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Does Your Workplace Offer Fitness and Health Incentives?

The bottom line of a Workplace Wellness Program is to promote healthier employees.  Healthy employees can be an employer's best asset as they tend to be happier and more productive in the workplace. These programs are becoming more widespread throughout Canada and the U.S. and range from simply offering information and fitness education to workers, to subsidized healthy lunches.  Many even go as far to provide an onsite company gym or subsidize the employees gym membership at a local facility. Here is why a workplace wellness programs should matter to you:

The benefits for employers result from the welfare of their employees. Healthy employees provide the company with a strategic edge, and by investing money in a program that will bring them lowered expenses in return keeps them ahead of the competition.  Employers can expect to see its workers performing more efficiently, with lower absenteeism and lower health care costs.  Other indirect benefits for a company providing these programs include job satisfaction, as well as raising retention rates and incentives for hiring. The welfare of employees has a direct impact on the success of the company.

Workplace wellness programs can help you get healthier, even if that simply means learning how to reduce stress and muscle strain when you are on the job. Depending on what your company offers, it might also help to lose weight, lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, sleep better, and save money on prescriptions. You may even find your life taking a new direction, such as the desire to become more involved in recreational sports teams or other forms of competition like marathons or bodybuilding competitions.  Sometimes, all you need is a little motivation to get the ball rolling and a workplace wellness plan might be it.

Another great benefit of wellness programs is a built sense of camaraderie with your co-workers. You’ll have a chance to experience activities with them that aren’t related to work, whether in a walking club or sports team, by having lunch together, or by going to the gym. Social support is a very important part of weight loss and getting fit. By interacting with co-workers, you’ll have others to give you encouragement when you need it, as well as to hold you accountable to your goals. Plus, you’ll be motivated by seeing other’s positive results. By using a wellness program, you’ll be an important part of the team.

If you work for a large company, chances are there is already a Health and Fitness Program in place.  You can find out if there is one offered from your Human Resource Department.  Many smaller companies do offer these programs as well; discuss with other employees and your employer whether it is something that your workplace should offer.

Saskatoon Gyms Company Wellness

If you have any questions about setting up a company health and fitness program or corporate discounts please contact us info@fitnessfocus.ca.

 

Are Weight Loss Goals Part of Your New Year’s Resolution List?

This next year will be different, and you're going to make a fresh start this New Year. Around this time of the year, a lot of us find ourselves reflecting on what we accomplished in the past year and decide what changes we want to make to make a positive difference in our lives for next year. After all the prioritizing, you make your big decisions, and then within a month or so, the ‘New Year’s resolutions’ are all but forgotten.

Weight loss goals don’t have to be another promise to yourself which got lost along the way. Setting a goals is only part of the work; plan smart and get ready for the task and make it a success and avoid being in the same spot next year.  Weight loss doesn't have to be hard; it's all in your approach. Try asking yourself and this is very important; is it that you want to lose the weight or is it that you don’t want to eat or live the way you have been any more? The later is a lot harder if your heart’s not in it.  Long-term planning is important; you have to define your path, not just where you want to be.

1. Be realistic

It's been said a million times over, be realistic in when trying to make changes in your life.  Be honest with yourself about what is possible and what suits your lifestyle.  Planning to lose too much weight in a short period of time will only lead to failure and discouragement.  Make your decision with reality in mind. What is it that you can do, and how much time do you have to spend in exercising or follow a meal plan and so on. Start with what you can’t do and then build around it.

2. Enjoying the holidays

This doesn't mean you should give in to all urges and have massive eating spree, but just eat sensibly.  The smart thing to do at times like these is, for a few days, try not to diet on the holidays. Eating sensibly isn't the same as constantly sticking to some lettuce and cabbage diet while everyone around you is allowed to enjoy all the goodies that come with the season.

Try looking at it this way, everyone loves the holidays and they only come around once a year. If you don't take advantage of some of the holiday treats you'll be depriving yourself of all the Christmas excitement.  Why spend your holidays hating every minute of it.  By the end of all the festivities, you will be so sick of the dieting you have been sticking to and will find it harder to stay with that good eating plan as long as you had planed.  Don’t stress yourself about your food intake for a few days over the holidays, relax and eat sensibly.

3. Small is bigger

There is no need to go to completely radical lengths to lose weight. Usually it's the small changes we can comfortably make are the ones that last the longest and make the biggest difference.  Lifestyle changes, even the smallest of changes, like replacing certain snack foods with for veggies and greens; you can also cut down or space out your portions into more-smaller meals rather than attempting a very low restrictive diet.

Simply losing weight doesn't mean much if you don't change your eating and lifestyle habits as well.  Set a goal that you'll start walking to work every day instead of saying you want to lose 8 pounds in a month. Small commitments like that will add up expending extra calories.  These types of lifestyle changes are easily made permanent by incorporating it into your day to day lifestyle.

4. Measure the results

It's the reason you want to make changes in the first place, you want to see change and results. You don't want all your effort and time invested to be all in vein.  Measure your results to reassure yourself that you're on the right track. Measure your results consistently at the same time every week. And don’t just look for a change in your weight, results can come in many different ways.

