having to go through days of pain and recovery after the treatment. What is the difference? … The answer is that Client B has more pain and inflammation … This can present a difficult paradox for the therapist, as the client in more pain typically wants you to 'work out those knots' so that he can feel better … If a client has to recover from bodywork instead of feeling immediately better from that appointment, then whatever work was applied put her body into more pain and inflammation, and she did not have the energy to meet the new, additional demand created by the massage … If your client comes in at a pain level of eight and after the session he is at a three, what does that tell you? That whatever treatment you offered actually gave energy back to the body by reducing pain and therefore inflammation. The energy to heal was offered and received. This process has a basis in Chinese medicine, which seeks to balance the body by shifting energy, or chi. The important part is that pain decreased and energy demand went down, creating a surplus of energy to fight inflammation or to be given to the area in greatest need of healing." This appears to be sensible advice worth keeping in mind by patients and massage therapists alike. If your pain is worse immediately after your session, you may need either a lighter form of massage, or you may need to wait a bit before you get another treatment. As a general rule, the effects of massage therapy tend to be rather rapid, so if you feel pain relief at the end of the session, chances are your inflammation level has been positively impacted. Massage Therapy Boosts Immune Function Lymphatic massage31 is characterized by long, gentle, rhythmic strokes performed with light pressure to increase the flow of lymph through your body, thereby aiding the removal of toxins. By increasing circulating lymphocytes, a form of white blood cells that are especially prevalent in the lymphatic system and fight off infections and disease, lymphatic massage also helps boost your immune function. Research32 confirming this was published by scientists at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. According to the authors: "Compared to light touch, Swedish Massage Therapy caused a large effect size decrease in AVP [arginine-vasopressin], and a small effect size decrease in CORT [cortisol] … Massage increased the number of circulating lymphocytes … Swedish Massage Therapy decreased IL-4, IL-5, IL-10, and IL-13 levels relative to baseline measures." As mentioned earlier, this study concluded that, if findings are able to be replicated, Swedish massage may turn out to be a valuable adjunct in the management of inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. Two Additional Areas Where Massage Therapy Is Useful Last but not least, two other areas where massage therapy is useful is in the treatment of spasms or cramps, and to improve flexibility. Injured and overworked muscles have a tendency to spasm and cramp, causing pain and discomfort. Massage therapy, in this case neuromuscular massage, which involves deeper pressure, can help relax and soften these muscles to prevent spasms and cramping.33 Similarly, by easing stiff muscles and joints, massage therapy can help improve flexibility and range of motion.34 This may be especially beneficial for those who suffer from arthritis or muscle injuries. As noted in one systematic review and meta-analysis35 on the effectiveness of massage on the range of motion of the shoulder: "Massage therapy is one of the complementary and alternative intervention for improving the functional status for patients who had impaired shoulder function in physical therapy clinics. It relieves the muscle hardness by applying mechanical pressure on the affected area using the hands, and improves the range of motion of the joints. In addition, it improves the excitability of the nerves in the muscle fiber and inhibits muscle pain. Massage therapy is also known to improve edema by promoting blood circulation within the muscle, and helps remove fatigue substances." Dr. Mercola

    • Mercola Staff Takes the Pushup Challenge

      If you subscribe to the Mercola newsletter, you may have read this article a few weeks ago that highlighted a recent study on a possible link between pushups and heart disease. The study, which was conducted by Harvard's School of Public Health and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association,1 involved 1,100 male firefighters with an average age of 40. They completed pushup capacity and submaximal treadmill exercise tolerance tests. During 10 years of follow-up, the men underwent annual physical exams and completed health questionnaires. Researchers found that those who were able to complete more than 40 pushups at the start of the study had a 96 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular events, compared to those who could do less than 10 pushups. Men who could do 11 or more pushups, but less than 40, also experienced a reduced risk of heart health problems, such as coronary artery disease, heart failure and sudden cardiac death. Men who could complete between 21 and 30 pushups had only 25 percent of the heart problems, compared to the 10 and under group. 3-Minute Pushup Challenge Accepted >>>>> Click Here Dr. Mercola

    • 20-Minute Towel Glider Workout

      Strength-based exercises do not have to be complex or require a gym in order to be beneficial. Using nothing but your own body weight and, as in the case here, an inexpensive household tool like a towel, you can get a great workout. In a previous Greatist article, Dave Smith, a personal trainer who specializes in bodyweight exercise training, pointed out several benefits of bodyweight exercises:1 Efficiency — No equipment means there's minimal time transitioning from one exercise in your self-defined set to the next, and shorter rest times keep your heartrate up. As a result, you can make fitness gains even when the duration of your workout is short Cardiovascular and strength benefits — Mixing cardio exercises such as burpees and jumping jacks with strength exercises such as planking will give you the best of both worlds.2 Improved core strength — Twenty-nine muscle pairs in your pelvis, abdomen and lower back form the core needed to support your body and maintain balance.3 Increased flexibility — Increased strength without improved flexibility won't do you much good. Good posture and athletic performance require good flexibility.4 Your ability to stretch and bend without causing pain or injury is related to your flexibility. Improved balance — As you progress into more difficult variations of exercises, your ability to balance is trained. Better balance helps give better body control. Since age and infirmity do not usually hinder performance of bodyweight exercises, they can be a great way for the elderly to maintain and improve balance.5 20-Minute Towel Glider Workout In the featured video, Popsugar Fitness demonstrates a 20-minute bodyweight workout requiring nothing more than two small towels. If you have carpet, you can use paper plates to achieve the same gliding effect. Here's a summary of the exercises: Warmup Runner's lunge with a twist — Step back with your left foot into a runner's lunge pose, making sure to keep your left leg fully extended and straight; extend your arms out front and interlace your fingers, then rotate your arms to the right. Return arms to front and center, then step your left foot forward. Repeat on the other side. Do several reps. Side bend — Standing in a wide stance, place your right hand on your low hip, extend your left arm up above your head and lean over to the right. Repeat on the other side. Do several reps. Knee hug — Maintaining your balance, hug your right knee toward your chest. Repeat on the other side. Do several reps. Circuit 1 Reverse lunge with pulse — Place a small folded towel (or paper plate if you're on carpet) under your right foot; slide your right foot back into a reverse lunge, then slide it forward. Repeat several times. To pulse, instead of standing all the way up tall, keep your left leg slightly bent while continuing to slide your right foot backward and forward several times. Repeat sequence on the other side. Plank and knee tuck — Using two folded towels, one under each foot, get into a plank position. Slide your right leg forward and sideways to the left, twisting your torso. Slide your right leg back and repeat on the left side. Do several repetitions. Sliding swimmer — Lie on your stomach, with one towel under each hand. Lift your chest, pressing your stomach into the floor and squeezing your lower back muscles, as you slide your hands upward, making a large half-circle. As you slide your arms back out and down, lower your chest to the floor. Repeat several times. Reverse lunge with pulse — As above. Plank and knee tuck — As above. Sliding swimmer — As above. Child pose — To stretch out your back, assume the yoga pose known as the child's pose: knees spread wide, lean forward, arms out above your head, resting your forehead on the floor. Circuit 2 Squat with three-point touch — Place your towel under your right foot. Lower down into a squat position, then slide your right foot out to the side and back. Repeat this motion backward and forward, maintaining your squat position throughout. Repeat the three movements (side, back and forward) several times. Repeat on the left side. Burpee with mountain climber — With a towel under each foot, place your hands on the floor in front of you and slide both feet backward. Once you're in plank position, do one pushup, then slide your right leg forward into mountain climber pose, then slide the foot back. Repeat with the left leg. Do four mountain climbers on each side in rapid succession. Slide both feet in and stand up tall, then lower back down and repeat the entire sequence. Kneeling adduction — Start seated on your knees. Place a folded towel under each knee and place your hands in front of you for support. Open up your knees, allowing them to slide as far as is comfortable, then, squeezing your abs and inner thighs, bring your knees together. Repeat several times. Squat with three-point touch — As above. Burpee with mountain climber — As above. Kneeling adduction — As above. Circuit 3 Pike and scissor combo — Start on your hands and knees, with a towel under each foot. Extend your legs into a plank position, then lift your buttocks and slide your legs forward into a pike position. Lower back down into a plank, then spread your feet apart. Slide your feet back together, and repeat sequence several more times.  Hamstring curl — Lie on your back, knees bent, with a towel under each foot. Lift your hips into bridge pose, then extend your right foot, pull it back in, and repeat on the left side. Keep your hips as high as possible throughout. Repeat several times on each side. Glider triceps pushup — Start on your hands and knees, with a towel under each hand. Lean forward and pull your feet up into a modified plank position. Extend your right arm up and out as you perform a tricep pushup with your left arm. Push up and drag your right arm back in. Repeat on the other side. Perform several reps on each side. Pike and scissor combo — As above. Hamstring curl — As above. Glider triceps pushup — As above. Cool down Child pose — Assume the child's pose: Knees spread wide, lean forward, arms out above your head, resting your forehead on the floor. Walk your hands over to the left to stretch out your right side. Hold for a few breaths, then walk your hands over to the right. Down dog — Start on your hands and knees. Flex your toes and lift your buttocks toward the ceiling into a downward-facing dog pose. Press your heels toward the floor to stretch your hamstrings. Figure-four — Sit on the floor, leaning back on your arms. Cross your right leg, placing your foot just above your left knee, then bring your left leg inward. Repeat on the other side. Side twist — Lie on your back, knees pulled toward your chest, then roll your knees over to the right. Stretch your left arm out and look to your left. Repeat on the other side. Other Ways to Strength Train at Home Consider incorporating several different types of strength training to improve your fitness faster and have fun. Below is a list of workouts you can do at home using fairly inexpensive workout tools. Also, consider using Kaatsu training with those that use added weights. Developed in Japan nearly 50 years ago, this is a type of training that utilizes lighter weights while restricting venous flow to the muscles. This combination results in greater strength with more reps using less weight. There is compelling evidence this type of training increases growth hormone secretions and produces benefits without tissue damage that occur with traditional high-intensity weight work. Read more about this process in my previous article, "Build Muscle Faster, Safer and Easier with Blood Flow Restriction Training." Body weight exercises — These exercises have the benefit of being flexible, require no equipment or specific location and can be done on your schedule. They can be done at home, traveling or even at the office and include pushups, squats and planks. For a sample routine, see "Five Bodyweight Exercises You May Be Doing Wrong and How to Fix Them." Hand weights — These are inexpensive, portable and available at most department stores. They are small enough to fit next to your couch or chair so you can do a few shoulder presses, bicep curls and triceps extensions while you're watching your favorite show. Kettlebells — These are dense, cast-iron weights shaped like a cannon ball with a handle. You can achieve ballistic movement and swinging motions you can't get with traditional weights that work your core and upper back. Simple, repetitive movements build power in your legs, glutes, back, upper arm and chest. Learn more from "Build Strength and Power With Kettlebells." Resistance bands — These look like thick rubber bands you can use to get full range of motion through your arms and legs. They are inexpensive, lightweight and portable, making them excellent travel companions. For a sample workout, see "Mastering Resistance Band Workouts." Medicine balls/exercise balls — These are dense heavy balls that look like kick balls and come in a variety of sizes. They can weigh from a couple of pounds to 150 pounds and are thrown, swung, caught or lifted. BOSU ball — With a flat platform on one side and a rubber dome on the other (resembling half an exercise ball), a BOSU ball can help you improve your balance and flexibility, sharpen your reflexes and reshape your body. See "Total Body Benefits Using a BOSU Ball," for a sample workout. Water jugs — These are simple and cheap weights you can make with an empty quart or gallon jug. A gallon jug weighs about 8 pounds filled with water and 13 pounds filled with sand. The benefit of these weights is that the weight is unstable and you must use smaller muscles not often engaged to stabilize the weight in use. Dr. Mercola

