Our Brain Loves to Exercise too!!

We need to move a little bit to a little more everyday.  It is more important now than ever, due to the effects of COVID, according to Wendy Suzuki PhD, a neuroscientist at New York University.

Dr. Suzuki studies the neurological impacts of exercise, and she says that just a walk around the block or a 10-minute workout at home, gym or online will not only improve your day but also benefit your brain in a lasting way.

“Exercising to increase your fitness literally builds brand new brain cells. It changes your brain’s anatomy, physiology and function,” she explains. “Every time you work out, you are giving your brain a neurochemical bubble bath, and these regular bubble baths can also help protect your brain in the long term from conditions like Alzheimer’s and Dementia.”

This sounds great in theory…so why don’t we ALL do it! Well our team do, and most of our clients get out every day, but sometimes we all can lack motivation, that’s why the trainers at ALTA often step in with a friendly face and accountability to turn up each week.

Start by thinking of exercise — or any movement — as part of your daily routine for caring for your body, just like brushing your teeth.

Dr. Suzuki says, the immediate benefits of exercise can serve as more relevant motivators, “It’s really the new way to bring wellness to your brain.” A single workout increases neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline, and these mood boosters can also improve your memory and focus for up to three hours afterwards.

Not only can this help us in our work but it’s also incredibly good for our mental health. In August 2020, Dr. Suzuki informally tested this out with a group of students in one of her NYU classes over Zoom. Participants took a quick five-minute anxiety assessment, and then she surprised them with a 10-minute intensity workout. After they exercised, the students took the assessment again.

“What we found is the first time they took that assessment, they were scoring at close to clinical anxiety levels,” she recalls. “After a 10-minute workout, their anxiety scores decreased to normal levels. That is why you need to incorporate these bursts of activity in your day; it helps your mental health and it also helps your cognition.”

So, how much do you need to exercise in order to feel those benefits?

That, says Dr. Suzuki, is the billion-dollar question. Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer: 5 pushups or 10 burpees don’t automatically release a set amount of dopamine. In her 2017 TED Talk (https://www.ted.com/talks/wendy_suzuki_the_brain_changing_benefits_of_exercise?language=en), she recommends trying to fit in 30-minute sessions of exercise 3 to 4 times a week.

But the real answer — especially now — is to exercise for as long as you can, ideally doing a little bit every day. “Even a walk can start to give you those neurotransmitter and mood benefits,” she adds.

Many of the positive effects she mentions come from doing cardiovascular exercise — that is, any workout that gets your heart rate up. But even this can be more accessible than it feels.  That’s what research in Dr. Suzuki’s lab has shown. “The more exercise you do — if you are successful at regularly exercising — the more motivation you gain,” she says.

Reference: Why your brain loves it when you exercise, plus 3 easy ways to work out at home Feb 2, 2021 / Mary Halton ideas.ted.com

Skiing is one of our great loves – What does it take to be fit?

We love the snow and snow sports be it Downhill Skiing, Snowboarding, Cross Country Skiing or Snowshoeing. The beauty is the snow can be for all ages and all activity levels, it can draw the eye to its beauty especially here in Australia amongst the Snow Gums on a sunny day when the snow literally sparkles.

Being ready for the snow is important be it clothing, chains for your car and yes, your fitness! For the very reason that snow is slippery, well the ice underneath definitely, so whether you plan to walk around or ski then you want your body to be able to handle all that it throws at you – plus the odd snow ball! So good muscle strength, stability and mobility and depending on the activity, endurance. As I keep bragging JC was the Strength & Conditioning Coach for the AUS XC team and is helping two of our Australian Olympic Athletes preparing their run into the next Winter Olympics – so proud of him! So, let’s learn a little from JC on some really basic fitness levels to go for a visit to our snowfields this winter.

