I am an admitted fitness nerd. I like earning continuing education credits to maintain my certifications, I enjoy trying new exercise techniques, and I appreciate studies and research about wellness by reputable organizations. One such just-released study has me unusually excited. Conducted by the Cleveland Clinic, researchers found that, "Not exercising may be worse for your health than smoking." This isn't surprising, really, but what makes the findings of this study so compelling is the scale, as it followed well over 100,000 patients for 23 years. There's just no way around it--exercise is essential to longevity and quality of life. Below is the article about the study featured at Time.com by Gina Martinez:
It’s common knowledge that there are many benefits to being fit, but one large new study found that skipping out on the gym is particularly bad for your health. In fact, the study claims not exercising may be more harmful to your health than smoking.
New findings, published Friday in the journal JAMA Network Open, detail how researchers at the Cleveland Clinic studied 122,007 patients from 1991 to 2014, putting them under treadmill testing and later recording mortality rates. Researchers found a clear connection between a longer, healthier life and high levels of exercise. The report calls for health care professionals to encourage patients to achieve and maintain a robust fitness routine.
“Cardiorespiratory fitness is inversely associated with long-term mortality with no observed upper limit of benefit,” the study says. “Extremely high aerobic fitness was associated with the greatest survival and was associated with benefit in older patients and those with hypertension.”
Although it is widely understood that an active lifestyle can lead to a healthy life, the study concludes that a sedentary lifestyle is the equivalent of having a major disease and the simplest cure is exercise.
Dr Wael Jaber, co-author of the study, called the results surprising. “Being unfit on a treadmill or in an exercise stress test has a worse prognosis, as far as death, than being hypertensive, being diabetic or being a current smoker,” Jaber told CNN. “We’ve never seen something as pronounced as this and as objective as this.”
The study also took a look at the risk of being overactive and found that “ultra” exercisers do not face higher risk of death: the research consistently found that the more a person exercises the lower their mortality rates.
Whew! We made it to 2017! Was 2016 a rollercoaster year, or what?! I know that for many of you, last year was fraught with ups and downs on many levels. It was certainly full on my end, too. And while I'm ready to focus on the next ride around the sun, I'd like to take a few moments to slow down long enough to reflect on the highlights of an eventful year.
What did I NOT accomplish in 2016? Writing blogs consistently! Besides having some computer issues, which have made website updates cumbersome, and limited creative time, I recognize that there's already so much available to read from countless fitness gurus. So much advice. So many videos. So little time or attention span to consume it all. And I'm not one to write just for the sake of writing. Rather, I do so only when I'm inspired. I'm aiming for greater inspiration (and a new computer) in 2017!
If you haven't already done so, I encourage you to jot down your own list of highlights, and even lowlights, so that you may acknowledge how you've grown, changed and adapted to your personal journey of life. An easy way to start is to peruse the photos you took through the year and review your calendar since January 2016.
May you be empowered by your reflections to set new goals for mind, body and spirit in 2017. We'll talk about those in my next blog!
Happy Summer, Fitness Friends! It's been a while since I've blogged, but thanks to the encouragement of a friend and an interaction that occurred this week, I was motivated to put fingers to keyboard.
I'm quite thankful for this outlet for allowing me to vent and educate here, rather than lose my composure with a fellow fitness "professional," which almost happened this week.
Here's what happened: After teaching my classes at one of the facilities where I work, a personal trainer approached me to ask why my participants take dumbbells from the fitness floor into my classes since the group fitness studio is equipped with dumbbells. I asked which dumbbells they were taking, to which he replied the 12- and 15-pound pairs.
I said, "I think it's because we only have pre-set dumbbells up to 10 pounds in the studio, and I train my participants to build strength and lift heavier if they can."
With an eye roll, he says, "Oh please. Give me a break."
"Excuse me?" I replied.
"You have 10 pound dumbbells," implying that that should suffice for my participants, which are mostly female.
"Yes, and my participants can lift more than that, because they're strong!" I retorted.
Before the conversation could escalate, we were interrupted by a passerby (thankfully!). In the end, he explained that his desire was for more equipment throughout the facility, and we parted amicably.
Unfortunately, this old school personal trainer's ill-informed mindset about women training with heavier loads continues to exist despite myriad studies and expert guidance to the contrary, as summed up by trainer and fitness writer, Kellie Davis: "Undoubtedly, you've heard the horror stories: lifting heavy weights makes women bulky, it's dangerous, it's bad for your joints, and once you have muscle, you can't stop lifting or it will all turn to fat. It's all BS, and it feeds into stereotypes that are keeping too many women from experiencing the profound benefits of resistance training."
What are some of those "profound benefits"? Consider just a few borrowed from "8 Reasons Women Should Lift Weights," published at bodybuilding.com:
My participants and clients hear me touting the benefits of strength training all the time, because it's the best bang for your buck when it come to overall fitness. Moreover, strength training can be performed in an aerobic fashion, eliminating the need to perform additional cardio.
According to Shape magazine, "While cardio burns more calories than resistance training during your workout, lifting weights torches more fat overall. In a study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, women who completed an hour-long strength-training workout burned an average of 100 more calories in the 24 hours afterward than those who skipped the weights. The more muscle owned, the more fat burned." Did you get that last point? The more muscle you have, the more fat you burn!!
Now that I've gotten you all fired up to weight train, let me clarify that I'm not suggesting you jump to excessive external lifting loads without proper progression. I also strongly advise not to add any load (extra weight from dumbbells, barbells, etc.) until your movement patterns (proper squatting, lunging, pushing, pulling, etc.) are mastered and joints are stable by practicing bodyweight-only exercises. Lifting weights without proper form, technique and joint stability can lead to injury. And cross-training--exercising in a variety of formats and disciplines--is still encouraged.
If this data has finally convinced you to incorporate weights into your routine, I recommend working with a trainer who can assess your starting point and develop a program to reflect your fitness level and goals. Just make sure they believe in your potential to lift more than 10 pound dumbbells!!
"Mom, you go first, I'll go second, and G will follow me," instructed my nine-year-old son, Magnus.
He, my mom (aka "G," short for Grandma) and I were at the starting line for the Insane Inflatable 5k, a course dotted with oversized inflatable obstacles, similar to what you might find at those indoor bounce house playgrounds, only more extreme. Along with hundreds of other participants, the three of us were joined by several friends who comprised Team L.O.U. (Lift Others Up).
As we awaited the air horn signaling our turn to go, I admired the members of our team--moms with sons, dads with daughters, parents with children, and in my case, a grandmother with her daughter and grandson. How inspiring it was to see loved ones making fitness a fun family affair. More importantly, it was an opportunity for parents to model an active lifestyle for their kids.
My attention returned to scaling the first inflatable obstacle, with my son and mom following close behind. The next 45 minutes took us through a dozen inflatables over the course of 3.1 miles, and taught us a few lessons. Magnus developed a new appreciation for his grandmother, finding it "pretty cool" that she was able to participate with us. He also experienced endurance, running farther than he ever has. My mom proved that she could do more than she thought she could, and discovered areas where she'd like to develop more strength. And I was reminded that no matter one's fitness level, age or speed, the key is to just keep moving, and lift others up along the way.
Final thoughts: What fitness goals or activities will you set for your family in the coming weeks and months? The year is still young, so you have time to plan for at least one family-friendly 5k in 2016. If that's not your thing, schedule time to be active with your kids weekly. Stop being a spectator and get moving together!
I had the pleasure of leading a very special group fitness class this month. Participants got to sprout like trees, fly like birds, swing like monkeys, run like lions, crawl like bears, jump like frogs, lumber like elephants and slither like snakes. No, this wasn't another novel version of a boot camp, but a Kid Fit class at my youngest son's preschool. While coaching and corralling 20 three- and four-year-olds is like herding cats, the end result was achieved: to get these kids moving, and to instill a love for fitness through age-appropriate, play-based exercise.
