When a University of Virginia researcher set out to justify his sedentary lifestyle, he discovered that rising from the couch offered some eye-opening benefits: Even moderate exercise may slow or prevent vision loss.
In a study using lab mice, Bradley Gelfand, PhD, an assistant professor at UVA’s Center for Advanced Vision Science, found that exercising reduced the harmful overgrowth of blood vessels in the eyes — known to cause macular degeneration and other vision problems — by as much as 45 percent. Because the findings do not rely on self-reporting by study participants, Gelfand says, “This [study] offers hard evidence from the lab for the very first time.”
Some 11 million Americans suffer from some form of macular degeneration, and the condition tends to emerge as we age and abandon our fitness regimens.
Gelfand suspects the salutary effects of exercise on the eyes may be due to increased blood flow, but he admits there’s more work to be done before he’s ready to recommend any solutions. “We’re talking about a fairly elderly population . . . many of whom may not be capable of conducting the type of exercise regimen that may be required to see some benefit,” he says.
The findings did, however, change his own thinking. “I was hoping to find some reason not to exercise,” the self-described couch potato jokes. “It turned out exercise really is good for you.”
This article originally appeared as “See It to Believe It” in the January/February 2021 issue of Experience Life.
Have you tried this NEW workout plan that everyone is talking about?
Best for Fat Loss: HIIT or Endurance Training?
By Butch Peterson
A series of short, intense cardio intervals provide similar fitness results as long efforts do, but in much less time.
It happens to just about everyone. They hop on the treadmill, elliptical or stairclimber, ready for an invigorating cardio workout but before the machine even gets warmed up, the would-be calorie cruncher is faced with that same old cardio menu option –“Intervals” or “Fat Burning?” Which one to choose? For some it’s a bigger dilemma than “paper or plastic.”
Choosing “Intervals” means hard efforts mixed with easy. Now that’s not a bad option for anyone who is in an aggressive mood and wants a challenge. But what about “Fat Burning?” Who does not want to burn fat? Isn’t “fat burning” one of the reasons a lot of people join the gym in the first place?
Which Program Is Best?
If you are like most people, you have asked the same question. But what is interval training? Or to be more specific, what is the buzz term “HIIT,” aka high-intensity interval training? And what is endurance training at lower intensity, aka “in the fat burning zone?”
The hype with HIIT is from studies that show that a series of short, intense cardio intervals provide similar fitness results as long efforts do, but in much less time. It’s like traveling across country on a jet – a few layovers will get you to your destination faster than one long road trip. For example, a 40-minute HIIT treadmill workout that includes eight three-minute maximum efforts mixed with two-minute recovery periods burns more calories than a long two-hour jog at 60 percent effort. So, simply, the appeal of HIIT is that interval training burns more calories in a shorter time.
While some might think HIIT is a relatively new idea, it’s actually been around for a century – seriously! According to research by Billat in 2001, Finnish long distance runner Hannes Kolehmainen was doing HIIT back in the early 1900s. The “Flying Finn” Kolehmainen must have been on to something because he tallied up four gold medals and one silver medal in the 1912, 1916 and 1920 Olympic Games.
Despite Kolehmainen’s successes 100 years ago, many people still consider the best way to improve performance, burn calories, drop weight and get fit is put in long slow hours in the “fat burning” zone.
Long-effort endurance training (or training in the “fat burning” zone) is typically defined as exercising for more than 20 minutes at a steady intensity. For example, a jog around the park, a recreational bike ride, or exercising at a consistent pace on stairclimber, elliptical, treadmill or any type of indoor machine found in the cardio section of most gyms is considered long-effort endurance training.
What Are the Benefits?
First of all, both endurance training and HIIT training are highly beneficial to cardiac health. Cardio exercise strengthens the heart, which helps push more oxygen-carrying blood to the muscles faster. Cardio exercise also strengthens the skeletal muscles that help return the blood back to the heart.
Typically, people who start a cardio program feel the benefits in a matter of weeks if not days. One way to think of it is this – as the body makes adaptations to the stress of the workouts and as the heart and skeletal muscles grow stronger, the blood circulates more efficiently and the body can handle more stress. So for example, someone who starts an exercise program that consists of jogging on a treadmill one mile, three times a week for two weeks would be more prepared to raise their distance to two miles a day, four times a week than someone of a similar fitness level who has not started an exercise program at all.
In addition to strengthening the heart, cardio also improves metabolism, increases the removal of metabolic waste and increases fat oxidation.
