Blood Flow Restriction Training

Posted: September 25, 2017 in Uncategorized

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Kaatsu training was developed in Japan; which means “additional pressure or blood flow restriction training,” and it involves performing strength training exercises while restricting blood flow to the extremity being worked. A significant benefit is that we can do strength training using just 30-50% of the weight we’d normally use while still reaping maximum benefits. In a way, we’re trading weight for repetitions using less weight but doing more reps, up to 20-30, opposed to the 10-12.

The cuffs/bands are just tight enough to allow arterial blood flow but not venous flow which causes lactic acid to build up, giving us the same benefit as heavy lifting without the dangers associated with heavy weights. A great strategy for the elderly and for recuperating from an injury. The evidence suggests that venous blood flow restriction dramatically increases muscle growth and strength by increasing growth hormone secretion, while circumventing the tissue damage that can occur with traditional high-intensity weight training.

It can stimulate muscle growth and strength in about half the time, using about 1/3rd of the weight. By using much lighter weights, we’re also dramatically reducing our risk of muscle injury. The idea behind this training is to restrict the amount of venous blood flow our exercising muscle can get by tightening a cuff/band around the upper portion of the arm or leg. This disrupts the homeostasis in the muscle, creating a metabolic crisis.

It reduces partial pressure of oxygen and pH in the tissue stimulates protein synthesis. The cells will up-regulate protein synthesis in an effort to improve homeostasis in the exercising muscle. Our central nervous system also registers the crisis and sends out signals to compensate. Our autonomic nervous system reacts by increasing sympathetic tone, heart rate, ventilation and sweating; hormones involved in repair processes are also triggered and human growth hormone which facilitates protein synthesis.

One of the reasons this can compete with high-intensity weight training may be because it reduces myostatin to a greater degree than traditional high-intensity training but with minimal muscle damage. Interestingly, muscle growth occurs both on the distal and proximal sides of the band; meaning, while we’re only restricting blood flow to our arms, our pecs are also affected and encouraged to increase in mass, in part due to the systemic hormone release.

In summary, this is based on doing light strength exercises (30-50% of our 1RM) while the blood flow from our muscle to our heart is being restricted/slowed, resulting in a “low-effort exercise” turning into “maximum exercise”. By forcing blood to remain inside our muscle longer than normal, we force more rapid muscle fatigue and muscle failure that sets into motion subsequent repair and regeneration processes. Please do not restrict blood flow too much as this could lead to severe bruising and/or dizziness. If the limb starts tingling/turning red/blue/purple, it means our band is too tight and needs to be loosened.

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A typical training session would involve 3 sets with 20-30 reps/set, using half or less of the weight we’d normally use. Rest periods between sets is typically 30 seconds. As a result, we’d end up doing around 90 repetitions and the reason we want that many reps is because we need to work the muscle long enough to create the “metabolic crisis” conditions. It is that metabolic stimulus that drives the muscle adaptation and rapid growth. We need to lift a weight that is at least 70% of our 1RM in order to achieve muscular hypertrophy, arguing that anything below this intensity will produce insubstantial muscle growth. On the other hand, studies assessing low-intensity exercise in combination with blood flow restriction have shown muscle hypertrophy can occur even if we’re training at an intensity as low as 20% of 1RM, which is absolutely astounding. For most people this is lighter than a warm-up and virtually guaranteed to not injure us.

Some researchers have actually found this training to have somewhat of a protective effect against deep vein thrombosis. What we’re doing is we’re changing the venous flow in the deep system, essentially flushing out the system with every muscle action. So, there’s really no concerns about thrombotic events. Rhabdomyolysis, a condition that can trigger kidney failure or cardiac arrhythmia due to the release of intercellular contents from damaged muscle, is a rare but possible side effect of doing Kaatsu with too heavy a weight. It’s important to remember to drastically reduce the amount of weight we use and to focus on increasing repetitions.

Blood flow restriction can go a long way toward restoring functional capacity in the elderly, even if they’re starting out barely able to get around. It’s used with great success in to rehabilitate elderly, allowing them to regain mobility and independence. Using such light weights, even those with poor strength can get a maximal workout with very low risk of injury. Overall, blood flow restriction training appears to be a tremendously useful strategy to add to our exercise regimen, especially if we’re getting older and/or struggle with declining muscle mass or are trying to rehabilitate from an injury.

