The secret to core strength

Why does Pilates promote good lumbar stabilization?

According to researchers the answer lies in the deep core muscles. In their study, published in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitaion, they evaluated activation of both surface and deep muscles. Among those who practiced Pilates, the deep muscles strength (transverses abdominis and internal obliques) was stronger.

Here's why: Pilates instructors coach participants to contract the deep stabilizers while performing most postures. This leads to thicker, stronger muscles, and better stabilization for the lumbar spine.

So, if you are practicing Pilates, focus on your exhale, and contracting those deep core muscles while moving in and out of exercises. If you don't practice Pilates, consider a few sessions with a certified instructor. Just a few tips can help you learn how to activate your core muscles while doing just about any strength training move at the gym.


Which fitness trackers are most accurate?

Some fitness trackers are more accurate than others
If you are contemplating gifting a fitness tracker to a friend of family member this holiday season, you may be wondering which devices are the most accurate.

Researchers, whose study was published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise have the answer. They studied the accuracy of the most popular wrist devices now on the market: the FitBit Flex, Nike+ Fuel Band SE, Jawbone UP24, Polar Loop, and MisFit Shine.

Which came out on top? With an error rate of below 20%, the FitBit Flex, Jawbone UP 24 and Nike+ Fuel Band SE were the winners. All three did a good job of monitoring cardiovascular activity and caloric expenditure during sedentary activity. The researchers cautioned, however, that none of the devices were particularly good at monitoring strength training activity. Let's hope that gets worked out for the next generation of trackers.


How to make the most of your snack

Consider your snack a mini meal

Do you eat three square meals a day? Recent data tells us you probably don't. Today, Americans prefer their snacks instead. According to the Agricultural Research Service, we consume one-third of our calories in between meals. Citing lack of time, lack of preparation, and jam-packed schedules, we skip meals and snack instead.

Snacking presents us with challenges and opportunities. Though we may want to snack on chips, sweets, and other "empty calories," experts say thinking of snacks as mini meals is a better strategy. If we snack well, the practice allows us to fit in those extra servings of fruits and vegetables we are often missing, filling out our diets with nutrients our bodies need.

So what should you snack on? Snacks that include fiber, water, and protein tend to be the most satisfying. Think bananas, apples, nuts, nut butters, whole wheat crackers, cheese, cocktail shrimp, carrot sticks, grape tomatoes, hard boiled eggs. Make an effort to put whole foods front and center in your refrigerator, so you can grab and go. Before choosing always ask yourself, would I eat this at meal time? If your snack fits more in the dessert category, pass it by, or indulge in small amounts with the knowledge that you've chosen a treat, not a mini meal.


Inactivity and muscle loss: how long can you go?

You can lose muscle after just 2 weeks of inactivity

It happens every once in a while: you take a vacation from your exercise routine. You get married. You go to the beach. You have a baby. You get injured. A big work project consumes all of your free time. In short, your busy life pulls you away from your sweat session for a period of time.

Did you ever wonder how much muscle you might lose during your hiatus?

Researchers from Denmark, whose study was published in the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, provide an answer. In their study, researchers tested participants for baseline strength. Then, each participant had one leg immobilized for a 2-week period.

The result?

Younger participants, whose age averaged 23, lost one-third of their leg strength, while older participants, whose age averaged 68, lost one-fourth of their leg strength.

The researchers advised against long periods of inactivity, no matter what your age. To rebuild your strength, they said, you would have to spend three times as long as you were inactive to return to your  previous strength levels!

What can you do? Even if you have to forgo your regular routine, try to fit in activity to minimize muscle loss. Travel with light weight bands for some easy and quick strength training moves. Perform quick squats, lunges, push ups, or abdominal curls when you have 10 minutes here and there. Seek exercise in every day activity: walk or bike to your destination rather than driving. If you suffer from an injury, create a modified workout routine rather than forgoing all exercise. Be creative and keep moving!


