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Why you should lift weight

Many people seek to build strength and muscle in hopes of improving their looks or performance in sports. Those are worthy goals, but outcomes even more important for your overall health and wellbeing are these:

  • Prevention of obesity
  • Prevention of diabetes
  • Prevention of osteoporosis
  • Prevention of injuries
  • Prevention of age-related disabilities and limitations in daily activities
  • Reduced risk of dying from cancer or heart failure
  • Abating of symptoms (pain, fatigue, muscle weakness) of some diseases

Beginning about age 40, you gradually lose muscle mass and strength. In addition, muscle function becomes less efficient as you age, which means older muscles generate less force than younger muscles. But if you lift weights, you’ll not only maintain your muscle mass, you can increase it, and you can reverse some of the age-related loss of muscle efficiency. Research shows this to be the case even for those beyond their 80s.

Strength workouts can include machines, free weights, resistance bands or bodyweight exercises like squats and planks. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults participate in muscle-strengthening exercise involving all major muscles at least twice weekly.

Don’t be afraid of weights! For women, weight training does not lead to bulky muscles. They don’t have the testosterone levels that men do. Weight training will tone and sculpt only.

Death By Sitting


On average, adults in high- and middle-income countries around the world spend nearly 10 of their waking hours a day on sedentary activities. The average American office worker can sit for 13 to 15 hours a day. People in agrarian villages sit for about three hours a day.

Overwhelming evidence shows that prolonged sitting is devastating to your health and a risk factor for premature death, even if you exercise regularly and are very fit. Hours of inactivity causes molecular changes at the cellular level that contribute to at least 24 different chronic diseases that include obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, hypertension, and cancer.

Dr. James Levine, author of Get Up!: Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It, is co-director of the Obesity Initiative for Mayo Clinic/Arizona State University, and he’s also the inventor of the treadmill desk. He recommends sitting no more than 50 minutes out of every hour, and the less, the better. According to Dr. Levine, as you stand up, a series of molecular effects are activated simply by weight-bearing; by carrying your bodyweight upon your legs. The ways your body handles blood sugar, triglycerides and cholesterol are beneficially impacted, for example, as are the mechanisms that push fuels into your cells.

Dr. Joan Vernikos, the author of Sitting Kills, Moving Heals, is a retired NASA scientist who monitored the recovery of the astronauts from the effects of space travel. She found that prolonged sitting produces the same body decline astronauts suffer in a weightless environment. She says that merely standing up over 30 times a day is a powerful antidote for long periods of sitting and is more effective than walking. “It’s not how many hours of sitting is bad for you,” she says. “It’s how often you interrupt that sitting that is good for you.”

Both experts agree that while regular, traditional exercise programs are to be encouraged, it is ordinary, non-exercise movement spread throughout the day that offsets prolonged sitting. So stand up, and stand often.

Osteoporosis — Is Weight Training the solution?

Every 5 minutes, someone is admitted to hospital with an osteoporotic fracture.

Is weight training the solution?

With two-thirds of women and one-third of men over 60 suffering an osteoporotic fracture, the race is on to find a way to reverse bone damage. Beverley Hadgraft investigates:

Whenever associate professor Belinda Beck hears of another school that’s banned kids from doing cartwheels or playing on the monkey bars, she despairs. Why? Because for every child who suffers an injury from such activities, 10,000 more will benefit in terms of reducing their future risk of osteoporosis just my doing weight-bearing and osteogenic exercises (specific to bone development – such as twisting, turning and jumping) at an age when it really matters, she says.

Beck, who’s a professor at the Centre for Musculoskeletal Research at the Griffith Health Institute in Queensland, says most of our lifelong bone mass is built before the age of 20. “You can increase your bone bank to such an extent during that period that when you start losing bone – as everyone does – your bone mass never falls below the fracture threshold,” she explains. This means you’re less likely to develop osteoporosis, the disease in which bones weaken and are more prone to fracture.