The need to develop foundational habits of wellness in children is more important than ever. Why? Because America's kids are fatter and more sedentary than ever. To raise awareness of the obesity epidemic among children, September has been designated National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Consider these startling facts and statistics:
The Centers for Disease Control report that childhood obesity has both immediate and long-term effects on health and well-being.
Immediate health effects:
Long-term health effects:
Beyond the health implications, childhood obesity carries a heavy price tag. Overweight and obesity in childhood is associated with $14.1 billion in additional prescription drug, emergency room and outpatient visit healthcare costs annually. And because many overweight children, without intervention, become obese adults, the health care costs just skyrocket from there.
Just as in adults, the CDC explains that, "Overweight and obesity are the result of 'caloric imbalance'—too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed—and are affected by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors."
So what are some things parents and caregivers can do to prevent obesity and support healthy growth in children?
With all of this in mind, our very best solution for improving the health of our kids is to set an example and live a healthy lifestyle ourselves. No, that doesn't mean you have to lead a crazy Kid Fit class at your child's school! But if we eat nutritious foods and only stock good stuff in our homes, if we make time to exercise (and involve them), if we make sleep a priority, and if we limit screen and device time, we will be modeling the kinds of behaviors we wish for our children so that they may grow into healthy adults.
ACE Advanced Health & Fitness Specialist Manual
This summer, I learned that yet another friend was diagnosed with cancer. As the tears welled in my eyes with this revelation, I started counting: one, two, three, four, five. FIVE. I have five friends who are currently conquering cancer. Three have breast cancer, one is in the midst of a bone marrow transplant, and another has a treatable, but inoperable brain tumor.
With cancer’s prevalence in this country--1 in 2 males, and 1 in 3 females are predicted to have cancer in their lifetime--perhaps you, too, have been similarly impacted by this disease. With these odds, nearly half of us reading this will likely battle it ourselves.
Being diagnosed with some form of cancer seems nearly inevitable, but are there things we can do to lower our risk? The hopeful answer is yes.
The American Cancer Society reports that, “A substantial proportion of cancers could be prevented. All cancers caused by tobacco use and heavy alcohol consumption could be prevented completely. In 2015, almost 171,000 of the estimated 589,430 cancer deaths in the US will be caused by tobacco smoking. In addition, the World Cancer Research Fund has estimated that up to one-third of the cancer cases that occur in economically developed countries like the US are related to overweight or obesity, physical inactivity, and/or poor nutrition, and thus could also be prevented.”
So, by avoiding tobacco products, minimizing alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and eating right, we can reduce our risk of cancer by one-third or more? That’s all the motivation I need to make my health a priority. How about you?
For more insight into specific cancer-prevention lifestyle habits, read the following article provided by the American Cancer Society:
Diet and Physical Activity: What’s the Cancer Connection?
How much do daily habits like diet and exercise affect your risk for cancer? Much more than you might think. Research has shown that poor diet and not being active are two key factors that can increase a person’s cancer risk. The good news is that you do something about this.
Besides quitting smoking, some of the most important things you can do to help reduce your cancer risk are:
The evidence for this is strong: Each year, about 589,430 Americans die of cancer; around one-third of these deaths are linked to poor diet, physical inactivity, and carrying too much weight.
CONTROL YOUR WEIGHT. Getting to and staying at a healthy weight is important to reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of several cancers, including those of the breast (in women past menopause), colon and rectum, endometrium (the lining of the uterus), esophagus, pancreas, and kidney, among others.
Being overweight can increase cancer risk in many ways. One of the main ways is that excess weight causes the body to produce and circulate more estrogen and insulin, hormones that can stimulate cancer growth.
What’s a healthy weight? One of the best ways to get an idea if you are at a healthy weight is to check your Body Mass Index (BMI), a score based on the relationship between your height and weight. Use our easy online BMI calculator to find out your score.
To reduce cancer risk, most people need to keep their BMIs below 25. Ask your doctor what your BMI number means and what action (if any) you should take.
If you are trying to control your weight, a good first step is to watch portion sizes, especially of foods high in calories, fat, and added sugars. Also try to limit your intake of high-calorie foods and drinks. Try writing down what and how much you eat and drink for a week, then see where you can cut down on portion sizes, cut back on some not-so-healthy foods and drinks, or both!
For those who are overweight or obese, losing even a small amount of weight has health benefits and is a good place to start.
BE MORE ACTIVE. Watching how much you eat will help you control your weight. The other key is to be more physically active. Being active helps reduce your cancer risk by helping with weight control. It can also help improve your hormone levels and the way your immune system works.
More good news – physical activity helps you reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes, too! So grab your athletic shoes and head out the door!
The latest recommendations for adults call for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week, or an equivalent combination, preferably spread throughout the week. This is over and above usual daily activities like using the stairs instead of the elevator at your office or doing housework. For kids, the recommendation is at least 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous intensity activity each day, with vigorous intensity activity occurring at least 3 days each week.
Moderate activities are those that make you breathe as hard as you would during a brisk walk. This includes things like walking, biking, even housework and gardening. Vigorous activities make you use large muscle groups and make your heart beat faster, make you breathe faster and deeper, and also make you sweat.
It’s also important to limit sedentary behavior such as sitting, lying down, watching television, or other forms of screen-based entertainment.
Being more physically active than usual, no matter what your level of activity, can have many health benefits.
EAT HEALTHY FOODS. Eating well is an important part of improving your health and reducing your cancer risk. Take a good hard look at what you typically eat each day and try these tips to build a healthy diet plan for yourself and your family:
Choose foods and drinks in amounts that help you get to and maintain a healthy weight.
Limit how much processed meat and red meat you eat.
Eat at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits each day.
Choose whole grains instead of refined grain products.
If you drink alcohol, limit how much
People who drink alcohol should limit their intake to no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women. The recommended limit is lower for women because of their smaller body size and slower breakdown of alcohol.
A drink of alcohol is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits (hard liquor). In terms of cancer risk, it is the amount of alcohol, not the type of alcoholic drink that is important.
These daily limits do not mean it’s safe to drink larger amounts on fewer days of the week, since this can lead to health, social, and other problems.
Reducing cancer risk in our communities
Adopting a healthier lifestyle is easier for people who live, work, play, or go to school in an environment that supports healthy behaviors. Working together, communities can create the type of environment where healthy choices are easy to make.
We all can be part of these changes: Let’s ask for healthier food choices at our workplaces and schools. For every junk food item in the vending machine, ask for a healthy option, too. Support restaurants that help you to eat well by offering options like smaller portions, lower-calorie items, and whole-grain products. And let’s help make our communities safer and more appealing places to walk, bike, and be active.
The bottom line
It has been estimated that as much as one-third of all cancer deaths in the US are related to diet and activity factors. Let’s challenge ourselves to lose some extra pounds, increase our physical activity, make healthy food choices, limit alcohol, and look for ways to make our communities healthier places to live, work, and play.
If you’d like more information on preventing cancer through diet and exercise, I've attached the pdf, "American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention," which may also be referenced at http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/002577-pdf.pdf.
The ACS Cancer Facts & Figures 2015 annual report is also available at http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@editorial/documents/document/acspc-044552.pdf
While attending a kickboxing training several years ago, the presenter introduced participants to a dramatic video of famed martial artist, Bruce Lee. It was an interview with Lee, who gave his famous, "Be water, my friend" speech:
Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.
Empty your mind, be formless...shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.
As a confessed Type A personality who craves control, this message really speaks to me on so many levels. From a fitness standpoint, these words provide inspiration when you feel you've hit a plateau, a roadblock or a setback. Consider "being like water" in these scenarios:
You want to eat right and exercise, but between work, kids and home, you're just too busy.
