In this Issue
5 Surprising New Ways to Boost Your Immunity
With your crazy-busy schedule, there’s no time for a change-of-season cold. That’s why you load up on vitamin C and get plenty of sleep. But there are also a few lesser-known ways to ramp up your immune system, which can help your body fight off those inevitable viruses. Add the following moves to your healthy arsenal, and you may finally have a sniffle-free fall.
1. Pop your omega-3s. You already know that these healthy fats can protect your heart, but new research suggests that they may fend off colds, too. A preliminary study in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology found that omega-3s increase the activity of B cells, white blood cells that produce germ-fighting antibodies. Because most Americans don’t get enough of the nutrient through foods like salmon and flax, consider taking a daily supplement containing at least 1,000 milligrams.
2. Get moving. “Mild exercise, like Pilates and walking, can help to fight off colds,” says Julie Chen, MD, an integrative medicine physician in San Jose, CA. In fact, research from Appalachian State University showed that people who exercised five days per week had 43 percent fewer cold and flu days than their couch-potato counterparts. But Dr. Chen warns against pushing yourself too hard, which can backfire. “If you’re already feeling fatigued or run down, skip that tough kickboxing or running workout,” she says. “It may wear down your immune system, making you more vulnerable to illness.”
3. Experience nature. Take a hike! It’ll do your body good. Scientists from Tokyo’s Nippon Medical School discovered that strolling in a forest for two hours increases the production of natural killer cells—white blood cells that destroy viruses before they can spread—by up to 50 percent. Don’t have time to spare? Even a short 15-minute stroll in a park can have a beneficial effect, explain the researchers. That’s because nature provides an instant dose of tranquility, which lessens stress and revs up your body’s natural defenses.
4. Scoop up some yogurt. This creamy treat is packed with probiotics, or “good” bacteria, which may stimulate the immune system and lessen inflammation. According to a research study in the British Journal of Nutrition, people who took a probiotic supplement daily suffered half as many sick days compared with those who popped a placebo. As a bonus, they also had fewer “icky” symptoms and recovered from their colds two days earlier.
5. Take a time-out for fun. When the going gets busy, your free time is the first thing to get the pink slip. But carving out “me time” moments is key to avoiding illness, explains Dr. Chen. “Stress hormones like cortisol suppress the immune system,” she says. This, in part, explains why many tension-busting activities—laughing, petting a dog, listening to music and even having sex—have been proven to bolster your cold-fighting powers. So make doing something enjoyable a priority in your daily routine.
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Prepping for Winter Sports
With cold weather season around the corner, chances are you (or your clients) are beginning to think about snow sports. Skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing demand both strength and flexibility, and now’s the time to start conditioning. Pilates is an ideal way to prime your body for the season. “The method strengthens both small and large muscle groups equally,” says Rachel Taylor Segel, president of The Pilates Center in Boulder, CO. “And it teaches body control and gracefulness, all of which are important when you’re on the snow or ice.” The result: You’re able to respond more quickly when dodging another skier or navigating an icy patch.
“With Pilates, your muscles are working in harmony,” adds Segel. The movements elongate and oxygenate the fibers, which can help fend off common injuries, such as ACL tears. So what are you waiting for? Segel recommends incorporating the following three moves into your routine before hitting the slopes.
1. The Hundred: “Besides strengthening your core, this classic move builds endurance,” explains Segel.
2. Side-Kicks: Winter exercises require quick changes in balance from one leg to the other. This move works to strengthen your pelvis, hips and core.
3. The Wall: In this move, you stand with your pelvis to head against a wall with your feet stretched out 14 inches in front of you. After extending your arms wide out to the side in Arm Circles, you curl your head, neck and spine (one vertebra at a time) forward. “This increases the range of motion in your shoulders,” explains Segel. “And the Roll-Down stretches out your spine and legs.”
4. Wall Squats: Doing a squat with your spine against the wall strengthens the knees, thighs and pelvis. “Strength and alignment in your lower body is critical during skiing and snowshoeing,” says Segel. “Even a slight imbalance in your form can lead to an injury.”
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& A with Rael Isacowitz
Q: I sometimes catch myself holding my breath during a Pilates session. Do you have any advice on how to breathe properly?
A: Let me start by saying: Don’t hold your breath! It goes against the Pilates principles. But in my experience, I’ve found that people get too hung up on breath patterns, which I view as a type of choreography. Just as we want people to be precise with their movements, we ask them to be precise with their breath. Yet, in many cases, the nuances come down to personal preference and taste rather than physiological importance. (For instance, it often makes little difference whether the feet are dorsi or plantar flexed.) The reasons for these specifics: It may be the classic version or a style that you enjoy; or there may be a physiological rationale or aesthetic appeal. Whatever the case, being exact teaches focus, awareness, concentration and control.
