Strength Training as a Sleep Aid

The Importance of Sleep & How Strength Training Can Improve It

Woman sleeping after Strength Training

As we get older, it becomes more challenging to bounce back after we don't get a good night's sleep.

We have so many demands on our time—jobs, family, errands—not to mention finding the time to relax and have fun. To fit everything in, we often sacrifice… Sleep 😴.

But sleep has an impact on our mental and physical health. It’s vital to gaining strength, losing fat, recovering from injury, and your overall well-being.

To learn about the importance of sleep and how strength training can help improve the quality of Z’s you get, keep reading.

The Importance of Quality Sleep

Sleep helps you feel rested each day. But while you’re sleeping, your brain and body don’t just shut down. Internal organs and processes are hard at work throughout the night.

Over time, skimping on sleep can mess up more than just your morning mood. Studies show getting quality sleep can help improve all sorts of issues, from your blood sugar to your workouts.

So what is enough sleep? The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) defines “enough” as: “A sleep duration that is followed by a spontaneous awakening and leaves one feeling refreshed and alert for the day.”

The keyword there is spontaneous, or without an alarm clock. The exact number of hours necessary to achieve that refreshed feeling varies. Still, for most adults, it’s between 7 and 8 hours a night. Here are some great reasons to get enough sleep:

Sharper Memory

When you’re running low on sleep, you’ll likely have trouble holding onto and recalling details. That’s because sleep plays a big part in both learning and memory. Without enough sleep, it’s tough to focus and take in new information.

Your brain also doesn’t have enough time to store memories so that you can recall them correctly later. Sleep lets your brain catch up, so you’re ready for new experiences.

Mood Boost

Another thing your brain does while you sleep is process emotions. When you cut that short, you tend to have more negative emotional reactions and fewer positive ones.

Chronic lack of sleep can also raise the chance of having a mood disorder. [1]

One large study [2] shows that when you have insomnia, you’re five times more likely to develop depression, and your odds of anxiety or panic disorders are even higher.

Refreshing slumber helps you hit the reset button on a bad day, improve your outlook on life, and be better prepared to meet challenges.

Healthier Heart

While you sleep, your blood pressure goes down, giving your heart and blood vessels a bit of a rest. The less sleep you get, the longer your blood pressure stays up during a 24-hour cycle.

High blood pressure can lead to heart disease, including stroke. A good night’s sleep might protect against a heart attack.

The Circulation Study, which looked at the sleep habits of more than 52,000 Norwegian men and women, found that people who have insomnia most nights of the week face a 30-45% greater heart attack risk.

“It’s important that people are aware of this connection between insomnia and heart attack and talk to their doctor if they’re having symptoms,” said lead researcher Lars Erik Laugsand, MD, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

The reason for the link may be that not sleeping enough causes high blood pressure and hormonal changes. Short-term downtime can have long-term payoffs.

Steadier Blood Sugar

During the deep, slow-wave part of your sleep cycle, the amount of glucose in your blood drops. Not enough time in this deepest stage means you don’t get that break to allow a reset — like leaving the volume turned up on your phone while listening to music all day. Eventually, the battery will crash and will need a recharge to keep going.

Your body will have a harder time responding to your cells’ needs and blood sugar levels. Allow yourself to reach and remain in this deep sleep, and you’re less likely to get type 2 diabetes [3].

Germ Fighting

To help ward off illnesses, your immune system identifies harmful bacteria and viruses in your body and destroys them. Ongoing lack of sleep changes the way your immune cells work. They may not attack as quickly, and you could get sick more often. Good nightly rest can help you avoid that tired, worn-out feeling, as well as spending days in bed as your body tries to recover.

Weight Control

When you’re well-rested, you’re less hungry. Being sleep-deprived messes with the hormones in your brain — leptin and ghrelin — that control appetite.

With those out of balance, your resistance to the temptation of unhealthy foods goes way down. And when you’re tired, you’re less likely to want to get up and move your body.

Together, it’s a recipe for putting on pounds. The time you spend in bed goes hand-in-hand with the time you spend in the kitchen and in your workouts to help you manage your weight.

Sleep Your Way Muscle Growth

As we sleep, energy consumption is lowered, allowing us to use the high-quality food we eat during the day to more efficiently build muscle. Growth hormone is naturally released, improving muscular recovery and regeneration.

Also, as we sleep, the brain recharges. This is important for building muscle because a rested brain is a motivated and focused brain. In simple terms, when you sleep, you recover.

When you recover, you replace, repair, and rebuild—all of which are needed for optimal progress.

Lower Cancer Risk

A 2011 study [4] published in the journal Cancer found that people who averaged fewer than six hours of sleep each night had an almost 50% increase in the risk of colorectal adenomas, a precursor to cancerous tumors, compared to those who clocked in at seven hours a night.

One study author said the risk increase was comparable to that of having a first-degree relative with colon cancer. Although more research is needed on the sleep-cancer link, some experts think that the hormone melatonin, which has been linked to DNA repair, may play a role.

It’s no secret that struggles with sleep increase as we age. These issues come from a variety of causes: illnesses, side effects of medication, changes in circadian rhythm, increased sensitivity to light exposure, inactivity, and elevated nervous system activity, to name a few.

While no one wants to experience the mental fog that comes from sleep deprivation, there are more significant consequences to sleep loss.

Some researchers believe sleep issues contribute to many aging-related health issues.

Sleep Deficiencies

Sleep can be powerful… if we get enough of it.

We know about the many benefits of getting good quality sleep, but what about the effects of not getting a good night’s rest?

Check out some of the side effects of sleep deficiencies when quality sleep is not a part of your nightly norm:

  • Long Term Mood Disorders
  • Sickness
  • Diabetes
  • Infertility
  • Weight Gain
  • Low Libido
  • Heart Disease

What Affects Our Sleep?

More is not better when it comes to exercise is kind of our philosophy. And when it comes to getting good sleep, we think the same motto can be applied. Rather than finding all the things you can do to improve your sleep, a better question to ask yourself is — What can I stop doing?

Smartphones, TVs, and Technology

Bedtime routines nowadays commonly include scrolling social media or watching Netflix. Although it may be an attempt to wind down for the night, too much tech before bed can mess with your sleep.

Studies show that scrolling social media in bed before hitting snooze is associated with sleep and mood dysfunction [5]. Those who have higher “in-bed” scrolling times, over an hour or so, are more likely to have insomnia, anxiety, and short sleep times overall [6].

Tech before bed doesn’t just cause feelings of anxiousness, it affects the way our brains are wired.

Our circadian rhythm, a natural 24-hour cycle responding to light and dark, is most sensitive to light in the evenings. Naturally, when it gets dark and we approach bedtime, our brains produce melatonin which promotes sleep.

Research shows that exposure to LED lights, particularly in the evening hours, suppresses melatonin secretion.

So when the light from our phones, tablets, and TVs is pouring in, it interferes with sleep production, sleep efficiency, and quality of sleep.

Eating Before Bed

Latenight snacks and nightcaps. Sounds fun right?

We say go for it… sometimes. But when it becomes the norm, it’s likely doing more harm to your sleep health than good.

Studies suggest that eating later in the evening and closer to bedtime can lead to eating more meals overall, weight gain, and higher daily caloric intake [7].

In fact, the closer dinner time is to bedtime shows there’s higher increase of gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) [8].

Alcohol and Sleep

A review of 27 studies [9] shows that alcohol does not improve sleep quality.

According to the findings, alcohol does allow healthy people to fall asleep quicker and sleep more deeply for a while. Still, it reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. And the more you drink before bed, the more pronounced these effects. REM sleep happens about 90 minutes after we fall asleep. It’s the stage of sleep when people dream, and it’s thought to be restorative.

Disruptions in REM sleep may cause daytime drowsiness, poor concentration, and rob you of needed Zs.

“Alcohol may seem to be helping you to sleep, as it helps induce sleep, but overall it is more disruptive to sleep, particularly in the second half of the night,” says researcher Irshaad Ebrahim, medical director at The London Sleep Centre.

