Feeling Closed Off? Try Corrective Exercise and Open Up!

Society is becoming more closed off every day.  You notice it standing in line at the grocery store, sitting in traffic, sitting at your desk, and sitting in a public place.  Phones in hands, hunched over staring at screens using only thumbs.  The phenomenon has no age boundaries either.  People attempt to stand up and stretch, look over at someone else to talk, but it’s to painful for all that moving, so they sit right back down into the hunched position.

From the previous scenario, you may think I’m talking about our lack of social interaction and addiction to devices.  Actually, I’m talking about the physical changes our bodies are going through and the pain to correct them back into an upright and anatomically correct position.  The sedentary lifestyle of Western civilization affects our muscles and joints that prevents us from moving properly and without pain.  Even though some people exercise, they exacerbate the muscle dysfunction and don’t see the results they desire.  To move forward, similar to soccer, sometimes you have to move backward and correct the daily postural sins before great results happen for a healthier and more active lifestyle.

The normal daily grind for students and adults of all ages starts with sitting in the car or bus for long periods of time.  A short walk to class or work, then more sitting for hours.  Maybe there is a physical activity break to walk somewhere further than across the room, and more sitting till the end of the day.  Back into the car or bus for another lengthy ride home, and straight inside to sit for homework and watching a device.  All of this sitting leads to a forward head and tilt of the upper body, low back pain, inability to stand fully erect, and weakness in the joints below the waist.  When attempts to exercise are made, poor form creates injury opportunities from muscles and joints not in proper alignment.

Working with a trainer or a fitness professional who is knowledgeable about corrective exercise has become essential now to avoid injuries and overcome the postural sins the daily grind brings.  From a youth standpoint, the lack of true physical education and free play opportunities starts this viscous cycle in elementary school.  The next generation of adults is already physically closed off before the age of 16.  Unfortunately, few school leaders and PE teachers take the time to invest and teach proper movement techniques to your kids.  In addition to physically moving and feeling better, children have less behavioral issues and score higher on achievement tests when they move properly and multiple times throughout the day.

As a natural decline in the human aging process, people do “shrink” from loss of muscle and bone strength.  Typically, older adults also reduce their daily physical activity which speeds up the shrinking process.  It is work, yes, and the aging process can be slowed down with proper instruction on movement techniques for agility, balance, and coordination.  The brain has the ability to rewire itself through neuroplasticity when taught properly by a fitness professional, or using a program specifically designed by professionals for older adults to relearn these lost skills.

Corrective exercise is for everyone.  It is a process, not a one and done activity.  Even as a personal trainer for over 10 years and being physically active my whole life, I do daily corrective exercises as a warmup to my intense lifting sessions.  We are all athletes in the game of life, not just in a sport.  Bending, lifting, carrying, squatting, pushing, and pulling are all daily occurrences.  The better we prepare ourselves for them, the easier they are, and more time is spent enjoying the fruits of your labor.  As a personal trainer and studying to be a Corrective Exercise Specialist, I highly recommend Movement Academy’s Active Aging Program and Youth Movement Skills PE Program.  The program takes older adults and students through corrective movements to help them improve their bodies and brains for life’s stresses and activity.  No other program I have seen can do both functions.  Invest in yourself to learn and relearn proper techniques for movement.  I promise you; it is worth the time and money to do so.

How to Reduce Risk of Dementia if You’re 40-65

My grandmother is in her early 90’s and has dementia.  She can remember vacations, events, and names from years ago, just not always what we discussed yesterday.  What has likely helped to reduce the signs and symptoms of her dementia?  Her habit of exercise and physical activity over the decades.  In an ongoing research project at the UC San Francisco Memory and Aging Center, lifestyle habits are being analyzed regarding their effects on frontotemporal dementia (FTD).  FTD is the most common dementia for people under 65, and accounts for 5-15% of all cases the study says.

At the ripe young age of 44, I’m in this category of people who can alter their chances of developing dementia through exercise, diet, and staying mentally engaged in life.  While this sounds simple, why do so many middle agers ignore what their poor lifestyle choices do for their health?  No drugs are currently available to treat and prevent FTD. Per the study, ‘”This is devastating disease without good medical treatments, but our results suggest that even people with a genetic predisposition for FTD can still take actions to increase their chances of living a long and productive life. Their fate may not be set in stone,” said Kaitlin Casaletto, PhD, assistant professor of neurology at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center and corresponding author of the new study, published January 8, 2020 in Alzheimer’s and Dementia.’

