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.
I'm not going to tell you work out today. I'm not going to tell you to eat right, to drink more water, or even to sleep seven to eight hours tonight. In fact, I'm not going to discuss anything related to your physical fitness in this entry.
Being that I'm a fitness coach, and this is a fitness blog, nearly all of my topics are related to your physical wellness. But I'm departing from that today, because I'm compelled to talk about a more important, eternal, and deeply personal realm of fitness.
But first, let me tell you about my client-friend, Linda. An avid fitness enthusiast, I met Linda at a health club where I work. She was one of the first members to participate in the group personal training program we offered, trained regularly with other trainers, and competed in physique competitions. By day, she was chief counsel for the IRS, by night (and weekend), a gym fixture, easily spending two or more hours at the club at a time. She seemed indefatigable, and more youthful than her 50-something age reflected.
Last week, Linda thought she caught the flu. While I don't have all of the details, I know she also contracted a bacterial infection at some point, which, within just a couple of days, shut down her organs and took her life.
As I and many others mourn the sudden loss of Linda's life, I was painfully reminded of how fragile life is. And as someone in my fitness circle, it was a sobering punch to the gut that no matter how fit you are, no matter how hard you exercise, no matter how healthy your diet, not one of us is immune from life's passing.
This isn't a surprise to anyone, of course, but it prompted me to ask my readers the following questions:
As a follower of Jesus Christ, whom I believe took on the sins of the world, died on the cross and rose again for those who will believe in Him, I'm thankful for the confidence I have in my eternity. For this reason, I have a great for love my readers, my community and the world around me, and I wish for nothing more than for others to share that same assurance. Because when that day comes, there's nothing we can do--not one more burpee, not one more sprint, not consume one more protein shake--to prolong our life.
Linda, too, knew Jesus, so we may find comfort in that knowledge as we deal with her loss.
In the days and weeks ahead, it will be my prayer that before your next fitness activity, you will spend a few moments asking yourself the questions I listed above, and be able to answer them with confidence and peace.
For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value
for all things, holding promise for both the present life
and the life to come.
~ 1 Timothy 4:8
In my last blog, I reflected on the highlights of an eventful 2016. Before we get any deeper into January 2017, I wanted to share my expectations for the year. I prefer the term expectations, as opposed to goals, because to expect something means it's likely to happen, almost like an obligation. A goal, on the other hand, is something to aim for, but you may not necessarily achieve it. While there's much to be learned on the journey towards a goal, even if it isn't reached, being expectant requires greater commitment.
Ok, so here is my list, in no particular order. Hold me accountable!
Now it's your turn! Hopefully you've already set your own expectations, and perhaps just need to write them out. Need a few suggestions? Consider these:
Place your list where you'll see it regularly, and feel free to post it in the Comments section for accountability. Let's make 2017 our best year yet!
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!
I'm pleased to report that I'm officially "Certified for Life" as a personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine (N.A.S.M.)!
For some background, every two years, certified fitness professionals are required to complete a specific number of continuing education units, renew their CPR and AED certification, and pay a fee in order to maintain their active status with a certifying body (N.A.S.M., in this instance).
Being "Certified for Life" with N.A.S.M. requires trainers to make a greater financial investment in their renewal process, in essence prepaying their future renewal fees for life. This doesn't negate the other requirements, as we're still required to fulfill the continuing education units, and maintain CPR and AED certification status every two years to ensure that our industry knowledge is up-to-date.
The takeaway for the reader, and for current and future clients, is that this investment demonstrates a commitment to my craft, to the pursuit of enhanced health and wellness through continuing education, and a regard for one of the most respected certifying bodies in the fitness industry. While there are a handful of excellent organizations that educate and certify personal trainers, being a nationally accredited N.A.S.M. CPT is highly regarded and often preferred at health clubs over other certifications. I also hold personal trainer and group fitness instructor certifications through the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, which was recently acquired by N.A.S.M.
At the end of the day, I admit that what clients value most are results, not initials after one's name. But asking a trainer about their certifications should be included in your top questions before you consider hiring them.
According to fitness expert, Gunnar Peterson, "It may not matter, but sometimes it gives you a little light on why they are training you a certain way," Peterson said in a Men's Fitness article. "N.S.C.A., N.A.S.M., and A.C.S.M. are the gold standards. There are great trainers who are not certified, but it's comforting to know that they applied themselves and studied a certain amount of pertinent information."