“Alcohol also suppresses breathing and can precipitate sleep apnea,” or pauses in breathing that happen throughout the night. The more a person drinks before bed, the more substantial the disruption. “One to two standard drinks seem to have minimal effects on sleep,” Ebrahim says.

“REM is the more mentally restorative type of sleep,” says Michael Breus, Ph.D., a sleep specialist in Scottsdale, Ariz. “Alcohol is not an appropriate sleep aid. If you rely on alcohol to fall asleep, recognize that you have a greater likelihood to sleepwalk, sleep talk, and have problems with your memory.”

Exercise Before Bed

What about exercising before bed?

Research shows doing vigorous exercise less than one hour before bed can potentially impair sleep quality [10].

While high-intensity exercise within an hour of going to bed can inhibit quality sleep, it's proven to be extraordinarily beneficial for quality sleep any other time of day.

You can schedule your high-intensity 20-minute workouts any time of day, ideally concluding at least one hour before bed.

How Does Strength Training Improve Sleep?

Thankfully, strength training works as a sleep aid for many men and women who were previously poor or average sleepers.

Strength training can improve sleeping habits in less than 10 weeks, although its possible benefits can happen even sooner.

While resistance training does not increase the ease of sleeping for all people, it also has not demonstrated negative sleeping effects on anyone in research. In other words, it won’t hurt, but it certainly may help.

For at least some people, just a small amount of strength training is all that’s necessary to notice a significant difference in sleep.

This was noticed in a study led by a researcher at Harvard [11] Men and women around 70 years old participated in a brief strength training program that involved five exercises that targeted the major muscle groups in the upper and lower body.

Each of these exercises was performed for one set with weights that were very challenging. The trainees exercised three days per week.

After 10 weeks, the strength-trained individuals experienced a 40% improvement in self-assessed sleep (according to detailed pre-and post-intervention questionnaires).

This was even more impressive when considering that the control group, who met twice per week for health education sessions, saw no improvement.

Dissecting the results even further, all 15 participants in the strength program either improved or remained the same. This indicates that, at the very worst, strength training won’t keep you up at night. If it has any effect, it will help you sleep.

The people in the study who strength trained were poor sleepers at the start and benefited from getting more sleep in a number of ways.

At the end of the study, self-assessed daytime dysfunction decreased and ratings of vitality and social functioning improved. Oddly enough, social functioning scores actually improved in the strength group more than the health education group, who socialized as part of their education classes!

Another study performed at Texas Tech University showed a similar improvement in sleep after three months of strength training with an older group who averaged closer to 80 years of age [12].

Female member talks about better sleep from strength training
Female testimonial on strength training and sleep

What have we learned?

Sleep is majorly important in our physical and mental well-being. It’s vital to recovering from workouts and helps to prevent mood disorders and sleep deficiencies.

We know that social media consumption, scrolling our smartphones, and watching TV as part of our bedtime routine is not only preventing us from falling asleep, it is impairing the quality of the sleep we get and contribute to anxiety and depression.

And taking comfort in snacks and alcohol late at night increases the chances of developing diseases such as GERD or sleep apnea, both of which cause intermittent sleep interruptions.

To increase your chance of quality sleep, strength train consistently and free yourself from the aforementioned deterrents in the remaining couple of hours before bed.

We’ve seen similar experiences with our members at The Perfect Workout. After they begin training with us, some report that they’re sleeping better than they have in years…or ever.

Although improved sleep is not promised, strength training is highly unlikely to hurt your ability to sleep…and can be a much more desirable solution than taking sleep aids or medications to help you catch some quality Z’s.

If you would like to learn more about our method of strength training, read about our methodology. If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a workout with us and start with a FREE Introductory Session.

  1. Al-Abri, Mohammed A. “Sleep Deprivation and Depression: A bi-directional association.” Sultan Qaboos University medical journal vol. 15,1 (2015): e4-6.
  2. Neckelmann, D. et al., Chronic Insomnia as a Risk Factor for Developing Anxiety and Depression, Sleep. 2007; 30 (7): 873-880.
  3. Zhu B, Quinn L, Kapella MC, et al. Relationship between sleep disturbance and self-care in adults with type 2 diabetes. Acta Diabetol. 2018;55(9):963-970. doi:10.1007/s00592-018-1181-4
  4. University Hospitals Case Medical Center. (2011, February 8). Lack of sleep found to be a new risk factor for colon cancer. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 12, 2021 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110208112741.htm
  5. Sushanth Bhat, Genevieve Pinto-Zipp, Hinesh Upadhyay, Peter G. Polos, “To sleep, perchance to tweet”: in-bed electronic social media use and its associations with insomnia, daytime sleepiness, mood, and sleep duration in adults, Sleep Health, Volume 4, Issue 2, 2018,Pages 166-173, ISSN 2352-7218,
  6. Blume, C., Garbazza, C. & Spitschan, M. Effects of light on human circadian rhythms, sleep and mood. Somnologie 23, 147–156 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11818-019-00215-x
  7. Reid KJ, Baron KG, Zee PC. Meal timing influences daily caloric intake in healthy adults. Nutr Res. 2014;34(11):930-935. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2014.09.010
  8. Fujiwara Y, Machida A, Watanabe Y, et al. Association between dinner-to-bed time and gastro-esophageal reflux disease. Am J Gastroenterol. 2005;100(12):2633-2636. doi:10.1111/j.1572-0241.2005.00354.x
  9. Ebrahim, I.O., Shapiro, C.M., Williams, A.J. and Fenwick, P.B. (2013), Alcohol and Sleep I: Effects on Normal Sleep. Alcohol Clin Exp Res, 37: 539`-549. https://doi.org/10.1111/acer.12006
  10. Stutz J, Eiholzer R, Spengler CM. Effects of Evening Exercise on Sleep in Healthy Participants: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med. 2019;49(2):269-287. doi:10.1007/s40279-018-1015-0
  11. Singh, N. A., Clements, K. M., Fiatarone, M. A.  (1997). Sleep, Sleep Deprivation,  and Daytime Activities A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effect of Exercise on  Sleep. Sleep, 20(2), 95-101.
  12. Ferris,  L.  T.,  Williams,  J.  S.,  Shen,  C.  L.,  O’Keefe,  K.  A.,  &  Hale,  K.  B.  (2005).  Resistance training improves sleep quality in older adults—a pilot study. J Sports  Sci Med, 4(3), 354-60.

How Long Does it Take to Build Muscle?

How Long Does it Take to Build Muscle?

How long does it take to build muscle, before and after photo

“When will I see results?”

This is one of the most commonly-asked questions when someone starts The Perfect Workout. It’s also one of the most challenging questions to answer.

The answer is complex because it’s based on many factors. Also, “results” could mean many different things: fat loss, added strength, more energy, better sleep, or visible muscle growth.

It’s safe to say most people want to be able to see some muscle definition. So, in this article, we will discuss what the research says on when you should start noticing muscle growth, what are not signs of muscle growth, and how that timeline can be expedited.

Why We ALL Want Muscle

Before we deep dive into all things muscle growth, it’s important to keep this in mind – strength training is not just for growing bigger muscles. In fact, strength training does so much more for your overall health and longevity than simply looking toned and muscular.

  • Here are some good reasons to build muscle:
  • Avoid muscle loss
  • Avoid metabolic rate reduction
  • Increase muscle mass
  • Increase metabolic rate
  • Reduce body fat
  • Increase bone mineral density
  • Improve glucose metabolism
  • Increase gastrointestinal transit speed
  • Reduce resting blood pressure
  • Improve blood lipid levels
  • Reduce low back pain
  • Reduce arthritic pain
  • Reduce depression

As you can see from all those benefits, building muscle isn’t just for looks. But if you are concerned about getting “big and bulky” or want more information on how strength training affects men vs women, this might be the article for you.

Muscle soreness from muscle building on a woman's quads

Misleading Signs of Muscle Growth

Muscle growth starts almost immediately when strength training begins. However, gaining a noticeable amount of muscle takes a little longer. Before discussing a timeline, let’s talk about what are NOT indicators of growing muscles.

Muscle soreness

“I like being sore the next day because I know I did something.”

Most of us have said or felt this way after a workout.

Soreness, although gratifying for some, is not a sign of whether or not you stimulated your muscles to grow. Read that again.