As a person in my 40’s, this is good and startling news.  Who knew how much toll your lifestyle can take this early on regarding mental health?  The majority of people know the physical risks for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer with an unhealthy lifestyle, and now have even more to be concerned about.  The question now for those at risk generally is “what can I do to change?”  My 10 plus years’ experience as a personal trainer tells you to eat less and smarter, and exercise more!  A friend of mine started back working out recently after a 15-year layoff.  His body tells him that wasn’t a good idea with the intense soreness he feels!  To his credit, he’s starting back.

Can you reverse the damage done by decades of unhealthy eating and sedentary living, for the most part yes within reason.  Weight loss at any age reduces risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer.  Neuroplasticity allows you to reform neural pathways related to movement patterns.  The downfall people have are in the expectations.  Changes after 10 years or more of hard living don’t happen in two weeks.  When you start, know it is a process, and the outcomes are always positive in moderation.  No secret pill, potion, or juice exists to reverse the damages at any point during your change.  Consistent effort and dedication win the day.

Being good to yourself does pay large dividends according to every study every written.  Healthy lifestyle, not specifically abstinence in any area of life, leads to you being generally happier and living longer than people who do the opposite.  The body is amazing and runs efficiently when treated kindly overall.  Even when you have a few bumps and scrapes along the way, it heals itself to be stronger for the next off-road adventure.

For additional help on reducing symptoms for FTD, sign up for Movement Academy’s Active Aging Program.  Use code BRAIN at checkout for 50% off your first month.

Are Esports Athletes Truly Athletes Competing in Sports?

Video games, gaming, esports, athlete.  One of those terms seems the opposite and out of place.  When I think of an athlete, it conjures up thoughts of coordination, agility, and muscular people pushing their bodies in physical activity to their limit.  When I think of gaming and video games, I have images of a dark room with young adults and teens who haven’t slept or showered in a day or so, pale and pasty skin, lots of sodas and junk food, and zero physical activity.  How then are the terms esports and athletes even related?  When did playing a video game become a sport?

Sport is defined as an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.  I understand video games are competitions against the game and/or other people playing the same game.  To say playing video games with a handheld controller that requires zero movement besides a couple of fingers per hand is physical exertion doesn’t equate.  Athlete is defined as a person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise.  Once again esport athletes are not by definition playing a sport or athletes!

Playing video games or being a gamer is participating in an activity, not a sport.  Yes, hand-eye coordination and quick decision making are skill required to be good at sports and video games.  Any other relation ends there.  In a recent study from Flinders University, the subject of getting enough sleep was undertaken for “esport athletes”.  Guess what, gamers aren’t getting enough sleep!  Is that surprising from all the other research regarding the harmful effects constant gaming and device addiction has?  Hardly.  Esport athlete is a marketing term to make teens and young adults rationalize their behavior and drive billions of dollars to the industry.

The Wii gaming console is the closest video game to be a “sport”.  In all honesty, you can lay on the couch and flick your wrist without any other motion to play the games most people stand and mimic the actual movements of the sport on the screen too.  It is more fun to get physically involved with bowling, baseball, basketball, etc., than laying on the couch.  Does using the Wii fit the definition of sport and athlete?  No.  There are no substitutes for physical exertion and physical activity.  Let’s stop the nonsense making participation trophies the same as a first-place ribbon.  Being an esport athlete is NOT being an athlete in a sport.  Playing video games is an activity that can be enjoyed in moderation by many people, just like everything else.  Have a good time and know when to step away and do something else for a while.

Changing Your Rate of Aging

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, or the beer can doesn’t fall far from the trailer.  This is fairly true on our personality and behavior characteristics but doesn’t have to be so with our physical health.  In a recent study by Professor Michael Snyder, he identified four ageotypes based on health factors.  A common link between them are the controllable factors of diet and exercise that can help identify and reduce specific risk factors.  While your mother has high blood pressure, you can make changes to lower yours even though you have a genetic predisposition.

