4 Important Things to Know About Your Pelvic Floor

If you’re pregnant or have had a baby, you’ve likely heard all about your pelvic floor, the muscles that support your pelvic organs (think: your bladder and uterus)-not to mention all of the ways childbirth can wreak havoc on them (baby coming down the birth canal, anyone?). But mamas aren’t the only ones who should care about these crucial muscles.

“As a urogynecologist, I see a lot of women who have pelvic floor issues who have not been pregnant,” says Lauren Rascoff, M.D., an assistant professor and urogynecologist at the University of Colorado.

And being fit doesn’t make you immune from these issues. While everything from hormonal dysfunction to certain diseases (endometriosis and PCOS, for example) or an infection can play a role in pelvic floor disorders, high-impact exercise (running, for example) and heavy weightlifting (CrossFit), both of which put significant force on your pelvic floor, can increase your risk of problems and pelvic floor dysfunction. That’s when the pelvic floor muscles themselves are either overactive or underactive, explains Rachel Gelman, D.P.T., a pelvic floor clinical specialist in San Francisco. And if you’re not using these muscles correctly-maybe you have posture issues or live a sedentary lifestyle-you could be at risk for dysfunction, and in turn, a disorder.

In fact, about one in four women in this country could suffer from what’s known as a pelvic floor disorder, a group of conditions that negatively impact the pelvic floor muscles and can cause symptoms including urinary incontinence, a lack of bladder control, straining with bowel movements, pelvic pain, and even pelvic organ prolapse.

The problem? Many women don’t know where to start when it comes to learning how to take control of the muscles. Fortunately, it’s easier than you think. And once you’re acquainted with your PF, you’ll boost core strength, send nagging symptoms packing, and build a stronger body fit for your everyday activities.

Here, what experts want you to know about these precious muscles.

1. Bladder Leaks and Pains Are Nothing to be Ashamed Of
“Bladder leaks are common,” says Lauren Peterson, D.P.T., owner and clinical director of FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers of Oklahoma City. While they’re common, Peterson notes that leakage is usually a sign that your pelvic floor muscles need attention.

Same goes for pelvic pain. “Sex should not be painful. It should not be difficult to insert and use a tampon,” says Peterson. Many times, simply learning how to activate your pelvic floor muscles (more on that later) is enough to help, too. (Related: 8 Reasons Why You Could Have Pain During Sex)

The problem with pelvic floor issues is that you might not get the answers you’re looking for from a traditional doctor. “Some research shows that health care providers don’t ask questions relating to pelvic floor dysfunction (pain with sex or urinary incontinence),” says Gelman. “Many patients don’t feel comfortable bringing it up if a provider doesn’t ask.”

Here’s why you should: Clinical practice guidelines by the American College of Physicians indicate that first line of treatment for urinary incontinence should be pelvic floor muscle and bladder training. But Cynthia Neville, D.P.T., national director of pelvic health and wellness at FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers, says that in her experience, many physicians treat pelvic floor disorders with medication (think: for bladder leakage and incontinence, constipation, or pain).

If your doc doesn’t give you much insight or you want a second opinion? Do some research on a local pelvic floor specialist (you can find one here) who can help you to understand and train your pelvic floor, so you can learn how to strengthen or relax the muscles. (Related: Pelvic Floor Exercises Every Woman Should Do)

2. You Might Not Be Doing a Kegel Correctly
If someone told you to do a kegel, could you? Some women can, but research finds that other times, women don’t respond to verbal instruction alone. That’s where a pelvic floor physical therapist comes in. Through both manual work and devices that stimulate your pelvic floor muscles providing biofeedback, a pelvic floor physical therapist can help you understand how to work these muscles. A full exam can also help ensure that you are strengthening the muscles that are weak and releasing the muscles that are over-tight, explains Peterson.

Just remember: “Kegels are not appropriate for all women with over-tightening pelvic floor muscles until they know how to let go of them properly,” she says. “Continuing to tighten overtightened muscles will likely worsen their symptoms.”

BTW: A correct Kegel involves three things, says Isa Herrera, M.S.P.T., C.S.C.S., founder of PelvicPainRelief.com: The perineal body (the area between your anus and vagina) should move up and in, your anus should contract, and your clitoris should “nod.” “They should all happen at the same time in a neutral pelvis position.” (Related: The 6 Best Kegel Balls for Better Sex)

Also, when you kegel, you want to be working your deep ab muscles, the transverse abdominal muscles-and avoid contracting your glutes. Not using your abdominal muscles enough or gripping your butt muscles can cause many women pelvic floor muscle dysfunction, she says. It means you’re not allowing your pelvic floor muscles to properly function.