    • The Most Effective Forms of Exercise for Diabetes: Strength Training and High-Intensity Exercise

      Type 2 diabetes arises from faulty leptin and insulin signaling and resistance, both of which are directly related to lack of exercise and a diet high in starchy carbohydrates or sugar. Unfortunately, when diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, many are led to believe their fate has been sealed and all they can do now is "control" it. This simply isn’t true. A low-carb, high-fat diet as described in “Burn Fat for Fuel,” along with exercise and daily movement are the correct prescriptions to reverse this common condition — not medication. Fasting is yet another proven remedy that can yield rapid results. Research1 published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found even a single session of moderate exercise can improve the way your body regulates glucose and reduces postprandial glucose spikes. When it comes to exercise for diabetic control, though, two types have been found to be the most effective, namely high-intensity exercise and strength training, although any form of physical activity will have some degree of beneficial impact. The Case for Strength Training if You Have Type 2 Diabetes Several studies have demonstrated the benefits of strength training for diabetes. Among them is a 2017 study2 published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, which found strength training lowered women’s risk of Type 2 diabetes by 30 percent, and cardiovascular disease by 17 percent. According to the authors, "These data support the inclusion of muscle-strengthening exercises in physical activity regimens for reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, independent of aerobic exercise." That said, adding aerobic exercise to the women’s fitness regimen did reduce the risks even further. Participants who performed at least 120 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, along with some form of strength training, had a 65 percent lower risk for Type 2 diabetes than those who did neither — a finding that suggests there’s value in all forms of exercise. Moderate Muscle Strength Linked to Lower Diabetes Risk More recently, a study3 published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings this month (March 2019) found a link between muscular strength and Type 2 diabetes incidence. The study enrolled 4,681 individuals between the ages of 20 and 100, none of whom had Type 2 diabetes at baseline. Muscular strength was tested using leg and bench press tests. During a mean follow-up of 8.3 years, 4.9 percent went on to develop diabetes. According to the authors: “Participants with the middle level of muscular strength had a 32 percent lower risk of development of Type 2 diabetes compared with those with the lower level of muscular strength after adjusting for potential confounders … However, no significant association between the upper level of muscular strength and incident Type 2 diabetes was observed … A moderate level of muscular strength is associated with a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes, independent of estimated CRF [cardiorespiratory fitness]. More studies on the dose-response relationship between muscular strength and Type 2 diabetes are needed.” Muscle Building Improves Glucose Metabolism and Insulin Sensitivity A third example of this kind of research was published in BioMed Research International in 2013.4 This review also investigated the mechanisms of how exercise lowers your risk of diabetes. One way by which strength training improves your glucose metabolism is by increasing glucose transporter type 4 (GLUT4) translocation in skeletal muscle. GLUT4 translocation occurs as a result of muscle contraction,5 and is required for proper regulation of glucose uptake in your muscles. As mentioned, strength training also increases your insulin sensitivity, as lean muscle is highly sensitive to insulin,6 which helps restore metabolic flexibility. By using insulin more efficiently, your body also ends up using more glucose, leaving less to circulate in your bloodstream — hence the improvements in glucose control.7,8 “Increased energy expenditure and excess postexercise oxygen consumption in response to resistance training may be other beneficial effects,” the review paper9 notes. The Case for High-Intensity Exercise When You Have Diabetes High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has also been shown to effectively reduce your risk for diabetes. In one such study,10 older overweight Type 2 diabetics improved their glucose regulation in just six HIIT sessions done over the course of two weeks. They also increased their mitochondrial capacity, which means their bodies became more efficient at producing energy. Overall, the average 24-hour blood glucose concentration was reduced from 7.6 mmol/L (± 1.0) to 6.6 mmol/L (± 0.7) following the exercise. The total time investment was 60 minutes per week. The key in HIIT is intensity. In this study, participants performed 10 bouts of 60-second cycling at 90 percent of their maximum heart rate, interspersed with 60 seconds of rest. According to the authors, “Our findings indicate that low-volume HIIT can rapidly improve glucose control and induce adaptations in skeletal muscle that are linked to improved metabolic health in patients with Type 2 diabetes.” Another study11 used the same kind of HIIT program on sedentary but otherwise healthy middle-aged individuals. The only difference was that, here, they exercised at 60 percent of their max heart rate rather than going all-out. Despite the reduction in intensity, they too were able to improve their insulin sensitivity and blood sugar regulation after just three sessions per week for two weeks. According to the authors, “Glucose transporter protein content increased about 260 percent, and insulin sensitivity, on the basis of the insulin sensitivity index homeostasis model assessment, improved by about 35 percent after training.” In a follow-up study,12 people with full-blown Type 2 diabetes saw improvement in blood sugar regulation for the next 24 hours following a single HIIT session at 90 percent of their max heart rate. Just how minimal a time investment can you get away with, provided the intensity is high enough? Remarkable as it may seem, a fourth study found that just three minutes of HIIT per week for four weeks improved participants' insulin sensitivity an average of 24 percent! Daily Movement Is Crucial, Even if You Exercise Regularly As important as strength training and HIIT are for controlling diabetes, it may not be enough in and of itself. Equally, if not more, important is daily nonexercise movement. The reason for this is because inactivity, the mere act of sitting, shuts down or blocks a number of insulin-mediated systems, including muscular and cellular systems that process blood sugar, triglycerides and cholesterol. Simply standing up, bearing your own body weight on your legs, activates all of these systems at the molecular level. Indeed, research has shown that prolonged sitting is an independent risk factor for chronic disease and premature death — even if you exercise regularly and stay fit. Several studies have highlighted this point, and confirmed that chronic sitting is particularly hazardous for those with diabetes. For example: • A 2016 study13 conducted by researchers in New Zealand found that taking a 10-minute walk after each meal provided greater blood sugar control in diabetics than 30 minutes of exercise done once a day, lowering post-meal blood sugar levels by 22 percent. This confirms that increasing the frequency of movement is an important component of effective blood sugar control. • A 2016 review14 of 28 studies found an inverse relationship between exercise and overall diabetes risk. In other words, the more you exercise, the lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes. They also concluded that one of the primary mechanisms is that exercise allows your muscles to use sugar more effectively. Essentially, the review showed that increasing exercise from 150 minutes to 300 minutes per week reduced the risk of Type 2 diabetes by 36 percent. • A 2017 study,15 done by Australian researchers, found Type 2 diabetics who sit all day (rising only for bathroom breaks) have much riskier blood fat profiles than those who get up and move for three minutes every 30 minutes. Lead author Megan Grace, Ph.D., and senior research officer at Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, told Reuters:16 “Our current findings reinforce the message that avoiding prolonged periods of sitting, and finding ways to increase activity across the day, is beneficial for health. In line with the … American Diabetes Association Position Statement, we recommend interrupting sitting every 30 minutes with a few minutes of light intensity activity, in addition to regularly taking part in a structured exercise program … Stand up, sit less and move more — particularly after meals.” To Reverse Diabetes, Diet and Exercise Changes Are Essential There’s no doubt exercise is vital if you have diabetes, but even though physical activity alone is likely to improve your condition, I would advise against relying on it as your sole treatment strategy. You also need to address the root of your problem, which is insulin and leptin resistance, which is directly attributable to not only lack of exercise but also the food you eat. One of the most effective ways to prevent and reverse insulin resistance (and hence Type 2 diabetes) is cyclical nutritional ketosis. It can also have a dramatic impact on your weight, finally allowing you to shed unwanted pounds, as your body begins to burn fat as its primary fuel. In short, by optimizing your metabolic and mitochondrial function, nutritional ketosis helps set you squarely on the path to better health. In fact, emerging evidence suggests a high-fat, low net-carb, low- to adequate-protein diet (in other words, a diet that keeps you in cyclical nutritional ketosis) is ideal for most people. Even endurance athletes are turning away from conventional high-carb strategies and adopting this way of eating because it boosts physical stamina and endurance. Just remember that continuous nutritional ketosis could potentially backfire, which is why I stress cycling in and out of ketosis once your body starts to efficiently burn fat for fuel. You do this by increasing your carb and protein intake a few times a week, ideally on days you’re doing strength training and after a day of partial fasting. By periodically pulsing higher carb intakes, consuming, say, 100 or 150 grams of carbs opposed to 20 to 50 grams per day, your ketone levels will dramatically increase and your blood sugar will drop. I go into the details of this in my book, “Fat for Fuel,” for which there is also an accompanying online course that guides you through the entire program, which is designed to optimize your mitochondrial function. How Your Diet Affects Your Diabetes Risk To fully grasp why your diet is so important if you want to prevent or reverse diabetes, you need to understand some of the basic mechanics of insulin and leptin resistance. • Leptin is a protein hormone produced in your fat cells. One of leptin's primary roles is regulating your appetite and body weight. It tells your brain when to eat, how much to eat, when to stop eating and what to do with the energy available. Leptin is largely responsible for the accuracy of insulin signaling and whether or not you become insulin resistant. • Insulin is released in response to rising glucose in your blood. Sugars and grains raise your blood sugar the most, while healthy fats have little effect on your glucose level. As your blood glucose rises, insulin is released to direct the extra energy into storage. A small amount is stored as a starch-like substance called glycogen, but the majority is stored as your main backup energy supply, namely your fat cells. This is an important distinction: Insulin's major role is not to lower your blood sugar, but rather to store the extra energy for future times of need. Insulin's effect of lowering your blood sugar is merely a "side effect" of this energy storage process. As you can see, leptin and insulin work in tandem, creating either a health-damaging or health-promoting cycle, depending on what you eat. If you consume loads of sugars and grains, your blood sugar spikes will lead to increased insulin, which leads to increased fat storage. The extra fat then produces more leptin. The problem arises when your leptin levels become chronically elevated. At this point, you become leptin resistant, meaning your body can no longer "hear" the hormonal signals telling your brain you're full and should stop eating. As your fat stores increase, your weight goes up and insulin resistance sets in. Now your body has become "deaf" to the signals from both hormones (leptin and insulin), and disease follows, one of which is diabetes. While exercise helps lower postprandial glucose spikes and improve insulin sensitivity, your daily diet can easily sabotage your efforts by working in the opposite direction. You simply cannot out-exercise your mouth, which is why addressing your diet is such a critical component of diabetes control. Are You Ready to Send Your Diabetes Packing? Adhering to the following guidelines can help you accomplish at least three things that are essential for successfully treating Type 2 diabetes: 1) recover your insulin/leptin sensitivity; 2) normalize your weight; and 3) normalize your blood pressure: Severely restrict (or eliminate) all forms of sugar and grains in your diet — Following my Nutrition Plan will help guide you through the necessary dietary changes. Also avoid excessive protein, as your body converts that to sugar in your liver, which can also sabotage your ability to control insulin resistance. Excess protein may even be more damaging to your health than excess carbs. Make sure you’re eating the right kinds of fats — Marine-based omega-3 fats are particularly important for optimal health. To learn more about the ins and outs of dietary fats — which are beneficial and which need to be avoided to protect your health — be sure to pick up a copy of my book, “Superfuel,” co-written with James DiNicolantonio, Pharm.D. The following list from Dr. Cate Shanahan, author of "Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food," also details some of the best and worst fats found in our modern diet. >>>>> Click Here Dr. Mercola

