Following on from last weeks post and something very much related to controlling stress is breathing; it is also something that at least 90% of us do badly!
It is a fact that the first and the last thing we do in our lives is breath. It is the most important bodily function we have; you could go 2-3 days without water and maybe a week without food but only minutes without breathing.
At a basic level, breathing serves the purpose of delivering oxygen to our blood stream supplying every cell in our body with oxygen to allow the cells to survive and at the same time the lungs remove toxic carbon dioxide from our blood stream. Generally breathing is something we do without thinking about but unfortunately this can lead to ineffective breathing habits and not using our lungs to full capacity.
When I ask someone to take a deep breathe what I see is the breathe being taken into the shoulders and neck and this pattern creates tension in the neck and shoulders, it also means we only use the upper part of the lungs and this can create a stress response as if we have been startled.
Learning to breathe into the abdomen and using the lower part of the lungs and the diaphragm will not only engage that part of our lungs we would otherwise not be utilising but will also help to relieve stress.
This is easily done in any position including sitting, whilst reading this blog! It will do more to help relieve stress and mental well-being than any pill; spending 10 minutes a day in a quiet space just focusing on deep breathing can have so many positive benefits just like exercise - it is a no brainer!
Why is exercise good for stress?
Rather than talking and giving reasons why exercise is good for stress, I think a closer look into what actually happens to the body to cope with stress is really important; to humans stress has always been a part of our lives and going back to caveman time’s stressful situations would inevitably have occurred. Stressors in the modern world come in different forms than that of the cavemen but there certainly are plenty of stressors out there!
The body’s nervous system is responsible for sensing, interpreting and creating an action throughout the body. The nervous system will be the body’s first response to stress; a division of the nervous system is called the autonomic division. The autonomic nervous system is the controller of the organs and glands of the body and can be broken down to the sympathetic and parasympathetic division. This is really important to our understanding of stress; the sympathetic division is called the flight or fight response and will speed up the heart rate and prepare us for stress but on the other hand the parasympathetic division slows things down and is known as the rest and repair system.
Therefore it makes sense we need both systems to work but if the balance is out of equilibrium and we are spending a high percentage of time in the fight or flight system this will have adverse effects on our body, one of which is not allowing time for repair. So in essence for the body to be healthy spending more time in rest and repair state (parasympathetic) would be a very good thing to be aware of.
The nervous system is able to deliver high speed signals throughout our body but the endocrine system works in response to the nervous system and uses glands to excrete hormones; these are chemical messengers released to create a certain action or response. When the body is in fight or flight mode, a hormone called Cortisol is released, this hormone provides many positive functions in the body but a high level may well be problematic and can lead to poor digestion, elevated heart rate and blood pressure and can slow down metabolism, making it difficult to lose weight.
So why does exercise help?! Exercise will not only cause an increase in sympathetic activity during exercising but will also cause the parasympathetic system to take over after exercising, causing it to produce a calming effect and therefore reversing the effects of fight or flight. Hormones such as dopamine, endorphins and serotonin levels are also increased which are all ‘feel good’ motivating, happy hormones!
So your body type is something that has been passed on to you at birth and shapes the way we look and respond to exercise and nutrition. If I go back to my original question of how much weight training should we do, then I think it is more appropriate to find out what works best for you and how you will respond.
If two people of different body types trained the same and ate and slept the same, there is a very good chance they would get different results. There is not one size fits all when it comes to training and also nutrition. But it is a question of assessing your goals, your body type, and working out what can be achieved and what works best for you.
It is because of this individual difference that so much speculation surrounds exercise,nutrition, the best exercise programme and diet. But I do not think there is one silver bullet.
So, have you worked out which body type you are more towards?
Another thing to think about is what sport or type of events you are best at? Is it short, high intensity or endurance?
The reason I am talking about body type is as I said in the last e-mail, it will have a significant effect on how you respond to exercise and also how you store fat.
If you are more towards the Endomorph body type, your ability to build muscle will be greatly increased as you will have a greater percentage of fast twitch fibres which are bigger in size and respond to heavy resistance training.
If you are more of an Ectomorph your ability to build muscle is going to be very difficult due to greater percentage of slow twitch fibres that will not increase in size.
Previously I also mentioned we have intermediate muscle fibres which it is thought can switch between fast or slow twitch depending on the type of training you predominantly do.
It all in your genes.
I've started to talk about muscle fibre types it may be worth thinking about your own muscles and are you more fast or slow twitch? How do you know?
There are two major clues, the first being what is your body type?
The word somatotype is used to categories the three types of body shape. The first being Ectomorph which is used to describe someone who is very lean and tends not to put on too much body fat and has a high percentage of slow twitch muscle fibres and is suited more to endurance activities.
In the middle is Mesamorph which tends to be more bulky, broader shoulders and probably has a more even distribution of fast and slow twitch fibres.
Then we have Endomorph which has a higher percentage of Fast Twitch fibres and more suited to power events. In the cycling world you could say Chris Hoy is more towards the Endomorph and Bradley Wiggins is the Ectomorph.