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!
During the holiday break, my oldest son, Magnus, participated in a three-day athletic camp led by a former NFL player. In addition to coaching the kids on speed, agility and quickness, the camp included lessons on character-building.
At the end of one practice, the participants were given a homework assignment to define themselves using the letters of their name. The activity was designed to teach the kids that while someone else had named them, they had the choice to determine what their name stood for. It was up to each one of them to help shape how others perceive them based on what they represented through their beliefs, goals and behaviors, and their names should signify that.
This assignment was challenging for my nine-year-old son whose vocabulary is understandably limited, so we helped him a bit. Here's what he/we came up with: M - magnetic; A - athletic; G - grateful; N - needed; U - unstoppable; S - swift.
In assisting Magnus, I couldn't help but ask myself, "What does Molly represent? How do I want to be defined, particularly as we enter into a new year ?" Perhaps surprising to some, none of my definitions were specifically fitness-related, despite fitness being my passion and profession. I went with over-arching concepts that encompass all facets of wellness, including spiritual, emotional and physical.
After some thought, I decided on this definition:
I need to be honest and admit that I was hesitant to write this, because I have such a long way to go in my pursuit of these ideals. But then I reminded myself of the definition of ideal--a standard to strive for, a conception of perfection. I won't get these right much of the time, but it's my aim this year and beyond to be a better "mother," to be more "open," to be a "light" to others, to live with "less," and to say "yes" to only the best.
My challenge to you this month is to complete this task with your name, and perhaps encourage your spouse and kids to do the same. You're welcome to flesh out your last name as well if your first name is fewer than five letters or you simply want give meaning to your full name. Feel free to share it here in the Comments section!
Here's to a healthier, more fulfilling new year, where we add meaning and wellness to every area of our lives!
One of my childhood neighborhoods was heavily shrouded in oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. It was a haven for squirrels. Lots and lots of squirrels. Those bushy-tailed rodents would dart to and fro in front of oncoming cars, often to their demise.
Having witnessed countless squirrel crossings, I recognized that these creatures were run over because their behavior was erratic and indecisive. Like the video game Frogger, squirrels would cross a street in the hopes that their timing was faster than that of a vehicle. And most of the time, it was. But here’s where they made fatal mistakes: after darting just in time to a safe curb, they impulsively turned back in the direction from which they came, and even changed directions more than once in the middle of the road, appearing unsure about which side of the street was preferable. In that ill-timed deliberation, the squirrels found themselves under the tires of a two-ton car.
Ok, so why am I writing about the behavior of squirrels? Because I see similar behavior in people who are unsuccessful at achieving their fitness goals. How often have you or a friend started a fitness or weight loss regimen, only to second guess yourself? Perhaps you’ve jumped into a clean eating program, but turned back to your old habits because you became distracted or failed to plan? Or maybe you attempted to cross over to a healthier lifestyle, but someone or something made you look back, causing fear and confusion about how to move ahead. Or you're one of those folks who shuffles from one weight loss trend to another, never gaining traction or momentum.
While fitness failures haven't resulted in you becoming roadkill like the squirrels, indecision, poor planning and a lack of commitment can be the death of your health goals.
The solution to this sabotaging indecision is to set small, incremental goals that develop daily habits. Rather than looking way ahead to the other side of the road representing your ultimate destination, pay attention to the next step in front of you. Each pace, taken with intention, will help establish consistency, strength and discipline that will keep you moving in the right direction. For example, rather than focusing on the number of pounds you want to lose, which may seem overwhelming, write down a plan for the healthy choices you’ll make today, tomorrow, the next day and the next.
Here’s a daily checklist you may use to get started:
Now, here's your challenge: Implement your own checklist this week. Don't get squirrely and delay progress that you can start experiencing tomorrow!
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!
It's enough to make a fitness coach cry.
Despite having an arsenal of fitness tools at our finger tips in this country, a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that most Americans--more than two thirds--are overweight or obese. This study was conducted by researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, who studied data from 2007 to 2012 of a nationally representative group of 15,208 people ages 25 or older.
The results corroborated estimates by the Centers for Disease Control:
For the record, being overweight means a person's body mass index is 25-29.9 and they weigh 25-30 pounds over the recommended weight for their height. Being obese means a person's BMI is 30 or greater, and they are at least 30 pounds over the recommended weight for their height.
