I trust you're safe, fit and well.
All strength to Ukraine 🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦
Have you noticed your sleep quality getting worse as you get older? It's a common phenomenon and appears to be related to our circadian rhythm becoming less effective. Two of the most highly recommended ways to get better sleep are (1) to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, and (2) to exercise at least 4 times each week - I mean more than walking. I believe these help.
Shoulder pain can occur unexpectedly, and be very debilitating. I know I was shocked when it happened to me for "no reason". You can reduce the risk with some simple exercises - see item #2.
I was surprised to see how strong the evidence of an association between hearing loss and accelerated Alzheimer's has become - see item #1.
⭑ There are proven reasons connecting hearing loss to dementia ✔
⭑ Do these simple daily exercises to help avoid shoulder pain ✔
⭑ A home rowing machine is a great way to build muscle - not just cardio
⭑ Home rowing can be monotonous - here's how to make it more interesting ✔
01 Alzheimer's Disease: Can Hearing Loss Increase My Risk? (Mayo Clinic)
One of the developing theories I have been following is the potential link between hearing loss and the onset of Alzheimer's. This theory has moved beyond just a correlation (in 2011) to be a proven association now.
It is pretty well proven that adults aged 45 and older with hearing loss have a significantly higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease or mild cognitive impairment.
What is the association? This is what I find very interesting.
⇒ Three reasons have been established.
Firstly, the brain must work harder to interpret sound, resulting in increased mental strain. Secondly, the mental stimulation that comes from hearing and responding to conversations is reduced, leading to a decrease in the important socialisation needed for maintaining cognitive health.
Thirdly, hearing loss has been found to be associated with an increase in brain tissue loss, which can lead to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
What this means for you: good news. Early intervention to treat hearing loss, and to improve hearing, has been found to stop the cascading repercussions of hearing loss, including accelerated dementia.
Researchers also suggest that regular cognitive exercises, such as doing puzzles and crosswords, can also help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's.
If you have hearing loss it is worth getting tested and considering options to improve your hearing and hence reduce the cognitive load of poor hearing.
Shoulder pain is nasty because it can hit from the most innocuous movement, and then lock up for weeks causing excruciating pain. A visit to the physio is often unsatisfying as the exact cause of the pain cannot be identified.
At any given moment, an estimated one in four people struggles with shoulder pain - often, shoulder pain at night disturbs their sleep.
Unfortunately, with age, the odds of rotator cuff tears and arthritis in the shoulder rise for us all. And worse, just as for rolling your ankle, dislocating your shoulder once also raises the odds that it will happen again.
⇒ Fortunately, you can take steps to safeguard the shoulder, including strengthening, stretching and gradually increasing overhead activities.
What this means for you: Regular shoulder strengthening exercises will reduce the likelihood of injury. Here are three which you can do at home, easily:
Scapula retention: A simple movement that strengthens the stabilising muscles. For that, lie face down, arms by your side and palms facing the floor. Pull your shoulder blades back and down as you lift your arms up to the level of your hips; hold for a couple seconds, then slowly release.
Shoulder mobility: To improve your range of motion, perform the following movements until you feel a stretch, then hold it for 30 seconds to a minute. Do this three to five times, twice a week.
Stand in front of a wall — with your toes touching it — and raise one arm at a time over your head to touch the wall in front of you, with your palm flat. Then, bring your hand down to touch the back of your head, keeping your elbow out to the side. Third, bring your arm back down to your side, then reach up behind your back, aiming to touch the opposite shoulder blade with the back of your hand. Repeat with your other hand.
Squats - yes squats. The weaker your legs and core, the more force your shoulder must produce for shoulder-powered movements, increasing stress on the joint. Hold a light weight to your chest with both hands and squat backwards to sit yourself down on a chair. Raise back up. Do this ten times, twice a week.
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03 Will Rowing Build My Strength?
During this week, I was asked, in an enquiring way, "will rowing build my strength?".
Perhaps in this era of gym machines, people equate puffed-up muscles as strength and machines as the best route to this "strength".
The first thing to remember is that gym machines are specifically designed to make you look good in a t-shirt with as little exercise as possible. This, they do exceptionally well. But this has nothing to do with fitness, let alone fitness for the purpose of living longer better.