Your body type will effect the response you get from weight training
This is a question which really depends on what your goals are and how much time you have to spend in the gym. The good news is to see benefits from weight training you do not need to have long sessions as a couple of exercises performed correctly and at the right intensity can create enough stress on the muscles to enhance adaptation.
The main areas I see people go wrong is that the training is not consistent enough, the technique is not correct and the intensity is either too great or light. Also the variety of exercise is not changed enough which allows the body to get used to it.
Going back to the question of how often should I train? This requires breaking it down into whether you want to just stay toned and keep good strength or if you want to actually build muscle. Although similar rules can apply.
Muscles are made up of three types of fibres known as fast twitch, slow twitch and intermediate. Fast twitch are recruited when the load is heavy or when explosive movement is performed but they will fatigue quickly. Slow twitch can keep going but are not used so much during heavy loads as they are for endurance,and intermediate fibres are in between and adapt to the type of training you predominantly do.
I believe a good weight training program should encourage all fibre types to be trained.
To be continued. Sorry I didnt answer the question.
To end this series on the benefits of weight training I would like to use an abstract from a scientific journal, although I like to put things in my own words and try and make it not too scientific. I thought for a change I would throw this in to back up what I have been saying.
Inactive adults experience a 3% to 8% loss of muscle mass per decade, accompanied by resting metabolic rate reduction and fat accumulation.
Ten weeks of resistance training may increase lean weight by 1.4 kg, increase resting metabolic rate by 7%, and reduce fat weight by 1.8 kg. Benefits of resistance training include improved physical performance, movement control, walking speed, functional independence, cognitive abilities, and self-esteem.
Resistance training may assist prevention and management of type 2 diabetes by decreasing visceral fat, reducing HbA1c, increasing the density of glucose transporter type 4, and improving insulin sensitivity.
Resistance training may enhance cardiovascular health, by reducing resting blood pressure, decreasing low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides, and increasing high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
Resistance training may promote bone development, with studies showing 1% to 3% increase in bone mineral density. Resistance training may be effective for reducing low back pain and easing discomfort associated with arthritis and fibromyalgia and has been shown to reverse specific aging factors in skeletal muscle.
Westcot WL Curr Sports Med Rep. 2012 Jul-Aug;11(4):209-16. doi: 10.1249/JSR.
Next week I will look at programming for resistance training.
Today I would like to take a look at the 3 main reasons resistance training can help us prevent injury, and need to look at the skeleton and the connective tissue and muscles which provide support.
Because bone is living tissue, it has the ability to remodel and adapt to the physical stresses imposed on it. Individuals who are physically active have been shown to have greater bone mineral density than sedentary individuals. In general, physically active people are at a reduced risk for osteoporosis, fracture or other ailments related to bone deterioration. it does appear that resistance training provides the greatest osteogenic (increase in bone mineral density) effect.
Increases in the size of connective tissues ( tendons & ligaments) as a result of resistance training are thought to be the result of an increase in the collagen content within the connective tissue sheaths.
Decreases in muscle mass (sarcopenia) and reductions in muscle strength as we age not only results in a loss of functional ability, but also increases the risk for falls and fractures. Resistance training programs for an aging population have the same benefits for increase in both strength and muscle size as programs do for the younger and more active population. As muscle strength is maintained or improved, the risk for injury is greatly reduced.
Your as old as your bones, keep them young.
Two more hormones
Two more little gremlins to consider in the weight loss continuum, Ghrelin & Cortisol.
Ghrelin is secreted from the stomach and sends signals to your brain telling you to eat, generally they rise before a meal and suppress after eating.
Reducing calories in your diet may well lead to a increase in Ghrelin leaving you feeling the need to constantly eat. Ghrelin appears to be related to the stress hormones which may well explain the need for food when we get stressed.
The other hormone I refer to is a stress hormone called cortisol which is stimulated when the body is stressed, emotional and physical. Fight or flight syndrome. Cortisol is thought to have many adverse effect on the body raising blood sugar levels and decreasing immune function, amongst other things.
The hormone subject is huge and very complex as they all work together, and an imbalance in one will effect the other. It is an area still under investigation in the science world.
Diet and lifestyle does appear to have a dramatic effect on hormones, so I think the best we can do is try and eat real food, exercise and chill out more.
This week I am focusing on a hormone that could be of critical importance in the weight loss area, LEPTIN.
Modern science is now very much trying to discover the true effect leptin has on fat metabolism, but all the early signs suggest this may be one of the most important things we need to balance if we want to lose weight and keep it off.
This hormone is crucial in body composition as it is in charge of fat regulation. It tells the brain whether or not the body has enough fat stored. The problem here is that as with insulin, our modern diet has mixed up the messages and the brain continues to urge the body to store more fat by slowing down our metabolic rate.
Leptin is a hormone which is manufactured in fat tissue, so the more fat we have the more leptin we produce. Therefore, people who carry more fat will be producing more leptin and in theory the more leptin going to the brain the more fat your body will want to burn.
So why do overweight people struggle to burn fat?
This could well have something to do with Leptin resistance. Your brain is receiving leptin but the door is shut, it no longer has the ability to use it!
Insulin surges are one cause of leptin resistance. Calorie restriction, overeating and alcohol are a few others.