Archive for the tag - flexibility

Study: Does Yoga Work?

Yoga has become increasingly popular - but does it really work?

Since I’m on a week-long yoga retreat at the Kalani center in Hawaii, I thought it’d make sense to talk a bit about yoga – and whether or not it works.

In the last few decades, yoga has become increasingly popular. And though many people, myself included, could point to personal or anecdotal evidence about its effectiveness, this several thousand-year-old tradition hasn’t been extensively researched.

Sponsored by the American Council on Exercise, and led by Dawn Boehde and John Porcari, Ph.D., researchers at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, set to change that. For their study, researchers divided sedentary women into two groups and subjected each individual to a battery of fitness tests. The first group continued their inactive lifestyle for the duration of the 8-week study; the second group participated in three 55-minute yoga classes each week for two months.

After the full 8 weeks, each group was again tested. Not surprisingly, fitness measures didn’t improve for the inactive group. But for the yoga group, marked improvements were discovered in flexibility, strength, endurance and balance.

Flexibility increased from 13 – 35% for the yoga group. Strength and endurance likewise increased, especially in the core and chest; participants were able to perform 6 more push-ups and 14 more curl-ups at the end of the study. With an average one-legged stand time increase of 17-seconds, the yoga group saw improvements to balance as well. As many yoga classes aren’t cardio intensive, participants didn’t experience improvements to their aerobic abilities.

Bottom line: For the average person, yoga is a great form of exercise that can yield tremendous benefits; yoga does, in fact, work – and it can be an essential and rewarding part of your workout program. It’s also worth noting that the study lasted only 8 weeks. While the gains illustrated in this study are tremendous, imagine the changes you’d experience in a year or more.

If you’d like to learn more about yoga, or if you’re interested in giving it a try, download Davey Wavey’s Underwear Yoga program. Through the two workout videos and accompanying materials, you can start reaping the benefits of yoga without even leaving your home. Namaste ๐Ÿ™‚

Does Strength Training Decrease Flexibility?

Gymnasts remind us that muscles and flexibility need not be mutually exclusive. And also that spandex can be super sexy.

You’ve probably heard the age-old adage that lifting weights decreases flexibility. But like so many of the things we’re told about exercise, you’ve probably wondered if it’s really true.

The simple answer is that strength training can decrease flexibility, but it doesn’t have to.

Each time you complete a repetition, you’ve technically shortened your muscles. (To be fair, muscle shortening also happens when we don’t exercise at all – or lead a sedentary lifestyle.) Over time, the shortening caused by weightlifting can add up to a decreased range of motion.

But not so fast. A recent study by the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks shows us that decreased flexibility isn’t inevitable. According to their findings, strength training exercises actually improved flexibility in participants using a full range of motion.

Of course, if you’re cutting each repetition short (i.e., stopping before your thighs are parallel to the floor in a squat), then your muscles might not have the opportunity to lengthen – and you may experience some flexibility loss.

Stretching can still be very important, though it’s important to do it properly. Dynamic stretching (stretching with constant movement, like arm circles) is great before cardio or strength training. Static stretching (holding a pose for a longer period of time), on the other hand, is best saved until the end of a workout. Doing static stretching before strength training exercises actually decreases performance and increases the risk of injury.

With your improved flexibility, you’ll also likely experience a boost in your performance.

The bottom line: Lifting weights won’t result in a lose of flexibility if you perform each exercise through your full range of motion and incorporate proper stretching.

8 Ways Exercise Keeps You Young.

Want to live a long, happy and healthy life? Research suggests that exercise might just be the fountain of youth for which you are searching.

Here are 8 age-defying effects of exercise:

  1. Faster metabolism – and less body fat. Your metabolic rate is the rate and which your body burns calories to maintain itself. As we age, this rate decreases by a few percentage points each decade until around age 50 – though the amount of food we eat, often does not. As a result, a slower metabolism is one reason (of many) that people tend to gain weight as they age. By combining both strength training and cardiovascular exercise with good nutrition, you can reverse this.
  2. Extends your life and it prevents debilitating disease and illness. Staying active has been linked to both an increase in longevity and decrease in diseases like type II diabetes and obesity. Exercise also has a positive effect on the body’s immune system, preventing illness like the flu or common cold which can become serious in older populations.
  3. Builds stronger bones. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, to create stronger and denser bones, you must put pressure on them. Just like our muscles, bones adjust to the stress put on them. Load bearing exercises and cardio like walking, running and step classes have been proven to increase bone density – making osteoporosis or breaks less likely. Exercises like swimming and cycling are less effective as they don’t put as much pressure on the bones.
  4. Younger cells. Researchers discovered that regular exercisers have longer telomeres – the DNA on either end of thread-like chromosomes. Telomere length is critical to the aging process – once telomeres get too short, cells stop dividing and die. This research suggests that the anti-aging benefits of exercise go all the way to the molecular level.
  5. Improved balance. Earlier in 2010, my grandmother lost her balance on the stairs and took a terrible fall. Though it’s been 10 months, she still walks with a cane and the whole ordeal has aged her greatly. Working out regularly helps improve balance and prevent falls – and there are a number of exercises that target balance specifically.
  6. Better flexibility. Yoga, or exercise programs that incorporate stretching, lead to dramatically improved flexibility. Like balance, flexibility helps prevent falls. And if you do take a tumble, being flexible can help minimize the risk of injury.
  7. More energy. Ever notice how you feel even more tired when you oversleep? Feeling tired and lethargic is often the result of being inactive. Endurance exercises improve stamina and energy.
  8. Improved mental health and brain functioning. Numerous studies have linked exercise to decreased stress, anxiety and depression and improved sleeping patterns and feelings of well being. Studies also show that exercisers perform better on mental tests than sedentary individuals.

Of course, if you extend the timeline out far enough, the survival rate for all of us eventually reaches zero. Exercise isn’t about escaping death; it’s really just about enhancing the quality and quantity of the time you spend on this planet. And more time on Earth = more time to share your love, touch lives and serve others.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Stretching.

If I could do this - well, who would need a boyfriend?

If I told you that I knew something that could:

  • Boost your performance
  • Increase your flexibility (in bed)
  • Improve recovery
  • Decrease muscle soreness

Would you do it? Of course! So, what is this magic something? It’s called stretching.

The are two main types of stretching: Static stretching and dynamic stretching. Static stretching is when you elongate a muscle group and hold it for a period of time – like touching your toes for 30 seconds. Dynamic stretching uses movements that involve speed – like arm circles, leg kicks and everything else that you did in middle school gym class.

Over the years, I’ve become better – and wiser – about stretching.

For example, did you know that there is a bad time to stretch? Yup. Doing static stretching before strength training (i.e., lifting weights, resistance machines, etc.) will likely reduce your ability to lift by an average of 15%. Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, is fine before strength training. But the best time to stretch – believe it or not – is at the very end of your strength training routine when your muscle are tired and warmed up. Hold your static stretches for longer than 30 seconds to full take advantage of the benefits.

You also want to avoid stretching for cardio before you’ve warmed up. I always do a gentle jog on the treadmill for 3 minutes before stretching; it gets the blood flowing. Muscles are like Silly Putty. You have to warm it up to stretch it – otherwise, they snap.

The bottom line: Stretch for cardio once you’ve done a warm-up, and stretch again following your strength training routine at the conclusion of your workout. Those few minutes will prove to be a big investment into the success of your fitness program.