Exercise Snacking

Exercise snacking!

Busting the myth that you need a solid-hour…

 

“I won’t be able to do that 1 hour class, so there’s no point.”

Have you ever thought this?

It’s such a common thought that exercise needs to be a ‘sufficient amount’ or there is no point doing it.

Why is this?

I don’t know why most of us think this way, but I do know that it stops a lot of people doing enough healthy movement!

In this mini blog I am advocating for the “exercise snacking” approach. Especially for anyone feeling too busy to take 20 mins out to exercise!

But what IS exercise snacking?

 

Grab a snack! 😉

Exercise snacking is a term coined by Sports Science researchers. It means to do very short bouts of exercise often, sometimes even several times a day. The exercise is often of quite vigorous intensity.

What can this look like?

  • Squats /squat jumps
  • Running up some stairs
  • Push-ups
  • Burpees
  • Sun-Salutations!

The Research

Researchers Oliver Perkin and his team at the University of Bath have researched the effects of exercise snacking on 20 adults over age 65.

They found that a few minutes of leg exercises twice a day, for 28 days, significantly improved leg strength compared with a control group (Perkin et al., 2019).

This is a new and emerging area of research and most available studies include older adults. So you might think:

“How is that relevant to me? I’m not over 65.”

 

Is this relevant?

Well, it’s actually a lot more difficult for older adults to gain muscle strength than for younger folk.

Older adults are working an up-hill battle when it comes to gaining strength due to a natural decrease in hormones geared towards building-up muscle tissues.

The older we are, the more our muscles start reducing in size and strength (a process called Sarcopenia). UNLESS, we do something about it. Cue: exercise snacks!

Sooooo it stands to reason that if someone over age 65 can improve their strength with exercise snacks, then there’s a good chance that younger peeps can do so too!

 

Younger people?

I could only find one study with younger participants.

This was a group of 12 adolescents with Type 1 Diabetes. These teenagers performed 6-minutes of exercise snacks three times a day for three months (Hasan et al., 2020).

After 3 months of exercise snacking the teenagers had lost 2.2% body fat.

This study is perhaps even less relevant to you than that with the older participants, however it is still a proof of the exercise snacking principle!

Needless to say, there is room for a lot more research into exercise snacking! Personally, I’d love this principle applied to adults working from home or first-time mums, just to name a few.

 

A Yoga snack?

So where does yoga come in?

The research on yoga generally gives participants a 1-hour class once or twice a week. But I think it would be MORE interesting to see what 10-15 minutes of yoga 6 days a week would do!

As exercise snacking involves strength-movements, this can be incorporated in a short yoga practice. This could look like a few minutes of:

  • Sun salutations
  • Plank pose / Side plank pose
  • Chair pose
  • Warrior 1, Warrior 2 or Warrior 3
  • Yoga squats
  • Crow pose
  • …I could go on!

Yoga snacking has not yet been scientifically studied, unfortunately.

However, I HAVE heard from some of my online BendyFriends that they have felt a difference in their strength after consistently doing my 10-15 minute classes!

As well as the physical benefits, I’m also interested in the cumulative mindfulness aspect of 10 minutes a day.

So the jury is still out, but YOU can explore for yourself whether yoga snacks will make a difference!

 

Snacks lead to (good) habits…

While this is not a good thing when it comes to chocolate…. It IS a good thing when it is about exercise or yoga!

Finding the time to do just 10 minutes of yoga or exercise is SO MUCH EASIER than it is for 1 hour.

If short ‘yoga snacks’ then become a regular occurrence, it MIGHT eventually become a healthy habit in your life. When something is a habit, then you no longer need to spend mental energy on it. It will just happen!

And once it’s a HABIT, you will slowly start finding a little more time to spend on your yoga mat.

Yoga homework

I invite you to start a heathy snacking habit! 😉

Decide whether it will be:

10 minutes of yoga

2 minutes of squats

1 minute of plank

(or something else!)

 

Then decide WHERE and WHEN you’ll do this each day:

In the morning?

during lunch?

pre-dinner?

 

Let’s get snacking!

(If you’re not yet a BendyFriend, have a look at my offerings.)

Learn more!

