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. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Are Your Children Interfering With Your Fitness Goals?

If you have children at home, chances are you're less likely to exercise than your childless counterparts according to a new Canadian study conducted at the Montreal Heart Institute in conjunction with Concordia University. Researchers of the Social Networks and Exercise in Coronary Heart Disease Patients study assessed 756 subjects to determine the role that social networks played in exercise adherence.  They found that living with an individual, such as a spouse, had no impact on exercise participation where as living with children did.
In the press release regarding the study, lead investigator Dr. Simon L. Bacon, Associate Researcher at the Montreal Heart Institute and Professor at Concordia University, states that these findings implicate a need for a family-oriented approach to encourage individuals with children to exercise.  This is a concept that has been starting to take root here in the United States as a means by which to combat childhood obesity.  Parents who exercise regularly themselves tend to raise children who are more likely to participate in physical activity.  Regular exercise can help with weight maintenance and is associated with a reduced risk for chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.

Family exercise has many health benefits that stem beyond the physical - mental and emotional effects occur as well as, including a stronger family bond.  The activities that you participate in as a family do not have to be mundane - taking turns running on the treadmill could get to be a little boring, not to mention that it is not very practical.  There are many activities that you can do that are suitable for all ages and skills.  The most obvious are family hikes in the woods, swimming in a nearby lake or community pool, and bike rides through the local park.  Other possible activities include:
  • Kayak or canoe trips
  • Miniature golf
  • Frisbee/disc golf
  • Lawn bowling
  • Ping Pong ball game (table tennis)
  • Relay races in the backyard
  • Playing tag or hide-and-seek games
A sedentary lifestyle can have negative consequences, not only on your health, but that of your children.  Increasing your physical activity as a family will increase your chances for optimal well-being.  When children are involved, you may have to get a little creative and break from the traditional forms of exercise to increase your family's physical activity level.

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.

Press Release Media Relations Concordia University, July 20, 2010 "Surprising findings of a study conducted at the Montreal Heart Institute: Concordia University Professor Discovers Children Have a Negative Impact on Physical Activity Among Individuals with Heart Disease."

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Exercising for Two

When I was pregnant with my first child, my obstetrician, as well as the pregnancy-related literature, emphasized the importance of taking prenatal vitamins and consuming a nutrient dense diet because I was "eating for two."  The premise being that a proper diet would aid in the growth and the development of the baby inside me, giving it a healthier start once born.  Exercise was discussed, but the message focused more on the maternal health benefits and the infant's weight at birth.  Current research is now looking at the importance of "exercising for two" in regard to its long-term effects on the body size of children ages 8-10 years.
Investigators from Michigan Sate University evaluated the relationship between maternal leisure time physical activity and body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage, and waist circumference (WC) during a child's pre-adolescent years.  Subjects included 20 mother/child pairs.  Height, weight, percent body fat, BMI, WC (obtained from children only), and fitness levels were assessed for the pairs.

Results of the study indicated that a mother's pre-pregnancy leisure time physical activity level was inversely related to her child's percent body fat at ages 8-10 years.  Maternal leisure time physical activity level during the second trimester also appeared to have a significant inverse correlation with child body size in reference to WC.  A trend toward this pattern was noted for maternal activity levels during the third trimester.  However, no correlation was noted between maternal exercise habits during the first trimester and child body size.  Also of note was that an inverse relationship existed between current materanl fitness and BMI, percent body fat, and WC of the pre-adolescent.

The investigators concluded that leisure time physical activity during pregnancy, particularly during the second and third trimesters, has a positive effect on child body size later in childhood (8-10 years of age). And, mothers who are more fit during the years after giving birth are more likely to have children who have lower BMI, percent body fat, and WC levels.  The researchers also suggested that their findings provide evidence that maternal physical activity during pregnancy improves the in-utero environment, making it more conducive to developing a child who will have a healthier body size during the pre-adolescent years.

Pregnant women need to not only focus on eating well for two, but on participating in healthy exercise for two. Women should consult their physician regarding the safety of exercise during pregnancy.