Elastic knee wraps are recommended because their elasticity and width allows us to comfortably wrap a larger surface area and reduces the risk of the band sliding down. Using thin rubber tubing or narrow nylon straps tend to increase the risk of excessive blood restriction as our muscles become engorged with blood and can also reduce our flexibility.

 

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Empathize

Posted: September 22, 2017 in Uncategorized

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Empathy controls the way our brains help us to care about other people. Humans have “mirror neurons” that react to others’ emotions and reproduce them; a deficit has been suggested as an explanation for narcissism and neurotic behaviors. Practicing empathy may help us relieve stress, strengthen our relationships and have a more satisfying life.

Empathy, the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, so to speak, and understand their feelings and point of view, is a character trait that may benefit society and individuals in multiple ways. Empathy training has been found to reduce stress levels among medical students facing intense emotional encounters with patients. Beyond stress relief, why is it so important to be empathetic? Following are the reasons:

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We will be more likely to treat the people we care about the way they wish we would treat them and more effectively convince others of our point of view. We will also better understand the needs of people around us and understand the perception we create in others with our words/actions.

We will better understand the needs of our customers and will have less trouble dealing with interpersonal conflict both at home and at work. We will be able to more accurately predict the actions/reactions of people we interact with and will learn how to motivate the people around us.

We will experience the world in higher resolution as we perceive thru the perspectives of those around us too and will find it easier to deal with the negativity of others if we can better understand their motivations and fears.

Empathy is positively associated with treatment adherence, patient satisfaction and sentiments that seem to be echoed among medical practitioners. Among adolescents, empathy may even go hand in hand with future success. Teenagers who are empathetic tend to be more purpose driven and intentionally succeed as their goal is to understand the subject material and to utilize the knowledge as one of their ever-increasing tools. Teenagers who are more empathetic do a much better job in embracing failure as there is little ego involved in the tasks and setbacks are rarely seen as failures but rather as a learning experience.

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Empathy comes in 3 different varieties and we each have varying levels of each type, which combine to influence our personal and professional lives.

Cognitive empathy allows us to understand another person’s perspective and imagine what it would be like to walk in their shoes.

Personal distress is also referred to as social empathy and allows us to literally feel another person’s emotional state.

Empathic concern describes not only recognizing and feeling in-tune with another person’s emotional state but also showing the appropriate concern or trying to help them as a result.

It’s common for one person to be high in one type of empathy and lower in others, with varying effects. By tuning into our own empathic abilities, we know when we should show more empathic concern in lieu of personal distress and vice versa. Lack of empathy is responsible for many human conflicts, particularly those that occur between people from different nationalities and cultures.

Beyond making an effort to share positive experiences with the people around us, we can develop our empathy simply by listening intently when people speak. This includes waiting until they’ve finished speaking to formulate our response and respond, as well as considering the speaker’s motivations behind what they’re saying and then responding with follow-up questions to further our understanding of the conversation.

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Consider an ongoing disagreement we have with a family member, friend or co-worker. Try to imagine the argument from their side and recognize whether they have valid arguments, good intentions or positive motivations we may have previously missed.

Reading literary fiction enhances a skill known as theory of mind, which is the ability to understand others’ mental states and show increased empathy.

Watch and wonder, which we can try virtually anywhere: Let’s put down the cell phone. Let’s look at the people around and imagine who they might be, what they might be thinking/feeling and where they are trying to go, while we wait for the train or stuck in a traffic jam. Are they frustrated? Happy? Singing? Do they live here or are from out of town? Have they had a nice day? Try to actually wonder and care.

If we’re unsure when to really try to tap into our empathic abilities. Prime times include whenever we wish we could understand someone better, when we’re having an unproductive argument with our significant other or when we want to calm our temper or better connect with the emotions of a loved one. Empathy even comes into play when we need to complain effectively. Empathy comes more naturally to some than it does to others. However, by taking time to truly paint a picture of what it is like for the other person and imagine ourselves in their place, we will gain valuable insights and forge deeper connections to those around us.

Benefits Of Fasting

Posted: September 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

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One lifestyle factor that appears to be driving not only obesity but also many chronic disease processes is the fact that we avoid ever going without food for very long. If we eat throughout the day and never skip a meal, our body adapts to burning sugar as its primary fuel, which down-regulates enzymes that utilize and burn stored fat.

