By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
“OK, Rebecca, Kayla and Max, Mommy is going to the gym so you kids behave and listen to daddy.” Sound familiar? Of course it does. Going to the gym for many moms, and yes dads, is time off, a chance for renewal, for developing real health and happiness.
But what about your children? Is “…behave and listen to daddy” the best you can offer them? What about, “…and you kids be sure you are playing, exercising, and having fun too while mommy does the same at the gym.” As someone who provides mental strength and performance coaching to developing and elite athletes, I can tell you that encouraging young children to enjoy free-play is a critical building block in their overall health—emotional, physical and intellectual.
Many parents believe, inaccurately, that focusing their young children’s physical activities on sport specific training trumps more general types of movement, exercise and activity. It doesn’t. Like you, needing proper warm-up time before you begin any specific exercise, think of your children’s free-play as their warm-up time for later focused athletic training. And if they aren’t headed towards becoming world-class tennis, soccer, baseball, basketball or football players, then think of their free-play as benefitting them in a thousand other ways to build a base for lifetime health and fitness.
When you are headed to they gym, keep these three points in mind:
1. Free-play means just that. Running, jumping, playing catch, skipping, playing in the grass, and riding their bikes all build essential balance, mobility, endurance and strength. Sounds like fun, right?
2. That leads to the second point. Don’t forget to play in the dirt with them when you come home from the gym, work, or shopping. Remember how you played outside until it was time to come in for dinner (or in my case when the street lights went on)? Show them how you can enjoy hopscotch, hula-hoops, dodge ball (easy does it) and they’ll love it too.
3. Focus on the process not the outcome. Our bodies were made for movement, exercise, and activity. Why? To keep us healthy and have fun, not just for winning a game, getting a scholarship or a trophy. Emphasize the value of fun, happiness, and enjoyment with your young children, not losing weight, building muscle or getting an athletic free ride to UCLA. There’s plenty of time for focusing on sport-specific skill building in those children and early adolescents who show interest, desire and proficiency in a focused sport.
4. Along the same lines of process, not outcome, be sure to keep your praise for your youngsters on their effort, determination, and resolve instead of their winning. “Daddy told me that you guys really had fun and enjoyed racing in the backyard when mommy was at the gym…that’s so terrific!”
This sure beats video games and donuts, doesn’t it?
By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
“I’m willing to make some lifestyle changes as long as I don’t have to do anything different,” said one client of mine. She was only half joking. I told her that her school teachers may have told her to sit still and settle down when she was a kid, but she can now stop!
The evidence is beyond convincing. Gardening, walking, being engaged in moderate to vigorous activity 30 minutes daily, healthy nutrition, regular exercise, and thinking rationally, are all directly related to lower mortality rates.
But it’s more than just how old you are when you die. It’s how healthy you live. And to remain healthy throughout aging, that is to age successfully, there are four processes in particular that smart folks are paying attention to and doing something about.
Here’s an admittedly elementary, basic, description of the four age promoters that we can all do something about.
1. Methylation Methylation, simply stated, is a detox process that can destroy cancer-causing toxins, repair damaged DNA and produce anti-aging hormones. When the enzymatic process of methylation doesn’t work well, homocysteine accumulates in the blood and can cause premature aging and death due to improper maintenance and repair of DNA. A blood test can help you determine your level of homocysteine and help point you in the direction of what you can do to make sure you have the proper level of nutrients necessary to enable healthy methylation to take place.
2. Oxidation Losing an electron by an atom or molecule, oxidation, is not necessarily a radical threat to life, unless that molecule is a protein or an enzyme. Imagine an apple that quickly turns brown or a nail that rusts. That’s oxidation. Free radicals cause this type of oxidation. Without the proper amount of anti-oxidants to immobilize these hungry free radicals, those unstable molecules can damage your body’s healthy cells and cause premature aging. Healthy diets, avoiding exposure to toxins, avoiding too much sun, reducing stress, adding vitamin C, D, beta-carotene and selenium with your physician’s input are smart ways to gain antioxidants. Green tea (no sugar!), berries, and multi-mineral vitamins (my faves are from Life Extension), along with CoQ10 and alpha-lipoic acid, may also be valuable in boosting antioxidant levels.