3. More Importantly, Kegels Aren’t for Everyone
As mentioned above, not *everyone* needs to strengthen their pelvic floor with kegels. “Many people need to focus on learning to relax their pelvic floor,” says Gelman. “The pelvic floor is like any other muscle and it can be overworked. If you hold a 20-pound weight in a biceps curl for too long, the muscle will fatigue and may start the hurt.” If your PF muscles are tight-aka hypertonic-you might feel pelvic pain, pain during sex, or urinary or bowel incontinence. (Related: 8 Reasons Why You Could Have Pain During Sex)

“For these people, my favorite stretch is Happy Baby,” says Peterson. (Lie on your back with your feet in the air and your soles together.) If that’s too extreme, start with your legs on the ground and your soles together, she suggests. Learning how to do proper diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing, is also one of the first steps a therapist might teach you if you have tight pelvic floor muscles. “There are often many other stretches I give to people with tight pelvic floor disorders that are specific to that patient’s case,” says Peterson.

And it’s not just the areas you might immediately think of, she adds. “Often times the backs of the legs (hamstrings), the front of the hips (hip flexors), buttocks (gluteal), and deep rotator muscles all need stretching and strengthening. It is also important that the hip muscles and abdominal muscles surrounding the entire pelvis are truly ‘healthy’ muscles, meaning they are both strong and flexible.”

4. Good Bowel Movements Matter
If you’re all backed up or find yourself straining on the toilet, that’s something to mention to your doc, too. Constipation and pushing with bowel movements can put a lot of pressure on the pelvic floor. Over time this can lead to dysfunction, says Gelman.

A healthy diet with plenty of fiber and good hydration are both important to keep bowels healthy. You might want to even reconsider how you go. Being in a squat-like position puts the pelvic floor in the best position for No. 2, she notes. Put a step stool under your feet or consider a product like the Squatty Potty.

Ballet-Inspired Barre Classes

How It Works
Pliés, relevés, and sauté jumps don’t just look graceful, the ballet moves also lengthen and strengthen muscles and burn calories.

Ballet-inspired classes like Pure Barre, Bar Method, and Balletone are a popular workout trend that incorporates moves from ballet, Pilates, and yoga to upbeat music.

Many gyms offer ballet-inspired fitness classes, and barre studios offer classes for overall conditioning as well as targeted workouts for abs, thighs, or glutes. There are even “barre light” classes for beginners.

You don’t need a tutu or ballet slippers. Instead, dress in comfortable workout clothes and show up to the 60-minute classes prepared to use the ballet barre to do the movements your teacher shows you.

Some classes also use small balls, resistance bands, and hand weights to do floor work. The low-impact workout focuses on proper alignment.

The classes blend cardio, strength training, flexibility, balance and core conditioning in a total body workout that targets the hips, glutes, abs, and arms.

Intensity Level: Medium
The emphasis on proper alignment, balance, and core engagement means the classes move at a slower pace. You might not leave a ballet-inspired class drenched in sweat, but you’ll feel the burn after a class thanks to moves that target specific muscle groups.

Areas It Targets
Core: Yes. You’ll do a combination of ballet positions and Pilates moves to target the abs.

Arms: Yes. Classes include exercises like military presses, lateral arm raises, and triceps lifts to work the arm muscles.

Legs: Yes. Expect to perform movements like pliés, dégagé, leg lifts/extensions, and other ballet-inspired moves that target the legs.

Glutes: Yes. Targeted moves like glute raises help tone the backside.

Back: No. Ballet-inspired workouts target the whole body but do not target the back muscles, except for those that are part of your core.

Type
Flexibility: Yes. This ballet-inspired workout will gently improve your flexibility.
Aerobic: No. The barre moves are too slow to give you an aerobic workout. So unless you’re in a class that includes exercises off the barre that gets your heart rate going, don’t count this as cardio.
Strength: Yes. Some ballet and barre classes use weights and resistance bands, and others use your body weight to strengthen and tone.

Sport: No. It’s not a sport.
Low-Impact: Yes. There is no jumping or bouncing in barre classes, so the workout is easy on the joints.

What Else Should I Know?
Cost: You’ll need to sign up for classes through your gym or a barre studio.

Good for beginners? Yes. Ballet-inspired classes are good for beginners who want to try a new workout.

Outdoors: No. Classes are done in a studio with ballet barres.

At home: Yes. There are DVDs for ballet-inspired workouts that can be done at home.

