NIFS Healthy Living Blog

NIFS August Group Fitness Class of the Month: Yoga

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Yoga is good for all types of people who have all types of fitness goals. No matter what your age, size, shape, or training regimen, you can reap the benefits of doing it on a regular basis. In fact, there are different types of yoga, and some of them are quite challenging regarding strength and balance.

Yoga is NIFS Group Fitness Class of the Month. Let’s take a look at some specific groups of people and why yoga can be beneficial to them.

Athletes

For many athletes, the idea of getting a good, solid workout means needing a wheelchair to get out of the gym. However, a good 60-minute yoga session could really help far more than the mind tells you it can. In fact, one of these sessions may be, at times, even more beneficial than that 60-minute lift you were just about to do. Yoga helps to improve strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, mental control, and mobility; increases power; and works as a perfect active-recovery exercise.

Seniors

For senior fitness, yoga is great to help gain better stability and balance. As people age, their balance, stability, and proprioception diminish. But with the help of yoga, you can slow down the process. On top of improved stability and balance, yoga helps to improve flexibility and overall joint health, reduces high blood pressure, improves breathing, and helps to reduce anxiety or depression.

The General Population

For the everyday exerciser who is simply trying to fit exercise into their regular, busy life schedule, yoga is great, too! Yoga is actually a form of physical fitness and has several benefits for those looking for a relaxing yet challenging workout. Yoga helps boost emotional health, reduce back pain, reduce heart disease, put asthma at ease, boost memory, improve flexibility… and the list goes on.

Youth

Yes, yoga is good for kids as well. Yoga is good for the youth population because it gives them time to step away from technology, inwardly connect with themselves, and listen to their own feelings and ideas. For this age range of people, it has been found that yoga can help improve self-esteem, attention span, empowerment, and self-regulation.

August_Yoga.jpgPowerlifters

Believe it or not, powerlifting and yoga are a match made in heaven! Yoga for those who like to lift heavy helps improve grip strength and endurance, improve breathing, relieve knee and lower-back pain, aid in flexibility (specifically in the back for power lifters), and increase strength. While you might not be the first one in class to touch your toes, make that your next goal, then lift the car above your head!

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Check out NIFS’ group fitness schedule and join us for a class in Indianapolis. Namaste, friends and fellow soon-to-be yogis!

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This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS yoga group fitness balance senior fitness kids powerlifting athletes Group Fitness Class of the Month

Training the Aging Active Adult (Part 4 of 4)

ThinkstockPhotos-179075741.jpgThis is the final installment in my series on training for people 40 and over. Previously I’ve discussed training needs and health concerns for older adults, the importance of strength training, and the role of the glutes. Now let’s talk about the old-school way to reach your fitness goals while aging gracefully.

Someone on Facebook said she wanted to train her back harder than her grip would allow and asked which would be better, lifting straps or Versa Gripps. The answers bounced back and forth between the two options (usually bodybuilders doing the commenting), but I just had to offer a third option: neither.

“Old school–develop your grip strength so it’s not the weak link.”

Some of the clueless responses from a few bodybuilders about grip work interfering with arm and back day and how you couldn’t develop your back if you had to wait for your grip were sadly amusing.

Shortcuts Don’t Pay

If she did use the straps or Versa Gripps to allow for heavier loading of the back for the sake of back development (aesthetics), the grip would continue to be weaker than the muscles up the movement chain and would therefore be a rate limiter in the upper body’s functional strength. This imbalance could be a source of future injuries as well. And of course, this begs the question: why is there an imbalance in the first place?

When the focus of fitness is to look better in front of a mirror, concepts like correcting movement deficiencies, addressing strength weaknesses, and the effects of rate limiters on functional strength have as much interest as broccoli does to a 3-year-old.

It’s easy to pick on bodybuilding because to those on the outside, bodybuilding seems to be the extreme example of narcissistic frivolousness. But alas, all exercise and fitness pursuits have a huge egocentric component, whether it’s picking up more weight, running faster/further, or killing Fran or Fight Gone Bad.