    • Fifteen Minutes of Stretching Helps Improve Flexibility

      Flexibility is likely the most overlooked part of a workout routine. Most people gravitate first to cardiovascular or aerobic work and then strengthening, adding stretching to cool down or warm up without recognizing how it also helps stabilize their muscles and core to increase strength, balance and coordination. This 15-minute video demonstration shows you how simple stretches yield big rewards. In fact, flexibility is one of the foundational pillars to your exercise routine. Whether you're a professional athlete or someone just seeking to improve your fitness level, stretching and mobility work is an important component. Improving your flexibility allows greater joint mobility and helps reduce your day-to-day pain. With age, muscles naturally lose strength and size, becoming less supple. This loss of flexibility and elasticity may increase joint tightness and your risk of injury. However, whether you're an avid exerciser or not, making stretching a part of your weekly routine will help prevent injuries and improve your ability to perform daily tasks. Spending all day at a desk may lead to neck and shoulder problems and tight hip muscles,1 which contributes to pain and discomfort. Your Stretching Technique Matters If you've been stretching for a while, it's likely you've been using static stretching involving holding a muscle in a stretch position for up to 60 seconds. However, there's more than one way to stretch your muscles, including dynamic, functional and active isolated stretching (AIS). Although static stretching had been the gold standard for decades, current research demonstrates prolonged static stretching actually reduces blood flow in the tissue and creates a localized ischemia and lactic acid buildup, which is exactly what you'll want to avoid before working out.2 Additionally, using a static stretch as a warmup reduces muscle strength, temporarily reducing the amount of force the muscles are able to produce.3 Conversely, active isolated stretching (AIS), does not trigger this type of damage. AIS was developed by Aaron Mattes, who has worked for over 40 years with clients, including Olympic and professional athletes, helping them to achieve enormous professional success using this technique.4 AIS may be used to warm up before exercise and rehab from any injuries. After prolonged periods of inactivity, your muscles and joints lose flexibility, strength and general stamina. This process uses a number of specialized repetitive stretches performed in a specific order to target myofascial injury and restrictions. This allows your muscles and facial tissue to elongate without triggering your body's protective mechanism, which inhibits overstretching. In many instances, the process of using AIS begins with the assistance of a trained therapist to help you build a personalized program. AIS uses gentle pressure, holding each stretch for just two seconds to work with your body's natural physiological makeup to improve circulation and increase elasticity. Avoid Ballistic Stretching On the other hand, ballistic stretching, which you've likely seen others doing, involves a bobbing motion and is often erratic and uncontrolled. It is contraindicated as it potentially is injurious and increases your risk of muscle tears.5 While doing all the stretches demonstrated in the video above may take up to 15 minutes, you may consider multitasking and doing them at a variety of times during the day. For instance, consider stretching your neck, shoulders, legs and toes as you're listening to a video or audio program, at work, or even while watching television with the family. Or, consider beginning and ending the day doing several stretches in bed. Benefits to Being Flexible In the U.S., 31 million adults6 suffer from lower back pain, which may be effectively healed using specific stretches. You'll find more in my previous article, "Functional Training," including a stretching routine designed to help prevent or heal your lower back. The benefits of stretching and improving flexibility go well beyond improved athletic performance. Flexibility also helps protect mobility and independence as you age.7 The elderly have a fear of loss of independence,8 which may be alleviated and the loss prevented through flexibility and balance exercises.9 When muscles shorten and become tight, it places a strain on the joint and increases the risk of muscle damage. For instance, walking in high heels all day shortens your calf muscles and makes it difficult to walk barefoot. When suddenly called on for strenuous activity, such as playing tennis, it may easily be injured from being overstretched. In one study,10 researchers found flexibility, and the ability to sit and rise from the floor, was a predictor of all-cause mortality. Flexibility also helps release muscle tension and soreness and may help you increase mental relaxation.11 While flexibility is primarily related to your genetics, gender, body shape and level of physical activity, it's important to remember the benefits you receive from flexibility training build over time. In other words, there's a cumulative effect from stretching, so you must remain committed to the process. While stretching used to be recommended to warm up your muscles before exercise, researchers now know this may increase the damage to your muscles and joints. It is important to first get blood flowing to the area to make the tissue more pliable.12 This may be done using a slow warmup of the same motions you'll be using and your workout. In other words, if you're planning to use the rowing machine, row slowly for five minutes before your workout. If you're going to be running, jog slowly for five minutes with exaggerated leg motions. If you are incorporating stretching during the day, get up and walk around for a few minutes before stretching cold muscles. Don't Push Too Hard While Stretching Your body has physical limitations and when pushed too far, you'll cause microtears in the muscle without improving your flexibility. Additionally, some muscles in your body require less tensile force than others before you hit the end of the natural range of motion of your joint. One muscle in the body with functional limitation is the tibialis anterior, the muscle running along the meaty part of your shin. This muscle lifts the foot as you dorsiflex and elongates during plantar flexion, while pointing your toes like a ballerina. Each of these motions is limited by how far the ankle joint will go, which is in turn limited by your ankle bones. In maximum plantar flexion, as you're pointing your toe as much as possible, this muscle is mildly elongated but not subjected to strong tensile force. Other muscles with the functional limitations include the masseter and temporalis attached to your jaw, thoracic paraspinal muscles attached to your spine in the thoracic region and the gluteal muscles blocked by the limits of hip flexion.13 It's also possible to overstretch muscles. When pushed beyond normal limits, overstretching may trigger instability within the joint and create microtears in the tendons and ligaments.14 This commonly happens when a muscle or tendon and ligament is overstretched during an injury. An overstretched or torn muscle is called a strain and a damaged ligament is a sprain. Since these are interdependent, injuries to joints such as the ankle, neck and wrist may result in a strain and sprain, which is why these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but they refer to different injuries.15 Try These Stretches at Home The flexibility exercises demonstrated in the video above are a great way to start your day. The entire routine takes approximately 15 minutes from start to finish and works your body from head to toe. Below are descriptions of some of the stretches affecting tight muscles for those who work behind a desk all day, and which may be done at the office to help alleviate muscle tension and stress. • Neck and shoulder — Sitting at a desk all day, shoulders hunched and neck flexed forward, increases the tension in your neck muscles and reduces flexibility in your shoulders. Consider doing this exercise sitting on the floor behind your desk. Sit cross-legged on the floor, back straight and hip centered. Extend your left arm out to the side with your fingertips touching the floor. Take your right arm over your head touching your left ear and gently stretch your neck to the right. Hold this for approximately 30 seconds and then switch sides. • Hip swivel — While sitting on the floor, place your hands behind you for support. With your knees bent and your feet planted on the floor, allow your knees to drop to one side and hold for one to two seconds. Pull them up to 90 degrees and then let them drop to the other side. Do 10 repetitions on each side. This helps stretch your hips to full internal and external rotation, which become tight as you sit. • Leg tuck up — Lie on your back. Bring your knees to your chest and grasp your knees with your hands. Squeeze your knees in; you may rock back and forth a little if you'd like to help open up your lower back. • Cross body pull — While on your back, spread your feet a little wider than your hips. Cross your right leg over your left knee with your right ankle on your left knee. Using both hands, pull your right knee up toward your left shoulder. This helps to stretch your gluteal muscles and your lower back. Repeat on the other side. • Squat to pike — While sitting, move forward until your feet are on the floor and you're in a squat position. You may have to lean forward to have your hands on the floor to balance. Keep your chest as close to your legs as possible and extend your knees without fully straightening them, while keeping your hands on the floor. You'll end up in a "touch your toes" position (pike) and feel the stretch in your hamstrings. Hold this for two to three seconds and then return to the squat position. You may not be able to squat very low or get into a pike position with your knees nearly straight, but the objective is to attain flexibility over time. Finish With a Foam Roller Whether you're doing your stretches at the office or at home, a foam roller is a great way to end your flexibility routine. This is an inexpensive tool that looks like a large log made out of foam. It takes very little space to store, is lightweight and offers a number of benefits. Therapists often use foam rollers to mimic myofascial release treatments, typically used to help reduce muscle immobility and pain. In many instances, the simplest activities may offer profound benefits, such as pushups and squats. Foam rollers are also simple, but have scientifically proven benefits including the following: One study found using a foam roller on your hamstrings may lead to statistically significant increases in range of motion after just five to 10 seconds.16 Another found using a foam roller reduces arterial stiffness and improves vascular endothelial function.17 Older women who used foam rollers for balance training showed improvements in dynamic balance after just five weeks.18 Discover more about the foam roller and a variety of ways you to use one at home to improve your flexibility and reduce muscle tightness after a workout in my previous article, "Exercises At Home: 10 Ways to Use a Foam Roller." A foam roller is a unique and effective method of stretching hard to reach places and finishing your workout. However, there are common mistakes that may result in injury, which you may avoid when you know what not to do. Find these in my previous article, "5 Foam Rolling Mistakes to Avoid." Dr. Mercola

