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31 Mar

By Anahad O’connar NY TIMES GNC, the country’s largest specialty retailer of dietary supplements, has agreed to institute sweeping new testing procedures on its herbal products that far exceed quality controls mandated under federal law.

The action to be announced Monday comes after the New York State attorney general’s office accused GNC and three other major retailers of selling herbal supplements that were fraudulent or contaminated with unlisted ingredients that could pose health risks to consumers.

Experts said the announcement marked an initial but significant step forward for the $33 billion-a-year supplement industry, which is loosely regulated and plagued by accusations of adulteration and mislabeling.

“This should be a standard across the entire industry,” said Dr. Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School who studies tainted supplements. “Today we finally have one first step taken by one retailer, and only after the very aggressive intervention by the New York attorney general’s office.”

GNC, which has more than 6,500 stores nationwide and annual revenue of $2.6 billion, said that its herbal products had passed several rigorous quality-control tests and that it stood by their quality. But as part of its agreement with the attorney general, the company said it would in the next 18 months put in place additional quality-control measures to restore the trust of its customers and set new standards for the rest of the industry.

The company said it would use advanced DNA testing to authenticate all of the plants that are used in its store-brand herbal supplements, and extensively test the products for common allergens like tree nuts, soy and wheat. In addition, GNC will submit semiannual reports proving that it is complying with the attorney general’s demands.

The company said it would also display signs at all of its stores and post statements on its website explaining to customers how the ingredients in its herbal supplements were processed and what, if any, chemical solvents were used to make them.

Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York, would not comment on whether he was in talks to reach similar agreements with the other retailers included in his investigation — Walgreens, Walmart and Target. But, in a statement, Mr. Schneiderman said he had urged those retailers, “as well as all herbal supplements manufacturers, to join GNC in working with my office to increase transparency and safeguard the wellness of their customers.”

A shopper perusing pills at a Walgreens, one of four chains accused by New York State officials of selling fraudulent supplements.
A shopper perusing pills at a Walgreens, one of four chains accused by New York State officials of selling fraudulent supplements.Credit Yana Paskova for The New York Times
Jim Graham, a spokesman for Walgreens, said in a statement: “We continue to review this matter and also intend to continue cooperating and working with the attorney general of New York.”

The attorney general criticized as lax the federal standards on dietary supplements that he said contributed to an environment where consumers cannot be sure about the quality of the products they are buying. “When consumers take an herbal supplement,” he said, “they should be able to do so with full knowledge of what is in that product and confidence that every precaution was taken to ensure its authenticity and purity.”

Under a 1994 federal law, supplements must carry on their labels the names and amount of every ingredient they contain. But the law, which was drafted by senators with strong ties to the industry, and which consumer advocates say is badly in need of reform, allows companies to essentially operate on the honor code. The Food and Drug Administration estimates that 70 percent of supplement makers do not adhere to practices designed to prevent adulteration.

Dr. Cohen of Harvard said it was remarkable that it had taken two decades and the actions of a state prosecutor “to begin to achieve what the law requires, which is that consumers know what is in the herbal supplements they’re buying.”

“This is the absolute minimum that should be happening,” he said.

The attorney general’s investigation was prompted by a 2013 article in The New York Times that referred to research suggesting that dietary supplements labeled medicinal herbs frequently contained little more than cheap fillers like powdered rice and weeds, or evidence of soybeans, tree nuts and other unlisted ingredients that can be hazardous to people with allergies.

The attorney general’s office tested 78 bottles of popular, store-brand herbal supplements that it purchased at a dozen Walmart, Target, Walgreens and GNC locations across New York State. Using an advanced DNA testing procedure, the investigators found that four out of five bottles contained no detectable genetic material from the plants advertised on their labels.

But there was frequently evidence of unlisted plants and other ingredients. At GNC, for example, the investigators found bottles of ginseng pills, promoted for “vitality and overall well-being,” that tested negative for any DNA from the ginseng plant. But the tests did indicate the presence of powdered rice, wheat, pine and houseplants.

Last month, the attorney general ordered the four retailers to pull the products from their shelves in New York, and a flood of lawsuits from consumers across the country followed.

The industry has countered that many of the supplements examined by the attorney general were herbal extracts, and that they would not contain DNA from the plants advertised on their labels because DNA is damaged during manufacturing and extraction.
Store-brand supplements for sale at a GNC shop in Manhattan. The retailer has agreed to test the purity of its herbal products.
Store-brand supplements for sale at a GNC shop in Manhattan. The retailer has agreed to test the purity of its herbal products.Credit Yana Paskova for The New York Times
For GNC, the settlement satisfies the attorney general’s concerns about consumer safety and brings his investigation of the company to a close. The company has maintained all along that its products were not adulterated, and in the agreement with the attorney general there is no admission or mention of wrongdoing.

The company said that it had commissioned a series of tests that confirmed the quality of its products, and that it would continue to defend against the many lawsuits it is facing, which it said were without merit.

“As our testing demonstrated, and this agreement affirms beyond any doubt, our products are not only safe and pure but are in full compliance with all regulatory requirements,” Michael G. Archbold, GNC’s chief executive officer, said in a statement.

Mark Blumenthal, the executive director of the American Botanical Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes the use of herbal products, said he believed that the supplements included in the investigation most likely suffered from some level of adulteration — an established problem in the industry — but not to the extent suggested by the attorney general. He criticized the attorney general’s testing procedures and said his study data should be made public.

Mr. Blumenthal said he applauded GNC for reaching an agreement with New York and putting new procedures into effect, but he also worried that actions at the state level could create “a patchwork quilt of different quality standards and requirements” across the country.

“I’m concerned that this can potentially lead to various standards being set up in different states and that’s a legitimate issue for the industry and consumers,” he said.

David Schardt, a senior nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group, said the agreement represented “important progress.”