Sometimes You Just Have to Eat Your Broccoli

The point is that we are all results-driven regardless of whether our fitness interests are functional training or just looking better. We want improvements to arrive quicker and the process to be easier, even if the shortcuts we take for short-term gains have a high price on the back end. Seemingly innocent lifting straps are at one end of the shortcut continuum, and PEDs at the other; but they all are attempts to circumvent the body’s natural processes. All the things you chose to ignore, neglect, and ill-advised shortcuts will eventually show up during your fitness “come to Jesus meeting” sometime in your 40s and 50s. And just know that the accompanying injuries that come during that meeting are served in a broccoli casserole, heavily seasoned with “I Told You So.”

Take shortcuts and ignore weakness at your own peril. There, I just told you so. Go eat your broccoli!

Learn more about your current fitness status with NIFS’s Functional Movement Screening or Personal Fitness Evaluation.

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This blog was written by Rick Huse, CSCS, WKC Competition Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: functional training injury prevention muscles senior fitness strength goals

Training the Active Aging Adult (Part 3 of 4)

ThinkstockPhotos-523032469-1In earlier installments, I’ve talked about health concerns for active people over 40, as well as the importance of strength and functional training for people in this age group. As promised, I will now focus in on strength training, and we’ll start with your butt.

The glute complex (your hips) has the greatest potential for strength and power in the human body, and is the foundation for all ground-based movement. If used properly, it lifts things up (like the grandkids) and spares the low back. Let’s call this the “lifting things up” or the dead-lift pattern.

The Lost Glutes

Because of the enormous amount of sitting done in our modern lifestyle, many adults can’t find their glutes (through muscle activation) with a map, hand mirror, and a flashlight. When you place people on their backs on the floor with their knees up and feet planted on the ground, then have them try to raise their hips off the floor by contracting just their glutes, many will fire their hamstrings while their glutes remain totally quiet. This situation has been referred to as glute amnesia; more accurate would be to say it’s a disconnect between brain and muscle. The body will find a way to accomplish the desired task by resorting to Plan B (in this case, the hamstrings) if the primary movers, the glutes, are offline. The hips will move off the ground but at a cost: inefficient movement, lower performance potential, and higher risk of injury to the Plan B muscles—and also to surrounding tissue and joints.

Foundational Movement: The Hip Hinge

Learning to properly hinge the hips and to activate the glutes is critical for skilled and graceful movement and injury prevention as you age. This is life quality for now and into your future. So let’s try the foundational movement, the hip hinge:

  1. Stand with your feet about hip width apart and hands resting on the front of your thighs. You can also hold a light barbell or a pair of light dumbbells to provide a little resistance.
  2. With your lower legs perpendicular to the ground, push your hips backward while bending forward at the hips. Your upper body will fold over with your back in a straight line from the tailbone to the back of your head.
  3. Do not squat and do not bend forward at the waist (lumbar spine).
  4. Once your hands reach your knees, pause, focus on your glutes, and tighten them as you try to push the ground away with your feet. Return to standing with a straight line from the heels to the back of your head.
  5. Rinse and repeat until the movement feels natural.
  6. If in doubt, keep your hips higher while you bend forward and sense your upper body closing the distance with the ground.
  7. If you have health issues, balance problems, or serious muscle weakness, seek proper medical assistance. Watch this video as a guide.

Your body is programmed to avoid falling on your face by trying to stay more upright and bending your knees more into a squat pattern if it doesn’t sense proper muscle activation. If you learn to position your skeleton into the correct architecture for the movement you are attempting and recruit the target muscles for that movement (in this case, the glutes and core), you will not face-dive. If you do splat, see #6 above (and please post the video on YouTube).

Every day, at some point, you will need to bend over (hinge) and pick something up. Conventional wisdom dictates that we lift with our legs from a squat position, but our greatest power for this movement comes from the hinge pattern and the glutes. That’s why we call it the Big House. Heed the immortal words from Sir Mix-A-Lot: “You can do side bends or sit-ups, but please don’t lose that butt.”

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This blog was written by Rick Huse, CSCS, WKC Competition Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: staying active injury prevention muscles senior fitness strength exercises

Training the Active Aging Adult (Part 2 of 4)

In the last blog, I discussed that the 40-plus age group had different training needs because of the effects of aging: loss of muscle strength fibers (sarcopenia), weakening of connective tissue with the resulting aches and pains and injuries, joint issues (arthritis and loss of range of motion), hormonal changes, weight gain (especially visceral fat), heart disease, and diabetes.