While this is good advice for our kids, what does it mean for the current osteoporosis epidemic in adults? Every five to six minutes, someone is admitted to an Australian hospital with an osteoporotic fracture, and this is set to rise to every three to four minutes by 2021.

The Potential Benefits

So can bone density be increased later in life? “That’s the million-dollar question that we need more research on,” Beck says. For this reason, she and her team have recruited 100 post-menopausal women with low bone mass for an exercise study, with the aim of finding out if it’s possible to increase bone density through serious weight training.

In the past, heavy weight training has been discouraged for those with osteoporosis because lifting heavy weights incorrectly can crush the vertebrae (and anyone with low bone density shouldn’t embark on a weightlifting program unless it’s properly supervised and they’ve spoken to their GP or specialist). However, Beck became interested in the idea of using such training as a treatment after hearing of a Queensland woman with osteoporosis whose bone density had improved through lifting weights.

Seven years ago, Gold Coast Olympic weightlifter Lisa Weis was approached by the woman, who’d read that lifting weights might improve her condition. Weis, who has a degree in human movement, agreed to teach her the correct technique, and showed her how to keep her back straight and core engaged, and use compound movements such as squats, deadlifts, push-ups and chin-ups.

After subsequent scans revealed that the woman’s bone density had improved, Weis chose to become a specialist in helping osteoporotic women improve their condition. “I now have women in their 60’s who can effortlessly deadlift 60kg or 70kg and do chin-ups,” Weis says. “And a 74-year-old who can deadlift her bodyweight.”

That’s a good outcome in itself, she says, as it improves mobility and therefore the chances of independent living in older age.  However, equally impressive have been her clients’ scans which, she says, have shown a halt in bone decline and even increases in bone density – one woman saw an increase of 5.8 per cent – without medication.

Protecting Your Bones

Given the unpleasant side-effects of the current medication used to treat osteoporosis, Beck says that finding a non-pharmacological treatment would benefit thousands of Australians. When Weis first approached Beck with her findings, the researcher admits she wasn’t sure what to make of the results, but says now that Weis is “using very correct technique so it’s possible that she’s using a strategy that’s safe and effective”.

The Griffith study will see one group of women do a supervised resistance training program, while the other will do a home-based controlled exercise program, twice a week for eight months. Calcium intake will be monitored, and the participants will then be tested for improvement in bone strength, body composition and physical function.

In the meantime, Beck says we should all be actively working to reduce our osteoporosis risk. Weight-bearing exercise such as brisk walking, jogging, skipping and dancing, and resistance training such as lifting hand weights or ankle weights, have been found to improve bone density. Her earlier research has also shown that regular stomping can help to maintain bone density, and she says a way to incorporate this into daily life is to stomp every morning while you clean your teeth.

Other proven ways to reduce your risk include eating a healthy diet with three to five serves of calcium-rich food (at least 1000mg) a day – such as dairy products, legumes and oily fish – and getting enough vitamin D from safe sun exposure.


It’s important to consult your doctor or physiotherapist about any exercise regime. Don’t attempt heavy lifting, jumping, twisting or jarring without medical advice.

Mindfulness Meditation Practice

 Try this five-minute mindfulness meditation practice.

  • Sit on the floor or a chair.  Make sure your back is straight and arms relaxed.  Alternatively, lie on the floor.
  • Bring your attention to your breath for one minute.  Feel your belly rise and fall.
  • Widen your attention to include all your bodily sensations and any thoughts or feelings.
  • Try to be a neutral observer of your thoughts.  If you find yourself swept up in a train of thought, return to focusing on your breath.

The best time to stretch

Stretching offers many benefits: mobility, injury prevention and stress relief, to name a few. But when exercising, is it better to stretch before or after? The answer is: before and after.

