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Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School
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New Releases

You can't buy good health but you can buy good health information. Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School:

Gentle Core Exercises: Start toning your abs, building your back muscles, and reclaiming core fitness today

In as little as fifteen minutes a day, you can build the core fitness that is essential for keeping you active and independent in the years ahead.

Weak or inflexible core muscles can impair how well your arms and legs function.  A strong core makes everyday tasks less difficult, wards off back pain, and keeps  you ready for your favorite sports and pastimes.

This new Special Health Report will show you how to build your core with workouts that are gentle and rewarding. You’ll be introduced to more than three dozen exercises designed to strengthen core muscles, increase flexibility and stability, improve balance, and tone your silhouette.

Prepared by master trainers, Gentle Core Exercises will give you maximal gain in minimal time.   Moreover, you’ll learn how to perform these exercises — stretches, lifts, planks, and more — safely and efficiently.

These are workouts that can be done anywhere and anytime.  There’s no need for fancy clothes or pricey equipment (just a mat, a chair, and a ball).  You can do the exercises at home or in your office.  And our short workouts can be done in just 10 minutes for one set and 20 minutes for two.

And they can be done by anyone!  These workouts work for people of all ages and fitness levels.   They are designed for you to progress at your own pace and tailor the program to your own needs. 

This Special Health Report was prepared by the editors of Harvard Health Publications in consultation with Faculty Editor Edward M. Phillips, M.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Harvard Medical School and Director and Founder, Institute of Lifestyle Medicine, as well as Master Trainers and Fitness Consultants Josie Gardiner and Joy Prouty. 45 pages. (2014)

  • The importance of your core
    • How a strong core benefits you
    • Major core muscles
    • Beyond muscles
  • Tailoring gentle core exercises to your abilities
    • Should you check with your doctor first?
    • How to adapt the routines
    • 10 tips for doing gentle core work safely and effectively
  • Structuring your workout: Four commonly asked questions
    • How should core work fit into your overall exercise plans?
    • What equipment will you need?
    • What does the terminology in the instructions mean?
    • How can you measure gains?
  • Posture and alignment
    • Posture checks
    • Alignment: Stay neutral
  • Choosing which gentle core exercises to do
    • Two workouts and sets of stretches
    • Two levels of difficulty
  • Office Workout
  • Office Stretch
  • Home Workout
  • Home Stretch
  • SPECIAL SECTION: Setting goals and motivating yourself
  • Resources
  • Glossary

A cure for “sitting disease”?

“Sitting disease” is a not-quite-medical phrase that captures a list of ailments worsened by sedentary habits. Prolonged sitting—an apt description of modern work and home lives for many people—harms us in many ways, according to recent research.

Extended sitting contributes to a worse ratio of good-to-bad cholesterol, slows the clearance of glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream, and reduces insulin sensitivity, all of which hike up your risks for heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Waistlines widen, too, with implications reaching well beyond whether you can wriggle into your current wardrobe.

A 2012 study of more than 220,000 Australian adults ages 45 or older found that the risk of a premature death from all causes increased with the amount of time subjects spent seated throughout the course of the day. Mortality rose 15% among participants who sat eight to 11 hours per day, and 40% among people who sat 11-plus hours per day, compared with those who sat less than four hours per day.

Why does prolonged sitting have such negative health consequences? One explanation is that it relaxes your largest muscles. When muscles relax, they take up very little glucose from the blood, raising your risk of type 2 diabetes. In addition, the enzymes that break down blood fats (triglycerides) plummet, causing levels of the “good” cholesterol, HDL, to fall, too. The result? Higher risk of heart disease.

Given the research, breaking up long blocks of sitting to flex your muscles seems like a wise move for all of us  Take your phone calls standing up. Use a standing desk. Hold treadmill meetings or walking meetings. Sit on a stability ball to work or watch TV. Cut back on TV in favor of more brisk strolls or bike rides. And, yes, do core exercises.

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