Dr. Phil Shares: Does Yoga Work for Shedding the Pounds?

Does Yoga Work for Weight Loss?

While there are some styles of yoga that can help one burn more than 500 calories per hour — such as Vinyasa (see below) — overall, yoga doesn’t top the list of calorie-torching weight loss workouts one can do to see relatively quick results. But research shows that practicing yoga may work for weight loss when combined with a healthy diet. And the more often you practice yoga, the greater the results you’re likely to see on the scale.

In a massive study of more than 15,000 adults, those who had been practicing yoga for at least four years clocked in at a lower weight than those who went without a regular session. But you don’t have to have do yoga for years to see results. A small study from South Korean researchers found obese women who practiced yoga for 16 weeks saw significant improvements in body weight, body fat percentage, BMI, waist circumference, and visceral fat compared to those who didn’t exercise. In addition, one study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine showed that a short-term yoga program could reduce weight in overweight and obese men.

So how can yoga help you lose weight? Read on.

What Type of Yoga is Best for Weight Loss?

yoga for weight loss

“If you’re looking to burn the most calories, you want to find a class that incorporates a lot of strength positions and sun salutations, particularly chaturanga dandasanas [essentially, yoga push-ups],” says yoga instructor Seth Kaufmann, C.S.C.S., co-owner of Iron Lion Fitness Studio in Florida. “In order to burn calories efficiently, you need to be moving and using the most amount of mass and muscles.”

You’ve probably heard about people sweating like crazy in heated yoga classes like Bikram, which has to translate to a ton of weight lost — right? Kaufmann says, “In theory a hot yoga class would burn more calories than a non-heated room because anytime the external temperature is extreme (hot or cold), your body has to work harder to maintain your core temperature homeostasis, thus burning calories.”

However, a small study from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse found that yoga students in a non-heated yoga class showed the same increase in core temperature and heart rate than in a hot yoga class. Researchers found that the students’ perceived effort was higher than what their vital signs revealed, leading scientists to wonder whether students didn’t end up pushing themselves as hard during some poses to compensate for the added heat and humidity in the room.

Another study from the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies found 30 minutes of just sun salutations is invigorating enough to qualify as cardiorespiratory training, and helps a 130-pound person burn an average of 230 calories. These studies point to the idea that your final caloric burn is tied more closely to how hard you’re working than how hot the room is.

Calculating Your Caloric Burn

As mentioned previously, the style of yoga you perform can play a significant role in the amount of calories you burn. But other factors such as your weight, gender, body composition, and effort level are also important. What follows are averages based on the Health Status calories burned calculator.

A 165-pound woman will burn the resulting number of calories during an hour of yoga:

  • Hatha Yoga: 207 calories
  • Ashtanga/Power Yoga: 386 calories
  • Bikram Yoga: 524 calories
  • Vinyasa: 653 calories

A 190-pound man will burn the resulting number of calories during an hour of yoga:

  • Hatha Yoga: 239 calories
  • Ashtanga/Power Yoga: 445 calories
  • Bikram Yoga: 604 calories
  • Vinyasa: 752 calories

How Slow Yoga Helps Burn Fat

OK, so should you do the most intense yoga possible if you want to lose weight? Not so fast. Even super mellow methods have their weight-loss perks. A small study at the University of California, San Diego, found that overweight women who practiced restorative yoga, which focuses less on increased heart rate and more on relaxation and stress reduction, lost around three pounds and about five inches of subcutaneous fat after six months.

This may surprise you, but it makes sense to the experts. “If you’re super stressed, your body may actually respond better to yoga than [high intensity] cardio,” says Pete McCall, C.S.C.S., personal trainer and adjunct faculty of exercise science at San Diego Mesa College.

Physical stress (as triggered by high intensity exercise) and psychological stress (caused by work, family, etc.) both activate the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the “fight or flight” response. When you go into “fight or flight” mode, your body increases its production of the hormone cortisol. In the short term, that’s a good thing; cortisol is a performance enhancer, increasing the concentration of glucose (your body’s primary fuel source) in the blood. But if levels never return to normal (e.g., because of chronic stress), cortisol can also promote weight gain. That’s why doing high intensity workouts might hamper weight loss efforts if you’re already (and chronically) “super stressed”—you’re layering stress on top of stress, and cortisol on top of cortisol.

To counteract that, you need to activate your parasympathetic (“rest and digest”) nervous system. “By going to a gentle yoga class during a stressful time, you’ll be surprised that you’ll come out of it calmer — and actually lose weight,” says

Kaufmann agrees, “There are many physiological benefits to yoga, including stabilizing our nervous systems, improving respiratory efficiency, stomach function, hormone production, and, of course, increased strength and energy levels. These benefits in turn lower stress, improve sleep, and help the body recover and run more efficiently.”

Plus, more than half of people who do yoga report that it helps them sleep better, according to a survey from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Scoring less than five hours a night is directly related to more abdominal fat and an increase in body mass index, according to a study performed over five years on adults younger than 40 and published in the journal SLEEP. It’s hard to deny the importance of sleep — not just for your quality of life but also for weight loss.

How the Psychological Benefits of Yoga Can Aid Weight Loss

yoga for weight loss

“The greatest benefit of yoga for weight loss is learning how to love and care for yourself more, which helps you make better lifestyle decisions when it comes to caring for your body,” says Kaufmann.

And the research agrees: A study in Qualitative Health Research found that practicing yoga helped people develop physical self-empowerment, and better awareness of the self and the present moment. The women who participated in the 12-week yoga treatment program for binge eating (in the study mentioned above) reported an overall reduction in the quantity of food consumed, decreased eating speed, and an improvement in food choices.