What difference does it make if you're overweight or obese? "Excessive body weight is associated with a myriad of health risks including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, osteoarthritis, some types of cancer, pregnancy complications, shortened life expectancy, and decreased quality of life," says the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Beyond that, the CDC estimates that yearly medical costs of obesity in the U.S. reached $147 billion in 2008, the latest data available.
But losing weight is hard, you say? Then let me ask you this--is suffering from one of the maladies listed above any easier? I'm reminded of a quote I saw recently: "Losing weight is hard. Being overweight is hard. Choose your hard." I have friends battling cancer, and I assure you, losing weight is a preferable challenge.
If you find yourself in the overweight or obese category--two out of three of us will!--I'd like to suggest some simple actions to get you started on your mission to a healthier weight. Using the 2/3 ratio as inspiration, start with at least one of these tomorrow, then add another one the next day, and so on:
In our lives B.C. (Before Children), my husband and I took a spontaneous trip to Rome and Florence, Italy, for the Thanksgiving holiday. I had no trouble trading turkey for lasagna in such a beautiful country!
One of the highlights of our trip was witnessing David, the Renaissance sculpture of the biblical hero by Michelangelo. Beginning in 1501, this famed artist meticulously chiseled what is arguably one of the finest examples of sculpture in history. Standing before David, all 17 feet of him, I actually teared up at this marvel of marble. It's truly a moving experience to behold works of art of this magnitude.
What I find wonderfully ironic is that David began as a 19 foot block of damaged carrara marble. Despite its imperfections, Michelangelo had this to say:
“In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”
There is so much in this quote that applies to my clients and anyone seeking to reshape their lives and bodies into something healthier and fitter.
Many of us feel damaged, imperfect, even imprisoned inside a body we don't recognize or wish to claim. This perspective can make us feel like a cold block of stone -- heavy and burdened.
What if we allowed ourselves the vision of an artist, to see ourselves as we were created to be--"shaped and perfect in attitude and action"--and began chiseling away, layer by layer, the rough walls that thwart our potential? Admittedly, it's not a quick or easy task, as it took Michelangelo three years and the removal of two feet of marble to sculpt David. But taken one hour, one meal, one activity, one decision, one day at a time, your "lovely apparition" will, too, take shape. It all comes down to "attitude and action."
So, how do you start? Set a specific goal, write it down, and commit to a time frame. For example, you might say, I will exercise vigorously for 30 minutes three days a week (Mon., Wed., Fri.) from 6-6:30a for four weeks. Or, I will commit to eating a healthy breakfast of protein and carbs five mornings each week (Mon.-Fri.) within 30 minutes of waking, for four weeks. As you near the end of that month, build on that goal for the next month.
What does Michelangelo say about goals? “The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” With that in mind, set a goal that's doable, but challenging, knowing you will continue to increase that goal as you get fitter and healthier.
What's the best time to start carving out your personal work of art? Now! "There is no greater harm than that of time wasted," said Michelangelo, who also believed, even in his artistic mastery, in hard work and continuous learning.
And on those days when you have unexpected setbacks, stay the course and keep your artist's vision, repeating Michelangelo's words for inspiration: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him/her free.”
"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!
What does being "fit" mean to you? For me, being fit grants me the freedom to do the things that are important to me--playing with my kids, keeping up with my husband, facilitating positive change in clients through exercise and nutrition, setting a healthy example for those around me, and serving others.
I recently had the opportunity to serve at a very special event called Night To Shine, sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation. It's a prom
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!
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You know the trivial conversation that takes place at social events? Or the small talk that happens in passing, when people say they'll do something that you know will never happen? My dad calls that "cocktail talk." It's conversation with a smile, but is as empty as a carton of milk at my house. I'm not a fan of cocktail talk. In fact, I've avoided events because that kind of vapid conversation just saps my energy.
Beyond that, I'm not going to tell you something just because it sounds nice. For instance, I won't say that your baby is beautiful if s/he resembles Elmer Fudd. And I'll be the first to admit that neither of my boys would have won any beauty contests as infants. Heck, I had a 13-year-old French bulldog with only one eye who was just plain ugly. But what I will do is say something kind that is genuine, because telling you something that I don't really mean is, well, cocktail talk.
