Blogs > Simply Fit

Simply Fit, by Cindy Haskin-Popp, will help you make physical activity a part of everyday life. The health benefits of regular exercise and overall daily physical activity will be discussed. Fun, practical and easy-to-follow tips on an exercise program will be shared, as will the most current research. Fitness tips for families and seniors, on fitness centers and on buying proper and affordable equipment will be regularly given. 

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Turn Back Time With Fitness

Pills, lotions, injections, surgery. The large market of anti-aging products and procedures reflects the desire of many to slow down the "hands of time." The lengths to which some are willing to go to recapture their youth seem to be never-ending. Fortunately, the results of recent research appear to indicate that you may not need to look any further than your own backyard. In fact, the secret to turning back time may be hiding in your closet, collecting dust. In other words, a good pair of running/walking shoes and a little dedication are all you need to slow the infamous "biological clock."

New research conducted by German investigators and published in the December 2009 issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association found that exercise has an anti-aging effect at the molecular level. It appears as though physical activity prevents the shortening of telomeres - DNA that is found at the ends of chromosomes and acts to protect these structures from damage. This finding is significant because the cells in your body are continually going through a process of growing and dividing. The telomeres shorten with each cell division. The cell dies when the telomeres become too short. Shorter telomeres limit the number of cell divisions, and hence, the life of the cell, thus speeding up the "biological clock."

Investigators compared the lengths of telomeres in blood samples from two groups of endurance athletes and two groups of inactive individuals. The athletic groups consisted of one cohort of young runners (average age of 20 years) and one cohort of middle-aged runners (average age of 51 years) with a history of endurance exercise. These two groups were matched by age to two groups of healthy, but inactive, individuals.

The researchers found that the athletes had longer telomeres, and that telomere length was significantly greater in those subjects with a longer history of endurance exercise. The investigators state that exercise activates telomerase, an enzyme that stabilizes telomeres and prevents their shortening. Therefore, aging at the cellular level is slowed by longer telomere lengths.

If you are looking to add more hours to your "biological clock," try adding more minutes to your exercise routine. The more years of exercise you log, the younger you may get.

Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

American Heart Association News Release: "Long-term Physical Activity has an Anti-aging Effect at the Cellular Level," November 30, 2009.

Circulation. 2009;120:S492, "Abstract 1380: Beneficial Effects of Long-term Endurance Exercise on Leukocyte Telomere Biology," Werner, C. et al.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Common Exercise Mistakes

The message is simple enough - "just get moving." Health experts advocate increasing your daily physical activity level to lower your risk for developing chronic health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Extended periods of sitting can have detrimental effects on your health. But, so can exercise if you approach it in the wrong way.

Exercising improperly carries its own set of risks that range from minor musculoskeletal injuries to even death (in rare circumstances). So, how can you make sure your good intention to increase your daily dose of exercise doesn't turn against you? Review the list below of common mistakes made while exercising and the solutions to avoid these pitfalls during your workout.

Failure to warm-up and cool-down properly: You may be tempted to eliminate these components of your exercise session when you are short on time. But, both have very important roles in maintaining the safety of your exercise.
  • Warm-up phase: This component prepares your body for the conditioning segment of your exercise session. By gradually increasing the intensity of the physical activity over a 5-10 minute period, you avoid abrupt increases in your heart rate (HR) and blood pressure (BP). Sudden increases in HR and BP can place excessive demands on your heart and, consequently, trigger an abnormal heart rhythm or chest discomfort.
  • Cool-down phase: Dizziness and/or fainting can result if you abruptly stop the exercise activity. The purpose of the cool-down component of your exercise session is to gradually lower your heart rate and blood pressure toward pre-exercise levels over a 5-10 minute period. By gradually lowering the intensity of your activity, you prevent the blood from pooling in your legs, which could result in an insufficient supply of blood and oxygen to your heart and brain. The cool-down phase reduces your risk for experiencing an episode of dizziness and/or fainting by helping to bring the blood and oxygen back to these vital organs.
Improper set-up of exercise equipment: To prevent injury, you will want to familiarize yourself with the various functions of the exercise equipment you will be using.
  • If using exercise equipment at home, read the machine's entire instruction manual prior to use to ensure that you have adjusted its components (e.g., pads and seat) correctly for your body type/frame to avoid injury. For instance, riding a stationary bike with the seat set at the wrong height is a common mistake and can cause knee discomfort/problems. The seat should be set at a height that allows for a slight bend in your knee during the down stroke phase of pedaling.
  • If using exercise equipment at a fitness center, take advantage of the personal training sessions that many of these places offer as part of your membership so that you can receive instructions on proper use.
Improper technique during strength training exercises:
  • Remember to breathe while lifting weights. Exhale as you exert the force.
  • While performing squats and lunges, do not allow your knees to bend beyond your feet. Also, lift with your legs, not your back, while performing these types of exercises.
  • Do not rush your repetitions. Follow a tempo that will allow you to complete the exercise in a smooth and controlled fashion. Typically a 3-digit tempo method is followed with each notation representing the number of counts (e.g., seconds) it should take to complete the exercise through the joint's full range of motion. The first digit represents the eccentric phase (lowering the weight); the middle number represents the "bottom" of the exercise or the point at the end of the eccentric phase; and the third digit represents the concentric phase (lifting the weight). Therefore, if you are following a tempo of 4/0/2, you would lower the weight in a count of four; not pause at the end of the eccentric phase; and, would lift the weight for a count of two.
Failure to cross-train or add variety to your workout: Performing the same exercise program can lead to overuse injuries, boredom, and burnout. To maintain motivation and to ensure you are exercising the major muscle groups of your body, incorporate various modes of exercise into your routine throughout the week. For instance, participate in a fitness class a couple of times a week and on alternate days, try swimming laps or going out for a jog.