I hope you enjoyed this mini blog. 🤓

Please share your views in comments below!

Jolanthe x


References

Hasan, R., Perez-Santiago, D., Churilla, J. R., Montes, B., Hossain, J., Mauras, N., & Darmaun, D. (2020). Can short bouts of exercise (“exercise snacks”) improve body composition in adolescents with type 1 diabetes? A feasibility study. Hormone Research in Paediatrics, 92(4), 245-253.

Perkin, O. J., McGuigan, P. M., & Stokes, K. A. (2019). Exercise snacking to improve muscle function in healthy older adults: a pilot study. Journal of aging research, 2019.

Strength, Posture & Mindfulness

I’ll help you gain body confidence and contentment

with short, easy-to-follow yoga classes from your LIVING ROOM!

On-demand and LIVE

Check out what I offer!

I’m a Small Business

Give yourself the gift of self-care for a super affordable price, while supporting an independent, small business!

I enjoy getting to know each and every new yoga student – so can’t wait to meet you!

Love, Jolanthe x


Yoga Science: Heart Health

Yoga Science: Heart Health

Vinyasa Yoga for your heart…

 

Have you ever walked out of yoga class / finished your home yoga practice, and felt like you were walking on a cloud?

This is often the feeling that keeps yoga students coming back for more! It does feel rather lovely…

But I don’t just want to say ‘yoga makes you feel good’. I’m interested in exactly WHAT yoga does to the body that makes us feel so amazing…

 

My Science background

Some of you may know I studied Sports and Exercise Science and then worked as a researcher at the University of Bath.

I absolutely loved the opportunity to learn more about health and exercise every day, however… writing science papers reeeeeally wasn’t my thing.

After a decade in academia, I took a long (and much needed) break from reading scientific literature. HOWEVER…. My science-brain has recently woken up again!

So I’ve been enjoying searching Google Scholar for the science available on yoga and health.

Today, I’ll be reviewing a study looking at the heart-health benefits after a single Vinyasa Yoga session.

 

Is Vinyasa Yoga special?

Why did the searchers choose this style of yoga?

Well, Vinyasa Yoga is a little bit special because it links up each yoga pose (or set of poses) with a ‘Vinyasa’. This means a flowing movement involving:

  • Reaching over head
  • Bending forwards at the hips
  • A plank pose
  • Low plank (plank with elbows bent: Chataranga Dandasana)
  • Upward dog (lying on the ground, pressing up to arch the back), and
  • Downward Dog (Hands and feet on the floor, and bum pointing to the sky!)

The first of these movements is done with an inhale, followed by the next movement coinciding with the exhale, etc.

 

A unique form of exercise

These Vinyasa movements, coordinated with breathing, makes it a form of aerobic exercise (raising the heart rate a little), but also helps to keep the nervous system in a ‘rest and digest’ state, as the breath remains relatively slow.

This makes Vinyasa Yoga DIFFERENT from exercise such as running or weight-lifting as these put the body in a more ‘fight or flight’ state. (Which is a good thing too, while exercising!)

Vinyasa Yoga is also different from other styles of static yoga (like Iyengar). The more stationary types of yoga focus on stretching and strength, but don’t include flowing movements coordinated with breath.

 

What did this study do?

Thirty healthy adults (between 20 and 70 years of age) attended a 1-hour Vinyasa Yoga class.

Both before and after the yoga class, the researchers measured the participants’:

  • Blood sugar and blood fat levels: total LDL (aka. ‘bad’), HDL (aka. ‘good’) and triglycerides (also ‘bad’).
  • Several markers of heart health: artery stiffness, Augmentation Index (AI: a measure of how blood flows through the heart), and blood pressure.
  • Participants’ mood (using a standardised questionnaire)

 

Less blood pressure stress

After just one Vinyasa Yoga session, Augmentation Index (AI) was lower.

Lower AI is a sign of reduced blood pressure stress on the heart. The heart’s arteries can be damaged by frequent surges of high blood pressure. When the blood vessel lining gets damaged that’s when plaques can start to build up, which eventually can lead to heart disease.

Sooooooo any lowering of blood pressure stress is a positive change to keep the heart’s blood vessels healthy!