“But what consumers desperately need,” he added, “is congressional action that would allow the Food and Drug Administration to promptly oust from the marketplace products that are dishonestly marketed or potentially dangerous.”image


16 Mar

Are there exercises to ward off dementia?

I am 66 years old and exercise three to four times a week. How much more or what kind of exercise should I do in addition to cardio to maintain brain health and ward off dementia?

Reader Question • 1003 votes


You might want to add several weight-training sessions every week. Endurance exercise is undoubtedly good for the brain, with studies in lab animals showing that moderate aerobic exercise, the equivalent of jogging, doubles or even triples the number of new neurons in the brain’s memory center, compared with the brains of sedentary animals. So keep up the cardio training.

But other recent science suggests that resistance training also has brain benefits that may be unique, meaning that if you don’t lift weights, you could be missing out.

In a particularly relevant 2012 study, rats with weights tied to their tails climbed ladders to simulate resistance training, while others ran on little treadmills or didn’t exercise. After eight weeks, both exercise groups performed much better than the sedentary animals on a memory test, but the brains of the weight-lifting and treadmill-running rats were subtly different. The weight trainers showed higher levels of one particular brain protein than the runners or the sedentary animals, and the runners’ brains now displayed higher levels of another protein.

Both substances are thought to spark the creation of new connections in the brain and improve the health of existing ones. So having more of either protein is desirable for brain health, but it appears that the surest way to have more of both is to practice both endurance and weight training.



15 Mar

A lack of zzzzs can affect your ability to lose weight.


To lose weight seems to be the number one resolution each new year. However, nearly 90% of these resolutions meet with either little or no success. Some people even gain weight instead. Most people never know there may be a very simple reason why: They don’t sleep well.

Studies published in TheJournal of the American Medical Association and The Lancetsuggest that sleep loss may increase hunger and affect the body’s metabolism, which may make it more difficult to maintain or lose weight.

Sleep loss appears to do two things:

  1. Makes you feel hungry even if you are full. Sleep loss has been shown to affect the secretion of cortisol, a hormone that regulates appetite. As a result, individuals who lose sleep may continue to feel hungry despite adequate food intake.
  2. Increases fat storage. Sleep loss may interfere with the body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates, which leads to high levels of blood sugar. Excess blood sugar promotes the overproduction of insulin, which can lead to the storage of body fat and insulin resistance, a critical step into the development of diabetes.

Why would an overweight person tend to have sleep problems? There appear to be several reasons why this may occur:

  • Many people who are overweight have sleep apnea, a disorder in which breathing starts and stops during sleep, consequently causing numerous awakenings. This may occur hundreds of times a night, without your even knowing it. So you can imagine how sleepy you could feel the next day.
  • Some who are overweight have low back pain, making lying comfortably in bed and getting a good night’s sleep difficult.
  • People who are depressed or otherwise worried about their weight may have insomnia, or the inability to fall asleep.

Losing weight can improve sleep. An Australian study of more than 300 obese people showed they had significant sleep problems that were reduced after weight loss surgery:

  • 14% reported habitual snoring, down from 82%
  • 2% had sleep apnea, down from 33%3)
  • 4% had abnormal daytime sleepiness, down from 39%
  • 2% reported poor sleep quality, down from 39%

It is also important to realize that the quality of sleep (that is, getting the right amount of “deep sleep”) is just as important as the quantity of sleep. For example, decreased amounts of restorative deep or slow-wave sleep have been associated with significantly reduced levels of growth hormone, a protein that helps regulate the body’s proportions of fat and muscle during adulthood.


05 Mar


We all know the kettlebell swing has many benefits. Would you put “back health” at the top of the list? I would. What exactly is back health? Back health means having a strong, powerful back that’s free from injury. Being free from injury is one of the biggest benefits I’ve personally experienced with the kettlebell swing through the years.

You already know that the swing is a high power full body explosive movement that doesn’t stress the back, when it’s executed properly. But, I would say that it’s one of the most effective exercises for total back health that we have available to us. Let me give you some reasons why.

For example, World Powerlifting Champion, Brad Gillingham has directly attributed the kettlebell swing as a key factor with his return to competition after several failed rehabilitation attempts.

Brad Gillingham

Brad Gillingham uses kettlebells to keep his back healthy

I should also give you some background and perspective on my own experiences related to back health. Many years ago I experienced a severe disc herniation in the lumbar spine at level L4-L5, which is a common site for disc herniation.

The experience was one of the most painful and devastating things I’ve ever been through in my life. The rapidly progressive radiating pain in my left leg was so severe, there was no position I could find that would alleviate it. This means I couldn’t sleep, let alone perform any normal functional activity. It wasn’t long after my injury that I had a surgical discectomy to alleviate the pain. The road back from surgery was a long one, but a successful one, which is another story in itself.

How bad was the pain prior to surgery? The disc herniation was so severe I had what’s termed “sciatic scoliosis” which is a lateral curvature of the spine as a result of the sciatic pain (the disc herniation). In other words, I literally couldn’t straighten my spine because it made the excruciating and constant pain even worse. Imagine that. It was a bad situation that escalated quickly until my surgery.

As with most adversity, great things usually come out of it. It ultimately led to me becoming a physical therapist (PT) and working with many back pain patients through the years and helping a lot of people. To this day, this is why I have the utmost respect for optimizing spinal position with training. This something I take very seriously for myself and for those I work with.

The point of all this? I understand back pain much more than I would have ever wanted. The experiences provided a total appreciation and unique perspective on the importance of optimizing back health.


First, we need to remember that no one study alone answers all the questions and cannot be used to make broad conclusions. Instead, we must view each study as a piece of the puzzle in the entire body of evidence in a particular area. With this understanding, there were some key findings in the landmark study by Dr. Stuart McGill looking at the biomechanics and muscle activation of the one handed kettlebell swing.