The topic of fitness seems to attract this sort of idle chit-chat. I can't tell you how many unsolicited conversations I've had with people who open up to me about their health struggles, pick my brain for fitness advice and try to convince me that they're going to start exercising tomorrow. I'm happy to share my knowledge with them and offer support, but it's difficult for me to consider the conversation anything more than space filler when they're downing a plate of chips and queso, Buckeye balls and chicken wings, and guzzling their third margarita.
But you know what engages me? What energizes me? What makes me want to jump on a bandwagon? People who actually DO what they say they'll do. People who are honest with where they are today, and are committed to getting where they want to be tomorrow, even if they're not quite sure how to get there. They'll do what it takes to turn thought into action, even if that means seeking help from others. My favorite clients have been the ones who simply showed up, because they said they would, because they made a commitment, because they believed in the process. Did they have occasional setbacks and bad days? You bet. But they didn't waste energy on small talk and excuses.
At the end of the day, the only cocktail talk that should really concern you is that which you're having with yourself. What superficial conversation with your alter ego is keeping you from a meaningful exchange? What area in your life are you letting swirl about, rather than pinning it down, chiseling it out and making something of it? What opportunity are you allowing to escape you because you're only giving it marginal attention? Determine what it is that you talk about doing, but have yet to do...and do it.
(PS: I still have space in the Fitness Is Freedom Results Club, which kicks off the week of January 12, 2015. This is a perfect place to end the cocktail talk and begin making the kind of healthy lifestyle changes that last. CLICK HERE for more info and to pre-register.)
1. Sprint in place with high knees for 20 secs. Recover 10 secs. Repeat for a total of 8 rounds or 4 minutes.
2. Hold a plank on your elbows and feet for as long as you can. Release when your form suffers (i.e, back arches, chest/shoulders collapse, knees drop, head lowers from neutral).
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.
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I am often asked if I "detox," and what detoxing solutions I recommend. I must first admit that I don't follow detox trends, and consider the detox movement to be gimmicky. That's not to say that some detox recipes aren't nutritious, hydrating or harmlessly benign, but beyond that, I'm just not convinced. I still provide a response to the question, however: Drink lots of water, poop daily, eat clean and exercise.
To be honest, I've grown weary of all of the quick fixes, special concoctions and miracle products. Folks, there is no secret. Eat right. Move more. Don't smoke. Get rest.
One of my sisters in the medical field shared the following article with me (thanks, Lauren!), which debunks detoxes. No doubt there are articles out there that would vehemently refute the findings here, but I found this information posted on TheGuardian.com worth sharing with my readers.
You can’t detox your body. It’s a myth. So how do you get healthy?
There’s no such thing as ‘detoxing’. In medical terms, it’s a nonsense. Diet and exercise is the only way to get healthy. But which of the latest fad regimes can really make a difference? We look at the facts
by Dara Mohammadi, theguardian.com
Whether it’s cucumbers splashing into water or models sitting smugly next to a pile of vegetables, it’s tough not to be sucked in by the detox industry. The idea that you can wash away your calorific sins is the perfect antidote to our fast-food lifestyles and alcohol-lubricated social lives. But before you dust off that juicer or take the first tentative steps towards a colonic irrigation clinic, there’s something you should know: detoxing – the idea that you can flush your system of impurities and leave your organs squeaky clean and raring to go – is a scam. It’s a pseudo-medical concept designed to sell you things.
“Let’s be clear,” says Edzard Ernst, emeritus professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University, “there are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t.” The respectable one, he says, is the medical treatment of people with life-threatening drug addictions. “The other is the word being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated.”
If toxins did build up in a way your body couldn’t excrete, he says, you’d likely be dead or in need of serious medical intervention. “The healthy body has kidneys, a liver, skin, even lungs that are detoxifying as we speak,” he says. “There is no known way – certainly not through detox treatments – to make something that works perfectly well in a healthy body work better.”
Much of the sales patter revolves around “toxins”: poisonous substances that you ingest or inhale. But it’s not clear exactly what these toxins are. If they were named they could be measured before and after treatment to test effectiveness. Yet, much like floaters in your eye, try to focus on these toxins and they scamper from view. In 2009, a network of scientists assembled by the UK charity Sense about Science contacted the manufacturers of 15 products sold in pharmacies and supermarkets that claimed to detoxify. The products ranged from dietary supplements to smoothies and shampoos. When the scientists asked for evidence behind the claims, not one of the manufacturers could define what they meant by detoxification, let alone name the toxins.