“The core essence of yoga is to teach us to live fully present in the moment, accepting what is, and letting go of anything that doesn’t serve us,” says Kaufmann. “When we can live our lives with more mindfulness we will make better decisions when it comes to what we do for our health.”

To most Westerners, yoga is more often associated with trendy fitness studios. But the practice originally began as a philosophy in India roughly 5,000 years ago, and incorporates so much more than merely the postures and poses it’s famous for today.

The true practice of yoga encompasses eight limbs: the yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asanas (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyani (meditation), and samadhi (absorption). It’s the combination of all eight of those limbs (not just the one that stretches the limbs) that can lead to weight loss for men and women.

“There are many studies that suggest that stress and the hyper-palatable food supply filled with refined carbohydrates create an internal biochemistry that activates the amygdala of the brain and make us less thoughtful choice-makers,” explains Annie B. Kay, RDN, E-RYT 500 registered yoga instructor, and lead nutritionist at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. “Yoga helps reduce stress as well as provides movement, which helps change that internal biochemistry to one that supports a more balanced brain activation (the cerebral cortex or executive function), which makes us better choice makers.

“From my experience, the primary way yoga helps with weight management is through stress management, and with its philosophy of compassion and cultivation of contentment,” continues Kay. “With yoga, there is an entire philosophical guide for living in balance with yourself and with others that can be helpful from an emotional standpoint. It provides a framework through which to look at life issues.”

Yoga is a path toward a deep self-discovery, and the practice not only helps unearth the difference between physical and emotional hunger for those who practice, but it also stretches the mind and body in new ways to open students up for more active lifestyles. Because yoga operates on so many levels (physical, mental, emotional), it has a way of making following an overall healthful lifestyle more easily attainable.

If you’d like to give yoga a try, check out the 5-Day Yoga Body Challenge to burn calories while you stretch, or try 3 Week Yoga Retreat to learn the fundamentals of yoga.

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Dr. Phil Shares: Static Stretching vs. Dynamic Stretching: Which Should You Do?

warmup exercises dynamic stretching vs static

One of the biggest mistakes newcomers to fitness can make is skipping warm-up exercises before a workout. Not only is warming up valuable, it’s essential, delivering benefits beyond simply preparing your body for exercise, and extending to issues of safety and performance.

But older notions of the warm-up may compromise both, making it important to know the difference between active and passive warm-ups, static and dynamic stretching. Once you’ve settled on a workout program, budget properly for some warm-up exercises by incorporating the information below into your fitness regimen.

Static Stretching vs. Dynamic Stretching

When preparing to do any type of vigorous activity — be it playing a team sport, performing aerobic exercise, or lifting weights — you need to prepare your muscles for action. Traditionally, there have been two primary ways to do that: static stretching and active warm-up exercises.

warm-up-exercises-dynamic-vs-static-2Static stretching

This is what you probably did in your middle school P.E. class: gradually elongating a muscle and holding it for up to 30 seconds. Think side bends or the classic hamstring stretch, where you reach for your toes while sitting on the floor. The goal of these stretches is to release tension, making muscles more pliable and less susceptible to pulls and strains.

Dynamic stretching

Part of the larger category of active warm-ups, this type of preparatory activity involves movement-based stretching like bodyweight lunges and trunk rotations. Additional active warm-ups include sport-specific agility drills, sprints and shuttle runs, jumping rope, jogging, and other low-impact, light effort exercises. The goal is to prime the body for action, and it’s what smart trainers and coaches now recommend that people do not only before competition, but also before every workout.

 

The Benefits of Active Warm-Ups

Research has found that while static stretching can provide recovery benefits when performed at the end of a workout, it can hamper performance if performed at the beginning. That’s because it relaxes muscles, sapping strength, while reducing blood flow and decreasing central nervous system activity.

Active warm-up exercises — especially those that involve dynamic stretching — have the opposite effect, boosting blood flow, activating the central nervous system, and enhancing strength, power, and range of motion. As a result, they offer a host of both immediate and long term benefits.

Active warm-ups improve performance

A 2014 systematic review of 31 studies published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that active warm-ups encompassing such exercises as sprints and plyometrics can enhance power and strength performance. Meanwhile shorter, static stretching not only fails to provide such a boost, but may also reduce strength. A meta-analysis of 32 studies on warming up and performance in 2010 also found that doing an active warm-up before engaging in sports yields improved performance — in this case, by 79 percent across all criteria examined.

“I have even seen runners who are doubling up in distance events on the same day run their second event better than the first,” says Brad A. Roy, Ph.D., FACHE, FACSM, FMFA, executive director of The Summit Medical Fitness Center in Kalispell, Montana. “With adequate rest, the initial event serves as an enhanced warm-up for the second event.”

Even if you aren’t playing a sport every week — or competing in two running events in a single day — doing some dynamic stretching every time you lace up for exercise can help optimize your performance and fast track your results. It doesn’t matter whether you’re exercising in your living room, pumping iron in the gym, pounding the pavement, or hitting the links with your bros on a Sunday — priming your body for action will elevate your game and accelerate your gains.

Active warm-ups prevent injury

A 2008 study of roughly 2,000 soccer players in The BMJ found that a structured warm-up program that included running, jumping, dynamic stretching, and targeted exercises for strength, balance, core stability, and hip and knee durability decreased the overall risk of injury by 35 percent, and cut severe injuries by almost half.

Scientists at Northwestern University had similar results in their 2011 study of 1,500 athletes. They found that 20 minutes of strength, balance, plyometric, and other dynamic stretching exercises before practice yielded a 65 percent reduction in gradual-onset injuries, a 56 percent reduction in acute non-contact injuries, and a 66 percent reduction in non-contact ankle sprains. More recently, a 2014 review of studies published in Orthopaedic Nursing found that tailoring a warm-up to a specific sport led to the fewest injuries and best outcomes.

