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The Latest Fitness Message: There Really is Something for Everyone

separator Most people know there are lots of different ways to exercise, but our main message in this topic of the month, which is about fitness, is that there truly is something out there for pretty much everybody. Whether you’ve been working out for years and are looking for something different, you are completely intimidated by the very thought of exercising or you’re recovering from serious illness or surgery, there is an activity for you.

Core training: building strength “from the inside out”
You may be hearing a lot about core training lately. Core training refers to any type of exercise that develops the muscles of the abdomen, back and upper leg. Strengthening the muscles in these areas helps you to build a solid foundation of strength and stability.

Types of exercises that focus on core training include yoga, t’ai chi, qigong and Pilates. Some athletic centers may also offer classes that combine different aspects of these activities. They may have names like bodybalance, synergie or even simply “core training.”

In addition to building strength, core training also tends to help you to relax, to regulate and slow your breathing and to improve your ability to focus and concentrate. Core training exercise tends to be easier on the joints than many other types of workouts. It helps increase flexibility and it can also help reduce stress.

The latest on yoga
Yoga can’t be considered new anymore. With many different yoga classes offered in cities and towns all over the country, it’s safe to say that yoga has entered the mainstream.

But there’s new information about yoga that might encourage some people to take it up. There’s some evidence that doing yoga can help prevent some of that middle-aged weight gain that’s common for many people. A recent study showed that people in their 50s who practiced yoga on a regular basis lost an average of five pounds over 10 years. Other people in the study, in the same age group, who didn’t do yoga, gained about 13 pounds during the same timeframe.

It’s not that the yoga burned a lot of calories, because most yoga, unless it’s quite strenuous, isn’t a big calorie burner. Instead, the researchers believe that people who practice yoga may be more in tune with what’s good for their bodies. This helps them to eat healthier foods, in healthier portion sizes. The people in the study, who responded to a questionnaire about their eating and exercise habits, showed that those who practiced yoga were more likely to avoid fast food and overeating.

Cobblestone walking for improved balance, reduced blood pressure
Slow walking that simulates the type of steps you would take on cobblestone streets may become the next fitness trend, especially for people who are getting a little older.

It’s been a common practice in China for people to have daily walks along cobblestone paths. Walking on an uneven surface in this way stimulates acupoints on the soles of your feet. The belief in Traditional Chinese Medicine is that these points are connected to all the organs and tissues of your body.

A recent study conducted at the Oregon Research Institute showed that people over 60 who walked on mats configured to feel like a cobblestone surface experienced significant health benefits. Participants were divided into two groups—those who walked on cobblestone mats for one hour three times per week for 16 weeks, and those who took part in walking activities without the mats for the same period of time. At the end of the study, results showed that walking on the mats improved:

  • Balance

  • Mobility

  • Blood pressure

The findings are significant because they can help prevent or avoid the onset of frailty, which in turn allows people to carry out the normal activities of daily life that keep them independent.

If you’re interested in ordering a cobblestone mat, read the current issue of our Senior Health E-Magazine for more information.

How about a little krav maga?
If yoga and slow walking on cobblestones seem too relaxed for you, how about hand-to-hand combat? Americans are learning a new type of workout—called krav maga—in ever-increasing numbers. Krav maga is the official combat system of the Israeli Defense Force, but some 40,000 Americans are using it as a cardiovascular workout that also teaches self defense.

There are about 400 clubs that teach krav maga in the United States, according to Krav Maga Worldwide Enterprises, which is based in Los Angeles. Krav maga translates as “close combat.” It’s a martial art, but not in the way you might imagine. In many martial arts classes, students learn the same series of movements from a master; often, the students bow to that master, and many times, they wear uniforms.

The purpose of krav maga, on the other hand, is to teach students how to escape from real-life situations. It teaches tough, nitty-gritty techniques such as attacking your opponent in the groin or eye, kicking the knees, taking away a handgun, minimizing the effects of a knife attack and escaping when an attacker has pressed you against a wall. And unlike other martial arts, running away is acceptable. The key is to choose your defense or attack as quickly as possible, using the skills you learn in class.

Students also learn to tune out distractions and to focus intently on their defense. In many classes, instructors play loud music to train students to ignore the stimuli around them so they can concentrate.

To find the nearest krav maga training facility near you, visit Krav Maga Worldwide Enterprises

New gym classes—electronically
One of the very latest trends in some high schools and colleges is for students to fulfill gym requirements away from their school and then e-mail detailed accounts of these classes in e-mail messages to the school’s physical education instructors. This option is especially appealing to students who are serious about an activity that their school doesn’t offer, such as horseback riding, gymnastics or any other type of exercise that’s not always offered in schools.

Students must be disciplined enough to attend the classes on their own and then to write up their reports. It’s not an option for everybody, but for those who have specific physical education needs or interests that aren’t offered at school, it can be a good way to go.

For people who aren’t used to working out
It could be that you’re recovering from a serious illness. Or maybe you have a chronic condition that has led you to become sedentary, such as diabetes, and you’ve gained weight over the years. Now the idea of working out is intimidating. Maybe it seems impossible.

If that’s the case for you, talk with your doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner or any other member of your healthcare team to find out whether they are aware of any gyms that can start you off at the exact level you need to be. Many of these types of gyms area associated with health centers and hospitals. They often offer blood pressure readings and heart rate monitoring. They can help you start a program that isn’t intimidating and that can start you on the road to improved health.

The old standbys are still good
The latest trends can be lots of fun to explore, but brisk walking, swimming, jogging, weight training and other familiar activities are still wonderful ways to get your exercise. But if you start to get bored with them, try something new, because boredom often leads to stopping, and that’s the last thing you want to do.

Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, July/August 2005; American College of Sports Medicine; Journal of the American Geriatric Society, July 2005; Krav Maga Worldwide Enterprises.
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