Monday, July 25, 2011

Musings on brain health, the "kettleback", and strength.

By Christian Wernstedt

These are some recent musings from the VitalObjectives FaceBook page containing my brief musings on various health related topics. /CW

Don't be a brain in a vat!

A study confirms the VitalObjectives' approach: If you build whole-body health, disease (in this case dementia) will have no place. As one of the investigators put it: "Anything that's bad for you is ultimately bad for your brain. That's because the brain and body are intimately interconnected -- so any physical health problem can affect the cognitive organ."

In other words, don't pretend that you are a brain in a vat. Take care of your body and you will take care of your brain (which keeps that consciousness of yours alive).

The KettleBack for summer training.

The "KettleBack" from MBody Strength is perfect for bringing a kettlebell to the beach for a work out, or for weighted walks. I ended up walking 7 miles last Monday with a 35 pound kettlebell on my back. A great feature is the way the back pack's design transfers the load of the weight from the kettlebell to one's hips. (I'm not affiliated with MBody Strength, but really like this product - below is a video presentation of it.)

Be strong and live long! (Or should it just be "moderately strong"?)

This study found that having muscular strength has a remarkable correlation with reduced risk of death for virtually everyone: "When examining the relation between muscular fitness and all-cause mortality ... the moderate and high muscular fitness groups had, respectively, a 44% [!!!] and 35% [!!!] reduction in risk compared with the low muscular fitness group, after adjusting for age and sex." BOTTOM LINE: Guys and gals, train with WEIGHTS and GET STRONG!

Now, in reaction to the above, one of my intelligent readers remarked "
But maybe not verystrong?". This in response to the slightly elevated risk in the strongest group compared to the moderately strong group.

This is my answer:

I think that very strong is actually what to aim for, but it needs to be done gradually, without drugs, and with an eye towards injury risks.

The slightly heightened risk for the very strong group in the study likely comes from including elite athletes (who tend to burn their candles in both ends) in the sample. Other studies made on elderly subjects show a mortality risk advantage for the strongest people."

Three leg press tips:

I like the leg press. I think that it is a safe and effective alternative to barbell squatting for many trainers. Here are three tips. (I have been leg pressing for 15 years without injury.)

Tip #1: one legged leg press saves the lower back vs using both legs, but take care to keep the back stable and pressed to the back of the seat. Also, always do the proper abdominal brace. (Google mcgill and abdominal bracing for the correct way.)

Tip #2: I avoid going really heavy with a deep knee bend on the leg press as that may stress the lower back too much. You don't want your lower back to round. (Think of a curled up fetus - that's not a look that you want to approach on the leg press machine.)

Tip #3: If your progress on the leg press stalls, try a different type of leg press machine (if available). There is a huge variation in how different machines accentuate the sticking points in each individual's biomechanics. I had to change from a newer Nautilus machine to an older model in order to keep making progress with the exercise.

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