Sore muscles simply indicate that you did something new or unusual for your muscles.

Walking 20 miles in a day would likely cause most of us to have sore leg muscles, but it won’t help to grow your muscles.

Early strength gains

Being able to lift increasingly heavy weights is typically a sign that your muscle cells are becoming larger. The exception to this is at the start of a new training program or regimen while your body learns to lift weights efficiently.

For the first few weeks, people gain strength due to neurological adaptations. In other words, the nervous system becomes more efficient and effective at stimulating coordinated movement on the exercises. This makes the movement [lifting heavy weights] more automatic and seemingly easier.

After a few weeks, gaining strength is primarily a result of muscle growth and less due to deceptive neurological adaptations.

The post-workout muscle “pump”

One of our favorite parts of the strength training experience is having swollen muscles following the workout.

Why?

It’s aesthetically pleasing (and we’re all a little guilty of checking ourselves out in the mirror once or twice after the workout). This effect, known as “transient hypertrophy,” is due to a short-term increase of blood plasma in and around muscle cells. It gives the muscles a temporary appearance of looking larger and more shapely … aka, the “pump.”

The pump only lasts a few hours and isn’t a direct indicator of muscle growth.

Before and after photos of muscle growth

How Long Does It Take to Build Muscle?

Now that we know muscle soreness and a post-workout mirror check aren’t reliable ways to gauge muscle growth, how do we know when we’re building muscle? And how long does it all take?

The muscle growth timeline was studied by researchers at the University of Oklahoma. CT scans were conducted weekly on men who started a strength training program. Similar to The Perfect Workout, the participants in this study trained twice a week.

After just one week, muscle fibers became 3.5% thicker.

  • Muscles grew steadily after that point:
  • 4.5% larger at the end of week 2
  • 6% at the end of week 3
  • 6.7% at the end of week 4
  • 8% at the end of week 5
    Finished at 9.6% larger at the end of the study (eight weeks)

The conclusions are that muscle growth starts immediately and steadily continues after that point.

You might be thinking, but when will I be able to see more muscle definition? When is it noticeable?

Researchers noted that about 7-8% growth is the point when this change can be seen. According to the study, this should take about 3-5 weeks to start noticing muscle growth. And according to exercise researcher Dr. Ellington Darden, “Genetically gifted men can probably reach their maximum size in 24 months.” (Read: not the norm.)

How can people notice initial changes in muscle size?

Common ways to see this is clothes fitting differently, pants feeling tighter in the thigh or hip area, or “new” muscle lines appearing in the thighs or arms.

How to Build Muscle Faster

The timeline of 3-5 weeks is when you could start to see muscle growth. That timeline could be longer. Part of that timeline and how much muscle you grow in general, is largely determined by your training habits, other complementary habits, and genetics.

Genetics and biology do play a role in your potential for muscle growth, as discussed in our article about the differences between male and female muscle growth. In Dr. Ellington Darden’s book, The New High Intensity Training, he discusses genetic potential for muscle growth.

In short, the length of major muscles determine genetic potential for muscle growth because longer muscles can be wider and wider muscles lead to more volume. So you can’t do much about those sorts of things. But there are three key things you can do.

Here are three factors in your control that impact how much muscle you grow and how quickly you notice it.

1. Exercise consistency and frequency

How much exercise you do is a big factor in determining the amount of muscle growth. Training three times per week will likely increase muscle growth quicker than training once or twice per week.

Of course, you can plan to train three times per week, but if you are frequently missing sessions, those plans won’t convert to actual results.

It’s also important to know that training three times a week would only be beneficial if you’re trying to get bigger-sized muscles and that strength for longevity and better health is separate and sufficient with 1-2 workouts a week.

2. Full range of motion exercises.

The most common strength training error we see in gyms is a lack of full movement. For example, you might see this in a dumbbell curl where the person only lowers the weight halfway down before starting the next rep.

The vast majority of studies comparing full movement to partial movement show that lifting the full movement enhances muscle growth.

3. Eating enough protein.

Protein is broken down by the body into amino acids, which are used to repair and rebuild muscle tissue following workouts. The amount of protein you consume is critical to your rate of muscle growth.

Your daily intake in grams should be equal to or greater than your weight (lbs.) multiplied by 0.75.

For example, if you weigh 150 lbs., you should eat at least 113 grams of protein each day (150 x 0.75 = 113). If you weigh 200 lbs, eat at least 150 grams per day (200 x 0.75 = 150).

Summary

You might start seeing changes in your muscles around one month in. To gain more muscle immediately and in general, train frequently, consistently, use a full range of movement, and eat ample amounts of protein daily.

Whether you see the muscle changes, know that your body is changing in a positive manner after just one week. Your muscles are growing, you are gaining strength, and your health is improving in several ways that you may or may not notice.

If you want more information on how to incorporate slow-motion strength training into your workout routine, we have a free introductory session. If you’d like to know more about how to work with a trainer online, get a free consultation call with a Personal Trainer.

DeFreitas, J.M., Beck, T.W., Stock, M.S., Dillon, M.A., & Kasishke, P.R. (2011). An examination of the time course of training-induced skeletal muscle hypertrophy. European Journal of Applied Physiology. DOI 10.1007/s0042-011-1905-4.

Deldicque, L. (2020). Protein intake and exercise-induced skeletal muscle hypertrophy: an update.

Lemon, P. W. (2000). Beyond the zone: protein needs of active individuals. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 19(sup5), 513S-521S.

Schoenfeld, B.J., Contreras, B., Krieger, J., Grgic, J., Delcastillo, K., Belliard, R., & Alto, A. (2018). Resistance training volume enhances muscle hypertrophy but not strength in trained men. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Schoenfeld, B.J. & Grgic, J. (2020). Effects of range of motion on muscle development during resistance training interventions: a systematic review. SAGE Open. 

Schoenfeld, B.J., Ogborn, D., & Krieger, J.W. (2017). Dose-response relationship between weekly resistance training in muscle mass: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Sports Sciences, 35(11), 1073-1082.

Campbell, W.,Crim, M., Young,V. and Evans,W. (1994). Increased energy requirements and changes in body composition with resistance training in older adults. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 60: 167-175. 

Evans, W. and Rosenberg, I. (1992) Biomarkers, New York: Simon and Schuster. Forbes, G. B. (1976). “The adult decline in lean body mass,” Human Biology, 48: 161-73. 

Harris, K. and Holly R. (1987). Physiological response to circuit weight training in borderline hypertensive subjects. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 19: 246-252. 

Hurley, B. (1994). Does strength training improve health status? Strength and Conditioning Journal, 16: 7-13. 

Hurley, B., Hagberg, J., Goldberg, A., et al. (1988). Resistance training can reduce coronary risk factors without altering VO2 max or percent body fat. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 20: 150-154. 

Keyes, A., Taylor, H.L. and Grande, F. (1973). “Basal Metabolism and Age of Adult Man,” Metabolism, 22: 579-87. 

Koffler, K., Menkes, A. Redmond, W. et al. (1992). Strength training accelerates gastrointestinal transit in middle-aged and older men. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 24: 415-419. 

Menkes, A., Mazel, S., Redmond, R. et al. (1993). Strength training increases regional bone mineral density and bone remodeling in middle-aged and older men. Journal of Applied Physiology, 74: 2478-2484. 

Risch, S., Nowell, N. Pollock, M., et al. (1993). Lumbar strengthening in chronic low back pain patients. Spine, 18: 232-238. 

Singh, N., Clements, K. and Fiatarone, M. A randomized controlled trial of progressive resistance training in depressed elders. Journal of Gerontology, 52 A (1): M 27 – M 35. 

Stone, M., Blessing, D., Byrd, R., et al. (1982). Physiological effects of a short term resistive training program on middle-aged untrained men. National Strength and Conditioning Association Journal, 4: 16-20. 

Tufts University Diet and Nutrition Letter, (1994). Never too late to build up your muscle. 12: 6-7 (September). 

Westcott, W. and Guy, J. (1996). A physical evolution. Sedentary adults see marked improvements in as little as two days a week. IDEA Today, 14 (9): 58-65. 

Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., C.S.C.S, is Fitness Research Director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Senior Fitness Association, and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, and editorial advisor for many publications, including Prevention, Shape, and Club Industry magazines. 

He is also author of 20 fitness books including the new releases, No More Cellulite, Building Strength and Stamina, Strength Training Past 50, Strength Training for Seniors, Complete Conditioning for Golf, and Strength and Power for Young Athletes

The Impact of Strength Training and Inflammation

the impact of strength training and inflammation

woman with her hand on her knee hurting from inflammation
woman with her hand on her knee hurting from inflammation

It’s the reason why omega-3 fatty acid supplements have become popular in recent years.

It’s one of the major reasons why we floss. It’s a big detriment of smoking.

It’s the target of medications taken for arthritis, headaches, and menstrual pain.

Inflammation is one of the major players in the development of heart disease (some medical professionals think it’s the primary cause).

It’s a sign of atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes developments.

The list goes on and on…

Related Post: Strength And Your Health

We use the term “inflammation” often, but what exactly is inflammation?

Inflammation is a sign that the body is trying to heal itself. When inflamed, our bodies are trying to remove or destroy an unwanted presence, such as foreign bacteria, or we are repairing damaged tissue.


Inflammation is good when the body attempts to heal itself and is successful…


However, it can become destructive when it’s not able to eliminate the cause of irritation and triggers disorders such as arthritis, autoimmune disorders or more serious illnesses like cancer.

Signs & Symptoms of Inflammation

Common signs of inflammation are swelling, redness, heat, and pain. But inflammation in the body can also show up in some unexpected ways. Below are some inflammatory responses to look out for:

Joint pain

The most common symptom people experience is sore joints, particularly in the knees, shoulders, and elbows. One easy way to understand if pain you’re experiencing is inflammatory is if it's been diagnosed with anything that ends in “itis.” Such as bursitis, arthritis, tendinitis, etc.

Headaches

If you're somebody who experiences headaches or migraines on a chronic or regular basis, that could be a result of inflammation in your body.

Skin breaking out

Breaking out with pimples on your face, or experiencing itchiness, eczema, and rashes are signs of inflammation.

Weight gain

Unexplained weight gain, puffiness or bloating can be responses, particularly to inflammatory foods.

Digestive issues

Gastrointestinal complications and chronic tummy troubles are signs of an inflamed gut.

Allergy-like symptoms

Runny nose, itchy eyes, coughing and sneezing may not be symptoms of an allergy, but inflammation.

Depression

Anxiety, mood disorders, and depression have been linked to chronic inflammation [2].

Fatigue

Feeling really tired or lethargic, experiencing insomnia, having trouble sleeping are common signs.

Frequent infections

Experiencing frequent infections can be a result of long-term inflammation.

Acute vs Chronic Inflammation

Inflammation can be acute or chronic, and the difference is critical. Examples of acute scenarios are sore throats, cuts on our skin, or irritated gums (which is why we floss, to prevent irritants). Acute inflammation is immediate but lasts for a few days or weeks.


Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is a major issue. This occurs when an acute situation lingers, an autoimmune problem exists, or when there is some other chronic irritant. Chronic is the type found with heart disease and type 2 diabetes.


Both acute and chronic can be localized in the body, but inflammation which affects the entire state of the body is known as systemic inflammation.


We measure inflammation by looking at cytokines.

What are cytokines?

Cytokines are proteins that influence the survival and proliferation of immune cells. They also have a key role in initiating the inflammatory response. Some cytokines are anti-inflammatory and some are pro-inflammatory.


Also, C-reactive protein (CRP) is another substance produced by the liver that indicates systemic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is considered as a sustained two-to-three fold increase in some cytokines and CRP.

Strength Training and Inflammation

Flossing, omega-3 fatty acid intake, and low-intensity physical activity help decrease systemic inflammation. However, strength training’s impact on inflammation isn’t as well known.


Researchers at the University of Connecticut recently analyzed the few studies that do exist on the relationship between the two [1].


Microscopic muscle damage occurs during strength training, especially during the lowering phase of a repetition. The researchers found a variety of results with strength training and inflammation….

Does Lifting Weights Cause Inflammation?

As a result of workout-induced muscle damage, inflammation rises in the short term, and the production of several cytokines increases (although not all are pro-inflammatory).


As a whole, the cytokines released right after strength training have two major responsibilities: repair the muscle damage and regulate new muscle growth. Both are positive responses.

Does Weight Training Reduce Inflammation?

Fortunately, strength training also actually improves chronic inflammation. A 12-month study using strength training with overweight women averaging 39 years old showed a decrease in CRP.


A nine-week study featuring young men and women training with heavier weight loads caused a decrease in one pro-inflammatory cytokine.


Strength training also improved CRP in a three-month study with old and young populations. These were just some of the positive results reported by the University of Connecticut researchers.


The researchers did note that intensity was a key factor. A seven-week study of young men showed that heavy resistance strength training improved two anti-inflammatory cytokines to a greater extent than lighter weight strength training. Another important factor was rest. According to one study, when adequate rest isn’t achieved, exercise can be pro-inflammatory.


What is the mechanism causing strength training to benefit chronic inflammation? The researchers stated that muscle gained from strength training increases the body’s daily energy expenditure (metabolism) and insulin sensitivity (a state key to preventing diabetes), and both of those results decrease the requirement for pro-inflammatory cytokines and CRP.

Should You Strength Train or Not With Inflammation?

Overall, strength training increases some acute inflammation markers by breaking down muscle tissue, but those markers lead to long term health benefits by rebuilding the muscle stronger.

Therefore, strength training’s positive effects on chronic inflammation levels are probably part of why it is shown to decrease the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

To maximize your health gains, eat well, train with a challenging strength training program (like slow-motion training!), and get adequate rest between your workouts.

If you want more information on how to incorporate slow-motion strength training into your workout routine, we have a free introductory session. If you’d like to know more about how to work with a trainer online, get a free consultation call with a Personal Trainer.

1. Calle, M. C., & Fernandez, M. L. (2010). Effects of resistance training on the inflammatory response. Nutrition research and practice, 4(4), 259-269.


2. Lee, C. H., & Giuliani, F. (2019). The Role of Inflammation in Depression and Fatigue. Frontiers in immunology, 10, 1696. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2019.01696

Your Best Chance at Quickly Recovering from Surgery… Or Avoiding it Altogether

Prehab Is Your Best Chance At Quickly Recovering From Surgery

“When my doctor gave me two choices about the pain in my right shoulder- Either live with it or have surgery, I felt hopeless.”- Sherry Chriss, client.

Facing surgery is scary and quite common for a lot of adults. Although every surgery can’t be avoided, one solution to prepare for a swift recovery and potentially avoiding surgery altogether is slow-motion strength training. We call this prehab or “prehabilitation” and it’s happening in our studios and virtual training sessions every day.

Prehab for Total Knee Replacement

One of the most common surgical procedures our clients face is a Total Knee Replacement (TKRs), and they are as popular as ever. More than 381,000 TKRs take place every year, and researchers expect that number to grow six-fold in the next 20 years [1].

The surgery can be very helpful as it enables people with severe knee osteoarthritis to decrease or eliminate their pain while improving their functional ability. However, a TKR also leads to a period of inactivity during recovery, and that inactivity has drawbacks. People lose about 60% of their quadriceps strength within the first month following surgery.

Considering that information, it’s no surprise that people with TKRs have demonstrated slower walking and stair-climbing speeds when compared to their peers.

Medical Diagram of a before and after total knee replacement

Studies Show...

Researchers at the University of Louisville conducted a study comparing people who “prehabbed” against those who did not (control group) for five months prior to surgery. Like our clients, the individuals who strength trained fared very well.

The exercise group trained three times per week prior to the surgery, including exercises such as the leg curl and leg extension. Following the surgery, both groups received the same physical therapy.

Watch one of our clients on the Leg Extension! 

Before the surgery, strength training prevented knee pain from increasing and improved the participants’ functional abilities like getting up from a chair, walking speed, and stair-climbing speed.

