Have you ever forgotten where your bank is? The answer is probably not. Have you ever forgotten where your cell phone, can keys, or laptop are? You probably have because these items are moved around a lot. Sometimes it may feels like you perform mental gymnastics to remember all the important things in your life. Guess what? As we age, our brain can lose its agility. The absence of novelty causes the dopamine-producing areas of the brain to shrink. The best thing you can do is to try something new.
Our brains are stimulated by new experiences. Science has visual evidence through MRI technology showing that the learning centers in the human brain produce fresh neural pathways when we try something new. These signs of growth are evident regardless of age. So, just as your body needs exercise, your brain needs a workout too. Even if you’re not very good at your new pursuits, you receive the brain-boosting benefits simply by doing them. Just like physical exercise, the more you do it, the more you’ll benefit. And in many cases, your life will simply be enriched by experiencing something new. Here are some tips to keep your brain strong:
Alter Regular Routines: Do things like vacuuming, brushing your teeth, or brushing your hair with the opposite hand; Reverse your normal walking/running route – the same scenery will look completely different; Rearrange your furniture; Shop at a different grocery store – your brain will work harder because you are unfamiliar with where the ingredients are located.
Try Something New: Cook a new recipe rich in brain foods like fish and nuts; Eat at a new restaurant (and try something new!); Get to know someone outside your normal circle of friends; learn to speak a different language; Take lessons to learn how to play an instrument; Participate in a new exercise class; Plan a vacation, weekend getaway, or day trip to a place you’ve never visited before.
Not only does your body need a workout, so does your brain. It’s black and white: there are a number of ways to stimulate your gray matter, including Sudoku, crossword puzzles, and computerized brain games. There are a number of websites that offer free brain games to stimulate your thinker. Try surfing the web under the name “Brain Games” to see what you can find, or Prevention Magazine has a dedicated section of their website www.prevention.com/brainfitness for training your brain. If gaming or puzzles are not your thing, studies show that socializing with a friend for 10 minutes has the same effect on the brain as doing these brain puzzles.
The foods that benefit your heart are the same foods that benefit your brain. As it turns out, science has linked healthy bodies to healthy brains, as well as unhealthy bodies to unhealthy brains. Your diet goes hand in hand with your brain health.
One of the best defenses against dementia, which becomes more prevalent as our population ages, is to consume fatty fish such as salmon, herring, or mackerel. According to several studies, one of which is the well-known Framingham Heart Study, three servings a week can cut your Alzheimer’s risk nearly in half. A fish-based diet provides numerous protective benefits, probably the most famous of which are omega-3 fatty acids. One of these fatty acids is DHA. DHA is vital for development of new brain cells and aids learning and memory. Omega-3s are most notably found in walnuts, with traces found in hazelnuts, cashews, almonds, and Brazil nuts. You can also buy omega-3 fortified foods such as eggs, orange juice, and more.
Other brain-boosting foods are found in the produce aisle and include tomatoes, watermelon, blueberries, blackberries, spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, mango, corn, melon, cauliflower, potatoes, garlic, and onions. Foods that drain the brain include high fat and high sugar foods, and foods with no nutritional value such as diet soda.
Strength training is designed to define, tone, and strengthen your whole body! This is accomplished through the use of resistance which can take the form of a weighted bar, plates, or body weight in Group Power, weighted by dumbbells, plates, or body weight in Group Active, or the body weight in Group Centergy, Group Kick, or Group Step. In addition to this resistance training, the cardio portions of all these classes and other cardio based Group Fitness classes have a strengthening benefit as the muscles overcome the resistance to the cardio workout.
Two Group Fitness based strength training programs you might find at your local club are Group Power, which focuses exclusively on strength training, and Group Active, which incorporates cardio, balance, and flexibility training in addition to strength training.
The Benefits of Strength
How can strength training help you? Check out the proven advantages:
In addition to these benefits, strength training keeps your bones and connective tissues strong. Since we may start losing muscle and bone strength beginning in our 20s, a strength training program like Group Power or Group Active can help reduce or stop these losses in their tracks.
What to Expect in Class
One of the great parts of Group Power, or the strength of Group Active, is that you work with adjustable weights so you can pick the perfect weight for you. As you gain strength, you can choose to add weight when you’re ready, or if you have to take some time off or are having a bad day you can remove a bit of weight so that you can still benefit from a challenging but not overwhelming experience. The important thing is that you pick a weight that is challenging for YOU on any given day.