A key question the study looked to answer was if the kettlebell swing had a unique loading benefit that may be perceived as therapeutic for some (ex. Gillingham, myself, others) yet could potentially cause discomfort in other people? Let’s be clear, technique has a lot to do with how a person would expect to feel during and after performing the kettlebell swing, I think we all agree on that.

It should be noted that subjects in the McGill study did not have any current or previous low back issues. The study also included a single case study of the kettlebell swing performed by none other than Pavel Tsatsouline. As with most kettlebell studies to date, the kettlebell size used was a 16 kg kettlebell for the swings, with the exception of Pavel who used a 32 kg kettlebell, more on this in a minute.

The swing technique was the standard hardstyle technique, but did include “kime” at the top of the swing. Kime is a brief muscular pulse at the top in an attempt to elicit a rapid muscle contraction-relaxation.


If you’ve performed a swing, you know there are many muscles that are activated. In the study, EMG (electomyography) was conducted to analyze the muscle firing of the following:

Rectus Abdominis
External Obliques
Internal Obliques
Latissimus Dorsi
Erector Spinae
Gluteus Medius
Gluteus Maximus
Rectus Femoris
Biceps Femoris

While all of these muscles are important, the hip extensors, specifically the gluteals are of great importance during the swing. The term “gluteal amnesia” is commonly used in the fitness community to describe the lack of firing in the glutes for many key exercises. Glute activation is one of the most powerful phenomenons of a properly executed kettlebell swing and many other athletic, power exercises.

Glute activation is so important that even the great Tiger Woods made a recent comment after a poor showing in a golf tournament about his glutes. He stated the following, “It’s just my glutes are shutting off. Then they don’t activate and then, hence, it goes into my lower back. So, I tried to activate my glutes as best I could, in between, but it just they never stayed activated.” These were actual comments following his withdrawal from the tournament. Just a thought, but maybe Tiger would benefit from a kettlebell swing.

Back to the McGill study. The study demonstrated significant results in regards to glute activation with the most impressive numbers produced by Pavel’s one hand swing. Pavel generated such powerful muscle activity, his contralateral (opposite side) gluteal muscles fired at 100% MVC (maximal voluntary contraction). Without question, the one hand swing is a proven solution to activate the glutes.


The study also revealed an interesting ratio of compressive force to shear force. Let me explain. If we have 2 spine vertebrae, think of the compressive force being the downward pressure of the top vertebrae on the vertebrae below it. This downward pressure is the compressive force.

If we have the same 2 vertebrae, visualize the one on top being forced forward relative to the one on the bottom. This is the shear force. Understanding how these 2 forces impact the spine are significant considerations for the kettlebell swing, according to the data by Dr. McGill.

The findings of the study demonstrated that the forward acceleration of the kettlebell in the swing phase produce increased posterior shear forces in relation to compressive forces. You may expect this due to the mechanics of projecting the kettlebell horizontally. If you compare this to a deadlift, for example, you’d expect more compressive force due to the downward pressure of the load and maintaining a vertical path of the bar.

Swings require stability, yet they also promote stability. If there is true instability of one or more vertebral segments, then according to the McGill data, it would make sense that those exposed to posterior shear loads could potentially have intolerance with kettlebell swing. An important point to remember here is that these types of cases are quite uncommon, but they do exist.

The study concludes that the majority of people should greatly benefit from the effectiveness of the kettlebell swing to strengthen the posterior chain, but there may be isolated cases who may experience shear load intolerance and may not be ideal candidates.


Fat loss, explosive strength, a high level of conditioning, posterior chain development, and forging athleticism are all proven benefits of the kettlebell swing. One of the major benefits we don’t always consider is optimizing back heath. When it comes to back health, the swing can be considered a foundational exercise for the majority of people because of the unique features that as discussed here.The swing greatly contributes to high levels of muscular activation in the posterior chain, as well as abdominals. The hip hinging mechanics, neutral spine, and powerful strength and conditioning benefits make it one of the most innovative movements we have to optimize and restore back health. As a former back patient and rehabilitation professional, I would conclude that the properly performed kettlebell swing is essential for a high performing and pain free back for most people.


McGill et al, Kettlebell Swing, Snatch, and Bottoms Up Carry: Back and Hip Muscle Activation, Motion, and Low Back Loads. JSCR Volume 26, Number 1, January 2012, pp. 16-27


Article by Scott Iardella, MPT, CSCS, CISSN, SFGII, CK-FMS, USAW. Scott is an SFG Level II and SFL Instructor, former Orthopedic/Sports Medicine Physical Therapist, and has diverse credentials and experiences in strength and performance training. Scott trains and teaches in South Florida. For more information, go to



03 Mar

Fitness by Michael Schletter on 3/12/2014

Ask any trainer what the most important aspect of a workout is. More often than not, the answer you’ll hear is: the warm-up. And it’s not just any warm-up that will do. In the last two years prehab-based warm-ups, a proactive approach to improving strength, mobility and flexibility in the body’s weakest areas, have become a go-to method for eliminating problems — before they arise. According to NYC-based physical therapist and strength coach Joe Vega, MSPT, CSCS, a prehab warm-up can help athletes avoid injury, while improving overall movement quality as well. And though injuries are inevitable, doing a prehab-focused warm-up can help create a stronger, more mobile, and therefore resilient body. It will also allow you to work your hardest, Vega says, meaning maximum benefits from your workouts.

Prehab Basics: The Three “S” Principle

So what constitutes a proper prehab warm-up? First and foremost, it should include a mix of movements geared toward improving mobility, strength and flexibility, Vega says. Translation: exercises that get your body ready to move, no matter what comes your way. To get started, 10 to 15 minutes of prehab work, following his Three “S” Principle, will get your workout started on the right foot, Vega says. These are: Soft-tissue work, Stretching and Strengthening. Before doing deadlifts, for example, this could include foam rolling the calves, hamstrings, glutes, mid/upper back and lats as the soft tissue work. Then, a prayer stretch and some light Romanian deadlifts would help provide an adequate stretch. Lastly, glute bridges and single-leg bodyweight squats will fire up the muscles needed to properly execute your workout — and perform at your best.