One month after the surgery, the control group experienced losses in quadricep strength and walking speed, whereas the exercise group did not (when compared to baseline tests). Three months later, functional ability and strength in the operated leg were greater in the exercise group. 

Overall, the study found quadriceps strength was associated with greater functional ability and less knee pain. Researchers in a study out of the University of Delaware found the same connections when monitoring quadriceps strength days before and one year after a TKR [2].

They also noticed that quadriceps strength before surgery also predicts dynamic balance a year after surgery. Dynamic balance is tested by seeing how quickly a person can stand from a chair, walk around a sharp turn, and then return to the chair.

Balance and strength are some of the most important benefits of slow-motion strength training, especially in older adults who fear falling.

How Long Do You Prehab For?

If a TKR or any other major joint surgery is in your future, you might wonder how long you should train for prior to the procedure. As mentioned, the study included five months of prehabilitation, although we have clients who have only trained for 3 months leading up to their surgery and still experienced a quick and less-painful recovery period. Obviously, the earlier you start, the more strength you will build prior to surgery.

The process of strengthening before a surgery just makes sense. The joints are healthier when their surrounding muscles are stronger. Strength training before a joint replacement surgery allows you the opportunity to build healthier joints and muscles that you will simply work to maintain after surgery, instead of having to build them for the first time.

If a surgery like TKR is in your future, or you want to do whatever you can to avoid one, slow-motion strength training is the solution.

Clients Who Have Avoided Surgery:

In addition to those who have prehabbed before surgery, we’ve helped many people prevent injuries and avoid surgery altogether.

Michael Slosek

Michael, 66, had been told by his doctor that he needed a hip replacement. He also wanted to lose weight, gain overall strength and stamina, and a 20 minute workout was very appealing to him. Michael’s strength training results speak for themselves:

  • No longer has back or hip problems
  • Has more energy and stronger muscles
  • Able to hit the golf ball 20-30 yards further at the driving range
  • Has been able to avoid hip replacement surgery


“The Perfect Workout has a great thing going. You feel like you have a workout when you come here. I’ll continue to do it.”

Mary Jane Bartee

When you have medical conditions like fibromyalgia, osteopenia, and pelvic prolapse, you’re going to be very careful about exercise. “Anything that’s fast-moving and aggressive aggravates it,” says Mary Jane (MJ) Bartee. Slow, safe movement is what first appealed to her about slow-motion strength training. MJ’s strength training results are nothing short of fantastic:

  • Her most recent bone density test showed that her osteopenia is gone
  • The pain from her other conditions is more manageable, resulting in less medication
  • Her pelvic prolapse has greatly improved, to the point where the doctors aren’t talking about surgery anymore


“It’s quick and accommodating,” says MJ. “20 minutes and I’m done. It’s something I do for myself, and as long as I’m functioning as well as I am, I’ll stick with it.”

Her Story of injury prevention

Sherry Chriss

After unsuccessful physical therapy and cortisone shots for an injured shoulder, Sherry was desperate for an alternative to surgery. She was also distraught about the effects of menopause, including loss of bone density, decreased upper body strength, and weak legs. A year after she began strength training at The Perfect Workout:

  • Sherry’s bone density scan improved, surprising even her doctor.
  • She no longer has shoulder pain, and no longer needs surgery.


“I enjoyed it right off the bat, and little did I know how fantastic it would turn out to be. My husband and I have both seen great results, so we’re committed to doing The Perfect Workout for the rest of our lives!”

Don’t wait for post-surgery to start building up strength. In fact, surgery may not be necessary if you take action now. It only takes 20 minutes, twice a week and you’ll get a lifetime workout guaranteed to get you stronger.

  1. Topp, R., Swank, A. M., Quesada, P. M., Nyland, J., & Malkani, A. (2009). The effect of prehabilitation exercise on strength and functioning after total knee arthroplasty. PM&R, 1(8), 729-735.
  1. Mizner, R. L., Petterson, S. C., Stevens, J. E., Axe, M. J., & Snyder-Mackler, L. (2005). Preoperative quadriceps strength predicts functional ability one year after total knee arthroplasty. The Journal of rheumatology, 32(8), 1533-1539.

Can Osteoporosis Be Reversed?

Can Osteoporosis Be Reversed?

Can Osteoporosis Be Reversed - Featured Blog Image

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is diagnosed when a person has suffered a significant loss of bone mass because their body can’t produce enough new bone to keep up with old bone loss. “Bone is living tissue that constantly breaks down and is replaced” (Mayoclinic.com). With this disease, bones become hollow and carry a high risk of fracture. About 10 million people in the US have osteoporosis and many others are at risk.

In this article, we talk about how to identify your risk for osteoporosis and share four strategies that can increase bone density.

Osteoporosis & Fall Risk Facts

As we age, we focus more on preventing falls for older adults, and that’s with good reason.

Over 300,000 adults ages 65 and older experience a hip fracture each year, 95% of those fractures resulting from falling.

Those hip fracturing-falls have severe side effects, too. Only half of these adults regain their quality of life after the fracture.

About 20% move into assisted living communities afterwards. And about one in every four older adults die within a year of having a hip fracture.

Hip fractures are a big concern for both men and women. However, falling and breaking a bone isn’t the only cause of this issue. Having weak bones is also a key underlying factor, just like with osteoporosis.

Data from the CDC shows that 48% of older adults have low bone density, usually in the most common locations: hip and lower back. For adults with osteoporosis, bones are fragile and susceptible to breaking when falls or other high-risk incidents like car accidents occur.

Osteoporosis Stages - 4 Stages of Bone Density Loss

Risk Factors for Osteoporosis

While it’s easy to associate osteoporosis with older women, the process of bone loss starts well before 65 years old. People generally start to lose bone density in their early 30s. They’re at an increased risk for fractures after age 50.

Additional risk factors for osteoporosis include:

  • Being female – This can increase risk of osteoporosis because of the lost estrogen during menopause, which can contribute to bone loss.
  • Having a smaller/thinner frame – This means someone already has less bone mass in their body to begin with.
  • Past fractures – These are a sign that your bones are more fragile than normal.
  • A family history of osteoporosis – This may mean you’re already predisposed to develop the disease.

How to Assess Your Bone Strength

Osteoporosis is diagnosed through a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan. A DEXA scan is a quick process (less than 20 minutes) where a person lies face up while a low-level x-ray scans down and then up the body. They use an even lower level of radiation than standard X-rays, so they’re very safe.

These bone density test results provide an accurate assessment of bone density, muscle tissue, and fat tissue. “Where a regular X-ray can show changes in bone density after 40 percent bone loss, the DEXA detects changes as small as 1 percent.”

You can find a DEXA scan by using a search engine like Google and typing in the keywords “DEXA scan near me”. DEXA scans are recommended at a frequency of every 1-2 years starting at the age of 50 if someone has risk factors for bone loss, especially for women during or after menopause.

Dexa Scan for Osteoporosis Infographic

Can Osteoporosis Be Reversed?

We know that about half of older adults have low bone density, this increases the risk of experiencing a fracture, and that people start losing bone strength in their 30s.

Unfortunately, once you have osteoporosis, it can’t be fully reversed or “cured.” Thankfully, you can strengthen your bones at any age and there are proven methods for reducing the risk of a fracture. Below are four effective strategies for reversing bone loss.

4 Strategies for Strengthening Bones

1. Vitamin D3

Vitamin D, specifically vitamin D3, increases calcium absorption from the food we eat. It also promotes calcium uptake in bones. Supplementing with vitamin D3 can decrease the risk of fractures in the hip and spine, and can increase bone density.

2. Magnesium

A two-year study of menopausal women taking a magnesium supplement showed an increase in bone density while also reducing fracture risk. Healthy magnesium levels are shown to enhance the function of bone-building cells and sufficient levels of parathyroid hormone and vitamin D (both of which regulate bone homeostasis).

3. Calcium

When thinking of bone strength, it’s common to think of calcium first. Research shows calcium consumption isn’t the silver bullet for strengthening bones that we might think it is. However, meeting a minimum amount of recommended daily consumption (2,000-2,500 mg/day according to mayoclinic.com) is critical to maintaining bone health. Also, supplementing calcium can reduce the risk of hip and spine fractures. However, some studies suggest that taking calcium supplements can decrease absorption of other nutrients like iron and zinc, so be mindful of your supplement intake and, as always, consult with a physician to be sure you’re taking the right supplement combination for your needs.