In addition to the benefit of adjustable weights, using the plates alone in Group Power or the dumbbells in Group Active allows us to use both arms together or one at a time. You’ll usually experience both in every release. This helps keep one side of the body from compensating for the other and helps balance the strength of the body.
Don’t forget the importance of core strength or strength in the muscles of the abdomen and the back. This area plays a big role in good posture, athletic performance, and in overall well being. Group Active, Group Centergy, Group Kick, Group Power, and Group Step all have one or more sections that typically incorporate strengthening exercises.
Group Power and Group Active strength training take a whole body and periodized approach to strength training. The whole body aspect means that you will be training most, if not all, of the major muscle groups during the class timeframe. This also has the benefit of balancing strength so that no single area of the body becomes stronger than the other. This is important because muscle imbalance, or one side of the body being much stronger than the other (for example the front versus the back of the leg), can lead to injury.
Periodization refers to the variation of a workout over time. Group Power and Group Active strength training is designed with this in mind. Because our bodies are so good at adapting to stress, if we always do the same workout, it will eventually not be challenging any longer as your body adapts. Varying the workout keeps the body “guessing” so that the results and corresponding benefits keep coming.
Fit to Keep You Moving
Choosing the right exercise shoe is one of the most important investments you can make and may be the single best insurance you can buy to reduce your chance of injury. Wearing the wrong shoe can land you on the couch nursing sore knees or aching feet. Here are some tips to help you make an educated choice.
Know Your Feet
Generally speaking, your feet will fall into one of three categories: Neutral arched feet, low-arched feet, or high-arched feet. To determine the shape of your feet do this easy test: Wet your foot and step on a brown piece of paper. If your footprint shows the entire sole of your foot with little to no curve on the inside, you have low arches. If your footprint shows only a portion of your forefoot and heal with a narrow connection between the two, you have high arches.
Tip: If you find an athletic shoe that does not support your arched properly, purchase insoles that specifically accommodate your feet. These are available for about $25 and are sold in stores that sell exercise shoes.
Choose Your Activity
Shoes are designed for specific activities. For example, running shoes are sport-specific, designed for running forward, have a lot of flexibility or bendability, but do not support the foot in side to side movements. Cross trainers can be used for a wide range of activities, are relatively stiff, and offer excellent support for the foot with side to side movements. The stiffness reduces the flexibility of the shoe across the toe box which makes it harder for the shoe to bend when running. Court shoes are specifically designed for tennis, basketball, and so forth, and give a combination of flexibility and sideways support. Fitness shoes are designed for group fitness classes, and combine flexibility with support. They also incorporate cushioning to lessen the shock-effect that comes with jumping.
Tip: Buy a shoe designed for the type of activity you are planning to do.
Have Your Feet Measured
Our feet change as we age, so always have your feet measured at the store before buying a shoe. Don’t assume you know your shoe size. Sizes can vary between brands, so you might be a size 8 in one brand, and a size 8.5 in another. A properly fitted shoe should feel snug on your foot and immediately be comfortable.
Tip: Your feet swell over the course of the day, and expand while you run or walk. Go shopping in the afternoon to be sure you get the best fit for both length and width. Make sure you measure both your feet.
Bring Your Own Socks
Bring a variety of socks with you that you can plan to use when exercising. It’s important to find the right shoe fit with the socks you will actually wear. Additionally, if you wear orthotics, bring those too, as the shoes need to fit those inside.
Tip: Bring both thick and thin socks to see which ones fit best in the shoe. Once you have your sock of choice, consider purchasing a few pairs with the same thickness.
Use Your Thumb
You need about 3/8 – ½ inch between the front of your big toe and the end of the shoe, or about a thumb’s width. You should be able to freely wiggle all of your toes when the shoe is on. Be sure your heel does not slip out when you walk.
Tip: Walk or run around the store to be sure your shoes fit comfortably. There’s no such thing as “breaking in” shoes. They should be comfortable right away.
Flexibility training focuses on creating length in the muscles used in a workout, or in the case of Group Centergy, creating length in the muscles as part of the workout. Most Group Fitness class experiences contain a flexibility component. These components may occur throughout the workout, like post track stretching in Group Power or Stress Reversals in Group Ride, or at the end of the workout to lengthen the major muscles used in the workout.
