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, December 28, 2010

My New Year's Resolution--To Gain

Traditional New Year's Resolutions have a common theme--to break a bad habit, such as smoking or drinking. Although the intent is rooted in a desire for self-improvement, this type of resolution also carries a bit of negativity.....which can be counterproductive. The problem lies in the focus. The typical New Year's Resolution is often framed in the light of having to give up something rather than on gaining a healthier attribute.

This point is emphasized well in the new ad campaign for Kellogg's Special K products, "What Will You Gain When You Lose?". Although I'm not promoting their products for weight loss, I do very much believe these ads stress the right attitude about making a lifestyle change--a focus on what is to be gained from the new habit. 

As you get ready to step into a healthier New Year, I propose that you put a positive spin on your list of Resolutions. Write down what you will gain from achieving your goals for the New Year. Keep in mind perspective is's what you gain, not what you lose.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday Food Safety

Baked ham, roasted potatoes, plum pudding and gingerbread men, among other traditional food fare, help to create the holiday spirit felt this time of year--a joy that you don't want dampened by unwanted guests. That is, foodborne bacteria. From your kitchen counter to the holiday buffet table, foodborne illness-producing bacteria can set up house and quickly take over. The best way to avoid their presence is to not invite them in the first place.

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service offers these tips to avoid foodborne bacteria from crashing your party:
  • Keep Your Hands Clean--wash your hands before and after touching food, especially raw eggs, fish, poultry, and meat.
  • Avoid Cross Contamination--Use separate plates and utensils for raw and cooked foods.  Also, use separate cutting boards for chopping vegetables and raw meat.  Juices left on surfaces from raw meats can contain bacteria that will contaminate untainted foods that are placed on them.
  • Be Mindful of Proper Cooking Temperatures--Undercooked foods may harbor bacteria that can make you sick. To make sure these organisms are killed off during the cooking process, heat roasts and steaks of beef and lamb to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit; ground beef and lamb to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit; and all poultry to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • Host a Smart Buffet Table--"Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold." Serve hot foods in chafing dishes or on warming trays to keep them at temperatures above 140 degrees Fahrenheit.  Serve cold foods in shallow dishes and use nesting trays under which bowls of ice can be kept to keep foods cool at temperatures of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Furthermore, ensure each dish has a serving utensil to avoid guests from using their fingers to serve themselves. And, when replenishing food on the buffet table, use fresh serving dishes rather than using those that had food sitting in them to avoid cross contamination. Discard any foods that have been left out for two hours or more at room temperature. 
For more information about foodborne illnesses and their prevention visit the website of the Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Balancing the Scale on Perceptions of Body Weight

Last month, Alastair Macaulay, dance critic for The New York Times, was less than graceful in his review of the New York City Ballet's production of "George Balanchine's The Nutcracker" when he expressed his opinion that two of the dancers were less than "ideal" for body size. Macaulay reported that Jenifer Ringer, who portrayed the Sugar Plum Fairy, "looked as if she'd eaten one sugar plum too many" and that Jared Angle, who was the Cavalier, "seems to have been sampling half the sweet realm." His comment regarding Jenifer Ringer, who has been open about her past personal battle with both anorexia and compulsive eating, caused an outcry from some of Macaulay's readership, who perceived his comment to be disrespectful and insensitive in light of Ringer's history of eating disorders.

Macaulay defended his position in a subsequent article in which he pointed out that a ballet dancer's appearance is integral to the profession. He stated that "ballet demands sacrifice in its pursuit of widely accepted ideals of beauty .....[and, therefore,] if you want to make your appearance irrelevant to criticism, do not choose ballet as a career."

Fault lies in this mindset. It undermines the serious health risks that an eating disorder poses. Anorexia is not a lifestyle for which you choose to make "sacrifices." It is a disease to battle.

During an interview with the Today Show's Ann Curry, Ringer stated that she is now at a healthy weight. In my opinion, to suggest that she "has eaten one too many sugar plums" is irresponsible.  It implies that health should be jeopardized for the sake of appearance. At Ringer's current weight, if she were to eat less, she could, theoretically, drop to an unhealthy low weight.  As Ringer noted in the Today Show interview, when you are too thin, you are physically weak and, therefore, cannot perform well.

Macaulay shirks the blame of his stance onto the profession of ballet, stating that he may be severe, "but ballet, as dancers know, is more so." Perhaps this can serve as a wake-up call that "ideal" beauty should arise from a state of good health, not from unbearable sacrifices that compromise it.  Ringer summed it up well when she told Curry that "in the New York City Ballet, we have every body type you can imagine...They can all dance like crazy, they are all gorgeous. I think dance should be more of a celebration of that--seeing these beautiful women with these different bodies all dancing to this gorgeous music and that is what should be celebrated."

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Male Fertility and Exercise--Is Semen Quality Effected?

