Monday, August 14, 2017

Fitness Fix: 8 Benefits of Wall Sits

Read the full article with videos here.
The wall sit exercise isn’t a very common one in the fitness industry nowadays. Yet, it has quite a few benefits that you can’t really get with other more common exercises.
For those of you which are not familiar with wall sits, this exercise is usually performed at the end of your leg training. The main purpose of wall sits is to really burn off the quads, glutes and hamstrings.
The great thing about it is that you don’t need any type of gym equipment to perform the exercise. All you need is a wall or any other solid vertical surface for that matter, to lean against to. Here are a few benefits of the wall sit and why you should consider incorporating this exercise in your leg training routine.
The Benefits of Wall Sits
Benefit #1: Works the entire lower body
Even though wall sit is a static / isometric exercise it is very much like a compound exercise. Wall sits will work your entire lower body – your glutes, your hamstrings and your quads. The main purpose of this exercise is not to increase muscle mass, but to increase endurance. You will notice that you will be able to hold a wall sit for longer and longer periods of time once you become more advanced.
There are not many lower body isometric exercises which activates all the upper leg muscles, so wall sits are unique from this point of view.
Benefit #2: Burns out more calories
Similarly to other exercises which focus on increasing muscle endurance, wall sits will start to feel like you are doing cardio once you hold the position for longer periods of time. After about 15 seconds of holding a wall sit you will notice your heart rate going up and your breath getting faster and faster.
A higher heart rate will result in more calories burned in a given time frame. This will also boost a little bit your metabolic rate (for short periods of time) and it will work your cardiovascular system. So, you can look at wall sits as a non-traditional cardio training if you would like.
Benefit #3: Increases endurance
As mentioned before, wall sit is not an exercise which will improve strength that much, unless you are totally new to training. But wall sits will definitely improve muscle endurance, by activating the slow twitching fibers (or Type I fibers) inside your muscles. These type of muscle fibers are responsible with endurance, rather than strength (which falls under the responsibility of Type II fibers – or fast twitching fibers).
So, if you are a marathon runner or an athlete who runs a lot (such as a basketball player or football player) you will probably benefit a lot from wall sits.
Benefit #4: There are a lot of variations
Just in case you get bored with the standard wall sit there are a handful of variations of this exercise that will push
your body to new limits. Here are a couple of examples.
1. One Leg Wall Sit
Once you are in the standard wall sit position, put your feet very close together. You knees should be touching or be really close one to another. Next, take one leg at a time and extend it out. At this point only one leg will do all the work which will make the exercise much intense.
Benefit #5: Alternative to squats
If you can’t squat for whatever reason, wall sits are a great alternative which will work out pretty much the same body parts as a squat. Even so, wall sits shouldn’t be considered a squat replacement if you are weight training.
Benefit #6: Great for skiers
If you are new to skiing, you probably don’t know that wall sits are the number one exercise performed by all skiers, beginners or advance before hitting the downhill slopes after a long pre-season. The reason for this is that wall sits emulated really accurately the skiing position and works the same muscles we are using when sliding down the slope.
Apart from the fact that you will gain better endurance which will help you stay in the skiing position for longer periods of time, wall sits will also strengthen your knee cap which will be under a lot of stress when sliding down on bumpy slopes.
Benefit #7: Can be done anywhere
Probably one of the most important advantages of wall sits is that you can do them anywhere, at any time and without any auxiliary equipment needed. This is a huge benefit if you don’t have the time to actually go to a gym and workout.
Benefit #8: Are fun to do
For some reason, a lot of people simply enjoy doing wall sits. There are literally thousands of wall sit contests and challenges done online, some involving all the family members from 7 years old to grandparents.
How To Do Wall Sits Correctly
Getting the hang of wall sits is really easy and the exercise itself seems pretty straight forward, but even so there a couple of things to watch out for. Ideally you want to get into a full perfect squat position while leaning the wall.  
Here’s how to do it the right way.
First, your feet should come out from the wall a little bit so that your knees don’t track over your toes. Next, while leaning back on the wall, slide down and adjust your feet position as needed to keep the toes in front of the knees.
There should be a nice 90 degree bend between the lower part of your leg and the upper part.
Hand placement can be on the wall or on your thighs – whatever is more comfortable for you. Placing the hands on your thighs will make the exercise less difficult so that’s recommended if you are a beginner.
Your back should be straight, leaning on the wall, your head should be in a neutral position and you should be looking forward. That’s how you get into a perfect wall sit position. You know you are doing it right if you feel your body weight on your heels, not on your toes, and your quads and hamstrings are starting to burn after 15 to 20 seconds.
Another really important thing to remember is that once you fatigue you should push up, slide against the wall and stand. Don’t come down to the ground. It would cause a lot of damage to your knees if you would slide down to the wall toward the ground.
If you can’t get up from the wall sit, place your hands against the wall and help yourself.
Over to you
I challenge you to start adding a couple of sets of wall sits at the end of each leg training day. In case you are not training your legs at all, just do wall sits each day for a few minutes. Write down your wall sit hold time on a piece of paper and review your progress after 4 weeks. You will be amazed by the results.
Lastly but not least, please bear in mind that wall sits should not be considered a full leg workout, but instead it should complement a leg workout routine and should be performed in combination with other leg exercises such as lunges or squats.
Brian Ward is the content editor at Kick-Ass Home Gym, a website providing helpful articles that inspire you to stay fit and healthy at home – on your own time, in your own space. As busy people, we know health is important. A great morning workout can change an entire day for the better, and at the same time getting sick can throw off a whole week. So it’s important to take care of our bodies even if you don’t really have that much time to spare.

