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Posts Tagged ‘exercise’

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Photo: David Sprayberry / Belhaven University
“Henry Danton was born on March 30, 1919. At 100, the former ballet star turned master teacher still drives around Mississippi teaching ballet,” reports NBC.

I’m always impressed by people who enjoy their work so much that they are still doing it at an advanced age. The 100-year-old ballet teacher in this story is a great example. I definitely don’t want to be driving at his age, but I admire him for continuing to make a contribution in the world and having fun while doing it.

A. Pawlowski at Today.com reports, “At 100 years old, Henry Danton is still the center of attention in the ballet studio, now full of students one-fifth his age.

“The former dancer once pirouetted on premier stages around the world, then became a master teacher, training new generations of ballet dancers. He continues to teach today, and says he has no intention of retiring.

“The British-born centenarian said he has a healthy body and mind, lives on his own, loves his smartphone, hasn’t been to the doctor in 10 years and still travels the world. … He recently completed a residency at the Belhaven University Dance Department in Jackson, Mississippi, and teaches ballet around the state. …

“ ‘You have to take care of yourself,’ Danton told TODAY. ‘This body is the only thing you’ve got. You’ve been given this wonderful instrument, you have to look after it. …

‘I see people who retire and they become so bored, they don’t know what to do with themselves,’ Danton said. ‘That’s when their health starts to go down. I love teaching, I don’t want to stop. Children are my vitamin.’ …

“These are the factors Danton credits for his long life and wellness:

“Diet: Danton said he became a vegetarian more than 50 years ago when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the same illness that took his brother’s life. … He stopped eating red meat, fish and poultry at age 49 and hasn’t consumed any animal flesh since, he said.

“Danton likes to ‘live on seeds and nuts,’ enjoys organic vegetables, drinks lots of carrot juice and consumes dairy including cheese and milk. He also occasionally eats chocolate, but stays away from other sweets in his regular diet. He likes beer — ‘like a good Englishman’ — but skips other alcoholic drinks.

“Exercise: Danton credits constant movement as a dancer as one of the main factors that’s kept him healthy and helped him reach the age of 100.

“ ‘I really, absolutely believe exercise is the answer to everything,’ he said. Swimming is the best workout after ballet, Danton said. He still gets some of his exercise from teaching and composing his class for the day. He also has an extensive morning routine centered on a deep tissue massage he gives himself before getting out of bed. Starting with his scalp, then moving down to his neck, shoulders, arms, legs and feet, the one-hour-plus massage stimulates blood circulation, Danton noted.

“ ‘With your thumb, you go as deep as you can into the muscle,’ he said. ‘It works because my body is in incredible condition for my age.’

“Another part of his busy morning routine involves stretching with an elastic resistance band. After all his morning exercises, he said he never eats breakfast before 11 a.m.

“Positive [outlook]: Danton is an optimist, which he called a ‘very important’ factor in his longevity.

“ ‘There’s absolutely no point in making your life miserable,’ he said. ‘Your mood affects you physically, absolutely.’ …

“Danton stays curious about the world and said he is still learning. He has a computer and an iPhone, immediately suggesting that a caller switch to FaceTime during a recent conversation. And he loves his phone’s virtual assistant.

“ ‘Siri amazes me. She answers you immediately,’ he said. …

“Lifestyle: In his whole life, Danton said he has only smoked one cigarette. … Danton hasn’t been to see a doctor in a decade, he said, only running into his primary care physician a few years ago when he was getting a flu shot. The doctor has since retired.”

More at NBC’s Today show, here.

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Photo: Parish of East Baton Rouge Recreation and Park Commission
Kids in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, compete in a sack race using equipment provided by the local parks and recreation commission. Mobile playgrounds designed to fight childhood obesity are catching on nationwide.

Did you always have some kind of gym class in elementary school? Something that kept kids running around and exercising even if it was only Dodge Ball? I did.

In recent decades, many schools have seen cutbacks in classes that are important for both intellectual growth and overall health — arts, music, gym, and more. Concerned communities are doing whatever they can to make up the difference.

Christine Vestal writes at the Washington Post, “In a state with the fourth-highest rate of youth obesity in the nation, the Baton Rouge parks and recreation agency wanted to lure Louisiana kids away from their screens and into the parks to get moving.

“But the low-income youths who needed exercise the most weren’t showing up at the parks. Officials learned that they didn’t have transportation, and their parents were too busy working to take them. So they decided to take the parks to the kids.