Heed the advice of health experts and "just get moving," but do so in a manner that will not cause injury in the long run. Educate yourself on proper technique and equipment use and engage in all components of the exercise session (e.g., warm-up).

Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

Muscle Mechanics - Correct Technique for 65 Resistance Training Exercises, Second Edition. pp. 46-47, Aaberg, E.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fast Facts

All of us, at some point or another, want to feel a little better about ourselves, get a bit stronger, increase stamina, and perform at the top of our game. But how can these desires be achieved? Check out the ways below that are supported by recent research.

Boost your self-image: You don't need to spend your money on pricey cosmetics and weight loss pills to feel better about yourself - a bout of good old exercise will do the trick. In a review of 57 studies that investigated the effects of physical activity on body image, researchers from the University of Florida found that exercise boosted self-image regardless of whether actual changes in body composition and fitness level occurred. Furthermore, the research results indicated that the effect on body image was greatest for those who exercised most often. The investigators conclude that the dose of exercise needed to improve self-image may be lower than that required to achieve physical benefits (e.g., improved exercise endurance).

Build stronger muscles: Performing one set of 8-12 repetitions per weight training exercise is sufficient to improve your strength. But, if you really want to see results you will need to add a few more sets to your routine. According to a review of the literature published in the September 2009 issue of the Journal of Strength Training and Conditioning Research, performing 2-3 sets per activity will increase your strength gains by 46% over what you can achieve by completing just one set.

Increase stamina: If you want to give your energy levels a boost midday, engage in a little low- to moderate-intensity exercise. Researchers from The University of Georgia found that the energy levels of previously inactive individuals who complained of chronic fatigue were increased by 20% when they engaged in either low- or moderate-intensity exercise for 20 minutes, 3 times per week for a period of 6 weeks compared to those subjects who did not exercise during that same time frame. Interestingly, low-intensity exercise was associated with a greater reduction in feelings of fatigue than was moderate-intensity exercise (65% versus 49%, respectively). The authors explained that for individuals who suffer from chronic fatigue, moderate-intensity exercise may be too difficult to perform.

Improve exercise performance: What does rest have to do with it? Plenty according to a Stanford University study that investigated the role of sleep patterns on athletic performance in members of Stanford's Women's tennis team. The athletes experienced improvements in hitting depth and accuracy of serves as well as better sprint drill times after a 5-6 week period during which they aimed to get 10 hours of sleep per night. Adequate sleep is essential because it is during sleep that the body restores and heals itself, especially after long bouts of intense exercise and training. Bottom line, the harder your workouts, the more hours of sleep you may need to get at night.

Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

J Health Psychol 2009: 14: 780, "Effects of Exercise Interventions on Body Image: A Meta-analysis," Campbell, A. and Hausenblas, H.

Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, September 2009, Volume 23, Issue 6 - pp. 1890-1901, "Single Versus Multiple Sets of Resistance Exercise: A Meta-Regression," Krieger, J.W.

University of Georgia Office of Public Affairs news release, February 28, 2008, "Low-intensity Exercise Reduces Fatigue Symptoms by 65 Percent, study finds," Puetz, T.