 

Yogic breathing and heart health

The stiffness of the heart’s arteries did not change after the 1-hour Vinyasa Yoga session. The researchers noted that this was very interesting!

They were predicting that the artery stiffness would increase, as it does after one session of strength training.

Strength training raises arterial stiffness because it temporarily increases blood pressure. As many yoga poses involve contracting the muscles for several breaths, the researchers though yoga might also increase the blood pressure and arterial stiffness.

The researchers named this a “potential anomaly” that may be related with the intentional slow yogic breath:

“…while yoga postures combine isometric contractions with stretching, both of which should elicit sympathetic nervous system-induced elevations in blood pressure, the slowing of breath by linking breath cycle (inhale/exhale) phases with movement transitions in vinyasa yoga could counteract the causative factors which increase arterial stiffness after the session.”

“It has been shown that slow breathing acutely reduces muscle sympathetic nerve activity [fight or flight], AIx [blood pressure stress on the heart], PWV [aortic artery stiffness], and inflammation while improving baroreflex sensitivity [blood pressure regulation].”

So, perhaps there’s sense in this slow breathing thing!

 

Vinyasa Yoga and Cholesterol

After the 1-hour Vinyasa Yoga class, participants also had lower total non-HDL cholesterol. This represents all the fat floating in the blood minus the ‘good guy’,  HDL.

This is also a positive thing for artery health. It is accepted in the medical world these days that lower non-HDL blood fats can help reduce the onset of heart disease.

 

Vinyasa Yoga and Mood

Participants had significantly reduced negative feelings after the 1-hour Vinyasa Yoga class.

This is a point that is easily verifiable by us all! Have you ever finished a yoga class in a more negative state than how you started it??

The researchers hypothesised that there could be a link between the positive psychological improvements and the reduction in blood pressure stress on the heart.

 

How is this relevant for you?

Whether you’ve ever thought about your heart health, or not, this is relevant to you!

Keeping your blood pressure within a healthy range is one of the the best things to do to avoid a future heart attack (apart from stopping smoking!)

Yoga is by no means the ONLY way to do this. Any exercise is beneficial in the long run, as well as not smoking and keeping a healthy body weight.

That said, yoga is a great exercise choice!

As well as physical benefits it also has proven psychological benefits. And what I love about yoga is that it is an activity that you’ll be able to maintain throughout your WHOLE LIFE.

So, do you fancy becoming a yoga-ing 80 year old with healthy arteries??

Then start a healthy yoga-habit today! 😉

Let’s practice!

I invite you to practice one of my more physically demanding yoga classes. (I have LOTS of online yoga videos!!)

Perhaps one from the Strength theme (orange)

or the Ashtanga theme (turquoise). 

As you move through any challenging poses, REALLY focus on lengthening and slowing down your breath.

 

Let’s get sweaty!

(If you’re not yet a BendyFriend, have a look at my offerings!)

Learn more!

I hope you enjoyed this mini blog. 🤓

Please share your views in comments below!

Jolanthe x


Reference

Piña, A. A., Shadiow, J., Fadeyi, A. T., Chavez, A., & Hunter, S. D. (2021). The acute effects of vinyasa flow yoga on vascular function, lipid and glucose concentrations, and mood. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 56, 102585.

Strength, Posture & Mindfulness

I’ll help you gain body confidence and contentment

with short, easy-to-follow yoga classes from your LIVING ROOM!

On-demand and LIVE

Check out what I offer!

I’m a Small Business

Give yourself the gift of self-care for a super affordable price, while supporting an independent, small business!

I enjoy getting to know each and every new yoga student – so can’t wait to meet you!

Love, Jolanthe x


Yoga Science: Bone Density

Yoga Science: Bone Density

The value of Sun Salutations for your bones…

 

I have been thinking more and more about how to communicate the benefits of yoga. There’s really not much point telling people they will get flexible… that’s obvious! But there are so many more interesting and surprising health benefits.

So this week I delved into a scientific research paper on bone health for women. This may be super relevant for you, or maybe not! Either way, I think you’ll be interested in what I have to say about it…

 

Why is exercise important for bone health?

