The Workout Effect

It’s been in the news and all over the sweaty faces of gym bunnies everywhere: working out makes you feel good.  But what if working out could help you in other ways?

Here are 7 benefits of working out that aren’t tied to a sexy physique (though that is a perk).

CLARITY AND CONCENTRATION

An active body equals an active mind.  Exercise increases blood flow to your brain.  Think of how going for a walk can clear your mind.  When you’re at work and can’t concentrate, talk a walk around the block.  For an even better brain workout, try a new exercise, like yoga or spinning.  Learning new ways to exercise leads to increase functionality in the brain, just like learning a new activity at work or reading a book.

CLEANSING

Sweat builds up.  And it brings along a few of its toxin buddies.  Take a few weeks off exercising and you will notice an increase in the amount you sweat.  Regular exercise cuts down on the amount of toxins being released at once.  (A tip for those who have lived through New York summers: try some hot yoga.  It will get your body used to sweating in a high-humidity, high-temp environment and you won’t suffer as much when the weather channel reports make you want to flee to Antarctica.)

ENJOYMENT

Don’t make working out a chore.  Exercise can be a fun way to spend an afternoon.  Think about getting friends together for a hike or a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.  (Walking from Union Square across the Brooklyn Bridge and back is over 5 miles!)  Live near a beach? Walking on sand is excellent for your thighs and butt.  Go for a run along the shore.  Everybody else busy?  Crank up some tunes!

BETTER SLEEP

Exercise improves the quality of sleep.  A study showed that 29 women and 14 men with mild sleep complaints, after 16 weeks of moderate exercise (30 minutes of exercise, 4 times per week), were able to fall asleep 15 minutes earlier and sleep 45 minutes longer.  That’s a full hour of gained sleep!

The sleep-exercise connection takes time.  Make sure you schedule your exercise 5-6 hours before bedtime, as a drop in body temperature will help you sleep more soundly.  The exercise must make you sweat, as studies have shown that non-aerobic exercise did not aid sound sleep.  And you must keep at it.  The improvement could take around 16 weeks to begin.  (But if you look at the other benefits of exercise, why would you stop?)

STRESS RELIEF

Combining the aspects of cleansing and clarity, exercise also brings stress relief.  Aerobic exercise is a great way to take out aggression.  If you’ve ever taken a spin class, half of the people look like they are about to be thrown into a boxing ring, but we don’t think it has anything to do with the instructor’s choice of music.  Physical exercise is a great outlet and an excellent way to get your body and mind pumping.  The post-workout experience also has a calming effect on many, which will allow you to not overreact.

LONGER LIFE

It may sound corny, but exercise helps you live! Exercise is an investment in your health.  Exercise strengthens your body so it can battle diseases and be resilient. People who choose to exercise regularly live longer lives and stay healthier into old age.    

SELF CONFIDENCE

Yes, looking good helps this, but we’re mainly talking about strength and endurance. Many begin exercising to achieve a goal, be it to run a marathon, complete a perfect chin-up or just not lose their breath getting to their 4th floor walk-up apartment.  Success builds self confidence.  Feeling like you are working towards an accomplishment will build self confidence.

Remember, small accomplishments lead to bigger accomplishments.

Flex Appeal

September is National Yoga Month. It’s time to break out the mats, slap on the headbands and twist, flex and stretch our way to better backs.

For the month of September, we’re going to outline a few simple yoga moves that can assist with back stiffness, reduce and sometimes even alleviate back pain and create a greater flexibility in an area that, well, let’s face it, can be utterly inflexible.

If you’re a yogi and know these poses well, we urge you to teach them to a friend, who may not be aware of the incredible benefits yoga has for the back, spine, circulatory and nervous systems.

The most important thing to remember during yoga is to breathe.  There is no weakness in taking a break and starting over.  A good student knows when to stop.  Yoga is a process and takes practice.  Breathe deeply through your nose and listen to your body and you will be fine.

DOWNWARD FACING DOG

A yoga staple, Downward Facing Dog, or Adho Mukha Svanasana, may feel a bit demanding to the beginner yogi.  

Standing in an upright position, you bend so that your palms are flat on the floor.  Your objective is to press your heels towards the floor, while extending upwards through the tops of your thighs.  Similarly, press the pads of your fingers into the floor so as not to grip with your palms and internally rotate your arms, so that the knobby parts of your elbows are facing inwards.  Your neck should be loose and your head should be by your chest.  Try not to grip your shoulders and concentrate, once you have the above stance, pulling your shoulder blades away from your ears.  