6 Quick Warm-up Exercises Everyone Should Do

Although a sport-specific warm-up is always preferable, the following dynamic stretching circuit encompassing a broad range of movements can help prepare your body for just about any athletic endeavor. Perform each move for one minute prior to working out or competing.

Shoulder Circle

  • Stand tall with your shoulders relaxed and your arms by your sides.
  • Slowly roll your shoulders in a circle (forward, up, back, down) for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat in the opposite direction.

Trunk Rotation

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
  • Keeping your back straight (not arched), raise your arms straight out to your sides, and bend at the elbows.
  • Keeping your knees bent, pivot on the ball of your right foot as you rotate your torso to the left and invert the motion to the right.

Standing Hip Circle

  • Stand on one leg and raise the opposite knee to 90 degrees (your thigh should be parallel to the ground).
  • Keeping your knee raised, open your hip, making wide circles with your leg. Continue for 30 seconds.
  • Switch legs and repeat.

Leg Swing

  • Stand tall with your feet together and your arms out to your sides or gripping a stable surface for balance.
  • Shift your weight to your left leg and raise your right leg out to your side.
  • Swing your right leg parallel with your shoulders back and forth in front of your left leg. Continue for 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.

Lunge

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your hips.
  • Keeping your chest up, shoulders back, core braced, and back flat, take a large step forward with your right foot. Lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the ground and your rear knee is bent 90 degrees. (It should hover a couple of inches above the ground.)
  • Pause, and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position. Repeat, this time stepping forward with your left foot. Continue alternating legs.

Related: How to Do the Perfect Forward Lunge

Half Squat

  • Stand tall with your arms by your sides and your feet hip- to shoulder-width apart.
  • Keeping your back flat and core braced, raise your arms straight out in front of you as you push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
  • Pause, and then push yourself back up to the starting position.

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Dr. Phil Shares: How to Bring Mindfulness to Work

How to Bring Mindfulness to Work

You may ask yourself, “How do I bring mindfulness to work?” Mindfulness is something you practice as a being, as a person. And then it brings itself to every situation you’re in, every role that you play: at work, being a parent, being a wife, being a friend. So it’s more about how to bring mindfulness to your life.

What Is Mindfulness?

Let’s clarify what mindfulness is. For me, one of the ways I talk about it is how to be less reactive, more loving, and more present in how I act in a given situation, or how I decide not to act in a given situation as opposed to a knee-jerk reaction based on what we are conditioned to do.

The beauty of mindfulness is that the situations that come up that are challenging or could create a knee-jerk reaction are the actual situations that can bring mindfulness into your life.

How Can I Become More Mindful in My Life?

When you get triggered, you can use the situation as an opportunity to identify the types of situations that trigger you. And, rather than reacting, you can take a deep breath and allow the breath to center you.

With some practice, you become more aware and realize that when you’re reactive, you actually create more problems. So, these high-stress situations, where you feel you are not being mindful at all, serve as the best learning opportunities because you can “catch” yourself and make the shift from reactivity to mindfulness in the moment. With continuous practice, you can become a more mindful person.

It’s kind of funny, isn’t it? The very thing that you feel is disrupting your peace is the very thing that can create more peace in your life.

Any situation brings to you an opportunity to being mindful. It really forces you—if you are intent—to stop these constant, crazy reactions that just exhaust you. These reactions cause you to have bad days, then terrible weeks… as if the week is having you. But, you are the week, you create it. The week is not coming to you and saying, “This week is going to be horrible, so just enjoy the ride.”

This process has become fun for me over time—it’s a sort of game with myself. When there are situations that are quite challenging for me, I know they are also my gateway—my way in—into mindfulness. 

How Can I Bring Mindfulness into My Work Life?

Rather than thinking about how you can bring mindfulness to work, try and see it more as how mindfulness is being brought to you from work. Each time something challenging happens that brings on anger, frustration, resentment, jealously, envy, disappointment—all these emotions that come and go—you are presented with an opportunity to cultivate mindfulness within yourself by how you respond to these emotions.

Let’s say someone at work doesn’t take responsibility for something that wasn’t done or your opinion about something is not in harmony with theirs. The moment you get triggered is the moment you can take a beat and take a deep breath rather than react.

You can slow down and become a little more aware. That’s mindfulness.

You can think to yourself, “Here’s a situation that usually creates uncomfortable emotions in me and I usually feel attacked and then I react. But, instead I’m going to see this situation as an opportunity to step into mindfulness.” So, rather than speaking with frustration or running away, see your trigger as an indicator of how your mind works, then take a breath and bring mindfulness to the situation.

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Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health

Dr. Phil Shares: Foam Rolling vs. Stretching

Foam Rolling vs. Stretching

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Foam rolling has become the golden child of muscle relief. Walk into a big box gym and you’ll see people doing foam rolling exercises, or attend a group fitness class and you might use foam rollers before the warmup. Some studios even offer entire foam rolling classes.

This increasing knowledge and use of foam rollers is great, but it can make us forget about another important element of fitness—stretching. Both have benefits and both should be part of your routine.

Adding foam rolling and stretching exercises to your schedule may seem like a lot, given that it’s hard to do even a 30-minute workout most days. But thanks to the many benefits of foam rolling and stretching, doing both can give your body and workouts a boost, provided you do them at the right times.

Foam Roller Benefits

The primary benefit of foam rolling is to alleviate tension in the muscle tissue. “If you have any little restrictions like scar tissue, fascia, or trigger points, regular self-myofascial release can help release those adhesions and soften the tissue,” explains Debra Stroiney, Ph.D., professor of sport and exercise science at Gannon University.