We all build up our store of bone density (the hardness of our bones) in our childhood and teenage years. After this, I am afraid our bone density will slowly decrease….

Unless! We keep reminding our body that we actually NEED these bones. We do this by staying active and applying load and impact to our bones.

In the field of Sports Science it is widely accepted that high impact and load-bearing sports, such as running and even weight lifting, will help maintain bone density. However, the science on yoga is a new and emerging field!

Cue: this interesting study on Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga! (Kim et al., 2015)

 

What did this study do?

Thirty-four women, aged 35-50, were randomly assigned to an Ashtanga Yoga programme or encouraged to go about their normal lives, but to be mindful of maintaining the same body weight.

The Ashtanga group did a yoga session twice a week for 8 months. This is quite impressive!

To start with they only did a few sun-salutations and ‘vinyasas’ (the sun half salutation in-between poses). As the programme progressed, more and more sun-salutations and vinyasas were added. To add bone-building impact, the leaders also encouraged the jump to standing (from Downward dog), and jump back to Chataranga Dandasana (the low plank).

If you’re familiar with my style of teaching, this will sound pretty similar!

 

Winter is bad for our bones…

It is known that the rate of bone turn-over is higher in the winter vs. the summer (Woitge et al., 1998). Meaning that it is more likely that we will loose bone density in winter, and less likely over the summer months.

Bone is not a static thing. It is constantly being broken down (resorption) and re-made (formation). So this study tested both these aspects of bone health, as well as Bone Mineral Density pre- and post- the intervention (and a bunch of other measurement too!)

An important detail is that this study measured the bone health of participants first in October and after the programme in June. So, by all accounts, there was an expectation for bone health to decrease (at least in the control group).

 

So, what happened after the Yoga experiment?

Are you waiting with bated breath for the results?? 😉

Well they were interesting! The Ashtanga yoga group had an INCREASE in bone formation marker, while the control group had a decrease in it.

This means that the Ashtanga Yoga programme managed to halt the usual winter-induced decrease in bone formation, and even helped increase it a little bit.

I find this remarkable, as the program only contain yoga 2 times a week. And in all likelihood the participants did not attend ALL their sessions!

(I’ve worked as a researcher on an intervention like this and, TRUST me, it’s difficult to keep your participants motivated!)

So just imagine the possible effect on bone health if Ashtanga yoga was done 3-4 times a week, and for longer than 8 months!

#JustSayin’

 

Is twice a week enough?

While the increase in bone formation is SUPER exciting, the other bone health markers showed no difference between the yoga and control groups (bone resorption and Bone Mineral Density).

My personal hunch is that twice a week may not be enough of a physical stimulus to have a big impact on bone strength…

And in their discussion, the authors cited a different study (Phoosuwan et al. 2009) in which women aged 50-60 years did weight-baring yoga 3 times a week for 3 months. This study DID find a significant decrease in bone re-sorption, which did not happen in their control group.

Personally, I like to practice 4-5 times a week. And my personal motto is that it doesn’t have to be a full 1 hour session! I wonder what the impact would be on the bones by doing 4-5 times a 15min-30min session.

So…. More research is needed! (As always) 😉

 

How is this relevant for you?

Bone strength is revenant for us all. Strong and healthy bones allow us to live life to the fullest for as long as possible!

However, it’s especially relevant if you’re a women over age 30. As we (I say ‘we’ because I am in that category!) approach the menopause it’s SO important to work on building up and/or maintaining strong and healthy bones.

This is because when we get beyond the menopause, bone health naturally starts to fall due to the lower female hormones in our body. But the stronger our bones are to start with, the less you will notice this effect. And eventually it will delay the onset of osteoporosis (brittle bones).

If this isn’t a motivational push to do Sun Salutations (or other weight-baring/high-impact activity) – then I don’t know what is!

 

Let’s practice!

I invite you to give Ashtanga a go.

I have lots of Ashtanga yoga videos that are super easy to follow.

Anything from 10 minutes to 1 hour!

I challenge you to do at least ONE class in the coming week.

Start today!

And your 80-year old self will thank you.

Learn more!

I hope you enjoyed this mini blog. 🤓

Please share your views in comments below!