“With money donated in 2012 by corporate sponsors and a portion of their parish budget, the local parks and recreation agency, known as the Baton Rouge Recreation, or BREC, bought a box delivery truck, painted it with bright colors, and filled it with scooters, hula-hoops, balls, slack lines, trampolines, sidewalk chalk, and jump ropes.

” ‘The idea came to us one day while we were watching a bunch of kids turn flips on an old mattress someone had discarded near the office,’ said Diane Drake, who directs BREC’s playground on wheels. ‘We realized it wouldn’t take much to get kids moving if we put it right in front of them.’

“Naming the mobile playground BREC on the Geaux (a Cajun play on words for the word ‘go’), the agency in 2013 started what would become a daily program by holding community events at housing complexes, churches, parks, and schools in low-income neighborhoods.

“If peals of laughter and swarms of activity are any indicator, BREC on the Geaux was an immediate success, Drake said.

‘‘ ‘Once word spread, children would come running out of their apartments as soon as we pulled into the parking lot,’ Drake said. ‘It was all we could do to unload the equipment before they grabbed it and ran off.’

“A year after it began, BREC officials drove the mobile playground to a meeting of the National Recreation and Park Association in Charlotte.

“Since then, BREC has received dozens of e-mails and phone calls from other cities seeking advice on how to start a similar program, Drake said. …

“Transporting the joy and the health benefits of play to kids in underserved neighborhoods isn’t a new idea. A concept called ‘Play Streets,’ in which local volunteers work with police and health officials in urban neighborhoods to temporarily block traffic so kids can play, has been thriving for decades in places like London, Chicago, New York, and San Francisco.

“But the idea is now starting to take root in small- and medium-size cities — and in a handful of rural towns — where low-income children and adults are even more susceptible to obesity than in the nation’s urban centers, according to a June report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. …

‘‘BREC started its mobile playground project with $110,000, half from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation and half from the parish budget. A Play Streets project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supported play events in four diverse low-income rural communities last summer — Warrenton, N.C.; Talihina, Okla.; Oakland, Md.; and Cameron, Texas — on a much smaller budget: $6,000 for a handful of community events. …

“In Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center found that similar events sponsored by BREC resulted in children getting about 50 percent more physical activity, as measured in Fitbit steps, compared with weekdays and weekends without Play Street events.”

More here.

Photo: Our Home Louisiana
Baton Rouge Recreation celebrates a new mobile-playground truck with Pennington Biomedical Research Center’s Elizabeth Gollub, an evaluator of the anti-obesity initiative.

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Photo: James Glossop
Scottish Ballet expands Dance for Parkinson’s classes to cities across the country.

The class that comes right before my Essentrics stretch class on Thursdays is for people with Parkinson’s. The participants seem to enjoy it. One man, who is said to be over 100, routinely leaves the class with a smile on his face.

Exercise classes for people with Parkinson’s are not new, but there are always new locations offering them and new techniques to help people keep moving. Consider, for example, this report from Scotland, where the Scottish Ballet has a program.

Jeremy Watson writes at the Times, “Research has shown that dance can help people with the degenerative disease physically, mentally and socially. [At the Scottish Ballet,] staff and volunteers help participants develop movement skills with particular emphasis on fluidity, balance, co-ordination and posture. The sessions include activities focused on problem solving, improvisation, vocal skills, memory and multi-tasking.”

The Scottish Ballet website adds background. “Established in 2016, the Dance for Parkinson’s Scotland programme supports those with Parkinson’s to experience the benefits of dance and creativity — improving balance, spatial awareness, confidence and fluidity in movement. Every week, around 75 participants take part in sessions delivered by Scottish Ballet in Glasgow and Dance Base in Edinburgh. …

“The warm and informal Dance for Parkinson’s Scotland classes feature elements of ballet and contemporary dance with a focus on Scottish Ballet’s repertoire. Using the themes and movement from current productions, specially trained Scottish Ballet and Dance Base Dance Artists lead participants to develop movement skills with particular focus on fluidity of movement, balance, coordination, expression, posture and rhythm.”

The Edinburgh Parkinson’s site says that the aims of the classes “are to

* wake up stiff muscles and improve flexibility,
* encourage mind-body connection,
* improve co-ordination and balance, and
* increase self-awareness and self-esteem
* in a supportive and joyful environment

“The social time at the end of each session is a chance to make connections and feel part of the dance community. … The teachers have a wonderful sense of light-heartedness and fun which they bring to the classes. Live music is an essential ingredient, and we have a talented pianist, Robert Briggs, providing the accompaniment, so the music is used flexibly to encourage movement and development of sequences. …

“The original concept, arising from collaboration between the Mark Morris Dance Group and the Brooklyn Parkinson’s Group in New York, is now increasingly practised worldwide among the Parkinson’s community.”

