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, September 26, 2010

Exercising But Not Losing Weight?

It is a frustration to be doing everything "right" to lose weight, only to have the needle on the scale not budge, even just a bit, in reflection of your efforts.  This especially holds true if you are taking the time to exercise.  So what could be the problem?  You actually may not be expending as many calories in a day as you think. Recent research suggests that some individuals tend to compensate for the extra energy spent during an exercise session by decreasing their activity in other tasks throughout the rest of the day.  In the June 2010 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researcher Eirini Manthou and colleagues reported findings that obese and overweight women who fell short of their weight loss goals despite participation in an exercise program were compensating for the intervention by being less active during tasks throughout the day; therefore, their total daily energy expenditure was not great enough to promote fat loss.

The investigators wanted to determine the role that nonexercise physical activity played in helping individuals who were involved in an exercise program to lose weight.  The subjects included 34 previously inactive women who were either overweight or obese.  All subjects participated in an eight week supervised exercise training program that included exercising for 150 minutes per week.  They were randomly assigned to one of two groups: exercising twice per week for 75 minutes per session or exercising for five days per week for 30 minutes per session.  Each participant wore a heart rate monitor and recorded her daily activities in a 24-hour physical activity diary and her energy intake in a food diary the week prior to the exercise intervention and during week 8 of the study.  Body composition of the subjects was determined by leg-to-leg bioelectrical impedance scales.

All subjects completed the 8-week exercise training program.  No significant changes in body fat for the group as a whole occurred, nor were there any significant differences in fat loss between the two exercise groups; however, there were significant individual changes in body fat noted.  Those women who lost body fat were classified as "responders" and those who did not were labeled "nonresponders."  Further examination revealed that the responders total daily energy expenditure was greater than the nonresponders; and, that this difference was the result of changes in physical activity performed outside of the supervised exercise sessions.  This behavioral change accounted for the 13 percent variance noted in fat loss between the responders and nonresponders.

The findings of this study highlight the important role that total daily energy expenditure plays in weight control.  Exercise can help, but if you view it as a license to take it easy the rest of the day, you can be mitigating its role in weight loss.  For weight management, the amount of energy that you expend during your daily tasks is as important as the amount you burn during an exercise session.

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; June 2010; pp. 1221-1228; "Behavioral Compensatory Adjustments to Exercise Training in Overweight Women," Manthou, E. et al.,.

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sports Massage Therapy

Elite and recreational athletes alike are turning to sports massage therapy to aid in recovery from strenuous workouts and improve exercise performance. Although massage therapy has been practiced for thousands of years in cultures around the world, it wasn't until the mid-1800's that its use became widespread in the United States.  Since that time, massage therapy has gone in and out of popularity with the American public.  There are many different types of massage therapy, of which sports massage is one.

Sports massage entails manipulation of the muscles and soft tissues using techniques designed to meet the particular needs of the athlete.  Advocates of sports massage therapy claim it does the following to help athletes:
  • Improves blood circulation.
  • Promotes removal of lactic acid, a byproduct of strenuous exercise.
  • Increases lymphatic drainage.
  • Repairs damaged muscle.
  • Decreases muscle discomfort and stiffness.
  • Improves flexibility and range of motion.
  • Decreases blood pressure.
  • Releases endorphins and serotonin, thus enhancing mood.
  • Relieves stress.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health, scientific evidence supporting or refuting the effectiveness of massage therapy in general is limited. However, they acknowledge that for certain subsets of individuals it may be effective by resulting in decreased anxiety, blood pressure, heart rate, pain (especially in the back and neck), and enhanced mood states.  They also note that when massage therapy is performed by a trained, professional therapist, it is relatively safe.

Massage therapy can have a few temporary side effects such as discomfort, swelling, and bruising of the tissues manipulated and an allergic reaction to the oils and lotions used by the therapist.  Furthermore, massage therapy should not be performed on areas affected by recent surgery, over broken bones, sprains, bruises, blood clots, tumors, open sores, and skin infections. Vigorous massages should be avoided over bones affected by osteoporosis and in individuals with blood disorders.  Pregnant women should seek the approval of their physician prior to using massage therapy.

Considerations Before Getting a Sports Massage
  • A trained and experienced massage therapist can increase the effectiveness and safety of the massage.  Look for credentials such as: Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT), Licensed Massage Practitioner (LMP), and Certified Massage Therapist (CMT).
  • Massage therapy should not replace medical care, but be used to compliment it.
  • Seek the advice of your health care provider if you have a health condition or concerns about the appropriateness of massage therapy for you.
Source for More Information
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

5 Reasons Why Your Teenage Daughter Should Participate In Sports

The health benefits associated with sports participation for teenage girls extend beyond a reduced risk for obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, and other chronic health conditions later in life.  Increased physical activity is linked to a decrease in risk-taking health behaviors which could have negative consequences for the female that last a lifetime.  Below is a summary of benefits young women obtain through sports participation. 

Impact of Sports Participation on Health Risk Behaviors of Teenage Females
  • Reduced risk for teen pregnancy.  According to the website of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, non-athletic teenage females are more than twice as likely to become pregnant than their athletic counterparts. 
  • Decreased use of illicit drugs.  Female athletes are less likely to use cocaine, marijuana, heroin, speed, PCP, and LSD compared to teen females who do not participate in sports.
  • Less likely to smoke cigarettes.
  • Greater likelihood of wearing a seatbelt. According to The Women's Sports Foundation Report: Health Risks and The Teen Athlete, athletic females are 1/3 times more likely to wear seatbelts when riding in vehicles than their nonathletic counterparts.
  • Reduced risk for committing suicide.  This lower risk may be due, in part, to the fact that athletic females have higher levels of self-esteem than their nonathletic counterparts.
Sports participation can be a win-win situation for the teenage female.  Unfortunately, research shows that girls are less likely to be active than boys.  Attempts should be made to help the young female find activities she enjoys. 