You've been performing the same exercise routine for a while now, with early measurable results. But nothing seems to be changing in your body anymore. Clothes fit the same, body composition is the same, weight is the same.
You said you were going to exercise four to five days per week, but are lucky if you exercise twice. You're disappointed that you've not stuck with your commitment, and even more disappointed that you're not experiencing results.
Due to some nagging injuries and conditions, you're afraid to work out and have gained extra weight. You'd like to exercise again, but don't know what you're capable of or how to start.
You joined a new gym, but it's a lot different from your last gym. The check-in process takes two steps instead of one, instructors don't use familiar choreography, and the culture is not quite like you're used to. Missing your old gym is demotivating.
No matter the obstacle, water always finds a way, doesn't it?
When in doubt, go with the flow that propels you forward!
"So, what's your secret?"
It's a question I've been asked throughout my fitness journey, and one I recently realized could be summed up in one word. Prior to this realization, I typically explained my regimen of exercise, my emphasis on clean, balanced eating, my constant consumption of water, and my requirement for sufficient sleep. It's a longer answer than most people want to explain why I've been able to maintain essentially the same weight for 20+ years. The only time my weight fluctuated by more than five pounds was during my two successful pregnancies.
My "secret" is the reason so many people fail at maintaining their weight. They eat well, for a time, exercise, for a time, and focus on their health, for a time, but they don't do those three things for a LIFE time.
As far back as I can remember, I was active. Not in a sport-specific way, but in a play-outside-for-hours way. Growing up, my family never had cable tv or video games, so being inside bored me. I would jump on my pogo stick in the driveway, ride my appropriately yellow banana seat bike, wrestle with my dog and throw a tennis ball against the house. My weekly chores were physical, too: cleaning the bathrooms, hanging up and taking down baskets of laundry (we didn't have a dryer), vacuuming, and hauling trash to the edge of our property.
Like a lot of little girls, I attended dance lessons, then went on to be a cheerleader from seventh grade through my senior year of high school. In college, I feared gaining the "freshman 15," so I only took the stairs while living on the seventh floor of my dorm. I also chose to attend a weight lifting class as an elective, where I learned the basics of strength training.
When I graduated from school and started my corporate career, I immediately joined a gym where I'd exercise after work several days a week. My enjoyment from fitness grew from that point on over the years, until it eventually became my profession.
As I look back over the last 10 years, throughout which time I have been a fitness instructor and personal trainer, I can state with confidence that I rarely went three days without working out. Most weeks, my rest days numbered one or two. If I recall correctly, the only two times in my adulthood where I took several weeks off from exercise was by doctor's orders while healing from my two c-sections. Now, some of those exercise sessions over the years may have been very short or a light intensity, but they counted. And they included everything from resistance training, to dancing, to martial arts, to indoor cycling, to mind/body disciplines, to body weight training, to swimming and running. These sessions took place at health clubs, at home, outside, and on vacation (I even recall going to a gym in Athens, Greece, while visiting there years ago. Efcharisto!).
And in the last decade, my diet has steadily and dramatically improved as I've learned more about food, its sources and its impact on the body.
Alright, so what's my secret? In a word, CONSISTENCY. It's not a magic formula, a miracle workout or a super food. It's consistently being active in a variety of ways, and choosing the healthy foods I like that fuel my activity.
Perhaps you had more modern conveniences than I had as a kid and spent much of your time in sedentary pursuits that continue to this day. Or maybe you've only had fleeting periods of time in your life when you've been disciplined to exercise regularly and eat right. Here's the good news: no matter your history, tomorrow offers a new opportunity to develop consistency. It doesn't mean you have to exercise everyday, nor does it mean you have to perfectly follow a healthy diet. It simply means not giving up. Not letting more than two or three days pass without a workout. Not allowing a day of poor eating to turn into a week. It means making fitness a part of your life, no matter where you are, what you do or how old you are.
Ready to be consistent? Here are a few tips:
"Come on, keep up," my mom would say to my sister and me. Everywhere we went, whether in the grocery store, on the sidewalk, or in the mall, my mom walked tall and fast. Even her stroll required a double or triple step on my part as a little girl.
My grandmother was the same way. She stood a slender 5'9, and the until the day she died, had the most proper posture of anyone I knew. My Gramma could convey a steely confidence simply by how she aligned her head and shoulders.
My sister, who since high school has stood a statuesque 6 feet tall, was regularly reminded to "straighten up," "stand tall," and "stop slouching." I absorbed those cues, too, so even as a stereotypical, angst-ridden, insecure teen, I exuded confidence because of the body language my mother and grandmother modeled for me.
That confidence was misread at times. In college, a fellow coed who would become a roommate and dear friend, revealed to me that she thought I was "a bi#ch" before she met me. Taken aback, I asked why. She replied that it was how I walked--my shoulders back and head held high--rather than the typical soft posture and dropped gaze that communicates submission and insecurity displayed by so many females. "So I appeared confident, then," I said. "Yes," she replied.
A few years later when I worked in a corporate setting, a coworker asked me if I rode horses. My answer was an emphatic no, as I've ridden a horse fewer than a dozen times in my life. As with my college roommate, I inquired why she asked that. She said, "Because of your posture. You stand so straight, like an equestrian riding a horse." I certainly preferred being called an equestrian over a female canine!
It's unfortunate in our society that women who stand tall, stand to be misinterpreted. My mother's underlying premise for teaching my sister and me to stand straight and walk fast was, to a large degree, out of protection. She would say, "Walk with purpose. Act like you know where you're going and as if someone's waiting for you." I've read self-defense studies over the years that say women who move confidently, decidedly and with purpose are less likely to become victims of crime than those who appear weak and insecure.
But now let's move from viewing posture as body language, to viewing it as the base from which a person moves. The National Academy of Sports Medicine says that, "Static posture, or how an individual physically presents him/herself in stance...is reflected in the alignment of the body. It provides the foundation or platform from which the extremities function. As with any structure, a weak foundation leads to secondary problems elsewhere in the system."
How a person's body is aligned is the basis for identifying muscle imbalances. For instance, a forward-protruding head, rounded shoulders, excessively arched back, knees that fall inward and feet that turn out indicate a number of potential issues that may cause faulty movement patterns. As a trainer (and one who has been raised to pay attention to posture!), I have to note such variances when developing exercise strategies for clients.
So, what is proper posture, and what's the healthiest posture for sitting, standing and lying down? Livestrong.com defines them this way:
What happens if we practice poor body alignment? "Proper posture helps the body produce high levels of functional strength. Without it, the body may degenerate or experience poor posture, altered movement patterns, sprains, tendonitis, and low-back pain," according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Additionally, over time, poor posture can lead to problems with bodily functions, including breathing and digestion.
If you feel that your posture isn't up to par, you may be wondering what are some exercises to improve your alignment. Here are a few suggestions:
So, the next time you stand, sit, lie down, or perform any exercise, sing the children's song, "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes," to remind you seek proper posture and alignment of joints for every movement!
If you're a sports fan, you know that this is one of the best times of the year for collegiate athletics. The NCAA Division 1 Mens Basketball Championship is well underway. I'm married to a former Division 1 ball player, so needless to say, the tournament is always on in my home. Being residents of the Carolinas for 20 years before moving to Florida, we're big fans of North Carolina teams. As such, we tuned in early for the Duke vs. San Diego State game.
While broadcasters shared pre-game stats, cameras cut away to San Diego State players engaging in what happens to be one of my favorite pre- and post-workout activities: self myofascial release (SMR). Huh? What's that, you ask? Simply put, it's self massage using inexpensive props such as a small inflated ball (a tennis ball works in a pinch) or foam roller to release muscle tightness or trigger points.