Equipment required? Yes. Most workouts include a barre, weights, resistance bands, and balls that are provided by the fitness studio. You may need to buy some of those things for at-home workouts.

What Dr. Michael Smith Says:
Barre fitness is ideal if you’re just getting into exercise. The classes will improve your balance, build strength, make you more flexible, burn calories, and improve stability through a stronger core.

As you get more comfortable and fit, you can ramp up the intensity by adding weights and more challenging moves. If you have more experience and are looking for something new to challenge yourself, advanced barre classes can do the trick.

It’s challenging for men and women alike. These moves are a lot harder than they look and can help anyone take their fitness to the next level.

Is It Good for Me If I Have a Health Condition?

Barre exercises are often gentle on the joints and can be an excellent choice if you have arthritis or joint problems. You’ll also build stronger muscles, which gives more support to your joints and lessens pain.

But certain moves can put added stress on your joints. For example, turning out your legs may not feel good on your knees, especially if you’re turning out from your feet, rather than from your hips. Ask your instructor how to adapt moves that don’t feel good, and to show you good form.

When recovering from a back injury, you want to focus on building a stronger core. Barre fitness can help you do that.

If you’re looking for exercise to help control your diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease, there are better options for you. Look for fitness options that involve more cardio exercise.

If you’re pregnant, barre classes are a perfect choice. You’ll burn calories and keep your muscles strong and flexible without putting unneeded stress on your body. You will need to change some of the moves as you get further along in your pregnancy. Avoid any moves that make you unsteady on your feet.

Why You Want Different Workouts In Your Weekly Routine, According to a Trainer

You know consistency is key when it comes to seeing results from any training program. It’s true that if you want to become a better runner, you need to run; if you want to make push-ups suck less, do more push-ups — you get the idea. The same goes if you’re regularly doing squats, kettlebell swings, or planks. You’ll get better at that exercise because you’re doing it on repeat, but that doesn’t mean you should stick to one exercise or even one method of training all. the. time.

Different workouts scheduled throughout the week add variety to your routine that keeps muscles guessing and prevents your brain from getting bored. Still, the benefits of putting a blend of workout modalities on your calendar extend beyond the idea of simply mixing it up.

To convince you to change up your training techniques, look to Ashley Joi, CPT, instructor on fitness platform Centr, which offers a six-week Fusion program that combines strength training, boxing-inspired HIIT, and power yoga. Here, Joi shares her philosophy on why varied programs like this are such a good idea, and how you can utilize the same concept (and reap the same benefits) in whatever your workout routine looks like these days. (See more: Here’s What a Perfectly Balanced Weekly Workout Schedule Looks Like)

The Fitness Benefits of Doing Different Workouts

You’ll target more muscles.
Yes, doing squats every day will strengthen your quads and glutes, and performing push-ups will target your chest and core. But by doing a mix of exercises — punches, overhead presses, donkey kicks, deadlifts, sun salutations, to name a few — you work a wider range of muscle groups, says Joi. Choosing different workouts throughout the week, from strength to yoga, means you’re not only working different large muscle groups but also smaller muscles that you wouldn’t necessarily hit with just one modality.

You move in more planes of motion.

For anyone who sits at a desk most of the day (hello, WFH life!), it’s super important to move your body in different ways so it’s not stuck in that hunched over, seated position that can lead to aches, pains, poor posture, and other injuries. Mixing up your routine means more chances to move not just up and down or front to back, but also side to side and even in rotation, says Joi. For example, boxing includes a lot of rotational exercises as you jab and cross, while HIIT can include all planes of motion, including up and down (i.e. burpees) and side-to-side (i.e. skaters). (Related: How to Set Up the Most Ergonomic Home Office Ever)

You get to know your body better.

“When you include different forms of exercise, you can figure out where you’re strongest,” says Joi. For example, Joi says she didn’t do much boxing before joining the Centr team but realized she could still throw powerful punches thanks to her regular weight training. “That self-awareness is something that people can take outside of the gym,” she says. Surprising yourself through a new workout challenge is a great way to boost confidence. (More: The Mental and Physical Benefits of Trying a New Workout)

It can also help you pinpoint any muscle imbalances or where you might have some uneven weakness. And on that note, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself in those weaker areas of fitness — say, if you need to work on your barbell skills or you don’t feel so confident in your running technique. “It’s something you can become really good at eventually,” says Joi. At the very least, you’ll learn to feel a little less awkward doing whatever it is the more you practice — you just have to start.

You get stronger, powerful, and more flexible.