Foam rolling does this, in part, by increasing blood flow to the area you are rolling. “When you roll your muscles, you are pushing blood away, and then after it wants to rush in,” says David Behm, Ph.D., university research professor, applied neuromuscular physiologist, and sports scientist at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

The combination of relieving tension and increasing blood flow provides benefits both before and after a workout. So grab your favorite foam roller, whether that’s a rumble roller or a foam roller, and get started!

Not exactly sure how to foam roll? Follow this guide for a break down of how to use a foam roller, and how not to use a foam roller.

Foam Rolling Pre-Workout

Foam rolling during a warmup literally warms up your muscles because of the increased blood flow. “Foam rolling is a whole-body thing,” Stroiney says, which prepares you for your workout.

Additionally, research shows that foam rolling for as little as five to 10 seconds increases range of motion, though rolling for longer leads to greater benefits. Plus, it provides these benefits without affecting performance during your workout, whereas static stretching before a workout can actually decrease power or performance, Behm explains.

And, despite the “hurts so good” reputation foam rolling has, it doesn’t need to hurt. On  a scale of one to 10, where one is no discomfort at all, and 10 is severe discomfort, rolling at an intensity of seven out of 10 gives the same benefits as rolling at an intensity of nine, Behm says.“You can roll moderately and still get the same effects,” he says.

Stroiney recommends doing five to 10 minutes of foam rolling as part of your warmup. Behm says rolling an area for 30 to 60 seconds is best, but listen to your body. If an area needs extra attention, focus on that and roll it longer.

Foam Rolling vs Stretching

Post-Workout Foam Rolling

Foam rolling after your workout also has benefits. Studies have found that foam rolling post-exercisereduces delayed-onset muscle soreness. “The increased blood flow helps bring nutrients to your muscle tissue, so you recover faster,” Stroiney explains. “The blood brings anti-inflammatory properties to the area, which may help you not be as sore later on.”

This may also help reduce the risk of injury, especially if you tend to have tight muscles or trigger points, providing release will help your muscles function better, she adds.

When you foam roll as part of a cooldown, take more time than the pre-workout foam rolling. Stroiney suggests dedicating one to two minutes to roll out each muscle group you used. “Think of it like if a professional massage therapist were doing a full-body release for you,” she says. “You are just doing a smaller piece of that.” Look at a massage therapist like a dentist, and foam rolling is like brushing your teeth. It’s a preventative task, and more convenient than a massage, which unfortunately doesn’t always fit your schedule and budget.

The Best Time to Foam Roll

Foam rolling isn’t only for the days you exercise. It’s also great to do on rest days. “Doing it on a daily basis isn’t going to hurt you. If anything, the people I know have felt better because of it,” Stroiney says. Since the increasing blood flow can help your muscles recover, it can be a huge for your recovery days.

The only time you may not want to foam roll is if you are injured. You could do more damage, so check with your health care provider before rolling an area that’s in pain.

Benefits of Stretching

The benefits of foam rolling and stretching overlap a bit, but the primary goals are different. “Whereas foam rolling is intended to release and regenerate the fascia and underlying muscles, stretching focuses on improving range of motion by specifically addressing tissue extensibility, training the body for the controlled elongation of muscles during movement,” explains Jessica Matthews, author of Stretching to Stay Young and senior adviser for health and fitness education for the American Council on Exercise.

In turn, stretching exercises lead to increased flexibility which may reduce your risk of injuries. “When you are better able to go through a full range of motion as your body is intended to, that leads to better movement patterns and quality, both during workouts and in everyday life,” Matthews says.

Stretching can be confusing, however, because there are two kinds of stretching exercises: dynamic and static. Dynamic stretching takes your joints and muscles through a full range of motion, such as trunk rotations, arm circles, and hip circles. Static stretching is passively holding a stretch. Each provides different benefits and is best performed at different times of your workout.

Pre-Workout Stretches

The intention of a warmup is to gradually prepare your body for the exercise that’s to follow. Because of this, dynamic stretching is most ideal pre-workout to increase your body temperature and heart rate. They can mimic movements or exercises in your workouts, Matthew says, like the standing hip hinge (pushing your hips back) as preparation for squats. This helps to prepare your nervous system and gets your brain-body connection going. Dynamic stretches should also stretch your muscles through movement, such as leg swings for the hamstrings, or walking quad stretches.

And studies show dynamic stretching is better than static before a workout to boost poweranaerobic performance, and acceleration and speed. Static stretching does the opposite. Research has shown that doing static stretches before a workout may reduce muscle strength by 24 percent and muscle endurance by 28 percent and also reduce jump performance and decrease speed.

Before a workout, five to 10 minutes of dynamic stretching is ideal, but as little as three minutes will do the trick, Matthews says. You should always do dynamic stretches for your ankles, hips, shoulders, and thoracic spine, as these areas are designed to be really mobile. Then, do movements specific to your workout. Think: Are there “rehearsal” movements you can do at half-depth and slower speed?

Foam Rolling vs Stretching

Post-Workout Stretches

After a workout is when static stretching comes into play. Your body is warm and your muscles are more pliable, which is an ideal situation for static stretching.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) advises holding each stretch 10 to 30 seconds. Then, repeat it until you’ve held each stretch for an accumulated 60 seconds. That can seem like an eternity, so to make this easier, Matthews suggests using your breath. “Fifteen seconds is about five to six slow, controlled breaths,” she says. Move into your stretch and hold that position to the point of mild tension or slight discomfort for at least five breaths. Then repeat this four times.