An article on realsimple.com explains that myofascial release manipulates the fasciae, thin membranes that cover each muscle, which may alleviate knots and soreness better than massaging muscles alone does. To try it, place your prop of choice on the floor or against a wall and lean on it so it’s under the tender spot. It should feel slightly uncomfortable. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds. To increase the effect, gently roll the prop back and forth on the area.
“When it’s healthy, the fascia over a muscle is like a pillowcase that slides easily over a pillow,” says John R. Martinez, a doctor of physical therapy in New York City. “But when you have injuries or chronic inflammation, the fascia can bind onto the muscle and restrict its movement, which causes discomfort.” Myofascial release therapy helps “unstick” the fascia, he says.
So, what are the benefits of SMR exactly, when should I do it, and are there other guidelines I should follow? Consider these answers, courtesy of finishlinept.com:
Foam rolling BEFORE exercise is used to:
Foam rolling AFTER exercise is used to:
Guidelines for foam rolling:
Many health clubs now keep foam rollers on hand for members to use, but if you'd like to use one at home (which I highly recommend), just do a Google search for "foam rollers" and find the best deal. Keep in mind that rollers come in different lengths and densities. Longer ones are easier to use, but smaller ones travel easier. As for density, softer, less dense rollers are best to start with, then work your way up to firmer rollers as your muscles adapt and become more supple. Myo therapy balls are also useful for rolling your lower back, hamstrings, glutes and other areas requiring a more specific pressure point. They come in various circumferences, densities and textures. As mentioned above, a tennis ball will suffice. Give it a try!
Growing up in the surfing town of Ormond Beach, Fla., I frequently used words like "rad," "killer," and "dude." And I just read some news that has me uttering another throwback term--"Stoked!" The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recently published its annual list of top fitness trends, and I couldn't be more excited about what's included on that list.
My four favorite forms of exercise rank first, second, fifth, and ninth, which I have been recommending to my clients and personally practicing for years. And of course I appreciate trends three and five as they recommend qualified fitness professionals. Heck, I just love the whole list. Like I said, I'm totally stoked!
Without further ado, here are ACSM's Top 20 Fitness Trends for 2015, based on survey responses from thousands of fitness professionals.
1. Body Weight Training: Body weight training uses minimal equipment making it more affordable. Not limited to just push-ups and pull-ups, this trend allows people to get “back to the basics” with fitness.
2. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): HIIT involves short bursts of activity followed by a short period of rest or recovery. These exercise programs are usually performed in less than 30 minutes.
3. Educated and Experienced Fitness Professionals. Given the large number of organizations offering health and fitness certifications, it’s important that consumers choose professionals certified through programs that are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).
4. Strength Training. Strength training remains a central emphasis for many health clubs. Incorporating strength training is an essential part of a complete exercise program for all physical activity levels and genders. (The other essential components are aerobic exercise and flexibility.)
5. Personal Training. Education, training and proper credentialing for personal trainers have become increasingly important to the health and fitness facilities that employ them.
6. Exercise and Weight Loss. In addition to nutrition, exercise is a key component of a proper weight loss program. Health and fitness professionals who provide weight loss programs are increasingly incorporating regular exercise and caloric restriction for better weight control in their clients.
7. Yoga. Based on ancient tradition, yoga utilizes a series of specific bodily postures practiced for health and relaxation. This includes Power Yoga, Yogalates, Bikram, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Kripalu, Anurara, Kundalini, Sivananda and others.
8. Fitness Programs for Older Adults. As the baby boom generation ages into retirement, many health and fitness professionals are taking the time to create age-appropriate fitness programs to keep older adults healthy and active.
9. Functional Fitness. This is a trend toward using strength training to improve balance and ease of daily living. Functional fitness and special fitness programs for older adults are closely related.
10. Group Personal Training. In challenging economic times, many personal trainers are offering more group training options. Training two or three people at a time makes economic sense for the trainer and the clients.
The remaining 10 trends include:
11. Worksite health promotion
12. Outdoor activities
13. Wellness coaching
14. Circuit training
15. Core training
16. Sport-specific training
17. Children and exercise for the treatment/prevention of obesity
18. Outcome measurements
19. Worker incentive programs
What fitness trends are OUT for 2015? Zumba, Pilates and indoor cycling. This doesn't mean that one can't or shouldn't engage in these activities. They just didn't weren't considered one of the top 20 trends by the more than 3,400 fitness professionals who participated in ACSM's survey.
For my clients in the over 50 crowd, I thought you'd like to know which of these trends best suit you. According to the online publication and global community, High50, the top five fitness trends for those 50+ are:
1. Body Weight Training
3. Ballet classes
4. Functional Fitness
5. Treadmill Training - Performing interval training on a treadmill, where you mix speed, duration, incline and recovery.
Now that you are armed with the leading fitness trends, pick one or two to try this week!
Need to pass the time while en route to your holiday destination? Want a quick diversion from shopping or wrapping presents? Need some bullet points to keep you on track over the break? Check out the following list that provides useful guidelines for general health. Note the number of minutes suggested to workout each week (hint: break it up into 30-minute increments).
Your Health: It's a Numbers Game (by Emily Bibb posted on http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Health-Numbers-Know-32173074#reactions)
While healthcare specifics vary by individual, having a general understanding established by doctors and research can help guide your daily choices for the better. Covering topics from diet to sleep, we've rounded up a few numbers you should strive for or, at the very least, consider. Some numbers are simply a reminder, while others may surprise you. Check out the complete list below.
At the conclusion of one of my Cardio Kickboxing classes recently, a participant approached me to say that she had shown her family my website. While looking at the photos, specifically the close-up of my abdomen, her 10-year-old son exclaimed, "Her stomach is scary! Is yours gonna look like that, Mom?" The mom, with a laugh, replied, "No, dear. Mine will never look like that!"
Out of the mouths of babes, right?! I found this unfiltered exchange to be both hilarious and insightful. Having two sons of my own, I can appreciate the honesty, particularly from those whose minds are yet unwarped by media, cultural norms and prejudices.
This boy's opinion of my belly reminded me that not everyone has the same fitness goals. Not everyone wants to run a marathon (myself included!). Some folks find yoga and mind/body exercises just plain boring. Others don't want to consume animal protein as part of a healthy diet. Many don't want to work out in a gym, while still others don't desire defined abs--including that 10-year-old! And you know what? That's totally fine.
We as trainers must always align our programs to match the healthy, realistic goals our clients desire, while ensuring that functional training is incorporated to support daily activities. No matter what your fitness goals are--or aren't!--everyone needs to be able to sit up in bed, squat down to pick things up from the floor, reach for objects placed overhead, carry awkward items, climb stairs, bend over, pull someone close for a hug, and get on and off of the toilet. That's where The Big 6 come in.
The Big 6 represent six essential movement patterns that are used in everyday life. Fitness programs should incorporate all of these:
A seventh bonus movement should be practiced as well: single-leg exercises that challenge balance and vertical stability.
These exercises may be adapted to any fitness level, can be performed with or without added resistance, are easily accomplished at home or a health club, and may be executed individually or combined as compound movements. Review your program to be sure all of them are represented, and perform them one to three times per week.
And for those who may may desire a "scary stomach" of their own, the Big 6, along with a lean diet, support that goal, too!
When you head to the gym for a workout, in what area, and with what equipment do you spend the most time? The area featuring gleaming chrome machines? The dumbbell rack? Perhaps you're intimidated and altogether lost on the gym floor and head straight to a group fitness class. When I'm not teaching and have a few extra minutes to train outside of a class, I bypass nearly all of the fancy strength training machines for good ol' fashion dumbbells. I also prefer resistance bands, kettlebells, medicine balls and jump ropes. Beyond that, some of my favorite workouts don't use equipment at all. They leverage your own body weight.