One reason Centr included the mix of strength training, boxing, and yoga specifically, is the three methods each bring something different to the fitness table, says Joi. You use weights to build strength, HIIT to boost cardio and endurance, and yoga to improve mobility and flexibility. “This encompasses all the great movement practices that will allow everybody to become a better version of themselves,” says Joi. Depending on your goals, you can add heavier weights (for strength) or stretching (for improved flexibility) but having a mix of all modalities means you become an all-around better athlete. (Related: The Only 4 Exercises You Need to Be a Better Athlete)

Oh, one more thing: Don’t forget to build in rest.

Scheduling something like a yoga session or a mobility routine into your weekly fitness routine means you can account for an active recovery day, and that’s crucial if you want to keep training for the long haul and avoid injury, says Joi. Even the best-laid workout plans can lead to overtraining if your body doesn’t get ample time to rest in between workouts. People underestimate the power of sleep and hydration, so don’t forget to keep those on the schedule, too, she says.

Most importantly, tune into what your body is telling you it needs. If you have a HIIT session on the calendar, but you’re feeling wiped, swap in a yoga session or a long walk. “It comes down to personalizing your program and listening to your body,” says Joi.

How to Start Strength Training

Why Strength Training?
It’s not just to get big muscles and look buff. Your bones will get stronger, too. And it can help your balance and coordination, which means you’re less likely to fall and hurt yourself. More muscle also means you burn more calories when you’re doing nothing at all, which can help keep off extra pounds. You’ll appreciate these benefits as you get older and start to lose muscle mass.

Do You Need Lots of Equipment?
Not at all. Pushups, pullups, and other “body weight exercises” can help build up your muscles and make it easier for you to work out longer. Simple props like elastic resistance tubing and giant inflatable balls can help with some movements. And don’t be afraid to switch it up. More variety may help you get stronger.

Free Weights
“Free” doesn’t have to do with money. It means the weights aren’t attached to a machine. If you’d rather train at home, start small with a couple of hand dumbbells. You can always add weight or take it away. A larger barbell and weight bench put variety in your routine.

Be careful, though. It’s easier to injure yourself with free weights than weight machines, so make sure you learn how to use them the right way.

Read more…

Balance Training

How It Works
Though it might not cross your mind, you need good balance to do just about everything, including walking, getting out of a chair, and leaning over to tie your shoes. Strong muscles and being able to keep yourself steady make all the difference in those and many other things you do every day.

Balance training involves doing exercises that strengthen the muscles that help keep you upright, including your legs and core. These kinds of exercises can improve stability and help prevent falls.

Doing balance exercises can be intense, like some very challenging yoga poses. Others are as simple as standing on one leg for a few seconds. Or you can use equipment that forces your body to stabilize itself, like a Bosu half-circle stability ball or a balance board you use along with a video game.

Examples of balance exercises include:

Standing with your weight on one leg and raising the other leg to the side or behind you
Putting your heel right in front of your toe, like walking a tightrope
Standing up and sitting down from a chair without using your hands
Walking while alternating knee lifts with each step
Doing tai chi or yoga
Using equipment, like a Bosu, which has an inflatable dome on top of a circular platform, which challenges your balance
Over time, you can improve your balance with these exercises by:

Holding the position for a longer amount of time
Adding movement to a pose
Closing your eyes
Letting go of your chair or other support
You can do balance exercises as often as you’d like, even every day. Add in two days a week of strength training, which also helps improve your balance by working the muscles that keep you stable.

Intensity Level: Moderate
To balance train, you don’t have to run, jump, or do any other high-impact or high-intensity exercises. Usually balance training involves slow, methodical movements.

Areas It Targets
Core: Yes. You need strong core muscles for good balance. Many stability exercises will work your abs and other core muscles.

Arms: No. Most balance exercises are about balancing on your feet. So unless you’re doing moves that involve your arms, or you’re holding weights, they don’t work your arms.

Legs: Yes. Exercises in which you balance on one leg and then squat or bend forward also work the leg muscles.

Glutes: Yes. The same balance exercises that work the legs also tone the glutes.

Back: Yes. Your core muscles include some of your back muscles.

Type
Flexibility: No. Balance training is more about strengthening muscles and improving stability than gaining flexibility.

Aerobic: It can be, but often is not. It depends on how intense the activity is. If you’re moving fast, then it may be aerobic. Slower balance exercises do not make you breathe faster or make your heart pump harder.

Strength: Yes. Many of these exercises will work your muscles, especially the muscles of your legs and core. Some moves may also use your chest and shoulder muscles, like the plank position in yoga.