Patients’ partners and caregivers attend the class that I’ve looked in on, and they are welcome to participate and get some exercise, too. The musical selections are great, but unlike in Scotland, there is not a live accompaniment.

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Photo: Jonathan Wiggs /Globe Staff
Lauren Mayhew was my Essentrics teacher for a year. Here she is leading a class at the Steinberg Wellness Center for Mind and Body. Despite the photo, Essentrics doesn’t have students hold positions.

I was never one for doing exercise for exercise’s sake, but a couple decades ago, my doctor friend Anna insisted I take up something. I’m so glad she did.

I knew that in order to do any exercise regularly, it would have to be something I really enjoyed, so I started walking every day. I don’t walk fast, but I keep the joints moving, and I learned that any sort of walking fulfills that Holy Grail called “weight-bearing activity.” I also love the time to think, and I like taking pictures on my walk.

In addition to walking, I take two exercise classes. I’ve been taking tai chi chuan at Zhen Ren Chuan for more than six years. I like taking tai chi chuan at a martial arts studio because the moves are more clear and understandable than at another place I tried. They are clear because the martial arts people like to tell you the self-defense origins of the moves.

Tai chi chuan is great for balance and moving your body in a seamless way so you don’t stress the joints as you might do when holding a yoga position.

Moving in a seamless way is also the goal of a class I’ve been taking for two years called Essentrics. Essentrics was developed by a former ballerina and aims to strengthen and stretch all the muscles in every session, with beneficial attention to often neglected hands and feet.

Although the tai chi class includes many young people who are also studying martial arts, my midday Essentrics class has mostly retired people, many of whom have had injuries of one kind or another.

What do you do for exercise? Do you take any classes? As a child I took a lot of ballet classes, and ever since then, I’ve had the idea that you make friends in classes. Do you find it works that way with grown-ups? Since starting exercise lessons again as an adult, I find that most grownups keep their heads down and avoid eye contact. I can’t figure out why that is.

Here’s a Boston Globe article that explains how Essentrics helps improve posture. Lauren Mayhew, one of my teachers, is featured in the story.

Photo: Zhen Ren Chuan
The Zhen Ren Chuan website highlights its community garden: “Our families learn horticulture as well as Martial Arts.” Students and teachers keep the school’s corner of the business district neat as a pin.

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Photo: Alamy
Exercise and social activities could help to reduce the risk of developing dementia in later life, according to a new report.

Although there is no cure yet for dementia, lifestyle changes have the potential to reduce new cases by as much as one-third.

Nicola Davis writes at the Guardian about a recent report from the Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention and care. The study suggests that many “dementia cases might be avoided by tackling aspects of lifestyle including education, exercise, blood pressure and hearing. …

“ ‘There are a lot of things that individuals can do, and there are a lot of things that public health and policy can do, to reduce the numbers of people developing dementia,’ said Gill Livingston, professor of psychiatry of older people at University College London and a co-author of the report. …

“ ‘We expect it to be a long-term change that will be needed for exercise; joining a gym for two weeks is probably not going to do it,’ she said.

“Clive Ballard, professor of age-related diseases at the University of Exeter medical school and also a co-author of the report, added that the evidence suggests individuals should also try to follow a Mediterranean diet, maintain a healthy weight and keep an eye on their blood pressure. …

“The results reveal that as many as 35% of dementia cases could, at least in theory, be prevented, with 9% linked to midlife hearing loss, 8% to leaving education before secondary school, 5% to smoking in later life and 4% to later life depression. Social isolation, later life diabetes, midlife high blood pressure, midlife obesity and lack of exercise in later life also contributed to potentially avoidable cases of dementia, the report notes. …

“They admit that the estimate that more than a third of dementia cases could be prevented is a best case scenario, with the figures based on a number of assumptions, including that each factor could be completely tackled. …

“Fiona Matthews, professor of epidemiology at Newcastle University who was not involved in the report, said that interventions for depression and social isolation could still prove valuable. ‘If we could actually resolve some of that issue, even if it is not 100% causal, it is likely we might be able to slow [dementia] progression – even if [an individual] is on a pathway to developing dementia already,’ she said.

“She added that the proposed areas for action could offer myriad health benefits beyond lowering dementia risk. …

“The authors pointed out that an intervention that delayed dementia onset and progression by even a year could decrease the number of people with dementia worldwide in 2050 by nine million.”