It's not that machines are useless. In fact, they offer a good starting point for the novice exerciser because they are usually self-explanatory, don't require racking and stacking of weights, can be used without the need for a workout partner, and are generally safe for those lacking stability or with functional limitations.
But machines can't compete with free weights when it comes to training functional movement. For the purposes of this article, strength-training machines do not include cable machines (such as the standing cable machine), which are in their own category and do allow similar freedom of movement and core engagement as free weights. Free weights are defined as weights, such as dumbbells and barbells, that are not attached to another apparatus or structural device, and that don't limit range of motion.
"Strength machines are generally regarded as inferior to free weights for improving core stability and neuromuscular efficiency (proper movement patterns) because they offer artificial support versus one's core musculature providing the stability," according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
Furthermore, NASM reports that machines don't accommodate movements that incorporate combined upper and lower body exercises, and machines can't be adjusted to fit all body types, therefore reducing their efficacy and potentially creating greater stress to the body. And because most machines primarily work in one plane of motion, they limit strength development through all three planes.
Eventually, the goal of exercisers should be to graduate from machines to free weights to allow the body to become stronger through multijoint, total body exercises that replicate real-life movements.
Aside from the concerns listed above, my bottom-line reason for avoiding machines is that most require the user to sit. Um, don't we sit enough already?! Why would we sit to exercise? How many of you are sitting as you read this right now? And how much time have you spent sitting during the last hour, three hours, six hours, nine hours? If the majority of your waking hours are spent sitting (which, by the way, decreases your life span), why on earth would you sit during the short amount of time you devote to movement?
I like how Rich Froning puts it. By the way, Froning won his fourth consecutive title as the Fittest Man on Earth at the CrossFit Games this past July.
"Pick things up and put them down. Run. Carry stuff. It's what our bodies were made to do, not sit on a machine and do single joint movements."
Froning goes on to say that using machines and performing single joint movements are, however, better than "sitting and doing nothing," and he's right. Any movement is better than none at all. But my question is, if you're going to go to the trouble of exercising, don't you want it to be as effective and functional as possible, enabling you to increase range of motion and enhance total body strength?
If the jury is still out for you on machines versus free weights, here's a list of pros and cons for each type of equipment, courtesy of NASM.
MACHINES -- PROS:
MACHINES -- CONS:
FREE WEIGHTS -- PROS:
FREE WEIGHTS -- CONS:
If the pros of strength machines still outweigh the cons for you, I challenge you this week to add one free weight exercise into your routine. Let me know which you incorporate. Try squats or lunges while holding dumbbells at your side. Perform 8-12 repetitions if the weight is fairly heavy, and 12-20 reps if you're starting with light weight.
Q. Can I eat whatever I want as long as I exercise?
A. The majority of daily caloric expenditure is not in the time spent exercising but in the total energy expenditure during 24 hours. Approximately 3,500 calories equals one pound of body fat, so to lose one to two pounds per week, one must maintain an average caloric deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories per day. However, a person may burn 250 calories from exercise and spend the rest of the day participating in sedentary activities. Calories that are not used for energy production are stored as fat. Therefore, a person can eat 100 calories a day more than what their body needs to maintain, and in the course of 35 days, theoretically they will gain a pound of fat. Even a mere 10 extra calories a day over daily maintenance needs could add up to a pound of weight gain over 350 days!
Q. What are the risks of starvation (very low calorie) diets?
A. Most nutrition experts do not recommend an energy intake any lower than 1,200 calories, and even that may be too low for an active or very large person.
Very low calorie diets (VLCD) should be followed only under the supervision of a medical professional. A VLCD is a doctor-supervised diet that typically uses commercially prepared formulas to promote rapid weight loss in patients who are obese. These formulas, usually liquid shakes or bars, replace all food intake for several weeks or months. VLCD formulas need to contain appropriate levels of vitamins and micronutrients to ensure that patients meet their nutritional requirements. People on a VLCD consume about 800 calories per day or less.
When used under proper medical supervision, VLCDs may produce significant short-term weight loss in patients who are moderately to extremely obese. VLCDs should be part of a comprehensive weight-loss treatment program that includes behavior therapy, nutrition counseling and physical activity. Additionally, long-term maintenance of weight loss with VLCDs is poor and no better than other forms of obesity treatment.
Some of the risks of following an overly restrictive diet include:
[On a personal note, clients I've worked with whose "diet doctors" prescribed a VLCD for them had poor long-term results. They were cranky, hungry and lethargic. While they did lose weight, it was determined that much of what they lost was lean mass--a most unfortunate outcome since muscle is your body's fat-burning engine. When your body lacks sufficient nourishment, it becomes catabolic. That's a scientific term for the state your body enters when it's starved and begins to break down muscle tissue. You must eat to fuel optimal results!]
The human body is a marvel of resilience and adaptability. Depending on the combination of circumstances, we can live just about anywhere, in just about any climate. We can adapt to different foods, types of shelter, seasonal variations, and levels of stress. We can exist weeks, months or even years with nutrient deficiencies.
But there's one thing, besides a lack of oxygen, that our bodies can't adapt to. It's dehydration.
"The importance of proper hydration cannot be stressed enough," reports the National Academy of Sports Medicine. "Water is vital to life itself; it constitutes approximately 60% of the adult human body by weight...Studies show that a fluid loss of even 2% of body weight will adversely affect circulatory functions and decrease performance levels."
When we stay properly hydrated, our bodies benefit in the following ways:
What happens to our bodies when we're DE-hydrated? We experience decreases in performance, blood pressure and volume, sweat rate, cardiac output and blood flow to the skin. Our heart rate, core temperature, perceived exertion and use of muscle glycogen increases. We retain more water and sodium.
At most clubs where I've worked, we would measure clients' total body water percentage using a bioelectric impedance scale, which also measures body fat. Invariably, the majority of clients were below recommended hydration levels. One trainer would tell her achy clients that due to dehydration, "Your joints are like the Sahara Desert." A lack of water affects every physiologic function, so yes, even joint pain and stiffness can be at least partially attributed to this deficit.
Different tissues in your body contain different amounts of water. Livestrong.com reports that body fat contains approximately 10 percent water, while muscle is approximately 75 percent water. "In general, men should aim for a total body water percentage between 50 and 65 percent, while the ideal range for women is between 45 and 60 percent."
So, how do we determine if we need to drink more water? Just go by our thirst, right? Wrong, according to NASM. "Thirst alone is a poor indicator of how much water is needed. Athletes consistently consume inadequate fluid volume, managing to replace approximately 50% of sweat losses."
Daily water intake recommendations state that sedentary men should consume an average of 3.0 L (approximately 13 cups) and sedentary women should consume an average of 2.2 L (approximately 9 cups) of water. For those trying to lose weight, drink an additional 8 ounces of water for every 25 pounds above ideal weight. Increase water intake before, during and after exercise, and if you're in a hot climate.
When exercising for less than an hour, experts say to stick with water for fluid replacement. For exercise lasting more than 60 minutes, sports drinks are acceptable and help replenish muscle glycogen stores.
Now that you're convinced to consume more water, here are a few of my personal tips to help you make that happen:
Considering that every aspect of your physical health, down to the cellular level, is impacted by hydration, drink up TODAY. This is one area of your health and wellness that you can control!
Could you or someone you know be royalty without even realizing it? Take this 'YES or NO' quiz to find out!
If you answered YES to the majority of these questions, then I now crown you Cardio Queen!
Before you claim your royal title, I need to know one thing: Does your fitness goal include losing fat, increasing lean mass and accelerating your metabolism so that you burn more calories at rest? If you answered yes to this as well, you may want to reconsider donning that crown.
But first, allow me to applaud your commitment to exercise. The fact that you incorporate movement into your day already demonstrates that you value fitness. Making exercise a habit is a critical step in your path to wellness.