American Academy of Sleep Medicine news release, June 8, 2009, "Study Shows Sleep Extension Improves Athletic Performance and Mood," Mah, C.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mind Over Matter

If you find yourself getting lax in your efforts to maintain your fitness New Year's Resolutions lately (which is a common thing to happen around this time of year), you may need an adjustment of your mindset. Attitude is the how, what, and why of it all. For a bit of motivation, print out the sentiments below and post them around your house or office.
  • Exercise in the here and now. Don't think of it as weight loss tomorrow, but a bit of health today, right now.
  • Own it! Invest in your well-being as you would a home or a car. Every nutritious food you eat and active thing you do is a deposit into the bank of good health.
  • Progress is the goal, not perfection!
  • Be thankful that you are alive today and recognize that you have the ability to live a better tomorrow.
  • There is no futility in trying. Only quitting results in time lost.
  • Renew and reuse your body each day for sustainable living.
  • Lessons from the past lead to a healthier tomorrow.
  • There are many drummers. Only you can find your own rhythm.
  • A single step gets you closer to the finish line.
  • Breathe, embrace, and savor.
  • Inner growth sprouts from the seed of hope.
  • Good balance is achieved by a centered approach.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Little Annoyance That Can Become A Big Problem

Have you experienced this? You are half-way into your workout. All is well up until this point. Your body feels good - both your cardiovascular system and your muscles are meeting the demands of the workload. Then it happens. Barely noticeable at first. It starts as a mild prickly sensation that soon gives way to an unbearable burning feeling. You are chafed.

Chafing is a skin irritation that is caused by friction which can occur when your skin is continually rubbed by your clothing, another body part, and exercise gear or equipment.

Typical signs/symptoms of chafing include:
  • Red/swollen skin
  • Bleeding
  • Burning, stinging, or raw sensation
Common areas susceptible to chafing during exercise include:
  • Underarms
  • Inner thighs
  • Groin area
  • Nipples
  • Under the breasts/around the bra line
Contributing factors:
  • Sweating - moist skin can yield higher friction forces than dry skin when rubbed
  • Loose fitting clothes
  • Ill-fitted exercise gear
  • Wear clothing that is snug, but not constricting and that wicks moisture away from your body. Garments made of synthetic materials, such as polypropylene, are best.
  • Choose articles of clothing that are seamless or have flat seams.
  • Lubrication. Although petroleum jelly is popular because it is relatively inexpensive, many sports lubricants are on the market that come in a variety of forms such as roll-ons, sticks, and sprays (e.g., Trislide, BodyGlide, etc.,). These products decrease friction and are applied to the affected areas before physical activity.
  • Keep your skin dry by using talcum powder or corn starch.
  • Stay hydrated. Dehydration can result in the formation of salt crystals on your skin, increasing friction.
  • Wash the affected areas with warm water and soap.
  • Apply an antibacterial ointment and cover with a sterile gauze pad and/or bandage.
Chafing can become more than a minor annoyance. It has the potential to alter your gait or technique during your exercise session. This can result in sub-optimal performance as well as increase your risk of musculoskeletal injuries if you are forced to perform movements to which your body is unaccustomed in order to alleviate the chafing discomfort. When it comes to chafing, prevention is best.

Time-to-Run - The World's On-line Running Information Magazine


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine, Will You Be My Fitness Partner?

Flowers, chocolate, and That's right. What better way to say "I love you" than by joining your significant other in an endeavor that will not only strengthen your relationship, but both of your hearts. How can you benefit by exercising with your partner? "Let me count thy ways:"
  • Improved exercise adherence. A year long study that evaluated the monthly exercise adherence and drop-out rates in married couples who exercised together compared to married couples who exercised independently found that those who exercised together were more likely to regularly attend a fitness program and less likely to drop out than those married individuals who exercised alone.
  • Greater motivation to exercise. Encouragement and support from your partner can help you to "go that extra mile."
  • Quality time.
  • Fosters respect for your significant other. Witnessing your partner overcoming barriers to exercise and rebounding from setbacks helps you to develop a sense of pride in who he/she is as an individual.
  • Enhanced libido (sex drive).
  • Companionship.
As cupid shoots his arrow this Valentine's Day, ensure it meets a fit heart. Dance the night away or strike down some pins at the bowling alley. Either way you will be happy knowing that a healthy heart and a strong relationship go hand-in-hand.

J Sports Med Phys Fitness, 1995 Sep;35(3):206-213, "Twelve Month Adherence of Adults who Joined a Fitness Program with a Spouse VS Without a Spouse," Wallace, J.P., Raglin, J.S., Jastremski, C.A.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Exercise Mardi Gras Style

Are you feeling a bit winter weary? Punxsutawney Phil predicts we have 6 more weeks of winter. But, that doesn't mean you have to stay in hibernation. Beat (or bead should I say) the winter doldrums this Saturday, February 13, 2010 by participating in the "Run for the Beads" event sponsored by Gus O'Connor's Pub of Rochester, MI and directed by the Your Pace or Mine Running Club. Similar to the "Run Rally" held last November, this race is sure to be a challenge for the wit and the fit.