  1. Stability – Core strength? How many sit-ups can you do?  Not really, stability is your body’s ability to stabilize during movement.  In skiing when you are moving and need to avoid the bump or stop, change directions, what are your, joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles doing? To achieve greater stability you need to hold a squat position whilst doing a lateral twist with a cable and / or powerband.
  2. Balance – Normally we may think standing on one foot but in skiing we need to keep the centre of gravity on the same plane while in motion. For example, like riding a bike or at our studio balance exercises would be standing on stability cushions or our wobble boards – try doing a squat whilst on them, it’s quite tricky!
  3. Strength- Strength is the ability to overcome a force.  Do you have the strength in your legs to stay in a squat position for the length of the run?  In the gym you might think of squat, lunges and wall sits.
  4. Stamina- See Strength as above. The ability to repeat an action without or little fatigue. Can you ski all day past the lunch break run after run.  Stamina is the ability to ski the last run with the same intensity as the first.  If your enthusiasm and movement quality deteriorates after 20 minutes, you may need to work on your stamina.  No need to go out for a 15k run unless that’s your thing.  There are a lot of ways to build stamina, interval training, circuit strength training, tennis just to name a few.

If you have any questions or would like help preparing your body for ski season, please contact us.

Perfect Footy Strength Exercises

Normally when you think of strength training for sports, an image of a body builder comes to mind, you know that one who is lifting 100’s kilos above his or her head.   We can assure you that is simply not the case, strength training is beneficial for both elite athletes as well as anyone who would like to be stronger, fitter, have better balance, lower body fat and increased bone strength, so really everyone!  But if you are strength training for a particular sport there a six main areas which should be focused on; Please note these are in order of importance and this is barring any pre-existing injuries which need to be taken into consideration.

1. Mobility
Mobility refers to the range of movement and quality of movement.  The range is the lengthening of muscles and the quality is how well you move.  Of course, everyone will be different, but the aim is to have a range of movement which is appropriate for your sport.  What are your movements like?  Are you in a hurry? Are your movements smooth or jerky, robotic or cat like? Think of the ballet dancer leaping and the player going up for a mark, there are a lot of similarities.

2. Stability
Stability is related to your core strength in this instance, it is not measured by how many sit-ups you can do!  Stability is your bodies ability to stabilise during movement.  In footy, when you are running and need to go for that mark and/or avoid a tackle, you often “stop, twist, change directions, leap and jump”.  What are your, joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles doing?

3. Strength
Strength is the ability to overcome a force.  Do you have the strength in your legs to jump in the air and land with stability while being tackled?  Normally in the gym you will hear “Mate! How much can you bench”?  Will your ability to bench press 100kg help you more on the footy field or the beach?

4. Endurance & Stamina
Endurance and stamina are the ability to repeat an action with no or little fatigue. Can you play to the fourth quarter of the game with the same intensity as the first?  If your enthusiasm and movement quality deteriorates after just 20 minutes, you may need to work on your endurance.  No need to go out and run 42k unless that’s your thing.  There are a lot of ways to build endurance; interval training, circuit and strength training or tennis, just to name a few.

5. Power
Power is the “ability to exert a maximal force in as short a time as possible”, for example accelerating away from your opposition, jumping for a mark and kicking the footy.  In the gym, it’s the ability to lift a very heavy weight very quickly.  At the Olympics you see the men and women lifting a crazy amount of weight from the floor to over their heads very quickly, this is called funny enough “Olympic Lifting”.  Most athletes use this form of training to develop their power. BUT if you do not have Mobility, Stability, Strength and Endurance, most likely you will break or injure yourself.

6. Speed, Agility, Skill
This is where you put it all together. As Gary Ablett Jr said “Learning to make the impossible possible, making the difficult look easy.”

If you have any questions or would like to incorporate some of our footy themed exercises into your program, please ask one of our ALTA fitness trainers.

ALTA Talks Episode 12 Posture- The Good & The Bad

We are discussing how to review posture and how regular movement is the key to healthy joints, including the spine as well as some helpful hints for stretching which will help work on your posture. Enjoy watching!

Posture, Core & Dance – According to Estelle

I have had the pleasure of training ALTA clients for over 2 years and during this time I have throughly enjoyed working with various clients and their fitness goals and needs.  While we know how important strength training is for all, I have also enjoyed educating clients on the importance of a strong and stable core.  A stable core helps prevent injury, and it also helps with posture and balance. This is especially important for older clients.  As a dancer and teacher I love the opportunity to be creative with my programs and sessions.  If you have ever had the pleasure to work with me, then you know just how much I like to incorporate some type of arabesque or plank variation with a ball, and for good reason!

