Skeletal Fitness: 3 Important Exercises

Skeletal FitnessSkeletal Fitness is important throughout our lives.

Those of you who read my column regularly know that in May, Osteoporosis month, I always write about Osteoporosis and Skeletal Fitness.

With 12,000 boomers a day turning 65, that’s one every 8 seconds for the next 18 years; and with 50% of women over the age of 50 projected to have an osteoporosis related fracture in their lifetime, I thought I’d be a little practical this year and give you a mini workout to help you protect your bones.

Skeletal Fitness

Our bones are living tissue and grow stronger with weight bearing and resistance exercise. This is called Bone Loading and can help us maintain our skeletal fitness.

And since the three areas most at risk for Osteoporotic fracture are the Spine, the Hip and the Wrist, here are 3 easy Bone Loading exercises, one for each of those areas, you can do using a pair of hand weights or a couple of soup cans. Use a weight that makes the exercise feel somewhat hard after 8 reps. Remember to always exhale on the exertion. Do 8-15 reps of each of these exercises. Start where you’re comfortable and build up.

And of course always consult your doctor before beginning this Skeletal Fitness exerciseprogram.

Double arm row: Loads Spine

  • Start with arms in front of you, weights together.
  • Slowly row arms back, bending elbows bringing weights to chest height.
  • Squeeze shoulder blades together, without shrugging your shoulders.

 

Lunge – Loads Hip and Femur (thigh bone)

  • Stand tall, feet about shoulder width apart, hands and weights at your sides.
  • Keep body erect and lunge forward with left foot, bending both knees to help facilitate the move. (Right heel comes off the floor). Your front knee should be aligned over the second toe of that foot and your weight should be centered between your front and back foot.
  • Hold for 8 seconds, (remember to breathe) return to starting position and repeat lunging with right foot.

 

 

 

Wrist Curls

  • Hold arms in front of you palms up.
  • Using only your wrists, curl weights toward your body until knuckles are facing the ceiling.
  • Slowly lower and repeat.

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Osteoporosis Awareness Month: Is Your Thigh Bone Like The Eiffel Tower?

Osteoporosis Awareness MonthEach May, Osteoporosis Awareness Month, I devote my column to bone health. I first became interested in bones as a young dancer (about 200,000 years ago, in the Mid Paleolithic era). I was studying body alignment and I became fascinated with the skeleton and the remarkable living tissue that makes up our bones. I was intrigued by the intricate architectural structure of bone.

Osteoporosis Awareness MonthThere’s the smooth, hard shell we see on the outside called cortical bone, and the amazing crisscrossed, honeycomb like structure on the inside called trabecular bone. The combination of cortical and trabecular bone make our skeletons, strong, light, flexible and efficient.

The structure of trabecular bone is the secret ingredient. The trabecular bracing structure is located at precisely the correct angles to absorb the maximum force.

So when you jump over a puddle or run for a bus, it’s the trabecular bracing that directs the force to the strongest part of your skeleton and prevents a bone from breaking.

Most of us aren’t aware of our beautiful bone structure. But, it hasn’t gone unnoticed or unutilized.

The structure of trabecular bone was copied by the French bridge builder Gustave Eiffel, who wanted to build the tallest man-made structure in the world. When he built the Eiffel tower in 1889, he calculated the positioning of the braces in the curves of the legs to direct any force like high winds on the entire structure to the strongest area; the four legs. This is why the Eiffel tower continues to stand the test of time.

That’s fine for an iron tower. If part of it becomes weakened you can see it and fix it. But what happens to weakened or damaged areas of our skeletons?

I was astonished to find out that bones are pretty smart. They don’t grow to adult size and then stop.

Osteoporosis Awareness MonthOur skeletons are constantly getting rid of old weakened bone tissue and replacing it with new healthy bone. Osteoporosis Awareness MonthIn a process called remodeling, old weakened areas are broken down and replaced with new well-formed tissue. Our bodies replace about 10 percent of our bone each year.

Osteoporosis Awareness MonthIn bones with osteoporosis, the remodeling process has gotten out of whack.Those sturdy crisscrossed structures disappear and bones get weak and start to fracture. Fractures occur most often where there is the most trabecular bone.

The three areas most at risk for osteoporotic fracture are the spine has the most trabecular bone. So, if you have osteoporosis, the vertebrae start to squash under the weight of the torso. The thighbone at the hip is next. It can break just stepping off a curb. And the wrist will likely break if you put out your hands to catch yourself in a fall.

