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. 

Monday, June 28, 2010

Biking Can Help Premenopausal Women Manage Body Weight

Walk into any fitness facility and you are likely to find more treadmills on the floor than stationary bikes.  Take a look outside and you will see a similar trend, with more individuals walking or running for exercise rather than riding a bike. It's possible that this bias is a result of a lack of understanding regarding the health benefits that are associated with bicycling. This trend may also be partly explained by the fact that the infrastructure of the United States' roadways are less "bike friendly" in comparison to other countries in which barrier-protected and bicycle-exclusive tracks are present. 

A study published in the June 28, 2010 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, evaluated and compared the effects of bike riding and walking on weight gain in premenopausal women.  The results indicated that bike riding is associated with less weight gain in premenopausal women, as is with brisk walking - but not slow walking; and, that an inverse dose-response relationship exists (i.e., the more time spent biking, the less the weight gain). 

This investigation was part of the Nurses Health Study II (NHSII) and involved examining the exercise habits (with respect to biking and brisk and slow walking) and weight gain trends of 18, 414 healthy premenopausal female nurses from the United States.  During this 16-year follow-up study, exercise and sedentary behaviors were obtained from questionnaires completed by the subjects in 1989 and 2005.  Body weight values were derived from answers to biennial questionnaires completed by the women.

Researchers found that women who were not bicycle riders in 1989 but increased their participation in this form of exercise by 2005 had gained less weight than those individuals who remained nonbikers.  Furthermore, the more time spent biking, the lower the amount of weight gained.  Conversley, gains in weight increased in women who were bikers in 1989 but had stopped or decreased their participation in bike riding by 2005. Effects were more pronounced for women who weighed more at baseline than for their leaner counterparts.  Brisk walking had similiar results, but not slow walking.

The investigators note that these findings are significant since brisk walking may be too difficult for individuals with physical limitations, such as rheumatoid arthritis.  Thus, biking would be an acceptable alternative since slow walking was not associated with attenuated gains in weight. The researchers also suggest that future research efforts focus on determining the type of environments and infrastructure that are most conducive to bike riding, especially for women.

ARCH INTERN MED/VOL 170 (NO. 12), June 28, 2010:1050-1056, "Bicycle Riding, Walking, and Weight Gain in Premenopausal Women," Lusk, A.C.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Anger Management: Can Exercise Help?

It is well documented that exercise can boost mood and relieve stress.  But, can it ward off a bout of anger too?  The results of a small study presented at the 57th Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine suggest that there may be a link.

Sixteen college-aged men who were characterized to be "high in trait-anger" viewed a slideshow with anger-inducing scenes before and after performing 30 minutes of leg-cycling exercise at a moderate-intensity (65%VO2-max).  As the subjects watched the presentation, investigators evaluated their brain oscillatory activity, the event-related late-positive potential (a representation of brain electrical activity during emotionally arousing pictures), and self-reports of anger intensity.  The data that was collected indicated that an acute bout of exercise can prevent anger from being induced.  However, once anger was elicited, there was not a significant difference in the intensity of anger felt nor was there a significant change in brain activity during the slideshow when comparing the results between the resting and exercise trials.

The authors conclude acute exercise can protect against angry mood induction.  However, the investigators indicate that further investigations that focus on the mechanism by which exercise may reduce an angry mood, as well as studies that evaluate the effect of long-term exercise training on anger management, are warranted. 

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>

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise Vol.42 NO. 5 Supplement "The Effects of ann Acute Bout of Moderate Intensity Exercise on Anger and EEG Responses During Elicitation of Angry Emotion," Thom, N.J. et al,.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

In the Mind of an Athlete: What we can Learn to Improve our own Fitness

I firmly believe that exercise requires as much mental strength as it does physical.  Last March, I read an interesting article related to this philosophy, "Mind Gains" by Bruce Barcott, which was published in Runner's World magazine. In his article, Barcott discussed the role that sports psychology had in helping runner Kara Goucher (of whom I am a fan) overcome her mental barriers so that she could be successful in her physical feats as a runner.