Take Measurements at your waist or other parts of your body right before you start down this new path.  Your weight can be influenced by a few factors, one being water retention, but your waist may have shrunk or that your clothes feel baggy, it all counts because desired result are the biggest motivator. Record your results so you can actually see your progress and all the results.

5. Keep it interesting and keep it moving

The most frustrating part of weight loss and weight management are plateaus.  It happens to everybody at some point in time. This is what happens when your body adapts to the changes you previously made. If you are following a specific diet or workout regime maybe swap regimes every month or every 3 weeks. This may also help in keeping things interesting and battle boredom. Allow at least 2 weeks for any adaptations before changing your diet.

6. Keep a food diary

Try it, by the end of the day chances are you don't remember everything you consumed over the past 12 hours.  Maybe you're eating more than you think you are or more than you subconsciously want to admit.  Keep a diary of everthing you consume including drinks; it is surprising how much extra sugar and calories you probably consume through drinks.

Keep the diary before you start your diet and then see how many things you can change to lose the weight. To be honest the Christmas week may not be an ideal representation of your average week but it can provide you with an idea of what your actual eating habits are like.

Understanding Gluten Foods and Gluten Free Diets

A very common term that you might have heard recently is "gluten-free diet".  It is a relatively new term, meaning a diet that is structured around excluding foods that contain gluten. Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat (including kamut and spelt), rye, malts and barley. It is commonly added to foods in the processing phase in the form of a flavoring, stabilizing, and thickening agent. Gluten free diets are the only medically accepted treatment for celiac disease, the related condition dermatitis herpetiformis, and wheat allergy.

Gluten free eating might also exclude oats. Medical Advisors are divided on whether to exclude oats or not; it is questionable as to whether they are an actual allergen to celiac disease sufferers or whether it is a matte rof the oats becoming cross-contaminated in milling facilities or in transport by other allergens. Contamination is even possible when oats are grown in rotation with wheat when wheat seeds from the previous harvest sprout up the next season in the oat field and are harvested along with the oats.  A growing body of evidence suggests that a majority of people with celiac disease that follow a gluten-free diet can safely consume oats in small, conservative amounts.

The term gluten free is typically used to indicate a seemingly harmless level of the gluten protein rather than a complete absence of it. The precise level that gluten is harmless for anyone with celiac disease is unknown as well as controversial.  In 2008, a systematic review tentatively conducted and concluded that consuming less than 10mg of gluten for celiac in one day is not likely to cause any physiological abnormalities, as it is still a relatively newly discovered disease few reliable studies had been conducted.

There are however, certain starches and grains that are considered to be acceptable that can be included in a gluten-free diet. The most frequently used are rice, corn and corn starch, potatoes, quinoa, and tapioca (derived from cassava). Other grains and starch sources generally considered suitable for gluten-free diets include amaranth, arrowroot, millet, montina, lupin, sorghum (jowar), taro, teff, chia seed, and yam. Sometimes various types of bean, soybean, and nut flours are used in gluten-free products to add protein and dietary fiber.

An unrecognized substitution is Almond flour.  Almond Flour is a conciderably low-carbohydrate alternative to flour, it also has a low glycemic index. Although the name suggests otherwise, buckwheat isn't related to regular wheat. Buckwheat, for the most part, is generally acceptable for gluten-free diets.  Commercial buckwheat products on the other hand are mixtures of wheat flour and buckwheat flours, and therefore can't be included in a gluten-free diet. Gram flour, not to be confused with Graham flour, is derived from chickpeas, is also gluten-free.  Graham flour is not gluten-free as it is made from wheat.  With such similar names, this is why it is important to thoroughly read your food labels. Gluten is used in foods in some very unexpected ways; sometimes added as a stabilizing agent or thickener in products that need to maintain consistency like ice-cream and ketchup.

People that must maintain a completely gluten-free diet must also be aware of the ingredients of certain over-the-counter or prescription medications and vitamins.  Again, check for a gluten free symbol or the words "gluten free" near the product information on the back of bottle. Women should be aware that cosmetics such as lipstick, lip balms, and lip gloss may contain gluten.  Even these trace amounts can cause gluten related reactions, so these products should be investigated before use.

Cross-contamination issues

Restaurants have started recognizing the growing trend among patrons and now offer specific gluten-free menus. People who are gluten-sensitive must always be aware that there are a variety of cooking procedures used in kitchens and grills that increase the likelihood of cross contamination between foods. This especially is the case in buffets where utensils typically are used in different food bowls by customers.

Being Aware of Gluten Free Labels

The Accuracy of Gluten Free Labels

The legal term of the phrase "gluten free" does vary from country to country, however current research is suggesting for people with celiac disease the maximum safe level of gluten in a finished product is probably less than 200 parts per million and possibly as little as 20 parts per million.