Osteoporosis Awareness Month

But there’s a lot you can do to prevent osteoporosis and maintain bone health. Weight bearing exercise like walking, jogging, aerobic dance and weight resistance training, stimulate the remodeling process and promote bone growth.

Exercise should be site specific. Do weight bearing and resistance exercises for the whole body but pay special attention to the areas most at risk; the spine, the hip and the wrist. Calcium and Vitamin D are also important. Here’s a link to the current National Osteoporosis Foundation guidelines. 

Remember your bones are living tissue. Take care of them and they’ll take care of you.

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Does Low Bone Mass Mean Osteoporosis?

mbai-skeleton-hipNearly 30 years ago when I was in school, I wrote an exercise physiology paper on exercise and osteoporosis.

At that time there wasn’t much research available. But even then, the studies I found on tennis players, astronauts, and bed rest pointed in the direction that weight-bearing exercise could help maintain the bone density you have and even promote bone growth. I was intrigued. I’ve followed the research over the years and even created an osteoporosis exercise program.

In working with my clients, I often hear the question “what’s the difference between osteoporosis and low bone mass? (osteopenia) And what can I do about it?

Well to answer these questions, I have to start at the beginning.

Osteoporosis is a disease, which, over time, causes bones to become thinner, more porous and less able to support the body. Bones can become so thin that they break during normal, every day activity. Osteoporosis is a major health threat. 54 Million are at risk, nearly 80% are women.

Postmenopausal women are particularly at risk because they stop producing estrogen, a major protector of bone mass.

As we age some bone loss is inevitable. Women age 65 or men age 70 should get a bone mineral density test. If you have a family history of osteoporosis or other risk factors you may need a BMD much earlier.

The test is completely painless, non-invasive and takes only a few minutes.
It compares your bone mineral density to that of an average healthy young person. Your results are called your T score. The difference between your score and the average young person’s T-score is called a standard deviation. (SD)

Here is how to interpret your T score:

  • Between +1 and –1: normal bone density.
  • Between -1 and -2.5: low bone density (osteopenia).
  • T-score of -2.5 or lower: osteoporosis.

Until recently it was thought that if you had low bone mass (osteopenia) you were well on your way to getting osteoporosis. But it’s now known even at this stage bone loss can be slowed down, stopped and even reversed. You and your doctor will have a number of options depending upon your particular condition.

Many MDs like to start with a calcium and vitamin D rich diet coupled with weight bearing exercise. For many of us, that’s all we need. Others will require medication and there are many bone-building medications available.

Remember it’s never too early to start taking care of your bones. The more bone density you have as a young person the less likely to end up with osteoporosis later in life.

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Osteoporosis: What Does Buying A Purse Have To Do With It?

We all have a lot to lose if we take a serious fall. Assuming we survive, the effects can be life altering. And if you have osteoporosis, what would have been a minor slip and fall for others, could have devastating consequences for you. Here’s a fall prevention video that should be of interest to anyone interested in staying upright.

Osteoporosis Fall Prevention Video

There’s a story that prompted me to post this video and write this article. Here it is.

OsteoporosisI have a friend who had been eyeballing this cute little red purse for a couple of months.  She didn’t need it but she wanted it and sort of became obsessed with it.

She’d visit it online and wave to it in the store. But, there’s no way she was going to buy that purse because wanting it that bad made her feel a little stupid.

Well, the darn thing went on sale the other day at 40-percent off and another 10-percent off with her store card. Now, of course, she had to have that red bag.

Apparently, so did every other woman in the United States. Because, she had it in her online shopping cart and by the time she got her credit card out, it was no longer available. It had been snatched right out of her cart.

She was furious. She felt violated. “How dare they sell MY red purse?”

She called the company.  They apologized and looked for one in their inventory anywhere. They gave her stores and a warehouse to call and reserve it before the last one could be sold. She called around for over an hour and finally got to someone who found one in California and ordered it for her.

As she was patting herself on the back for her investigative skills and persistence my friend had an aha! moment. She had recently been diagnosed with osteoporosis. Her doctor had given her a list of endocrinologists he’d be comfortable recommending but she hadn’t even looked at it, let alone researched it.

“I had been meaning to but I had been putting it off for no good reason. I thought why on earth don’t I apply that same purse passion to taking charge of my own health care?”

She thought about it for a minute and the answer she came up with unnerved her a little. “Health care is not sexy,”  Purses are sexy! Purses are sexier than being healthier and maybe living longer? Eek!

But health is sexy! Quality of life is sexy!

