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4 posts from January 2010


Music and Exercise

5 Ways Music Enhances Your Workout

By Michele Silence, MA

It seems like everyone uses an iPod, a wrist radio, or listens to the music at their local gyms. Have you ever wondered whether there’s a real benefit to hearing your favorite songs while you’re exercising? If you’re a diehard
music fan, I’m sure you can list plenty of reasons why it’s an important part of your life. But there are some universal ways that music enhances exercise. Here are a few of the most common ways music benefits your workout.

1.   Listening to music promotes dissociation

When totally absorbed in music, your focus changes from what your body is experiencing to the external sounds you’re hearing. This situation leads you into a state in which you ignore negative feelings of fatigue and focus on the pleasurable feelings you get from following the rhythm of the music.

 2.   Music acts as a performance aid

Whether you need to step things up or cool down, music can help you achieve both. Energizing, fast music can inject you with vigor. Slow, mellow music can lead to a state of deep relaxationhttp://kona.kontera.com/javascript/lib/imgs/grey_loader.gif. Depending on your goals and what you need most, you can use music to achieve it.

3.   The rhythm of the music can enhance your movement flow

If you select the ideal tempo of music for the exercises you’re doing, you can actually heighten the flow of your exercises. When strength training, chose songs with a BPM (beats per minute) of about 120 to keep your speed on track. When running, chose a higher BPM to match your cadence and keep a comfortable pace. When you’re in sync with the music, exercise seems smoother and more motivating

4.   Choice of music is important for increasing muscle strength

If your goal is improving strength, don’t listen to relaxing music while pumping iron. Studies suggest that you’ll have bigger strength gains if you exercise in a silent atmosphere than if you exercise while listening to softer tunes. In fact, slow music can actually decrease muscular ability.

5.   Listening to music you like helps with motivation

This goes right to the core of every workout - motivation. If you hear music you like, you’re more likely to return and do it again. Listening to songs that you enjoy increases exercise adherence, thus leading to fitness gains over time.

So, whatever your reason for putting on the headphones, keep it up. If you’re outside keep an eye and ear open for oncoming obstacles. Other than that, crank up your personal favorites and sing along.


Road Test: Power Plate

A vibrating platform that improves your functional fitness simply by standing on it? If it's good enough for Elle, Kylie, Madonna and Australia's spokesmodel, Erika Heynatz, (who's svelte, bronzed body is perched alluringly below the words "I like to think I'm working smarter, not harder" on the homepage of the Power Plate website) we thought it was worth looking into.

What it is: Power Plate is a vibrating platform that uses a technology called "Acceleration Training" to transmit waves of energy throughout the body, making your muscles contract faster. This helps your body do more "work" in less time (as in a full-body workout in 15 minutes), explains Power Plate master trainer, Kristy Wetherell. "Acceleration Training can increase your core strength, stability, coordination, power, speed, flexibility and mobility," Wetherall says. "It can also increase post-exercise regeneration — all on a single machine."

Power Plate has also been found to decrease cellulite, increase bone mineral density and reduce the severity of menstrual cramps.

How it works: Dressed in gym clothes, the user is required to stand on the platform while the machine vibrates. A Power Plate trainer will then "prescribe" you exercises (ranging from squats to tricep dips) to do on the platform, depending on your goals and capabilities. And yes, it still works if you just want to stand on it and read a magazine.

Three, 15-minute sessions weekly are recommended.

Difficulty: It's nowhere near as tough as going for a run, but "the muscles you target typically fatigue in under a minute and you'll certainly know about it," says Wetherell. "At the very least you should develop a decent glow during a session."

Target market: It's ability to reduce injury-recovery time makes Power Plate perfect for athletes (it's used by everyone from the German national soccer squad to the Boston Red Sox), but the machine can be used by anyone looking to improve their fitness and wellbeing — not to mention those with disabilities or health complications that can be relieved by Acceleration Training.

The catch: In some European countries it's been promoted as the only fitness tool you'll ever need, but Australian Power Plate masters are more conservative.

"Acceleration Training on Power Plate has the capacity to be that most amazing exercise tool anyone has used as part of their exercise regime, but it's best to complement [sessions] with other forms of cardio exercise that align with your individual needs," says Wetherell.

The verdict: Apart from the strange buzzing feeling caused by the vibrations, exercising on Power Plate feels like cheating. You finish each session feeling fitter, stronger and with an endorphin rush— but barely a sweat to show for it!

Cost: Purchase the my3 model for a cool $5,500, or ask your gym about rates. "Some facilities include Power Plate training as part of their membership fee and others have a session charge, which could cost up to $45 per visit," says Wetherell.