Which One Is Better?
According to studies, HIIT is shown to have similar benefits as endurance training, with less time working out. So for those of us who feel there’s not enough time to work out, the faster route tends to be the better route. In addition to less time in the gym, studies have shown that HIIT not only brought about faster improvements, it also elicited superior cardiovascular benefits than endurance training. Helgerud et al. found that performing four bouts of four-minute running efforts at 90 percent to 95 percent of maximum heart rate, separated by three minutes of active recovery at 70 percent of maximum heart rate three days a week for eight weeks, resulted in a 10 percent greater improvement in the amount of blood pumped from the heart than did endurance training. Slordahl et al. also showed that HIIT strengthened the heart 13 percent more than endurance training.
Research has also shown that HIIT is better than endurance training for improving the body’s maximal aerobic capacity or (VO2 max). Daussin et al. compared a group of men and women who trained for eight weeks doing HIIT to a group of men and women who only did endurance training. The study found that those doing HIIT increased their VO2 max 15 percent, while the group in the endurance training group only experienced VO2 max increase of 9 percent.
Are Low-Intensity Workouts a Waste of Time?
Not at all. Most fitness professionals would agree that presuming that low-intensity workouts are a waste of time is not a very good idea. In fact, many of the findings show that low-intensity workouts are the main foundation of training, and high-intensity interval workouts are not considered anything like the “cornerstone” of that training foundation.
Tips for Starting HIIT
• Before engaging in higher intensity workouts, it is important to have a strong base.
• Instead of getting rid of one training method for another, alternate workouts for more variety.
• Keep the workouts down to two or three per week.
• The effects of HIIT on physiology and performance are fairly rapid, but rapid plateau effects are seen as well. To keep from falling into a rut, increase training volume systematically.
• Keep easy workouts easy and hard workouts hard.
HIIT vs. Continual Endurance Micah Zuhl, MS, and Len Kravitz, Ph.D. February 2012 IDEA Fitness Journal
Aerobic exercise bests resistance training at burning belly fat. Chris Slentz, Ph.D, Lori Bateman, M.S., Willia E. Kraus, M.D., Leslie H. Willis, M.S., A. M.S., Lucy W. Piner, M.S., Victoria H. Hawk, M.P.H., R.D., Michael J. Muehlbauer, Ph.D., Greg P. Samsa, Ph.D., Rendon C. Nelson, M.D., Kim M. Huffman M.D., Ph.D., Connie W. Bales, Ph.D., R.D. Duke University
Intervals, Thresholds, and Long Slow Distance: the Role of Intensity and Duration in Endurance Training. Stephen Seiler and Espen Tønnessen. Sportscience, 13, 32-53, 2009 (sportsci.org/2009/ss.htm)
Have you tried this NEW workout plan that everyone is talking about?
Looking for Female Personal Trainers
Get the Basics…
Some women may feel embarrassed working out with a male trainer. Men may feel intimidated by male trainers. Both and male and female trainers deliver quality workouts.
Most people want to slim down and live a healthier lifestyle. And while some reach their fitness goals alone, others need the help of a qualified personal trainer. When it comes time to make a final decision, you may wonder if it’s better to work with a male or female trainer.
Relationship with Your Personal Trainer
In life, you have many different types of relationships. You have a certain bond with your doctor, masseuse, and even your hairstylist. When you decide to work with a personal trainer, they also become a vital piece of equipment in your healthy lifestyle toolbox. And as such, you want a trainer who can guide you in the right direction. But what qualifications do they need? Does gender really matter?
What type of credentials does he or she possess? Are you looking for a trainer who specializes in weight training, or someone who can help you train for a marathon? Regardless of gender, the more versatile the trainer, the more creative they are when designing a personalized workout plan.
Do you need someone who is serious and militant-like with their training style, or do you want a trainer who is more compassionate? Your needs in the gym all play a role when deciding whether a male or female trainer is best for you.
– Training Method
While women have a better understanding of what it takes to get their pre-baby body back, they also know how difficult it is to build muscle mass while slimming down. If you’re a man, hiring a female trainer doesn’t mean you will have to forego your personal fitness goals. She’ll establish the training method that’s right for you.
A Female’s Perspective
For some women, going to the gym is a daunting task, particularly after they have children. Many women are embarrassed by their shape, which means it’s even more difficult to feel comfortable exercising in front of other people. Hiring a female trainer may make things easier since they can relate to what you are feeling.