Yet, inexplicably, the shelves of health food stores are still packed with products bearing the word “detox” – it’s the marketing equivalent of drawing go-faster stripes on your car. You can buy detoxifying tablets, tinctures, tea bags, face masks, bath salts, hair brushes, shampoos, body gels and even hair straighteners. Yoga, luxury retreats, and massages will also all erroneously promise to detoxify. You can go on a seven-day detox diet and you’ll probably lose weight, but that’s nothing to do with toxins, it’s because you would have starved yourself for a week.
Then there’s colonic irrigation. Its proponents will tell you that mischievous plaques of impacted poo can lurk in your colon for months or years and pump disease-causing toxins back into your system. Pay them a small fee, though, and they’ll insert a hose up your bottom and wash them all away. Unfortunately for them – and possibly fortunately for you – no doctor has ever seen one of these mythical plaques, and many warn against having the procedure done, saying that it can perforate your bowel.
Other tactics are more insidious. Some colon-cleansing tablets contain a polymerising agent that turns your faeces into something like a plastic, so that when a massive rubbery poo snake slithers into your toilet you can stare back at it and feel vindicated in your purchase. Detoxing foot pads turn brown overnight with what manufacturers claim is toxic sludge drawn from your body. This sludge is nothing of the sort – a substance in the pads turns brown when it mixes with water from your sweat.
“It’s a scandal,” fumes Ernst. “It’s criminal exploitation of the gullible man on the street and it sort of keys into something that we all would love to have – a simple remedy that frees us of our sins, so to speak. It’s nice to think that it could exist but unfortunately it doesn’t.”
That the concept of detoxification is so nebulous might be why it has evaded public suspicion. When most of us utter the word detox, it’s usually when we’re bleary eyed and stumbling out of the wrong end of a heavy weekend. In this case, surely, a detox from alcohol is a good thing? “It’s definitely good to have non-alcohol days as part of your lifestyle,” says Catherine Collins, an NHS dietitian at St George’s Hospital. “It’ll probably give you a chance to reassess your drinking habits if you’re drinking too much. But the idea that your liver somehow needs to be ‘cleansed’ is ridiculous.”
The liver breaks down alcohol in a two-step process. Enzymes in the liver first convert alcohol to acetaldehyde, a very toxic substance that damages liver cells. It is then almost immediately converted into carbon dioxide and water which the body gets rid of. Drinking too much can overwhelm these enzymes and the acetaldehyde buildup will lead to liver damage. Moderate and occasional drinking, though, might have a protective effect. Population studies, says Collins, have shown that teetotallers and those who drink alcohol excessively have a shorter life expectancy than people who drink moderately and in small amounts.
“We know that a little bit of alcohol seems to be helpful,” she says. “Maybe because its sedative effect relaxes you slightly or because it keeps the liver primed with these detoxifying enzymes to help deal with other toxins you’ve consumed. That’s why the government guidelines don’t say, ‘Don’t drink’; they say, ‘OK drink, but only modestly.’ It’s like a little of what doesn’t kill you cures you.”
This adage also applies in an unexpected place – to broccoli, the luvvie of the high-street “superfood” detox salad. Broccoli does help the liver out but, unlike the broad-shouldered, cape-wearing image that its superfood moniker suggests, it is no hero. Broccoli, as with all brassicas – sprouts, mustard plants, cabbages – contains cyanide. Eating it provides a tiny bit of poison that, like alcohol, primes the enzymes in your liver to deal better with any other poisons.
Collins guffaws at the notion of superfoods. “Most people think that you should restrict or pay particular attention to certain food groups, but this is totally not the case,” she says. “The ultimate lifestyle ‘detox’ is not smoking, exercising and enjoying a healthy balanced diet like the Mediterranean diet.”
Close your eyes, if you will, and imagine a Mediterranean diet. A red chequered table cloth adorned with meats, fish, olive oil, cheeses, salads, wholegrain cereals, nuts and fruits. All these foods give the protein, amino acids, unsaturated fats, fibre, starches, vitamins and minerals to keep the body – and your immune system, the biggest protector from ill-health – functioning perfectly.
