“The core muscles provide stability for the entire body as it moves,” @ClevelandClinic

cleveland evrything starts wit your core

If you’re planning to start an exercise program and wondering where to begin, start with your core first, says physical therapist Brittany Smith, DPT. People often think of the core muscles as being the abdominal muscles, but the core includes the muscles in the abdomen, back and hips, all working together as a group.

“The core muscles provide stability for the entire body as it moves,” says Smith. “These muscles are activated when you stand up, turn, bend, reach, twist, stoop and move in most other ways. Everything starts with your core.”

Strong core muscles help you maintain good posture, while weak ones can lead to slouching and slumping. Poor posture can be a cause of aches and pain, especially in the back.

Getting started with your core

To get your core muscles in shape, you need to exercise.

“Our bodies were made to move, so any physical activity is really important,” says Smith.

She recommends these specific core-strengthening exercises below.

The first one engages the deep muscles in the abdomen, called the transverse abdominis. “These muscles help hold us in a better position to stabilize our core, thereby stabilizing our arms and legs,” says Smith.

“The more you work on these muscles, the more it will become second nature to hold these muscles tight when you’re lifting grocery bags, doing yard work or any other kind of physical activity,” says Smith. This will help support your body.

Other muscles that tend to be weak are the gluteus maximus in the buttocks, and the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus on the side of the hip. The bridge and clamshell exercises can help strengthen these muscles.

Smith emphasizes that getting the proper position of these exercises correct is more important than the number of repetitions you do. “It’s better to take your time, maybe do fewer reps, but with better quality,” she says. For that reason, it can be helpful to have the guidance of a physical therapist to get started.

Move on from the core

Core exercises are the starting point of overall fitness because you need to hold those muscles engaged while you strengthen other muscles, such as the biceps in the arms or the quadriceps in the legs.

Smith suggests setting short-term goals (for about a month) and then more long-term goals. Once you have achieved short-term goals, such as getting around more easily, add other types of weight-training or resistance exercises to build muscle elsewhere.

With any exercise you do, always listen to your body, warns Smith. If you have pain other than muscle burn, take it easy. Reduce the number of repetitions, the weight or the duration of the exercises. Then build up gradually. “You don’t have to be in pain to make gains,” she says.

Beginner exercises for core strength

For each of the following, work up to one to two sets of 10 to 15 repetitions once a day.

Abdominal bracing

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Contract your abdominal muscles, and press the arch of your back down toward the floor, pulling your belly button toward your spine. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Make sure your lower back stays flat on the floor. Relax and repeat.


Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor with your arms at your sides. Squeeze your abdominal and buttocks muscles, push your heels into the floor and slowly lift your buttocks and hips off the floor. Keep your back straight. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds.


Lie on your side with knees bent in line with your hips and back, draw up the top knee while keeping contact of your feet together as shown. Don’t let your pelvis roll back during the lifting movement. Hold for 5 seconds.

Planning to Start Exercising? Start with Your Core First

Is Hot Yoga Right for Me? @ClevelandClinic

Most people understand the basic health benefits of yoga: flexibility, stress relief and muscle strength, just to name a few. But why is it different when you turn up the heat? Is the increase in degrees a gimmick or is it actually beneficial to your health?

What is hot yoga, anyway?

Hot yoga is exactly what it sounds like — yoga practiced in a hot environment. Most hot yoga classes have an increased room temperature set anywhere between 90 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s quite a difference compared to normal room temperature (68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit). Why so hot? The heat helps lubricate tendons and ligaments, making it easier to fold into certain stretches and poses. “The heat allows participants to get a deeper stretch because their body is warmer and they can move into the poses a little deeper,” says yoga instructor Jennifer Sauer.

The potential pros of hot yoga are:

  • Increased flexibility.
  • Muscle-building.
  • Body-toning.
  • Reduced stress.
  • Detoxification.
  • Weight loss.
  • Reduced pain.

On the flip side, it can also be easy to overdo it in a hot yoga class. Because of the high temperature in the room, you might not realize how hard you’re working and you could end up taking stretches too far before your body is ready.

The potential cons of hot yoga are:

  • Dehydration.
  • Higher risk of injury.
  • Dizziness.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Trouble breathing.

Hot yoga should be something that you ease into. So taking some regular yoga classes first and getting an idea of your current flexibility level is recommended. Beginner yoga classes also help build on your knowledge of the poses and sequences.

“While people have reported pain relief, detoxification and weight loss from hot yoga, scientific research is limited,” Sauer says. “It’s safe to say that hot yoga is more vigorous than traditional practices,” she notes, “but the jury is still out on overall calorie burn and weight loss.”

When you combine hotter temperatures with extra exertion, your body is working harder and therefore increasing your heart rate. So, ultimately, you are burning a good amount of calories during your hot yoga session — the data just doesn’t exist yet for hot yoga specifically.

Who should avoid hot yoga?

Like other types of exercise, hot yoga isn’t for everyone. Hot yoga is not suggested for those who are pregnant or have a heart condition. The heat can also aggravate asthma.

Sauer recommends looking out for side effects such as dizziness, lightheadedness and not being able to take a deep breath in. “If that happens, return to a stable position or leave the studio until you feel better,” she says. “It’s important to stay hydrated and listen to your body.”

Think you’re ready to give it a shot?

When it comes to hot yoga — try attending a few basic or beginner yoga classes first. Then when you feel comfortable, try incorporating a heated class.   