Aim for 10 minutes of post-workout static stretching of all your major muscle groups, Matthews recommends. If that’s too much, “even one 15-second rep [per major muscle group] is better than zero,” Matthews adds. Naturally, hit the muscles you’ve just worked, but also think about what else you do throughout the day that could potentially create stiffness, impact your posture, and affect your movement quality. Stretch those areas too, such as the hip flexors, which tend to be tight since we all spend so much time sitting.

As a bonus, this can be very relaxing. “Static stretching can help alleviate physical tightness in the body, and pairing it with mindful breathing can help decrease psychological stress too,” Matthews says.

Stretching at Other Times

As with foam rolling, stretching shouldn’t be something you only do on workout days. The ACSM recommends stretching at least two to three days a week.

Dynamic stretching is great to do in the morning to prep your body into the day, or anytime of day to re-energize, Matthews says. Get up from your desk and do a few stretches during the afternoon to bust you out of your lull.

If you want to do static stretching, always warm up your muscles first. You can do this by foam rolling, dynamic stretching, or even taking a hot bath or shower. “It has the same effect on your muscles and tendons, making them more pliable,” Matthews says. “You can even create an evening ritual and do some static stretching after [showering] as you’re watching TV.”

If you have an injury, however, stretching that body part at anytime may not be advisable. “If your muscle is damaged, it’s trying to recover,” Behm explains, by scar tissue filling in the tears. “Stretching is pulling apart those tissues, plus if there is inflammation, your capillaries are damaged, and stretching may further damage those. Give them a few days of rest.”

When You Should Foam Roll and Stretch

Foam rolling and stretching are great alone, and they also make a great couple—if you have time, of course.

In a small study published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, adolescent athletes did foam rolling, static stretching, or foam rolling followed by static stretching. All three techniques increased ankle mobility, but combining the two lead to a greater effect. Similarly, a study by U.S. researchers of 40 adults found that doing both led to greater increases in range of motion in the hips.

If you decide to do both, follow the study protocols and foam roll before stretching. If you’re short on time, experts say to foam roll before your workout, focusing on particularly tight and tense areas of your body. Then post-workout, do static stretches since your core body temperature is increased and your muscles are warm. And if you’re ambitious, try foam rolling later in the evening, say when you’re Netflixing.

If you have time to do both before and after exercise, follow this formula: Pre-workout, roll tight or restricted areas to prep your body for the greater movements you’ll do in your dynamic stretches, Matthews recommends. Post-workout, foam rolling first, as it will help you stretch further in your static stretches.

The Takeaway: Foam Rolling vs. Stretching

There are benefits to foam rolling and stretching, and while it’s ideal to combine the two, you can often get by doing just one. You can roll at anytime of day, and will get the benefits before or after exercise. As for stretches, do dynamic stretches before a workout (ideally after foam rolling), and static stretches after a workout (again, ideally after foam rolling). By working these into your fitness schedule and your everyday routines, and chances are you see and feel a difference in your muscles and movement, inside and outside the gyms.

 

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health

Dr. Phil Shares: The Unexpected Reason We Tend To Be Healthier In The Summer

SHUTTERSTOCK / RIDO

Seasonal changes in gene activity mean that the immune system revs up inflammation in the winter, researchers found. This may help explain why the symptoms of inflammation-related conditions — such as heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis — often worsen in winter, and why people tend to generally be healthier in the summer.

“Our results indicate that, in the modern environment, the increase in the pro-inflammatory status of the immune system in winter helps explain the peak incidences of diseases that are caused by inflammation, by making people more susceptible” to inflammation’s effects, said study co-author Chris Wallace, a genetic statistician at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

In the study, researchers examined genetic data from blood samples and fat tissue of more than 16,000 people who lived in both the northern and southern hemispheres, in countries that included the United Kingdom, the United States, Iceland, Australia and The Gambia.

The researchers found that the activity of almost a quarter of all human genes — 5,136 out of 22,822 genes tested in the study — vary over the seasons. Some genes are more active in the summer, whereas others are more active in winter, the researchers found. [11 Surprising Facts About the Immune System]

These seasonal changes in gene activity also seem to affect people’s immune cells and the composition of their blood, the researchers found.

For example, during the Northern Hemisphere’s winter, the immune systems of the people living there had pro-inflammatory profiles, and the levels of proteins in their blood that are linked to cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases were increased, compared with their levels during the summer.

This may explain why the incidence and symptoms of some diseases tied to increased inflammation — including cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases such as diabetes and psychiatric disease — peak in winter, according to the study.

In contrast, one gene, called ARNTL, was more active in the summer and less active in the winter. Previous studies on mice have shown that this gene suppresses inflammation, which may also help explain why people’s levels of inflammation tend to be higher in the winter than in the summer, the researchers said.

The seasonal variation in the immune system’s activity may have evolutionary roots, Wallace said. “Evolutionarily, humans have been primed to promote a pro-inflammatory environment in our bodies in seasons when infectious disease agents are circulating,” she told Live Science. This pro-inflammatory environment helps people fight infections, Wallace added.

“It makes sense that our immune systems adapt to cope with variation in infections as these are thought to be the main cause of human mortality for most of our evolutionary history,” Wallace said.

But even though this immune response helps fight off infection, it worsens other conditions related to inflammation.

It is not clear what mechanism brings about the seasonal variation of human immune system activity, the researchers said. However, it may involve the body’s so-called circadian clock, which helps regulate sleeping patterns and is partially controlled by changes in daylight hours, the researchers said.

“Given that our immune systems appear to put us at greater risk of disease related to excessive inflammation in colder, darker months, and given the benefits we already understand from vitamin D, it is perhaps understandable that people want to head off for some ‘winter sun’ to improve their health and well-being,” study co-author John Todd, a professor in the department of medical genetics at the University of Cambridge, said in a statement.