The soft tissue work, usually with a foam roller or a lacrosse ball, is to release tight areas in the body. By breaking up scar tissue and adhesions (knots) in muscles, this form of self-myofascial release has been shown to result in an acute increase in mobility (and range of motion), therefore improving quality of movement. And, improved movement will lead to better workouts, and in turn, more results in less time.

After the soft-tissue work, a series of dynamic stretches for the released areas will help ensure good mobility for the workout ahead (detailed below). Lastly, it’s all about movement-specific activation. Just like you would turn on your car before a drive (as opposed to greasing the gears in your bike), you have to activate the muscles that will be worked during the workout. For example, on a squat day, overhead bodyweight squats holding a towel or broomstick between your hands is a good way to start.

Putting It All Together: The Prehab Warm-Up

So how do we put this all into practice? If your gearing up for a leg workout, Vega recommends the following prehab-focused warm-up.

1. Foam Rolling

Focus on:

5 minutes total

2. Stretching

Focus on:
World’s Greatest Stretch for hip flexors
Ankle Circles for ankle mobility
Pigeon Pose for the lateral rotators of the hips
Doorframe Pectoral Stretch for the chest muscles
Toy Soldiers for the hamstrings

5 minutes total

3. Activation

Thoracic Spine Wall Slides, 2 sets of 10
Glute Bridges, 2 sets of 10
Bodyweight Squats, 2 sets of 10
Planks, 2 sets of 30-60 seconds

5 minutes total

5 Foam Rolling Mistakes To Avoid

5 Foam Rolling Mistakes To Avoid
03 Mar

By Christine Yu for Life by DailyBurn

These days, foam rollers are everywhere — the gym, your physical therapist’s office, your living room and even your suitcase. After all, foam rolling has emerged as the darling of the fitness world and the cure-all for many different aches.

Essentially, foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release, or self-massage, that gets rid of adhesions in your muscles and connective tissue. These adhesions can “create points of weakness or susceptibility in the tissue,” according to Chris Howard, C.S.C.S. and LMT at Cressey Performance. “If the muscle isn’t contracting uniformly from end-to-end, it could lead to injury and pain.” Foam rolling also increases blood flow to your muscles and creates better mobility, helping with recovery and improving performance.Sounds great, right? Yes, foam rolling offers tremendous potential to relieve pain and help you move better — if used the right way. If not, you risk irritating, and possibly injuring, your body further.Here’s a breakdown of five common mistakes people often make when using the foam roller.

Mistake #1: You roll directly where you feel pain. When we feel pain, our first inclination is to massage that spot directly. However, this might be a big mistake. “Areas of pain are the victims that result from tension imbalances in other areas of the body,” says Sue Hitzmann, MS, CST, NMT, manual therapist, creator and author of The MELT Method.

Let’s take the IT band, for example. Foam rolling is a commonly prescribed remedy for iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS). While religiously rolling out your IT band might feel good, “the idea that you are going to relax or release the IT band is a misconception,” Hitzmann says. The phrase roll out your IT band itself makes it sound like you are rolling out a piece of dough, but your IT band is anything but pliable. It’s a remarkably strong piece of connective tissue, and research has shown that it cannot be released or manipulated by manual techniques such as foam rolling. “If you iron out areas of inflammation, you can increase inflammation. And if you are in pain, your body will be too stressed to repair itself,” says Hitzmann.

The fix: Go indirect before direct. “If you find a spot that’s sensitive, it’s a cue to ease away from that area by a few inches. Take time and work a more localized region around areas that feel sore before using larger, sweeping motions,” suggests Hitzmann. For the IT band, work on the primary muscles that attach to the IT band first — specifically the gluteus maximus (the largest muscle in the buttocks) and the tensor fasciae latae (a muscle that runs along the outer edge of the hip).

Mistake #2: You roll too fast. While it might feel great to roll back and forth on a foam roller quickly, you’re not actually eliminating any adhesions that way. “You need to give your brain enough time to tell your muscles to relax,” says Monica Vazquez, NASM certified personal trainer and USA Track and Field Running Coach.

The fix: Go slower so that the superficial layers and muscles have time to adapt and manage the compression. Feel where the tender spots are with the roller, and use short, slow rolls over that spot. “There’s no reason to beat up the whole muscle if there are only a few sensitive areas,” Howard says.

Mistake #3: You spend too much time on those knots. We’re often told that if you feel a knot, spend time working that spot with the foam roller. However, some people will spend five to 10 minutes or more on the same area and attempt to place their entire body weight onto the foam roller. If you place sustained pressure on one body part, you might actually hit a nerve or damage the tissue, which can cause bruising, according to Vazquez.

The fix: “Spend 20 seconds on each tender spot then move on,” Vazquez recommends. You can also manage how much body weight you use. For example, when working your IT band, plant the foot of your leg on the floor to take some of the weight off the roller.

Mistake #4: You have bad posture. Wait, what does your posture have to do with foam rolling? A lot. “You have to hold your body in certain positions over the roller,” says Howard, and that requires a lot of strength. “When rolling out the IT band, you are supporting your upper body weight with one arm.” When you roll out the quads, you are essentially holding a plank position. If you don’t pay attention to your form or posture, you may exacerbate pre-existing postural deviations and cause more harm.

The fix: Work with an experienced personal trainer, physical therapist or coach who can show you proper form and technique. Or, consider setting up your smartphone to videotape yourself while foam rolling, suggests Howard. That way, you can see what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong, like sagging in the hips or contorting the spine.