    • Men Who Can Do 40 Pushups Have a Lower Risk for Heart Disease

      Drop and give me 20! Actually, make that 40. A study from Harvard's School of Public Health revealed that middle-aged men who can complete more than 40 pushups have a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared with men who can do less than 10.1 Considering heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, and pushups are a simple, free activity that anyone can learn to do, this is information well worth acting on. Pushups themselves, despite their seeming simplicity, are incredibly beneficial. However, it's likely not that pushups are a panacea for your heart but, rather, serve as an indicator of your overall fitness level. While more extensive exercise tolerance tests such as treadmill tests, are available, and these have also been linked to cardiovascular disease risk, they can be expensive and time consuming and typically require you to visit a professional to administer the test. The featured study is encouraging because this simple test you can do anywhere suggests the number of pushups you can complete may be a comparable and accurate way to gauge your heart's health, with the researchers concluding, "Although larger studies in more diverse cohorts are needed, pushup capacity may be a simple, no-cost measure to estimate functional status."2 Ability to Complete 40-Plus Pushups Linked to Lower Heart Disease Risk The study involved more than 1,100 male firefighters with a mean age of 40 years, who completed both pushup capacity and submaximal treadmill exercise tolerance tests. During 10 years of follow-up, the men had annual physical exams and completed health questionnaires. Those who were able to complete more than 40 pushups at the start of the study had a 96 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular events compared to those who could do less than 10. Those who could do 11 or more pushups (but less than 40) also benefited, experiencing a reduced risk of heart health problems such as coronary artery disease, heart failure and sudden cardiac death compared to men who could do fewer. Men who could complete between 21 and 30 pushups had only 25 percent of the heart problems compared to the 10 and under group, and, the researchers noted, "Participants able to perform 11 or more pushups at baseline had significantly reduced risk of subsequent cardiovascular disease events."3 An important note: The pushups were completed at one time, as opposed to broken up over the course of a day, in time with a metronome set at 80 beats per minute. The pushups were tallied until 80 were reached, the participant missed three or more beats of the metronome or stopped due to exhaustion or other symptoms such as dizziness, lightheadedness, chest pain or shortness of breath. "Surprisingly," study author Dr. Justin Yang, occupational medicine resident in the department of environmental health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a news release, "[P]ushup capacity was more strongly associated with cardiovascular disease risk than the results of submaximal treadmill tests."4 Even the U.S. military still uses pushups as part of their basic training and physical fitness tests, if that gives you an indication as to their usefulness as an indicator of fitness. While the featured study concluded more research is needed to determine if the results apply to other populations, such as women, older adults or people who are less active than the firefighters in the study, there's no reason to wait when it comes to increasing your level of fitness. What's more, it's possible to modify pushups to suit any workout level, from beginner to advanced.I normally do about 20 pushups everyday with perfect pushups on an incline, but i decided to try the test and did 40 but the last 2-3 were a bit of a challenge. I love body weight exercises and in addition to daily pushups do 8-10 pullups, 10 full body dips and 30 slow ankle grabber situps. This is in addition to my 2-3 times per week weight training sessions and daily 45 minute walks. I am committed to regular exercise because it is key to improving your mitochondria, autophagy and overall health. What Makes Pushups so Beneficial? Pushups target your chest muscles, shoulders, backs of your arms, abdominals and the serratus anterior (the muscles under your armpits), simultaneously. A typical pushup requires you to lift 50 to 75 percent of your body weight,5 which will help you build strength6 in your upper body and core. Since they work multiple muscle groups at the same time, they can raise your metabolic rate to help you burn fat and lose weight.7 They demand a high level of physical exertion when performed properly and are also a weight-bearing exercise, which means they can help you to build stronger bones and ward off osteoporosis. By building your muscular strength, they also help you to ward off cardiometabolic risks. Previous research has found that a higher level of muscular strength has a protective effect on premature death from any cause and high blood pressure in men. It's also linked to a lower risk of cancer mortality, metabolic syndrome and age-related weight and fat gain.8 What's more, by altering the position of your hands, you can tweak which muscles you're working and increase or decrease the intensity of the exercise. To increase the activity of your chest muscles, for instance, place your hands inward from the normal position, which is slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Moving your hands outward places more emphasis on your triceps.9 Triangle pushups are particularly beneficial if you're looking to tone your arms, as they registered the highest levels of muscle activation for the triceps.10 A triangle pushup is performed similar to a standard pushup, except your hands are placed in a triangle shape on the floor, with your index fingers and thumb touching to form a triangle. Form Matters When Completing Pushups Pushups are only as effective as your form allows, and when first starting out you should value quality over quantity. An improperly performed pushup will not give you the benefits you're seeking and poses a risk of injury. To perform pushups correctly: Get on your knees and place your hands shoulder width apart on the floor. Flatten your palms and point your fingers forward. Rise on your toes. Keep your elbows straight and not locked. Your knees, hips, back and shoulders should be straight as well. Bend your elbows until your chest is an inch or so from the ground. Make sure your head is in a neutral position, chin tucked in. Look no more than 6 inches in front of your body. Straighten your elbows and push your body back into starting position. Your knees, hips and back must be aligned and straight. Only once you have mastered the standard pushup should you attempt to move on to more challenging variations. A few points to keep in mind: Keep your fingers widely spaced, which allows for better movement and increased strength. Your elbows should bend at a 45-degree angle, positioned above your wrists and held near your body. Your shoulder blades should be pulled in and downward. Avoid tensing your shoulders or moving them up toward your ears. Keep your back straight and your quadriceps muscles tight. If your lower back feels stressed, push your hips forward while squeezing your buttocks. Ensure each movement has a full range of motion, with your chest reaching as close to the floor as possible and your elbows extending fully on your way up. A Beginner's Pushup Plan If it's been awhile since you've tried to do pushups, there's no time like the present to get started. Remember, you can do pushups virtually anywhere and it only takes a few minutes. When you first start out, perform as many pushups as you can using proper form. That's your baseline. From there, keep track of how many more pushups you're able to complete each week. If you can't physically complete one, start out with a wall pushup, which is done standing up with your palms flat against the wall. Stand with your feet about 3 feet away from a wall, then lean against it with your palms flat. Push backward with your arms, and then slowly come forward, making a pushup motion with your arms. Once you can comfortably perform about a dozen pushups this way, advance to the regular pushup technique. Another beginner option is to keep your knees on the floor. Bring your heels up toward your buttocks, and keep your body straight. Go slow and use full range of motion, allowing your chest to gently touch the floor. When your strength improves, progress to keeping your legs straight, and balancing on your toes. At this point, you can try the protocol recommended by Adam Bornstein, author and CEO of Born Fitness, to improve your routine:11 Week 1 (two workouts) — Do 10 sets of eight reps and rest for two minutes between sets. If you aren't able to perform eight pushups, rest accordingly. Week 2 (two workouts) — Do eight sets of 10 reps and allot a minute of rest between sets. Week 3 (two workouts) — Do six sets of 15 reps and allot a minute of rest between sets. Week 4 (two workouts) — Do four sets of 20 reps and allot two minutes of rest between sets. Advanced Pushup Variations If you're ready to kick things up a notch, try some of the advanced techniques below. The great thing about pushups is that they give you instant feedback into your progress and fitness level. If one technique becomes too easy, it's time to confuse your muscles with a new movement. Incline pushup — Place your hands on a raised surface, such as the seat of a chair or a table. Put your hands on a medicine ball — The ball is an unstable surface, and as it shifts, it will force your core muscles to work to keep you in balance, while providing a greater challenge to your upper body. A similar option is to use two medicine balls, place the palms of your hands on top of the balls and perform the pushup from there. Switch hand positions — The placement of your hands will dictate which muscle groups are targeted. Instead of the traditional hand placement, try widening their stance to work your chest and shoulders. If you bring your hands together below your chest, you'll work your triceps. You can also elevate one arm (place your hand on a yoga block, or lift it into the air, for instance), which will challenge your upper body even more. Raise a leg — As you extend your leg behind you, your upper body gets a challenge while your core and glutes get toned. Elevate your feet — In the traditional pushup position, put your feet on a step, chair or gym ball, so your feet are higher than your hands. This puts more weight on your upper body, giving your arms, chest and upper back a workout. Do pushups off your fingertips — This is a more advanced technique that will improve the strength and grip of your hands. For an even more high-intensity advanced routine, try: Plyometric pushups — Once your sternum touches the floor, hold your position and breathe for about three seconds, then perform an explosive push upward. Three minutes of pushups — It's quite simply, how many pushups can you do in three minutes? You need to have good technique, good form and a strategy. If you go all-out you'll lose your energy and likely won't last for three minutes. So go at a pace of about 80 percent of your total ability, and when you can't go any further, rest for 20 to 30 seconds, stretch and then resume. The handstand pushup (highly advanced) — Facing a wall, place your hands at a 45-degree angle about one to two hand-lengths from the wall. Kick your legs up. You can use the wall to stabilize you as you perform the pushup. Breathe in as you lower yourself to the floor, and breathe out as you push yourself up. To keep things interesting, consider starting a pushup challenge among your friends or family members. Try to do 25 pushups twice a day for two weeks and then set a new, higher goal, such as 55 pushups a day for three months. Your increasing fitness level will be easy to tally along with the rising number of pushups you're able to complete, and remember that the more pushups you're able to do, the better your heart health is likely to be. Dr. Mercola