The new study was published today (May 12) in the journal Nature Communications.

By: Agata Blaszczak-Boxe
Published: May 12, 2015 01:05pm ET on LiveScience.

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health

Dr. Phil Shares: Are You Fit to Drive?

Have you ever considered how fitness training could be beneficial to your skills as a driver? According to a new study, simple exercises

woman drivingcan enhance your ability to drive, keep you safe on the road, and extend the years that you are able to drive.

The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence and the MIT AgeLab found some fascinating results in their research on the connection between daily exercise and driving. Drivers in the study reported benefiting from some of the most challenging physical aspects of driving:

  • Greater ease in turning their heads to see blind spots when changing lanes or backing up;
  • More rotation in their torsos to scan the driving environment when making right hand turns;
  • Increased ability to get into their cars more rapidly.

The participants ranged in age from 60-74. They followed an exercise program for 15-20 minutes a day over eight-to 10 weeks which focused on four areas:

If you include these types of exercises in your training program, you will surely have new confidence next time you need to parallel park!

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health

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Dr. Phil Shares: 4 Exercises for Knee Pain That Will Strengthen and Protect

4-Exercises-for-Knee-Pain

Even the fittest of us can experience knee pain during activity and exercise. If you’re feeling discouraged about getting back into shape because of knee pain, you’re not alone: The Centers for Disease Control estimates that nearly half of all North Americans will suffer from knee arthritis at some point. That includes two out of three obese Americans.

But don’t let a little discomfort push you off track. Sometimes targeting the area, gently and safely, with some basic exercises for knee pain is the best recourse—as long as you check with a doctor first.

 

Why Do Your Knees Hurt to Begin With?

Many factors can contribute to knee pain—bad posture, certain shoes, and excess pressure on the joints are all possible culprits. But there are also a number of diseases and conditions of which knee pain may be a symptom. According to chiropractor Josh Axe, D.N.M., these include—but are not limited to—chronic knee pain including rheumatic arthritis, Lyme disease, lupus, and even psoriasis. Because of this, we recommend seeing a doctor or physical therapist instead of guessing at the cause of your pain—and potentially exacerbating it.

 

How to Exercise When You Have Knee Pain

Once you’ve met with a doctor and have been cleared to exercise, the Mayo Clinic recommends the following three strategies that may help alleviate and prevent future knee pain.

  1. Strengthen the muscles around your aching joints to help brace them for the load.
  2. Maintain strength in your bones. One of the reasons why you’re in pain may be because the joints aren’t used to being exercised.
  3. Lose excess body weight, removing one potential source of stress from your joints with consistent exercise that’s safe for your knees.

Assuming you get the go-ahead from your doctor, here are some basic exercises for knee pain you can most likely do without causing discomfort or further injury.

 

Stretches for Knee Pain

Stretching, warming up and cooling down are particularly important when training through discomfort like knee pain. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons has an insightful guide to stretching out the knees before a workout, including:

Basic Exercises for Knee Pain That Will Protect and Stabilize standing quad stretchSTANDING QUAD STRETCH
You’ve probably done this a zillion times without knowing the benefits: Stand up, bend your right knee so that your heel nears your right butt cheek, and grab the top of your foot. Keep knees close together, press your hip forward, and stretch the front of your hip and knee for 30-60 seconds before you switch sides.

Basic Exercises for Knee Pain That Will Protect and Stabilize hamstring stretchHAMSTRING STRETCH
Stand with your right foot extended about a foot in front of you, heel flexed upward. Hinge at the hip and bend your torso toward the right thigh. Square your hips and straighten the right leg, flexing the toes up. Aim for 30-60 seconds of stretching around the back of the knee. (These will get you ready for a more strength-oriented knee rehabilitation program too.)

 

Leg-Strengthening Exercises for Knee Pain

You might find that the mere act of daily stretching goes a long way toward soothing your achy knees. Weekly strength training will also help you to go an extra mile toward stabilizing the muscles and joints around those precious patellas.

Basic Exercises for Knee Pain That Will Protect and Stabilize half squatHALF SQUAT
For those experiencing knee pain, the half squat—going halfway down and holding the squat for five seconds—can be the best place to start.

• Stand with your feet hip- to shoulder-width apart

• Keeping your back flat and core braced, push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your body to a comfortable depth.

• Pause for five seconds, and then push yourself back up to the starting position. Do 10-15 reps.

If it gets too easy, hold five- to 10-pound dumbbells. Three sets of 10-15 perfect squats ought to do the trick.

 


Basic Exercises for Knee Pain That Will Protect and Stabilize leg pressRESISTANCE BAND LEG PRESS
You’ll need a strong resistance band for these.

• Lie down and hook your right foot in the band like a stirrup, with the left foot extended on the floor.

• Slowly bring your right knee to your chest, fighting the resistance of the band and keeping your pelvis square, until it’s bent at 90 degrees.

• After a beat, slowly push out to full leg extension. Do 10-15 reps and switch sides for three sets.

Performing these gentle moves and soothing stretches under a doctor’s care may potentially help rehab any minor knee problems without surgery, while allowing you all the benefits of healthy exercise and continued weight loss. Once your health practitioner gives the OK, don’t quit some of your favorite workouts because they can actually help stabilize and protect your knee from pain.

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health

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Dr. Phil Shares:5 Foods to Avoid if You Want to Shed The Pounds

 

"Home made loaf of white bread, sliced.Similar:"

Losing weight can seem like an uphill slog at times. It doesn’t help that food companies use targeted marketing and packaging to make unhealthy foods enticing to us from the minute we start eating solids.

As an adult trying to lead a healthy (-ish) lifestyle, you may be able to resist the flashy cereal boxes and giant bags of chips. And probably know your way around basic nutrition facts.