Mistake #5: You use the foam roller on your lower back. “The thing that makes me cringe is when people foam roll their lower back. You should never ever do that,” say Vazquez. Hitzmann agrees. “Your spine will freak out and all the spinal muscles will contract and protect the spine.”

The fix: According to Vazquez, you can use the foam roller on your upper back because the shoulder blades and muscles protect the spine. “Once you hit the end of the rib cage, stop.” If you want to release your lower back, try child’s pose or foam roll the muscles that connect to your lower back — the piriformis (a muscle located deep within the glutes), hip flexors and rectus femoris (one of the main muscles in your quads).

Most importantly, understand what the origin of your pain is before you start. Know what you are trying to achieve through foam rolling and how to do it properly. And don’t forget to stick with it. “To get the benefits of self-massage, it’s repeated exposure that’s most important,” says Howard. “You have to show up and put in the work.”

TED Dr. Amy Cuddy: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are

TED Dr. Amy Cuddy: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are
02 Mar

Transcribed by Joseph Geni
Reviewed by Morton Bast

Amy Cuddy
Your body language shapes who you are
23M views Oct 2012
So I want to start by offering you a free no-tech life hack, and all it requires of you is this: that you change your posture for two minutes. But before I give it away, I want to ask you to right now do a little audit of your body and what you’re doing with your body. So how many of you are sort of making yourselves smaller? Maybe you’re hunching, crossing your legs, maybe wrapping your ankles. Sometimes we hold onto our arms like this. Sometimes we spread out. (Laughter) I see you. (Laughter) So I want you to pay attention to what you’re doing right now. We’re going to come back to that in a few minutes, and I’m hoping that if you learn to tweak this a little bit, it could significantly change the way your life unfolds.
So, we’re really fascinated with body language, and we’re particularly interested in other people’s body language. You know, we’re interested in, like, you know — (Laughter) — an awkward interaction, or a smile, or a contemptuous glance, or maybe a very awkward wink, or maybe even something like a handshake.
Narrator: Here they are arriving at Number 10, and look at this lucky policeman gets to shake hands with the President of the United States. Oh, and here comes the Prime Minister of the — ? No. (Laughter) (Applause) (Laughter) (Applause)
Amy Cuddy: So a handshake, or the lack of a handshake, can have us talking for weeks and weeks and weeks. Even the BBC and The New York Times. So obviously when we think about nonverbal behavior, or body language — but we call it nonverbals as social scientists — it’s language, so we think about communication. When we think about communication, we think about interactions. So what is your body language communicating to me? What’s mine communicating to you?
And there’s a lot of reason to believe that this is a valid way to look at this. So social scientists have spent a lot of time looking at the effects of our body language, or other people’s body language, on judgments. And we make sweeping judgments and inferences from body language. And those judgments can predict really meaningful life outcomes like who we hire or promote, who we ask out on a date. For example, Nalini Ambady, a researcher at Tufts University, shows that when people watch 30-second soundless clips of real physician-patient interactions, their judgments of the physician’s niceness predict whether or not that physician will be sued. So it doesn’t have to do so much with whether or not that physician was incompetent, but do we like that person and how they interacted? Even more dramatic, Alex Todorov at Princeton has shown us that judgments of political candidates’ faces in just one second predict 70 percent of U.S. Senate and gubernatorial race outcomes, and even, let’s go digital, emoticons used well in online negotiations can lead to you claim more value from that negotiation. If you use them poorly, bad idea. Right? So when we think of nonverbals, we think of how we judge others, how they judge us and what the outcomes are. We tend to forget, though, the other audience that’s influenced by our nonverbals, and that’s ourselves.
We are also influenced by our nonverbals, our thoughts and our feelings and our physiology. So what nonverbals am I talking about? I’m a social psychologist. I study prejudice, and I teach at a competitive business school, so it was inevitable that I would become interested in power dynamics. I became especially interested in nonverbal expressions of power and dominance.
And what are nonverbal expressions of power and dominance? Well, this is what they are. So in the animal kingdom, they are about expanding. So you make yourself big, you stretch out, you take up space, you’re basically opening up. It’s about opening up. And this is true across the animal kingdom. It’s not just limited to primates. And humans do the same thing. (Laughter) So they do this both when they have power sort of chronically, and also when they’re feeling powerful in the moment. And this one is especially interesting because it really shows us how universal and old these expressions of power are. This expression, which is known as pride, Jessica Tracy has studied. She shows that people who are born with sight and people who are congenitally blind do this when they win at a physical competition. So when they cross the finish line and they’ve won, it doesn’t matter if they’ve never seen anyone do it. They do this. So the arms up in the V, the chin is slightly lifted. What do we do when we feel powerless? We do exactly the opposite. We close up. We wrap ourselves up. We make ourselves small. We don’t want to bump into the person next to us. So again, both animals and humans do the same thing. And this is what happens when you put together high and low power. So what we tend to do when it comes to power is that we complement the other’s nonverbals. So if someone is being really powerful with us, we tend to make ourselves smaller. We don’t mirror them. We do the opposite of them.
So I’m watching this behavior in the classroom, and what do I notice? I notice that MBA students really exhibit the full range of power nonverbals. So you have people who are like caricatures of alphas, really coming into the room, they get right into the middle of the room before class even starts, like they really want to occupy space. When they sit down, they’re sort of spread out. They raise their hands like this. You have other people who are virtually collapsing when they come in. As soon they come in, you see it. You see it on their faces and their bodies, and they sit in their chair and they make themselves tiny, and they go like this when they raise their hand. I notice a couple of things about this. One, you’re not going to be surprised. It seems to be related to gender. So women are much more likely to do this kind of thing than men. Women feel chronically less powerful than men, so this is not surprising. But the other thing I noticed is that it also seemed to be related to the extent to which the students were participating, and how well they were participating. And this is really important in the MBA classroom, because participation counts for half the grade.