Before exercise you need to warm up and dynamic stretching can be combined as part of the warm-up. The goal is to get the blood flowing and raise your body temperature a little. It’s important to have your muscles, ligaments and joints experience the functional range of motion required of your sport during the warm-up. Movements such as arm circles, torso twists and hip rotations are examples of dynamic stretches.

After your workout, it’s time for static stretching. This is the time to relax, wind down and improve flexibility. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds and stretch consistently to see results. Focus on breathing during the stretch, using each exhalation to go a little further.

On nutrition: Myth, presumption or fact?

By Barbara Quinn McClatchy – Tribune News Service

Belief that something is true without evidence — such as betting on your team to win the Super Bowl — is a presumption.

Belief that persists despite evidence to the contrary — such as refusing to believe your team lost — is a myth.

Understanding supported by good evidence — such as realizing the trophy resides with another team — is a fact. 

How do these definitions apply to our long-held beliefs about weight loss? A group of researchers looked at the evidence in a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine. Here are a few beliefs they determined to be myth, presumption, or fact (along with a few unsolicited comments):

Small changes in how we eat or exercise over a long period of time will cause us to lose large amounts of weight. It’s a myth. Studies show that small changes result in small weight losses and large changes result in larger weight losses. Duh.

Eating breakfast on a regular basis helps guard us from being overweight. It’s a presumption, based on a few small studies done several years ago, say researchers.

Eating more fruits and vegetables will cause us to lose weight or gain less weight. This is also a presumption. Health benefits abound from eating fruits and vegetables. Yet there is no evidence that we will automatically lose weight if we eat more of these foods.

Eating breakfast or adding more vegetables to our diet does not help us lose weight unless if we also eat fewer calories. This is a fact. We can lose weight with any diet strategy if our calorie intake is low enough.

Setting realistic goals for weight loss is important so we won’t become frustrated. This is a myth, say these researchers. Really? They explain that more ambitious goals are sometimes associated with more weight loss. To which I respectively argue that “ambitious” goals can also be “realistic” goals.

Losing large amounts of weight quickly is not as good for us in the long term as slow, gradual weight loss. This is a myth, believe it or not. According to controlled clinical trials, people who lost weight quickly at the beginning of a weight loss regimen were as successful after one year as those who had lost it slowly from the beginning.

Our genes do not determine our destiny to be overweight. This is a fact — and a challenge, nutrition experts say. Think of it this way, someone once explained: What we inherit from our parents “loads the gun.” But what we choose to do — or not do — each day “pulls the trigger.”

Physical activity improves our health, regardless of what we weigh. This is a fact.




Protein: What you need to know

High protein diets now dominate the weight-loss scene. Many of you may have tried one of the many popular diets such as the Zone and Atkins diets.

Nutritionists are constantly being asked, “Do these diets work?” and “How much protein should I be eating?” The truth is, protein has many more functions than simply assisting with weight loss. We should be focusing on protein’s health benefits instead of what it can do for our waistlines.

Apart from being required to build muscle, protein is also the basis of our tendons, ligaments, collagen, hair and skin. Dietary protein sources are necessary for healthy hormone production, correct fluid balance and the transportation of vitamins, minerals and oxygen throughout the body. Protein is also essential for antibody production and a healthy immune system.

Including protein in meals promotes the feeling of fullness, satisfies hunger and reduces the need for extra, unnecessary kilojoules. And foods that are naturally high in protein also have a low glycaemic index which means they have little effect on blood-glucose levels.

But protein-only diets are unbalanced and lacking in vital vitamins, minerals and nutrients.

The recommended intake of protein is between 0.7 to 1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight depending on activity levels and whether or not you are pregnant.

Greats sources of protein include meat, poultry, fish, dairy, nuts, seeds, legumes and beans and good sources include grains such as rice, quinoa and multigrain bread.