My guess is, though, that if you've been performing steady-state cardio for a while (meaning, aerobic activity that is a continuous, steady effort, as opposed to an interval workout where you vary your intensity, allowing for periods of recovery), one or several of these has occurred:
Am I right? Here's some additional insight from one of my favorite fitness experts, Rachel Cosgrove, who co-owns one of the most successful gyms in the country and writes for numerous reputable fitness magazines: "Your body quickly adapts to steady state aerobic activity, decreasing the amount of calories you burn with each walk/run, making you more and more efficient at the activity. This is the goal if you're training for an endurance event – to be super efficient using the least amount of energy (calories) possible to complete the distance. You want just the opposite if you're trying to lose fat."
Numerous studies support this, including this one from the American Journal of Medicine --
I had a client, who is now a good friend (I love when that happens!), who began her fitness journey attending one cardio-based group fitness class most days of the week. Then it progressed to two classes per session. Eventually, she began jogging a couple of miles on the treadmill before classes. She came to me exasperated, exhausted and feeling like she was losing the weight management battle, not to mention her free time. I recall asking her two questions: "How's your diet?" and "Are you doing any strength training?" Her diet was mostly liquid--sweet tea--and she wasn't doing any strength training for fear that it would make her bulky. Please, lady friends, put that myth to rest! While some of us may have an easier time than others adding defined lean mass, we women lack the natural hormones to develop man muscles.
Ok, so back to my client. Once she cut the sweet tea, added real food to her diet, especially healthy amounts of protein, drastically reduced traditional cardio and emphasized circuit-style weight training into her program to build muscle and burn significant calories, she noticed immediate results. Very quickly, she became strong, lean, shapely and energized. Beyond that, she reclaimed her schedule by cutting her time in the gym by more than half.
Are we saying that you should never perform steady state cardio? Absolutely not. It builds endurance, conditions your internal organs, releases feel-good endorphins, and improves our mental state. Furthermore, as I reported in a previous blog, "An individual's cardiorespiratory fitness level is one of the strongest predictors of morbidity and mortality." (NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training, Fourth Edition Revised). But if your goal is fat loss, steady-state cardio should not take precedence over muscle-building strength training or metabolism-revving interval training. If you are an endurance competitor, then by all means, perform steady state cardio as that is training for your sport. That said, even distance athletes benefit from strength training.
So, where does that leave your Cardio Queen crown? Hopefully, on your mantle, at least for most days of the week. On other days, swap it out for weights, a kettlebell or bodyweight exercises performed in interval fashion. For example, after warming up, perform exercises as intensely as you can--and with correct form--for, say, 30 seconds. Then rest for 60-90 seconds. Repeat all work/rest intervals for a total of 15 minutes. As your conditioning improves, reduce the length of your recovery, as low as 30 seconds. And if you're a serial cardio class taker, reclaim some time in your life by skipping three one-hour classes and lifting weights instead for 20 minutes. Imagine what you could do with the two hours you'll get back from that simple decision!
Need help putting an interval training and/or metabolic resistance training program together? You know where to find me!
My 7-year-old son, Magnus, started second grade last week. The first day was an especially momentous occasion, as this was his school's official grand opening--the smell of fresh paint, new carpet and children's futures wafting through the recently erected halls. It was also a memorable day because Magnus and hundreds of his fellow classmates biked to campus. Most students live just under two miles from the school, so we are required to provide our own transportation. And what better way to get there than by bike?
Except that on the first day of school, I didn't own a bike. And didn't plan to own a bike (other than my stationary indoor cycle). But I wanted to chaperone Magnus to school to help him navigate this new adventure. I figured I would just jog with the pack of kids who ride together, at least for the first few weeks while they learned the routine. And that's what I did...the first morning. It was truly a meaningful experience watching this parade of elementary and middle school kids, clad in colorful backpacks and helmets, processing into a new year of learning at a gleaming, modern facility. Norman Rockwell would have been proud of this Small Town, USA, moment.
I jogged back home after releasing my little bird to the academic world, feeling thankful for such a positive start. Once I caught my breath, I also recalibrated my plans to run alongside the kiddos before and after school. For one thing, I don't love jogging. It's boring. It's a slow way to get somewhere. And it's killer on the joints. For another, I can't keep up with the bikes. Nope. Not even while wearing a pair of my super-duper-light-as-a-feather-ready-for-anything-neon-colored Nike running shoes.
With that, I knew what I had to do--get myself a set of wheels, and fast. But what kind? There are so many choices...so many expensive choices, and all I needed was something easy, functional, and affordable. Oh, and cute. REALLY cute. With a matching helmet. And a bell. I gotta have a bell. And while I'm at it, I'd love a cupholder and storage space (Oops, I'm talking about a bike, not a car!).
I realize this is a lot to ask for, especially by a gal who hasn't owned a bike since I rode to school on a bright yellow cruiser in the second grade. Wait! That's it! I decided to hearken back to my elementary years and get an easy-to-ride cruiser. By the second day of school, I found a sweet deal on the perfect bike: a gloss blue retro Huffy cruiser, complete with basket on the front, cupholder and rear rack for storage! Of course, I completed it with a polka-dotted bell and color-coordinated helmet.
As I rode (and wobbled...they say you never forget how to ride a bike, but that was doubtful for the first few spins around the block!) to school to pick up my son, then followed he and fellow riders home, I was reminded of riding my bike as a child. The wind in my hair. The freedom of movement. The spirit of adventure. I was rediscovering a little piece of my youth, and calling upon my body--now three decades older--to have muscle memory, to use my core for an exercise other than planks, squats, lunges, and pushups, and to engage in a new shared physical activity with my child.
This moment is why I work so hard to stay fit and healthy. To keep up with my ever growing boys. To be the parent who can ride alongside them, show them that you're never too old to be active, and to participate in their journey. Then to embarrass them by ringing that bell every chance I get!!
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Is there an activity that you loved doing as a child, but gave it up for one reason or another? Perhaps dance, tennis, rollerblading or basketball? Would you like to try it again? What's keeping you from it and how can you overcome the obstacle(s)?
At the risk of belaboring coverage of the death of comedian Robin Williams, I want to take this timely and relevant opportunity to remind readers that exercise is proven by research to be one of the best treatments for depression.
Now, before I proceed, by no means am I implying that a jog around the block could have saved Mr. Williams, or someone like him in such a hopeless state, particularly with the added knowledge that he was in the early stages of Parkinson's disease. I've read that Mr. Williams was an endurance athlete, and participated in numerous cycling and triathlon events. In fact, CNN reported that he used exercise and cycling to manage his stress and depression, but "the prospect that [Parkinson's] would prevent him from doing that was extremely upsetting, adding to the depression." So clearly, for those battling the depths of depression, exercise alone won't provide salvation.
That said, studies show that exercise, as part of a treatment program, can significantly improve symptoms of depression.
According to the article, "Understanding Depression," from the Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School, "
How does exercise relieve depression? For many years, experts have known that exercise enhances the action of endorphins, chemicals that circulate throughout the body. Endorphins improve natural immunity and reduce the perception of pain. They may also serve to improve mood. Another theory is that exercise stimulates the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which may directly improve mood.
Hear ye, hear ye, all milk lovers (and haters!)! I've come across some information that will contribute to the conversation about milk. (WHAT?! You're not engaged in a dialogue about milk?! Ok, leave it to us food geeks to hash out this topic.)
Over the last year or so, I've engaged in conversations about milk with some of my nutritionally saavy friends, most of whom shun cow's milk (or certainly non-organic versions). Their reasons vary, including that it sets off immune disorders, exacerbates chronic respiratory diseases, creates digestive issues, is filled with antibiotics and chemicals, is zapped of its nutrient content through pasteurization and homogenization, and simply, that it's just not natural to drink the milk of another creature.