    • The Science Behind Exercise Recovery

      You might have pushed yourself to the limit in your workout today, and although it was tough, you didn't build any muscle, because muscle growth actually begins after you stop lifting, running or rowing. You can enhance growth by using proper recovery protocols. Prioritizing your post-workout recovery will help you get the most from every workout and help your body begin to repair. Additionally, using a post-workout recovery protocol will reduce second and third day post-workout soreness and fatigue. Although there are methods promising you'll get over your muscle soreness in a hurry, feeding right in to Western societies desire for a quick fix, a more sustained and holistic approach will garner better results.1 It is also important to remember that while some suffer from lack of exercise, others may overtrain and experience breakdown in their muscle and health. Making sure you spend enough time and effort in recovery is as important as the exercise itself. Overtraining Sabotages Your Workouts and Performance As high-intensity interval training becomes more popular in an era when "more is better," a greater number of athletes and fitness consumers are hitting a brick wall, posting poor performances and leaving them at risk for high levels of fatigue and an increased risk of injuries. Overtraining is common in nearly every sport or fitness activity, and happens when you do more than your body can recover from between bouts. There are several symptoms of overtraining that are usually overlooked or ignored as they may be attributed to other health problems. Here are some symptoms you'll want to pay attention to in order to recognize you're overtraining:2 Feeling exhausted instead of energized Being regularly sore for days at a time Feeling blue Having a short fuse Decreased performance Increased rate of overuse injuries Decreased coordination Decreased strength Weight loss Training fatigue — legs feel "heavy" Nausea and decreased appetite Elevated heart rate and blood pressure Getting sick easily, or taking a long time to get over a cold Having difficulty sleeping, or not getting enough sleep Changes in menstrual patterns John Rusin,3 an internationally-recognized strength coach, speaker and writer with a doctorate in physical therapy, believes athletes may be suffering more from an under-recovery problem than an overtraining problem. He goes on to say recovery is multifactorial and depends on training, nutrition and lifestyle. Although training is a common scapegoat for injuries and burnout, lifestyle and nutritional factors must also be addressed to optimize training performance. He believes your goal is to design a training program according to your individual body and not someone else's, which may be the best recovery tool you can use. Recovery, and preventing overtraining, is not a passive process and requires active modalities to prevent experiencing the symptoms listed above. How and How Much You Hydrate Has an Impact on Recovery Science writer Christie Aschwanden set out to answer questions about exercise recovery in her new book, "Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery." She says:4 "The most important skill that any athlete can develop is a sense of how their body is responding to exercise. How they're responding to their workouts; how they're feeling; what it feels like for them to be recovered or under recovered." Being hydrated using pure clean water is vital to achieving optimal health. During times of high-intensity exercise or strenuous activities, your body needs plenty of water. During long periods of exercise you may also need to replace important electrolytes and minerals. While your first inclination may be to reach for one of the hard-to-miss, heavily advertised neon-colored sports drinks, these will do more harm than good, as most are loaded with sugar and other unwanted ingredients. If your workout causes intense sweating, you might consider making your own rehydration drink instead. Once your body has lost between 1 to 2 percent of your total water content you'll get thirsty, which is a good guide to determine whether or not you need to drink. Coconut water may be one of the best rehydration drinks; it's a well-known source of natural electrolytes. You can drink it plain or add a little natural citrus juice, such as lemon, lime or orange, for flavoring. The water is rich in vitamins, minerals and trace elements and packed with amino acids, antioxidants and phytonutrients. It's also a powerhouse of natural salts, especially magnesium and potassium. That said, Aschwanden5 also warns of the danger of overhydrating as this can lead to hyponatremia or water intoxication. Drinking too much will dilute your blood to a point where your brain can swell from a lack of electrolytes. This may happen when drinking multiple glasses of water every hour, especially if you're not thirsty. These dangers became clear during the 2002 Boston Marathon when a 28-year-old runner collapsed and died two days later from hyponatremia. Subsequently, a study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine6 analyzing runners in the same marathon, finding 13 percent had hyponatremia that correlated with excessive fluid intake. Focus on Nutrition and Whey Protein — Feeding Muscles in Just Minutes What you eat and when after your workout matters when it comes to fueling your muscles. In one study,7 researchers showed eating fewer carbohydrates after exercise enhanced insulin sensitivity, which is key to optimizing your health. Providing your body with the correct nutrients is crucial to stopping catabolic processes in the muscle and shifting the recycling process toward repair and growth. If you fail to feed your muscle at the right time, the catabolic process could potentially damage muscle and negatively impact your recovery. Whey protein, derived from milk, is considered the gold standard by many and is one of the best types of foods you can consume before or after exercise. In a study8 of older men, researchers found whey protein stimulated muscle protein more effectively, which was attributed to a combination of faster digestion and absorption. One reason whey protein works so well is it assimilates quickly into the muscle, often within 15 minutes of swallowing. But don't stop there as you can speed up your recovery time by incorporating anti-inflammatory whole foods on a daily basis,9 such as those high in vitamins C and K, including broccoli, sweet potatoes and Bing cherries. Foods high in animal- or plant-based omega-3 fats such as wild-caught Alaskan salmon, herring, anchovies and almonds also help to reduce inflammation. Nutritionist Jessica Crandall, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics,10 believes a consistent diet of whole foods goes a long way toward supporting your exercise habit. Massage Out the Kinks and Take a Bath Another focus of athletes is to reduce the inflammation and soreness following a heavy workout. Aschwanden11 points out the information about inflammation is changing as scientists are realizing inflammation is an important part of the training response. Inflammation helps repair and grow muscle, giving you greater adaptation to exercise. Although some athletes commonly take ibuprofen prophylactically before a workout or a race, I do not recommend using ibuprofen for this reason. Not only does ibuprofen have a significant number of side effects, but there is also evidence it can impair the repair process from an injury, both from the micro injuries you get from a hard workout and from larger injuries, such as a sprained ankle. Some athletes believe using an ice bath or ice massage helps them recover faster and reduces some soreness following a heavy workout, and research confirms this. In one study,12 athletes who did cold-water immersion experienced reduced soreness for the first 24 hours after exercise. However, while an ice bath may be helpful after an intense race or high-level performance, it may impede muscle growth after a workout. Another option is taking a tepid or warm Epsom salts bath following a strenuous workout, which will promote muscle relaxation and reduce muscle cramping. You may also reduce soreness by getting a deep tissue massage or using a foam roller, the latter of which is also an excellent way of warming up before your workout, as it improves mobility and increases blood flow. Post-workout it helps to lengthen your muscles and provide myofascial release. Active Recovery It's important to incorporate active recovery directly after an intense workout and on rest days. Active recovery reduces the buildup of lactic acid and minimizes delayed onset muscle soreness. It can also help alleviate fatigue and promote blood flow to your joints and muscles after finishing a hard workout. This helps to counteract unproductive inflammation. Using active recovery also helps maintain your heart rate at a steady pace and improves your endurance. Your cooldown phase could include light jogging or cycling at a slower pace, walking, yoga or doing low resistance rowing or elliptical training.13 Although you might like to believe you can go hard every single day, it's important to take recovery days and either rest or do very light training. Experienced running coach and author Jenny Hadfield believes lower intensity workouts should be a part of your routine and you should listen to your body.14 Using active recovery in place of lounging in front of the television is also a helpful mental and physical tool. Rest days give muscles a hard-earned break, but light movement helps your muscles to recover. Body weight exercises or light cardio after a heavy strength training session helps relieve soreness by stimulating blood flow. Quality Sleep Is as Important as Quality Exercise The harder you train, the greater your need for quality sleep. Sleep deprivation not only weakens your immune system and increases your risk of symptoms of overtraining, but it also increases your risk for diabetes and impairs aspects of your cognition. Unfortunately, estimates suggest 33 percent of Americans get less than seven hours of sleep at night, and 83 million adults in the U.S. are sleep-deprived.15 Many sleep problems are tied to lifestyle choices such as spending too much time indoors during daylight hours and/or excessive use of technology. In 1981, the U.S. military revealed a method to help people fall asleep in just two minutes, claiming a 96 percent success rate after six weeks of consistent implementation. The following summary of the process was published in the Evening Standard:16 1. Relax your whole face, including your tongue, jaw and the muscles around your eyes 2. Drop your shoulders and relax your arms 3. Relax your chest as you breathe out 4. Relax your legs, from your thighs to your feet 5. Relax and clear your mind, then picture yourself in one of the following scenarios: a. You're lying in a canoe on a calm lake with nothing but blue sky above you b. You're snuggled in a black velvet hammock in a pitch-black room c. Simply repeat "don't think, don't think, don't think" for 10 seconds Other tricks to improve your sleep can be found in in my previous article, "Top 33 Tips to Optimize Your Sleep Routine." Parasympathetic Breathing Reduces Stress and Improves Recovery For those who don't have an extra 15 minutes after every workout to devote to active recovery, Rusin recommends parasympathetic breathing, which can quickly reduce your sympathetic drive and improve recovery.17  After training hard, your sympathetic response is in overdrive and may stay in a heightened response until the system finally fails and you crash. Although this limits recovery, it can also limit strength-building and performance as well. Spending just three to five minutes after working out to tap the brakes on your sympathetic nervous system helps improve your recovery. Rusin recommends performing this technique before leaving the gym. He has his athletes lay on their back with their head resting on the ground, legs elevated above the level of the heart with knees slightly bent (resting on the seat of a chair), with arms outstretched overhead. Close your eyes and relax your body, reducing any tension or stress. Use a quiet place in the gym away from music or any noise.18 From this position, focus on your breathing and start by inhaling for three to four seconds, holding your breath for two to three seconds, exhaling for six to eight seconds and then holding your breath for another two seconds before beginning the process again. The main focus is on breathing under control in order to turn off the sympathetic nervous system before leaving the gym. Athletes should feel an instant calming sensation throughout the body when doing this. Dr. Mercola