So business schools have been struggling with this gender grade gap. You get these equally qualified women and men coming in and then you get these differences in grades, and it seems to be partly attributable to participation. So I started to wonder, you know, okay, so you have these people coming in like this, and they’re participating. Is it possible that we could get people to fake it and would it lead them to participate more?
So my main collaborator Dana Carney, who’s at Berkeley, and I really wanted to know, can you fake it till you make it? Like, can you do this just for a little while and actually experience a behavioral outcome that makes you seem more powerful? So we know that our nonverbals govern how other people think and feel about us. There’s a lot of evidence. But our question really was, do our nonverbals govern how we think and feel about ourselves?
There’s some evidence that they do. So, for example, we smile when we feel happy, but also, when we’re forced to smile by holding a pen in our teeth like this, it makes us feel happy. So it goes both ways. When it comes to power, it also goes both ways. So when you feel powerful, you’re more likely to do this, but it’s also possible that when you pretend to be powerful, you are more likely to actually feel powerful.
So the second question really was, you know, so we know that our minds change our bodies, but is it also true that our bodies change our minds? And when I say minds, in the case of the powerful, what am I talking about? So I’m talking about thoughts and feelings and the sort of physiological things that make up our thoughts and feelings, and in my case, that’s hormones. I look at hormones. So what do the minds of the powerful versus the powerless look like? So powerful people tend to be, not surprisingly, more assertive and more confident, more optimistic. They actually feel that they’re going to win even at games of chance. They also tend to be able to think more abstractly. So there are a lot of differences. They take more risks. There are a lot of differences between powerful and powerless people. Physiologically, there also are differences on two key hormones: testosterone, which is the dominance hormone, and cortisol, which is the stress hormone. So what we find is that high-power alpha males in primate hierarchies have high testosterone and low cortisol, and powerful and effective leaders also have high testosterone and low cortisol. So what does that mean? When you think about power, people tended to think only about testosterone, because that was about dominance. But really, power is also about how you react to stress. So do you want the high-power leader that’s dominant, high on testosterone, but really stress reactive? Probably not, right? You want the person who’s powerful and assertive and dominant, but not very stress reactive, the person who’s laid back.
So we know that in primate hierarchies, if an alpha needs to take over, if an individual needs to take over an alpha role sort of suddenly, within a few days, that individual’s testosterone has gone up significantly and his cortisol has dropped significantly. So we have this evidence, both that the body can shape the mind, at least at the facial level, and also that role changes can shape the mind. So what happens, okay, you take a role change, what happens if you do that at a really minimal level, like this tiny manipulation, this tiny intervention? “For two minutes,” you say, “I want you to stand like this, and it’s going to make you feel more powerful.”
So this is what we did. We decided to bring people into the lab and run a little experiment, and these people adopted, for two minutes, either high-power poses or low-power poses, and I’m just going to show you five of the poses, although they took on only two. So here’s one. A couple more. This one has been dubbed the “Wonder Woman” by the media. Here are a couple more. So you can be standing or you can be sitting. And here are the low-power poses. So you’re folding up, you’re making yourself small. This one is very low-power. When you’re touching your neck, you’re really protecting yourself. So this is what happens. They come in, they spit into a vial, we for two minutes say, “You need to do this or this.” They don’t look at pictures of the poses. We don’t want to prime them with a concept of power. We want them to be feeling power, right? So two minutes they do this. We then ask them, “How powerful do you feel?” on a series of items, and then we give them an opportunity to gamble, and then we take another saliva sample. That’s it. That’s the whole experiment.
So this is what we find. Risk tolerance, which is the gambling, what we find is that when you’re in the high-power pose condition, 86 percent of you will gamble. When you’re in the low-power pose condition, only 60 percent, and that’s a pretty whopping significant difference. Here’s what we find on testosterone. From their baseline when they come in, high-power people experience about a 20-percent increase, and low-power people experience about a 10-percent decrease. So again, two minutes, and you get these changes. Here’s what you get on cortisol. High-power people experience about a 25-percent decrease, and the low-power people experience about a 15-percent increase. So two minutes lead to these hormonal changes that configure your brain to basically be either assertive, confident and comfortable, or really stress-reactive, and, you know, feeling sort of shut down. And we’ve all had the feeling, right? So it seems that our nonverbals do govern how we think and feel about ourselves, so it’s not just others, but it’s also ourselves. Also, our bodies change our minds.
But the next question, of course, is can power posing for a few minutes really change your life in meaningful ways? So this is in the lab. It’s this little task, you know, it’s just a couple of minutes. Where can you actually apply this? Which we cared about, of course. And so we think it’s really, what matters, I mean, where you want to use this is evaluative situations like social threat situations. Where are you being evaluated, either by your friends? Like for teenagers it’s at the lunchroom table. It could be, you know, for some people it’s speaking at a school board meeting. It might be giving a pitch or giving a talk like this or doing a job interview. We decided that the one that most people could relate to because most people had been through was the job interview.