If we struggle to lose weight, our body may have lost the metabolic flexibility to burn fat for fuel. To correct this, we need to reduce net carbs and the frequency of the meals. Fasting is one of the oldest dietary interventions and modern science confirms it can have a profoundly beneficial influence on our health. Many research suggest that the intermittent fasting can help people shred the excess fat and many important biological repair and rejuvenation processes which take place in the absence of food.

As a general rule, it involves cutting calories in whole or in part, either a couple of days a week, every other day or even daily. The key is the cycling of feasting and fasting. Peak fasting is anywhere from 14-21 hours/day and eating all of the meals within the remaining window of 3-10 hours. It can be an extremely effective way to shed excess weight.

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Contrary to popular belief, going without food for several days does not progressively deteriorate mental and physical functioning. Right around the 3 day mark, our hunger significantly decreases and mental clarity increases, due to rising ketone levels. Our body stores energy as glycogen in the liver, which is links/chains of sugar and it stores it as body fat. During fasting, we start by burning off all the glycogen in the liver, i.e. all the sugar. There’s a point where some of the excess amino acids in our body need to get burnt as well. That’s where people say, we’re burning muscle. That’s not actually what happens; the body never up-regulates its protein catabolism. Never is it burning muscle; there’s a normal turnover that goes on. There is a certain amount of protein that we need for a regular turnover. When we start fasting, that starts to go down and then fat oxidation goes way up. In essence, what we’ve done is we switched over from burning sugar to burning fat. Once we start burning fat, there’s almost an unlimited amount of calories there.

Most people fear fasting, thinking they will be unable to tolerate the suffering, but an obese individual could theoretically go without food for months without starving to death, under strict medical surveillance and must take multivitamins and potassium daily and a high-quality multi-mineral supplement. A very small part of our energy comes from breaking down our muscles but we can avoid this by doing some resistance training. The majority of our energy comes from breaking down fat and very soon, we start getting all our energy from the breakdown of fat. The fat molecules break down into two separate chemicals glycerol which can be converted into glucose and free fatty acids which can be converted into ketones. Our body, can run on this glucose and ketones until we finally run out of fat.

Another apprehension is that fasting will leave us physically drained and lethargic. While we may certainly feel less than optimal during the first few days the first time we do it, fasting actually tends to have the complete converse effect. After 4 days, the BMR is actually 10% higher than the start. The body has not shut down but switched fuel sources from burning food to burning body fat. Fasting forces our body to start accessing the stores of energy and once that happens, our body suddenly has a near unlimited supply of energy! Insulin is the primary hormone that tells our body whether to store energy or burn it.

When we eat, we’re taking calories in and insulin goes up. Higher levels of insulin signal our body to store energy. When insulin falls, it tells our body to release energy, i.e. the energy stored in our fat cells. This is why it’s so difficult to lose weight when we’re insulin resistant.

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We can include herbal tea and black coffee. While most people would likely benefit from water fasting, there are several absolute contraindications. If one is underweight, malnourished, pregnant (as they need steady supply of nutrients to assure the baby’s healthy growth and development) or children (no longer than 24 hours fasting) one should NOT do extended fasting. One should avoid fasting if he/she is struggling with an eating disorder such as anorexia and on medication, this includes any drugs that may cause stomach upset/ulcers. Risks are especially high if one is on diabetic medication.

We could have black coffee with butter, coconut oil or MCT oil. Dietary fat produces a very minor insulin response, and since we’re keeping our insulin levels low, we will get most of the benefits even though we’re consuming plenty of calories. Adding healthy fats such as butter, coconut oil, MCT oil and avocado can make the fasting experience a lot easier.

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Cholesterol is found in nearly every cell of our body and is essential to good health; our body uses it to make hormones, protect our cell membranes and digest food. Our liver manufactures most of it our body requires from nutrients extracted from our food.

Studies confirm that inflammation is one of the major underlying factors behind cardiac disease, cancer, diabetes and many other conditions. Chronic pain and migraines are also rooted in the inflammatory process in our body. Unfortunately, while many are suffering from these conditions, understanding how to eliminate it is not generally understood. Many physicians simply turn to pharmaceuticals that carry a significant number of side effects.