4. Strength Training

Strength training is a uniquely effective way to improve bone health and treat osteoporosis. It can improve bone strength in all areas of the body at any age. In a year-long study, strength training helped women, ages 65-75 years old, gain bone strength in their hips and lower back.

Following five minutes of training, women between the ages of 18 and 26 years old increased bone density in their legs and wrists. Three studies with men, ranging from 50 to 79 years old, showed strength training either stopped or reversed their age-related bone loss.

Strength training is a uniquely effective way to improve bone health and treat osteoporosis. It can improve bone strength in all areas of the body at any age. In a year-long study, strength training helped women, ages 65-75 years old, gain bone strength in their hips and lower back.

Following five minutes of training, women between the ages of 18 and 26 years old increased bone density in their legs and wrists. Three studies with men, ranging from 50 to 79 years old, showed strength training either stopped or reversed their age-related bone loss.

Is It Safe To Exercise With Osteoporosis?

The risk of fracture is serious, but there’s no reason not to exercise safely.

The National Institute of Health said it best:
“No one who has broken a bone wants to revisit that pain and loss of independence. However, living your life “on the sidelines” is not an effective way to protect your bones.”

Staying active with a doctor-approved program like slow-motion strength training can not only help you stay healthy, it’s also the best way to build bone density and strengthen your body to stay upright and active.

Next Steps

If you are currently strength training and are looking to enhance your bone density, examine your diet. Check to see if you are lacking regular consumption of the vitamins and minerals above, and look for ways to increase daily consumption.

Strength training will ensure you won’t lose bone density going forward. If you are not currently strength training, talk with your doctor and get started as soon as you can. Combining that with adequate levels of vitamin D3, magnesium, and calcium can make substantial improvements in your bone strength.

  1. Bolam, K.A., van Uffelen, J.G., & Taafle, D.R. (2013). The effect of physical exercise on bone density in middle-aged and older men: a systematic review. Osteoporosis International, 24(11), 2749-2762.
  2. MacLean, C., Newberry, S., Maglione, M., McMahon, M., Ranganath, V., Suttorp, M., … Grossman, J. (2008). Systematic review: comparative effectiveness of treatments to prevent fractures in men and women with low bone density or osteoporosis. Annals, of Internal Medicine, 148, 197-213.
  3. Nickols-Richardson S.SM., Miller, L.E., Wootten, D.F., Ramp, W.K., & Herert, W.G. (2007). Concentric and eccentric isokinetic resistance training similarly increases muscular strength, fat-free soft tissue mass, and specific bone mineral measurements in young women. Osteoporosis International 18(6), 789-796.
  4. Rhodes, E.C., Martin, A.D., Taunton, J.E., Donnelly, M., Warren, J., & Elliot, J. (2000). Effects of one year of resistance training on the relation between muscular strength and bone density in elderly women. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 34(1), 18-22.
  5. Schnell, S., Friedman, S.M., Mendelssohn, D.A., Bingham, K.W., & Kates, S.L. (2010). The 1-year mortality of patients treated in a hip fracture program for elders. Geriatrics Orthopaedic Surgery & Rehabilitation, 1(1), 6-14.
  6. Soijka, J.E. (1995). Magnesium supplementation and osteoporosis. Nutrition Reviews, 53(3), 71-74.

5 Natural Remedies for Fibromyalgia

5 Natural Remedies for Fibromyalgia

Medical Diagram for Fibromyalgia

Living with fibromyalgia can feel like a battle to ease pain and chronic fatigue. Finding a solution to treat fibromyalgia while staying healthy and active can also feel like a never ending challenge. In this article, we’ve compiled 5 natural remedies for fibromyalgia and the treatment of symptoms.

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Chronic pain
  • Body stiffness
  • Difficulty with thinking or focusing
  • A “foggy” memory
  • Struggles with sleeping

If you went to the doctor with any one of these issues, your doctor would likely think it’s a valid issue and worthy of further examination.

Imagine having most of these issues…or all of these issues!

Fibromyalgia Symptoms Infographic

Adults with fibromyalgia don’t have it easy. Not only do symptoms of fibromyalgia manifest in any of the above list, there isn’t a universal test to diagnose all cases. 

Fibromyalgia can’t be measured with numbers on a scale, unlike most other health conditions (blood pressure, diabetes, etc.). Looking for sensitive “tender points” in certain locations of the body is the most common diagnostic test, but that’s not comprehensive enough to identify all people who have the condition. 

Unfortunately, this lack of a clear diagnostic test leads some people to question whether fibromyalgia is real. However, 4 million US adults and about 3-6% of the world’s population can attest to the existence of the disease. 

Fibromyalgia has no known cause, which also makes it challenging to manage. A few proven methods do exist, though. Strength training is one of these methods.

Risk Factors for Fibromyalgia

Before getting into the methods for disease management, let’s look a little deeper at the disease. Risk factors for fibromyalgia include being female, having lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, suffering from a traumatic event (e.g. car accident), having a family history of fibromyalgia, and being obese. 

It’s most commonly diagnosed during middle age. Fibromyalgia pain spots are the jaw, chest, neck, upper back, and hips.

Natural Remedies For Fibromyalgia

Pain relievers and antidepressants are the most common fibromyalgia treatments. They aren’t the only treatment options, though. There are natural remedies for fibromyalgia. These research-supported methods have shown some relief from fibromyalgia symptoms:

Natural Remedies For Fibromyalgia Infographic

1. Vitamin D supplementation

A vitamin D supplement might ease fibromyalgia-related pain. In response to sun exposure, the human body creates vitamin D. Vitamin D can also be increased through the use of supplements or certain foods such as:

  • Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna
  • Egg yolks
  • Cheese
  • Beef liver
  • Mushrooms
  • Fortified milk
  • Fortified cereals and juices

2. Massage therapy

Massage can help provide temporary relief from the muscle pain caused by fibromyalgia by relaxing tendons and muscles, increasing blood flow, and improving psychological comfort. While types of massage can range in style and purpose, massage benefits can include:

  • Reducing stress and increasing relaxation
  • Reducing pain and muscle soreness and tension
  • Improving circulation, energy and alertness
  • Lowering heart rate and blood pressure
  • Improving immune function

3. Acupuncture

Similar to massage, this could provide temporary pain relief. Acupuncture is a technique that involves inserting very fine needles into your skin at very specific locations on the body that potentially balance energy or impact neurological function. Acupuncture, derived from traditional Chinese medicine, is most typically used to relieve pain. This alternative medicine is increasingly being utilized for overall well-being, including stress reduction.

4. SAM-e

S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e) is a naturally occurring compound produced and consumed by the liver that regulates hormones and maintains cell membranes. As a dietary supplement, it’s shown the ability to reduce pain and fatigue with those who have fibromyalgia. (For those with fibromyalgia, discuss this with your doctor to determine if and how much of SAM-e you should take as there are some side effects with excess amounts).

5. Strength Training

People with fibromyalgia might initially wonder whether they can safely exercise with their level of pain and discomfort, but research also points to strength training as an option for those with fibromyalgia. Three studies with over 100 women found that strength training 2-3 times per week offers some promising benefits:

Bonus Tip, 5 Extra Benefits Of Strength Training

  1. Overall well-being. Following strength training, women with fibromyalgia felt substantial improvements in their own wellness. 
  2. Physical functioning. Strength training led women to feel more capable of handling their normal activities. 
  3. Pain. Women felt noticeably less pain following the training program. 
  4. Tender point reduction. Strength training decreased the amount of active tender points.
  5. Strength. As you would expect, training led to big strength gains for women with fibromyalgia. 

The results above were obtained in about 4-5 months of strength training. (It’s possible the benefits could be noticed sooner).

Real People With Fibromyalgia

The study results support our experiences working with many clients who had fibromyalgia. As is typical with fibromyalgia cases, the fibromyalgia symptoms were different from client to client.

