Posts tagged exercise

The power of working out together

Workout groups portraying older adults

A recent study at the University of British Columbia’s School of Kinesiology shows the importance of age-targeting fitness programs and working out together. The research found that older adults are more likely to stick with a group exercise program if they can work out with people their own age; whereas, working out with people of the same gender made no difference to following an exercise program.

According to Impact Magazine, “In Canada, fewer than 15 per cent of people past age 59 meet international physical activity guidelines. We have been looking for ways to keep people active into old age, because inactivity has been shown to increase risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity and arthritis. It can also affect overall quality of life.”

For the study, 627 adults between the ages of 65 and 91 (average was 72) were recruited for exercise classes at YMCA locations in Metro Vancouver. The participants were divided into three workout groups:

1) Participants were of the same age and gender, led by older adult instructors trained for the study.

2) Participants were of the same age, but different gender, led by older adult instructors trained for the study.

3) Participants worked out in a typical YMCA class that was open to all ages and genders, led by a YMCA instructor.

Over the 24-week period of the study, researchers found that:

-participants in the same-age, mixed-gender group averaged 33.8 classes

-participants in the same-age, same-gender group averaged 30.7 classes

-participants in the mixed-age group averaged 24.3 classes

Participants were given T-shirts that identified them as members of a group and were given opportunities to socialize over coffee following class. This social connection – the sense of belonging – helped participants stick with their exercise program.

This age-targeting strategy should be adapted to a variety of physical activity settings such as community centres, fitness clubs and retirement communities to help older adults meet their daily physical activity requirements.

Yoga for arthritis

Related imageYoga, t’ai chi, qi gong, and walking, are joining the treadmill and exercise bike as ways to safely and effectively increase physical activity. Keep in mind that yoga is not just represented by pretzel-like poses requiring considerable strength and balance. Beginner yoga classes may provide simple, gentle movements that gradually build strength, balance, and flexibility – all elements that may be especially beneficial for people with arthritis. In an article on Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, Steffany Haaz Moonaz, PhD and registered yoga teacher (RYT-500) will demystify yoga for arthritis patients and their providers. For her doctoral project, she worked with Dr. Susan Bartlett and Dr. Clifton Bingham in the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center to develop and test a modified yoga program for people living with arthritis. Click here to read the results of the study. We picked out some key questions that people living with arthritis may have before they start a yoga program.

What are the benefits of yoga?

Yoga is a safe and effective way to increase physical activity. Yoga can increase muscle strength, improve flexibility, enhance respiratory endurance, and promote balance. A recent study shows that yoga is associated with increased energy and fewer bodily aches and pains. Due to its meditative nature, yoga also benefits mental health by lessening feelings of anxiety, depression, and psychological stress.

Have scientific studies of yoga been done in arthritis patients?

Johns Hopkins has recently published an article with the results of a clinical trial of yoga that they have conducted in the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center. The study provided “critical evidence showing that in people with arthritis who are sedentary, yoga appears to be safe, feasible, and enjoyable for people with both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis and that it results in important physical and mental health benefits for people who practice it regularly.” Yoga programs developed as a follow up also found improvements in balance, functional reach, upper body function, and pain.

What is the best way to try yoga? 

Let your doctor know you are interested in doing yoga. Ask if there are any limitations or restrictions you should be aware of. Have your doctor write these recommendations so you can speak to a qualified yoga therapist or teacher and develop a yoga routine best suited to you. For the first few lessons, keep a mental note of how you feel during your yoga class. Are there positions that hurt? Are there modified methods for such positions?

What can I expect to do in a beginning yoga class?

There are three main components to most western yoga classes: poses (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and relaxation. Some classes will include meditation or chanting. Remember, do not do anything that is uncomfortable. All yoga poses can be modified for your safety and comfort.

Yoga Poses for Arthritis Patients from Johns Hopkins 

Below is an excerpt from Johns Hopkins:

These are a few yoga poses that you may want to try at home.  Before beginning any new activity, be sure to consult your doctor.  It is important to listen to your body.  If you feel any sharp pain, instability or lightheadedness, stop and rest or adjust to a more comfortable position.  A well-trained and experienced yoga instructor will be able to offer more individual guidance to adapt the poses for your needs and limitations.

Collage of people doing exercise

Exercise gives you endorphins, the happy hormones

Collage of people doing exerciseSpring is nearly upon us! It’s time to dust off that bicycle and basketball of yours and do some exercises. If your location is experiencing the last of a cold spell, consider going to a community centre or gym to get some exercises. In a series of post called “Being active is good for the brain”, Dr. Scott Lear says that when we exercise, our body releases hormones called endorphins – the happy hormones. After exercising, endorphins are released, giving you a euphoric feeling – or in the running world, the runner’s high. Did you know that this euphoric feeling can also be felt with low levels of activity?

Research literature supports a link between exercise and increased positive mood, reduced depression and anxiety, and greater well-being. In research studies, those who reported higher psychological well-being exercised more frequently than those with lower psychological well-being. Exercise also helped with stress management. In “The cascade of positive events: Does exercise on a given day increase the frequency of additional positive events?“, the authors said that “exercise might be categorized as a positive event within the context of an individual’s day-to-day life”.

Dr. Lear added, “The benefits of exercise appear to be even greater the worse our mood is prior to exercising.” He’s had some of the best workouts when he releases stress by going for a swim or bike ride. Exercise can also improve memory and cognition, helping you think better and in turn, achieve more. According to this New York Times article, going for a post-meal walk, as short as 15 minutes, can help with digestion and improve blood sugar levels in people with Type 2 diabetes. For people with depression, exercise is a proven therapy to reduce depressive symptoms.

In conclusion, exercise improves memory and cognition and leads to an increase in BNDF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) – low levels of BNDF are associated with greater risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Studies in people with dementia have not shown improvements in cognition and symptoms with exercise. However, there was an improvement in the ability of people with dementia to perform day-to-day activities such as getting dressed and bathing, which help to prolong independent living. Though exercise improves a number of risk factors associated with dementia such as high blood pressure and diabetes, researchers agree more studies need to be conducted about the relationship between exercise and dementia.

Given the benefits of exercise, let’s take baby steps and start by taking the stairs and going for a walk after lunch! Happy exercising!