With a female trainer, your comfort level may be higher, which will increase your motivation and help you get the most out of your workouts.
Furthermore, certain exercises may feel awkward when you perform them with a male, so doing the same exercise with a female may make you feel more relaxed. Females aren’t built the same as males, so you can’t expect the same exercises to produce identical results. And while there are a lot of experienced male trainers who help women whip their bodies into shape, you might not feel confident enough to take that chance.
Since a female trainer probably uses similar training methods when she works out, she won’t second-guess what she is doing when she trains another female. But it’s important to note that male trainers are equally as competent as the female counterparts.
A Male’s Perspective
Have you ever gone to the gym only to look around and compare yourself to everyone else because you thought they looked better than you? Although you may think that having a woman help you get fit is not manly, it is a lot better than feeling inadequate because you aren’t as ripped as your male trainer.
Yes, females are just as ripped as males, but there is just something about the male psyche that makes it easier to work out with women than the thought of being taunted by another man. And while you may feel the need to impress a female trainer, the initial novelty wears off pretty quickly so you can focus on reaching your fitness goals, as opposed to flexing your muscles.
If you’re having doubts, you can always schedule a trial lesson or two and see if you feel comfortable with a female trainer. While this isn’t the right decision for everyone, many people who do this find that they are happy with the choice they made.
Choosing a Personal Trainer
Whether you’re trying to lose weight or build muscle mass, the last thing you need is to feel uncomfortable with your trainer. When choosing a trainer, gender really shouldn’t come into play.
A qualified trainer is someone who has worked with all types of clients and has the education and experience to help you reach your fitness goals.
The process of hiring a personal trainer needs to be done with care. Regardless of whether you hire a female or male trainer, make sure that they have the proper qualifications, credentials, and experience.
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5 Exercises for a Stronger Lower Back (Demo Videos)
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Strengthen your lower back with these five workouts. Two of them require equipment. Watch demonstration videos to learn how to perform them.
If you work a desk job, drive often, or sit a lot for other reasons, the strain this puts on your lower back can cause stiffness and aches. Other than stretching and performing aerobic exercises to get your body moving between sits, it’s likely you also need to strengthen those muscles.
But, if you struggle from chronic, debilitating back pain, please see a trusted chiropractor, physical therapist, or other spine specialist who can assess whether your back muscles are compensating for an underlying joint issue. Before you try the following lower back exercises, please clear them with your specialist.
Sign up for our annual Pro plan, where it’s simple to log workouts like these and view your progress!
#1 – Bird Dog
The bird dog is an exercise you’ve likely done in a yoga or Pilates class before. It focuses on the diagonal positioning of your body, which means that you simultaneously move one arm forward while moving the opposite leg backward. Make sure you tighten your core while doing this move. You’ll also feel this one in your traps, shoulders, hamstrings, glutes, and abs.
#2 – Superman
Another calisthenics and Pilates exercise is the superman. To strengthen your lower back with this workout, lift up your chest, arms, and legs while lying on your stomach. You can “fly” side-to-side to pretend you’re the cape-draped superhero, or you can remain stationary. Pretending to fly is more fun, but either way, your glutes and “hammies” will also thank you for this exercise.
#3 – Pilates Swimming
Pilates swimming is like the bird dog and superman workouts combined. Lie on your stomach, lift your chest, arms, and legs, and simultaneously move one arm with the opposite leg; then switch. Pick up the pace to get a cardio boost!
You’ll feel this one in several different muscles groups, including the abs. After all, an important part of strengthening the lower back involves stronger abs. They’re connected and support each other.
#4 – Back Extension
The back extension requires the back-extension station at your local gym. If your spine specialist has approved this type of bendy workout, please perform it carefully. Cross your arms over your chest, and bend at the waist. Don’t over-arch your back when you pull yourself up. Your glutes, hamstrings, and abs also favor the back extension.
#5 – Weighted Back Extension
Hold a weight plate over your chest for the weighted back extension. Unlike the previous workout, you’ll start with a lower bend and pull up to where your chest is parallel to the floor. Your hamstrings and lower back (obviously) will feel the most impact. Again, please make sure this exercise is doctor-approved, especially since there’s more than bodyweight involved. If you feel pain, stop.
Track your lower back progress and more when you sign up for our annual Pro plan. With our advanced stats in a convenient app, it’s never been easier to stay motivated and meet your fitness goals!
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