As she started to Google the doctors on the list, she began to sing a parody to that old rock song.
“I’m too sexy for my purse, too sexy for my mouse pad, but not too sexy for my doctor’s office. Maybe a little bit too sexy, but I’m goin’ anyway.”

I think perhaps my friend has touched a nerve in many of us. Would we really rather look good than to feel good?

Sure seems like it. I think it’s that very premise that prompted an ad agency to come up with a TV commercial for a dietary supplement featuring a sexy dancing X-ray skeleton of a baby boomer model that’s protecting her looks by protecting her bones.

It got my attention. If you can’t get them to do it for health, get them to do it for beauty. Twistedly brilliant! Their slogan is “Beauty Is Bone Deep.”

So I guess, if beauty is your motivation, go for it; especially when the health comes with it.
But what do you do if you already have osteoporosis like my friend, or have low bone mass, or you just have the good sense to want to take of your bones?

Osteoporosis And Calcium

I asked Susan Randall, MSN, FNP-BC, Senior Director, Science and Education at the National Osteoporosis Foundation and she said:

Getting enough calcium in our diet is really important. The NOF recommends
an intake of 1,000 miligrams for adult women from age 50 or younger, and age 51 and older — 1,200 milligrams a day for adult women. If a woman isn’t paying enough attention to calcium in her diet she puts herself at risk. But more is not necessarily better when it comes to calcium. Neither women nor men should get more than about 2,000 milligrams a day.

She also said “Weight bearing exercise actually builds bone in youth and will help maintain bone.”

I said,  “People my age, are worried about falling down and breaking something.”

When I asked her about fall prevention she said, “As we get older the type of exercise changes a little bit. We still have to do some impact work but it has to be safe to avoid injury and falls so you want to add balance training, flexibility training, and safe movement to make sure the individual is able to stay active and healthy.”

Finally she recommended anyone interested in getting more facts about osteoporosis and bone health visit www.nof.org

So what’s the takeaway here? My takeaway is if you like standing on your own two feet, taking care of your bones is about as sexy as it gets.

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Spring Into Shape

I love to get out in the Spring after a Winter of exercising indoors. Even if you haven’t done much over the winter, the green smell of plants and flowers in the air and switching on to daylight savings time are great motivators.
Start with a duration you’re comfortable with and work your way up. I do some standing pushups and a couple of stretches at the end of my walk to round out the workout. No equipment necessary, just your favorite tree. Here is what I do:

Standing Pushups: Stand facing your tree and stretch arms in from of you, chest level and place hands on the tree a few inches apart. Keeping your body straight, slowly bend elbows until your chest is close to the tree and push back with a single thrust.
Work up to 20 reps. Works chest, and arms.

Back Extention: Stand facing your tree and stretch arms in front of you slightly below chest level.
Place hands on the tree a few inches apart. Keep arms stretched as you bend back lifting your head chin up while contracting your abs. Hold for 10-20 seconds. Stretches back.

Front Thigh Stretch: Stand facing your tree and hold on with your left hand. Grab your right ankle and gently pull heel towards buttocks. Hold for 10-20 seconds. Then switch legs. Stretches the front thigh muscles.

 

 

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Heart Healthy Valentine: Eat Berries, Drink and Be Fit

East Berries

Heart Healthy Valentine: Eat Berries, Drink and Be Fit! It just may help to save your  heart and the one that you love!

February is Heart Month. Since heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women and men in the U.S., I thought I’d focus on prevention. After all, if you prevent heart disease, you’re very unlikely to die from it.

Heart Healthy Research

A Harvard study says women who eat three or more servings of strawberries or blueberries a week can lower their risk of heart attack by 32 percent. The study also said grapes, eggplant and blackberries may work too. It’s those flavonoids again. The antioxidants you find in red wine, dark chocolate, green tea, apple skin, etc. Rule of thumb: The darker the color, the more flavonoid content. They slow down your aging clock and prevent disease by keeping free radicals from damaging cells in your body.

Free radicals are incomplete molecules looking for an electron so they can complete and stabilize themselves. Sounds like something you’d hear in therapy. They steal an electron from a neighboring molecule, turning it into a free radical and setting off a chain reaction. They contribute to the aging process and a wide range of diseases.

We form them naturally when we breathe and metabolize. Free radicals don’t wreak havoc with your body until you have too many of them. They can be formed by oxidative stress, like intense exercise, smoking and exposure to environmental toxins.