In full disclosure, cow's milk has been one of my favorite beverages since I was old enough to pour my own satisfying, thirst quenching, creamy cup. As a girl, I truly believed that the reason I never broke a bone growing up was because the calcium in this miracle drink made them stronger than steel (truth is, ounce for ounce, bone IS stronger than steel!). But as a wellness advocate, I felt compelled to research my options in the milk category, particularly because it's a staple of my kids' diet (one of whom has asthma), and I want my family to consume what's healthiest.
If you peered into my refrigerator over the last few months, you would have found a combination of organic skim cow's milk, organic plain soy milk, organic rice milk, organic almond milk and organic coconut milk, and last year, I experimented with raw cow's milk (geez, I've spent a ton of money on milk!).
After all of this sampling, what remains in my fridge today? Organic skim cow's milk and a carton of Silk's almond/coconut blend (Score! Two in one!). As info, I use the almond/coconut blend in smoothies that will also include either yogurt or powdered whey protein.
So, for now, I'm comfortable continuing with organic cow's milk, particularly when I come across articles like the one I included below from The Running Blog by The Guardian. The article (with only minor edits for brevity) aims to prove that milk is the best recovery drink out there. Additionally, several other sources support milk's benefits for post-workout recovery:
For those of us who train hard, want quick recovery and nutrient replenishment, and desire faster results, what we consume, and when, really matters. Based on these articles, milk--with yummy chocolate!--should be on the menu.
THE SECRET POWERS OF CHOCOLATE MILK
Source: The Running Blog by The Guardian
Mo Farah drinks it, scientific studies recommend it, and a round-the-world athlete swears by it – could chocolate milk drink be a runner's best friend?
Studies indicate that chocolate milk contains the ideal carbohydrate-to-protein ratio for post-run recovery.
Mo Farah has a penchant for chocolate milk after races and intense training sessions, but far from being a rare moment when the double Olympic champion strays from his almost monastic nutritional regime, this is actually a vital part of his post-run recovery program.
The explosion of research in sports science over the past decade has allowed elite athletes to approach every aspect of racing in minute detail in a bid to gain even the smallest of edges. And as unlikely as it sounds, there is a growing belief that a humble bottle of chocolate milk may be the best recovery drink out there: "We now know that chocolate milk has the ideal carbohydrate-to-protein ratio, which your muscles require to replenish glycogen levels," says Kelly Pritchett of the department of foods and nutrition at the University of Georgia.
The surprisingly revitalising qualities of chocolate milk were only discovered by accident. A scientific study looking at the best beverages for post-exercise rehydration was supposed to pit the finest electrolyte sports drinks on the market against each other. Nine elite cyclists were taken through a series of glycogen-depleting exercises, consuming various recovery drinks in between, while a handful were given just milk as a control to gauge the relative benefits of each drink. But in an unexpected twist, the cyclists on milk outperformed their rivals by a considerable margin.
Initially this was thought to be a fluke, but sports scientists from a variety of different institutions have since repeated the experiment with similar results. Chocolate milk contains a three-to-one ratio of carbohydrate grams to protein grams which appears to enhance glycogen replenishment, as well as far more potassium, calcium and vitamin D than most sports drinks. Crucially, chocolate milk also appears to be naturally tuned to human digestive systems – the dairy-intolerant or allergic clearly notwithstanding – containing exactly the right balance of fast-absorbing proteins such as whey protein (which pumps essential amino acids into the bloodstream promoting muscle growth and repair), and slow-absorbing proteins such as casein (which keeps amino acids in the blood stream many hours later, reducing the amount of muscle breakdown).
In response, the manufacturers of Gatorade and other similar post-exercise thirst quenchers have attempted to copy the optimal carbohydrate-protein ratio found in milk, but even with their upgraded products, they cannot outperform the real thing.
"The key thing is there are still no studies which have found chocolate milk to be inferior, so it's always either equal or superior to your over-the-counter recovery drinks," Pritchett says. "And from a cost standpoint, on a weekly basis you're looking at maybe £7 a week versus up to £24. So it's more economical."
While it may appear that the chocolate is only there to make it taste nice, the extra sugar actually plays a key part in ensuring you're getting the post-exercise recommendations for carbohydrate: an 8oz glass of chocolate milk contains about 30-35g of carbohydrate compared to just 12g in normal milk.
With athletes including Farah constantly seeking ways to push the boundaries, several studies have also investigated whether alternative milks such as almond or soy may prove even more effective recovery beverages. But while it was found neither contains the optimum balance that makes low-fat chocolate milk ideal – with soy lacking the carbohydrate content and almond lacking the requisite amount of protein – this research did reveal that timing is crucial.
"In order to enhance recovery, the key is to get the carbohydrate and protein you need in the first two hours after exercise," says Pritchett. "We say this is the window of opportunity, as the ability to replace muscle glycogen is boosted during that period when you have increased blood flow going to the muscles. If you wait longer, it could take more time to restore your natural levels."
Chocolate milk has also been found to be an excellent drink for runners taking part in intense multi-day endurance events. Last September, 52-year-old Tom Denniss, a mathematics researcher from Sydney, broke the world record for a round-the-world run, completing more than 600 consecutive marathons to cover 26,000km in just 622 days. Denniss firmly believes that chocolate milk made a huge difference to his ability to clock up the miles without sustaining injury: "To recover I just sat down at the end of each day, and before the day started, and I'd mix up a litre of chocolate milk," he said. "I found that was really important for hydration. I had always been a reasonably big milk drinker anyway, but I thought that was just me, just what I liked. It turns out it contains exactly the right sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium electrochemical balance which the body requires for the muscle synapses to fire."
"Chocolate milk is a very effective recovery beverage especially when doing something like multiple marathons back to back," Pritchett confirms. "You're not going to be able to recover if you can't get in the carbs and the protein, and the nice thing about it is that it's convenient and it's an easy way to get something in if you find you don't want to eat after exercise."
How often have you looked at a magazine and wished you had the body of the model gracing the cover--her long limbs, narrow torso and lighter-than-air presence? If you're an ectomorph, you likely share her figure. But if you're a mesomorph or endomorph, fuggetaboutit, turn the page and delve into an unrelated article, because that's not how you were (wonderfully!) made.
If you're now thinking, "Ecto- what? Endo- who?," allow me to explain.
In the 1940s, a PhD MD by the name of Willam H. Sheldon developed the idea of somatotypes, or human physical types. "People are born with an inherited body type based on skeletal frame and body composition." Generally speaking, the gist is that everyone falls into one of three body type categories: ectomorph--slim, linear type, mesomorph--muscular type, and endomorph--round, higher fat type.
Let's delve deeper into each somatotype, courtesy of directlyfitness.net, to learn common characteristics, male and female examples, training and dieting tips for each one.
The ECTOMORPH Body Type
Ectomorphs are often below the average weight for their height and have a skinny appearance. Ectomorphs tend to have very high metabolisms and often complain of relentless eating with little to no weight gain.
Common Ectomorph Characteristics Include:
Ectomorph Training Tips:
Ectomorph Dieting Tips:
The ENDOMORPH Body Type
The endomorphic body type is the complete opposite of an ectomorph. This individual will usually be larger in appearance with heavier fat accumulation and little muscle definition. They find it hard to drop weight even though they try several diets or workout programs.
Common Endomorph Characteristics Include:
Endomorphs Training Tips:
Endomorphs Dieting Tips:
The MESOMORPH Body Type
The mesomorph is somewhat in between the ectomorph and the endomorph and as such, displays qualities from both. This individual is capable of being both muscular and lean. S/he has a larger frame (bone structure) as the endomorph does, but a low body fat percentage as the ectomorph has. Bodybuilders possess this somatotype.
Common Mesomorph Characteristics Include:
Mesomorph Training Tips:
Mesomorph Dieting Tips:
Most people are a combination of types. You may be predominantly one of these, but recognize characteristics of another type. For instance, I'm an ecto-meso combo based on the characteristics outlined here.