Jolanthe x

Strength, Posture & Mindfulness

I’ll help you gain body confidence and contentment

with short, easy-to-follow yoga classes from your LIVING ROOM!

On-demand and LIVE

Check out what I offer!

I’m a Small Business

Give yourself the gift of self-care for a super affordable price, while supporting an independent, small business!

I enjoy getting to know each and every new yoga student – so can’t wait to meet you!

Love, Jolanthe x


References

Kim, S., Bemben, M. G., Knehans, A. W., & Bemben, D. A. (2015). Effects of an 8-month ashtanga-based yoga intervention on bone metabolism in middle-aged premenopausal women: A randomized controlled study. Journal of sports science & medicine, 14(4), 756.

Phoosuwan, M., Kritpet,T. and Yuktanandana, P. (2009) The effects of weight bearing yoga training on the bone resorption markers of the postmenopausal women. Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand 92, 102-108.

Woitge, H.W., Scheidt-Nave, C., Kissling, C., Leidig-Bruckner, G., Meyer, K., Grauer, A., Scharla, S.H., Ziegler, R. and Seibel, M.J. (1998) Seasonal variation of biochemical indexes of bone turnover: results of a population-based study. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 83, 68-75.


Yoga for Back Pain

Yoga for Back Pain

Chances are, you have experienced back pain! It’s the…

  • Most common cause of limited activity in people below the age of 45…
  • Second most frequent reason for visits to a physician…
  • Third most common reason for surgery…
  • Fifth most common cause of hospital admission!

These figures are from the United States in 1999 (Andersson et al., 1999), but I am sure that the current UK figures are not much different, as there’s just as much desk work, lifting children, manual labour, stress, and those random movements that suddenly cause a back ache!

 

Does Yoga Help your Back?

There is a common belief that yoga is helpful for a ‘bad back’, but some people also think they shouldn’t start yoga for fear of aggravating their ‘bad back’.

So what is yoga….

helpful or a hindrance for the back?

Personally, I believe my (almost) daily yoga practice is a life-saver for my back. Helping me keep it strong enough to survive the constant picking up and putting back down of a toddler.

Yet… sometimes for a shot while after my yoga practice my back feels a little more delicate. This feeling is always gone within hours or latest the next day, so I take it as being like a muscle ache. Temporary discomfort, yet long-term increased strength!

But that’s just me!

What does the science say???

 

Science on Yoga for Back Pain

There have been many studies evaluating whether yoga improved persistent back pain in a variety of groups. Chang and colleagues (2016) systematically searched the published studies and found 14 interventions of good quality that compared a control group and a yoga group.

These are just some of the findings….

Significant reductions in functional disability, back pain intensity, medication use and depression after 24-weeks of Iyengar yoga (compared with a control group) (Williams et al., 2005; 2009).

A greater improvement in flexibility and reduction in back pain after 7 days of meditation, yoga exercise, chanting and yoga lectures, compared with a control group who also followed a daily routine of exercise, non-yogic breathing exercises, educational lectures and additionally filled their time watching nature programs. (Tekur et al., 2008; 2010)

Significantly better back function after a a 12-week yoga program versus a control group who received a back pain education booklet for low back pain patients (Tilbrook et al., 2011). This improvement remained at 3, 6, and 12 months after the yoga program!

This is just a snap shot of the findings section in the review by Chang et al. (2016).

 

Is Yoga a Risk for the Back?

Chang et al. (2016) found that ‘adverse events’ were equally common in the yoga groups as in the control groups, and reasoned that it was not surprising to see some adverse events, given that all these subjects generally already had back-pain to start with!

Yet, as I mentioned before, it is possible for you to feel more sensations, achy-ness and tenderness in the back after a yoga practice that has exercised this part of your body well!

Indeed one study did report 11 incidences (out of 156 participants) of temporarily increased back pain after yoga which was deemed non-serious (Tilbrook et al. 2011).

So! What do YOU make of this?

My opinion remains that while short-term discomfort may be induced at times… yoga improves back-health in the long term.

 

How can Yoga help the Back?

There is less research on exactly WHY yoga might help the back, so here is my own understanding of it…

 

1. Keeping your back and core muscles strong

You’ve all heard that to protect your back you need a strong core. Well, the muscles that protect the spine go all the way around it!