Case study proves MELT reduces low back pain

I've been MELTing for nearly 2 years now. I was drawn to the method when traditional therapies failed me. For two years I'd suffered from chronic pain in my neck. I went to physical therapy. I went for traction therapy. I tried chiropractic. I used heat therapy. All of these different therapies helped reduce pain. But, still, my pain lingered.

I began to wonder: is this what happens when you injure yourself at age 45? Does your body lose its ability to heal adequately? Are you destined to simply live with pain?

My search for the answer to these questions led me to MELT. I'd become more open to non-traditional approaches to healing, and when a trusted friend vouched for the method, I went all in. I bought the book. I bought the DVDs. I bought the ball kit. I bought the roller. Then I MELTed.

For me, the experience was rocky. At times my pain was heightened. At times, I thought I was wasting my time. At times, I was tempted to quit. But, I really wanted to give MELT a concerted effort (and I really wanted to get out of pain), so I stuck with it. Every day.

After 90 days of consistent MELTing, I was pain-free. I could hardly believe it, and that is when I knew I had to get certified so that I could share this revolutionary, remarkable method with others.

In my quest to share this method, I've run into some skeptics, as you can imagine. I've been able to convince most of them to give MELT a try, and they've been glad they did. However, some needed a bit more "proof" than I could provide.

Now I have an answer for those people, and I thought you might be interested as well. I'm thrilled that I can now share the first case study conducted on MELT, which demonstrates its effectiveness in reducing low back pain. This case study, which was presented at the 2015 Fascia Research Congress in Washington, DC, is another data point. It's evidence to support what thousands of MELTers already know: MELTing hydrates connective tissue, which reduces pain and increases range of motion/flexibility. Take a look at Sue's blog post, which details more of these exciting findings.


Tips for new dads struggling with post-baby weight gain

New dads experience weight gain, too
Wikimedia Commons

Welcoming a baby into your family is exciting. The unwanted pounds that often accompany that new bundle of joy? Not so much.

New research indicates it's not just new moms who are at risk of packing on the pounds post-baby. According to a study published in the American Journal of Men's Healthnew dads experience an increase in Body Mass Index (BMI) following the birth of a child, even if they don't live with their newborns.

It's no wonder. Having a new child is wonderful. It's also stressful, busy beyond comprehension, and mind-numbingly exhausting.

Here are some tips for all you dads who want to beat the baby weight:
  1. Don't forget time for yourself. It's easy to lose oneself in the face of a constantly demanding newborn. Remember that your greatest gift to your child will be a healthy, energetic you. Schedule time to exercise, and do it. The whole family will benefit from your dedicating time to stay in shape.
  2. Buy a jogging stroller and run with your child when she's old enough. If you are friends with other dads who have newborns, schedule time to run around your local park together. Stop the strollers mid-way for some push-ups and sit-ups.
  3. Exhaustion can often lead to unhealthy eating habits. Instead of pizza runs, stock the freezer with healthier, quick options. Grab frozen vegetables, which are just as healthy as fresh ones. Go ahead and get some frozen meals, making sure they include protein and a healthy portion of vegetables. If you're a cook, make double recipes of your favorite dishes and freeze the rest.
  4. A baby's crazy schedule may mean you snack more and eat fewer meals. Make sure you have healthy options for snacking. Generally, this means choosing whole foods over processed, packaged foods. Buy bags of baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, bananas, apples, nuts, dried fruits, yogurt, healthy soups, whole wheat crackers and cheese (in limited quantities). 
  5. Get your wife on board with your plans. Tell her what kind of time you need for exercise and why. Put your exercise time on the family calendar. A supportive wife will make sure you get out the door and meet your healthy living goals.


We can find a cure to Alzheimer's Disease

Scientist Samuel Cohen addresses Alzheimer's disease and lays out why we haven't found a cure and what we need to do about it. 

Some highlights:
1) We've made little advancement in Alzheimer's research since 1901
2) The US spends 10 times more money on cancer research than on Alzheimer's research
3) After age 85, 1 in 2 people will develop Alzheimer's disease
4) In the US alone, Alzheimer's care costs 200 billion dollars each year

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