Exercise

It’s YOUR Knee, You SHOULD Be Able To Lift It! – Why Body Weight Exercises Rock My World

Bodyweight exercises are some of the best types of exercises because you can do them virtually anywhere and you don’t need any special equipment.  Another benefit is that they usually aren’t too difficult to master and are good for a variety of fitness levels.  How’s that for no excuses?

Want to get lean?  Try increasing the amount of repetitions to improve your endurance.  Want to get stronger?  Try increasing the intensity by decreasing the leverage and working at the end of your range of motion.

Want great thighs?  Try doing some squats – sit your weight back into your heels (you might even try lifting your toes inside your shoes for a wiggle).  Keep your abs engaged and imagine there’s a string tied to your head lifting and elongating it toward the ceiling.  Chest up.  Slowly lower yourself down as if you’re sitting on a chair.  You may support the weight of your body with your hands on your thighs or progress to look no hands ma’.  Beginners don’t need to sit back very far and more advanced can progress until their thighs make a ninety degree angle with the shins – or become parallel to the floor.  You can do this while holding a toddler.  You can hold it statically (without moving) at various degrees of your range of motion up or down.  You can add gentle pulses.  You can do it to music.  You can turn your feet out to the sides to work the inner thighs.  You can point the knees and toes to the front to work more of the top of the thigh and butt.  You can do these while folding laundry, making phonecalls, picking up the junk your kids left all over the floor.  You can even sit down with your back against a wall and lower yourself until your legs are in a 90 degree angle and just see how long you can hold that position – try for a longer and longer amount of time each day.

Want great biceps?  My favorite is pushups.  They can be done so many ways!  How about plank your body at an angle while doing dishes and do a countertop push-up.  The closer your feet are to the counter, the easier it should be.  You can progress until your feet are on the floor, or raise your feet onto a step for even more intensity.

The back of your arms wiggle like chicken wings?  Try tricep dips on the edge of your bathtub.

Do walking-lunges while vacuuming.  You can step forward with one leg and lower your body straight down while bending the back leg until both front and back legs make 90 degree angles from thigh to shin.

Do karate-kid style wax-on, wax-off cleaning of your table top with a rag in each hand, or under each foot while cleaning the floor (best not to do hands and feet at the same time).

Cardio endurance your issue?  Try running up and down your stairs or reach up high and pull your knee to your chest while lowering your hands to that knee and tightening your abs.  It IS YOUR knee afterall and you should be able to lift it.  Getting stronger?  See how many times you can do it in a row before getting tired or set a timer and try to beat the clock.

Struggle with lower belly flab and jiggly thighs?  Try raising your knee off the ground until your thigh is paralell to the floor (use a broom or chair if you need help with balance. Raise it slightly up and down…It works the bottom part of the abs and the top of the high- the psoas.

You can even clench your butt cheeks while on line at the grocery store!

If you need more ideas, or want to see this in color, check out Carolyn Barne’s DVD cLEANmomma.  I’m also happy to show you a few more complicated ones in person.

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General Health

Smart People Exercise and Exercise Makes You Smarter

The New York Times Magazine published an article about new scientific findings which show that exercisers are smarter!

Yep.  No more dumb jock jokes I guess.

They say that scientists used some new technology to examine the workings of individual neurons and the makeup of brain matter itself and discovered that exercise appears to build a brain resistant to shrinkage.

Whoa!  Brain shrinkage?!  I knew that after kids and after ooh, a certain age, my boobs might head south…but now this?

I know the point was to show that exercising is good for the whole body-muscles and circulation…and now brain function…but did they need to tell me my brain is shrinking?  (Good news is its only 1%.)   Better news is that I can stop doing those boring crossword puzzles and playing board games designed to build your brain.  According to the NY times, “The latest neuroscience suggests that exercise does more to bolster thinking than thinking does.” Aah. this IS exciting news.

Professor Rhodes, in the Psychology Dept. at the University of Illinois led a team of researchers to observe groups of mice in different living arrangements.  One group had exciting colorful environments and interesting flavorful food and drink.  Another group had access to all this plus small running wheels and a third group had no exciting environment nor extraordinary food, and the fourth group had the running wheel but no other toys or treats.

The scientists gave the mice a series of cognitive tests at the start of the study and a substance was injected so the scientists could examine their brain tissues.  At the end of the study the cognitive tests were run and it turns out that the toys and tastes didn’t appear to improve the animal’s brains.  Only those who used the running wheel performed significantly better on cognitive tests.

This got me thinking…While I was sitting on my butt studying to earn my MA degree, all those girls in spandex at the gym trying to pick up dudes while working out could actually wind up smarter than me?!?  Hmm, does this mean that the undergrads who smoked pot might have actually balanced out all the brain cells they snuffed out with all the time they spent at the gym?  I’m sure the scientists weren’t trying to go there but I had to wonder….it was, after all, an animal study and I did attend the ultimate party school for a time…

The real thrilling part of the study overall is that even though the brain, like all muscles and organs does appear to decline in function with underuse and age, neurogenesis (the creation of new cells) can and does occur.  Exercise appears to slow or reverse the brain’s physical decay—particularly in the hippocampus which is associated with memory and certain types of learning.  The rats who ran for a few weeks, as compared to the sedentary ones, had about 2x as many new neurons in their hipppocampi.

That said …Gotta Run..