Goucher is a talented athlete.  At the 2009 World Outdoor Championships, she was the top U.S. finisher in the Women's World Marathon Cup Competition.  In 2008, she turned heads when she placed third in her marathon debut at the NYC Marathon - a performance that was the fastest time ever by an American at the event.

Goucher's running career has not been free of barriers and disappointments, however.  In the past, she has struggled with confidence issues that got the better of her.  And, she has been plagued with physical injuries.  These factors started to make running unenjoyable for her.

According to Barcotts's article, Kara Goucher met with sports psychologist, Darren Treasure, under the advisement of her coach, Alberto Salazar, in March of 2007.  I was intrigued by the insight and advice that resulted from that meeting, as outlined in Barcott's writings.  The lesson that struck me the most was a reference to the fact that elite athletes are willing to go to a 'place' others are not  -  a place that requires endurance and perseverance of the "unbearable" (e.g., long hours of high volume training).

I would like to expand on this point.  In my opinion, this "willingness," is fueled by a belief in one's own abilities - an attitude that scoff's at naysayers by asking "Why wouldn't I be able to do this?".  According to Barcott's article, Goucher struggled with this belief; therefore, Treasure set out to re-establish a positive mindset within her.  To do this, he wanted Goucher to practice self-affirmations (e.g., "I am good enough.") and to recite a key word to motivate her before and during training and racing events (e.g., "persevere").

Practicing self-affirmations and reciting keywords are not just for the elite athlete.  These practices can, and should be, used by recreational athletes and those who are interested in improving their overall health by engaging in regular exercise.  Why?  It's hard to get motivated to do something that you feel you can't accomplish successfully; and, lack of motivation is one of the top excuses people cite for not engaging in regular exercise.

To improve your health, you do not need to exercise at the intensity or at the volume level characteristic of an elite athlete's training regimen, but you do need to get physically active.  Instead of thinking "I can't run 3 miles," think "I can walk for 20 minutes after dinner."  Pick a key word or phrase that you can recite that will keep you going.  Mine is "I am not defeated."

By overcoming mental blocks, you can break down the perceived physical barriers (e.g., I'm not strong enough) that interfere with your goal of improved health.

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.

Runner's World, March 2010, "Mind Gains," pp. 62-69 and 104, Barcott, B.

USA Track and Field Website

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Does Alcohol Impair Recovery From Exercise?

You may want to reconsider the nature of your drink during your team's next post-game celebration.  Alcoholic beverages are common at the scene of victory celebrations as players from the winning team enjoy the fruits of their labor.  However, according to a study that was published in the December 11, 2009 online issue of the European Journal of Applied Physiology, drinking moderate amounts of alcohol after strenuous eccentric exercise appears to interfere with your body's ability to recover.

Ten healthy male subjects (mean age 23.5 +/- 5.1 years, mean body mass 76.9 +/- 12.9 kg) who were recreational athletes (had at least 2 years experience of strength training) participated in the study.  Pretest muscular performance of both legs of each subject was measured using a Biodex isokinetic dynamometer.  Each subject then participated in two trials performed on separate occasions during which one leg was used to complete a total of 300 maximal eccentric contractions (3 sets of 100 separated by 5 minutes of rest) of the quadriceps muscle on the isokinetic dynamometer.  During the second trial, the opposite leg was used to complete the exercises.

Thirty minutes after performing the exercises, each subject either drank a beverage consisting of alcohol and juice (vodka and orange juice) or juice alone.  The caloric content and volume of the two different beverages were held constant.  After consuming the beverage, subjects were driven home and were told to go directly to bed.  Participants were then brought back at 36 and 60 hours post-exercise for follow-up performance measures of the quadriceps muscles.

