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. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Proud to Be a Fit and Healthy American

Americans are encouraged to take the President's Challenge and commit to becoming more physically active.

Americans are notorious for being able to rise to, and surmount, the challenges they face. The belief system that a better life exists, and that it can be had by all, fuels the spirit to pursue the American Dream. But, a better life cannot be obtained without better health. Unfortunately, Americans today are less fit and healthy than they were 30 years ago.  Obesity and chronic disease plague our great nation, threatening its vitality. This is due, in part, to the adoption of a lifestyle that lacks sufficient amounts of daily physical activity to promote well-being. To maintain our country's livelihood, Americans have to take action and rise to the challenge--the President's Challenge, that is.

"The President's Challenge campaign is the umbrella for all awards and recognition programs that span across all ages [aimed at] promoting physical activity for all," explained Shellie Pfohl, M.S., Executive Director of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition (PCFSN) during our phone interview earlier this week. Since being appointed by President Barack Obama in February, 2010, Pfohl has led the Council in pursuing its mission: "to engage, educate and empower all Americans across the lifespan to adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and good nutrition." The programs housed under the President's Challenge campaign include the Youth Physical Fitness Test, the Adult Fitness Test, The Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) and the Presidential Champions Award.

The "Million PALA Challenge" has a goal of getting 1,000,000 children and adults to commit to increasing their daily physical activity level through participation in the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award Program by September, 2011.

The PALA program is great for beginner exercisers. Its purpose is to help individuals initiate a regular exercise program. PALA participants commit to exercising for 30 minutes a day (60 minutes a day for children), five days per week, for six weeks. They can track their activities online or on a paper log. "The program allows for all levels of activity," stated Pfohl. "Participants can choose any activity they want in order to meet the PALA requirements. We recommend that whatever you choose, you do it briskly enough to get your heart rate up and to make you breathe heavy," she explained. "You do not need to be training for a marathon [for benefit].....the idea is that small steps can add up to equal a big change. Choose to take the stairs instead of the elevator or park further away when you go to the store. It is the everyday changes in our lives that, in the end, makes a big difference" expanded Pfohl. "The importance lies within making these changes become your norm."

The key to PALA's success is that it allows participants to track their daily activities over time so that they can see their progress. "We know that if you track or record what you do, you are more likely to stay with it .....because it helps us to be more accountable to ourselves," noted the PCFSN Executive Director.

The PALA program has support from many businesses, organizations, groups and individuals who have partnered to help promote the campaign. One network that recently joined forces with PCFSN is Sharecare, an interactive question and answer website co-founded by Dr. Mehmet Oz and Jeff Arnold, founder of WebMD. PALA participants who sign on through Sharecare will have access to the site's 450 Sharecare-certified Trainers who can help answer questions and offer support and encouragement. Enrollees will also have access to nutrition and fitness tools, video tutorials and customized diet plans on the Sharecare website. Sharecare encourages interested individuals to enroll by August 22, 2011 by visiting

Adopting healthy habits will optimize your well-being and help to make the American Dream a reality. To help you increase your daily physical activity level, Pfohl recommends that you pick an activity that you really like to do; but, she adds that you should mix it up once in a while. Doing the same activity can become boring, she pointed out. Pfohl encourages you to try new activities and to invite friends and family members to join you to help with motivation. Pfohl also noted that you need to set aside time to take care of yourself. "Enhancing your own health will help you to be the best person you can be and the best person for other people in your life."

To learn more about PALA follow the link to the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award web page. To learn more about how you or your organization can become an advocate for PALA visit the site for the President's Challenge.

Phone Interview with Shellie Pfohl, M.S., Executive Director of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition; July 27, 2011.

Sharecare Press Release; Atlanta, Georgia; July 25, 2011.

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Discover the Simple Complexity of Nature on a Hike

Jeff Alt hiked the Appalachian and John Muir Trails.

What can a trek through the woods offer you that a jaunt on the treadmill can't? "The simple profound outdoors," states Jeff Alt, speaker and author of the award winning books A Walk for Sunshine and A Hike for Mike. "You can't recreate the [simultaneous multitude of offerings] of the outdoors--the real wind against your face, the scent of the air, the aromas of the earth, the rustle of the leaves, the tweets of the birds, the crunch of the ground under your boots.....there are so many things going on. I believe our Creator gave us [the outdoors] as a thinking room to stay healthy both physically and mentally," elaborates Alt.

Jeff Alt is no stranger to the wonders of hiking. He walked the 2,160-mile Appalachian Trail, dedicating his adventure to his brother, Aaron, who was born with cerebral palsy. He decided to use his journey as a means of raising money for the care-giving home in which his brother resides--the Sunshine Home in Maumee, Ohio. This initial trek served as an impetus for an annual fundraiser, "Walk with Sunshine," which has raised over $160,000 for the Sunshine Home to help it better meet the needs of its residents.