The source of inflammation in our body is usually driven by our lifestyle choices. How much our intestines will allow through breaks in the cell wall, is dependent on the food we eat and the stress we’re under. This disruption in the interconnections between the cells in our intestines may result in small holes that allow food particles and bacteria to enter our blood stream and trigger an immune response, called leaky gut syndrome. This triggers inflammation which impairs our ability to digest food properly or absorb nutrients. One of the food groups that factor into the development of leaky guy syndrome is grains. Scientific evidence suggests that whole grains, lectins and legumes are responsible for inflammation.

The physician often prescribe a quick pill, believing patients may be more willing to take a pill than to change their eating habits or lifestyle choices. Unfortunately, these come with side effects, some of which are more dangerous than the original condition they were intended to treat.

It is the inflammatory process in our body that first triggers an injury to our arterial walls. No matter how low our cholesterol numbers go, our body will still use the cholesterol it has to repair the arterial wall. The size of our LDL cholesterol, is more important than our overall LDL level. LDLs are not harmful to our health while the smaller, denser LDL particles may create problems as they squeeze through the lining of our arteries, oxidize and trigger inflammation. An NMR LipoProfile that measures the size of our LDL particles is a better assessment of our risk of heart disease than total cholesterol or total LDL. The following tests will also give us a better assessment of our potential risk for heart attack or coronary artery disease:

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HS-CRP: High sensitivity C Reactive Protein is one of the best overall measures of inflammation. The lower the number the better. Ideally our level should be below 0.7.

Cholesterol ratios: Our HDL/cholesterol ratio and triglyceride/HDL ratio is a strong indicator of our risk. Divide HDL by the total cholesterol and multiply by 100; the ideal is above 24%. Divide the triglyceride total by HDL and multiply by 100; the ideal is below 2%.

Fasting insulin level: Sugar and carbohydrates increase inflammation, promoting the accumulation of fat and creation of triglycerides, making it difficult for us to maintain or lose weight. Excess fat around our midsection is one of the major contributors to heart disease. A normal fasting blood insulin level is below 5 mcU/ml but the ideal is below 3 mcU/ml.

Fasting blood sugar level: Higher the fasting blood sugar levels, higher the risk of coronary heart disease. When fasting blood sugar is between 100-125 mg/dl, risk increases to 300% more than when the level is below 79 mg/dl.

Iron level.Iron creates an environment for oxidative stress; excess iron may increase inflammation and increase risk of heart disease; the ideal level is between 40-60 ng/ml.

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There are multiple factors that affect the inflammatory process in our body:

Hyperinsulinemia: An excess of insulin in our blood triggered by a diet high in net carbohydrates increases our level of inflammation. What we eat tends to be the deal-breaker in how much insulin our body secretes. However, there are other factors that contribute to our insulin levels, such as smoking, sleep quality and level of vitamin D.

Unbalanced fatty acids: Our body needs a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats. Most diets have an overabundance of omega-6 fats leading to greater amounts of inflammation.

High iron stores: Ensure the ferritin blood levels are below 80 ng/ml; elevated increase our level of inflammation. The most efficient way to lower iron level is to donate blood.

Leaky gut: Food particles and bacteria leaking from our intestines increase our level of inflammation and risk of heart disease. By eliminating grains, sugars and lectin-rich legumes, while adding fermented foods, we heal our gut and reduce our level of inflammation.

Inadequate levels of magnesium: A century ago our diet provided nearly 500 mg of magnesium/day. Courtesy of nutrient-depleted soil, we are getting only 150 mg/day. It is vital for our optimal health and biological function. Low levels are associated with migraines, anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disease and death from all causes.

 

 

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For many, happiness is elusive at best and at times near impossible. There’s always something/someone pushing our buttons, making us feel less than joyful. Happiness can be learned and we must train ourselves to view life’s events from a different perspective. Disappointment, with things not going our way, can be a major source of stress. The key is consistently training ourselves to let go of the negativity. This isn’t something we do once and we’re done but  we do every day or however often we’re triggered. We can raise our happiness level by shifting our focus from about what caused the situation to what our beliefs about it are.