    • Top Tips on How to Get Fit After 50

      The video above features John Carter, who at 90 years of age still hikes, bikes, swims and plays sports. Doing a swan dive from the 10-foot dive board, he comments that no other 90-year-olds are well enough to join him. Indeed, it’s rare sight to see a 90-year-old doing any kind of physical activity these days. That doesn’t mean you have to grow decrepit with age, however. You too can enjoy physical activity well into your senior years. The key, of course, is to stay active. The good news is, it’s never too late to start. My mother started a strength training program at the age of 74 after recuperating from a nasty fall, and was able to make significant gains within a couple of years. So, if you’re ready to take control of your health, keep reading. Below, I list five key focus areas to help you stay fit after 50. Exercise may be particularly important for women entering menopause, as this is when changes in hormones begin to weaken their bones. Postmenopausal Symptoms and Health Risks Can Be Controlled Through Proper Exercise According to a paper1 in the Journal of Mid-Life Health, postmenopausal women “should include the endurance exercise (aerobic), strength exercise and balance exercise.” The paper recommends doing moderate aerobic activity for two hours and 30 minutes per week, and to track your target heart rate range and the intensity of your exercise by employing the talk test. What this means is you should be able to maintain a conversation during your exercise. If you’re huffing and puffing to the point you cannot talk, you’re overexerting yourself. Deep breathing exercises, yoga and stretching are also recommended “to manage the stress of life and menopause-related symptoms.” Just remember that physical activity, as important as it is, is not the sole factor that determines your health. As noted in a 2017 study,2 while retired adults tend to be more physically active than non-retirees, they are not likely to be following other healthy lifestyle suggestions, such as eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking and keeping their blood pressure under control. All of those factors, especially your diet, are important considerations if you want to live a long, healthy, active life. You can learn more about my dietary recommendations in my free nutrition plan. All of that said, the following five strategies can go a long way toward maintaining your health and fitness past the age of 50: Walking Flexibility training Strength training Breathing exercises and meditation Yoga and tai chi Tip No. 1: Walk Daily for 30 to 60 Minutes Walking is perhaps one of the easiest forms of exercise there is, and it’s plenty effective despite its simplicity. The short video above reviews what happens in your body while walking, starting with the release of chemicals that give your body a quick boost of energy. Once you get going, your heart rate will increase, from about 70 to about 100 beats per minute. This boost in blood flow will warm up your muscles. As you move, your body will also increase production of fluid in your joints, thereby reducing stiffness. And, while your blood pressure will rise from the exertion, this increase is counteracted by chemicals that help expand your blood vessels, such as nitric oxide. This expansion in turn allows greater amounts of oxygen-rich blood to reach your muscles and organs, including your heart and brain. Over time, taking regular walks will help lower your blood pressure if it tends to be high. After 30 to 45 minutes of walking, you’re really oxygenating your whole body, burning more fat, strengthening your heart and cardiovascular system, and boosting your immune function. The Many Health Benefits of Walking Several studies have confirmed that walking boosts health and longevity. For example: Walking for 20 to 25 minutes per day may add anywhere from three to seven years to your life span.3 These benefits also extend to those who are overweight,4 and even smokers. In fact, smokers may increase their life span by nearly four years by engaging in regular physical activity such as walking.5 Former smokers who kept up their physical activity increased their life expectancy by 5.6 years on average, reducing their all-cause mortality risk by 43 percent. Smokers who were physically active were also 55 percent more likely to quit smoking than those who remained inactive, and 43 percent less likely to relapse once they quit. As little as two hours (120 minutes) of walking per week has been shown to reduce mortality risk in older adults by 20 percent, compared to inactivity.6 In another study, in which 5,700 older men were followed for 12 years, those who got 30 minutes of exercise — even if all they did was light walking — six days a week, reduced their risk of death by about 40 percent. Getting less than one hour of light activity per week had no effect on mortality in this study, highlighting the importance of getting the “dosage” right if you want to live longer. Patients with obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who walk 2 miles a day or more cut their chances of hospitalization from a severe episode by about half.7,8 Daily walking has also been shown to reduce the risk of stroke in men over the age of 60.9 Walking for an hour or two each day cut a man’s stroke risk by as much as one-third, and it didn’t matter how fast or slow the pace was. Taking a three-hour-long walk each day slashed the risk by two-thirds. People who regularly walk briskly for more than 30 minutes generally weigh less than those who hit the gym on a regular basis and/or exclusively do high-intensity workouts.10 According to the press release, these results were “particularly pronounced in women, people over 50.”11 Walking has also been shown to lower your risk of:12,13 Type 2 diabetes Depression and anxiety Dementia and Alzheimer’s Arthritis Hormonal imbalances PMS symptoms Thyroid disorders Fatigue Varicose veins Constipation Tip No. 2: Do Yoga or Tai Chi Weekly Research reveals potent mental and physical benefits from yoga, regardless of your current state of health or fitness. It gives you a full body stretch, working your connective tissue and increasing your flexibility in functional movement patterns, while simultaneously acting as a form of moving meditation. And, like meditation, yoga, tai chi and qigong have been shown to actually alter your genetic expression through their impact on your mind.14 Examples of genetic effects obtained through yogic- and other meditative practices include the down-regulation of cellular stress response genes and genes associated with the pathway responsible for the breakdown of proteins, while expression of heat shock proteins and immune function are increased. Other health benefits from regular yoga practice include: Improved immune function15 Reduced food cravings16 Reduced risk for migraines17 Improved heart health,18 including improved atrial fibrillation19 (irregular heartbeat) Improved cognitive function20,21,22,23 Reduced anxiety, depression,24 aggression and stress;25,26 improved emotional resilience and anger management27 Better sleep28,29 Lower resting blood pressure30 Improved leptin sensitivity31 (leptin is a hormone that plays a key role in regulating energy intake and energy expenditure) Improvement in symptoms of schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder32 and post-traumatic stress disorder33 Improved sexual performance and satisfaction34,35 Increased flexibility, better balance, improved strength, stamina and body alignment, low-back pain relief For examples of some simple beginner’s yoga poses and descriptions of several of the most popular versions of yoga, see “New Twists on Yoga.” An alternative practice is Tai Chi, a branch of Qigong, said to balance and harness qi or "life energy" in your body, and is frequently described as meditation in motion as the activity takes you through a set of slow, gentle movements while you focus on your breath. Studies have shown Tai Chi stimulates the central nervous system, lowers blood pressure, relieves stress, tones muscles and helps with digestion and waste elimination. Tai Chi may be particularly beneficial for the elderly, thanks to its low impact. You can even do Tai Chi if you're confined to a wheelchair. Those struggling with chronic pain or stiffness may also benefit a great deal. Tai Chi can also take the place of seated meditation if you struggle with the sitting still part. To learn more about this ancient self-care practice, see “A Comprehensive Review of Health Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi.” Tip No. 3: Strength Train Two to