At the same time, it’s beneficial to change choreography periodically to challenge the mind and body. The same goes for changing your breath pattern from time to time. I often equate movement to words and poetry: A large vocabulary is important for expressing oneself, both with our words and body.
When someone says to me that he or she can only do an exercise with a particular breath pattern, my answer is: You do not yet know the exercise. When you have mastered a movement, you should be able to change your breath pattern without affecting the performance of the exercise, and modify the choreography without altering its fundamentals.
The bottom line: Although disciplining the breath, both in terms of pattern and type is important, if it causes tension, it can be counter-productive. Remember: Remain calm and just make sure that you’re inhaling and exhaling!
Rael Isacowitz, MA, has been practicing Pilates for more than 30 years and is recognized internationally as an expert in the field. In 1989, Rael founded BASI Pilates®, a comprehensive Pilates education organization represented throughout the world. For more information, visit www.basipilates.com.
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Close Up: Semi-Circle on the Mat
by Deanndria Seavers; photography by Daniel Garcia
In the September issue, Deanndria Seavers developed a series of everyday Pilates mini routines that you can perform nearly anywhere. She shares one more bonus move, which is perfect for doing at home while watching television. Her version of the Reformer Semi-Circle is meant to challenge pelvic stability and strengthen your hamstring and gluteal muscles. All you need is two tennis balls.
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Setup: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and place a tennis ball under each heel. Extend your arms alongside your body, palms pressing firmly into the floor.
1. While stabilizing your pelvis, lift your hips up high.
2. Slide your heels away from your hips, allowing the balls to move to the center of your feet. (You should feel your hamstrings lengthen.)
3. Lower your hips until they’re hovering above the floor.
4. Keeping your hips low, slide your heels back beneath your knees. Do 3 reps, keeping your hips off the floor.
6. Reverse the direction for 3 more reps, starting with your hips low and finishing with your hips high.
Tips: The tennis balls provide an unstable surface, which can be super-challenging. You can also perform this exercise with your heels on top of a foam roller, or another rolling object.
When it comes to produce, kale is having a moment. At long last, people are starting to realize what experts have long touted: This dark, leafy green is a bona fide super food. At just 33 calories, one cup of kale delivers more than six times of your daily recommended quota for heart-healthy vitamin K, twice the amount of vitamin A and all of your vitamin C. “It’s also one of the few vegetables with the core omega-3, alpha-linoleic acid,” says Jennifer Iserloh, co-author of Fifty Shades of Kale (HarperCollins, 2013). To make the most of your kale, consider these smart tips.
1. Pick the right bunch. There are up to 48 different varieties of kale, each with a unique flavor and texture. Here are three of the most common:
• Curly green: Marked by its ruffled leaves, this mild-tasting variety is suitable for most recipes. Its firm body makes it a great option for roasted kale chips.
• Lactiano: Also called dinosaur kale, this deep-green veggie has raised bumps and a strong, slightly spicy flavor. Iserloh recommends pairing it with cream sauces and meat dishes.
• Red Russian: These sweet, tender leaves—with their purple veins and red stalks—work well in Asian-inspired dishes.
2. Store it right. At the grocery store or farmer’s market, look for firm leaves without any yellow spots. Once you bring it home, wrap the (unwashed) leaves loosely in a paper towel and place them in the crisper.
3. Get cooking. Not a huge fan of the taste? Chances are you’re not cooking it correctly. “Steaming or overcooking kale can bring out the bitterness,” explains Iserloh. She recommends blending it into smoothies, roasting it into chips or serving it raw in a salad. Iserloh’s favorite serving suggestion: “I like to sear it,” she says. “It’s so fast and delicious. The kale has a warm, nutty flavor.” Simply heat a skillet with a high smoke point oil like canola, and add the kale with a sprinkle of salt. Press a small pan [did something get cut off here?]
Makes 3 cups
2 cups packed chopped kale
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup mayonnaise (organic, if possible)
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1. In a good food processor, combine the kale leaves, salt and garlic. Process until finely chopped.
2. Add the mayonnaise, lemon zest and juice and process until smooth.
1 (10-ounce) bunch kale, stemmed and roughly chopped (about 10 cups)
1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced (or thinly sliced)
1½ cups Kale-onaise
1. Fit a food processor with the shredder attachment. Shred the kale and carrots and transfer both to a large bowl.
2. Add the bell pepper and Kale-onaise and toss well.
3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight before serving.
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