3. Glycation This is one tough process leading to sugar and protein/fat molecules combining to create inflexible tissue, translated to mean wrinkles inside and outside of your body, making you not only look old, but due to the inelasticity of connective tissue, narrowing blood vessels, and high blood pressure, making you feel older as well. Oh, and those free radicals? Aged Glycation End-products create large numbers of those life-sucking devils. The “bad cholesterol” LDL, is also part of the glycation process—it’s a central player in the undesired cross-linked molecules of glycation. High blood glucose (sugar) and food eaten at high temperatures cooked above 250 degrees F (barbequed, fried, grilled and roasted) may contribute to glycation. Cut way back on sugars, carbs, fast foods microwaving food and burning your hamburgers.
4. Inflammation Ever have a high sensitivity C-reactive protein blood test? Your doctor is looking for inflammation. Why? Because low-levels of chronic inflammation without external signs of swelling, heat or pain, (i.e., “acute inflammation”) may indicate serious disease, including cardiac and artery illness, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes type 2, arthritis, and cancer. Diet and supplements are often valuable in treating inflammation. Fresh veggies, berries, reduced pasta/bread/rice, reducing sugar intake, low glycemic index foods, and healthy fats are important components of a diet that is “anti-aging” = anti-inflammatory. Omega 3 fish oil, with DHA and EPA, bromelain and vitamin K may also be useful supplements. Like herbs? Add natural ginger and turmeric for an anti-inflammatory effect. Don’t forget the value of healthy sleep for anti-inflammation properties.
I guess the fifth “ation” may also be important for longevity—vacation! Don’t forget to add that to your longevity regimen.
By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
Seventy-five percent of our planet is water. Can you swim? Swimming, or aquatic exercise as it’s currently called, is a rhythmic, totally dynamic physical activity that calls on every large muscle in our bodies. It not only promotes flexibility and builds lean muscle mass, but it soothes, energizes and massages. It’s truly one of the world’s most perfect full-body exercises, developing the swimmer’s strength, endurance and cardiovascular fitness.
The Sporting Club’s aquatic manager, Kevin Bree, is our über-swim coach who, if the world was flat, would probably swim off of it. Steps from the club is a Jr. Olympic outdoor San Diego pool and Jacuzzi, surrounded by cabanas and fire pits. It’s a wonderful extension of more traditional indoor gym activities, a terrific cross-training element, and ideal for a seasonal change-up to weightless, ageless exercise.
Astonishingly, in 1910, a YMCA handbook assured that outdoor swimming would “prevent the growth of gray hair.” While not quite accurate, the buoyancy of swimming does protect vulnerable joints, and like many forms of vigorous exercise, may well add to longevity. Swimming burns about 100 calories for every ten minutes of freestyle exercise the average person does. It may not be the single best way to lose weight, but your heart, lungs and muscles sure appreciate the workout.
Think about this: when your body is in the pool up to your waist, your body bears just 50% of its weight. Go deeper, up to your chest, and your body now bears about 35%. Go all the way up to your neck and you are only bearing 10% of your own weight.
Unlike jogging, every arm stroke and leg kick is a form of resistance training through the twelve times as dense as air substance that water is. Want to improve your flexibility? Think about the wide arcs of your arms, your hip movement as your legs move, the reaching and you’ll see that aquatic exercise keeps your joints and ligaments highly flexible. Pool workouts also help avoid asthma attacks and some research demonstrates that swimming can actually help improve asthma. Like other forms of cardio exercise, swimming can also improve cholesterol levels, and provides benefits to your arteries as well, keeping them flexible by keeping your endothelium healthy—the lining of your arteries. There is even some data that suggests that swimming can help replace lost brain cells through a process known as neurogenesis. And of course, your cardiovascular system benefits by improving your body’s use of oxygen without overworking your heart. Naturally, checking with your doctor before taking on any exercise, especially if you know you have a medical condition, is the smart thing to do.
All this in a low-risk, low-impact exercise just steps away from the club. So after you’ve improved your cardiovascular condition, flexibility, physical appearance and posture, reduced your stress level and improved your balance, it’s time to stretch out, enjoy the sun and soak up the sun’s warmth—with sunscreen of course. Just think of all that chlorine as…perfume!
At the La Jolla Sports club we are offer a San Diego Boot Camp class to both members and non members every Saturday at 8am. The one hour long group fitness class includes a combination of strength training exercises and aerobics. Come join us this Saturday and enjoy a workout over looking the beach with some of the top fitness instructors San Diego has to offer. For future details please call: 858-456-2595. We hope to see you soon!
