Baby On The Way? Exercise Away!

There are many benefits to exercising during pregnancy; these benefits last throughout the duration of the pregnancy, the labor and delivery, and the recovery period. Pre-natal activity leads to improved muscular strength and endurance, increased cardiovascular fitness, better posture, and an improvement in circulation, energy levels, and self-esteem. Additionally, exercise can decrease or prevent constipation, leg cramps, insomnia, fatigue, back pain, anxiety, depression, varicose veins, and extremity swelling.   Research also shows that women who exercise through the full term have shorter labors and easier deliveries. After delivery, studies show that fit women recover faster than unfit women and return to normal activities 40% faster.

Healthy women who do not have complications do not need to limit their exercise routines. There is no data to suggest that pregnant women should limit exercise intensity and lower target heart rate. ACSM only recommends that women continue their pre-pregnancy exercise routine, but not increase the intensity. However, there are certain medical conditions which are contraindicated to exercise, and pregnant women should be evaluated and obtain permission from their physician before a trainer begins to work with them or before they start any kind of cardiovascular program. Additionally, pregnant women should avoid any type of exercise that may have a potential for impact or that has a high degree of balance or agility needed, such as ice skating, horseback riding, or skiing.

One of the concerns about women exercising during pregnancy had been that the fetus was at risk from overheating. Under normal resting conditions, the fetal temperature is 1 degree higher than the mother’s. Current research does not show that the fetus is at risk from women who exercise vigorously early in their pregnancy. Actually, it seems that the pregnant woman’s body adapts to regulate their body temperature and dissipate heat. Pregnant women should still stay well hydrated, wear loose fitting and lightweight clothing and avoid exercising in hot and humid conditions.

While exercising, women should gauge their intensity by using RPE (rating of perceived exertion), which should be between a 5-8 on a scale of 1-10. If exercise results in increased fatigue, then intensity and/or duration should be decreased. Modify exercises that feel awkward or uncomfortable, and report any unusual discomfort or symptoms to your trainer. Focus on posture and maintain good alignment.

Pregnant women can safely perform resistance exercise, but heavy weightlifting that requires straining should be limited. It is also important to avoid lying on your back during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. This is because the extra weight of the enlarged uterus may compress the vena cava, which is the main blood vessel, which returns blood to the heart. If blood flow is restricted, blood pressure and fetal blood supply and oxygen may be decreased, which may affect fetal growth and development.

In addition to a regular exercise routine, pregnant women should do pelvic floor exercises, called kegels. Kegels are a very important exercise for pregnant women because they strengthen and protect the pelvic floor muscles. They help decrease urinary stress incontinence both pre and post partum. Strong muscles also prevent pelvic organ prolapse, pelvic pain, and misalignment of some joints in the hip area. It also helps with the pushing phase of labor.

Diet is also extremely important during pregnancy. Pregnant women need to eat a healthy balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and complex carbohydrates. It is best to eat small frequent meals and drink fluids regularly to avoid dehydration, decreased blood sugar, and to ensure adequate nutrients. They should eat a pre-exercise snack and drink plenty of water – 6-8 oz for every 15-20 minutes of activity. Pregnancy requires an additional 300 calories per day. A woman who exercises should add 150-250 more calories on top of that. However, the best way to gauge whether a pregnant woman is eating sufficient calories to ensure adequate weight gain. Pregnancy is not a time to diet or restrict calories!!! It is also not a time to binge and eat whatever you want!

Physical activity appears to benefit both mother and baby, and as long as pregnant women realize their restrictions, they may continue their exercise regimen without any negative consequences.

New Gluten-Free Labeling

New gluten-free labeling went into effect on Tuesday, August 5th. Per the FDA, any packaged food with a label of “gluten-free” cannot contain more than 20 parts per million of gluten. However, the use of the label is not mandatory. Therefore, people with Celiac Disease and gluten sensitivities still must be avid food label readers since it is not a requirement that companies put the label on their packaged goods. This is a very good first step to ensure that individuals are not misled and are provided with accurate information.

Time for TV? Then Time to Get Moving!

The average person watches 34 hours a week of live TV plus 3-6 hours of recorded TV. Average excuse for not exercising? Not enough time (from T Nation (Twitter)). To make sure that you exercise, first consider what days best suit your schedule, given your other commitments. Next, choose a time of day where you find exercise enjoyable; some people are more motivated in the morning while others prefer the afternoon or evenings. Make sure to put your  first exercise appointments on your calendar, until it becomes routine. Also, exercising with a friend helps you stay focused and motivated!

Rest to See Better Results

It is common knowledge that exercise and physical activity are beneficial to your health. But how much is too much? Many people don’t take any days off from exercising, and therefore they don’t allow any time for recovery. Too much exercise can be just as dangerous as not exercising at all!!! It is important to remember that exercise can prevent injuries, but it can also cause them! Rest and recovery is an essential part of any exercise program. In order to train more effectively, you need a recovery plan. This will have a significant impact on your fitness gains and sports performance.

During a workout, muscle fibers are damaged. When resistance is placed on a muscle through running, weight training, etc, the muscle develops tiny microscopic tears, which activate muscle building. The tears cause the formation of new muscle protein strands which increase the strength and size of the muscle. Additionally, the tears start the process of healing by creating new cells to heal the damaged tissue and relieve any soreness. This alters the homeostasis in the body, which creates stress. The greater the tear in the muscle, the more likely it is to have muscle soreness and an altered homeostatic state.
After exercise, recovery is essential to muscle and tissue repair and strength building. Muscles are repaired and rebuilt only during the recovery period. Without proper recovery, especially after a workout that is too strenuous or prolonged, the body stays in the altered homeostatic state for longer than it should, which may lead to injuries. A muscle needs anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to repair and rebuild, and working it again too soon leads to tissue breakdown instead of building.

