Print Posted by Ronelle Wood on 09/03/2016

Exercise; Does It Help or Does It Hurt?

Exercise; Does It Help or Does It Hurt?

To determine whether your exercise program is helping or hurting your health, these four questions must be asked:

#1  Does it involve whole-body movement?

If an exercise requires movement in one area of the body but not another, blood supply is going to favor the area of movement. There will be an imbalance of nutrition to your tissues that will leave some areas of your body starved for oxygen.

#2  Does it increase your resting heart rate?

All of our tissues require oxygen for cell regeneration. Increasing heart rate moves blood carrying fresh oxygen into muscles. Muscle movement burns fat, increases endurance, and reduces our risk of heart disease.

Sitting creates 90-degree bends in your major veins and arteries, creating greater resistance. In the same way you can impede the flow of water in a garden hose by putting a kink in it, a static seated position makes your heart work harder to push blood around corners. Moving your limbs pulls blood from the heart and makes more room in your body for the blood to flow, without the heart having to push it into tight, distant corners. 

I need to say something about heavy cardio workouts. When you’re sitting more often than you’re moving (as the vast majority of us are), it puts strain on your heart to amp it up once a day (or less), because it is working against the ingrained holding patterns your tissues have adopted to support you in doing what you do most often! Heavy cardio workouts put a burden on your heart that causes a release of stress hormone (cortisol). Dismiss the notion that you’re doing something good for your body by causing your heart to pound furiously against your ribcage. 

 

Increase your resting heart rate every day for at least 15 minutes and you’ll experience 20 minutes of cardio benefit afterward. Do that three times a day and you’ll get an extra hour of cumulative benefit!

#3  Does it involve bearing weight on the heels of your feet?

Our bones become denser and stronger the more we load them with our body weight. The less weight our bones are asked to bear, the more porous and weak they become. We need enough bone density to support ourselves standing upright and moving. In order for our body to get that message, our skeleton needs vibration to stimulate bone growth. That happens every time our heel strikes the ground when walking in correct alignment.

Osteoporosis (a decrease in bone mass and density which can lead to a fracture) was a problem for astronauts returning from a zero gravity environment in outer space. It was discovered that the key to helping the astronauts rebuild bone density was weight-bearing exercise that vibrated the skeleton, encouraging bone growth. A machine was designed with a standing plate that generated varying vibratory patterns, allowing the astronauts to stand on it for 10-minute increments and jiggle their way back to healthy bone density.

Because the average American is in a seated position for 8 or more hours each day, our core musculature is only strong enough to support us from the hips up. This can cause us to compensate by turning out our feet for a wider stance, as babies do when they transition from crawling to walking and haven’t yet developed the core strength to be upright. We also recruit other muscles to try and keep our bones stacked, and end up with skeletal misalignments that you can easily see when someone stands with their head forward, tailbone tucked under, knees bent, and weight shifted over to rest more heavily on one leg.

In order to support our core strength for optimal digestion, organ health, skeletal alignment, and movement, we must stand and move upright while in proper alignment (ears over shoulders over hips over knees over ankles), training our core musculature to be strong enough to support our full body length.

#4  Does it involve novel movement every time?

If we supply only the same muscle groups repetitively, we create an imbalance of nutrition supply (i.e., oxygenated blood for cell regeneration) to our tissues.

We switch to “automatic” when we become used to a routine, and tend to use minimal and repetitive movements in our daily lives. It’s important to vary our activity frequently, requiring different muscle groups to fire, adjust, and respond to the movement needed in a wide variety of situations. Varying our movement and activity each day and throughout the day increases blood flow to the brain as well as to the nooks and crannies in the body that become kinked and stagnant from all the sitting we do. Waking up motor skills that have become dormant while sitting has many benefits. These awakened motor skills support skeletal alignment, stimulate the anti-inflammatory response, increase the flow of lymph and blood, augment serotonin levels, and improve digestion and muscle tone.

Given these parameters, let’s look at some common forms of exercise to see if they meet the daily minimum requirement for optimal health benefits.

Weight Training

whole-body movement

✔increased heart rate

✖weight-bearing

Interestingly, many machines at the gym return you to a seated position! Weight training rarely involves your skeleton bearing the weight of your whole body. Think about the various weight-training machines and evaluate whether you’re standing on your own two feet when you use them:

  • the one for pumping up your quads
  • the one for strengthening your inner thighs
  • the one for the pecs
  • the pull-down for your lats
  • the rowing machine
  • the one for your biceps and triceps
  • the one for your calves
  • the one for your abs
  • the leg press
  • the one for hamstring curls that has you lie down!

None of these impacts your heels much to vibrate the entire skeleton, so that you can achieve the bone density needed for standing and walking.

