Three simple exercises which could predict early death

IF you’ve had your eyes on the health news recently you might have noticed the new study which has revealed three everyday exercises, could be a predictor of early death.

According to the study published last week, grip strength, balance and squats are key indicators of early death.

And guess what? Squatting, balance and grip strength are all things that can be developed through regular (you’ve guessed it) Pilates and exercise, especially resistance training.

The study, by the Medical Research Centre, published the results of tests performed on 5000, 53 year olds but they also said that the exercise results on younger participants could also predict a reduced life expectancy.

So what are the exercises and how can you test yourself?

TEST ONE: Balance

Stand on one leg with your eyes closed. How long can you do this for?

The study found that men and women who were able to hold the position for less than two seconds were three times more likely to die early than those who could hold it for ten seconds of more.

IMG_5177

TEST TWO: Squats (the chair test)

Using a dining chair, sit down and stand up as many times as you can in one minute.

The study found that men who could stand up from a chair and sit down again less than 23 times in a minute were twice as likely to die in the following 13 years than those who could 37 or more.

Among women those who could stand up and sit down again less than 22 times in a minute were twice as likely to die in that time than those who could do the test 35 times or more.

TEST THREE: Grip strength

Participants gripped a special device, like a bike brake. Those who had the strongest grip had the longest life expectancy.

You can measure your own grip strength by your ability to hold on to monkey bars, hold a heavy weight or open and close a jar.

For the full story visit:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/10795230/Standing-on-one-leg-may-predict-which-53-year-olds-at-risk-of-early-death.html

Headaches, push-ups and tennis elbow: The shoulder blade connection

THIS week, across all my classes, there’s a bit of a theme. Clue: They are behind you and you need them to move your arms. Anatomically speaking I’m referring to your scapulae, without the latin they are your shoulder blades.

Any arm or shoulder movement is dependent on your shoulder blades. From golf to gardening, running, or even drinking a cup of tea. Conditions like headaches, tennis elbow, rotator cuff injuries and even arthritis can all originate in dysfunctional shoulder blades. And the basic problem? They don’t move. This is why many Pilates exercises incorporate arm movements and why, during classes we spend a lot of time mobilising the upper body and taking care to position arms, elbows, shoulders and necks in a specific way.

Now to be honest, this is way too big a topic to unravel in one blog post and I don’t intend to. Instead, I’d like to offer you some food for thought to take into your classes and every day activities.

Even now, as you read this, how are you sitting or standing? Think about your little shoulder blades. Where are they right now? And where have they been for most of the day? If you spend a lot of time at your desk, they’ll have been fairly slack as your shoulders slope forwards and your wrists/fingers take the strain. If you sit up straight now and think about letting them drop away from your ears, how does that feel?

Inactivity and rigidity are enemies of your musculo-skeletal system so here are a few ideas for getting your shoulder blades moving:

THE IMAGINARY HAND SQUEEZE:

Stand up and imagine someone has placed their hand between your shoulder blades. Now try to squeeze the hand (you could of course find a willing volunteer).

 

My son, demonstrating THE DIVER

My son, demonstrating THE DIVER

THE DIVER:

From standing, place both hands above your head as if you were about to dive into water. Now raise your shoulders to your ears, without changing your hand/arm position and then lower your shoulders to create space under your ears. This exercise stimulates the natural winging in and out of your shoulder blades.

THE PUSH-UP PREP:

From your hands and knees (you can progress to toes) prepare for a push up. Now check your elbow joint position. Are they pointing out to the sides or back, towards your knees? If they are facing the sides, your shoulders aren’t in the right position and you’ll always struggle to do a push-up (plus you’ll get really sore wrists). Instead try drawing your shoulder blades away from your ears, squeeze them together just a little and ensure your elbow joint creases are facing forwards. Notice what happens now when you bend your elbows.

THE KNEELING TWIST:

From your hands and knees, thread one arm through your torso as if you were threading a needle, bending the other elbow to enable your shoulder blade to almost touch the floor, then go the other way, opening up your arm completely to the side.