For many in this age group, other medical conditions seem to appear from out of nowhere. Theories for why range from genetics to reduction of stem cells, but the fact remains: unexpected conditions and diseases show up uninvited and certainly unwanted from about 45 and beyond. If you are in this age group and actively training, you need to know a lot more about your body, especially your age-related limitations.

A reminder for those training themselves: the ego is a great motivator for getting your butt off the couch, but it’s an absolutely terrible coach. The ego will beat the crap out of you to feel good about itself without regard for what the body can recover from, short and long term. It actually believes in such silliness as “no pain, no gain” and other macho slogans, and the ego is the reason for most training injuries and setbacks. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in training hard (which is a relative term), but I just don’t believe in training stupid.

“A true professional knows what to do and when to stop doing it.”

The Need for Strength

With that said, let’s discuss the need for strength. Here’s a story.

One of the leaders of the National Strength and Conditioning Association was recorded lecturing his graduating class in exercise science. He asked whether they would teach a 65-year-old woman, who had never weight trained, to do a barbell squat. The question was loaded: female, advanced age, no experience, and an athletic lift. As their professor, he was asking for a yes or no answer. Because they had been in his class all year, they knew if they answered the question incorrectly, he would nail them. So everyone sat in silence.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, he said. “Since you’re not going to answer the question, I will do it for you. She has to stand up from a chair. It’s the same movement pattern. We are going to work with her on a life skill and make her stronger in that pattern at the same time.”

Oh, that’s not what they expected. They were thinking leg press, leg extensions, and leg curls would be safer for a female of that age with no weight training experience than doing the squat. But he played the functional strength card and trumped their unstated answer.

But then he added, “I don’t think you really get it, and I want to make sure you do. Imagine its 15 years later and she is now 80 years old in a nursing home and she can’t get up from the toilet without assistance. She has lost her life independence. Did you do her any favor by not teaching her to do the squat?”

I didn’t believe it possible, but a client of mine beat the professor’s follow-up when she told me that her mother-in-law died in a nursing home six months prior to our conversation. She had gotten up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. She had hit the assist button but no one saw it. The next morning, they found her dead on the bathroom floor. She had fallen off the toilet during the night and had broken her neck.

No one wants to be that 80-year-old woman. No one wants to spend their remaining years on this planet unable to move as a functioning independent adult, but if no effort is made to maintain strength fibers and joint range of motion, we’ll certainly slide down to the lower levels of movement quality until we’re stuck on the toilet for life.

A More Positive Thought

I don’t like motivating through negative imagery, but sometimes you have to hit people over the head with a chair to get their attention. I’d rather discuss the joy of connecting with your body, finding out what an amazing vessel it is to experience and travel through life, and to feel the power that resides beneath the outer shell.

Our bodies were designed to move and to work, actually to work hard and for long periods of time. If not, we would have been eaten by big cats thousands of years ago. It is just within the last 100 years that we have made life so physically easy that we are now dying from lack of movement, especially from a lack of intense movement that tells our cells that we are important to our family, the tribe, and the village—important enough for the cells to make a concerted effort to keep us around.

Think of exercise like a prescription drug. It is a concentrated dose of intense activity used to communicate the message that we are, in fact, really important for something all the way down to the cellular level.

Contrary to the common belief about the role of cardio, strength is the fitness component that sets the foundation for all of the other forms of senior fitness activities. If your muscles are not strong enough to support basic movement patterns, there is no way you can do cardio exercise for very long before something breaks down, and then you have to stop while joints, connective tissue, and/or muscles have time to heal.

In this article, I wanted to make it clear why you need to incorporate some form of strength training into your fitness program design, and why functional training is an important consideration. In future blogs, I’ll discuss actual strength training strategies and the rationale behind them. Don’t be surprised if kettlebells come up frequently, and I promise to continue my relentless attack on training stupidity.

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This blog was written by Rick Huse, CSCS, WKC Competition Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: functional training senior fitness strength

Training the Active Aging Adult (Part 1 of 4)

There comes a day when you wake up one morning and realize you’re not 25 any longer. Usually, this happens when you’re 50—or in other words, after 25 years of denial and of being totally oblivious to nature’s less-than-subtle warnings: hair loss and color change, skin texture and wrinkles, where did that body fat come from, when did that thing (?) become so heavy to lift, and those stairs weren’t that high last year. The mind feels young but the body fades in and out of pretend youth. The body is also willing until it gets tired or pain rises above the level of annoyance.