More at the Guardian, here.

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Photo: Travel Blog
Crow Hop dance, one of several being adapted for exercise classes on the reservation.

A fitness program for members of a tribe in Idaho is showing results with its combination of exercise and spirituality.

Emily Schwing reports at National Public Radio, “In Indian Country, a gym membership is not a cultural norm and the incidence of heart disease and obesity are high. Native Americans are 60 percent more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic whites. The Coeur D’Alene tribe, whose headquarters is in northern Idaho, is trying to combat the problem by incorporating culture into fitness programs.

“The tribe has created an exercise routine — called ‘Powwow Sweat’ — based on traditional dancing. The program features a series of workout videos that break down six traditional dances into step-by-step exercise routines.

” ‘Drop the pringles and let’s jingle,’ commands Shedaezha Hodge, as she demonstrates the steps that make up the women’s ‘Jingle Dress’ dance.

“High steps, box steps, cross steps and kicks combine into a routine that would give any Zumba class a run for its money. …

“All the dances in the exercise program are typical at powwows, including the ‘Men’s Fancy Dance’ — which features four basic steps and a hip move. The hip move involves lifting your knee up, then circling it out to the side, all the while bouncing to the drum beat.

” ‘I lost 13 1/2 pounds,’ says Ryan Ortivez, who attends the weekly ‘Powwow Sweat’ classes at the Coeur D’Alene Wellness Center, in Plummer, Idaho. …

“The CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] has given the Coeur D’Alene tribe $2 million to develop ‘Powwow Sweat.’ It also supports a community garden on the reservation and a project that stocks the gas station market with healthy food options. …

“Mainstream fitness and nutrition programs don’t meet the needs of tribal members, [LoVina Louie, director of the tribe’s wellness center] says.

” ‘What they lack is spirituality,’ says Louie. ‘Most programming is only physical, or it’s only nutrition. It’s in these compartments — whereas we’re more holistic,’ Louie says. …

“It’s this combination of tradition and exercise that keeps tribal member Ryan Ortivez and his neighbors coming to class each week, to watch the videos and dance alongside each other.

” ‘It’s a lot more attractive than doing jogging or the bicycle for me, because it also relates to my culture,’ says Ortivez.

I’m in love with my community, first and foremost,’ he says. ‘My people. I love to see my community get involved and get active and be healthy.’ “

More here. Be sure to see the great little videos.

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Photo: Milwaukee Public Schools
Sarah Wenzel and her class at Forest Home Elementary demonstrate a series of poses from the YogaKids cards, http://www.yogakids.com.

When I was in kindergarten, someone would come to play the piano and we children would walk in a circle pretending to be giraffes (re-e-eaching!) and elephants (swinging gently while bent over).

Just the other day, I realized that those kindergarten stretches were the same as stretches I’ve been doing for my back.

Decades ago, schools like mine were helping kids exercise for health. Now an increasing number of studies suggest that moving while in class helps children’s brains learn better, too.

Donna de la Cruz writes at the NY Times, “Sit still. It’s the mantra of every classroom. But that is changing as evidence builds that taking brief activity breaks during the day helps children learn and be more attentive in class, and a growing number of programs designed to promote movement are being adopted in schools. …

“A 2013 report from the Institute of Medicine concluded that children who are more active ‘show greater attention, have faster cognitive processing speed and perform better on standardized academic tests than children who are less active.’ And a study released in January by Lund University in Sweden shows that students, especially boys, who had daily physical education, did better in school.

“ ‘Daily physical activity is an opportunity for the average school to become a high-performing school,’ said Jesper Fritz, a doctoral student at Lund University and physician at the Skane University Hospital in Malmo, who was the study’s lead author. …

“ ‘Kids aren’t meant to sit still all day and take in information,’ said Steve Boyle, one of the co-founders of the National Association of Physical Literacy, which aims to bring movement into schools. ‘Adults aren’t wired that way either.’

“Mr. Boyle’s association has introduced a series of three- to five-minute videos called ‘BrainErgizers‘ that are being used in schools and Boys and Girls Clubs in 15 states and in Canada, Mexico, Ireland and Australia, he said. A version of the program is available to schools at no charge. …

“ ‘At the end of the week, kids have gotten an hour or more worth of movement, and it’s all done in the classroom with no special equipment,’ Mr. Boyle said. ‘We’re not looking to replace gym classes, we’re aiming to give kids more minutes of movement per week. And by introducing sports into the videos, giving kids a chance to try sports they may not have ever tried before.’ ”

To read more at the NY Times, click here.

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