* Yoga advocates say moves improve circulation, aid detox
* Others say liver and kidneys detoxify the body
NEW YORK, Dec 17 (Reuters) - The word "detoxification" is
flung around the fitness community as frequently as kettlebells
Yoga teachers regularly speak of detoxifying twists,
aerobics instructors of detoxifying sweat, dieters of
detoxifying fasts. But health professionals are skeptical.
"If you start talking about exercising to detoxify, there's
no scientific data," said Dr. Elizabeth Matzkin, chief of
women's sports medicine at Harvard Medical School. "The human
body is designed to get rid of what we don't need."
The same applies to fasting.
"No good scientific data supports any of those cleanses,
where you drink juice, or (only) water for a week," she said.
Exercise is important, Matzkin added, because it enables our
body to do what it is made to do, but the kidneys and colon get
rid of waste. The role of exercise in that process is unclear.
"In general exercise helps our lungs; kidneys get rid of
things that can cause us onset of disease," she said.
A healthy lifestyle - eating healthy, drinking plenty of
water and exercising - is important to detoxifying because it
enables our body to do what is intended to do.
"As for specific yoga moves, I'm not so sure," she said.
Yoga instructor and fitness expert Shirley Archer, an author
and spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise (ACE) said
the theory behind the effectiveness of detoxifying twists in
yoga is that they squeeze the organs, which push the blood out
so fresh blood can rush in.
"Better circulation equals better health," said Archer, who
is based in Florida. "If detox means to eliminate from the body
what it no longer needs, then certain yogic practices can help."
She said yogic deep breathing with strong exhalations
can empty the lungs of unneeded carbon dioxide and allow for a
fresh breath of more oxygenated air. "This nourishes all of our
cells," she said. "It is also a method of cleansing because
better circulation equals better health."
Meditative movement practices, such as yoga and tai chi, she
added, can detox your attitude because they require staying in
the present moment and discourage dwelling on the past.
Last summer, celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson began taking
groups of 40-odd women on what she calls Detox Weeks, which
involve at least three hours of workouts each day, as well as
lectures on fitness and nutrition aimed mainly at encouraging
Similar weeks in other cities are planned for 2013.
"Women work out and think 'Why can't my love handles, muffin
tops go away'?" said Anderson, creator of the Tracy Anderson
Method and a co-owner, with actress Gwyneth Paltrow, of fitness
centers in Los Angeles and New York. "The most important thing
is if you can become a consistent exerciser."
"A good workout is not five to 10 yoga poses," she
explained. "You have to learn to scale up your endurance. If you
can only jump for five minutes straight, we'll go to 10 minutes,
then 20 minutes."
Anderson said she uses the term detoxification broadly to
include everything from working up a good sweat to clearing the
mind of destructive thoughts.
"Detoxification is a big topic," she said.
Nancy Clark, a registered dietitian in Boston, Massachusetts
and a member of the American College of Sports Medicine, said
the body generally does a fine job of detoxifying itself through
the liver and kidneys. Sweating has nothing to do with it.
"When you sweat you really don't detoxify anything," she
explained. "If someone goes on a crash diet, then maybe toxins
are released but then the body would take care of them. When you
sweat you lose sodium."
(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Todd Eastham)