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Can Exercise Prevent Vision Loss?

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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.

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choosing a fitness professional

Looking for Female Personal Trainers

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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?

– Knowledge

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.

– Disposition

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.

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#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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6 Exercises That Build Better Arms

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If you’re looking for simple workouts to build or tone your arms, look no further! Below are six ways to pump iron at the gym or with the right pieces of freestanding equipment at home. That’s right: You don’t need any machines to perform these! Read through each description, and watch the corresponding videos to see what they’re all about.

#1 – Alternating Hammer Curl

To do the alternating hammer curl, you’ll need two dumbbells. As you curl each dumbbell, maintain proper form with a straight torso and fixed elbows. Your forearms do the active work here, but your biceps get the greatest burn reward.

#2 – Barbell Curl

When performing a barbell curl, keep your upper arms steady while using your biceps to lift the weight. Lift the bar to shoulder height (or higher like the guy below, if you can). This workout also affects your forearms.

#3 – EZ-Bar Curl

This type of curl uses an EZ-bar, hence the name. Like the barbell curl, it also targets the biceps and forearms — with an added bonus of shoulder work. Unlike the barbell curl, though, it’s easier on the wrists. (The EZ-bar was actually designed for this reason.)

#4 – Bicep Band Curl

The bicep band curl has nothing to do with pumping iron like the other workouts, but the mechanics are similar to a curl involving weights. The resistance you get from a band like this, especially when you add extra speed, is perfect for toning your biceps and forearms!

#5 – Standing Overhead Dumbbell Tricep Extension

If you really want to “feel it” in your triceps, try this dumbbell tricep extension. While standing, hold a dumbbell with both hands underneath the top weight plate. Keep your upper arms stable as you raise the dumbbell above your head and then lower it behind.

#6 – Swiss Ball Dumbbell Lying Tricep Extension

If you’re in for an adventure, lying down on an exercise ball gives tricep extensions a new perspective. While maintaining careful balance on the ball and keeping your pelvis parallel to the ground, lift two dumbbells above your head with your palms facing each other. You’ll also feel this one in your forearms!

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