We use two types of stretches, static and dynamic. Static stretches are held in a non-moving position, such as reaching toward your toes and holding the stretch. Dynamic or moving stretches travel through space and are often set to rhythmic sequences in the music. You may find yourself rotating your trunk of reaching your arms overhead to achieve this.
Flexibility work is reserved for portions of the workout when the muscles have been sufficiently warmed, for example, the end of a track or the end of a workout. It is important for your muscles to be well prepared with enough heat and oxygenated blood to stretch and gain the benefits of flexibility. In Group Power and Group Active you will stretch at the end of the strength tracks. This is important because the effects of strength training can cause your muscles to become stiff or tight. Stretching helps relieve this type of feeling. Stretching also occurs toward or at the end of Group Active, Group Centergy, Group Kick, Group Power, Group Ride, and Group Stretch. Think of it as a relaxing finish to all of your hard work.
Why We Need to Stretch
Flexibility training is often overlooked, even though scientific research shows that we receive tremendous benefits from it. Research shows that when you have too much strength without flexibility, you can put yourself at risk for injury. Given the positions most of us assume on a daily basis, such as sitting at computers, driving our cars, reading to our children, or eating at the dinner table, we repeatedly put our postural muscles to the test. What happens? Typically, our shoulders are rounded forward, our heads poke forward, and our spine curves forward. Did you notice the common word? Things all shift forward. One of the goals of our stretched is to improve our posture by lengthening the shortened muscles created by these everyday positions. This is why we need to stretch.
The Benefits of Flexibility
One of the most important things to remember when you are stretching is to focus on technique first, then on increasing your range of motion. It is not important whether you can barely reach your toes or you can do a split. Try not to compare yourself to anyone else around you in class. Feeling a stretch creating length in the muscles of your body is what is most important. It takes time to gain length in your muscles. Muscles don’t get tight overnight, so don’t expect amazing changes overnight. If you stretch two to three days per week, you will notice your body changing and that you can do certain daily activities more easily. You’ll stand taller, walk more efficiently, and simply feel better about yourself on the inside and the outside.
The beginning of the year is often a time when many people commit to a New Year’s resolution. Research indicates that approximately 45% of the population commits to at least one resolution, but of those that do, the vast majority have abandoned it by Valentine’s Day!
Common New Year’s resolutions are committing to weight loss and starting exercise. The fact that many people put on extra weight during the holidays can be an added motivation to create a new exercise habit. So what is it that makes these self promises so hard to keep? All to often, our initial enthusiasm and energy wanes, we get distracted by other things going on in our lives, or we do not think that we are seeing results quickly enough, and we throw in the towel. The thing is, many people do manage to hang in there and make exercise a lifetime habit.
A recent study by researcher Diane Klein, PhD, shed some light on the subject. Long-term exercisers (working out for an average of 13 years) were asked to rank what motivated them to keep up with their regimes. Primarily the exercisers were not as concerned with specific goals, like being toned, or having bulging biceps, as they were with feeling good and being healthy.
Here’s how the study participants ranked their motivators:
How do we become one of the fitness faithful? Check out the following list to help create positive fitness habits.
Find something that you enjoy. All too often people think that fitness has to be hard, uncomfortable, and even boring. Group fitness has been proven to be an enticing form of exercise. The music, the instructor and the group setting all create a form of escape associated with a positive experience. Initially, many people gravitate toward exercise equipment because it is simple and accessible. But, when people are new to exercise and not in love with the idea in the first place it is almost a dead certainty that they will drop out. Why? It is because this form of exercise requires large amounts of intrinsic self-motivation to stay committed. With Group Fitness, a great portion of the motivation is driven by the external environment.
“The synchronization of music with exercise consistently demonstrates increased levels of work output among exercise participants.”
Music in Sport and Exercise: Theory and Practice
Dr. C.I. Karageoghis, Ph.D
Cardio refers to cardiovascular exercise, which involves the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Cardiovascular fitness refers to the effectiveness of the body at taking in oxygen through the lungs, transferring that oxygen to the blood, and pumping the blood via the heart to the cells of the body. The stronger this system is, the better it is at its job. We become better at an activity through work. Our heart is the same. Exercise challenges our heart by increasing the demand on it, making it stronger.
Think of this in terms of the muscles in the thigh. These muscles are used every day when standing up, walking, running, and jumping; however, no one would assert than standing up from a desk to walk to a coffee maker is going to make the thigh muscles stronger. In order to strengthen the muscles, they have to be challenged by placing increased demand on them. That may be through weight training, like squats, or endurance training, like cycling. A challenging effort makes the muscle better at doing everyday activities.
