Category Archives: Fitness

New research explains how exercise improves health

Mouse exercisingYou’ve probably read about the effectiveness of restricted-calorie diets for increasing longevity in animals and in humans.

Now those of us who prefer exercise to dieting can take heart: A study described in the January 2012 issue of Nature reveals that exercises uses the same mechanism to increase health and longevity.

The research article itself is limited to magazine subscribers, but Gretchen Reynolds’ New York Times article “Exercise as Housecleaning for the Body,” hits all the main points. Apparently, exercise enhances the natural system the body has for sweeping away damaged proteins, invasive viruses and bacteria, and broken down cellular components. The cleaning system, known as “autophagy” tends to slow down in middle age…but the new animal studies suggest that exercise can speed it up again.

Of course, I’m all over this study because I’ve long hoped that I could focus on exercise while continuing to eat a generally healthy, but varied, diet. For me, it’s just easier (and way more fun) to “go for the burn” three or four times a week in an Ashtanga yoga class or on a neighborhood hike than to silently beat myself up every time I enter a grocery store, go to a coffee shop or restaurant, or sit down to dinner at a friend’s house.

Yoga: Effective — if the cause of the pain in your back is physical

A study conducted at Seattle’s Group Health Cooperative for the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has found yoga to be effective in relieving low back pain. But the study is attributing the effectiveness to the stretching component of yoga, rather than to any stress-relieving components.

You can read more in this Wall Street Journal report.

I’ll confess that, based on my own yoga experience, the study results have me puzzled. I’d have thought that the reason yoga relieved low back pain was because it strengthened muscles in the back, legs, and abdomen, thus providing more support for the body during activities such as bending over, or lifting heavy objects, and reducing the likelihood of injury (throwing your back out or straining muscles).

Just pay attention

Today is the NOW Foundation’s 14th Annual “Love Your Body Day,” and a lot of bloggers are disputing whether the point is to love your body, or to respect your body, or simply to integrate your feelings about your physical self with the feelings about yourself as a whole.

For me, the point is to pay attention to your body — something it doesn’t seem as though a lot of people do. (Paying attention to it by trying to camouflage it to look like something it’s not is more like ignoring it than paying attention to it, if you think about it.)

I celebrated by doing yoga with Susan’s Taos class via Skype. I think that qualifies as tough love.

Sticking with yoga: Practice pays off in decreased stress

A University of Ohio study suggests that women who stick with yoga practice (at least twice a week for two years or more) enjoy biochemically measurable health benefits.

The study compared longtime yoga students with newbies (involved in yoga for only a few weeks). Both groups had their endocrine responses measured before and after yoga practice, treadmill walking, television viewing and known stress events.

The novices’ blood was found to have, on average, 41 percent higher levels of the cytokine interleukin-6 than that of the experts. High interleukin-6 has been associated with heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. The novices were also tested for a protein that is a marker for inflammation; some were found to have levels of that protein nearly five times greater than those of the women who had been doing yoga over the long term.

Working out with Susan Powter via Skype

Every time Susan Powter leaves Seattle I go through a new search for a challenging yoga-based workout that I can attend three times a week. I’ve tried several local yoga classes and, for various reasons, they didn’t work out for me. Some studios were too far away to make the commute practical; some were too slow (great for flexibility and strength, no help for fat burning); some were too sanctimonious (no, I don’t suffer from fear, anxiety, insecurity and spiritual emptiness the way one 20-something instructor seemed to think everyone in the room did); and hot yoga made it possible for me to do things that were probably not wise for someone my age.

I ended up taking a fabulous Techno ElectroBelly dance class (“shimmying, isolating, undulating, and generally gettin’ sweaty to electronic, dub, techno, industrial, and rock music”) from Laura Rose at VDP Studio in Fremont, but unfortunately she teaches it only once a week.

Then I found out that Susan is teaching classes via Skype! She provides them for small groups. You gather three or four women and work out a schedule with Susan. At the appointed time, you all show up at the studio of your choice (someone’s livingroom or deck), roll out your mats, open your laptop, and place the video call to Susan at her Taos studio.

It’s just like working out with Susan in a class, except that with small classes she’s able to give a lot more individual attention.

Last week Carrie and I went completely crazy and did five days of classes in a row. It…felt…fabulous!

Interested? Send me email or contact Susan directly.

Plateaus and landmines

>Susan Powter’s radio show from Taos is now available on UStream. I love hearing her talk about…fitness, inspiration, movement, healthy eating, sunglasses, earphones, woodworking…

I love her energy. Listening to her makes me want to walk, to garden, to move to Taos!