Sport: No. Balance training involves a series of exercises. It is not a sport.

Low-Impact: Yes. There is no impact involved in doing balance exercises.

What Else Should I Know?
Cost. No. You can do balance exercises on your own, with nothing more than a chair. There is a cost if you want to take a tai chi or yoga class, or buy a stability ball, video, or other piece of equipment.

Good for beginners? Yes. Balance training is good for people of any age and fitness level. It’s recommended for older adults to help prevent falls.

Outdoors. Yes. You can do balance exercises anywhere: in your backyard, on a beach, in a park.

At home. Yes. You can do these exercises at home.

Equipment required? No. You only need your own body to do balance exercises: for example, by standing on one leg. Or you can buy a piece of equipment like a Bosu ball to challenge your balance even more.

What Dr. Michael Smith Says:
The beauty of balance training is that anyone can, and should, do it. Balance training improves the health, balance, and performance of everyone from beginners to advanced athletes, young and not-so-young.

If you’re new to exercise, it’s a great place to start. Focusing on your core and balance improves overall strength and gets your body ready for more advanced exercise. Start off easy. You may find that you need to hold onto a chair aft first. That’s absolutely fine.

If you’re an advanced exerciser, you’ll likely find you still need to start with somewhat simple moves if balance isn’t your thing. Then push yourself to perform more complex moves that both challenge your muscular strength and your aerobic stamina. If you think balance exercises are easy, you haven’t tried yoga’s warrior III pose.

Is It Good for Me If I Have a Health Condition?

If you have back pain, balance training is one of the best ways to strengthen your core and prevent back pain. If you’re recovering from a back injury, get your doctor’s OK and then start balancing. It’ll help prevent more problems in the future.

When you strengthen muscles, it also helps arthritis by giving more support to painful joints. You may need to adjust or avoid certain moves to decrease pressure on your knees. For example, a balance move that involves a lunge may be more than your knees can handle. Good news is there are many exercises to choose from.

If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or even heart disease, exercise is a must to help you get control of your condition. Balance training is an excellent place to start. The first step of resistance training should focus on core and balance exercises, according to the American Council on Exercise. As you get stronger and become able to perform more intense exercises, balance training can give you an aerobic workout that even helps control blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure along with other aerobic exercise.

If you’re pregnant, choose your balance exercises carefully. Women can and should exercise during pregnancy. The main concern with exercise during pregnancy is falling, so moves that make you unstable are not a good choice. Choose balance moves that either keep both feet on the floor or that you do on all fours, like plank (you may need to support your body with one knee on the ground). As with any exercise, if you did it before pregnancy, you’re likely OK doing it after pregnancy. It’s always good to check with your doctor to be sure.

8 At-Home Back Exercises for a Stronger Upper Body

Most people head into a workout focusing on the areas we consider the most noticeable—butt, stomach, legs, etc. But here’s a secret: Strong upper-body muscles (and back muscles, specifically) are not only key for an overall defined look, but they’re your best defense against pain, injury, and poor posture for years to come.

Try these eight back exercises at home or at the gym to sculpt a strong, sexy back, and shoulders all at once.

How it works: Three or four days a week, do 1 set of each of these exercises for back fat, with little or no rest in between moves. After the last exercise, rest 1 to 2 minutes and repeat the full circuit 2 more times (3 times total).

You’ll need: A pair of light-weight dumbbells and a pair of medium-weight dumbbells

T-Raises

This at-home back exercise proves that you don’t need huge weights to make some huge strength gains.

Grab a pair of light-weight dumbbells and stand with feet hip-width apart.
Take a slight bend in knees as you shift hips back and lower torso until it’s parallel to the floor.
Bring weights together and turn palms to face forward.
Keeping arms straight, lift weights up to shoulder height then lower back down. (Make sure to keep core and glutes engaged the entire time.)
Do 15 reps.

Read more…

Kettlebells

How It Works
Burn up to 400 calories in 20 minutes: That’s what you’ll get from a kettlebell workout.

A kettlebell looks like a cast-iron cannonball with a handle on top. They come in various weights. You’ll use them as you do things like lunges, lifts, and shoulder presses.

The workout gets your heart pumping and uses up to 20 calories per minute: about as much as running a 6-minute mile.

Kettlebell workouts offer a lot of flexibility. You can include a few of the moves in your own workout or do a dedicated kettlebell workout a few times a week.

Buy a DVD or sign up for a kettlebell class at the gym to learn how to do the moves safely. It won’t take long to understand why celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Biel, and Katherine Heigl are huge fans of kettlebell workouts.