Beginners should hold this pose for 30 seconds.  If you are more advanced, try holding for two minutes. Do not force yourself to do more than you are able.


BUTTERFLY POSE

A favorite of hippies, Baddha Konasana stretches the muscles surrounding your pelvis and allows any pressure on the sciatic nerve to have a bit of release.

Starting in a sitting position, place the bottoms of your feet together at your pelvic area with your knees facing outwards.  Do not force this movement in any way.  If you feel pain, move your feet further outwards.  You will need to push your knees down a little to get a good stretch through the pelvic muscles and hips.  Place your hands out in front of you and, with a flat back, slowly walk your hands forwards.  If your back begins to curve, stop where you are and hold that stretch.  If you’re able to place your nose to your feet with no problem, try moving your feet towards you, but only if you can do this without causing any pain.

SUPINE SPINAL TWIST

And now for a little relaxation.  In yoga, the rest is just as important as the work.  And you cannot stress your back and spine without giving it a little bit of peace.  

Begin on your back.  Bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the floor.  Press your hips up and shift them slightly to your right.  Draw your right knee into your chest and extend the left leg on the floor.  Allow your right knee to drop to the left side of your body.  Your lower torso will twist, but keep your shoulder blades firmly on the floor.  Open your right arm to the right side and rest your left hand on your right knee.  Turn your head to the right and look past your right hand.  Hold this for 5 to 10 breaths.

To release, draw your right knee back into your chest slowly.  Then slowly extend it back along the floor.  Take a minute to feel the difference between your right and left sides.  Then repeat for the left side.

And remember, have fun!

Back to Basics

As children, we were taught how to add before jumping into solving for x or finding out where two trains would collide if they both left the station at the same time.  The same theory applies to exercise.

The basis of wellness is being aware of your health and, with all of the drinks, pills and supplements out there claiming to give you the greatest workout of your life, it’s easy to have a skewed view.  Well, you don’t need anything but a clear mind to be healthy and fit.  As our form of chiropractic focuses on wellness, we want to make sure you have the tools in your hands to make the right decisions and follow a well-constructed path to overall health and fitness.

We’re sure that, in no time, you’ll be juggling barbells the weight of small toddlers and working up such a sweat that Little Jon will write a song about you.  But if you’re just starting out, check out these quick tips on how to build a better, stronger, healthier workout.

Frequency - How often you exercise
Intensity - How hard you exercise
Time - How long you exercise
Type - What exercises you do

When you first begin, start out slowly.  If you push your body too much, this could result in injury, which may put a screeching halt to your fitness plan.

Use your body as an indicator as to when it’s time to punch up your workout.  When you start out, if you are exercising enough times per week at a sufficient intensity, you will see and feel changes in your body.  This may not immediately be weight loss, but may present itself as increased endurance or strength.

Try jogging, walking at an increased pace (intensity) or running for 30 minutes, three times per week.  Too hot outside? Try an elliptical, treadmill or step machine.

When your body begins to adjust to your current levels, you may hit a plateau.  This is completely normal.  This is your body indicating that it’s ready for a little more.  Don’t go jumping into the workout abyss just yet.  Think of it as taking another step forward.

For frequency, add one more day of exercise.
For intensity, try speeding up for short bursts (if you are walking, jogging, etc) or picking up a slightly heavier weight for a few reps. 
For time, add 10-15 minutes to your usual workout time.
For type, try a completely different activity, like yoga, swimming or spinning.

Don’t add all of these at the same time.  Try one, maybe two until they feel comfortable.  If you are changing the type of exercise you are doing, remember not to overdo it.   

Don’t get stuck in a rut.  Change a variable every 4-6 weeks.

 

Boredom is a major buzzkill for workouts, so here are a few hints on keeping boredom far away from your fitness plan:

Change it up. If you feel yourself getting bored with running, try swimming for a week.  You may love it.

- Change location.  If you usually exercise inside, go out.  Even if the weather isn’t ideal.  Ever try running in the rain? It’s incredible.  If its hot out, bring water!  If you usually exercise outside, try a different location.

- Exercise with friends.  A companion can become a friendly competitor and free you to work out in a whole new way.  Plus, they may have some great tips on new activities.

- Change up the tunes. Music makes the world go around.  Pick some jams with thumping beats and you’ll be golden.

Need some help?  Check out the Fit Bottomed Girls’ Best Workout Songs List.