Certain standards only allow the "gluten-free" label to be used on foods with less than 5 parts per million of gluten, 5 parts per million being the smallest percentage that we are currently able to detect. The following ingredients are typical ingredients found in food that does contain gluten:
  • Wheat Flour contains 80,000ppm
  • Wheat Starch contains 200ppm
  • Maltodextrin, Dextrin, Glucose Syrup all contain 5ppm
  • Caramel Color has varying amounts of gluten depending on the processing method.  It can still affect those with celiac and gluten intolerance.

Wheat flour contains almost 12% gluten; such a small number is still a very significant amount.  Even the tiniest trace of wheat flour can cross-contaminate a product that is gluten-free.  A certain degree of care must always be taken to avoid cross-contamination of foods. 

Gluten Free Bread- Fitness FocusGluten-free diets rule out many of the normal foods that we are all used to eating on a regular basis.  The foods in question span from ordinary breads and pastas to many convenience foods in our diets such as crackers, chips and cookies.  Gluten rich foods are food that also use certain thickeners such as gravies, soups, and sauces thickened with rye, barley, wheat or other flour. Gluten hides in many of our favorite day to day food choices. More and more these days various gluten-free bakery and pasta products can be found in specialty retailers.  Large chain grocers are now dedicating sections of their shelf space to gluten-free pruoucts.  Gluten-free foods tend to cost more than non-gluten-free foods, due to the higher cost of production and contamination prevention.

Other unexpected sources of gluten are non-foodstuffs such as certain medications as well as vitamin supplements, mainly the ones available in tablet form, may contain gluten as a binding agent. People with gluten intolerances might require specialist compounding of their medication.  There are also vitamins available without gluten, the package or label will have symbols indicating so, you may also see after any exclaimers the words "gluten free".

Do You Know What Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance Are?

Studies now shows that celiac disease and gluten intolerance, affect around 15% of the North American population.  It is possible that you are one of these people. It is important that you are able to identify gluten intolerance symptoms?

We first need to identify the difference between celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Celiac disease is an immune reaction. It is a sudden and severe onset allergic reaction to the wheat protein called gluten. Gluten can be found in several different but very common grains such as wheat, rye, barley and oats. Celiac disease is initially a disorder of the auto-immune system, it is also a disease of malabsorption because essential nutrients are not able to absorb into the body. One of the most devastating symptoms of celiac disease going undiagnosed is malnutrition.

Typically, gluten intolerance often has a much slower onset than celiac disease, and tends to be harder to diagnose due to the wide range of symptoms and the many sources in which it is hidden.

Imagine a continuum of gluten intolerance symptoms; celiac disease would be found at the most extreme end with immediate autoimmune reactions. There are people with celiac disease that may not immediate symptoms, but internally the malabsorption of all these essential nutrients can erode one's health over many years. It is important to note that both celiac disease and gluten intolerance can be exacerbated by infection, surgery, emotional stress pregnancy and childbirth. Not everyone with a gluten intolerance or allergy will experience the exact same symptoms or to the same degree.  This creates a great challenge for medical practitioners trying to do a diagnosis.

    Here are some of the symptoms but not necessarilly limited to gluten intolerance and celiac disease.

  • Fluctuations in weight
  • Nutritional deficiencies, example: low iron levels
  • Gastro-intestinal problems (bloating, pain, gas, constipation, diarrhea)
  • Body Pains
  • Stiff and Aching joints
  • Eczema and Skin Irritations
  • Depression
  • Head aches
  • Exhaustion
  • Irritability and behavioral changes
  • Infertility, irregular menstrual cycle and miscarriage
  • Cramps, tingling and numbness
  • Slow infant and child growth
  • Decline in dental health

If Gluten intolerance remains undiagnosed for a long enough period of time, conditions have been found to contribute to diabetes, cancer of the bowel, anemia and osteoporosis.

So, why are the symptoms of gluten intolerance so varied?

Much about gluten intolerance and celiac disease is still unknown.  Gluten intolerance can affect anyone from children to adults in a variety of ways, but one thing that has been found is the less stress the better for the affected person.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that emotional trauma and stress play a large role in amplifying the symptoms. Several studies have findings that show that the longer a baby is breastfed and the further it's delayed that they start eating gluten rich foods, it will creates a lower chance of developing celiac disease.  Completely avoiding gluten through a pregnancy and in a child’s younger years of development may also raise the possibilities of an allergic reaction, as the child's developing digestive system cannot recognize the substance at all.  Researchers remain unsure but perhaps a more moderate approach is best when attempting to preventing celiac disease, especially if the parents know that there is a genetic predisposition to the disease. Mothers might reduce but not eliminate gluten foods when pregnant, breastfeed for a longer than average period, and start introducing low gluten grains as first foods for baby.

How to diagnose celiac disease and gluten intolerance?