Intensity Level: Very High
You’ll work up a sweat doing a series of fast paced cardio and strength-training moves like kettlebell swings, lunges, shoulder presses, and push-ups.

Areas It Targets
Core: Yes. Most kettlebell workouts include squats, lunges, crunches, and other moves that work your abs and other core muscles.

Arms: Yes. The kettlebell is used as a weight for arm exercises like single-arm rows and shoulder presses.

Legs: Yes. Lunges and squats are among the most popular moves in a kettlebell workout.

Glutes: Yes. Your tush will be toned by using the kettlebell for added weight during lunges and squats.

Back: Yes. Using a kettlebell for a dead lift helps tone your back muscles.

Type
Flexibility: Yes. Working out with kettlebells will improve your flexibility.

Aerobic: Yes. This is a high-intensity workout that will get your heart rate pumping.

Strength: Yes. The kettlebell is an effective weight that will build muscle strength.

Sport: No. This is a fitness activity, not a sport.

Low-Impact: No. You can expect to be running, jumping, and doing other high-intensity moves.

What Else Should I Know?
Cost: The cost of a kettlebell ranges from $10 to $100 depending on the weight of the kettlebells (heavier ones are more expensive). You may want to buy DVDs or sign up for classes to learn the basics of a kettlebell workout.

Good for beginners? Yes, if you take a class or pick a DVD that’s for beginners and use a lighter kettlebell. There are also more advanced kettlebell workouts for those who are more fit.

Outdoors: You can do a kettlebell workout outside or indoors.

At home: You can use kettlebells at home.

Equipment required? Yes, a kettlebell. You can buy kettlebells in weights ranging from 5 pounds to 100 pounds at sporting goods stores and online retailers.

What Dr. Melinda Ratini Says:
Using kettlebells can be a great way to pump up your workout. You will be burning more calories in a shorter period of time.

Depending on the program, you may be getting both your strength training and your aerobic workout at the same time. Ask your doctor first.

Treat this workout with respect. If you choose a kettlebell that is too heavy or if you have poor form, you are likely to lose control of it. This can lead to a serious injury to your back, shoulders, or neck. Start out with an experienced trainer who can correct your technique before you hurt something.

Adding a kettlebell to your existing workout is great if you want to burn more calories in less time. It will quickly add muscle and stamina.

This type of high-intensity workout is not for you if you would rather do a more meditative approach to body sculpting, or if sweating isn’t your thing.

If you are trying to get into top form or keep in top shape, then swinging a kettlebell can help you reach your fitness goals.

Is It Good for Me If I Have a Health Condition?

With your doctor’s OK, you can include kettlebells in your fitness routine if you have diabetes. You will be building muscle while losing fat. Muscle burns energy more efficiently, so your blood sugar levels will go down. Depending on the workout, you may also get some cardio to help prevent heart disease.

This routine can also be a great way to help lower your blood pressure and your “bad” LDL cholesterol. Check with your doctor first, especially if you already have heart disease.

Using kettlebells in your workout puts some serious demands on your hips and back, as well as your knees, neck, and shoulders. It is a high-impact program. If you have arthritis or pain in your knees or back, then look for a less risky strength-training program.

If you have other physical limitations, ask an experienced instructor for advice on how to modify your workout.

If you are pregnant and have never used kettlebells, then this is not the time to start. If you worked out with kettlebells before becoming pregnant and are not having any problems with your pregnancy, then you will likely be able to continue using them — at least for a while. Check with your doctor first.

You will need to make some changes as time goes on. As your pregnancy hormones kick in, your joints will become looser. You can adjust by using lighter kettlebells and avoiding certain moves. Talk to your instructor and your doctor; they might suggest switching out your kettlebells during your last trimester.

Yoga : How It Works

Workout fads come and go, but virtually no other exercise program is as enduring as yoga. It’s been around for more than 5,000 years.

Yoga does more than burn calories and tone muscles. It’s a total mind-body workout that combines strengthening and stretching poses with deep breathing and meditation or relaxation.

There are more than 100 different forms of yoga. Some are fast-paced and intense. Others are gentle and relaxing.

Examples of different yoga forms include:

Hatha. The form most often associated with yoga, it combines a series of basic movements with breathing.
Vinyasa. A series of poses that flow smoothly into one another.
Power. A faster, higher-intensity practice that builds muscle.
Ashtanga. A series of poses, combined with a special breathing technique.
Bikram. Also known as “hot yoga,” it’s a series of 26 challenging poses performed in a room heated to a high temperature.
Iyengar. A type of yoga that uses props like blocks, straps, and chairs to help you move your body into the proper alignment.