Three Times a Week As mentioned, my mother didn’t get started on her strength training program until she was 74. In the video above, she shares the health benefits she gained from her program, and demonstrates her strength training routine. The truth is, strength training only becomes more important with age, not less. Working your muscles will help you shed excess fat, maintain healthy bone mass and prevent age-related muscle loss, the latter of which can start as early as your 30s. It will also help counteract postural deficits that occur with each passing year. During your youth, bone resorption is well-balanced, ensuring healthy bone growth and sustained strength. However, as bone loss accelerates, it starts to outpace your body's ability to create new bone. The more sedentary you are, the weaker your bones get as a result. The same can be said for your muscle, and without good muscle tone, your mobility starts to suffer. Worse, muscle weakness in combination with brittle bone structure is a recipe for falls that can result in crippling disability. Resistance training also: Improves your insulin sensitivity, thereby lowering your risk of most chronic diseases. Reduces your risk of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions (large waist circumference, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar) that raise your risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.36,37,38,39 Reduces perimenopausal symptoms in women, such as anxiety and depression, mood swings, irregular periods, weight gain and brain fog, in part by increasing production of testosterone.40 Lowers inflammation, a hallmark of most chronic disease, especially heart disease and cancer. Improves cognitive function and reduces anxiety and depression, promoting greater well-being. Improves your cardiovascular fitness. Strength Training Basics and Further Guidance There are two basic terms you must understand before planning your strength training routine: Reps — A rep (repetition) indicates one complete motion of an exercise. Be mindful of performing each rep using full range of motion. Set — A set is a group of reps. So, for instance, if you performed two sets of 10 reps of bicep curls, this means you did 10 bicep curls, rested, then did 10 more. How many reps you should do depends on your fitness level and your goals. Here are some general guidelines: For building strength and bulk, it’s generally recommended to do fewer than eight to 10 reps per set with heavier weights. For tone and general conditioning, aim for 10 to 12 reps using more moderate weight. For SuperSlow weight training (i.e., high-intensity resistance training), aim for only one set of 8 to 10 reps. You should not be able to do the last rep no matter how hard you try. If you can do 11 then increase the weight. If you can’t do 8 then decrease the weight. Regardless of how many sets you do, make sure the last rep in your set is done to failure. You want to fully fatigue that muscle in the last rep, while still maintaining control of the weight so you don’t lose your form, as this could lead to injury. Adjust the amount of weight you use for each exercise depending on which muscles you are working. Larger muscles such as your thighs, chest and upper back are stronger and will require a bit heavier weight. Smaller muscles, such as your shoulders and arms, require less weight. I’ve previously published articles detailing sample workouts for differing levels of fitness and age groups, including a basic guide of seated balance and coordination exercises for the elderly and infirm, easy strength training moves for seniors, and a slightly more advanced strength training guide for fitter, older adults. I’ve also published a beginner’s guide to strength training, SuperSlow instructions, “best of” sample strength exercises that deliver great results, advanced strength training suggestions, bodyweight exercises and much more. For ideas and guidance, simply browse through my fitness archive. Below, you’ll also find a demonstration of several bodyweight exercises which, as the name implies, do not require any kind of weights or fitness equipment, making them particularly convenient when you’re first starting out. Tip No. 4: Meditate and/or Do Breathing Exercises Daily Fitness is not all about vigorous activity. There is growing evidence demonstrating your mind and body are intricately connected, and wide acceptance that whatever is going on in your mind has bearing on your physical health. Mental stress has also been linked to a wide variety of health problems, in large part due to its ability to stoke the flames of inflammation. Brain imaging has shown meditation alters your brain in beneficial ways, and scientists have identified thousands of genes that appear to be directly influenced by your subjective mental state. Research41 also suggests meditation can help counteract age-related loss of brain volume. Importantly, slowing your breathing through meditation and/or using the Buteyko breathing technique also increases your partial pressure of carbon dioxide, which has enormous psychological benefits. I addressed this in “Top Breathing Techniques for Better Health.” Slowing and relaxing your breathing will also tone your parasympathetic nervous system, often referred to as the “rest and digest” system, which induces relaxation and calm.42 Tip No. 5: Stretch Daily for 30 Minutes Poor flexibility and mobility can greatly impair the quality of your movement and raise your risk of injury, so stretching is an important fitness component. There are a number of stretching techniques out there, but one of my personal favorites is Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) by Aaron Mattes, a registered kinesiotherapist and rehabilitation therapist. A quick demonstration of how to do AIS is included above. AIS targets muscles and connective tissue in a functional pattern that mimics your spontaneous body movements, without stretching isolated muscles. While prolonged static stretching has been the gold standard for decades, research shows this technique actually decreases blood flow within your tissue, creating localized ischemia (a restriction in blood supply) and lactic acid buildup that can lead to irritation or injury of local muscular, tendinous, lymphatic, as well as neural tissues. As it turns out, many of the improvements you gain from stretching are related to the movement of fascia, the connective sheaths covering your muscles. When they move, they create tiny piezoelectric signals that can improve your overall health. The AIS protocol involves repetitive stretches, performed in a specific order that target myofascial (muscle and connective tissue) restriction. By working with the primary laws of your body, it promotes elongation of muscle and fascial tissue without eliciting your body's protective mechanisms, which actually inhibit safe, effective stretching and overall flexibility. AIS Basics and Further Guidance To perform AIS effectively, keep the following guidelines in mind: First you need to move the joint as far as you can in the direction of the stretch. This is the active part of the exercise, which activates the antagonistic muscles that inhibit the stretch. Many fail to do this and only passively stretch the muscle, and that simply will not work. Stretch the muscle gradually with a gentle stretch of less than 1 pound of pressure toward the end point of your range of motion, and then hold the stretch for two seconds. After two seconds, release the tension to prevent reverse contractions of the tissues being stretched. Do not push through the stretch; instead do multiple stretches. Done correctly, with each stretch you’ll get greater range of motion. By improving mobility, daily stretching can also go a long way toward preventing and treating chronic back, neck and shoulder pain stemming from poor posture, overweight or excessive sitting. To ease back pain specifically, take a look at “Simple Stretches to Help Relieve Lower Back Pain,” in which you’ll find six helpful yoga-inspired stretches that target your back. Staying Fit Beyond 50 Doesn’t Have To Be a Challenge While it’s certainly true that the older you get, the longer it takes to radically transform your body, significant progress is possible at any age. The key is to stay consistently active. To summarize, by incorporating the following five key focus areas, you can get fit, and maintain your fitness, well into your 50s and beyond: Walk for 30 to 60 minutes daily Incorporate at least one yoga or tai chi session each week Strength train two to three times a week Do breathing exercises or meditation daily Stretch daily Dr. Mercola