Until recently it was somewhat of a challenge to diagnose celiac disease because it does have such a wide variety of symptoms and are quite similar to a few other common diseases. Some examples of these are Crohn’s disease, chronic fatigue, iron deficiency as well as intestinal infections can all have similar symptoms. There may be in fact a relationship between gluten intolerance and some of these conditions.  An person may have a combination of issues that become worse by food choices that do not agree with their body.  Doctors now know to test for raised levels of certain auto-antibodies in the blood. These antibodies are produced when the body senses a dangerous allergen, such as gluten. If the results indicate an allergy to gluten the doctor may perform a small intestine biopsy. This will reveal the damage to the villi in the small intestine. It is important to eat an ordinary diet including gluten, before being tested.

Look For The Gluten Free Symbol

Another method is to self test for gluten intolerance.  This requires a complete modification of a person's diet. It's a relatively simple thing to do, but does take a little bit of commitment.  For it to work properly a person needs to remove many normal things from their diet and resort whole/natural foods without wheat gluten such as rice, fruits and vegetables, and any fresh meat.  You can trust packaging that has a "Gluten Free" symbol on it.  Foods that contain gluten will have ingredients on the packaging that include Maltodextrin, caramel color, and wheat flour.  At this point it becomes important to understand how to read a food ingredients label.  If a person is feeling any of the possible gluten intolerance symptoms at the start of this process, they should begin to recede within a week or two.  At the time when the symptoms have all subsided, other foods can start to be introduced back into the diet a little bit at a time. It then takes a conscious effort to be aware if and when the symptoms begin to return.

Beyond The Weight Room: Standing Straight With Back Basics

by Melissa Leier

STRENGTH TRAINING YOUR BACK MUSCLES
can help create a nice, shapely V, but aside from the muscular definition, developing these muscle groups effectively can have a significant impact on your posture.
Melissa Leier Fitness Training SaskatoonWe’re constantly moving in a forward direction or using pushing movements in day-to-day activities and there are rarely any backward or pulling movements to balance it out. Gradually, your upper back posture will suffer as your shoulders become rounded forward, you slouch or develop a head-forward posture. This posture can then lead to tension in the upper spine, shoulders and neck.
A little fun fact for you: every inch of forward head posture can increase the weight of the head on the spine by an additional 10 pounds.

 POSTURE AND SYMMETRY

Frequent forward movements in daily activities or even exercising pushing movements in a strength training program, such as chest presses or push-ups, without the balance of exercising the muscles that create pulling movements, can cause strength development to be disproportional anterior to posterior. In addition, the chest muscles can become very tight and start to pull the shoulders into this rounded forward posture, which not only looks less than aesthetically pleasing, but can also cause discomfort. This can even result from the constant or frequent movements we do day to day, such as pushing doors open, working at a computer, driving a car or relaxing into the couch watching TV.

Slouching and head-forward posture can lead to long-term muscle strain, disc herniation, arthritis and pinched nerves. Long-term sustained posture like this can lead to bones moving position and losing range of motion, creating a more permanent hunchback posture.

So what can you do to improve your posture?

Strength training exercises, such as deadlifts, lat pull-downs, barbell or dumbbell rows, wide pull-ups, rear delt lateral raises; all done properly, of course.

Chest stretches and lots of them! Even doing a ‘chest in the doorway’ stretch every hour would help. Extend your arms out to your sides at a right angle and bend your elbows 90 degrees. Place both of your forearms against a doorjamb and lean forward. You can stagger your stance with one foot forward if it feels more comfortable. Hold the stretch on each side for about 30 seconds.

Exaggerating perfect posture and always being aware of your posture, including trunk alignment and chin position.

 CHECKING MY ASSUMPTIONS

There was a time in my training history when I was boxing competitively. Aside from throwing hundreds of punches, I was doing hundreds of push-ups daily. When I would consider my own posture, I thought, “Of course it’s great. I’m young and I’m an athlete.” But then why was I starting to get a lot of stiffness and feeling the need to be constantly stretching to feel at ease? I looked in the mirror sideways in a standing posture that I had thought was relaxed and neural, and it was not even close. My chin wasn’t tucked back where it should be and my shoulders were quite rounded forward. Not only did the muscular tension cause discomfort, but also my posture was nowhere near looking tall, poised and confident, the way I wanted it to be. I decided it was time to make a change.

 LESSONS LEARNED

1. Mind-Muscle Connection

To balance out my physique, improve strength and correct my posture, I started strength training my back with twice the frequency of my chest workouts, stretching regularly and using frequent postural awareness. I started to increase strength by increasing the weight I was using somewhat, but felt my lower arm and bicep muscles taking over and fatiguing before I felt my back really engage.

Working with my professional coach, I learned to use little grip strength in my hands and to pull from the larger muscle group (lattisimus dorsi) in the back while visualizing the muscle I was actually using through its range of motion. In less than a year, I had made significant progress to balance out my physique and it did wonders to reduce my muscle stiffness.

The concept of the mind-muscle connection means getting to know your own anatomy and connecting the feeling of specific muscle contraction with a visual for yourself. You should be able to know you’ve contracted a certain muscle with your eyes closed without having to look in the mirror. The more in touch you can get with your own body, the better.