Previous research has indicated that participation in competitive athletics increases the risk for reproductive problems in men (e.g., reduced testosterone levels and abnormal sperm morphology), particularly in long-distance runners and cyclists. Few studies, however, have focused on the effects of recreational exercise performed at a moderate-intensity level on the reproductive function of men in the general population. A recent study published in the December 1, 2010 issue of Fertility and Sterility found that men who biked for at least 5 hours per week were more likely to have lower sperm concentrations and less active sperm than their non-exercising counterparts; however, overall, the data indicated that there is no apparent relationship between physical activity and semen quality.

Researchers from Boston University investigated 2, 200 male subjects, average age 36 years, attending infertility clinics in the greater Boston area during 1993-2003.  At the start of the study, each subject answered a questionnaire that inquired about personal medical history, lifestyle choices and behaviors, and physical activity level. Based on the answers to the questions regarding exercise participation, the men were grouped according to exercise mode and exercise frequency. In order to determine semen quality, each participant was required to provide at least one semen sample which was assessed for ejaculate volume, sperm concentration, sperm motility, sperm morphology, and total active sperm.

The researchers found that neither regular physical activity (an average of 4 hours per week) nor exercise intensity (moderate versus vigorous) had an effect on the semen parameters assessed during the study.  When the effects of exercise mode were examined, biking was associated with lower sperm concentrations and fewer total active sperm levels for all age and body mass index categories. The investigators suggest that mechanical trauma (e.g., scrotal compression from the bike seat) and prolonged, elevated core scrotal temperature may be factors; however, they note that further research is needed for confirmation.

Fertility and Sterility; December 1, 2010; "Physical Activity and Semen Quality Among Men Attending an Infertility Clinic"; Lauren A Wise et al.,.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tips to Manage Asthma During Winter Sports

The coughing and wheezing spells that have been coming from my household these last few days are not a result of an upper respiratory illness, but are caused by the cold, dry air--my children have asthma. The frigid winter months can trigger asthma symptoms in susceptible individuals, especially when they have been actively playing or exercising outdoors. The low temperatures and dry air are the precipitating factors.

Inhaled air is typically warmed and moistened through the nose. During exercise, most individuals switch from nose breathing to mouth breathing in order to meet the oxygen requirements of the activity. As a result, the air breathed in through the mouth while exercising in a cold environment does not get sufficiently warmed or moistened; thus, the cold, dry air reaches the lower airways and can cause bronchoconstriction and inflammation--both of which can trigger asthma symptoms. 

Tips to Manage Asthma While Participating in Cold Weather Sports:
  • Take your asthma medications as directed by your physician.
  • Use a short-acting beta-agonist inhaler, such as albuterol, about 15 minutes prior to exercising to prevent an attack.
  • Have "rescue" asthma medications, such as albuterol or an EpiPen (for anaphylaxis) readily available during the activity.
  • Include warm-up and cool-down phases in your exercise session.
  • Wear a scarf or surgical mask over your nose and mouth to help warm inhaled air.
  • Limit physical activity or take the day off of exercise if you have a viral infection/upper respiratory illness.
  • Seek medical attention if your symptoms are not relieved or worsen.
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 Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

Journal of Athletic Training; 2005; pp. 224-245; "National Athletic Trainers' Association Position Statement: Management of Asthma in Athletes"; Michael G. Miller et al.,.

Physical Education Instructors, Coaches, and Athletic Trainers: Managing Asthma and Allergies in DC Schools Guide

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, December 3, 2010

Jammin' 4 Fitness

It's time to get with the beat and break away from the monotonous tone of traditional exercise. Participating in a jam session may be just the answer for you to harmoniously fit a little physical activity into your life. Playing the drums or guitar in a rock band meets the federal governments physical activity guidelines for engaging in moderate-intensity exercise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Energy expenditure for playing the drums or guitar in an active jam session is estimated to be 3 to 6 times greater than energy expenditure at rest. This equates to burning an extra 3.5 to 7.0 calories per minute when jamming. A surprise? Not to Dr. Marcus Smith of the University of Chichester and Dr. Steve Draper of the University of Gloucestershire who are the lead researchers responsible for the "Clem Burke Drumming Project."

The purpose of the "Clem Burke Drumming Project" was to determine the energy cost of Clem Burke, the drummer for the rock group Blondie, during concert performances. Clem Burke's heart rate, oxygen consumption, and blood lactate levels were measured during rehearsal tests. His heart rate and blood lactate levels were also monitored while he performed in concerts.

The results of the study showed that Burke's average heart rate during performances was 145 beats per minute, with peaks up to approximately 190 beats per minute--a level that exceeded his age predicted maximum heart rate of 168 beats per minute. Based on his heart rate response, his estimated total energy expenditure was 564 calories, with an average caloric expenditure of 412 calories. The researchers concluded that rock drumming entails a high rate of energy expenditure and "stamina to sustain optimum output, especially [for high-profile musicians] on tour."

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.

Clem Burke Drumming Project

CDC: General Physical Activities Defined by Level of Intensity

Labels: , , , , ,