Woman using barbells

Use Muscle, Don't Lose It

We’ve all seen it. The celebrity weight transformations. A celebrity gets a role and that calls for an actor with a muscular physique and all of a sudden they’ve transformed into the “Incredible Hulk,” seemingly overnight, adding masses of muscle to their formerly moderate frames, only to slim down just as quickly to normal or even emaciated proportions depending on their next role. Of course they will openly discuss how they “bulked up” or “slimmed down” with tales of excessive carb, consumption and exhausting workouts or stories of food deprivation worthy of a homeless orphan.

However, while we are used to the seemingly impossible becoming commonplace in Hollywood, we hope for a more stable body weight for ourselves. When we build muscle, we generally hope to maintain it, but we need to use it to make sure we don’t lose it.

The Bad News
If you don’t start exercising now, your muscles will shrink by the time your are seventy. Two recent studies found that the atrophy of muscles previously though to be a normal part of aging is not inevitable.

One study used MRI snapshots to compare muscle mass in the mid thighs of athletes aged 40 to 81. Images revealed not much difference between the younger and older athletes and found very little decrease in mid thing muscles with age. In contrast, in healthy but sedentary 70 year old, the results were very different, showing a significant decrease in muscle mass.

Another study looked at the “motor units” of the leg muscles. Motor units are the basic units of the muscles, each of which is connected to a single neuron. It is believed the part of the general weakening that occurs with age is attributed to the atrophy of the motor units. The study revealed a close similarity in the number of motor units of 60 and 20 year old runners. However, this did not apply to the arm muscles, with older runners and non runners alike experiencing similar decline in the motor units of the arms.

Woman with prominent biceps

The Good News
The loss of muscle mass, also known as sarcopenia, can be managed with exercise. Exercise stimulates the release of hormones crucial to healthy muscle mass, such as the growth hormone, crucial to the mechano growth factor. Exercise can also prevent the loss of essential bone and muscle associated with aging.

Although aerobic exercise is great for the cardiovascular system and effective in keeping down fat levels, it is only mildly helpful in maintaining the lean body mass you already have. When it comes to the preserving and increasing lean mass, resistance training is the way to go. The Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises strength training, such as using weights, machines, bands, and other devices to promote mobility, improve fitness, and increase bone density.

The Big Four For Muscle Building
Because your body is made primarily of “push and pull” muscles, it is important to focus on exercises that focus on those movements. The squat is a great whole body “push” exercise and should be coupled with a whole body “push-pull” like the deadlift, which incorporates core and lower body muscles. For the upper body, the bench press and barbell row are the two main lifts to incorporate into your strength training routine. Doing these will let you minimize finishing exercises for the abs and calves.

How are you using your muscles? Let us know! You’re looking great!

Woman doing chair yoga

Ease Into Exercise With Chair Yoga

Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic Arizona State University Obesity Solutions has been credited with coining the expression, “Sitting is the new smoking,” adding that, “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people that HIV, and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.” Pretty scary stuff! While this may sound a bit dramatic to some, Levine’s words do seem to hold some water. Researchers have found, and are still finding evidence proving that sitting can increase the risk of heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. However, there is a healthy activity that you can engage in without leaving your chair. Welcome to the world of chair yoga.

Benefits of Chair Yoga

Greater Strength and Flexibility
If mobility is an issue, chair yoga can increase body strength and help withstand falls while sustaining fewer injuries. This means you can better continue daily activities and hobbies. Also greater flexibility will mean greater ease when it comes to tying shoes and bending to pick things up.

Improved Bodily Control
Proprioception is the ability to know where your body is in relation to space and accurately coordinating movement. By improving bodily control, chair yoga can help people with disabilities such as MS which interfere with this skill.

Improved Mental Clarity and Reduction of Stress
Chair yoga can relieve the impact of pain and chronic illness and can help replace stress caused by feelings of helplessness and isolation with feelings of relaxation and tranquility.

Chair Yoga Poses

Chair Cat Cow Stretch
Sit on the chair with your spine long and feet flat on the floor. Put hands on the top of your thighs or knees. Inhale, arching your spine and rolling your shoulders back and down, bringing your shoulder blades into your back, You are now in cow position. Exhale, rounding your spine and dropping you chin to your chest, allowing the shoulder and head to come forward. You are now in cat position. Continue to move from cow to cat positions for five breaths.