Intensity Level: Varies with Type
The intensity of your yoga workout depends on which form of yoga you choose. Techniques like hatha and iyengar yoga are gentle and slow. Bikram and power yoga are faster and more challenging.

Areas It Targets
Core: Yes. There are yoga poses to target just about every core muscle. Want to tighten those love handles? Then prop yourself up on one arm and do a side plank. To really burn out the middle of your abs, you can do boat pose, in which you balance on your “sit bones” (the bony prominences at the base of your pelvic bones) and hold your legs up in the air.

Arms: Yes. With yoga, you don’t build arm strength with free weights or machines, but with the weight of your own body. Some poses, like the plank, spread your weight equally between your arms and legs. Others, like the crane and crow poses, challenge your arms even more by making them support your full body weight.

Legs: Yes. Yoga poses work all sides of the legs, including your quadriceps, hips, and thighs.

Glutes: Yes. Yoga squats, bridges, and warrior poses involve deep knee bends, which give you a more sculpted rear.

Back: Yes. Moves like downward-facing dog, child’s pose, and cat/cow give your back muscles a good stretch. It’s no wonder that research finds yoga may be good for relieving a sore back.

Type
Flexibility: Yes. Yoga poses stretch your muscles and increase your range of motion. With regular practice, they’ll improve your flexibility.

Aerobic: No. Yoga isn’t considered aerobic exercise, but the more athletic varieties, like power yoga, will make you sweat. And even though yoga is not aerobic, some research finds it can be just as good as aerobic exercise for improving health.

Strength: Yes. It takes a lot of strength to hold your body in a balanced pose. Regular practice will strengthen the muscles of your arms, back, legs, and core.

Sport: No. Yoga is not competitive. Focus on your own practice and don’t compare yourself to other people in your class.

Low-Impact: Yes. Although yoga will give you a full-body workout, it won’t put any impact on your joints.

What Else Should I Know?
Cost. Varies. If you already know your way around a yoga mat, you can practice for free at home. Videos and classes will cost you various amounts of money.

Good for beginners? Yes. People of all ages and fitness levels can do the most basic yoga poses and stretches.

Outdoors. Yes. You can do yoga anywhere, indoors or out.

At home. Yes. All you need is enough space for your yoga mat.

Equipment required? No. You don’t need any equipment because you’ll rely on your own body weight for resistance. But you’ll probably want to use a yoga mat to keep you from sliding around in standing poses, and to cushion you while in seated and lying positions. Other, optional equipment includes a yoga ball for balance, a yoga block or two, and straps to help you reach for your feet or link your hands behind your back.

What Family Doctor Melinda Ratini MD Says:
There are many types of yoga, from the peaceful hatha to the high-intensity power yoga. All types take your workout to a level of mind-body connection. It can help you relax and focus while gaining flexibility and strength. Yoga can also boost your mood.

Even though there are many instructional books and DVDs on yoga, it is well worth it to invest in some classes with a good instructor who can show you how to do the postures.

Chances are, there’s a type of yoga that suits your needs and fitness level. It’s a great choice if you want a holistic approach to mind and body strength.

Yoga is not for you if you like a fast-moving, competitive workout. Be open-minded, since there are physical and mental benefits you can gain by adding some yoga into your fitness plan, even if it isn’t your main workout.

Is It Good for Me If I Have a Health Condition?

Yoga is a great activity for you if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease. It gives you strength, flexibility, and mind-body awareness. You’ll also need to do something aerobic (like walking, biking, or swimming) if you’re not doing a fast-moving type of yoga.

If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart problems, ask your doctor what you can do. You may need to avoid certain postures, like those in which you’re upside down or that demand more balance than you have right now. A very gentle program of yoga, coupled with a light aerobic activity like walking or swimming, may be the best way to start.

Do you have arthritis? Yoga can help you stay flexible and strong without putting added stress on your joints. You get the added benefit of a mind-body approach that can help you relax and energize.

If you’re pregnant, yoga can help keep you relaxed, strong, and in shape. If you’re new to yoga or have any health or pregnancy related problems, talk to your doctor before you give it a try. Look for an instructor who’s experienced in teaching prenatal yoga.

You’ll need to make some adjustments as your baby and belly grow and your center of gravity shifts. After your first trimester, don’t do any poses that have you lying on your back. And don’t try to stretch any further than you did before pregnancy. Your pregnancy hormones will loosen up your joints and make you more likely to get injured.