Grab a friend or two and sign up as a team. Runners/walkers will navigate the streets of downtown Rochester in search of the 10 participating businesses where they will receive beads and trinkets after arrival. Adding to the challenge of this race, participants must complete various tasks (e.g., push-ups) at fitness stations located at the businesses before they will be donned with beads or given trinkets.

Alexis Zuccaro of Gus O'Connor's states that the owner of the pub, Kevin Van Dyke - a runner himself, has chosen to sponsor the race not only to promote the city of Rochester and its local businesses, but to support the importance of adhering to a physically active lifestyle. In the midst of the nation facing an overweight and obesity epidemic, businesses, as well as all Americans, have been called upon by the Surgeon General to take steps to promote physical activity. The city of Rochester, "with its parks and trail systems," is a great place to achieve this goal, explains Zuccaro.

The race begins and finishes at Gus O'Connor's. The cost of the "Run for the Beads" is $10.00 per person in teams of 2 0r 3. Registration is limited to 100 participants and according to Zuccaro, they are almost at capacity. If you are interested in participating in this event you can register at Gus O'Connor's or contact the Your Pace or Mine Running Club immediately through their website. Once the race limit is met, registration will be closed.

Race participants will receive light snacks between 11:00-11:45 AM the day of the race. Registrants will be given maps of the race, a pilsner glass, and a drawstring bag at this time. The race begins at 12 noon, sharp. After the race, runners will be given a complimentary beer (if 21 or older) or a soft drink. Winners of the race will receive a gift certificate to Gus O'Connor's, according to Zuccaro.

In the spirit of Mardi Gras, Gus O'Connor's will be hosting a mask making party this Thursday, February 11, 2010, from 7-9 PM for race participants. Snack and drink specials will be offered all evening. To learn more about the race, contact Gus O'Connor's at (248) 608-2537 or visit their website at The pub is located at 324 Main Street, Rochester MI, 48307. Information about the race is also found on the website of the Your Pace or Mine Running Club at

Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Shake on WBV

Recently in my reading, I have come across more and more references to whole body vibration training (WBV). Increasing in popularity, WBV training is a fitness trend that utilizes an apparatus that has a vibrating platform on which you can either stand/sit still or perform various exercises (e.g., squats, heel raises, sit-ups, etc.,). Motors underneath the platform typically oscillate at frequencies between 5 and 45 HZ. As the platform oscillates, the vibrations are sent throughout your whole body. These vibrations trigger your muscles to react by contracting and stretching in order to maintain your balance.

WBV training has been touted for providing great health benefits in a shorter period of time with less effort compared to conventional exercise. Sessions typically only require 10-15 minutes at a time performed 3 to 7 days a week. Proponents of WBV training claim that it can increase muscular strength, improve oxygen consumption (aerobic capacity), enhance range of motion and flexibility, increase bone mineral density, improve balance, and boost the neuroendocrine function ("detoxify" your body). Whole body vibration training has been used by health professionals to treat patients in rehabilitation/physical therapy settings as well as by elite athletes and celebrities looking to enhance performance and fitness. WBV platforms are popping up in fitness centers everywhere as well as gaining popularity for home use.

Although WBV training has gained popularity in recent years, the concept is not new. Russian scientists in the 1960's explored the effects of vibration therapy on cosmonauts in an attempt to offset the deleterious effects that space travel has on the muscle and bones due to the lack of gravity in this circumstance. They later applied their findings to the training regimens of Russian athletes to enhance their exercise performance.

Several studies have been conducted on the benefits of whole body vibration training. However, current knowledge is still limited regarding safe and effective exercise protocols that entail use of a vibrating platform. It is generally accepted that WBV platforms that oscillate at a low frequency, low amplitude can provide health benefits. The use of excessively high amplitudes and frequencies can be dangerous and should be avoided.

WBV training is probably not the best form of exercise for individuals who have back problems, are pregnant, or who have unhealed bone fractures. Individuals who are severely de-conditioned, have impaired mobility, and/or are older in age may benefit from WBV training due to the minimal effort required (the option to just stand or sit on the platform, yet still be able to reap the benefits).

As research in this area continues to grow, whole body vibration training may be deemed as an effective form of exercise that can be performed as a supplement to your regular fitness routine.

Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

Br J Sports Med 2005;39:585-589. "Whole Body Vibration Exercise: Are Vibrations Good for You?", Cardinale, M. Wakeling, J.

Self Healing, Agust 2009, p. 4, "Feeling Good Vibrations - Whole-body vibration may build strength and balance."