Having a great core is so important not just as a dancer, nor for use in the gym, but for everyday life.  Lifting heavy boxes, sitting at your desk while at work, gardening and cleaning the house are all activities and great examples as to why our core is so important.  Your core is responsible for stabilising  your entire body and without it, your balance can be impaired.  Having control of your balance allows us to move in different directions with ease, stay steady on uneven surfaces, walk in your 6 inch heals, and especially for our older clients, reduces your risk of falls.  This is a big one and is why at ALTA we are passionate about getting our older generations to move.  So that everyday tasks are made easier.  ‘Switching on your core’, zipping your bellybutton through your spine or activating your core (whatever cue you relate to more) should almost be second nature.

I’ll end with a little tip I often share with my clients to help you think about your core and how you can adapt to actively use it throughout everyday life.  Next time you are driving and there is a red light, or you are on the tram and it comes to a stop along your route, or perhaps you are walking and you are waiting for the green man to signal; Take a big belly breath, brace your core until you “GO” again.  Before you know it, switching on your core will be a positive habit in the gym and in your daily life!

Clean Out Your Pantry

Why cleaning out your pantry can help you lose weight.

This might sound ‘Oh you want me to clean out my pantry to get rid of all the sweet biscuits & snack foods’ and yes that is one way to help you lose weight. The real reason I want you to clean out your pantry is to educate you to always look at your ingredients list before you buy something. Why you may ask? Because in so many of our processed foods there are ingredients that are simply bad for us, for some they may have little to no impact in the short term but for others they can have significant affects immediately and, in the long term it’s almost guaranteed to affect your health as they build up as toxins in your body causing inflammation, weight gain and diseases. All things we can avoid if we eat healthy.

As many of you would know I’ve become a little (a lot) obsessed about what I am putting into my and my family’s bodies, and I have been on (and still am) a learning journey. What I do know is, when I remove certain ingredients from my diet, my body has extremely positive reactions, JC has experienced this as well. It is not just through weight loss, but we have noticed that joint pain disappears, sleeping improves, no night sweats and a clearer mind.

This is what I suggest you do if you really want to change your eating habits. Start with one shelf at a time, pull out everything from the shelf.  Look at the items you’ve pulled out. Now before you put each item back, look at the ingredients list. If it has any of the following numbers or ingredients then put it to one side;

  • Colours 102 107 110 120 122-129 132 142 150 151 155 160B.
  • Preservatives: Sorbates 200-203, Benzoates 210-213, Sulphites 220-228 Nitrates, nitrites 249-252 their role is to preserve but they are considered toxic and carcinogenic, Proprionates 280-283
  • Antioxidants 310-312, TBHQ BHA BHT 319-321
  • Flavour Enhancers 620-625, 627 631 635, additives that are disguised in many foods but always contain 62, Hydrolysed vegetable protein– contains between 30-60% MSG, Hydrolysed plant protein, Plant protein extrac, Calcium caseinate and sodium caseinate, Autolysed years, Hydrolysed protein, Potassium glutamate, Yeast extract, Textured protein or TVP, Anything hydrolysed
  • Artificial Sweeteners 951 Aspartame is the most complained about food additive. Linked to many health problems including cancer, asthma, depression, hyperactivity and seizures., More artificial Sweeteners and other Sweeteners (linked to cancer and other disorders), 952 954 955 965 966 967 958 951, High Fructose Syrup, Corn syrup
  • Soy Protein Isolate found in most high protein foods, like protein bars and protein powders, Textured Vegetable Protein TVP, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil and Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil – due to trans fats and processing to create an oil that doesn’t go rancid, Margarine (beware the new 1% trans fat, they are substituting it with saturated fat, up to 30%)
  • Vegetable Oils like corn, canola, soy and sunflower (which are used in ‘vegetable’ oils),  are alien to human physiology and toxic to our bodies.

Now it’s up to you to decide, do I keep it? Or get rid of it?  Keep it and use it till its finished and don’t buy again, give it away to a friend or charity if unopened or bin it!

Now I don’t like wasting food, it makes me angry.  So on occasions when JC or the kids bring something home, we’ll eat it, particularly if it’s a refrigerator item.  Or you can give it to the food bins at your local market, the funny thing is, I have a bit of guilt about giving it away, as that means I’m just passing ill health on to others!

I could go on and on and on about this, I have to confess we are not perfect, but we are improving our healthy eating at home, eating out is a whole other article for another day. If you’d like to know more though, the team and I are more than happy to have a chat with you about it.  Recently I caught up with one of our lovely clients for a coffee to do just that, because I believe we can’t educate everyone at once but I can help one person at a time and hopefully the word spreads and we all become fitter, healthier and happier!