Here’s how to find the best yoga class for you.

“There are different styles of yoga, so if you try a class that doesn’t appeal to you, try another type of yoga or a different instructor,” Sauer says. “The heat isn’t for everyone — and that’s perfectly OK!”

5 surprising benefits of walking: @HarvardHealth

Harvard Health


5 surprising benefits of #walking: Any physical activity is a boon to your overall health. But walking in particular comes with a host of benefits. https://bit.ly/3uyNvhI #HarvardHealth

The next time you have a check-up, don’t be surprised if your doctor hands you a prescription to walk. Yes, this simple activity that you’ve been doing since you were about a year old is now being touted as “the closest thing we have to a wonder drug,” in the words of Dr. Thomas Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Of course, you probably know that any physical activity, including walking, is a boon to your overall health. But walking in particular comes with a host of benefits. Here’s a list of five that may surprise you.

1. It counteracts the effects of weight-promoting genes. Harvard researchers looked at 32 obesity-promoting genes in over 12,000 people to determine how much these genes actually contribute to body weight. They then discovered that, among the study participants who walked briskly for about an hour a day, the effects of those genes were cut in half.

2. It helps tame a sweet tooth. A pair of studies from the University of Exeter found that a 15-minute walk can curb cravings for chocolate and even reduce the amount of chocolate you eat in stressful situations. And the latest research confirms that walking can reduce cravings and intake of a variety of sugary snacks.

3. It reduces the risk of developing breast cancer. Researchers already know that any kind of physical activity blunts the risk of breast cancer. But an American Cancer Society study that zeroed in on walking found that women who walked seven or more hours a week had a 14% lower risk of breast cancer than those who walked three hours or fewer per week. And walking provided this protection even for the women with breast cancer risk factors, such as being overweight or using supplemental hormones.

4. It eases joint pain. Several studies have found that walking reduces arthritis-related pain, and that walking five to six miles a week can even prevent arthritis from forming in the first place. Walking protects the joints — especially the knees and hips, which are most susceptible to osteoarthritis — by lubricating them and strengthening the muscles that support them.

5. It boosts immune function. Walking can help protect you during cold and flu season. A study of over 1,000 men and women found that those who walked at least 20 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week, had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. And if they did get sick, it was for a shorter duration, and their symptoms were milder.

Image: gradyreese/Getty images

20% off all products on the website to celebrate the class women of the world @BodhiBlends

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Our best balance boosters.@HarvardHealth

harvard balance boosters

Harvard Health

Our best balance boosters. bit.ly/2rkMG0N #HarvardHealth

Image: Jacob Ammentorp Lund/iStock

Many older adults focus on exercise and diet to stay healthy. But one of the worst offenders to health—poor balance—is often an afterthought. “I see a lot of older adults who are nonchalant about balance,” says Liz Moritz, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Unfortunately, imbalance is a common cause of falls, which send millions of people in the United States to emergency departments each year with broken hips and head injuries. But there are many things you can do to improve your balance. The strategies below are some of the most effective.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy for balance focuses on the ability of the joints and brain to communicate, the balance system in the ear (the vestibular system), and vision. “We coordinate all three with exercises such as standing on one foot, first with the eyes open, and then with the eyes closed. We also work on joint flexibility, walking, and lower-extremity exercises on one or two legs,” says Moritz. Other exercises that boost balance include chair stands (see “Move of the month”) and squats. Make sure you get training before attempting these exercises at home.

Muscle strengthening

“Core strength is very important for balance. If the abdominal muscles in your core are weak, they cannot support your limbs, especially when you’re walking. If the gluteal muscles in your buttocks and hips aren’t strong, they won’t be able to propel you forward,” says Moritz. Muscle strengthening can help. Moritz suggests starting with gentle core exercises like a pelvic tilt (lie on the floor with your knees bent up, then roll your pelvis up) and then moving to more intense exercises such as wall planks (stand six inches from a wall, keeping your body rigid, then lean forward with your forearms flat against the wall, and hold the position for 20 seconds). Leg lifts will strengthen the gluteal muscles, and adding resistance bands to leg lifts makes the exercise even more effective.

Tai chi and yoga

“Tai chi and yoga are exercises that make you pay attention to the control and quality of movement, rather than the quantity, which improves your balance,” says Moritz. In tai chi, you practice slow, flowing motions and shift your weight from one limb to another. Yoga incorporates a series of focused postures and breathing. Both exercises increase flexibility, range of motion, leg and core strength, and reflexes. The result: you become better at balancing in a number of different positions, which helps you avoid falling if you encounter uneven pavement or obstacles in your path.

Vision correction

“If you can’t see where you’re going, your fall risk goes up,” says Moritz. “A lot of people I treat for balance are here be-cause they tripped when they didn’t see something on the floor.” The fix may be as simple as a new eyeglasses prescription. Get a comprehensive, dilated eye exam every one or two years if you’re 65 or older, every one to three years if you’re age 55 to 64, and every two to four years if you’re 40 to 54. If you have an increased risk for other eye conditions, you may need an eye exam more often.

Assistive walking devices

A cane or a walker can complement your balance and give you more stability and confidence walking. But don’t buy a device on your own. “If it’s too high or too low, that can cause a fall. You need to get it measured, and you need training to learn how to use it,” says Moritz. Training takes just a few physical therapy sessions. Walkers are available with wheels intended for different terrain, lockable brakes, seats, baskets, and other features such as headlights. Canes are available with various handgrips and bases.