But there is hope: you can be cool without being young, but cool doesn’t make you stronger, quicker, more flexible, thinner, and the owner of painless joints.

What Motivates Senior Fitness?

When you were younger, the goal of exercise was to look better naked. It seems reasonable, because younger people look better naked than old farts. Besides, older people have more pressing issues like serious joint pain, heart disease, diabetes, age-related weight gain, hormonal changes, and perhaps even the chilling shadow of cancer has visited them. No doubt that looking better and feeling better about yourself is really an important motivator to exercise, but they pale in comparison to these life-altering issues. Therefore, the motives for training of an aging active adult are more complex than a 25-year-old and must be recognized and honored when designing training programs.

Specific Health Concerns for Active Seniors

If you happen to be a fitness enthusiast over 50, these are things you need to be aware of.

  • Sarcopenia: An interesting word to say, but not so good to have, because it means a loss of muscle mass. Heavy-chain muscle fibers start dying out around age 30. Most professional athletes retire in their 30s because they have lost a step (in power and strength) and can no longer compete with younger athletes. Since most adults do not push their athletic genetic limits, they become aware of this loss of step in their 40s, or certainly by their 50s. This fiber loss is called sarcopenia. Unless there is some attempt to retain strength through formal strength training, this strength loss will continue at a ever-increasing and very noticeable rate. Common movement patterns—sit to stand, picking things up, pushing away and pulling back, pushing up and pulling down—will become increasingly more difficult as life quality decreases. Many people just give in to the process and call it “getting older.” It doesn’t have to be that way. Strength training can certainly slow it down.
  • Joint issues: Connective tissue seems to injure more easily and take longer to heal. Tendonitis becomes an all-too-common answer to the question, “How are you feeling?” Dynamic joint mobility training helps regain joint range of motion and lubricate joint surfaces with synovial fluid for cartilage health. Older athletes have to allow time in the program design for something the young take for granted.
  • Slow recovery: It takes longer for the body to repair and to make new tissue. This seems to be related to changes at the DNA and RNA levels as we age; and of course, changes in hormonal levels further compound the problem. Knowing this, nutrition and rest are key for proper recovery. The aging active adult has very little margin for error. Without proper nutrition and rest, progress will stall and the likelihood for injury will increase.
  • Balanced training: Cardio exercise is still important for overall health, but must be managed in such a way as to not interfere with the recovery for strength training, and not to add to the training volume to the point of over-training and adversely effecting the immune system. The body also does not respond well to being forced to adapt to opposing stimulus (cardio vs. strength). It gets confused as to what exactly it is being asked to do. How much cardio is very individual, but it is easy to err on the side of too much. Interval training may be an answer to those concerns by reducing the training time factor while still challenging the alactate, anaerobic, and aerobic substrates for improved conditioning.
  • Shared epiphany: There is a common experience at this age that there is a price to be paid for all of the fitness and health-related issues you chose to ignore when you were younger. Pain, discomfort, illness, and excess body fat are the reasons for your body’s “come to Jesus” meeting. Your body demands corrections, and your currency for payment is time and effort spent bringing the body back into balance. The aging active adult has been humbled enough by aging to be open to addressing these issues if the guidance they receive makes sense.

With the number of active aging adults increasing, both trainers and the older clients should understand the training needs and limitations of this age group in order to develop the best program designs that will effectively produce results and at the same time do no harm. So far, the fitness industry and fitness media have chosen to ignore the 800-pound gorilla by focusing on the 25- to 40-year-olds; but it is the aging active adults who have the greater need. They understand that the youth genie is not going back in the bottle, but that their life quality can be a whole lot better through proper training and nutrition.

In part 2 of this series, I talk more about the need for strength training at this age.

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This blog was written by Rick Huse, CSCS, WKC Competition Coach, and originally appeared on his blog. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: cardio injury prevention muscles joint health senior fitness endurance strength pain

Video Game Fitness: Is the Trend Here to Stay?

iStock_000015738239_SmallSeveral years ago the Nintendo Company introduced its newest entry into the video game market with the Wii and hit game Wii Fit. The idea seemed bold at the time; graphics were all the rage, but the Wii brought a more simplistic design to the table. While focusing on easy-to-use controls and replay ability, the crossover to the fitness world was quite easy, yet revolutionary. Let’s face it, video games had become synonymous with, to put it nicely, deconditioned individuals. This new technology, however, allowed the gamers to interact with the games in new ways.