So, which one(s) are you? Once you've identified your dominant somatotype, embrace it, and adopt training, diet and lifestyle habits that allow you to be the healthiest ecto, endo or meso you can be!
Sources: http://www.uh.edu/fitness/comm_educators/3_somatotypesNEW.htm; http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/553976/somatotype; http://www.directlyfitness.com/store/3-body-types-explained-ectomorph-mesomorph-endomorph/
According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, "It is estimated that MORE THAN 75% of the American adult population does NOT engage in at least 30 minutes of low-to-moderate physical activity on most days of the week."
Wow. This is saying that, at most, only one out of every four American adults make the time to exercise regularly for a half an hour--the length of a sitcom. And we're just talking gentle exercise, such as brisk walking, not high intensity training.
Furthermore, "the risk of chronic disease INCREASES DRAMATICALLY in those individuals who are physically inactive or only meet the minimal standard of physical activity."
Chronic diseases include:
But beyond issues of chronic disease, research has confirmed that "an individual's cardiorespiratory fitness level is one of the strongest predictors of morbidity and mortality." In other words, your engagement in regular, sustained physical activity over your lifetime is "one of the most reliable predictors of death...Conversely, an improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness is related to a reduction in premature death from all causes." That's either REALLY positive news if you're an avid exerciser, or REALLY scary if you haven't made physical activity a part of your daily life.
I'm sure most readers can rattle off a few benefits of regular cardiorespiratory exercise, but let's review this comprehensive list in the hopes that it may provide additional motivation. And by the way, NASM points out that, "these benefits ACCRUE as a result of the numerous physiologic adaptations to cardiorespiratory training," which means it's never too late to start moving!
BENEFITS OF CARDIORESPIRATORY EXERCISE:
Could you use improvements in any of these areas? Silly question, right?!
So where do we go from here? If you're one of my beloved sedentary readers who can't recall the last time you became winded on purpose, how about starting with a 10 to 20 minute walk today. Move with a purposeful, steady pace, as if you were running late for an appointment. Continue that practice most days of the week, adding on time as your fitness improves. Once you've done that for at least one month, send me a message and I'll help you with next steps to continue your progress.
If you already walk or exercise regularly at a low-to-moderate level, it's time to kick it up a notch. Why? Because "low-intensity cardiorespiratory exercise will typically result in some improvements in health and well-being, but not necessarily any significant improvements in fitness as compared with higher training intensities." Incorporate intervals of faster paced movement with slower recovery periods, and perform strength training exercises (just use body weight to start). If you are inexperienced with resistance training, I highly recommend seeking assistance from a fitness expert who can assess your movement patterns to ensure that you execute exercises safely and correctly, and help you form a plan.
For those who are fearful of starting an exercise program due to past injury, a health issue, being deconditioned or some other negative experience, first seek the guidance of a medical professional to rule out any issues. Once you're cleared, keep this in mind: "Although there are risks associated with physical activity and exercise, primarily musculoskeletal injuries, the benefits of physical activity clearly outweigh the risks."
- Source: NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training, Fourth Edition Revised
The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which are based on scientific evidence, recommend adults engage in 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity (30 minutes 5 times a week) to help improved their overall health and fitness and reduce their risk for developing numerous chronic diseases. The guidelines also recommend that if adults exceed 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity or 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity, then they will gain even more health benefits. Exercise sessions may also be broken up into shorter increments, for example 10 minutes at a time, until 150 minutes per week is met.
Let's take a little fitness quiz, shall we? Fill in the blanks using each of these three words one time:
____________ CONTROLS weight
____________ CONDITIONS your organs
____________ CHANGES your shape
The answers are:
How'd you do? And why does it matter anyway? Because while each component--diet, cardio and resistance training--is important in its own right, a balanced combination of the three is required for long-term weight management. Most of us are usually decent at one or two of these at one time, but the remaining component(s) may be elusive to us--and therein lies why fitness goals fail to be reached.
Now, let's delve into the quiz statements a little deeper:
Just as fitness grants you freedom to move a little easier, walk a little taller and hug a little tighter, Independence Day celebrates the freedoms granted to us through the Declaration of Independence drafted in 1776. In honor of July 4th, that day of declaration 238 years ago, how about we display some patriotism with a little fitness challenge?!
PATRIOTIC PUSH-UP/SQUAT CHALLENGE:
FITNESS IS FREEDOM BONUS 2.3.8 CHALLENGE:
"BABY, YOU'RE A FIREWORK" FINISHER:
Still want more? Since Independence Day takes place on the 4th day of the 7th month, perform 47 alternating machine gun punches, followed by 47 alternating front kicks.
Alright, who's in?!? Leave a comment with your results!
My family just returned from a week of vacation in the Florida Keys. As is the case with most vacations, we ate a ton (Key Lime pie!!), drank too much and donned a bathing suit most of the time. Not an ideal combination. So, how did we avoid packing on extra vacay weight? Exercise! That's right--for this family, exercise is a lifestyle, so even when we're taking time away, we never take time off from fitness.
In fact, when we pack up the car to start any journey, it always includes these essentials: resistance bands, a jump rope and a kettlebell. Even though most resorts/hotels include fitness centers of some sort, I prefer to bring what I need rather than waste time adapting to a new facility or equipment.
Incorporating movement helps us normalize to our temporary surroundings, keeps us regular, and helps balance out all that extra caloric intake.
When we arrived at our villa in the Keys, I knew immediately where I would perform my quick interval routines. The upstairs covered deck overlooking the crystal blue ocean and lush native flora would be inspiring (see photos).
Now, before you get the idea that I enjoyed my own personal fitness retreat surrounded by billowing palms and azure water, allow me to inject a dose of reality: my reluctant workout partner was my seven-year-old son who'd rather watch a documentary on the iPad about the catastrophic repercussions of extruding all of the oil from below the earth's crust than do squats and push-ups with me. Seriously. His most encouraging words were, "Mom, you sweat a lot." Thanks, hun.
And yes, I do sweat a lot, especially in the hotter-than-lava Keys. Needless to say, my 32 ounce water bottle was always at my side, and constantly being refilled.
To that end, here is the workout that I performed every other day while on vacation, preceeded by a basic warm-up of squats, pushups, lunges, rotations and dynamic stretches.
A. BODY WEIGHT COMBO (courtesy of Craig Ballantyne)
B. RESISTANCE COMBO (equipment: kettlebell (KB) and resistance band(s). If you don't have a KB or want to simplify, the following exercises can all be done with just resistance bands.)
Perform three rounds of A and B for a hotter-than-lava 25-minute workout! If you have less time or zero equipment, just perform two to three rounds of A.
On other days, we'd incorporate physical activities offered by the resort, such as paddle boarding (my first time!) and kayaking. I also went for a mind-clearing jog around the island. What?!? Molly went for a run? I know, I know, steady-state cardio isn't my thing and definitely not the most effective way to stay lean and muscular, but when we're away from home, I enjoy the opportunity to explore our surroundings by foot...and get a break from the boys!!
Are you planning for an upcoming getaway? Don't forget your basic equipment, athletic shoes and most importantly, a plan! Already have an idea when you'll exercise on your vacation (morning is best, and keep it quick and effective with metabolic workouts like the one above), work through barriers in advance that might thwart your good intentions (i.e., kids, limited space, etc), and aim to stick to your healthy diet 80 percent of the time.
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Molly is a wife, mom,
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I am not a registered dietitian, nor a medical professional. My blog is a representation of my views and experiences, which are not intended as medical advice. While I am a certified personal trainer, descriptions of things I eat and exercises I perform may not be suitable for everyone. Please speak with a medical professional before making any changes to your current routine.