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Monday, August 7, 2017

Interested in Blogging for SCAN?

Are you a Registered Dietitian or a student interested in increasing your online presence?  Consider blogging for SCAN.  The SCAN blog reaches thousands of viewers every month.  No previous blogging experience needed.

Please email Gina, for more information or to send your submissions.

Monday, July 31, 2017

"Why You Shouldn't Exercise to Lose Weight"

In this article featured in Vox the authors examine over 60 articles regarding exercise and weight control.  Read the full article here.

"In general, diet with exercise can work better than calorie cutting alone, but with only marginal additional weight-loss benefits. Consider this chart from a randomized trialthat was done on a group of overweight folks: The group that restricted calories lost about the same amount of weight as the group that dieted and exercised, though the exercisers didn't cut as many calories:
diets compared
The calorie restriction groups lost more weight than the group who both dieted and exercised.
If you embark on a weight-loss journey that involves both adding exercise and cutting calories, Montclair's Diana Thomas warned not to count those calories burned in physical activity toward extra eating.
"Pretend you didn't exercise at all," she said. "You will most likely compensate anyway so think of exercising just for health improvement but not for weight loss" (Vox).  

Monday, July 17, 2017

Eating your feelings? Sleep on Stress

Researchers from Michigan State University evaluated work related stress and unhealthy food choices.  
"A good night's sleep can serve as a protecting factor between job stress and unhealthy eating in the evening, indicates a new study co-authored by a Michigan State University scholar.
The study, published online in the Journal of Applied Psychology, is one of the first to investigate how psychological experiences at work shape eating behaviors.  
'We found that employees who have a stressful workday tend to bring their negative feelings from the workplace to the dinner table, as manifested in eating more than usual and opting for more junk food instead of healthy food,' said Chu-Hsiang Chang, MSU associate professor of psychology and study co-author."

Read the full article here

Monday, July 10, 2017

Exercise and Healthy Habits

In a recent article from The Wall Street Journal  researchers from George Mason University in Virginia looked at interactions between physical activity and socialization in college students.  

The WSJ reports:

"On a given day, students who exercised also tended to participate in more social and achievement activities than on days when they didn’t exercise, the study found, and they engaged in activities that tended to matter to them more.
In addition, exercise on one day predicted positive social activity on the next day, but not achievement activity.
The researchers also found that positive social and achievement activities on one day didn’t predict exercise on the next day.
The results support an approach to treating depression called behavioral activation." 

Friday, July 7, 2017

High Fat Diets and Colorectal Cancer

In a recent study featured in Science Daily, "poor diet is associated with 80% of colorectal cancer cases, but the exact pathways by which diet leads to cancer are not known."

Research from the Cleveland Clinic have identified a specific molecular pathway that links high-fat diets and tumor growth in the colon.  

"In the July 6 issue of Stem Cell Reports, the team showed in pre-clinical models that cancer stem cell growth in the colon was enhanced by a high-fat, Western diet. Cancer stem cells are a subset of resilient, aggressive malignant cells that are believed to be partially responsible for spread and recurrence of cancer.
Furthermore, when the researchers blocked the JAK2-STAT3 cellular signaling pathway, a widely studied pathway known to promote tumor growth, the spike in cancer stem cell growth caused by the high-fat diet declined.
This study provides more insight into how the JAK2-STAT3 pathway is linked to diet-related cancer. Pinpointing the exact mechanism can help researchers develop therapeutics to counteract the negative effects of a Western diet on colorectal cancer" (Science Daily).  

Read the full article here

Monday, June 12, 2017

Nutrition News Bytes from Around the Web

Research Links for the week:

  • Rethinking nutrition labeling: Food is not just the sum of its nutrients.  Summary:  The nutritional value of a food should be evaluated on the basis of the foodstuff as a whole, and not as an effect of the individual nutrients. This is the conclusion of an international expert panel of epidemiologists, physicians, food and nutrition scientists. Their conclusion reshapes our understanding of the importance of nutrients and their interaction.

  • Vitamin D supplements could improve fertility. Summary: There is new data on the link between vitamin D and male fertility. The new results add to our understanding of the effects of low vitamin D levels on testosterone levels and whether vitamin D supplementation could help improve fertility in both sexes.

  • Fitness trackers accurately measure heart rate but not calories burned, study finds.  Summary:  An evaluation of seven devices in a diverse group of 60 volunteers showed that six of the devices measured heart rate with an error rate of less than 5 percent. The team evaluated the Apple Watch, Basis Peak, Fitbit Surge, Microsoft Band, Mio Alpha 2, PulseOn and the Samsung Gear S2. Some devices were more accurate than others, and factors such as skin color and body mass index affected the measurements.