While you’re pregnant, avoid postures that put pressure on your belly or low back. Don’t do “hot” yoga, where the room temperature is very high.

Smart Fitness

This is next-century exciting. From apps that automatically adjust your workout when you’re sore to pants that help you nail your yoga pose, artificial intelligence is quickly morphing into your new personal trainer.

“While AI can’t do everything a human personal trainer can do, it’s an affordable way to get useful feedback each and every time you work out,” says certified personal trainer Jeanette DePatie. Here’s a taste of what’s out there.

Smart Apps
“With AI technology, you can get all-inclusive personal coaching through smartphone apps,” says certified personal trainer Caleb Backe. AI-powered apps measure variables like your fitness level, eating habits, and data from your wearables, then bring them together to tailor your workout to your needs.Brainy Machines

The running app Vi, for example, gets to know your daily routines, music preferences, and effort zone and personalizes instructions based on how you’re doing. It uses a human voice to give you real-time feedback as you run. Other apps, like SportMe, Podium, and AND/life, measure changes in your activity to tell you how to level up.

Brainy Machines
AI is helping gym machines get to know you better so you can ratchet up your results.

Nautilus, for example, has a new platform called Max Intelligence for the Bowflex Max Trainer M6 and M8 cardio machines. It uses cloud-based, adaptive technology to coach you through personalized workouts. It gives you voice directions and encouragement to help you power through. TrainerRoad uses AI technology for cycling workouts. It measures your cycling efficiency to help you get stronger and faster.

Yoga Gurus
Yoga is getting technical, too. Several companies offer AI yoga instruction with pose detection to give you feedback on your form even without a teacher in the room.

High-tech fitness wear makes it seamless. Nadi X yoga pants measure your movements and use gentle vibrations to help you perform perfect yoga poses, says DePatie. Pivot Yoga just introduced a shirt with 16 sensors that track your movements and tell you if they need tweaking.

Wise Wearables
Speaking of wearables, you’ll find an AI-coaching wearable for just about every body part.

Smart sneakers like Under Armour’s Hovr Connected Sneakers measure your speed, pace, distance, and gait for real-time feedback.

Sensoria has AI-powered running socks. “Besides monitoring pace, distance, and time, these socks come with pressure monitors that feed data to an AI coach that helps you with your running form,” says DePatie.

Hexoskin’s Tech Shirt has wires and sensors to measure your breathing, heart rate, and how well you sleep. Athos Core’s shorts and shirts measure your heart rate and muscle activity.

Polar recently unveiled its newest watch, Ignite, which collects sleep and recovery data overnight. In the morning, it suggests specific workouts based on how rested you are.

Next up in AI fitness tech? We can only imagine.

4 Tips
DePatie shares tips for working out with AI-powered technology.

1. Use your brain

“Your AI trainer isn’t a doctor. If you feel pain or if something about your workout doesn’t feel right, get professional help.”

2. Open your eyes

“Stay aware of your surroundings. Don’t obsess over your tracker to the point where you’re unaware of traffic or people around you.”

3. Broaden your view

“Not all progress is measurable. Don’t forget to enjoy the better mood and quality of life that comes with fitness but may not be tracked by your watch.”

4. Monitor your privacy

“Think carefully about how and when you share your tracking data and make sure you set a good, solid password. Devices can be a source of data breach.”

Golf May Be a Recipe for Longevity

If you’re a senior, playing golf regularly may do more than improve your swing: New research suggests it could reduce your risk of early death.

Researchers followed nearly 5,900 adults, 65 and older, for 10 years and found that those who were regular golf players (at least once a month) were more than 8% less likely to die from any cause than non-golfers, CNN reported.

The study will be presented later this month at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles.

Golf is an option for older adults who want to be physically active, according to researchers from the Zeenat Qureshi Stroke Institute.
“The intensity level of the activity is such that it can be maintained for a longer period of time, and it’s something that maintains the interest of the individuals so people can continue it on a regular basis,” study author Dr. Adnan Qureshi, a neurology professor at the University of Missouri, told CNN.

But an expert who wasn’t involved in the study said he doesn’t “think we can conclude from this study that golf reduced the risk of early death,” because it didn’t consider other factors about non-golfers such as smoking or other unhealthy lifestyle habits, and it didn’t say whether regular golfers walked or used golf carts while out on the links.
“Other studies have consistently shown that physical activity of any intensity is associated with a reduced risk of death,” Ulf Ekelund, a sports medicine professor at the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, told CNN.

“If older individuals like to play golf, they should continue, but I am sure regular walking is equally good for health and longevity,” Ekelund added.