Mayo Clinic, "Whole Body Vibration Training: An Effective Workout?", Laskowski, E.R.

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Red for Life

This Friday, February 5, is "National Wear Red Day," an initiative spearheaded by the American Heart Association to increase public awareness that heart disease is the number one health threat to women in the United States. Traditionally, heart disease has been thought of as "a man's disease," but the reality is that 23% of women who are 40 years of age and older will die within 1 year of a heart attack compared to only 18% of men. Many women believe that they have a greater risk of dying from breast cancer. However, a woman is almost twice as likely to die from a cardiovascular event (heart disease or stroke) than she is from cancer (all forms combined). The death rate from cardiovascular disease is substantially higher (74%) in women ages 35-74 who are black compared to those who are white.

Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease:
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Age
  • Family history
  • Race
Other Risk Factors for Women:
  • Birth control pills
  • Elevated triglyceride levels appear to pose a greater risk of heart disease for women than for men
Symptoms of a Heart Attack:
  • Chest discomfort (e.g., fullness, pressure, squeezing, numbness, burning, etc.,)
  • Pain or discomfort (e.g., numbness, tingling, etc.,) in the arms (typically the left), jaw, neck, and/or back
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness/lightheadedness
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Sweating
Cardiovascular Disease and Gender:
  • Women are more likely than men to experience back discomfort, jaw pain, shortness of breath, and nausea and vomiting
  • Health care professionals tend to attribute women's symptoms to non-cardiac causes compared to men who present with similar symptoms
  • Women delay seeking medical attention more often than do men
  • For nearly 2/3 of women, the first sign of cardiovascular disease is sudden death (i.e., they had no previous symptoms)
  • Certain diagnostic tests, such as an exercise stress test, are not as reliable at detecting cardiovascular disease in women
  • After a heart attack, women are less likely than men to receive proper medication therapy known to increase chances of survival (e.g., aspirin, beta blockers, and ACE inhibitors)
  • Women typically respond more favorably to healthy lifestyle changes compared to men
Cardiovascular disease is largely preventable if you follow a healthy lifestyle. It is important that you identify your individual risk factors for the development of heart disease and discuss an appropriate plan of action with your physician. Daily physical activity, smoking cessation, stress management, consuming a diet low in fat, especially saturated and trans-fats, and maintaining a healthy body weight are all ways that you can reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease and improve your well-being.

This Friday, join thousands of Americans by choosing to wear red in support of the fight against heart disease in women. For more information visit

"Women and Heart Disease Fact Sheet" distributed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Can you be Allergic to Cold Weather Exercise?

Some of the more common risks to exercising in the cold include frostbite and hypothermia. Public awareness of the danger of these conditions has led to readily available information on the precautionary measures to take in order to prevent their occurrence during cold weather exercise. Another, less well-known complication to exercising in cold environments, but one that can pose a serious health threat to those who are susceptible, is cold urticaria.

Cold urticaria, also called "cold hives," is an allergy to cold temperatures. It is characterized by the development of red, itchy wheals (welts) on the skin with cold exposure. The areas of the skin directly exposed to the cold are the most severely effected. Often, symptoms become worse when the exposed skin is re-warmed.

Triggers include cold weather (typically ambient temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit), cold food and drinks, and aquatic activities in cold water. Wet and windy conditions increase the risk of developing cold urticaria. Although the symptoms of cold urticaria are typically mild, some individuals can experience life-threatening anaphylaxis, particularly with full body exposure (e.g., swimming in cold water). This type of systemic (whole body) reaction can cause rapid heart rate, the "chills," swelling of the extremities and torso, fainting, shock, and even death.

Who is at risk for developing cold urticaria?
  • Children and young adults, although it can occur at any age.
  • Genetic predisposition - family member who has/had the condition.
  • Recent viral infection (e.g., mononucleosis or pneumonia).
  • Autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Over-response of immune system to cold exposure that results in the release of large amounts of histamine.
  • Taking antihistamine medication prior to exercising in the cold.
  • Prevention - avoiding exercise in cold environments, especially aquatic activities in cold water.
You should see your doctor if you experience any of the above symptoms after exercising out in the cold. Severe symptoms need immediate medical attention. If you have cold urticaria, follow your physicians recommendations for cold weather exercise. He or she may suggest that you move your routine indoors. Other precautionary measures to consider are:
  • Wear a medical alert bracelet.
  • Carry an injectable epinephrine.
  • Exercise with a partner.
Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.


"Cold Urticaria," Mayo Clinic Staff

ACSM's Resource Manual for Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, 1993, 2nd edition

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