The extreme of "looking good in a t-shirt" are bodybuilders. My composite image above contrasts Maria Flores, a bodybuilding champion, and Frida Svensson, a champion rower.
I'm not going to outline all the technicalities of rowing versus bodybuilding for healthy strength, as I assume that the images speak for themselves. Bodybuilders are committed to their aesthetic goal, which requires intense weight training. However, which would you rather be at 55, and which do you think would give you the best chance of living longer better?
What this means for you: With respect to strength, indoor rowing will strengthen and condition your legs, core, arms and back. You will build muscle up through your posterior chain as you use your quads, hamstrings and glutes to power the stroke. Your core will develop to keep your torso stable and help you maintain good posture.
Your arms, back and shoulders will also develop real strength as you pull the handle towards your chest at the completion of the stroke. In addition, rowing will significantly develop your cardiovascular endurance, while also burning calories and thus achieving a leaner, fitter physique (as in the image of Frida).
From the point of view of living longer better, rowing will help improve your balance and coordination, as well as reduce the risk of injury by strengthening your core and back muscles.
⇒ In fact, I regard rowing as one of the most practical individual at-home exercises that you can do to lose weight, build strength and stamina, and improve your cardiovascular health outcomes. You can usually buy a good home rowing machine for about $200.
04 Four Rowing Variations to Help You Keep It Up
You can do these variations at the gym, or on your home machine. I thought about them for all those at-home rowing machines that have fallen out of use.
These variations each take 10 minutes or less. I think of it as less time than listening to three of your favourite Spotify tracks. Variations help take the monotony out of daily rowing and help you keep it up.
The variations differ in their emphasis on endurance, power or stamina. You know, from article #3 above, the benefits of rowing, so let's get into it.
What this means for you: Each of the first three variations is 10 minutes long (~3 music tracks):
- Alternative higher and lower tension minute-by-minute. Start with the lower resistance, and after one minute, move the tension up a notch, and then back down again after a minute. If the tension and workload are high, do one extra minute on a low resistance as a warm-down at the end.
- 20-second sprint every minute. Start at a regular pace, and at the 40-second mark of every minute up the pace, push hard with your legs, and work for 20 seconds before dropping back to your regular pace on the minute. If you feel puffed as you hit the ten-minute mark, drop the resistance and row an extra minute as a warm-down.
- Steady pace all the way. Row at a pace which forces you to breathe consciously but not puffed, for 10 minutes at the same resistance.
Fourth variation: Row for 6 minutes, and compare yourself to one of the measurements available on your machine e.g. distance, total calories burnt, or total strokes. Keep a note, and do this every 3 weeks and see how much you improve.
⇒ A note about the proper breathing technique. If you read most advice, e.g. from the Concept 2 website, they advise you to breathe in on the forward movement (the release) and to exhale on the catch stroke (the pull movement).
If you try that, I think you will find it difficult because your core and diaphragm compress on the forward movement. This makes breathing deeply very hard, and as a result, you cannot get enough air and you start to struggle.
A better technique is to use 2 breaths during each stroke:
- Breathe out when coming (forward) in to the catch (the moment you pull back), and again when coming in to the release (when you have almost pulled your hands into your chest).
- Immediately after the catch, exhale, and then again as you start to come forward.
- Another way to explain this is to take two lighter breaths on every stroke. When starting a stroke forward, breathe in, then, as approaching the fully extended position breathe out. Now, as you catch the resistance and pull, breathe in, and then as you approach the full back position, breathe out.
Relax your airways (don’t make a noise) to allow free passage of the air. Breathe through your mouth. Use 2 breaths always, even during light work, so it becomes ingrained.
I will add the above rowing variations to my free exercise app (see below).
Related: I give details of the best indoor rowing technique in this article, along with a video - Hate stretching after workouts? Reduce your muscle aches with this smooth 5-minute alternative
Thanks for reading!
P.S. If you are not yet subscribed to my free exercise app, try now ↓↓↓ Free forever. Opt-out any time. Opt-in by CLICKING HERE PLEASE SEND ME THE EXERCISES. NOTE: YOU ONLY NEED TO SUBSCRIBE ONE TIME.
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