 

Taking the fun out of fitness

Personal training. Spinning. Bootcamps. HITT training. Weights or no weights. Running vs. jogging. Pilates vs. yoga. Zumba. Walking the dog. Nordic walking … the list is endless. As someone who is immersed the fitness industry on a daily basis, both as a service provider and a writer, I’m forever bemused by the internal wranglings of fitness professionals over what is best, what is optimum and what is just a waste of time. In their opinion.

The thing is, if you are exercising to train in the Commonwealth Games or to rehabilitate a broken back, then the type of training that you do is REALLY important. But if you start a personal training programme and your trainer insists you do X,Y and Z for optimum effect and you hate X,Y and Z, then no matter how clever your trainer is or how keen you are, you won’t stick to it. Would it not be better for you to do a bit of X and Y but then a whole lot more of the stuff you love?

Here’s what I think (for what it’s worth). Enjoyment, community, stress release and fun are THE most important factors when it comes to exercise for most people. Yes, if you have a specific goal in mind like marathon training or weight loss, then you might have to factor in a little more of the optimal training stuff but please not to the detriment of what makes exercise enjoyable for you. When I recently interviewed the man who pioneered fitness clubs in the UK. Ken Heathcote (who was also the founder of fitness industry qualifications) he said social HAD to come first, functional after.

So if someone tries to tell you otherwise … I’d suggest you tell them to optimise their opinions to someone who cares.

Now here are a few people who knew how to laugh at themselves: Acorn Antiques does health and fitness.

acornantiques
Ken Heathcote, Father of Fitness, on creating fitness moments of magic.
Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com

Pilates basics – three exercises to practise at home

When it comes to Pilates basics, for me the perfect trinity is always shoulder bridge, swimming and the one hundred.  These exercises help you to focus on your core and trunk stability as well as mobilising your spine and getting blood flow to the lower back.

If you can practise these between Pilates classes, you’ll find you can progress quicker each week.

1. Swimming

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkDIsTEP5lQ

2. Shoulder Bridge

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgA2M45dHS4&feature=relmfu

3. One Hundred

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCSDC5tAOEA&feature=relmfu

Here’s a link to another post I wrote which breaks down the One Hundred setup, just in case you’d rather have it written down. In this post I go into how to do the exercise without the fear of making any pelvic floor issues worse!

https://alittlefitter.com/2012/07/17/finding-your-core-without-pushing-through-your-floor/

Ten ways to find your pelvic floor – for your friends.

So I know you know that pelvic floor exercises are a big deal. And I know you know that Pilates is a fabulous way of making sure you get regular practise in.  I also know you know that pelvic floor exercises aren’t just something you do when you’re in the childbearing years because age and the menopause can have an unpleasant affect on your lady parts.

But, your friends might not know these things. So for the benefit of your friends who might not know how to find their pelvic floor muscles. Here’s my uncensored guide.

1. Have sex (or use your fingers if that sounds like too much effort) and squeeze.

2. Straddle the arm of a firm sofa. Rock backwards and forwards and you’ll feel your pelvic floor react.

3. Give birth. The waves you feel when you get a really good push are your pelvic floor muscles working.

4. Lean forwards off a chair and imagine you are picking up a tissue with your vagina.

5. Sneeze.

6. Hold one hand over your bits and then blow up a balloon. You’ll feel tension in your bits. That’s your pelvic floor. If you feel something pressing out, go and see a doctor.

7. Stand on a power plate or above the engine of a double decker bus. The vibrations will make your pelvic floor work.

8. Do a squat, hold it. Now squeeze your fist between your knees.

9. Stand up with your hands up over your head. Now lean backwards as if you’re reaching for something behind you. Your pelvic floor will work.

10. Eat a cabbage/lentil medley, then sit in a very quiet church service . . . parp!

AND always remember the three R’s for doing your exercises:

Find the RIGHT position: Your spine needs to be in a neutral position to get an effective contraction, so get on all fours and wiggle your pelvis forwards and backwards until it feels right.

RELAX: Always work from a fully relaxed state. You need to tense and relax muscles.

REPETITION: The more the merrier (see top tip number 1).