Enter the flavonoids. They give the free radicals one of their electrons and stop them in their tracks. They help prevent heart disease by stopping LDLs (bad cholesterol) from breaking down and forming plaque in your arteries.

Nowadays, you can get berries year round, and they are a perfect low-calorie food, alone, in yogurt, or sprinkled on your cereal. So let’s have a few servings of berries, some eggplant, a glass of cabernet and maybe a square of dark chocolate for dessert. Not such a major lifestyle change.

Since we are talking about prevention, how about stress?

A series of studies by Columbia University Medical Center says whether or not we perceive ourselves as stressed can be a measure of whether or not we’ll have a heart attack in the future. So from now on, I’m not going to perceive myself as stressed. Yeah. Good luck with that.

Seriously: My clients who exercise regularly, particularly aerobic exercise, tend to think of themselves as being more relaxed. And they are more relaxed. Aerobic exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural tranquilizer, and they know they’re getting the heart benefits of all that cardio. To get the maximum benefit from cardio exercise, most people should build up to 45 or more minutes at 60 to 80 percent of your max heart rate. If you’re just starting out, you can ease in with a few minutes a day at a comfortable pace and add more as it gets too easy. But here’s the rub: Aerobic exercise, because it requires so much oxygen, is an oxidative stressor. It produces free radicals.

People who exercise once in a while or really hard only on the weekend are more at risk for producing harmful levels of free radicals. But studies have found that people who exercise regularly tend to adapt and produce enzymes that create antioxidants minimizing free radicals’ negative effect.

So here’s the formula: Eat berries, drink wine and get regular cardio so you don’t perceive yourself as stressed. It’s an eclectic concoction, but I think it’s tastier than one of those midnight vegetable smoothies. Don’t you?

 

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Can Sleeping Less Equal Weight Gain?

Can Sleeping Less Equal Weight GainCan Sleeping Less Equal Weight Gain

Eating fewer calories, exercising more and still having a hard time getting those extra pounds off? Here’s a question for you: How’s your sleep?

I for one, every time I travel, seem to gain a couple of pounds just when I want to look my best.

I noticed that I tend to sleep less and intermittently when I am on the road. Once I settle again in a place, my sleep gets more regulated and I am able to drop those pounds.

I’ve adjusted my sleep pattern, as I have gotten older to help myself sleep better. The earlier I get up in the morning the better chance I have of getting to sleep that night and staying asleep for a longer period of time. I’m more energized, and when I eat, I eat less and feel more filled.

Can Sleeping Less Equal Weight Gain

It turns out that there are many studies that indicate that sleeping less then 7 hours can increase body weight. One recent study with several pairs of twins, found that the twin who slept more than 9 hours was about half as likely to gain weight as the one that slept only 7.

Sleep deprivation affects your hunger urge. If you sleep less, you feel like eating more and you probably do. That’s because not sleeping increases your body’s level of gherlin, the hunger hormone and decreases leptin the “I’m full” hormone.

A sleep study in Finland with middle-aged adults who had sleep problems found that women had greater sleep related weight gains than men. Though men were also affected. The study indicated that it seems the fewer hours you sleep the more calories you tend to eat the next day.

If you want a good night sleep here’s are some things to consider:

  • Exercise: Don’t exercise too late in the day. So many of us go to the gym after work but it can keep you up at night. Late exercise can prevent the body from making sleep-inducing melatonin for several hours.
  • Caffeine: It can take 6 or more hours to wear off. Having that cup of coffee after dinner, even with a low fat dessert, may not be such a good idea.
  • Alcohol: A couple of drinks with dinner can wake you up in the middle of the night and make it hard to get back to sleep. I have a friend who swears by a glass or two of wine at lunch but never alcohol after 2pm. She says she sleeps like a baby at night. I think if I had a glass or two at lunch, I’d sleep like a baby at 2pm and be up for the night at 5.
  • Stress: And then there is our old buddy stress. We all have some level of stress and how we deal with it can keep us up at night. Getting yourself relaxed in quiet, dark, temperature controlled environment can relieve stress and induce a desire and ability to sleep.

So what’s it going to be, wide awake at 3am or getting that beauty sleep and waking up lighter and brighter on your toes? Learning to get a good night’s sleep is a process.

Can Sleeping Less Equal Weight GainDon’t stress over it, it may keep you up at night.

 

 

 

 

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Lose Weight Now: Talking Off The Pounds

Lose Weight Now
Lose Weight Now: Talking Of The Pounds!

Was it Einstein who said “I talk to myself in order to have an intelligent conversation”?
Maybe it was Buddha.