So why, then, with such a feast available on doctor’s orders, do we feel the need to punish ourselves to be healthy? Are we hard-wired to want to detox, given that many of the oldest religions practise fasting and purification? Has the scientific awakening shunted bad spirits to the periphery and replaced them with environmental toxins that we think we have to purge ourselves of?
Susan Marchant-Haycox, a London psychologist, doesn’t think so. “Trying to tie detoxing in with ancient religious practices is clutching at straws,” she says. “You need to look at our social makeup over the very recent past. In the 70s, you had all these gyms popping up, and from there we’ve had the proliferation of the beauty and diet industry with people becoming more aware of certain food groups and so on.
“The detox industry is just a follow-on from that. There’s a lot of money in it and there are lots of people out there in marketing making a lot of money.”
Peter Ayton, a professor of psychology at City University London, agrees. He says that we’re susceptible to such gimmicks because we live in a world with so much information we’re happy to defer responsibility to others who might understand things better. “To understand even shampoo you need to have PhD in biochemistry,” he says, “but a lot of people don’t have that. If it seems reasonable and plausible and invokes a familiar concept, like detoxing, then we’re happy to go with it.”
Many of our consumer decisions, he adds, are made in ignorance and supposition, which is rarely challenged or informed. “People assume that the world is carefully regulated and that there are benign institutions guarding them from making any kind of errors. A lot of marketing drip-feeds that idea, surreptitiously. So if people see somebody with apparently the right credentials, they think they’re listening to a respectable medic and trust their advice.”
Ernst is less forgiving: “Ask trading standards what they’re doing about it. Anyone who says, ‘I have a detox treatment’ is profiting from a false claim and is by definition a crook. And it shouldn’t be left to scientists and charities to go after crooks.”
Article link: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/dec/05/detox-myth-health-diet-science-ignorance
The ultimate lifestyle ‘detox’ is not smoking, exercising and enjoying a healthy balanced diet like the Mediterranean diet.
SMASH! The rear passenger window shattered from the impact, spraying glass fragments upon my 7-year-old son. While attempting to leave an air show last month, our vehicle was T-boned by an absent-minded driver trying to perform a three-point turn in the parking lot. Thankfully, no one was injured (save for a small cut on my son's leg). Aside from being a bit shaken up, it was a windy ride home with a blown-out window.
The impact from this crash was minimal, despite the obvious damage to our vehicle, so our seatbelts easily kept us in our places. But what if speed had been a factor and the impact had been greater? And what if my family was representative of the 66 percent of American adults who are overweight or obese?
Turns out that, in a worse car crash, our odds of injury and survival could be partially dependent upon our fitness level.
Really? How can that be? I would have guessed that a thick layer of body fat might provide some extra measure of protection to vital organs upon impact. Not so, according a recent article in The Washington Post titled, "A depressing sign of America's obesity problem: fatter crash test dummies."
"Crash test dummies have long helped auto manufacturers keep cars as safe as possible, but the slim plastic mannequins are increasingly poor mirrors of the modern American man and woman," the article explained.
In response, Humanetics, the world's leading producer of crash test dummies, is developing "a new obese dummy to better mirror the U.S. population."
A crash test dummy weighing over 270 pounds with a body mass index of 35 (30 and above is considered obese by the CDC) is already in process.
The article states that Americans' ever-expanding waistline has also made it more difficult for traditional crash test dummies to properly model how car passengers' bodies will react during an auto accident. "Obese people are 78 percent more likely to die in a crash," Chris O' Connor, the CEO of Humanetics. "The reason is the way we get fat. We get fat in our middle range. And we get out of position in a typical seat."
Furthermore, the article cites a 2010 study from the University at Buffalo and Erie County Medical Center that reached a similar conclusion. "The study, which analyzed data from more than 150,000 car crashes in the United States between 2000 to 2005, found that moderately obese drivers faced a 21 percent increased risk of death, and morbidly obese drivers faced a 56 percent increased risk of death."
"Crash test dummies have saved lives and provided invaluable data on how human bodies react to crashes, but they are designed to represent normal-weight individuals," lead author Dr. Dietrich Jehle told the Daily Mail in 2010.
As if we needed another compelling reason to manage our weight! The months between Halloween and New Year's are considered the greatest season for weight gain. Let's commit now to eating cleaner, reducing portion sizes, moving more, losing fat and being safer in our vehicles!
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.
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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.