 2. Patience And Persistence Pays Off

Progressing from an exercise using the cable lat pull-down machine regularly, I went on to try the body weight wide grip pull-up. I started off barely able to do one body weight wide pull-up and an ugly one at that! It was difficult and frustrating trying to do these, but I stuck with it and over several months worked my way up to more than 20 at a time for several sets. Not only did this feel great as the muscles grew stronger and the exercise became a smoother movement, but what a sense of accomplishment to motivate me to continue!

 3. Practice Perfect Posture

You need to purposefully think about your alignment, not just in back- specific exercises, but all exercises. Don’t let your back or shoulders round forward when sitting in the leg extension machine or doing a bent- over dumbbell rear delt raise. Even at home or when you’re going to be working at a desk, before you even dive into the activity, take the time to set yourself up first. Even small and light activities throughout the day count towards your overall spinal health. Focus on maintaining neutral spinal alignment when bending to pick something up, when setting up your pillow for sleep and while driving, keeping your chin tucked under and shoulder blades tucked back.

 Put Your Excuses Aside

I once heard someone say, “Well, I don’t exercise my back. It’s sore already.” I would challenge anyone to question themselves on the decision to not exercise the back. Often, a sore back is the result of a lack of effective utilization and exercise of the back muscles. As long as you are medically cleared to exercise, the back should be one of the most important muscle groups to work to improve!

Sweat The Technique: A Few Words On Weight Training

Here is Our Favorite Article from the October Issue of Saskatoon Wellbeing Magazine.

Saskatoon Wellbeing’s debut issue back in January featured professional bodybuilder Kai Greene, a noted positive thinker, in a piece we called Kai Greene and The Power Of Mind. As an inspiration to the magazine, we thought it was time to revisit the man, who, aside from being the master of his thoughts is also the master of his physical movement inside the gym. As he likes to say, “The physical you is a walking manifestation of your mind.” So it’s time to focus, all of you men and women who lift weights.

Proper form is essential. It allows you to load and maintain the stress of the weight on the muscle you are attempting to build. Instead of perfecting their form on each exercise, many people add more weight as soon as their strength progresses and then their form begins to fail. That’s assuming they had any to begin with. When the stress is diverted from the targeted muscle area to the joints and the joints start to assist that muscle group, muscle becomes stubborn to grow, even if you are still taking sets to failure and staying within the correct rep range. You may get a bit stronger. You may even see positive changes at first. But, over time, you will not see the gains in the mirror that you could be seeing.

As much as anyone in the world, Kai Greene has made the most out of his physique through an intense and focused connection between his mind and his body. The biomechanics, form and almost three decades of increasing poundage has allowed Greene to generate complete fibre recruitment of every muscle in every workout. No action goes to waste. Every contraction of the muscle is deliberate and a by-product of intense visualization. It is a fluid orchestra of movement.

 > When Greene is doing t-bar rows or seated pulley rows he visualizes not just on the pull toward his chest, but on meeting his hands with his chest halfway through the movement. The result is more lat recruitment and space for contraction. If you can imagine pulling your elbows with your back instead of pulling the weight with your elbows you will begin to understand his visual process.

> When Greene is doing lat pulldowns, he is not just going through the motions of keeping his elbows forward and pulling the bar down to his chest with his lats. He is subtly rolling his scapula back at the same time and rolling it forward on the way up. This creates maximum recruitment and full range of motion, also helping him stay loose and impingement free.

> When Greene is doing a bench press or narrow grip press he is pressing the weight with an arc, driving it back and slightly over his eyes, while maintaining a slight arch between his shoulder blades and glutes. All of these actions contribute to taking the stress out of his front delts and moving it into his pecs.

> When Greene is performing straight-legged deadlifts he is focusing the tension on his glutes and away from his lower back, something that is very difficult to accomplish. He pushes the outsides of his feet laterally into the floor, flexing his entire lower body, then commences with the stiff-legged movement.

> When Greene is walking on the treadmill during his daily warm-up, he is flexing his glutes and hamstrings on the back end of each step. This consistent, detailed focus enhances his mind to muscle connection, creating pathways that allow him to more efficiently stress his muscles with the resistance to come.

        Read more of this article from Kai Greene at http://www.saskatoonwellbeing.com

The Anti-Aging Agents of Exercise and Weight Training

Questions from around the gym: Working out helps me shape and tone my body, what are some of the health benefits of weight training?

The Anti-Aging Agents of Exercise and Weight Training

By the time you finish reading this article, you, like every other person alive on the planet, will have gotten a bit older. From the moment we are born, we begin to mature but naturally, we don’t really pay any attention to getting older until we start actually seeing and feeling all the tangible signs of the passage of time on our body. We are living longer than ever before mostly due to advances in medical technology and improvements in living conditions.  In fact, by the year 2030, there will be over double the amount of North Americans over the age of 65 than in the year 2000. Unfortunately, we have been  influenced once again into viewing the aging process as an illness that we must treat and reversed.  Increased body fat, significant loss of muscle mass and strength to the point of infirmity in addition to the slew of age associated conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and osteoporosis are erroneously seen as an inevitable consequence of growing older. However, studies of older individuals who regularly engaged in weight training and bodybuilding have always challenged the idea that such infirmities come more as a self-fulfilling prophecy as a result of inactivity and poor dietary choices than a fate that we are all destined to suffer.  This article is going to take a look at the physiological aspect of aging and how weight training and exercise can create what gerontologists nowadays refer to as successful aging; basically getting older with a low probability of disease or physical disability, maintaining high cognitive and physical function and having an active engagement with life in later years.