So we published these findings, and the media are all over it, and they say, Okay, so this is what you do when you go in for the job interview, right? (Laughter) You know, so we were of course horrified, and said, Oh my God, no, no, no, that’s not what we meant at all. For numerous reasons, no, no, no, don’t do that. Again, this is not about you talking to other people. It’s you talking to yourself. What do you do before you go into a job interview? You do this. Right? You’re sitting down. You’re looking at your iPhone — or your Android, not trying to leave anyone out. You are, you know, you’re looking at your notes, you’re hunching up, making yourself small, when really what you should be doing maybe is this, like, in the bathroom, right? Do that. Find two minutes. So that’s what we want to test. Okay? So we bring people into a lab, and they do either high- or low-power poses again, they go through a very stressful job interview. It’s five minutes long. They are being recorded. They’re being judged also, and the judges are trained to give no nonverbal feedback, so they look like this. Like, imagine this is the person interviewing you. So for five minutes, nothing, and this is worse than being heckled. People hate this. It’s what Marianne LaFrance calls “standing in social quicksand.” So this really spikes your cortisol. So this is the job interview we put them through, because we really wanted to see what happened. We then have these coders look at these tapes, four of them. They’re blind to the hypothesis. They’re blind to the conditions. They have no idea who’s been posing in what pose, and they end up looking at these sets of tapes, and they say, “Oh, we want to hire these people,” — all the high-power posers — “we don’t want to hire these people. We also evaluate these people much more positively overall.” But what’s driving it? It’s not about the content of the speech. It’s about the presence that they’re bringing to the speech. We also, because we rate them on all these variables related to competence, like, how well-structured is the speech? How good is it? What are their qualifications? No effect on those things. This is what’s affected. These kinds of things. People are bringing their true selves, basically. They’re bringing themselves. They bring their ideas, but as themselves, with no, you know, residue over them. So this is what’s driving the effect, or mediating the effect.
So when I tell people about this, that our bodies change our minds and our minds can change our behavior, and our behavior can change our outcomes, they say to me, “I don’t — It feels fake.” Right? So I said, fake it till you make it. I don’t — It’s not me. I don’t want to get there and then still feel like a fraud. I don’t want to feel like an impostor. I don’t want to get there only to feel like I’m not supposed to be here. And that really resonated with me, because I want to tell you a little story about being an impostor and feeling like I’m not supposed to be here.
When I was 19, I was in a really bad car accident. I was thrown out of a car, rolled several times. I was thrown from the car. And I woke up in a head injury rehab ward, and I had been withdrawn from college, and I learned that my I.Q. had dropped by two standard deviations, which was very traumatic. I knew my I.Q. because I had identified with being smart, and I had been called gifted as a child. So I’m taken out of college, I keep trying to go back. They say, “You’re not going to finish college. Just, you know, there are other things for you to do, but that’s not going to work out for you.” So I really struggled with this, and I have to say, having your identity taken from you, your core identity, and for me it was being smart, having that taken from you, there’s nothing that leaves you feeling more powerless than that. So I felt entirely powerless. I worked and worked and worked, and I got lucky, and worked, and got lucky, and worked.
Eventually I graduated from college. It took me four years longer than my peers, and I convinced someone, my angel advisor, Susan Fiske, to take me on, and so I ended up at Princeton, and I was like, I am not supposed to be here. I am an impostor. And the night before my first-year talk, and the first-year talk at Princeton is a 20-minute talk to 20 people. That’s it. I was so afraid of being found out the next day that I called her and said, “I’m quitting.” She was like, “You are not quitting, because I took a gamble on you, and you’re staying. You’re going to stay, and this is what you’re going to do. You are going to fake it. You’re going to do every talk that you ever get asked to do. You’re just going to do it and do it and do it, even if you’re terrified and just paralyzed and having an out-of-body experience, until you have this moment where you say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m doing it. Like, I have become this. I am actually doing this.'” So that’s what I did. Five years in grad school, a few years, you know, I’m at Northwestern, I moved to Harvard, I’m at Harvard, I’m not really thinking about it anymore, but for a long time I had been thinking, “Not supposed to be here. Not supposed to be here.”
So at the end of my first year at Harvard, a student who had not talked in class the entire semester, who I had said, “Look, you’ve gotta participate or else you’re going to fail,” came into my office. I really didn’t know her at all. And she said, she came in totally defeated, and she said, “I’m not supposed to be here.” And that was the moment for me. Because two things happened. One was that I realized, oh my gosh, I don’t feel like that anymore. You know. I don’t feel that anymore, but she does, and I get that feeling. And the second was, she is supposed to be here! Like, she can fake it, she can become it. So I was like, “Yes, you are! You are supposed to be here! And tomorrow you’re going to fake it, you’re going to make yourself powerful, and, you know, you’re gonna — ” (Applause) (Applause) “And you’re going to go into the classroom, and you are going to give the best comment ever.” You know? And she gave the best comment ever, and people turned around and they were like, oh my God, I didn’t even notice her sitting there, you know? (Laughter)
She comes back to me months later, and I realized that she had not just faked it till she made it, she had actually faked it till she became it. So she had changed. And so I want to say to you, don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it. You know? It’s not — Do it enough until you actually become it and internalize.
The last thing I’m going to leave you with is this. Tiny tweaks can lead to big changes. So this is two minutes. Two minutes, two minutes, two minutes. Before you go into the next stressful evaluative situation, for two minutes, try doing this, in the elevator, in a bathroom stall, at your desk behind closed doors. That’s what you want to do. Configure your brain to cope the best in that situation. Get your testosterone up. Get your cortisol down. Don’t leave that situation feeling like, oh, I didn’t show them who I am. Leave that situation feeling like, oh, I really feel like I got to say who I am and show who I am.
So I want to ask you first, you know, both to try power posing, and also I want to ask you to share the science, because this is simple. I don’t have ego involved in this. (Laughter) Give it away. Share it with people, because the people who can use it the most are the ones with no resources and no technology and no status and no power. Give it to them because they can do it in private. They need their bodies, privacy and two minutes, and it can significantly change the outcomes of their life. Thank you. (Applause) (Applause)