Note:  Before beginning an exercise program or increasingthe 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.

Sports Medicine Bulletin, "Active Voice: More Maternal Physical Activity May Lead to Leaner Pre-Adolescent Children," Pivarnik, J.M.

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, Vol. 42 No. 5 Supplement Abstract 998, "Maternal Physical Activity and Child Body Size at 8-10 years," Kuffel, E.E. et al.,.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Women Should Pump Iron to Manage Weight

If you are looking to keep the pounds off as you age, you will need to add some weight now - by lifting it, that is.  Research findings presented in the July 2010 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise reveal that resistance training by postmenopausal women prevents weight gain and improves body composition.  The investigation was a secondary analysis derived from The Bone Estrogen Strength Training (BEST) study which evaluated the effects of weight training on bone mineral density (BMD) in early postmenopausal women.  For the intitial BEST investigation, subjects were first grouped according to treatment with or without hormonal therapy; then, they were randomly assigned to either an exercise or nonexercise group within their respective hormonal therapy category (those on hormonal therapy versus those who were not on hormonal therapy).

In this secondary investigation, researchers set out to examine the effects of resistance training on soft tissue changes and weight management in postmenopausal women.  Subjects included 122 females (mean age 56.3 years, give or take 4.3 years) who were previously sedentary.  After the the first year of intervention, the control subjects were allowed to begin the prescribed exercise regimen, or in other words "crossover."  This created 3 test groups: exercisers - those who were assigned to the exercise group at baseline (n=65); crossovers - those who crossed-over to the exercise program at one year (n=32); and true controls - those women who remained sedentary (n=25).

Exercisers and crossovers participated in 8 core resistance training activities for 2 sets of 8 repetitions each (at 70-80% 1-repetition maximum) on 3 nonconsecutive days/week.  They also engaged in various stretching, balance, and progressive weight bearing activities (e.g., stair stepping with weighted vests).  Exercise frequency and workloads of the various exercises were recorded.  Body weight and fat were measured at baseline and annually for 6 years using anthropometry and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry.

Researchers found that over the 6-year testing period, weight gain across the 3 testing populations occured in a "stepwise fashion."  That is, individuals who remained sedentary gained the most weight (approximately 2.1 kg) while crossovers gained approximately 0.7 kg and exercisers gained the least at 0.4 kg on average.  Women in the true control group significantly gained weight and total body fat between baseline and year 6.

The investigators conclude that participation in resistance training is a viable option for postmenopausal women to manage body weight.  They purport that it should be one component of a regular comprehensive exercise program to improve overall health and prevent disease.

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, July 2010, Vol. 42 Issue 7, pp. 1286-1295, "Resistance Training Predicts 6-yr Body Composition Change in Postmenopausal Women," Bea. J.W. et al.,.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Exercise Does the Body Good for Cancer Patients

New physical activity recommendations for cancer patients have been published in the July 2010 issue of the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.  The guidelines are a result of the ACSM Cancer Roundtable held last June.  Thirteen experts in the fields of cancer, fitness and exercise training, and obesity convened to review and analyze the literature with respect to the safety and efficacy of participation in routine exercise programs for cancer patients.  In brief here is what they concluded:
  • Physical activity is safe both during and after cancer treatments for certain cancer groups* (e.g., colon, breast, gynecologic, prostate, and hematologic forms of cancer).
  • Cancer patients (e.g., those with colon, breast, gynecologic, prostate, and hematologic forms of cancer) who exercise improve their quality of life, decrease cancer-related fatigue, and increase physical functioning.
  • The role of exercise in disease outcomes and survival rates is yet to be determined.
*Guidelines have not been developed for patients with other forms of cancer due to a lack of evidence at this point to support exercise recommendations.