Anyhow, I’m in a conversation with myself right now. I’m trying to lose weight and knock off a few winter pounds, (If you think being a fitness pro makes you immune think again) and I find talking to myself is not so crazy. We all need a support system. Mine happens to be me.

Lose Weight Now: Talking Off The Pounds

Here a Talking Yourself Thin Video


So every night before I go to bed, I have a little chat with myself. I plan my meals for the next day and approximate calories, and the type of exercise I am going to do. I like to switch it up so I’m not doing the same thing every day, which sometimes requires a little more planning.
I get my workout clothes and other stuff ready the night before so I have no excuse and I tell myself what a good idea that was.
Although I teach exercise classes and coach clients, my body has gotten use to that, so when I want to lose weight, I need to do more.
For motivation, I talk to myself about a piece of clothing I’m determined to get into.
I put myself on a realistic, achievable timeline. So, if I’m trying to lose five pounds I give myself about 5-6 weeks.
Now this sounds like I’m really in charge doesn’t it? But I’ve learned to expect the unexpected.

For instance, this morning my husband brought home a bag of bagels for breakfast.
As soon as I saw them, calorie numbers started to flash in my brain. So instead of denying myself all together, I told myself I could have a serving that would equal the calories, if not the nutrition, of the oatmeal I was about to prepare. And I must say I savored every bite.

As I ate my half a bagel watching my husband eat a bagel and half, I told myself that I made the right choice. I had my taste, and I was thankful for it, and I wanted to lose weight and get those pounds off more than I wanted the rest of that bagel.

So lose weight now and if you are looking for some support, why not try talking to your best friend, you!

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Strength Workout Outdoors

Try this strength workout outdoors to jumpstart your exercise program this Spring. You can enjoy the weather while getting leaner and stronger with this easy strength workout. No equipment necessary!

Take a look at this easy strength workout video!

And here are all the exercises written out!

Strength Workout Exercises

Here are five easy exercises to tone you up; no equipment necessary. Try doing them every other day. For the first three start with eight reps and build up to 16. For the last two (isometric exercises) hold for 10 seconds and build up to 30 seconds. With all these exercises, remember to exhale on the exertion.
In a matter of a few weeks you should feel your body getting stronger and see it get shapelier.

Warm-up by taking a 10-minute walk. By the tenth minute, it should be brisk enough for you to just barely carry on a conversation.
Stop at a wall, a tree or a fence, and do these five exercises: two for your upper body and three for your lower.

Strength Workout

Mirabai Holland Standing Pushup

Standing Push-ups: Stand facing a surface, with legs hip width apart and place hands shoulder width apart. Keeping your body straight, lower yourself down to the surface and then push back

Strength Workout
SQUATS: Face surface, legs hip with apart. Hold on for balance. Shift weight back into heels. Keeping back straight, abs pulled in; gently bend at the knees and squat to about a 90-degree angle. Hold for a moment, then, using just your leg muscles, return to an upright position.
Muscles worked: Front of thigh (Quads), Back of thigh, (Hamstrings) Buttocks, Abs

Strength Workout
Wall Sit: Stand against surface for back support. Holding on as needed for balance, slide down to a sitting position against wall, knees at about a 90-degree angle. Pull your abs in and hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
Muscles worked: Thighs and Abs

Strength Workout
Calf Raises: Face surface and hold on for balance. With feet together pointing straight ahead, slowly lift your body up on to your toes, while tightening calf, abs and buttocks muscles. Then slowly lower yourself back down again. Muscles worked: calves, abs, and buttocks.

Strength Workout

Upper Back Squeeze: Stand with your back to the surface, feet shoulder width apart.  Place hands behind you on surface. Straighten your arms behind you and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
Muscles worked: Back, Shoulders, Back of arms (Triceps)

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Spring: First Day

hdr-moving-free with mirabaiAs I grow older I realize I need to remember those moments that continue to have meaning and help all of us recreate ourselves!

Here’s a poem I wrote many years ago about myself as a very young girl experiencing Spring. I am sure you have your own experiences that are transformational too.

Exploring Spring

Her small hands reach into the garden
for pansies.
She strokes them against each cheek
black and purple velvet.

She lies on the ground
face up
mouth open
ready to swallow
the maple tree.

Butterflies kiss her sleeves
as she nose-dives
into the roots
and inhales
the smell of birth.

The yard is safe.
Her legs kick
swinging dirt
digging deeper
for a secret
from the darkness.

She finds none.

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