EXOS Master Your Breathing to Perform Better

EXOS Master Your Breathing to Perform Better
01 Mar

Master Your Breathing to Perform Better
The Editors June 5, 2013


Breathing is a key ingredient to human function and performance. It’s a human reflex we’re born with and it’s attached to our nervous system, which has an input and an output. If you have poor breathing patterns (input), you’ll have poor motor output, which can result in muscle compensations and even possible overuse injuries. Breathing plays a role in optimal nervous system function, proper motor function, relaxation, focus, and efficiency.

The Correct Way to Breath

There are typically two types of breathers:

Diaphragmatic breathers – This is the most reflexive and natural way. We want to be good diaphragmatic breathers. In general, the rib cage should expand in a 3D pattern, top to bottom, back to front, and to the sides.
Apical breathers – Apical breathing or upper chest breathing can be caused by a variety of issues, including smoking, stress, poor posture, or asthma.
Mouth vs. Nose Breathing

Dr. Roy Sugarman, director of applied neuroscience for Athletes’ Performance, says nose breathing has a range of performance benefits. “Breathing through your nasal passage can increase CO2 saturation in the blood and slow down your breathing—both of which create a calming effect,” he says. “It also helps warm air before it hits your lungs during cold weather workouts.”

Dr. Sugarman says that mouth breathing is associated with a host of health problems and should be avoided as best as possible. His advice is to keep the nose and sinuses healthy and the septum straight—not so easy for athletes in sports where a sudden, sideways nose-shift is common. This helps overall performance and, more importantly, helps speed up the recovery process.

Breathing Tips for Sports

Running There isn’t one best breathing pattern for running. For many it’s a 2:2 ratio (two steps breathe in, two steps breathe out). For others it’s 3:1. Aim for a rhythmic pattern to help your body relax and improve your body’s efficiency. Sporadic breathing makes it more difficult.


Cyclists tend to be good belly breathers because their posture on the bike limits their ability to use their chest. Similar to running, relaxed and rhythmic breathing is the goal during peddling. For instance, inhale for two pedal strokes, hold for two pedal strokes, then exhale for four pedal strokes.

High-Impact Sports

For high-impact sports, like tennis, inhale while preparing for a shot or intense action and exhale through execution to maximize stiffness and power.

High-Contact Sports

During high-contract sports, hold your breath if you know you’re going to take a hit. If you’re delivering the blow, exhale through contact.


Al Lee and Don Campbell, co-authors of Perfect Breathing, devised a drill called performance breathing for endurance sports like swimming that involves a repetitive motion. It’s designed to help you find that sweet spot where the energy coming in balances the energy expended, and you feel that tireless high so many athletes strive for. Here’s how to do it: inhale through the nose for two seconds, hold for 2 seconds, and exhale through the nose for 4 seconds.


In yoga, there are many different types of breathing patterns—not just one yoga belly breath. These breathing patterns are called pranyama, an ancient Indian practice that basically means “regulation of breath.” Like meditation, breathing helps relax your tissues and calm the nervous system. Often people will hold their breath because a pose is too painful. If you’re holding your breath, you’re being too aggressive. You want an equal in and out style of breathing. For more on improving your performance through breathing, click here.

Breathing Under Pressure

Whenever we’re threatened, the body’s fight-or-flight response kicks in. This mechanism instinctively prepares us to either run or rumble. Heart rate quickens in order to pump blood where it’s needed most, at the same time that blood is drawn away from extremities as a protection against injury. It’s simultaneously invigorating and debilitating. Rational thought is replaced by caveman impulse.

Breathing Under Pressure

Whenever we’re threatened, the body’s fight-or-flight response kicks in. This mechanism instinctively prepares us to either run or rumble. Heart rate quickens in order to pump blood where it’s needed most, at the same time that blood is drawn away from extremities as a protection against injury. It’s simultaneously invigorating and debilitating. Rational thought is replaced by caveman impulse.

“Research shows that there are two pathways to the brain,” explains Lee. “One is for rational or attentional thought, while the other is for emotions. The two pathways are inversely related. So when your emotions start heating up, your ability to think rationally diminishes. That’s why you have crimes of passion or road rage.”

The key to retaining control in these situations is, as Lee explains, “to focus on an attentional task that brings down the emotional side and lets you be more objective.” And researchers have found that breathing does this best.

Here’s how to perform what Lee calls pressure breathing:

Inhale through your nose for 3 seconds.
Purse your lips and exhale, while letting your cheeks inflate. Draw the exhalation out to a count of 10 or however long you can. Try to get every last bit of air out of your lungs.
Repeat until you’ve settled down.

What that long exhalation forces you to do is breathe. You have no choice. The inhalation becomes an automatic, life-preserving response. This corrects the tendency to take very short, shallow breaths when we’re scared or having a panic attack. The pursed-lips trick, according to Lee, puts pressure on the vagus nerve at the back of the throat, which triggers many anxious symptoms. For more tips to stay calm under pressure, read “Breathing Bootcamp.”

Breathe Yourself to Sleep

Having trouble falling asleep? It’s actually possible to breathe yourself to sleep—in just 5 minutes or less. Although breathing may seem like an unconscious mechanism, it’s entirely controllable and, once tamed, can influence heart rate, blood pressure, circulation, hormone production, stress levels, and many other bodily functions.

“The breath is the common denominator in everything we do,” says Lee. “It touches every dimension of life. It directly and dramatically affects your health, your ability to heal, your emotions, your physical performance, your creativity, and it’s used by every spiritual tradition to help achieve deeper states of prayer, meditation and contemplation.”

And it can settle you enough to put you to sleep. Try this exercise next time you find it difficult to drift away:

Inhale through the nose for a count of 6.
Hold for a count of 3.
Exhale through the nose for a count of 6.
Hold for a count of 3.
Repeat this series four more times.
Next, inhale through the nose for a count of 6.
Exhale through the nose for a count of 6.
Repeat this series four more times.

Or you can follow Lee’s advice and simply become more mindful of your breath as you lie in bed. Instead of trying to alter your breathing, just become conscious of it, he says. Doing so pulls your monkey mind out of its jungle and focuses it on one thing (your breathing), which is often enough to put it to rest.

“It brings you back to the present moment,” explains Don Campbell, the other half of the Perfect Breathing team. “There’s no way you can think about yesterday or tomorrow when you’re concentrating on your next breath. Doing so immediately starts ramping down your entire metabolism.”