Video Fitness for All Ages

What I felt to be most interesting was that this video game phenomenon wasn’t just for 12-year-olds. We started noticing our parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles up and out of their recliners and actively working on balance, strength, and conditioning, and even hand-eye coordination as part of senior fitness. What made it work, though, was the fact that it was both simple to operate and at the same time addictively fun.

10 Years of Wii

Fast-forward almost ten years and we can still see this influence among all the major video game consoles on the market. With the constant upgrading of technology, we must ask questions such as, “How far are they going to take this?” and “How can we make the most of these technological tools to help motivate people to stay fit?” 

Although the future is uncertain, we can definitely see that systems such as the Wii are being used for good, purposeful exercise. The in-home system may be your end-of-the-day stress relief, but more and more laboratory studies are using Wii technology to train athletes and assess abilities. Physical therapists are now using the Wii to help individuals with issues ranging from developing balance and stability for the elderly clients to helping an adolescent with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy to develop movement patterns. 

Are Video Games Real Exercise?

Will video game fitness ever gain enough momentum to be accepted as genuine exercise and a good workout? It would seem as though it would be swept out by most skeptical fitness gurus, but we must be cautious when doing so. If the mission is to bring fitness to the masses, in a realistic scenario, skipping this vast population of typically sedentary individuals would be a huge disservice. The best solution, I feel, is to embrace the tools that we have and translate fitness in a convenient way. The development of smarter technology will only enhance experiences, in turn changing lives. This blog makes it easy to see some of the options that are out there. 

In closing, video game fitness is currently alive and well. Making fitness fun isn’t always easy, but it definitely does not have to be dreaded. Don’t get me wrong, your local health and fitness professionals are still going to give you the best, safest experiences with bountiful knowledge, but now we can develop beyond the two or three hours per week we work out at the gym, in the comforts or our own home and among family and friends. NIFS offers video game fitness opportunities in the nursery area for youth. Contact the service desk for more information regarding hours of operation.

Evolve and Rejoice.

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Instructor at NIFS. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

Topics: exercise fitness exercise at home Thomas' Corner motivation balance senior fitness technology

What It’s Like to Be an Intern at NIFS

Each semester, including the summer, NIFS welcomes a new class of fantastic interns to come learn what it takes to work in a fitness center. With each group that we welcome with open arms, there is a point when we must say goodbye. Our most recent group of interns is wrapping up their final presentations and parting ways with the friends, coworkers, and clients they have met along the way. intern Rachel

Rachel Potter interned with NIFS for three months during the summer of 2013, and although we know she has to move back to her home state of Oklahoma to begin her career, we sure will miss her! Here is her perspective about what it’s like to be an intern at NIFS.

If you had told me five years ago that I would move to Indianapolis for a three-month internship, I would have said, “NO WAY!” Having moved to Oklahoma from the San Francisco Bay area, my perspective began to change and I began to realize how open I was to exploring the rest of the country.

Coming to NIFS was one of the best decisions I could have ever made. Sure, it was tough being away from my nice, comfy bed; three months on an air mattress seemed like a great idea in the beginning. The reward is everything I learned from the experience and the confidence I have gained in the process.

intern at NIFSI came into the internship with a strong fitness background, so I chose to work with the actively aging community, a setting way out of my comfort zone. It was tough at first knowing that I wasn’t familiar with the population and sometimes feeling like a chicken with its head cut off. I remember the first class I taught. I did about fifty things you aren’t supposed to do! Luckily, I had great instruction from my supervisor and eventually began to settle in to the site.

What was so unique about the internship at NIFS was the option to explore the different departments offered. Because NIFS encompasses multiple facets of their industry—including corporate wellness, active aging, and athletic training—I was able to shadow different areas, which allowed me to see the differences between each place. I also learned how diverse the sites were. Seeing what each position entailed helped me realize the avenues I liked and may want to pursue further and the things I would never want to do in a million years.

Having learned so much more about myself and being able to apply my education to so many different areas, I could not have asked for a better intern experience.NCAA Frog

This blog was written by Rachel Potter, NIFS Intern and Les Mills BODYCOMBAT and BODYPUMP certified instructor.

Topics: NIFS fitness center senior fitness Les Mills