By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
With each birthday after our 39th (a nicer way of saying, “as we age”), our muscles tighten and our range of motion diminishes. Duh.
This puts a damper on our activities of daily living including everything from leaning over to tie our shoes and reaching for our carry-on bag in the overhead compartment to twisting when we reach to put on our seat belt and bending down to pick up the kids’ toys. Thankfully, the Sporting Club has highly skilled trainers and fitness professionals who are masterful at helping members stretch and gain flexibility, regardless of age or health status.
I recently had a “regeneration session” with The Sporting Club’s personal trainer, Eric Isselin, and it was eye opening—ok, joint opening was more like it! If you haven’t experienced this type of a stretch, you are missing something.
Like many at the gym, I do a fair amount of dynamic stretching after warming up before a workout, but this was way different. Butt kicks, high knees and hugs, carioca, glute walks, climbing “over the fence,” are some examples of dynamic stretching you see in the gym. Eric’s calls his stretching routine “regeneration” for a reason.
His post-workout “on the table” PNF, soft-tissue and active stretching session was an outstanding way to reduce my muscle tension and soreness, increase range of motion in my joints, and increase my general energy level (primarily due to increased circulation).
There’s been some confusion about the value of stretching before exercise, in part, due to a recent CDC study of 100 papers that looked at stretching studies. They found that people who stretched before exercise were not less likely to suffer injuries. But perhaps a better interpretation is that while warming up can prevent injury, stretching before exercise has little or no effect on injury. In either case, a good warm up followed by pain-free dynamic stretching before exercise (holding a stretch for 30 seconds or so without bouncing) has been shown to be generally superior to static stretching before an exercise session.
Why is stretching so valuable, even for people who don’t exercise? Here are the top 5 reasons to stretch it out:
1. Boosts flexibility and reduces likelihood of muscle strain
2. Improves blood circulation to, and nourishes, muscles, helping recovery from injury
3. Develops balance and coordination and decreases likelihood of falls
4. Reduces lower back pain by loosening muscles in the lower back, glutes, hamstrings, piriformis and hip flexors.
5. Enhances cardiovascular health, artery function and reduces hypertension.
Finally, while you are busy stretching your muscles, don’t forget your mind. For it was none other than Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. who noted, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” That’s true mind-body benefit!
By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
When it comes to creating a healthier you, there are many things you can do to improve your lifestyle–and as a result your health—and weight loss is at the top of the list. Even a modest reduction in weight for many of the approximately 75% of Americans who are overweight or obese will reduce risk factors for serious illnesses.
As a member of The La Jolla Sports Club, you already have taken important steps in promoting a healthy lifestyle. Reducing calories and exercising for a minimum of 150 minutes each week is the simplest approach to weight control.
Exercising for at least an hour a day, eating a low-fat/low-calorie diet, having breakfast every day, weighing yourself regularly and eating the same diet on weekends as you do during the week are essential steps for anyone who has lost significant weight and wants to keep it off.
Lifestyle change encompasses more than just diet and exercise though. The major categories you can control, according to the LEARN Program for Weight Control, include:
- Develop smart weight loss goals that you can accomplish
- Get rid of any “it’s all or nothing” type of thinking, otherwise a lapse will become a relapse
- Don’t equate your weight with your self-esteem
- Find support in others and be clear about the kind of help you’d like from those close to you
- Forget pop diets—they are short-lived
- Portion control, count calories, and eat with moderation in your approach to food
- Stay with an individualized, systematic plan (WeightWatchers is rated # 1 by US News and World Report)
- Set achievable, realistic exercise goals
- Deal with emotional barriers to exercise
- Be sure you continue adding increased activity levels to your daily lifestyle
Of course self-care for health involves proper diet and exercise. But what are you doing to increase your mastery of stress, to improve your overall relationships, to provide for yourself financially? These are also important to overall health.
Your work-life balance, the amount and type of play in which you engage, and key environmental factors you can control are also essential elements of overall self-care. Let’s not forget about having a clear purpose in life, healthy doses of self-esteem and a spiritual foundation as well.
Exercise has been demonstrated over and over again to serve as a foundation for overall life wellness. Think of wellness as the integration of each of the areas above—mental, social, emotional, spiritual and physical. These are the areas that will expand your life’s potential and impact how you feel about your life and your ability to function effectively and cope positively, optimistically and constructively, day to day.