Lifestyle is a 100% choice regardless of what’s in your wallet.  The healthy and unhealthy purchases at the grocery store and daily physical activity levels are learned traits.  When you’re born, you don’t have a predetermined genetic type of foods that are assigned to you like eye color.  Your parents may choose high fat and sodium snacks for you a child, and of course you LEARN to like or not like them.  As an adult with a source of income, you can make different choices from all the information freely available to you online and in the free magazines at the store.  Because your parents are 40 lbs overweight does not require you to be also.

The choices made in your 40’s have a direct and significant impact on your physical and resulting cognitive health in your 60’s and on.  Identifying potential biomarkers that can lead to diabetes, stroke, cancer, and dementia in middle age will result in a higher quality of life 20-30 years from now.  The same impact is now heavily being affected in your children.  The habits you have today teach them how to shop, eat, and be active as they reach adulthood.  Give them help by helping yourself with healthier lifestyle choices.  Nothing is sadder than seeing three generations of obesity and knowing it’s all a conscious and voluntary choice.

For all of the information out there, Americans still are getting fatter with more health problems and wondering why medications are more expensive.  Is it laziness or denial or both?  Recognition and admission are the first steps to changing your ageotype, then you have to execute on the changes.  It really isn’t rocket science to stop eating high fat and ultra- processed carb foods.  Small adjustments now yield big changes and a happier existence in the future.  Your rate of aging can slow down to allow you more enjoyment with family and friends in years to come.  Additionally, your entire extended family reaps the benefits and may actually join you in helping themselves reduce their own aging rate.  Life is truly a win win at that point!

HIIT to Improve Cognition in Seniors and Older Adults

Walking, the standby exercise for seniors and older adults.  Walking is a start for lots of people, and unfortunately the end also.

To use the body’s natural ability for improving cognitive function through BDNF, a hormone in the hippocampus that grows brain cells, a person has to raise their heart rate to a minimum of 70%MHR (maximum heart rate).  For the most part, walking doesn’t cut the mustard.  The intensity has to increase which means a person must jog at the absolute minimum to sustain that 70%MHR of at least 20 minutes.  But wait, there’s more…

In a recent study published the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, researchers discovered HIIT style workouts are the best for improving cognitive function.  Add to that from another study Resistance Training and Executive Function, resistance training shows improved executive function as well as short term memory and attention.  How can an older adult maximize their strength, cardiovascular fitness, and slow decline?  HIIT with weights!  The reality check now:  get off the same machines and do more than walk around the same block.

Yes, enrolling in a HIIT type class filled mostly with fit people in their 20’s and 30’s is extremely intimidating.  Luckily there are many options for HIIT style workouts that can be done in a gym or home setting and require moderate weight.  Intensity is subjective and has different meanings for everyone.  To record enough intensity in a workout, a heart rate monitor is a great way to make sure you stay between 70-90% of your MHR.  Another way is the “Talk Test” or RPE (rate of perceived exertion), which monitors if you’re conversation is labored and still capable of speaking with another person coherently.  The Talk Test is what I use for my own monitoring and with my clients.

One of the better parts of HIIT workouts are they don’t take very long.  A 30-minute HIIT session is plenty 2-3 times per week, to achieve the physical and cognitive benefits both studies discuss.  Change up the exercises once per month and you’re on the way to improved health in a variety of areas.  I like the Movement Academy Active Aging Home Exercise Program because it incorporates all areas of fitness and automatically changes for you each month.  It takes the guesswork out of what to do, and you can create your own playlist each workout.  The cost is only $14.95 per month, no contract, and accessible from any device.

Humans don’t like change, and especially change that challenges and takes us out of our proverbial comfort zones.  As they also say, personal growth lies just outside our comfort zone.  As always, check with your doctor if you feel it necessary before starting a new exercise program.  Science isn’t wrong, people’s attitudes and fear are what drive whether scientific evidence becomes mainstream or not.  Try a HIIT session.  Do it with a friend for more fun and increase the odds you both do it again.  You will be amazed by the changes in your physique and mental acuity, regardless of your age!  I promise, the process works when you stick with it and have an open mind.

How to Increase Parental Involvement & Raise Money for PE

School budgets are always tight, public and private schools face the same issues with how to allocate money properly.  Unlike public and private that see and experience the benefits of investing in health and wellness for employees, schools often see health and wellness investing in PE as a necessary evil.  In a recent survey by Active Schools US, only 36% of schools have health and wellness on any important school document besides the basic wellness plan.  Add that to the forecast of 50% of America will be obese per the CDC, and yet little is done at the source to change the problem.