But what other foods, besides the obvious culprits, should take a back seat? Read on to learn what you should keep out of your pantry and refrigerator if you want to lose weight.

A Calorie Is a Calorie (or Is It?)

First things first: Cutting back on calories can result in weight loss, says Katy MacQueen, a senior bariatric dietitian who specializes in weight management. But that doesn’t mean all calories are the same.

“100 calories of potato chips and 100 calories of almonds have very different effects once they hit your digestive system,” Alissa Rumsey, RD, says. The almonds have protein, fat, and fiber — all of which help keep you fuller longer than a handful of potato chips.

It’s best to choose nutrient-dense foods — meaning they have plenty of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other healthy nutrients for their calories. A smart, healthy way to cut calories — and shed some pounds — is to cool it on foods that have little nutritional value associated with them, such as added sugars, fried foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, and alcohol, MacQueen says. And it all starts with your grocery cart.

5 Foods to Avoid if You Want to Lose Weight

Shop Smart to Lose Weight

For most people, the food in your refrigerator and pantry dictates what you’ll be eating for most of your meals. While a little treat (hi, Nutella!) here and there isn’t going to completely sabotage your weight-loss efforts, having a shelf full of unhealthy foods can.

“Seeing junk food is a cue to your brain to eat it,” MacQueen says. Her suggestion? Keep less healthy foods out of the house (or hidden) and putting healthy foods at the front of the pantry or fridge so they’re the first foods you see.

Rumsey says this is especially important if certain foods are “triggers” for you, meaning you tend to lose control and overeat them. Moral of the story: When it comes to junk food, practice the adage “out of sight, out of mind.”

5 Foods to Avoid if You Want to Lose Weight

Tips to keep healthy food top of mind:

  • Keep a stocked fruit bowl on your counter.
  • Wash and prep some fruits and veggies so they are ready to eat.
  • Prep snack boxes that you can grab and go.
  • Keep refrigerated produce front and center.
  • If you live with someone who doesn’t eat that healthy — or has a year’s supply of Girl Scout cookies on hand — ask if it’s okay to store your healthy food at eye level and the junk food out of immediate sight.

5 Foods to Avoid if You Want to Lose Weight

Foods to Keep Out of Your Kitchen

1. Refined Grains

This category includes: White bread, white rice, many baked goods

For many people, white pasta, rice, cookies, cereal, and bagels make the world go ’round. But refined grains have been processed in a way that removes fiber and important nutrients, and taking the fiber out means you’ll feel less full, making it easier to overeat.

Since there’s no fiber, refined grains are digested much more quickly than unrefined ones. This can result in a spike in your blood sugar, which can then cause the body to over-secrete the hormone insulin. “A surge of insulin can then result in low blood sugar, which makes you hungry again,” she says. “Insulin is a storage hormone, so when a lot is released, we end up storing most of those calories as fat [if not used for energy],” Rumsey adds.

Whole grains, on the other hand, aren’t stripped of fiber and key nutrients. They’re digested much more slowly, which leads to more stable blood sugar levels and less “I WANT MORE PASTA!”

The good news: Plenty of refined grain favorites have healthier unrefined versions. Try swaps like brown rice for white rice, and nutty, whole-grain wheat bread for white bread.

2. Foods and Drinks With Added Sugar

This category includes: Pasta sauce, fruit juice, yogurt, condiments

Sugar can sneak into your daily diet in some of the most unlikely foods. Manufacturers often add sugar (in the form of cane juice, fruit juice concentrate, high-fructose corn syrup, and more) to foods and drinks like yogurt, fruit juice, sports drinks, pasta sauce, granola, and condiments.

Research suggest that a diet high in excess sugar can contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Don’t overlook drinks, either: Sugary drinks — whether soda or happy hour margaritas — also play a role in obesity and obesity-related health issues.

Even the natural sugars in fruit may lead to weight gain if you go overboard — depending on how you consume it. Fruit juice no longer contains the filling fiber and pulp of the whole fruit.

But if you’re eating whole, fresh fruit, then you’re also consuming water and fiber, which helps slow your body’s absorption of the sugar. “The benefit to having natural sugars versus added sugars is that with natural sugars, you get other beneficial nutrients at the same time,” MacQueen says. Take fruit, for instance: One large apple contains 23 grams of natural sugar, but you’re also eating fiber, as well as vitamins A and C.

Milk is another good example: One cup of 2% milk has 13 grams of natural sugar. But each cup also has almost 10 grams of protein, and important vitamins and minerals like vitamins A, D, and calcium and potassium.

3. Processed Foods

This category includes: Processed meats, packaged snacks, canned foods packed in syrup

“Some foods undergo a low level of processing that doesn’t affect their nutrition, like freezing fruits and vegetables. Other foods are more highly processed and have sugar, salt and/or fat added,” Rumsey says.

Ultra processed foods” can include sweeteners, emulsifiers, preservatives, colors, and flavors, many of which are artificial. The unnecessary salt, sugar, fat, and artificial additives in this type of processed foods can promote weight gain. Even worse? “Highly processed foods appeal to our taste buds and make it hard to eat just one serving,” adds Rumsey.

5 Foods to Avoid if You Want to Lose Weight

4. Greasy and Fried Foods

This category includes: Burgers, fried chicken, pizza — namely fried foods made outside of your own kitchen where the oils are lower quality and potentially less healthy

Research suggests that eating fatty fried foods on a regular basis could raise your risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. But while we do suggest ditching greasy fried food, don’t forget that healthy fat is an essential part of a balanced diet. Just aim to get most of your fat from unsaturated sources, such as nuts, seeds, avocados, and fatty fish like salmon and tuna, Rumsey says.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, it’s a good idea to avoid many low-fat or nonfat foods. Manufacturers often add more sugar or refined grains to reduced-fat foods to make them tastier.