Understanding The Mechanisms Of Aging
Start by understanding just how exactly does aging occur. It is easy to recognize the results of aging, however there are certain biological mechanisms at work that we are often unaware of. The number cells that make up our body are kept at a relatively steady number through the process of mitosis (remember back to hisgh school biology, cells dividing) typically even with the number of cells that are dying. This balance is know as homeostasis, and it is utterly necessary for optimal health and body function however this equilibrium cannot be maintained indefinitely.  In what is called the Hayflick limit, all animal cells have a limited number of times that they can reproduce. As we get older, senescence sets in- which is a decline in the ability of our bodies’ cells to divide. This usually starts in our early thirties and continues on throughout our lives. One prevailing theory is that the everyday occurrence of cellular reproduction leads to cumulative damage to our DNA and cells begin to die or not function correctly. This process, called apoptosis is actually beneficial as it acts a way of ‘cleaning up’ that benefits the healthy remaining cells. Taken as a whole, aging thus is nothing more than our bodies decline in being able to deal with stress. Maintaining homeostasis becomes more and more difficult until a point is reached where the organism dies.

The Role Of Weight Training In The Prevention of Muscle Wasting

 Building muscle however through the use of a well executed weight training program of sufficient intensity is a way of increasing our bodies’ potential response to stress. As we get older, one of the main aspects working against us from being as strong and as built as we were in our younger years is sarcopenia. Sarcopenia which means literally ‘poverty of the flesh’, refers to the loss of skeletal  muscle mass that comes with aging which in turn leads to weakness and frailty. For the average member of the population, as much as 50% of your skeletal muscle mass is lost between the ages of 20 and 90 years resulting in in a corresponding reduction in muscular strength. Such loss of muscle mass is usually associated as well with an increase in overall body fat. However as normal an occurrence this might be for most of us, studies suggest that lack of exercise- or more specifically weight bearing resistance exercise (like weight training) may be one of the overriding causes of sacropenia.

We don’t have to lose such large amounts of muscle mass as we age, but without an active lifestyle that incorporates some form of resistance exercise over the course of time our bodies will indeed fall victim to the syndrome of ‘use it or lose it.’ While it would be absurd to think that weight training can allow you to be strong and muscular as you were in your twenties, preliminary research shows that those who engage in intense weight training over the course of their lifetime are able to demonstrate physical qualities and abilities on par with if not exceeding that of untrained individuals in their twenties while well into their fifth decade of life. With most of our medical anti-aging focus resting on the shoulders of pharmaceutical companies trying to find a pill form solution to the combat the effects of the march of time, comparatively little is invested in researching protocols that are far less potentially lucrative such as weight training. Nevertheless, short term studies thus far do indeed show that resistance exercises like weight training increase the ability of our muscles to synthesize proteins and thus minimizing the advent of skeletal muscle decline over the years.

Getting Older- A Detailed Look At The Physiology

As we get older, it is not only our muscles that get significantly weaker without physical activity but also our bones. Increased bone porosity and reduction in bone mass can lead to the debilitating effects of osteoporosis. Which as we know can be both reversed and prevented by the implementation of weight bearing activities such as weight training. There are some aspects however that are beyond our control, as with the advancing years comes a natural decrease in the speed of nerve conduction, reduction in peak cardiovascular ability as well as a decline in kidney and other organ function. As mentioned earlier in an explanation of the Hayflick limit, our cells have a limited number of reproductions; and as you get older the motor units (motoneurons) in your fast twitch muscles begin to die. You don’t immediately notice it, as our bodies have a remarkable system of compensating. Consider that a muscles in  your leg may have 250 motor units with each motor unit having as many as a thousand muscle fibers under its control.

This ratio of motor units to muscle fiber is known as an innervation ratio and in this case would be 1,000 muscle fibers per motoneuron.
Over the course of time, those 250 motor units in your leg muscle may drop by as much as half to 125 by the time you are 70 years old, and you would think that this would make you only half as strong, but it isn’t that straightforward. You see, we lose muscle fibers at a much slower rate than motor units so you would have only lost 10% of the muscle fiber in that leg muscle by the age of 70. However, the remaining 125 motor units sprout new branches to the muscle fibers that have lost their motor units to activate them and do more work than they did before. As a result, there is a higher innervation ratio, in this example it would be let us say 1,500 muscle fibers per motoneuron as our motor units take control of more muscle fibers as a way of helping us retain our strength as we get older.