Chair Raised Hands Pose
Inhale, raising your arms upward. Let your shoulder blades slide down your back as you reach toward the ceiling with your finger tips. Push your sit bones into the seat of your chair and lift from there.

Chair Forward Bend
Exhale, coming into a forward bend over your legs. Rest your hands on the floor, letting your head hang heavily, Inhale, raising your arms back up over your head. Continue to switch between the raised arm position and forward fold, moving with each breath.

Chair Extended Side Angle
Bend forward and bring your left hand’s fingertips to the floor outside your left foot. Opening your chest, inhale and twist to the right, bringing your right arm and lifting your face upward. Hold for several breaths and exhale bringing the right arm down.

Chair Eagle
You can achieve the eagle pose by crossing your right thigh over your left. If you are able, try to wrap your right foot around your left calf. Cross you left arm over your right at the elbow. Bend your elbows and bring your palms together. Lift your elbows while dropping your shoulders. Hold for three to five breaths and repeat on other side.

If you tried chair yoga and liked it, we would love to hear all about it! Please send us your comments and suggestions. We love to hear from you.

Squat and swing

Improve Your Appearance and Strength

You don’t have to want the look of a professional bodybuilder to benefit from using weights to improve both your appearance and strength. Dumbbells are an incredibly accessible, affordable and effective piece of exercise equipment that you should have in your home. Lifting weights not only builds muscle, but it can help you slim down, stick to a healthy eating plan and reduce stress. If you still need convincing, keep reading to learn why you should be grabbing some hand weights pronto.

Increased Weight Loss
Cardio exercise is important for your health and your weight, but cardio is not the king of weight loss. Studies have shown that, on average, 75 percent of weight loss is fat and 25 percent is muscle loss in groups of individuals who do not lift weights. While dropping muscle mass will reduce the number you see on the scale, it doesn’t necessarily enhance your appearance and it makes the weight way easier to gain back.

Calorie Burning
One of the absolute greatest benefits to using hand weights is that your body continues to burn calories after lifting. A study from Arizona State University found that exercisers who completed strength-training reps burned 79 percent more calories than those who didn’t use weights at all. “Think of that afterburn as your metabolism working overtime while you lounge,” says celebrity trainer Brian Nguyen. What all of this means is that when you’re done with your hand weights, your body continues to burn calories without you having to do any additional work.

Strong Bones
It isn’t just your waistline and your muscles that reap the rewards of using dumbbells; your bones also see benefits from strength training. As you age, your bone mass decreases which increases your risk of serious bone fractures. Research has shown that four months (16 weeks) of strength-training increased bone density and raised blood levels of osteocalcin (a bone growth marker) by almost 20 percent.

Windmill exercise

Exercise Ideas with Hand Weights
If you aren’t quite sure where to start, use these two moves that will help you increase your strength and improve your appearance:

  • Squat and Swing – Begin by standing with feet hip-width apart and holding a dumbbell in each hand. Bend forward slightly from the hips and bend knees into a half-squat. Keep your back flat, and your arms by your sides. Push through your heels forcefully to stand up and as you do this, use the momentum to swing arms to chest level, then return to half-squat position. Do three reps of 15-10 swings. This exercise targets your shoulders, biceps, core, hamstrings and butt.
  • The Windmill – Begin with a dumbbell in your right hand, standing with your feet wide. Point your right foot forward and your left foot to the side. Extend your right arm overhead with your palm facing forward and side bend to the left at the waist reaching fingertips of your left hand to your foot. As you do this keep your right arm pointed upwards and your right leg straight. Reverse the motion to your starting position. Do eight reps, then switch and do the exercise using your left arm. Repeat for three sets.

You don’t have to lift for hours a day every single day of the week, a few simple exercises using hand weights can have a huge impact on your appearance and your strength. If you’ve never lifted before, begin with five-pound weight and gradually work up to 10 or 15 pound dumbbells. Watch your body transform and your strength improve as you continue to workout using hand weights.