How to Squat Properly

You might be thinking “well you just bend your knees and stick your bottom backwards” right? Well yes, but there is a correct way to do this whether you do a deep squat or a partial squat. The majority of us haven’t grown up squatting low to the ground as a habit like some cultures, so what we see often is that many have lost the art of squatting properly yet it is a primal movement that we are genetically engineered to do. For some the mere idea of squatting is seen with dread as they experience pain in the lower back, hips, knees or feet hence they avoid squatting. If you think you never need to squat, think again. Obviously you squat to reach the toilet seat or to sit in a chair. What about getting in and out of a car, which is a squat, bend and twist and also squatting to pick something up off the ground, particularly if there is some weight involved. Often people will bend at the hips with a rounded back and yep you guessed it, there is a greater chance of injuring yourself!

Squatting is a compounding movement that recruits many muscles (hips, back, shoulder, core, arms and joints). Let’s look at the basic squat movement and practice it at home, encourage your family to join you and teach them the proper technique, it’s not just a great exercise it should be a natural movement pattern for you which is why we incorporate squatting into nearly everyone’s program though different variations of course.

  1. Stand with your feet a good shoulder width apart, toes maybe slightly turned out 5-30 degrees max, feel your feet firmly planted on the floor, this can ensure your knees don’t cave in. Stand tall, chest up, engage your core slightly.
  2. In initiating the squat bend your knees and push your hips back, your knees should track over your first and second toe. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor, how low can you go is up to you but if you experience pain then stop and only squat as far as comfortable and your feet should still be firmly planted on the floor (no heel lifting off the ground)
  3. To stand, drive through your feet, in particular your heels, this goes up the posterior chain located in the back of your body including hamstrings and glutes.  Remember to inhale as you go down and exhale us you come up.

Remember: Stay in your comfort zone, look ahead or in front of you, keep a neutral spine and only squat with weights that you can handle.

The benefits of learning how to squat and utilising this as an exercise in your program will benefit you in your day to day life including the following. Squats help to;

  • Improve stability, flexibility and joint, bone and muscle strength.
  • Improves blood circulation, digestion and heart health.
  • It can also burn more calories, enable greater jumping and speed.

Eggs- are they all they’re cracked up to be?

Let be very clear here!  Eggs are good for you!  For many years there has been a myth that eggs are high in cholesterol and therefore BAD for you!!  It has been found that there is no apparent association between the amount of cholesterol in the diet and level of cholesterol in the blood, no matter how much or how little animal fat is in your diet.  Obviously don’t go overboard consuming ‘all the eggs’, moderation is key here, but there is no need to be avoiding the consumption of these animal fats.

Eggs are like nuts – they are natures vitamin pills!  Did you know that the protein in an egg is 90% absorbed by the body verses meat which is only 65%?  They actually contain essential nutrients which help your liver to regulate blood cholesterol levels, they contain a unique lecithin, which is a fat dissolving agent, protecting the body against fat building up in the arteries. These are just a few reasons why eggs are good for you, I think we can safely say “yep they are!”   So much so that in 2006 the Heart Foundation in Australia recognised that eggs were not as bad as they first thought, and have given “the egg” their tick of approval!

Like everything which we consume within our diet, there are good eggs and lesser quality (bad) eggs!  Sadly, there are poor unhappy chooks out there, eating pellets, living in cages and being injected with growth hormones, these guys through no fault of their own are producing lesser quality eggs.  But there are also happy chooks out there, they happily run around paddocks, looking for food and generally enjoying themselves and guess what? They lay delicious free range, nutrient packed eggs which can commonly be found in health food stores, selected supermarkets and local butchers. Where possible try to choose the free range or even organic free range eggs, I guarantee you can taste the difference.

If you would like to understand more about the ins and outs of what causes Cholesterol, (given we have debunked the Egg myth) feel free to ask any of your ALTA trainers in the gym, or alternatively feel free to borrow the Lab to Table book from the ALTA Library.  Cyndi O’Meara discusses all aspects of making better choices for your table, its a great read and will make you think twice when taking shorts cuts with your food choices.

Episode 11 of ALTA Talks How To Eat Healthy

JC and Linda are talking about how to eat healthy, how they both became aware of needing to eat healthier, why it’s important for our immunity, new information and what does their day look like.