Our nervous system also slows with the passage of time and so the mechanisms of muscle contraction slows down as well. Despite these natural declines, regular resistance type exercise and an overall active lifestyle can help minimize and offset the effect of these changes in our bodies. The more muscle mass built up over time, the more strength, coordination and motor skills you will have as you get older. A point lost sadly on the millions of women who invest most of their time pursuing aerobic type exercises and lower impact activities like yoga out of a misplaced fear of developing man-sized muscles and thus curtail their involvement in weight training- the very exercises that will help them stay looking and feeling younger as the years go by.  

Hormone Replacement Isn’t Always The Answer
Our hormones also play a role in the reduction of our muscle mass as we get older. Testosterone, growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor (IGF) help our bodies’ build and maintain muscle mass but there is a marked reduction in production as we get older. High intensity weight training has been shown to increase all three hormones naturally and within standard human parameters. It might sound like a good idea to forgo weight training and instead turn to hormone replacement therapies but research shows that this reduction in hormones may be a key mechanism that allows us to live longer. Mammalian models with reduced growth hormone (GH) and/or IGF-1 appear to live longer and while the administration of testosterone replacement therapy for men has become a lucrative and fast growing industry here in the United States, presently available data do not justify the broad use of such hormones for anti-aging purposes.

Effects Of A Lifetime Of Weight Lifting On the Aging Process

While it is established that there is a natural decline in our bodies from the age of 30 or so due to the processes mentioned above- there are also many examples of individuals who defy the narrative of decline for far longer than one would expect. In 1987, Dr. Fredrick Hatfield- (or Dr. Squat as he is affectionately known) set a world powerlifting record squatting over 1,000 lbs at the age of 45- more than any human being in history had ever successfully lifted in competition. A feat he was able to continue well into his fifties. My good friend and natural bodybuilder Kenny Hall started competing in his twenties and kept on winning titles for the next half a century. His greatest accomplishment was winning the Pro Mr. America in 1969 but he maintained a level of muscle mass and definition that allowed him to easily best other competitors decades younger than he was until he retired in his 70’s so that others would have their chance to win as well.

The science of Gerontology has only just started to pay attention to the amazing examples set by those engaged in a lifetime of weight training and drug free bodybuilding and research reveals that involvement in such activities can ‘create possibilities for people to age positively and reconstruct what aging “normally” means.” Such studies also highlight the self fulfilling prophecy that our society’s acceptance of advancing age as a time of disengagement, dysfunction and disease goes a long way in our not taking action to prevent it from being just that.  As long as we see aging as a downward trajectory of physical and mental deterioration, we are doomed to experience it as such. One of the common perspectives of men and women involved in weight training activities over the course of their lives and who exhibit remarkable physicality into the later sixth decades of life is what was termed a ‘mondadic styled’ body. In short, they focused on who they were and what they were doing as opposed to being influenced by what society expected them to be or the examples of their peers whose aging process tended to follow the narrative of decline that we are so used to hearing. Without turning to hormonal solutions that can often cause more problems than they solve, these individuals centered themselves on following a lifestyle. A lifestyle that allows them to significantly offset the impact of aging and achieve what we are all looking for- twilight years that aren’t defined by disease and disability but by engagement with life on all levels. We don’t need drugs or DeLeon’s fabled fountain of youth, we just need to make certain forms of exercise a part of our lives at all times.

Cleanse And Detox for The Purpose of Weight Loss

Questions from around the gym: Do Cleanses and Detoxes Work?

This is a hot topic at all gyms; as discussed in the previous cleanse and detox blog entry; cleansing which is interchangeable with fasting, is certainly not a smart choice in terms of promoting good health. Fasting is also far from a effective method for weight loss, yet it still one of the oldest methods for fast weight loss. It doesn't involve a whole lot of understanding or any drastic changes in your lifestyle.  it just requires starving yourself, then it won't be long until you start to see the numbers on the scale starting to drop.  For people desperate for answers, it doesn't help being bombarded by all the New Age products on the market that claim to help them get the most out of their weight loss fast.  Fasting is an easy and non-invasive method of losing weight and is hyped up by some self-appointed experts as the best method to deal with weight loss and obesity, when used in combination with their products and services.  When you do a detox, you do lose some weight temporarily, but most of the immediate weight loss that occurs is just a result of the lack of fluid retention that naturally happens when a person does not eat. So, the weight that is lost is short lived is short-lived at best, and it inevitably be regained after a couple days of returning to your normal eating habits.  Previous in the blog you read about detoxes and cleanses and their unrealistic role of detoxifying your body  The main reason people incorporate a detox into their lifestyle is for the purpose of weight loss,

Fasting & Weight Loss:  Understanding the Mechanisms Of Short Term Fasts
This section will explain a bit more of what fasting really does to our bodies and what impacts it has on leading a healthy lifestyle.  One important aspect of understanding what happens during a cleanse is to have a clear picture of exactly what is happening in your body when you decide to stop or restrict your nutritional intake. Sugars that are broken down and stored in your body the form of glucose is the main source of fuel for your body and is necessary not only for our muscles to work but also for our brain to be efficient.  When your food intake is limited, the low blood sugar levels in your body trigger an increase in the two hormones glucagon (which is a for of glucose - sugar found in your liver and muscles) and epinephrine. One function of these hormones is the stimulation of the conversion of glycogen into a useable fuel by means of a process called glycogenolysis. The human liver and muscles have enough glycogen to last for two to three days; this is one reason that brief periods of fasting, say for a medical procedure, are usually harmless for healthy individuals.