Protein sources:
100g chicken or meat            =   22g-25g
Half a cup soybeans               =   14g
200g yogurt or 40g cheese   =   10g
1 cup dairy or soy milk          =   8.5g
Half a cup legumes                 =   8g
1 cup cooked rice                    =   4g


    Teresa Boyce, Nutritionist, in Body + Soul 20/05/12

Climb Stairs Whenever You Can

Then climb ‘em again!

Stair-climbing is a remarkable form of exercise. It’s aerobic because it increases your heart rate and works your lungs, it conditions and strengthens your lower body, and it prevents osteoporosis. On every step, your legs bear the load of your body weight. The vigorous action of your leg muscles pulling against your leg bones increases bone density.

‘Counting steps instead of miles can boost your walking workout and save you time,’ says ‘Researchers in England and Northern Ireland asked 12 sedentary women to climb a 200-step staircase, progressing from once a day to six times a day (they were allowed to take the elevator down.) Each ascent took about 2 minutes, so by the end of the study, the women were exercising only 12 minutes a day. In less than two months, they saw a boost in their fitness level, along with improvements in their cholesterol level that were enough to cut their risk of cardiovascular disease by 33 percent.’

 If you live in a two-storey house you will have a set of stairs in your own home. You may have a stairwell at work or in your local shopping centre. Outdoors, you may find a good flight of stairs in a park or a parking structure that you can work out on.  Stair-climbing machines are also great if you have a gym membership or the motivation to use one at home.

As with any exercise, don’t overdo. Warm up and cool down and stretch your legs before and after, and consult a doctor before beginning if you have an existing condition like knee or hip problems.

Even if you don’t have time for a workout, just taking the stairs instead of the lift or escalator as you work, travel and shop delivers benefits. So don’t shun stairs—climb them whenever you can!


Choosing and Caring for Your Aerobic Wear

Most workout clothing is made from LYCRA® or a blend of cotton, elastane, polyester, spandex and nylon in varying percentages. These fibres give the fabric stretch, flexibility and “memory” – the ability to return to its original shape after stretching.

The best pants I’ve found currently on the market are from the Lululemon range. They’re expensive but they last and last and keep their appearance for years if you care for them correctly. Unlike cheaper workout pants, the fabric doesn’t “pill”.

Lorna Jane stores have a dazzling range of great tops in lots of fresh colours. Again, LJ’s gear is not cheap but the quality and variety are good.

The in-store experience at both these establishments is exemplary. They clearly train their staff well.

Taking care of your gear

You pay a good deal for your workout gear, so you want to keep it looking good for years. Here’s how:

• Hand wash (unless your washing machine has a delicate cycle) in cold to lukewarm water, straight after wearing. Don’t leave it sitting in the hamper for days!

• Use a wool mix-style detergent. You don’t need much – lots of suds are unnecessary.

• Do not use fabric softener on aerobic wear, as this coats the fabric and reduces the moisture wicking and quick-dry capabilities. If you accidently use it, don’t worry, as after a few more washes, the coating from the softener will wash off.

• Dry away from the sun. Ultra violet rays damage these fabrics so although they’ll take longer to dry (particularly in winter), always dry either inside, or outside in the shade.

• If, in time, your black gear begins to lose its blackness, try this: soak for a couple of hours in water with a little white vinegar added, then rinse in clean water. This will remove any soap or detergent build-up in the fabric.

• Save your “good” aerobic gear for class only. If you wear it as casual clothing, chances are you’ll wear out the derrière section from sitting or driving. You might not notice, but others will.
We’ve all been behind someone in class wearing pants so thin in the “seat” that it’s hard to know where to look during the squats!

How aerobic dancing benefits your fitness now!

Fitness isn’t instantaneous, but you need to make a start. The biggest problem is finding something you can commit to with the discipline that gets results. Congratulations! You’ve already done that. By joining Jacki’s Aerobic Dancing, you’ve found, like thousands of others, that coming to class is a joy because Jacki’s program is FUN. That’s why some of you have been coming continuously since classes opened in Sydney in 1981. Continue reading How aerobic dancing benefits your fitness now!