Many yoga poses such as balance poses, Boat pose, plank, Chataranga Dandasana (low plank), and the whole Sun-Salutation sequence all increase the strength of these muscles (like a corset around your lower back).

When these muscles are strong and when you automatically engage them while moving around, you decrease the chances of putting unhealthy strain on the back.

 

2. Stretching out tightened muscles that pull on the vertebrae

Various muscles are attached to the vertebrae of the spine. If these are very tight, they can start to pull constantly, causing posture changes or directly causing pain.

One example is the Psoas Major (there is one either side of the spine, see image below). When this is tight it will pull the lower spine forward (think belly out, bum back), and eventually cause low back pain.

To stretch the Psoas Major we need to do hip extension, which you find in Upward-Facing Dog, a deep lunge, Camel Pose, Frog Pose, and Half-Pigeon when arching the back (and any other back bending poses). (Find these in my Sun Salutation, Flexibility for Cyclists, and Mini Back Bend classes.

Another example is the Quadratus Lumborum (see image below). This can get very tight after a lot of sitting, and will then pull on the places where it is attached. Gate Pose is a lovely way to stretch this! (Find this in my Mini Back Release class).

3. Counteracting long-held positions from daily life

In daily life many of us sit for hoooooours on end. This means we are rounding the lower back more than is natural. This could cause a slow shift in the spine to remain in this position. In this case, practicing gentle back bending postures (arching the back) can help counteract this excessive rounding.

Anything else you do repeatedly or for a long time will also have an effect on your spine’s position.

Can you think of what you do regularly?

How do you need to balance out YOUR spine to avoid/alleviate a bad back?

So let’s do some Yoga!

I invite you to follow a class to help you strengthen and/or stretch your back.

We’re all different, but these classes might feel nice/be good for long-term strengthening…

Mini Back Release (20 minutes)

Sun Salutation (20 minutes)

Flexibility for Cyclists (35 minutes)

Mini Back Bend (10 minutes)

Mini Back Strength (15 minutes)

Open your diary and pan it in!

❤️

I hope you enjoyed my ramblings today. 🤓 Please feel free to add your comments below!

Love,

Jolanthe x

Strength, Posture & Mindfulness

I’ll help you gain body confidence and contentment

with short, easy-to-follow yoga classes from your LIVING ROOM!

On-demand and LIVE

Check out what I offer!

I’m a Small Business

Give yourself the gift of self-care for a super affordable price, while supporting an independent, small business!

I enjoy getting to know each and every new yoga student – so can’t wait to meet you!

Love, Jolanthe x

References

Andersson GB. Epidemiological features of chronic low-back pain. Lancet. 1999; 354:581–585. [PubMed: 10470716]

Chang DG, Holt JA, Sklar M, Groessl EJ. Yoga as a treatment for chronic low back pain: A systematic review of the literature. Journal of orthopedics & rheumatology. 2016 Jan 1;3(1):1.

Tekur P, Singphow C, Nagendra HR, Raghuram N. Effect of short-term intensive yoga program on pain, functional disability and spinal flexibility in chronic low back pain: a randomized control study. J Altern Complement Med. 2008; 14:637–644. [PubMed: 18673078]

Tekur P, Chametcha S, Hongasandra RN, Raghuram N. Effect of yoga on quality of life of CLBP patients: A randomized control study. Int J Yoga. 2010; 3:10–17. [PubMed: 20948896]

Tilbrook HE, Cox H, Hewitt CE, Kang’ombe AR, Chuang LH, et al. Yoga for chronic low back pain: a randomized trial. Ann Intern Med. 2011; 155:569–578. [PubMed: 22041945]

Williams KA, Petronis J, Smith D, Goodrich D, Wu J, et al. Effect of Iyengar yoga therapy for chronic low back pain. Pain. 2005; 115:107–117. [PubMed: 15836974]

Williams K, Abildso C, Steinberg L, Doyle E, Epstein B, et al. Evaluation of the effectiveness and efficacy of Iyengar yoga therapy on chronic low back pain. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2009; 34:2066– 2076. [PubMed: 19701112]