Recovery should take place both during and after workouts. It is important to rest between weight sets or cardiovascular intervals as well as between workouts in the same week. For weight training programs, never work the same muscles groups two days in a row. Rest helps replenish your energy stores, which get depleted during workouts. People often don’t find the time to rest and relax, but it is one of the easiest things to do to promote recovery and repair. One easy way to recover faster is to design a smart workout routine in the first place. You will limit your progress and undermine your recovery with excessive exercise, heavy training at every session or a lack of rest days.

Stretching is another way to aid the recovery process. It prevents the muscles from becoming knotted and helps improve flexibility. Additionally, it is important to remain hydrated to aid in muscle recovery and to keep heart rate and blood pressure stable. Water supports every metabolic function in your body and must replaced when lost through sweat. A lot of fluid can be lost during strenuous workouts and it needs to be replaced both during and after exercise. Endurance athletes who sweat for hours and lose large amounts of water especially need to replace their fluids for optimal performance and recovery.

Sleep is also extremely important. It is imperative to get between 7-9 hours of sleep to ensure hormones and chemicals like growth hormone and cortisol are produced and in balance. GH is largely responsible for tissue growth and repair. Sleep also enhances protein synthesis, boosts immune function, and helps relax the nervous system. Optimal sleep is essential for anyone who exercises regularly.

The most important thing you can do to improve fitness, prevent injury and speed up recovery is to listen to your body. If you feel tired or sore, take a break or rest. Your body will tell you what it needs if you pay attention to it, rather than ignore the warning signs. The best way to ensure you are training and resting optimally is to consult with a personal trainer to design an effective exercise program and help prevent you from overtraining.

Exercise, Health and Lifestyle Factors May Affect Memory, Even in Young Adults

A recent study published in PLOS ONE found that lifestyle factors and health issues may contribute to memory complaints, even in younger adults. Researchers at UCLA examined known risk factors for dementia, including depression, lower education levels, physical inactivity, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and smoking. They found that depression, low levels of education, physical inactivity and high blood pressure increased the likelihood of memory complaints in younger adults (ages 18-39), middle-aged adults (40-59) and older adults (60-99). In all age groups, depression was the strongest single risk factor for memory complaints. Regardless of age, even just one risk factor significantly increased the frequency of memory complaints. Memory complaints rose when the number of risk factors increased. This is just another reason to eat well, exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle and decrease stress.

Decrease Stress to Stay Slim

Chronic stress can have both negative physical and negative mental effects. A new study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology showed a direct link between chronic stress and the body’s metabolic response. The study showed that women who ate the same high fat and sugary foods  had more weight gain, fat deposit, and  insulin resistance when their chronic stress was elevated.  Therefore, these women were more prone to  health risks than low-stress women who ate the same food. There is no magic pill to decrease stress levels, but exercise, meditation, yoga and deep breathing techniques can help. Get adequate sleep and eat a diet filled with nutrients to help combat disease.

New Tool Calculates Belly Fat

Most Americans know that unwanted weight and obesity have negative health consequences, especially if the weight is centered around a person’s midsection. A new tool, called “A Body Shape Index” or ABSI, calculates your relative risk of premature death based on your belly fat and age. If you go to www-ce.ccny.cuny.edu/nir/sw/absi-calculator.html and put in the required information you will determine your risk. Less than 1 indicates less risk, 1 is average risk and over a 1 is a greater risk. If you score greater than a 1, it might be time to hit the gym and start a healthy balanced diet!

Exercise Beneficial to Pre-diabetics

Healthcare tends to focus on treating diseases and conditions rather than preventing them.  Most people are aware that chronic diseases increase the risk of death. In fact, research has shown that people with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to die from cardiovascular disease. On a positive note, exercise and diet changes have been shown to decrease all chronic diseases by 80%.

A new study decided to examine whether people with PREdiabetes had benefits from diet and exercise.  The findings showed that those who changed their lifestyle decreased their risk of dying by almost half of those that did not engage in lifestyle changes. So don’t wait to start eating better and getting healthy! Start today!

Running in Moderation May Be Better than Excess!

It is common knowledge that physical activity is good for your health.  Exercising is good for weight maintenance and heart health, and health professionals advocate physical activity in moderation. But how much is too much? There is a growing body of research that has found that excessive endurance exercise may actually be just as bad as being sedentary.  A new study at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation looked at long term marathon and ultra-marathon runners and found that  plaque buildup in their coronary arteries was 62% higher than those who were sedentary.  Don’t take this as an excuse to stay on the couch! Being sedentary is unhealthy; the best long term benefits appears to come from regular, moderate exercise.

Agavins, the Newest Sugar Substitute

There are many sugar substitute on the market, such as Splenda, Equal, and Sweet N Low.  People use sugar substitutes instead of sugar to assist in weight loss and to help control blood sugar levels.  Currently, agavin, which is a new sugar substitute from the agave plant, is now being studied.  Agavins should not be confused with agave nectar or syrup; agavins are not absorbed into the bloodstream and therefore do not raise blood sugar levels or add calories, while agave nectar and syrup do.  The research on agavins is promising; agavins are natural, soluble, and have a low glycemic index. Agavins also may aide in weight loss; they are a type of fiber that increases satiety, and they may increase insulin production and lower blood sugar. However, studies have only been conducted in mice and more research is needed to see if agavins are a viable sugar alternative.