The general goals** of an exercise program for the cancer patient, as outlined by the roundtable, are:
  • To restore and increase physical function, aerobic fitness, muscular strength, and flexibility.
  • To enhance body image.
  • To improve quality of life.
  • To improve body composition.
  • To improve physiological and psychosocial outcomes.
  • Management of anxiety.
  • To minimize, alleviate, and counteract side effects of cancer treatment.
  • Potentially, to decrease the risk of, and to delay the recurrence of, the existing form of cancer or the development of another type of cancer.
** Note: the goals will be case-dependent.

The findings of the roundtable are great news for cancer patients who, in the past, have been told to rest and avoid exercise.  The guidelines indicate that exercise programs should be individualized based on the cancer patient's form of treatment, physiological response to the medical interventions, presence of comorbidities, and pretreatment fitness level.  For example, patients with metastatic bone disease should participate in low impact exercise due to the increased risk for bone fracture.

As part of the guidelines, the expert panel provides cancer-specific contraindications for beginning an exercise program, as well as reasons for stopping activity.  Cancer patients need to consult their medical team prior to beginning an exercise program, or if they have any concerns about a current routine.

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, July 2010, pp. 1409-1426, "American College of Sports Medicine Roundtable on Exercise Guidelines for Cancer Survivors," Schmitz, K.H. et al.,

Medical News Today, July 1, 2010, "Exercise is Good for Cancer Patients and Survivors Say Experts," Paddock, C.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Physically Active Teens Have Better Cognitive Function Later in Life

If you were physically active as a teen, you provided yourself with protection against cognitive impairment in your later years according to a study published online June 30, 2010 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.  But, if you didn't exercise in your teen years there is no need to despair because this research investigation also found that adults who became physically active later in life reduced their chances of cognitive decline in comparison to their physically inactive counterparts.  Therefore, you are never to old to develop a young mind - exercise can be beneficial at any age.

This cross-sectional study investigated 9,344 women aged 65 years and older (mean age = 71.6 years) who were enrolled in the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures (SOF).  The subjects provided self-reports  of physical activity levels at different periods in life that included the teen years, the age of 30 years, the age of 50 years, and late-life years.  To assess cognitive function, participants completed a 26-point modified Mini-Mental State Examination (mMMSE) which evaluated memory, concentration, orientation, and praxis.  Other factors that were assessed included medical history, demographics, and smoking history.

Overall, those participants who engaged in physical activity had lower rates of cognitive impairment later in life than those who were physically inactive throughout life.  When the different periods in life were compared (teen years, age 30, age 50, and late-life), those women who reported being active as a teen were significantly less likely to experience late-life cognitive impairment than those individuals who reported being inactive during the teen years.  However, those women who became physically active later in life (age 30, age 50, and late-life) experienced a reduced risk for cognitive decline - approximately half the risk - compared to those women who remained sedentary with advancing age.

The investigators state that their findings highlight the need to encourage physical activity early in life and throughout the life span to reduce the risk for cognitive impairment later in life.  And, that individuals who were sedentary early in life should be made aware that they can still obtain protective effects by beginning an exercise program later in life.

Tips to get your Teen to Exercise:

  • Provide teen-friendly magazines and books that depict healthy lifestyle habits.
  • Allow participation in active play video games (e.g., Wii Fit Plus).
  • Make it social (e.g., dance parties, ski weekends, etc.,).
  • Suggest new experiences (e.g., archery, geocaching, backpacking adventures, etc.,).
  • Plan active family vacations (e.g., hiking and/or biking tours, etc.,).
Tips to Begin an Exercise Program Later in Life:
  • Seek physician approval first.
  • Start slow.
  • Take advantage of workplace fitness programs and incentives.
  • Invite a friend or family member.
  • Sign up for races or recreational fitness activities whose proceeds benefit charities.
  • Set personal goals and reward self when they are accomplished.
The important thing to remember from the findings of this study is that you are never too old to be young.

Note:  Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, seek the medical advice of your physician especially if you are at risk for or have known chronic disease.

J AM Geriatr Soc 58:1322-1326, 2010, "Physical Activity Over the Life Course and Its Association with Cognitive Performance and Impairment in Old Age," Middleton, L.E. et al.,.

Labels: , , ,