✖novel movement

Weight training supplies the same muscle groups with blood over and over, while starving others. Many of us can recall seeing some body builders who have a massive upper body and skinny little bird legs. This indicates which area of their body is receiving more nutrition.

Swimming

whole-body movement

✔increased heart rate

✖weight-bearing

This doesn’t require a lot of explanation, does it? You’re not standing upright when swimming, and your heels don’t impact the ground. Even if you run in a pool, buoyancy keeps you from landing with the full impact of your body weight. Your skeleton hardly vibrates at all.

✖Novel movement

While you can switch up your stroke, unless you writhe and twist freely, following your body’s own organic stretching movement (pendiculation), you’re engaging in repetitive movements that supply blood to the same areas over and over while starving other areas.

Bicycling

whole-body movement

The movement is generated only by the legs, while the upper body is stationary (and, in fact, bent forward out of alignment, bearing weight on the hands and wrists).

✔increased heart rate

✖weight-bearing

You are once again in a seated position, bearing your upper-body weight on your bottom. There is no heel strike—no vibration of your entire skeleton for improved bone density.

✖novel movement

While the terrain will vary, your body remains stationary. Only your legs move, and cycling is very repetitive, supplying the lower extremities with blood while depriving the upper extremities.

Yoga

whole-body movement

✔increased heart rate

✖weight-bearing

✖novel movement

I don’t want to incur the wrath of any passionate yoga fans, yet the goal of yoga is to learn set routines in order to achieve strictly prescribed poses. While the movements are different from those of daily life, and the benefits of the stretching are excellent, yoga doesn’t encourage deviation from the standard routines and poses. Once again, blood is supplied to the same areas again and again while others are neglected.

CrossFit

whole-body movement

✔increased heart rate

✔weight-bearing

This form of exercise definitely focuses on strengthening the same areas of the abs and upper body, with very little focus on skeletal alignment while standing and walking so that heel strike can stimulate bone density throughout the entire skeleton.

✖novel movement

Although the routines vary daily, the areas targeted for strengthening don’t include nooks and crannies that are left stagnant and starved. Ask a CrossFit student to stand on one leg for 30 seconds without bending the knees or wobbling and you’ll see evidence of this imbalance. The important alignment marker of external shoulder rotation is also difficult for these students to maintain.

Running

✖whole-body movement

Before you stand up from your chair and shake your fist at the sky in outrage, first notice this. Runners brace their hips for impact. This is explained when I address the weight-bearing impact of running. As the large bone of the upper leg is jammed into the hip socket, the body automatically reacts by gripping to withstand the impact. The body experiences three times the body weight as it impacts the ground.

Observe those who are jogging and running to achieve extended time and distance and you’ll notice that they rarely achieve full extension of their legs or arms. In fact, you’ll notice legs and arms in flexion, similar to the way the limbs are bent when one is seated in an armchair.

✔increased heart rate

See my previous explanation about the release of cortisol that results from heavy cardio workouts.

✔weight-bearing

A runner’s legs and feet are being asked to withstand much more than their body weight because there is an aerial phase of running during which no part of the body is touching the ground. But what goes up must come down. And, when it does, the impact or “ground force” is three times one’s own body weight. Where joints are concerned, more ground force is not better. This a case of too much of a good thing.

Realize that, while we’re wanting to improve bone density, those bones are buried in a great deal of softer material and are held together by tissue much less dense than bone.  When you ask them to bear more than the weight of your own body, you contribute to accelerated deterioration of the soft tissues.

✔novel movement

Novel movement is an option if the route traveled changes frequently, allowing for some varied terrain. However, I often see runners with head forward, locking their shoulders and hips while running with bent legs that never extend. This doesn’t allow for the benefit of novel movement and flow through the neck, shoulders, and hips.

Walking

whole-body movement

✔increased heart rate

✔weight-bearing

✔novel movement

All of these can be achieved by walking in optimal alignment. The upper body is engaged by full extension of the arms forward and back during a reciprocal arm swing.  The hips list up and down when each rear heel remains on the ground for as long as possible with increased stride length. This hip movement squeezes the lymph glands in the groin, increasing the flow of lymph and circulation through the lower abdomen and hips. The heels strike the ground and bear weight through the toes as the arch of the foot bends to push the ground behind you, and, as you leave your heel on the ground behind you as long as possible with every step, your legs stretch on both front and back.

Walking on varied terrain requires attention to the surface on which you walk as well as uphill and downhill use of the legs and micro-adjustments of the whole body as you generate backward force to propel your body forward.

Here is a link to the video series that can teach you just how to achieve optimal walking alignment, the very best exercise for the human body!    http://www.painreliefsanctuary.com/2-major-causes-poor-alignment-2/

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