Let’s ask ourselves whether we’re actually thinking rationally about the issue. Is it true that we can never find another partner after a breakup, or is meeting someone else within the realm of possibility? Is our life really over because we lost our job, or is it possible we might find a job that suits us better or pays more? Another potent technique we can use to increase our positive-to-negative-emotion ratio is to ask ourselves, “What would I recommend if this happened to someone else?” and then follow our own advice.

One of the greatest contributors to unhappiness is our wants and desires, regardless of whether they’re able to be fulfilled or not because as soon as we get the thing we desire, another, newer, better thing will come along, fueling our desire to acquire yet again; a never-ending cycle. “Be grateful for what we have” is part of the prescription. What’s something we used to relish that we now take for granted?

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Financial hardship and work stress are two significant contributors to depression and anxiety. People who have adopted the minimalist lifestyle claim they’ve dramatically raised their level of happiness and life satisfaction. The key is deciding what “enough” is. Many times, accumulation of material goods is a symptom that we may be trying to fill a void in our life, yet that void can never be filled by material things.

There is a great emphasis on gratitude as a way of cultivating happiness and inner peace. People who are thankful for what they have are better able to cope with stress, have more positive emotions and less anxiety, sleep better and have better heart health. Gratitude can produce measurable effects on a number of systems in our body, including Mood neurotransmitters, Reproductive hormones, Inflammatory and immune systems, Stress hormones, Blood pressure and Blood sugar.

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We have to limit our media exposure from time to time if it’s difficult to maintain a positive outlook in the face of worldly horrors and start writing “thank you notes”, saying “please” and “thank you”, actions such as smiling and giving hugs.

We might think the first step would be to eliminate negative experiences in our life, but often these are beyond our control. Instead, we should focus on increasing our positive experiences; this is something that everyone can do. Happiness is a choice and we can create and nourish it by implementing certain routines and practices. Happy people have habits that set them apart from their unhappy peers, i.e. letting go of grudges, treating people with kindness, not sweating the small stuff etc.

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There’s only so much time in a day, so be sure to protect the attention from unnecessary distractions which take us away from the true pleasures in life. When one is having a bad day and the mood is sinking;  must call a close friend, watch a comedy or go jog. Taking time away from the daily grind is important for helping us recharge. A weekend getaway can help boost our happiness. Spending more time in nature can go a long way toward increasing our sense of well-being and satisfaction.

Exposure to bright outdoor light helps to enhance our mood and energy through the release of endorphins. Getting sun exposure outdoors will also help us optimize our vitamin D levels, deficiency of which has long been associated with chronic depression.

When people make a point to conduct acts of kindness, something magical happens. They become happier. Simple kind acts a compliment, letting someone ahead of us in line, paying for someone’s coffee are contagious and tend to make all of those involved feel good.

Gut Health – Enhance Now !

Posted: September 13, 2017 in Uncategorized

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The diet is the best way to optimize our gut health. Eating fermented foods, especially fermented vegetables should be the preferred way of getting the “good” bacteria our gut needs. For those who can’t/don’t eat fermented vegetables regularly, taking a high-quality probiotic is recommended; an excellent way of introducing billions of tiny beneficial microorganisms or “good” bacteria into our digestive tract.

Supporting our gut and overall health is all about maintaining an optimal balance between beneficial and disease-causing microbes. There are many things that can upset our bacterial balance:

  • Processed, refined foods
  • Sugar and excessive fructose
  • Bioengineered foods
  • Pesticides and other agricultural chemicals
  • Stress
  • Air and water pollution
  • Antibiotics, including those in our food
  • Heartburn pills
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Fluoridated and chlorinated water

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All of above and many more can harm our beneficial bacteria and allow the disease-causing strains to thrive and even take over. And that can adversely affect our immune health, allergic response, digestion, mood and our ability to lose weight. The gut flora/gut bacteria of obese individuals is different than that of normal-weight people. Normal-weight people were found to have a more diverse collection of intestinal bacteria, including a wider variety of microbes.

With more than 1,000 different types of bacteria living in our digestive tract, adding high numbers of beneficial bacteria can help influence which strains prevail the beneficial versus the damaging ones. The beneficial bacteria go to work and support many systems and functions throughout our body.

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Probiotics can support our health:

By helping recalibrate our immune system. A full 80% of our immune system lives within our digestive tract and is key to our overall well-being.