    • Sweat Sensor Will Soon Be Able to Tell if You're Dehydrated

      Although sometimes used interchangeably, personalized health care and personalized medicine are different. Personalized medicine refers to the use of genetics in order to develop treatment specific to a condition, such as defining tumor markers to guide cancer therapy. Personalized health care is a broader term that includes personalized medicine but also other biological information to help predict risk or how you may respond to treatment. Both are now receiving a great deal of attention as scientists struggle to develop treatment plans with a greater rate of success.1 Although the objective is to improve the quality of care and reduce the cost at the same time, as with many costly processes, prevention continues to be the best medicine. Wearable sweat sensors have begun paving the way for real-time body chemistry analysis over the past several years. Wearable Sensor Designs Rapidly Improving In early 2016, the journal Nature2 carried an article highlighting a unique device developed by a materials scientist at the University of California Berkeley, who created a small sensor to read the molecular composition of sweat. The sensor would then send the results to a smartphone app. The scientist designed the sensor to be incorporated into wristbands and headbands enabling an early warning for the wearer. This sensor represented an advancement over others that only had the ability to measure one component of sweat at a time and could not transmit the results. Before this, the sensors had to be removed for chemical analysis, which severely impacted real-time measurements. This wearable technology detects glucose, lactate, sodium and potassium, and body temperature when in contact with sweat. Jason Heikenfeld from the University of Cincinnati called this an impressive achievement as the sensor miniaturized electronics into something that could wrap around the wrist. By late 2018, Heikenfeld was issued a patent on a wearable sweat sensor capable of electronically correlating two or more measurements. The company, Eccrine Systems Inc., uses the invention to correlate data derived from sweat sensor devices to define pharmacokinetic profiles of medications excreted in stimulated sweat. Eccrine System’s CEO, Gavi Begtrup, Ph.D., says:3 "You can't devise an on-body device to derive a sweat pharmacokinetic [PK] curve, and then correlate that curve to a drug's blood PK curve, without using this invention. This is a big deal given the estimated $500 billion annual health care cost of nonoptimized medication therapy, a significant portion of which can result from individual PK differences that cause failed treatment outcomes." New Sweat Sensors Now Measure Multiple Chemicals The development of a new device was announced in the journal Science Advances,4 providing real-time information on sweat rate, levels of chloride, glucose, lactate and pH. Using these levels, physicians may find an indication the wearer has diabetes or cystic fibrosis, is dehydrated or has low oxygen levels. The new device is wireless and battery-free, improving the ability to monitor and diagnose problems, and is contained in a small soft patch. Martin Kaltenbrunner, an engineering professor at Johannes Kepler University Linz in Austria, who was not involved in the research, commented,5 “This looks like the first version in which they integrated all of it in one device. The level of technology that is in this paper is very, very advanced.” The device works by channeling sweat through minute holes at the base where a complex network of microchannels route the liquid into tiny reservoirs. Each reservoir has a sensor that reacts with a chemical in the sweat. There is no power supply and nothing penetrates the skin. The scientists designed the system to be versatile in order to track one chemical or several, over time. In other words, it may be set to track the level of lactate in a marathon runner and applies so closely to the skin even swimmers may track their performance. Since the channel system can be separated from the electronics, it increases the life span of the device. At this point, teams are focused on developing a means of producing these sweat-based sensors at a lower cost in order to be functional for physicians and patients. Testing is already underway to determine the reliability of using the device to screen for cystic fibrosis. At this time the sensor is in the late stages of a clinical trial and plans are to apply for approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Correlations Not yet Found for Immediate Blood Glucose Reading The potential to use sweat to monitor blood glucose levels in the nearly 30 million people with diabetes in America would reduce the need for invasive monitoring. The most advanced wearable sensor to date is a soft patch that relies on tiny needles to monitor blood glucose. Since those with diabetes may significantly, and nearly immediately, affect their blood sugar with the foods they eat, researchers have been searching for a device to use with sweat. However, at this time they have been unable to define a metric reflecting an immediate blood glucose reading.6 The newest sweat-based device measures glucose in sweat, but the results often reflect measurements 30 to 60 minutes later than real time. This delay is too long to help those who may be experiencing severe hypo- or hyperglycemia, but may be used to help screen for diabetes. John Rogers, a biomedical engineer at Northwestern University in Illinois, is the key architect of the device. Rogers is also working with collaborators to develop sensors to measure urea and creatinine in order to determine kidney function and potentially chart progress of those undergoing stroke rehabilitation. Other laboratories are working to develop sensors to measure chemicals important in mental health conditions, including depression. Rogers is optimistic of how quickly his device will be integrated into everyday use. In 2016 he described an earlier version of this current device that used colorimetric analysis and within weeks he was talking with Gatorade to adapt the technology.7 Measurement of Everyday Stress Hormone Helps Identify Numerous Issues Wearable biosensors are also a way to noninvasively monitor cortisol secretion.8 Using sweat and a precise sample delivery, devices are successfully able to measure micro fluids with relative accuracy.9 Cortisol is a hormone released by your adrenal glands in a fight or flight response to stress.10 However, when released chronically it puts your health at risk. The natural stress response increases your heart rate, elevates blood pressure and boosts energy, all necessary during times of physical challenge. But when this system goes haywire, it increases your risk of anxiety, depression, heart disease and weight gain, and memory and concentration problems.11 Some call cortisol “Public Enemy No. 1”12 as it's also linked with interference with learning and memory, lowering your immune function and reducing your bone density. Each of these factors may contribute to lowering your life expectancy. Interestingly, researchers at the Psychiatric Neuroscience Lab at the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine demonstrated those with psychosis produce lower than average amounts of cortisol after waking in the morning.13 This indicates there is a biomarker easily measured to identify people at risk for schizophrenia. A meta-analysis of 11 clinical studies suggests those who develop psychosis already have changes in cortisol before they develop the mental health issues, suggesting cortisol measurement and early diagnosis may help alleviate some of the significant challenges faced by those with mental illness. Hydration Status Crucial to Overall Health Your hydration status is crucial to your overall health, and one of the significant measurements tracked in the new sweat-based sensors.14 Although you may rely on other fluids during the day, water is best for staying hydrated. Other drinks add unnecessary and empty calories, including fruits and vegetable juices and even coffee and tea, depending upon how many additional items you add, such as sugar and milk. Your body depends on water to survive as every cell, tissue and organ uses water to work properly. Your body uses fluid to carry nutrients to your cells, flush out bacteria and prevent constipation. Too often, older adults don't get enough fluids and risk dehydration, as their sense of thirst is diminished.15 In some cases, medications can cause fluid loss and result in weakness, low blood pressure, dizziness and confusion. Staying hydrated also improves your physical performance as it reduces fatigue and improves your endurance.16 If you've been having trouble with trying to lose weight, you may be chronically dehydrated. Increasing your water intake may help to achieve better results. Dehydration also affects your mood, so staying regularly hydrated can improve calmness and positive emotions. Even a slight amount of dehydration will reduce your cognitive performance, and dehydration is also a common cause for headaches and even migraines. Proper hydration can also be a useful tool to prevent kidney stones, asthma, urinary tract infections and coronary artery disease.17 Hydrating at the Cellular Level Is Key to Your Health Download Interview Transcript In this excerpt of an interview with Dr. Zach Bush, we discuss the importance of water and how just drinking may not be enough to fully hydrate your cells. Bush is a physician and researcher, triple board-certified in internal medicine, endocrinology and metabolism, as well as hospice and palliative care, giving him an unusually broad range of expertise. Before he switched his focus to nutrition and natural medicine, he was a cancer researcher. Since your gut is an important part of the hydration cycle, the question becomes how do you remove water from your intestinal lining into your bloodstream and then into your cells. The simple truth is, drinking enough water throughout the day may not be enough to get the water into your cells. Two-thirds of your body is composed of water and 66 percent to 70 percent of this water is within your cells and lymph system. As you age your body tends to lose the ability to get water from your vascular system into your cells. Based on his research, Bush believes if your cells could stay hydrated, aging would slow down and potentially reverse. The reason is water is an important mechanism through which your body removes toxins and naturally produced oxidants from your body. Bush also contends oxygen may also be derived from hydrolysis of intercellular water into hydrogen and oxygen. In his clinic, Bush determines his patient’s hydration by measuring phase angle in a way similar to using impedance to measure body fat. Your phase angle reading is not influenced by temporary situations but rather is a long-term reflection of your biology. How to Hydrate Without Necessarily Drinking More Water It's important to note you can improve your phase angle without increasing the amount of water you drink since drinking water is only one aspect of your hydration. Your body is likely to excrete extra water if you don't have sufficiently high enough electrical charge across your membranes. In order to accomplish this, Bush recommends taking terrahydrite humic compounds to support your macro membranes and allow for greater intracellular hydration, and he strongly recommends reducing your electromagnetic field exposure as it can damage the tight gap junction system between cells. According to Bush, a good rule of thumb is to drink 1 ounce of water per kilogram (kg) of body weight. This means if you are 75 kg, or about 150 to 165 pounds, drinking 70 to 75 ounces of water a day should maintain hydration. Read more about maintaining optimal hydration in my previous article, “Hydration Is About More Than Just Drinking Water — How to Hydrate at the Cellular Level to Improve Health and Longevity.” Dr. Mercola