5. Alcohol

This category includes: Beer, wine, liquor

“People often overlook the role that caloric beverages — especially alcohol — have on weight, as many dieters solely focus on food choices,” MacQueen says. While moderate alcohol intake doesn’t appear to be linked to obesity, “heavy drinking and binge drinking” are associated with increased body weight.

We’re not saying you can’t ever have a glass of wine or a celebratory mojito, but a drink — or more — each night can make it harder to lose weight, both because of the extra calories and because getting boozy can lower your inhibitions.

After a few drinks, you may lose the drive to stay on the healthy eating track and eat more (and maybe less healthfully) than you intended.

But Don’t Eliminate Entire Food Groups

Now that we just spent the bulk of this article telling you why you should keep bagels, cookies, packaged snacks, and booze out of your home, it’s time to play devil’s advocate. Sometimes it’s not a good idea to eliminate an entire food group.

Here’s why: Completely restricting certain foods or entire food groups can increase temptation or lead you to miss out on important minerals and vitamins.

“Each type of food, or food group, provides certain nutrients that the body needs to carry out specific functions,” MacQueen says. “If you eliminate an entire type of food, you jeopardize your health in various ways depending on the nutrient you avoid.”

In addition, an overly restrictive diet — let’s say super low carb, for instance — can leave you feeling deprived. “Making something off limits increases the chance you want to eat it, which can lead to restriction followed by a binge,” Rumsey adds.

Focusing on healthy habits that are sustainable and realistic, on the other hand, will likely be more successful over the long haul.

The Bottom Line

You don’t necessarily need a long, detailed list of specific foods to ban from your kitchen. By prioritizing healthy, whole foods when you’re stocking your fridge and pantry, the foods that you should avoid will naturally disappear from your shelves.

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health

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Help Dr. Phil Fight Cancer in 2017

Hi Friends,

It seems that we all know a friend or loved one, or personally struggle or have been taken from us with cancer.

I’ve felt like I couldn’t do enough over my years in practice. Until now.

I’m not a scientist and can’t find a cure on my own, but I can and will be participating with Team Kortright in an event called The Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer benefiting Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, one of the top 5 cancer research hospitals in the world. Through this event, I can help prevent other’s from having to struggle with this disease.

The Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer is a 2-day bike ride, over 200 kilometres (124miles), from Toronto to Niagara Falls, riding 100kilometres (62 miles) two days in a row, with thousands of other people.

As you can imagine, riding that far is not going to be a simple feat.   I’ll have to train and get in shape. But I’m excited that I can finally do something this big in the fight against cancer.
I know you understand why this is so important to me, and know why I’m asking for your financial support. My goal is to raise at least $2500 and I really hope you’ll help me get there or hey, even beat it.

It’s hard asking my family and friends for money, but this cause and this event are very important to me. I hope that you can donate at least $50.

The proceeds benefit The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Canada’s leading institution dedicated to cancer research.

Click the link at the bottom of this email to donate to me online. You’ll also find a printed donation form on my webpage, if you prefer that. Thank you for your support and concern over the last incredibly difficult year, and thank you for your support in my participation in this cycling event.

Donate Here:

Thank you in advance for your generosity!

Sincerely,

Dr. Phil McAllister

Dr. Phil Shares: 7 Secrets to Sticking with Exercise

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7 Secrets of Sticking With Exercise

 

Staying fit is a super power, wellness-wise. Exercise can improve your energy levels, sleep quality, body composition, and overall health. While these perks are great, hectic lives can make sticking with an exercise program tricky. Simple shifts in your behaviors can help minimize these barriers, making reaching and maintaining your fitness goals almost as easy as pushing play.

Set reasonable goals. Start with activities that seem attainable and reasonably challenging, then set a goal to engage in that activity at least a few times per week. Most wellness perks, according to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, kick in if you do a minimum of 150 minutes of moderately-intense exercise per week. That’s just over 21 minutes a day.

Schedule it. Prioritize workouts in your calendar like anything else. Schedule routine sessions at times that make the most sense within your lifestyle. Many people find it’s easier to stick to an exercise routine in the morning while others find they have more energy in the afternoons. But neither is ideal if the time isn’t convenient for you. Experiment with various options until you find one that works.

Get the gear. Ideally, your workouts won’t require a lot of equipment. Regardless, stock up on whatever you need to get started and choose quality gear, especially when it comes to particularly important items, such as athletic shoes. Wearing colors and textures you enjoy may also help keep you motivated to suit up and head out.

Plan ahead. Prepare your gear ahead of time to prevent skipping workouts. If you schedule your workouts for the morning, set your fitness attire out the night before. If you plan to exercise on your way home from work, pack a workout bag in advance and bring it with you.

Buddy up. Most everything is more fun with friends. Use the buddy system for increased workout accountability and enjoyment. If showing up or making time to exercise is your biggest challenge, having someone to be accountable to could be all you need.

Sleep and rest well. Quality sleep makes for effective exercise, and helps ensure that you have the mental gusto to show up. Cultivate a healthy sleep schedule, and stick to routine sleep and waking times as often as you can.

Cut yourself some slack. Aiming for perfection can work against you. If you miss a workout, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, consider it a rest day and get back on it the next day. If you find yourself unable to stick to your goals, reassess. It’s better to work out at a lower intensity or for less time for a while than not at all. If you’re still struggling, seek guidance from a qualified sports trainer or one of the Beachbody experts. Doing so doesn’t show weakness, but strength.

By August McLaughlin @ Beachbody.com

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health in Guelph