By influencing our metabolism and weight and promoting the growth and survival of good, beneficial bacteria. Probiotics may help reduce fat in our body.

By protecting the membrane lining of our intestinal wall, preventing undigested food and wastes from escaping into our bloodstream.

By helping digest our food and produce certain nutrients that our body needs.

By positively impacting our mood and brain function.

By helping to maintain healthy bacteria populations within our urinary tract.

By supporting women’s vaginal health and promoting a healthy bacteria balance.

Bone Health

Posted: September 11, 2017 in Uncategorized

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Worldwide, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50 experience an osteoporosis-related bone fracture; 20% of those break a hip. Osteoporosis is a common problem, affecting an estimated 1 in 10 women worldwide at the age of 60. By the time a woman reaches the age of 80, she has a 2 in 5 chance of developing osteoporosis. In most people, sometime during 30s the bone mass starts to decline. For women, that bone loss can significantly speed up during the first decade of menopause.

Weight-bearing exercises are particularly important for the prevention of osteoporosis, which is characterized by fragile bones. Unfortunately, drugs are typically the first-line remedy recommended by doctors; this is tragic, considering these drugs do more harm than good. Eating a diet of real food, and getting sufficient amounts of specific nutrients is also important. For the obese, frail elderly and/or those struggling with poor mobility and low fitness, whole body training can be very helpful.

In osteoporosis, the net rate of bone resorption/breakdown exceeds the rate of bone formation, which results in a decrease in bone mass. Drugs do not actually help our body build new bone. The end result is increased bone density, but denser bone is not stronger! Eventually our bones become weaker and more prone to fracture. In women who have been taking drug for 5+ years, the bones have literally lost the ability to regenerate.

While diet certainly plays an important role, weight-bearing exercise is one of the most effective remedies against osteoporosis. Balance-building exercises are also recommended. As long as we have strong muscles, bones and steady balance, our risk of falling is minimized. Should we fall, our chances of breaking a bone are also dramatically reduced.

Exercise is really a lifelong lifestyle component, not a temporary fix for any particular problem. Even if we’re older, we can still improve our bone health. It’s never too late to start exercising; it just gets a bit more challenging, since we’re starting at a lower level of fitness with each passing year of inactivity. A study found weightlifting increased bone density in the spine by 2%; the training targeting the upper body and legs was particularly effective.

We need to lift a weight that is at least 70% of our single rep max (1RM) to produce muscle growth but studies assessing low-intensity exercise in combination with blood flow restriction have shown we can go as low as 20% of 1RM and still reap the benefits. For most, 20% of 1RM is lighter than a warmup, virtually guaranteeing we will not sustain any kind of injury. Indeed, blood flow restriction training is used to rehabilitate the old and infirm allowing to rebuild muscle and regain the lost mobility.

While we must certainly start any exercise program at a level appropriate for our current condition, it would be a mistake to dismiss HIIT altogether. HIIT can be safe and effective even in older populations, and may actually help reverse frailty.

Getting older doesn’t automatically mean we’ll get weak. Our lifestyle plays a decisive role and strength/weight training exercise are effective means to prevent osteoporosis. We need to pay attention to our diet; processed foods produce biochemical and metabolic conditions in our body that decrease bone density over time, so avoiding processed foods is definitely an important part of the equation. Certain nutrient deficiencies can also contribute to weak and brittle bones. Among the most important are animal-based omega-3 fats, calcium, vitamin D and K2, along with magnesium.

We should avoid processed food and soda, which can increase bone damage by depleting our bones of calcium. By doing this, we’re automatically eliminating a major source of refined sugars and processed fructose, which drive insulin resistance. It will provide us with a more appropriate potassium-to-sodium ratio, which is important for maintaining bone mass.

We must increase our consumption of raw, fresh vegetables, ideally organic.

We should optimize vitamin D levels, ideally from appropriate sun exposure. Vitamin D builds our bone density by helping our body absorb calcium. If using an oral supplement, ensure to use vitamin D3 (not D2), and increase vitamin K2 intake.

We should get regular exercise. Ideally, the fitness program should be comprehensive, providing the necessary weight-bearing activities for bone health while also improving our cardiovascular fitness and fat-burning capabilities with high-intensity exercises, along with gentle balance and flexibility boosting exercises.