Investigators found that muscular force was significantly decreased in the exercised leg when moderate amounts (6-7 alcoholic drinks over two to three hours) were consumed post-exercise.  The greatest decrease was seen at 36 hours post-exercise.  There were no significant changes noted at 60 hours post-exercise.  Furthermore, muscular performance of the non-exercised leg was not significantly changed between trials.

The researchers concluded that although some impairment in muscular function after strenuous eccentric exercise is to be expected (due to exercise-induced micro-structural tears in the muscle tissue), alcohol exacerbates the decrement.  They noted that because there was not a significant change in muscular performance for the non-exercised leg, the impairment was the result of an interaction between alcohol and the damaged muscular tissue, rather than a systemic response of the body to acute alcohol consumption.

The investigators recommend that individuals who are interested in maximizing their athletic performance should avoid consuming alcoholic beverages after training, games, matches, or events.

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.

Eur J Appl Physiol (2010) 108: 1009-1014 "Post-exercise alcohol ingestion exacerbates eccentric-exercise induced losses in performance," Barnes, M.J. et al.,.

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Walk with the U.S. Surgeon General

U.S. Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin, M.D., M.B.A., in Downtown Baltimore's Inner Harbor District during the Exercise is Medicine Walk.

Last week, I had the honor of being one of the members of the American College of Sports Medicine who walked in the Exercise is Medicine Walk led by U.S. Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin, M.D., M.B.A., through the streets of downtown Baltimore, Maryland during ACSM's 57th Annual Meeting.  Prior to the walk, the U.S. Surgeon General gave a speech during which she emphasized these points:

  • "Just get up and have fun."
  • If we want people to be healthy, then we need to give them a healthy and safe place to do it.
  • One person can make a difference - be that person.
  • Too often we teach about the negative aspects of being overweight and sedentary and not enough time talking in a positive way about optimal well-being (e.g., the joy that can be brought from having good health).
  • It used to be that kids were active all the time without realizing it by engaging in activities such as "double-dutch," disco dancing, and roller skating.  Kids didn't have to be "prescribed" exercise, they just did it as a matter of play.
Dr. Benjamin concluded her speech by saying that individuals will change their behavior if they have a meaningful reward - one that involves each person feeling and enjoying optimal health and embracing life to the fullest.
Dr. Benjamin discusses the important role of Exercise is Medicine.

The U.S. Surgeon General's Prescription for America is:
  • Be active as much as possible
  • Consume fruits and vegetables on a daily basis
  • Engage the whole family
  • Be creative and have fun

The U.S. Surgeon General's prescription for America.

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Flying Fit

Weight gain is a common concern of travelers while away from home.  Time zone changes, tempting tastes of regional food fare, and schedules filled with sights to see increase the chances of eating poorly while decreasing the likelihood that exercise regimens will be followed.  But, you needn't worry that you are destined to carry any extra "baggage" home, other than souvenirs.  You won't be "packing on the pounds" during your next business trip or family vacation if you follow these tips offered by Dr. Carrie Jaworski, Director of Intercollegiate Sports Medicine and Head Team Physician at Northwestern University during her presentation at the 57th Annual American College of Sports Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland earlier this week:

Plan Ahead
  • Make reservations at a hotel that has an exercise facility and be sure to inquire about the type of exercise equipment offered.  This way you will know if you need to alter your routine during your stay.  Websites, such as Fit Hotels Directory, can help you find a hotel with an exercise facility.
  • If you are unable to make reservations at a hotel that has its own facility, inquire about local fitness centers or community recreation centers near the hotel that you may be able to use.  Some hotels affiliate with local gyms to offer services to their guests during their stay. You can also inquire if there are hiking or fitness trails in the area of the hotel for your use.
  • Do your research.  There are websites devoted to helping travelers find exercise resources in the areas that they will visit. 
  • When packing, make sure to include exercise clothing and shoes.  Pack items such as resistance bands, jump ropes, or fitness DVDs so that you are able to exercise in your room if you can't get to a facility. Also, pack a plastic bag in which you can put sweaty/dirty workout clothes if you are unable to launder them right away.
Exercise at the Airport
  • Circumstances, such as recommendations to arrive early to the airport or unexpected plane delays, can leave you with a lot of "down" time waiting to fly.  These situations provide a great opportunity to sneak in some exercise.  Store your carry-on in a locker and walk around the airport.  Some airports offer exercise resources for passengers such as local gym visits, golf courses, and walking trails.  Visit or contact your airport prior to arrival to learn more about these possibilities.
  • Wear comfortable clothes and athletic shoes to the airport to make walking more enjoyable.
  • Avoid using the moving sidewalks.  If it is unavoidable to do so, walk on them rather than stand.  When possible, take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated.  Dehydration and prolonged periods of sitting, such as with long plane flights, can increase your risk for developing blood clots in the veins of your legs.  Getting adequate amounts of fluid will also help you to avoid becoming constipated, which is a common complaint of travelers.
When on the Plane
  • Move as much as possible.  When it is safe and allowed, walk up and down the aisle of the plane. This is particularly important for long flights where prolonged sitting can put you at risk for developing blood clots in the veins of your legs.
  • While sitting, perform stretches of the major muscle groups of your body.  Exercises such as shoulder shrugs, wrist and ankle rotations, trunk twists, and neck circles are all good choices and can be easily performed in the seated position.
Exercise Suggestions for When you are at your Destination
  • Use the hotel stairs rather than the elevator.
  • Walk to lunch and dinner rather than take public transportation.
  • Take walking tours to view the sites rather than a cab or guided bus tours.
  • Rent bikes, roller blades, paddle boats, canoes, kayaks, etc.,.
  • Visit local metro and state parks and explore their walking, biking, hiking, and skiing trails
  • Walk or run up and down the beach before taking a swim.
When All Else Fails "Emergency" Exercise Routines
  • Walk the halls of the hotel.
  • Climb up and down the hotel's stairwell.
  • Use the furniture in the room to do exercises.
Travel doesn't have to put your fitness at a stand-still.  By planning ahead and being creative and flexible, you can find ways to still be physically active while reaping all of the benefits that a vacation or business trip has to offer.

Note:  Prior to beginning an exercise program, or increasing the intensity level of an existing routine, you should seek the approval of your physician, especially if you have been previously sedentary, are an older adults, or are at risk for or have known chronic disease.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Exercise - Why it is Effective in the Prevention, Management, and Treatment of Chronic Disease

I just returned from listening to the keynote lecture held at ACSM's 57th Annual Meeting and Inaugural World Congress on Exercise is Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.  The keynote lecturer was Bente Klarlund Pedersen, DMSC from The Centre of Inflammation and Metabolism, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.  She discussed "Exercise - Why does it Work?".

Pedersen presented some interesting facts as to why "Exercise is Medicine."  They are as follows:

  • Inactive individuals have a life expectancy that is 5 years shorter than their active counterparts.
  • Social and environmental factors significantly influence health.  Individuals who have a friend that becomes obese have an increased risk by 171% of becoming obese themselves. Interestingly, that increased risk is only 40% when a sibling becomes obese. 
  • Obesity plays a role in chronic inflammation.  The presence of persistent chronic inflammation is associated with the development of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer's disease.
  • Exercise induces anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Exercise is effective in the prevention, management, and treatment of colon cancer, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and depression.
  • Obesity and physical inactivity have environmental consequences.  The increased consumption of food leads to an increase in production and manufacturing of food, thus increasing greenhouse emissions.  Using a car to get to work, rather than riding a bicycle or walking, contributes to transportation emissions.
  • "People change their behavior when a change in context compels them to."
A powerful point that Bente Klarlund Pedersen, DMSC raised that I would like to end this post on is: "Those individuals who say they do not have the time to exercise, will later have to find the time for disease."

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