The average annual budget for physical education is $764 per school.  With class sizes much larger than classroom subjects, why are budgets substantially less?  Typically one PE teacher sees every child in every grade at a school.  Classroom teachers see only kids in a specific grade and sometimes not all students in that grade.  What is a PE teacher supposed to do for a curriculum and equipment to handle all grade levels on $764 per year?  The honest answer is most do very little because they receive minimal support and value in their jobs from school leaders.

Schools solve these budget shortfalls through a variety of fundraisers that go to a general fund.  Depending on the biases of the principal and emergency type needs, physical education receives little to no direct money.  STEM, computer labs, and maintenance receive the majority of funds.  Unless a fundraiser specifies where the money goes to, the principal has complete control on how it is spent.

To my knowledge, no specific PE fundraisers are being done by companies in the United States.  Yes, grants are available from corporations for schools that apply and/or qualify.  Grants are not fundraisers.  Both are needed by schools to function optimally.  I have developed an idea to boost parental involvement with physical education and raise funds simultaneously.  The concept is built on an Active Schools US concept, and my company has entitled it as Take Your Parent to PE Day.

The benefits of more physical activity and physical education are widely published, but not widely followed and known by parents.  Getting new changes always start as grassroots efforts.  Raising money for PE is no different.  Educating parents about the importance physical activity and physical education have on test scores and grades can lead to a stronger emphasis on the two in school.  Couple that with fun of exercising with your child and you have a winning combination!

Yes, the idea is new and innovative.  The school receives an evidence-based PE program and for a small donation, each family receives a similar program to use at home.  Parents have no idea what to do with kids besides put a screen in front of them for hours.  What if that screen contained a program they can be physically active as a family with daily?  Kill two birds with one proverbial stone!  Stay on the screen and get movement that specifically stimulates all areas of the brain with age appropriate exercises.  Win win!

For more information on Take Your Parent to PE Day, please email me at mpeale@movementacademy.net.  The event is free.  Donations from parents are only $25 and half the money is given back to the school’s physical education department, not the general fund.  I guarantee $400 can be raised or I’ll take the PE teacher or principal to lunch! Everyone benefits and has a great time in the process.

A Balanced Life is a Happy Life

A balanced life is a happy life.  I’m sure you have heard that said many times over the years.  Usually when the phrase is mentioned, it refers to balanced family, work, and play.  For many people in their 60’s and beyond, a balanced life also refers to reducing their chances of falling.  Fall related injuries account for the majority of ER trips in older populations.  Having a balanced life is literally the line between living and potential death.

As I write this blog, it is December 26 and people are transitioning thoughts from Christmas parties to New Year’s parties.  Also, around the corner are the traditional resolutions of weight loss, more income, and some kind of personal development goal.  Why not add improved balance to the list for older adults?  Having better balance gives you more confidence in daily activities and higher self-esteem to expand out of your comfort zone.  You don’t have a fear of falling or being unable to perform fun activities with friends.  Taking that hike or walk someone has invited you on but you refuse to go for fear you can’t make it because of falling.  Something that simple can bring great joy of accomplishment which leads to new challenges and a feeling of independence.

Like all other goals, improving balance is work and has many small failures.  You don’t have a balanced life in 15 minutes once a year.  Similar to weight loss, having better balance is a process and must be consistently worked on.  You will be frustrated and want to quit.  One side of the body will not work at the level of the other.  Small changes may not be noticed at first by you.  Over time, you will become used to these new changes and self-confidence increases without realizing it.  Then a moment of truth occurs.  Performing something usual like putting dishes away, you slightly stumble and don’t fall.  In fact, you never lose rhythm of your task.  Then, you reflect a moment and know a milestone was achieved without any fanfare.  Before all this practice, you know a fall was imminent from the stumble along with an injury that could set you back weeks or months.  Now it is a non-issue and your day continues without a bump!  Congrats!  You’re achieving a balanced life!

A balanced life doesn’t require lots of equipment, just a determination to get a little better each week and work consistently.  The brain, nervous system, and muscles respond automatically to your benefit.  Practicing in the solitude of your house is perfectly fine.  No social media posts are needed.  Keep working and before you know it, life is a bit easier and the smile on your face lasts a little longer.  Now you’re ready to bring on the next challenge.  Go out and climb that hill (real or proverbial), it’s ready for you to claim victory!