Contact: Call 1800 633 009 or visit www.powerplate.com.au.

ninemsn Health & Wellbeing


Fitness Fads

Seven Silly Fitness Fads
By Sarah Ball | Newsweek Web

From strippercise to circus-trapeze aerobics, gyms and fitness gurus keep coming up with new ways to make working out less of a chore. But though these whimsical classes and instructional DVDs can reinvigorate your gym routine, some of the glitziest (and goofiest) new trends can also put you at risk for sprained ankles, pulled muscles and overexertion. And some don't even give you much of a workout.

Here are seven of the silliest fitness fads—with the lowdown on whether or not they really chisel and tone. (For other workout tips, check out our earlier story on "Six of the Worst Ways to Work Out.")

1. Weighted Hula Hooping. Maybe it was the 50th anniversary last month, or maybe it's the buzz over the new Wii Fit version, but Hula Hooping, the backyard mainstay from the 1950s, is back—and a whole lot heavier. National gym chains like Bally Total Fitness now offer hooping classes to kids and seniors alike, with weighted Hula Hoops that participants wheel around their outstretched limbs and torso.

Will the toy-based hybrid of strength and cardio give you the toned curves of Beyonce, who says she hoops to stay svelte? "The unweighted, traditional ones definitely work your core, and you can actually get the cardio system up," says Jim White, certified fitness trainer and spokesman for the American Dietetic Association (ADA). "I would recommend staying with the normal ones—with the weighted [hoops], beginners could pull a muscle."

The verdict: If you can do it, join the hoopligans. But avoid weighted hoops if you're new, and be advised of the gender divide—White says women are far more likely to be able to hoop well than men.

2. Strippercise. Toned celebrities like Kate Hudson and Carmen Electra started shilling this female-only fad five years ago, boasting both body and boudoir benefits from sensual "aerobic striptease" classes. Several variations caught on—pole-dancing classes, chair-centered lap-dance routines and floor exercises (the latter a Pilates-like workout that involves a combination of ab-stimulating moves and seductive hair-tossing). Let's forget the existential questions about whether pretending to be a stripper is empowering or degrading, can it get you in shape? "When my girlfriend first said she was going, I was kind of concerned," laughs the ADA's Jim White. "But it really increases your confidence, and you get a great workout."

However, those with weak ankles or shy spirits, beware: strapping on the eight-inch-heeled exotic-dance platforms that some classes use can result in serious injury, says Dr. Cedric Bryant, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise. "The stiletto heels ... don't really put the foot and ankle in the most advantageous position," says Bryant. "It's part of the shtick, but purely from the biomedical standpoint, you really want to exercise caution."

The verdict: Sure, it's fun, but it's probably better as a novelty activity at bachelorette parties and group outings than something for dedicated gym rats.

3. The Bodyblade . Take the long, swordlike plastic bar, hoist it overhead and shake vigorously for a trunk-targeted workout that supposedly causes up to 270 muscle contractions per minute, giving you washboard abs and ropey shoulders that are rounded, not chiseled. The device uses physics as its premise: once set into motion, the oscillating bar must be stopped by your effort to overcome its inertia. That straining is the workout. Though it's making the rounds as the "new" thing, Bryant says Bodyblade-like bars have been around in physical therapy practices for years. "It helps you challenge the neuromuscular system—how the nerves communicate with the muscles, and relearning that process," he says. What if you're just looking for core stability? White, who's never tried the Bodyblade, says he has one client who bought into the trend—for a while. "To be honest, I think she used it for about a month and then moved on," he says.

The verdict: Can be good for physical therapy but otherwise a fickle fad. If you don't mind looking like an idiot, and not knowing how many calories it burns (the makers disclose no numbers, saying it's "difficult to calculate"), give it a spin.

4. Cirque du Soleil-Inspired "Aerial Aerobics." The breathtaking stunts of the world's best-known circus acrobatics troupe first inspired workouts at trendy gyms like Crunch and Equinox and have now spawned "aerial fitness studios" where you tone up by defying gravity. The premise of "fabric aerobics" is simple: just shimmy to the top of a cloth lanyard, wrap it around your feet and hang, limbs dangling. Sounds easy, right? Maybe not: "They told me it was Pilates but with hanging hammock things," says my colleague Jessica Bennett, who tried it, "but you seriously had to be an acrobat." The bare-minimum skill level for a workout like this—the class is called "Fabric" at Crunch—might be good enough to get you into the circus.

The verdict: The greatest of ease? Yeah, right. "It can backfire from the standpoint that you feel really inadequate," Bryant says—and who needs one more reason not to exercise?