  • One woman struggled to sleep well and had various pain spots. Within two months of starting, she was sleeping better and had less pain.
  • Another woman had chest and arm pain along with general fatigue. She experienced pain reduction and felt more energetic throughout the school day after a few months.
  • One man, age 68, experienced fibromyalgia and arthritis in his hips and knees and wanted to get through his long workdays without feeling exhausted. Not only did he accomplish an energy boost, he also lost 11 lbs.
Natural Remedies for Fibromyalgia helped this client

Being that fibromyalgia manifests in such different ways from person to person, it requires consistent communication between the trainer and the client. If you have fibromyalgia, talk to your trainer about what you feel during and after training. 

Your trainer at The Perfect Workout will work with you to find the right combination of exercises to help you have no negative sensations after while making progress.

Fibromyalgia doesn’t have to stop you from living a high quality life. Feel less pain, gain more strength, and feel better about your health with two short strength training sessions per week.

  1. Busch, A.J., Webber, S.C., Richards, R.S., Bidonde, J., Schachter, C.L., Danyliw, A., … Overend, T.J. (2013). Resistance training (such as weight-lifting) for fibromyalgia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 12 (CD010884).
  2. Center for Disease Control. (2020). Fibromyalgia. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/fibromyalgia.htm
  3. Iliades, C. (2018). Easing the pain of fibromyalgia naturally. Everyday Health. Retrieved from https://www.everydayhealth.com/fibromyalgia/8-natural-fibromyalgia-treatments/

How to Keep Cholesterol in Check

How to Keep Cholesterol in Check

How to keep Cholesterol in Check
plaque in artery headed to heart

In this article, we explain the importance and the potential dangers of cholesterol. With a simple solution, you will find out how to keep your cholesterol in check, in just 4 weeks.

 

“It is possible to have too much of a good thing.” – Aesop

Too much water.

Too much sun.

Too much exercise.

And your body would say this is also true about cholesterol.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a wax-like substance that our body uses to develop other necessary substances like hormones, vitamin D, the membranes of cells, and bile.

We need cholesterol. 

Too much of it can be dangerous though, hence why cholesterol-controlling practices such as strength training have become so highly sought after. 

Going back to the concept of too much of a good thing becoming bad, an excess of cholesterol is considered a “risk factor.” 

In other words, when high levels of cholesterol exist, people are more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or develop diabetes or heart disease. 

A 2020 study published in the journal Circulation estimates that 38% of US adults — about two out of every five people — have high cholesterol! When you combine that with the prevalence of heart disease, which kills over 600,000 people annually in the US, it’s clear that keeping cholesterol in check is a national health concern.

How Much Cholesterol is Too Much?

There are a few measures used to determine whether you have a healthy level of cholesterol or too much of it. (Technically, the ways in which we measure cholesterol aren’t directly measuring cholesterol itself. We measure other particles that relate to cholesterol.) 

Keep Cholesterol in Check Infographic

The following are the most common measures of cholesterol:

  1. HDLs: high-density lipoproteins. These are commonly referred to as the “good cholesterol.” This is the only measure of cholesterol that we want to increase to improve health. 
  2. LDLs: low-density lipoproteins. These are referred to as “bad cholesterol.” 
  3. Triglycerides: these are particles of fat which are found in the body and blood stream. 
  4. Total cholesterol: a total number that includes LDLs, HDLs, and a fraction of the triglyceride total. This is the most comprehensive assessment of cholesterol quantity. Total cholesterol can be skewed by any of the lipoproteins and triglycerides, so if you have high “good cholesterol,” your total cholesterol can also appear high when “bad cholesterol” is normal.

Ideally, we want high HDLs and low LDLs, triglycerides, and total cholesterol.

How to Control Cholesterol

How do we accomplish that and minimize our risk of having heart disease, a heart attack, or a stroke?

how to keep cholesterol in check with diet and exercise infographic

Diet to keep your cholesterol in check

A few dietary approaches are shown to work:

  • Eliminate the consumption of trans fats. Trans fats are artificially created fats found in some vegetable oils (try olive oil or avocado oil instead!), baked goods, and non-organic peanut butters.
  • Eat more fiber, specifically soluble fiber. Fiber blocks the absorption of cholesterol from the foods we eat. Foods high in soluble fiber include black beans, lentils, chia seeds, flaxseeds, dried fig, and dried prunes.
  • Consume whey protein. Whey supplementation can reduce triglyceride levels.

Exercise to keep your cholesterol in check

In addition to dietary strategies, another success method is…strength training!

Strength training is a well-established way to manage cholesterol levels. In fact, a research article which tallied the results of 29 studies and over 1,300 adults concluded that strength training reduces total cholesterol, LDLs, and triglycerides. 

These changes could happen after as little as four weeks of training.

Researchers noted that strength training is additionally helpful for controlling cholesterol when people consistently attend their workouts, lose weight, gain muscle, or lift very challenging weights. 

If improving cholesterol levels is important to you, consider combining strength training with some of the dietary approaches listed above. 

Having high cholesterol is an indication that you might be headed toward heart disease, the number one cause of death in the US. 

Fortunately, you have a large say in your own outcome. You can keep your cholesterol in check with a few simple diet changes and a strength training program. 

A single month of strength training with The Perfect Workout can make a significant positive change in your cholesterol… and overall health.

  1. Kelley, G.A. & Kelley, K.S. (2008). Impact of progressive resistance training on lipids and lipoproteins in adults: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Elsevier, 48, 9-19.
  2. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020). Top 5 lifestyle changes to improve your cholesterol. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/reduce-cholesterol/art-20045935
  3. Sarin, H.V., Ahtiainen, J.P., Hulmi, J.J., Ihalainen, J.K., Walker, S., Kuusmaa-Schildt, M. … Peltonen, H. (2019). Resistance training induces antiatherogenic effects on metabolomic pathways. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 51(9), 1866-1875.
  4. Virani, S.S., Alonso, A., Benjamin, E.J., Callaway, C.W., Carson, A.P. … Tsao, C.W. (2020). Heart disease and stroke statistics — 2020 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 141(9), e139-e596.

From Overweight & Weak to Fitness Instructor in Her 80s!

From Overweight & Weak to Fitness Instructor in Her 80s!

From Overweight & Weak to Fitness Instructor in Her 80s!

Sally Determan Fit at 80 from strength training

Sally Determan was nearing her 80th birthday feeling “old and out of shape.”

Off-balance, weak, and overweight, Sally felt like she was paying a big price for years of living an unhealthy lifestyle and little to no exercise.

Fast forward 3 years, Sally is in the best shape of her life and has newfound stamina and strength to help others live a healthier lifestyle! 

As Sally approached her 80th birthday, she noticed that she was getting tired easily and everyday tasks were becoming more difficult.

“I also grew concerned about falls.”

She knew a change was needed and she couldn’t spend the rest of her life slowly declining. So, she started with trying to lose weight.

Sally began her journey at Weight Watchers where she lost some of the excess weight and incorporated water cardio into her routine.

She knew she needed to do something to increase her muscle and bone strength (to prevent falls) but lacked the motivation and know-how to lift weights at home. 

“I HATED the idea of loud, busy, glitzy gyms, filled with lycra-wearing folks 40 or more years younger than me!”

She needed guidance, privacy, and accountability.

Shortly after, Sally saw The Perfect Workout online and realized there was a Falls Church studio (not a gym!), offering a free introductory session. She figured she had nothing to lose by giving it a try, and the idea of 20 minutes, twice a week fit into her schedule.

Sally joined The Perfect Workout in January 2017 and made wonderful progress in improving her strength, stamina, and weight management.

Infographic Strength Training

After all that she’s accomplished so far, Sally is proud of her ability to keep up — actually, lead — other water cardio participants who are ten to fifteen years younger than her. 

“The entire concept that I am a physical fitness guru is astonishing!”

Knowing how important it is to have someone lead her through your workouts, and fitness journey, Sally gives a lot of credit to the team at The Perfect Workout.

“Each of the four trainers with whom I've worked have been excellent — and fun.”

Now, Sally tells people about her slow-motion strength training workouts when they ask her how she got in such good shape. She explains the method, including the concept of going as long and as hard as your muscles permit — very slowly — and how little time it takes.