Fasting and Weight Loss:  The Effects of Long Term Fasting

When you decide to limit or completely remove most foods from your diet as most cleanses require, there will be a brief period when your body will start to use your stored body fat as a fuel source. During this period, the change in body weight will not be noticeable by any means.  Too long of a period without proper nutrient intake, such as protein, carbohydrates and to a lesser extent fats, your body will go into a catabolic phase which basically means you will actually start to loose muscle mass.  So, losing muscle mass might take the numbers on the scale in the direction you want, but that doesn't mean that it was kind of weight you wanted to lose. Muscle is what gives a person the hard or in shape look once they achieve desired body fat levels. A long period without food has another negative and

undesired effect on the body.  When your body is deprived of calories for fuel it goes into a survival mode, so when the calories are reintroduce when you eat again your body will use what is immediately needed and store the rest as,you guess it, bodyfat.  So a cleanse that last for 30 days, 10 days, or even 3 days will ultimately lead you back to where you were a the beginning.

So you see, a cleanse as a method of losing unwanted body fat is really not the answer.  If anything it will make you more tired and less capable of living your daily life, including work and exercise.  As stated in the previous article, depriving yourself of nutrients is not doing your body any favors.  There is no substitute for proper, healthy eating.

 

Beyond The Weight Room: What It Takes

The August issue of Well Being Magazine is now available at the gym and many other locations around the city.  Here, for you is our favorite article from the August issue, Beyond the Weight Room is another section from Melissa Leier.

Beyond The Weight Room: What It Takes

Curiosity

You start off by wondering if you can do it. Perfect. You’re in the right mindset. Now give it your best shot and surprise yourself at what you can achieve!

A Powerful Coach

To get to your goals, to challenge yourself and stretch beyond what you thought you were capable of, researching and finding a coach who is a good fit for you is a great way to start. Without coaching we can do well, but often can’t get pushed above and beyond what we think we can achieve. Even as a personal trainer and exercise physiologist myself, I need coaching to drive me forward.

Accountability

You must be accountable to both yourself and your coach. Make a commitment to yourself to work your hardest. By slacking off in the gym or fuelling your body with poor nutrition you’re ultimately only cheating yourself. You’ve likely invested a lot of time and money into training, so keep in mind that you want to get the most out of it. I thrive off of positive reinforcement and recognition of hard work and I never like to be in a position to disappoint. This is why having a coach works wonders for me.

Being An Early Riser

Get used to it, there will be morning cardio. No matter how tired or sore you are, you have to get yourself out of bed and go as hard as you can. I find that if I pack my meals and my workout bags and lay out all my clothes the night before it is a lot easier to just get up and go. It is surprising what just washing your face in cold water or having a quick, cool shower can do to wake you right up with some energy.

Dedication To Diet

You must make a commitment to stick to the plan regardless of what is going on in your life. This means packing your own meals along with you to social events, family get-togethers, work functions, etc. that are going to last more than three hours. You may feel like a weirdo with your container of chicken and broccoli at these things, but get used to it.

Doing Your Homework

Since the sport is judged subjectively and can change from year to year, you have to do your homework and find out what the judges are after. You are judged on the full package that you present, so make sure you cover all your bases. Your physique is just one piece of the puzzle. Everybody’s body type is unique, so you may need to find out which division is right for you. Overall presentation can also include stage presence: posing, confidence, elegance, poise. Your movements and transitions in posing need to flow. Watch videos online of the pros and then take pictures and videotape yourself often.

Internal Drive

Go beyond your comfort zone and push past the point you thought you could. Since I most often train on my own, I create my own motivation by giving myself challenges in my workouts. For example, when I’m doing cardio daily, I’ll set a goal to have covered x number of miles in a certain time. The next day I’ll have to make sure I do no less than that to keep building on the intensity each day. Another trick I use is to challenge myself to my own “wet t-shirt contest,” where I don’t let my workout end without having sweated up a storm from working hard with high intensity. If the t-shirt’s still dry at the end of the workout, I’m not done yet!

Cuts, Scrapes, Bruises & Calluses

Sure, we try to look our best on stage, but leading up to that point it’s not all pretty. Year-round I have hands that are callused from gripping barbells and dumbbells. I wear gel nails, but often I have corners chipped off after a week or two of wear and tear. I’ve had the bottom of my shins scraped off from rubbing on the leg extension padding (or lack of padding!) and usually I have big bruises on my hips or thighs from banging them on random gym machines.

Read this entire artice and many more great ones like it at http://www.saskatoonwellbeing.com/

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