The workout that does it all take one charismatic, Spanish-born personal trainer. Add weights, moves that constantly surprise as well as challenge–and you’ve got a phenomenal exercise program that strengthens your mind as well as
If Your Health Were A Game Of Blackjack
The card you’d want to be holding, the ace that can turn a losing hand into a victorious one, is resilience. That’s what plucks you from the pool of folk who get the nasty office bug, or who slip in the supermarket cereal aisle, busting hip bones (and pride).
And when you do get sick or fall or twist the wrong way and throw your vertebrae all cockeyed, resilience is what makes you bounce back quicker than most. In short, it keeps your wheels spinning youthfully.
So when we discovered a new workout expressly fashioned to strengthen this priceless quality, we had to share the wealth. The program is called neuromuscular progressive resistance, and it was developed by New York City Fitness expert Michael Gonzalez-Wallace, who wanted to give his clients the kind of bob ‘n’ weave agility he had mastered playing pro basketball in his native Spain.
His workout may start out looking same-old, same-old–lateral raises, leg lifts–but don’t be fooled. Gonzalez-Wallace’s genius is in waiting till you get comfortable, then throwing you off-kilter with directives like “Instead of sitting, stand,” “Now do it on one foot,” “Okay, cross your right hand to your left toe.” By continuously teasing the body with balance and coordination challenges, the workout stimulates the brain, muscles, and nervous system, while forging them into one fluid “Hiya!”
“We’re building neuromuscular coordination by surprising the body,” says Gonzalez-Wallace, who is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. And for anyone born with two left feet, he adds, “my plan will help you grow a right one.”
Mental Engagement Is Key
It’s impossible to nod off midflex or lose count of repetitions doing this workout; you’re too busy trying to manage several incongruent actions at once. The benefit, however, is a sharpening of not only the body but also the mind. “You’re actually prompting the cerebellum [a part of the brain involved with coordinated movement and some cognitive learning] to make new neural connections,” says John Morley, MD, Dammert professor of gerontology at St. Louis University School of Medicine. “And you’re exercising the hippocampus, the area responsible for learning and memory.”
On the brawn side, Gonzalez-Wallace focuses on the core–28 muscles, including the abdominals, obliques, and lower back. This improves posture, he says. And with a hardy center, you’re way more resistant to injury and better able to keep your balance in the face of an uneven sidewalk or a toddler who swings from your limbs like Curious George.
The moves are based in resistance training, one of the best age-proofers around, helping to prevent osteoporosis and arthritis, as well as the muscle loss that begins at age 30; it even spikes your immunity. Pope Moseley, MD, chair of the department of internal medicine at the University of New Mexico, has shown that stimulating muscle produces heat-shock proteins, which seem to activate the immune system. And interleukin-6–mass produced during high-intensity exercise–rallies your cellular defenses in the face of trauma.
“People who work out report fewer colds than their sedentary peers,” says David Nieman, professor of health and exercise science at Appalachian State University and author of The Exercise-Health Connection. Even walking briskly for 30 minutes a day caused a temporary increase in natural killer cells in one of his trials. “We’ve conducted studies that show T-cell counts are lower in obese, sedentary people,” who are more likely to have infections, he says, and less likely to heal from physical trauma than lean, active people.
If you’re not fired up yet, take in these three words: Boost your metabolism. Strength training increases lean body mass, which raises the number of calories you use even at rest. “Think of yourself as a car with a bigger engine that burns more gas,” says chiropractor Ric Alexander, founder of the Institute of Precision Muscle Balancing and author of Victory Over Fat.
Gonzalez-Wallace’s workout gives that engine even more horsepower. His method of keeping the muscles guessing sidesteps one of Mother Nature’s most clever-and cruel–gifts to us: the capacity to adapt. Gonzalez-Wallace explains that when you do a physical task repeatedly, over time the body efficiently hustles a way to expend less energy.
“If you walked up the same four flights of stairs every morning, struggling at first, after a while you wouldn’t think twice about it,” he says. This adaptability is great for survival but a pain in the bum (and thighs and belt overhang) for losing fat. Varying the routine, as Gonzalez-Wallace does, and increasing stress on the muscles ups your calorie burning.
So if you’re game for some weight loss, keener reflexes, a more sculpted physique, rock-steady balance, and a ready-for-any-doggone-thing body, grab a pair of weights. Just leave the newspaper behind ….