The Perfect Workout Client Quote

Can Strength Training Help You Live Longer And Pain-Free?

Can Strength Training Help You Live Longer And Pain-Free?

Woman holding neck wanting to Live Pain Free

Accepting illness and physical deterioration used to be the norm because we just didn't know any better. It was all just a part of getting old. 

But now that we know better, we can do better. Our health is in our control even as we age.

The same is true for health. Pain, independence, and premature death are common age-related concerns for many adults. These concerns, though, are just that: concerns. They aren’t guaranteed. 

In fact, there are specific approaches you can take to avoid these side effects of aging. In this article, we’ll address how strength training is one of those approaches.

The Most Common Age-related Concerns that can be avoided with Strength Training

Living With Pain.

According to the CDC, 49.6% of seniors have diagnosed arthritis. This produces a number of side effects, which can vary depending on what joints have arthritis. Common side effects are issues with walking form, limited range of motion, limited function, disability, and pain.

Losing Independence.

About one in every 14 seniors require personal care assistance, according to the CDC. About one in every six adults age 85 years and older live in a nursing home. 


The loss of independence is due to a few factors. Arthritis and other sources of pain limit physical abilities and could lead to relying on others. Strength is one of the biggest factors in determining how well we can physically function.

We lose about 3-8% of our strength per decade, which adds up when reaching our older years. Independence is also lost when major injuries occur and the individual never fully recovers. 

About a third of older adults suffer at least one fall every year. The CDC states that 20-30% of falls lead to injury. Some injuries, such as hip fractures, lead to the permanent loss of independence

Premature Death.

The average adult lives 79 years in the US. However, many don’t reach this point for a variety of reasons: 

the onset of chronic disease, a lack of exercise and overall movement, and many other reasons. 


(If you’re reading this and are thinking, “This is bringing me down.” …keep reading. There’s a happy ending.)


As noted at the beginning, you have a lot of control in what happens with your life. You can take actions to improve your health and longevity. Starting and maintaining a strength training program can prevent or decrease pain, maintain independence, and lengthen your life.


Don’t take our word for it, though. Let’s look at the research:

    • Arthritis/Pain. A few months of twice-weekly strength training substantially reduced arthritis pain, disability, and improved joint range of motion. Training also led to big improvements in strength for the muscles that support the arthritic joints.
    • Fall Risk. A research review which included over 100 studies showed that strength training decreases the risk of falls for older adults.
    • Physical Functioning. As little as 12 weeks of strength training can increase strength and balance in adults between 85 and 97 years old! The increase in strength translates to greater ease with general daily activities: walking long distances, walking upstairs, carrying groceries, etc.
    • Longevity. People who strength train are more likely to live longer lives. A 15-year study of adults 65 years and older showed that strength training at least twice per week was connected with a 46% reduced risk of death. In other words, strength training was linked to one in every two adults living a longer life.

If you take anything from this article, remember this: many side effects of aging are optional. You have control over how you age. You also have an influence on how long you live. 

As the research showed, strength training twice a week can reduce pain, enhance overall function, add strength, build balance, reduce the chances of falling, and might increase your life expectancy.

With slow-motion strength training, we can revolutionize the way people exercise… and live! Share with a friend today,

New to The Perfect Workout? Get a FREE Introductory Session.

  1. Baker, K. R., Nelson, M. E., Felson, D. T., Layne, J. E., Sarno, R., & Roubenoff, R. (2001). The efficacy of home based progressive strength training in older adults with knee osteoarthritis: a randomized controlled trial.  Journal of Rheumatology, 28, 1655–166.
  2. Cadore, E. L., Casas-Herrero, A., Zambom-Ferraresi, F., Idoate, F., Millor, N., Gómez, M.,…& Izquierdo, M. (2014). Multicomponent exercises including muscle power training enhance muscle mass, power output, and functional outcomes in institutionalized frail nonagenarians. Age36(2), 773-785.
  3. El-Khoury, F., Cassou, B., Charles, M. A., & Dargent-Molina, P. (2013). The effect of fall prevention exercise programmes on fall induced injuries in community dwelling older adults: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Bmj347, f6234.
  4. Foroughi N., Smith  R. M., Lange, A. K., Baker, M. K., Fiatarone Singh, M.A.,  & Vanwanselle, B. (2011). Lower limb muscle strengthening does not change frontal plane moments in women with knee osteoarthritis: A randomized controlled trial. Clinical Biomechanics, 26, 167-174.
  5. Kraschenewski, J. L., Sciamanna, C. N., Poger, J. M., Rovniak, L. S., Lehman, E. B., Cooper, A.B., … Ciccolo, J. T. (2016). Is strength training associated with mortality benefits? A 15 year cohort study of US older adults. Preventative Medicine, 87, 121-127.
  6. Serra‐Rexach, J. A., Bustamante‐Ara, N., Hierro Villarán, M., González Gil, P., Sanz Ibáñez, M. J., Blanco Sanz, N., … & Lucia, A. (2011). Short‐term, light‐to moderate‐intensity exercise training improves leg muscle strength in the oldest old: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society,59(4), 594-602.

Decreased Risk For Fall: Improving Balance for Seniors

Decreased Risk For Fall: Improving Balance for Seniors

The Perfect Workout Client happy that she improved her balance

How Beth Decreased her Risk For Fall in 6 months

A progressive neurological condition that affected Beth Johns’ coordination and balance was slowly increasing her risk for a harmful fall.

As she approached her 60s, Beth stopped trying to manage her health and fitness alone and sought out an exercise program at The Perfect Workout.

Beth lives with a condition called Ataxia.

What is Ataxia?

“Ataxia describes a lack of muscle control or coordination of voluntary movements, such as walking or picking up objects.” (Mayo Clinic)

This condition can cause:

  • Poor coordination
  • Balance problems
  • Unsteady walk and a tendency to stumble
  • Difficulty walking in a straight line
  • Difficulty with fine motor tasks, such as eating, writing or buttoning a shirt
  • Change in speech
  • Involuntary back-and-forth eye movements (nystagmus)
  • Difficulty swallowing

Beth in particular, would often feel unsteady on her feet and easily lose her balance. 

“I've fallen a few times and was really worried and discouraged that my condition was progressing much faster than I had expected it to. The more I worried about it, the less I felt like doing.”

Beth was approaching her 60th birthday and knew she needed to take a different course of action. 

She tried doing strength and balance DVDs on her own but found it was hard to stay motivated. 

Beth knew that joining a gym wouldn't work for her because she really needed the one-on-one support. She needed someone there to guide her, teach her how to exercise correctly, and keep her accountable.

Woman Celebrating International Ataxia Awareness Day

After doing her research, Beth found The Perfect workout. She felt reassured when she saw people her age improving some of her same areas of concern, like falling

The idea of being able to see results in 20 minutes, twice a week without having to be in a public setting was very appealing. 

In November, 2020 Beth joined the Southwest San Jose studio and began her training program.

Beth’s goal was to strengthen her core and increase her overall strength to decrease her risk of falling. She had also recently had been diagnosed with osteopenia and knew it was important to do weight-bearing exercise to improve her bone density

Within 7 months, Beth has noticed significant improvements.

  • Gained strength
  • Back isn’t stiff in the morning anymore
  • Improved her posture and has good balance on her feet
  • Can squat down and stand up without falling over
  • Physical therapist says she’s improved a lot in the past year.
Testimonial Improved Balance From Wife with Husband

“All of the trainers I've worked with have been wonderful. Patient and encouraging. They've pushed me to do much more than I thought I was capable of. Candice got me started. Maria and Kylie have definitely kept me going!”

 

Feeling physically stronger and steadier makes Beth feel like she’s taken charge of her Ataxia and has greatly improved her mental wellbeing. She now sees that Investing in her physical health is an investment in her future, especially as she gets older, and encourages others to do the same.

 

“Friends that I haven't seen in a while say that I really look great! I definitely feel more confident. I know that it's only going to get better.”

 

The Perfect Workout is for regular people, just like Beth. It's not intimidating. It's a personalized experience and the trainers are there to help support your success. And it’s possible to see results in just 20 minutes, twice a week.

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