5. Wind-Relieving Asana . Thought fiber was the only natural remedy for expelling excess gas? Think again: this series of yoga postures assumed in asana-based classes assists air in exiting your digestive tract—in a room full of people. The motions involve lying flat on your back and pulling your left, right or both knees into your tensed stomach, squeezing out the stale air or, in instructor's lingo, engaging your abdominal region to assist with elimination. The poses are also said to enhance supine strength and flexibility, making them optimal for those with both bad backs and Metamucil in their pantries (read: old people). "It could certainly be helpful with some individuals in terms of [their] low backs," says Bryant. "But the whole flatulence aspect—I'm not so sure that there's a great deal of physiological support for that being a need."

The verdict: Group flatu-fitness? We'll pass.

6. Wii Fit Ski-Jump. Some of the applications for Nintendo's latest gee-whiz gadget are gathering a cultlike following for their fitness-is-fun virtual workouts, all centered on a floor pad that senses your movement. The "Two-Person Run" lets you jog around a lush digital island, for example, without leaving your living room, and White says it's very popular with his clients. But others, like "Ski Jumping," require extra vigilance to get the full fitness payoff—meaning, holding the poses for the right amount of time and managing your breath correctly. Marked as a balance-improver, the ski jump requires the jumper to remain in a slight squat position for a few seconds before quickly straightening up. But White says: slow your release in any squat to get the toning payoff. "Make sure you're not holding your breath, and hold the release for anywhere from four to five seconds," he says. The other requirements? Ponying up the $90 for the Fit (plus about $250 for the Wii console).

The verdict: Wii workouts can be virtually sweat-free, but hold it right, and you could improve your rear view. Click here to watch NEWSWEEK's Brian Braiker give Wii fit a whirl.

7. Dorm Room Workouts . College-geared fitness guides like "Dorm Room Diet Workout," by Daphne Oz (daughter of oft-quoted health guru Dr. Mehmet Oz) say the freshman 15 is an elective, not a requirement—and with just 20 minutes of milling around your 9-by-10-foot room, you can stave off the creeping pudge. But when just about every college in America has a gym, why do pushups under a backpack of textbooks? Lack of time, says Oz, whose 20-minute fitness DVD shows a series of room-based stretches and leg lifts that profess to be a shortcut to a toned physique.

But by itself, it's not enough, says Bryant. A Cornell study of college diets suggests that freshman gain over a third of a pound per week during their first semester—meaning a calorie intake that commercial-break chair dips alone won't cancel out. "You can't spot reduce, and everything has to be combined—cardio, weight training and the proper diet," says White. "That's the bottom line with respect to all of these fads—it comes down to hard work."

The verdict: 20 minutes alone in your room won't justify pizza and beer—or win you lasting college memories. But when combined with other healthy habits, it earns high marks.


Cooling Down

You’ve huffed and puffed and ready to hit a warm shower-so many times the last thing on our minds is to wind down and do a cool down.

Taking the time to cool down is important because;

·         It allows your heart rate and blood pressure to return to normal.

·         It allows for your muscles to stretch, maintain suppleness and flexibility which  reduces the risk of injury.

·         It will also enable you to workout again sooner.

·         It allows you to relax by focusing on your breathing, getting back control of your body and unwinding psychologically.

Here are a few tips for post workout cooling down:

After Riding: After an intense riding session, allow 10 minutes at the end for an easy pace to allow your breathing, blood pressure and heart rate to return to a normal state. It is also really beneficial to stretch your calves, hips and back to reduce tightening up of your muscles reducing soreness.

After Running: It is advisable after a run to finish with a light interval jog or walk for around 2-5 minutes. This enables you to slowly cool down and restore your body to its normal state. Also remember to take the time to stretch your calves, groin, hamstrings and quads. Not only will this help to relieve the built up tension and soreness in your muscles but it will prepare them for your next run.

After Weights: Start by stretching the muscles worked for around 5 minutes to relieve tension and soreness from them. Also the uses of a steam room or sauna are also good to help loosen up. Thereafter, a cool shower can also be beneficial as it helps to prevent swelling which reduces soreness. 

After Swimming: Once you have finished your swim, it is really important again to do a few slow paced laps to bring your body back to its normal state. Although swimming is sometimes seen as a nice relaxed way to work out, it can be an intense workout on you rmuscles. The slow laps will help you prevent the likes of cramps and injuries and help regulate your breathing again. A combination of calve, thigh, back, arm and neck stretches will also help prevent muscle soreness and get you back in the pool quicker.

For just a few extra minutes buy stretching and cooling down you can really make a difference to your bodies recovery and will allowing you to get back training and working out faster as the soreness will be at a minimum. Always remember to keep well hydrated whilst working out and when cooling down as this to helps regulate the body during and after exercise.

Your body will thank you will let you know if you missed a cool down! So don’t take a chance and pay for it later, it only takes 5-10 minutes. Australian Lifestyle & Fitness alfitness.com.au