The heart is the same. If you are reading this then your heart is beating; however, your heart is probably not being challenged by this activity. To strengthen your heart muscle you have to challenge it. Increasing the demand on the heart through exercise makes the heart better at its everyday activity of moving blood throughout your body.
One of the key elements to forming a habit is making it fun. And one of the easiest ways to make fitness fun is to do it with others. There’s research to back this up too – scientists from the University of Southern California found that people who worked out with friends said they enjoyed it more than those who worked out alone.
Like we said at the start, curiosity leads to friendly competitiveness when it comes to fitness. Bring a friend to the gym and before long you’ll be pushing each other to perform that extra rep, select a bigger weight, and, quite possibly, go the extra mile as you compete against each other.
The more you workout the more you’ll discover what works for you – what we like to call the shortcuts to success. Did you know there’s a shortcut to discovering the shortcuts to success? Sharing your top tips on exercising, fitness and healthy recipes with friends as you workout means you’ll learn twice as much in half the time.
Spotting each other
When you’re giving your all performing reps, it can be easy to lose count. Was that nine or ten? Well, working out with a friend eliminates that problem as your buddy can keep count for you, and vice versa. You can also keep an eye on each other’s form to ensure you’re getting the most from each and every rep.
Let’s count the ways you can save money by working out with a friend: 1) You’ll save money on petrol by driving to and from the gym together. 2) You can split the cost of a Personal Trainer by booking group sessions.
Fewer skipped workouts
Researchers at the Department of Kinesiology at Indiana University found that 43% of married couples who worked out separately gave up on their gym memberships altogether within a year. However, of the married couples who worked out together, only 6.3% gave up on their gym membership within twelve months. Need we say more?!
Workout for longer
According to research, gym goers who workout with friends spend at least six more minutes exercising than solo sports enthusiasts, and burn an extra 40 calories per session.
As every avid gym goer knows, recovery sessions are as important as the workouts. So once you’ve finished workout out with your friend, keep the socialising going by grabbing a protein shake, popping out for some food or relaxing in front of a movie together. Well, you’ve both earned it!
In the case of fitness, balance refers to the ability to maintain body equilibrium. That is to say, it is our ability to keep from falling down. Balance training occurs throughout many of group fitness class experiences, but it has its own dedicated track in Group Active and Group Centergy.
There are three systems in the body that control your sense of balance: proprioceptive, vestibular, and visual. The proprioceptive system sends messages to your brain about whether your joints are bent or straight and where your joints are in space. It also tells your brain how fast you are moving. Imagine putting your hand behind your back and holding up two fingers. Although you can’t see what’s happening, your proprioceptive system reports the information to your brain.
The vestibular system controls your sense of movement and balance. It’s the sensory system considered to have the most important influence on the other sensory systems and on the ability to function in everyday life. Think of this system like a traffic cop, telling each sensation where and when it should go or stop.
The visual system is all about your eyes. When your vision is reduced, or eliminated all-together, your sense of vision if heightened considerably. Picture yourself walking down the stairs carrying something that prevents you from seeing your next step, or getting up in the middle of the night when it’s pitch black. Since you’re unable to utilize your visual sense, your balance system is required to work harder.
The Benefits of Balance
Balance has many benefits, and the one you’re probably most grateful for is that it prevents you from falling down.
One of the great things about balance training is that balance can be improved without any fancy equipment. Our goal is to learn, challenge, and improve our balance. We stimulate the three systems by attempting to destabilize them using exercises that:
When you first begin balance training, you’ll be most comfortable with a wide base of support. This puts you in the most stable position. The closer you bring your feet together, the more your balance will be tested. Also, for balance exercises on one foot, it is always okay to tap a toe or a heel down or to stand closer to a wall so you can tap your fingers if needed. Give yourself time to learn first, then challenge and improve your balance over time.
Research varies as to how much water a person needs to consume in one day. The general guideline of eight, 8 ounce glasses per day is just that – a guideline to help you maintain healthy function. Water regulates your body temperature; aids in digestion, circulation, and joint lubrication; maintains blood volume; flushes toxins from the liver and kidneys; and helps decrease the risk of numerous cancers by 50% or more.
Water is ingested via our food sources as well. For example, fruits and vegetables are mostly water. Watermelon, apples, grapefruit, broccoli, lettuce, celery, and carrots are all very good sources of water.