Sources for more information
The Women's Sports Foundation
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy

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Monday, September 6, 2010

Homeschooled Children and Physical Education

Homeschooled children have an advantage over their traditionally schooled counterparts - a better chance to get in the recommended amount of daily exercise; that is, if the parent creates a curriculum to account for active time.  The flexible nature of the homeschool curriculum and setting lends itself to provide greater opportunities for the child to be physically active throughout the day.  Children who get their education in the school setting are required to sit at desks for extended periods.  Furthermore, some schools have been forced to remove physical education classes from the curriculum due to lack of funding. These issues are out of the control of parents of traditionally schooled children. This is not the case for parents who homeschool. The opportunity to provide active time is there, but parents must seize it for their child to benefit.

Objectives for Homeschool Physical Education
  • Foster a healthy attitude toward exercise.  Often, when it comes to physical education, the emphasis is placed on performance and skill, not lifestyle.  But, children need to understand that a healthy lifestyle means engaging in regular exercise.  And, to increase their chances of readily including activity as a part of their life, positive associations with exercise have to be developed.  The parent should design a physical education curriculum that includes exercise activities that the child views as enjoyable and which are within the child's skill level to prevent discouragement; yet, they need to be challenging to develop a healthy body. 
  • Teach the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health benefits associated with regular exercise. Exercise can improve concentration and academic performance, decrease stress levels, boost energy levels, and enhance self-image.
  • Improve the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health of the child.  Prevention against chronic diseases in adulthood, such as heart disease and osteoporosis, begins in childhood. Incorporating physical activity into the homeschooled child's curriculum is an important step towards protection against these health conditions.
  • Develop motor skills and movement patterns associated with various physical activities
Athletic Equipment for Homeschoolers - a fancy gymnasium and expensive fitness equipment are not necessary to teach the importance of exercise or to develop a healthy body.  The following items should suffice:
  • Frisbee or other throwing discs
  • Red rubber playground ball
  • Hula hoop
  • Jump rope
  • Tennis ball and racquet
  • Scooter or skateboard
  • Pogo Stick
  • Softball and bat
  • Bicycle
  • Protective gear such as helmet and pads for the wrists, elbows, and knees
Community Opportunities for Homeschool Physical Education
  • Local Parks and Recreation Department. Most community centers offer some type of physical activity class such as swimming, karate, gymnastics, and dance.  Participation on community sport teams, such as little league, are often available as well. Some facilities offer physical education programs specifically designed for homeschooled children. 
  • Public school system in which the child resides.  Check to see if the local school district has elective physical education classes in which the homeschool child can enroll.  Also inquire about eligibility to participate on public school sports teams.
  • YMCA and Fitness Centers.  Physical activity opportunities available are similar to what can be found through the local Parks and Recreation Department. 
  • Family Place of Worship. Churches, temples, mosques, and synagogues may offer intramural sports or fitness classes to members.
Many parents choose to homeschool their children because it allows their child to receive an individualized education that meets his or her needs and style of learning.  This "personalization" of curriculum can be carried over into physical education.  Because the activities can be tailored to the child's interests, this increases the chances that the child will develop a healthy attitude toward exercise, one that lasts a lifetime.

Source for more information
Successful Homeschooling

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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Stretch for Strength!

You have heard that stretching can improve flexibility and balance, but increase strength? It can for novice weight lifters according to research conducted by Dr. Joke Kokkonen, professor in the Exercise and Sport Science Department at Brigham Young University-Hawaii.  Dr. Kokkonen and colleagues compared the effects of a combined program of weight training and static stretching to weight training alone on lower-body strength.  Because previous research has shown that stretching activities have been associated with increases in muscle size, Dr. Kokkonen's research team wanted to investigate if a combined training program would have an additive effect, thus resulting in greater strength gains.

The subjects included 32 college-age students (16 women and 16 men) who were matched into pairs based on gender and lower body strength as measured by a knee extension 1 repetition maximum test (i.e., the maximum amount of weight that can be lifted 1 time).  The subjects that were chosen were either physically inactive or did not exercise more than twice per week. One person from each pair was randomly assigned to one of two testing conditions: weight training and static stretching combined or weight training alone. 

The weight training activities for both groups included 3 sets of 6 repetitions for knee extension, knee flexion, and leg press exercises performed 3 days per week for a total of 8 weeks.  Weight load was increased each week.  Those who were in the combined weight training and stretching group performed static stretching activities for 30 minutes at a time twice a week on non-weight training days.  The muscle groups stretched included the quadriceps, hamstrings, hip external and internal rotators, hip adductors and abductors, dorsiflexors and plantarflexors.  Each stretch was performed 3 times and held for 15 seconds followed by a 15-second rest interval.

At the end of the eight weeks, both groups had experienced gains in strength.  However, those in the combined strength training and stretching group showed significantly greater increases in their 1 repetition maximum tests for knee extension, knee flexion, and leg press.  Furthermore, subjects who also performed stretching activities were able to increase workload to a greater degree each week than those who did not stretch.

The investigators conclude that for novice weight trainers who wish to maximize their strength gains, adding a stretching program on nonweight training days can offer some benefit.

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.

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research; February 2010; pp. 502-506; "Early-Phase Resistance Training Strength Gains in Novice Lifters are Enhanced by Doing Static Stretching"; Kokkonen, J. et al.,.

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