"There are so many health benefits of hiking, including mental health benefits" notes Alt, who has also trekked the 218-mile John Muir Trail across the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in California with his wife, as a depression awareness campaign dedicated to her brother, whose depression resulted in him taking his own life. Their walk along the John Muir Trail was both a healing trip for his wife and an advocation for depression awareness. "Walking can help with the healing of depression by [improving the balance of] the chemicals in the brain that lead to depression," explains Alt. (Addendum 07/25/11: Alt recommends consulting a physician if you or a loved one is experiencing depression so that you may discuss your treatment options. Exercise is sometimes suggested in conjunction with traditional treatment modalities, such as medicine and counseling.)

In addition to the benefits to your health and an opportunity to connect with nature, hiking is just plain and simply fun, notes Alt. "It is fun for all ages and it removes you from the hustle and bustle, but not from who you are," he explains. Alt has learned many lessons from his hiking journeys. Below he offers his tips to keep your hiking trip safe and fun.


"The hikers worst enemies are dehydration and hypothermia," says Alt. To prevent dehydration not only do you need to bring along enough water to drink during your hike (about two quarts for an adult according to Alt), but you need to research where you are going to find out if safe water will be available to refill your containers. To prevent hypothermia avoid cotton, including cotton undergarments, warns Alt. Wool and synthetic materials that wick moisture away from your body are best.

Another safety issue concerns injuries. Most injuries occur when descending an incline, according to Alt. To prevent this, Alt suggests that you train for your hike, particularly long treks, by either walking up and down the stairs or snaking through the bleachers of a stadium.

Basic Gear
  • A comfortable set of footwear. Trail shoes are popular because they are light but have a durable sole to accommodate rugged, uneven terrain.
  • Waterproof and breathable outerwear, such as a gortex jacket.
  • Gadgets, such as a compass or GPS for navigation.
  • Field guide and trail maps.
  • Food/snacks and water for nourishment.

Making it Fun
  • Gadgets, gadgets, gadgets. Involving technology, such as a GPS, on a hike helps to lure kids and tech savvy couch potatoes out of the house and into the woods for better health. A magnifying glass or container and binoculars can help you get a closer look at the natural world. And, digital cameras can help you capture the memories of your journey into nature.
  • Play hiking games, such as scavenger hiking in which you look for objects along the trail, geocaching in which you look for hidden treasures using a GPS and a hike-for-the-senses game in which you note the sounds, sights and smells surrounding you.
  •  Add a social element to your journey by inviting friends, family and coworkers to hike with you.
  • When hiking with children, allow them to take the lead and walk at their pace. The goal is to make it fun and enjoyable for them so that it will foster healthy habits that can be maintained into adulthood. Allowing children to take along what Alt refers to as "adventure packs" is another way to engage and motivate your child on the walk. Adventure packs can contain essentials such as sunglasses, rain jackets, flashlights, headlamps, books about animals and plants, magnifying containers and anything that the child would like to bring on the trip (within reason). However, Alt warns that children should not have food in their packs, especially if you will be hiking in bear country. An adult should be responsible for carrying and handing out snacks along the way.
For more information on hiking or to learn more about Jeff Alt's books and speaking engagements, visit his official site at

Phone Interview with Jeff Alt on July 19, 2011.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

"Captain America: The First Avenger" Packs a Punch!

Paramount Pictures and Marvel Studios' "Captain America: The First Avenger" (directed by Joe Johnston) hits theaters on July 22, 2011.
(Courtesy of Paramount)

With an American swagger and a touch of swank, Paramount Pictures and Marvel Studios' epic adventure, "Captain America: The First Avenger," packs a punch, hitting theaters today with an unlikely superhero--Steve Rogers. Rogers (played by Chris Evans), is a scrawny, 98 pound patriot who persistently tries to enlist in the U.S. Army during WWII, but is rejected due to his physical frailty. His sincere and unrelenting desire to defend America's ideals captures the attention of scientist Dr. Abraham Erskine (played by Stanley Tucci) who chooses Steve Rogers to be a subject in an experimental program called Project Rebirth. The scientific operation is designed to create a force of supreme soldiers by injection of the Super-Soldier Serum, a formula that enhances the physical and moral characteristics of its recipients.

Steve Rogers repeatedly attempts to enlist in the U.S. Army, but is rejected because of his physical frailty.  (Courtesy of Paramount)

Rogers is injected with the Super-Soldier Serum, which enhances his body to perfection--amplifying his musculature and his strength and speed. Shortly after Steve Rogers' transformation into Captain America, Dr. Erskine is assassinated, leaving Captain America as the sole Super-Soldier. With the help of his signature weapon, a shield made out of Vibranium, Captain America leads a team of Allies consisting of his friend Bucky Barnes (played by Sebastian Stan), his love interest Peggy Carter (played by Hayley Atwell) and Colonel Chester Phillips (played Tommy Lee Jones) against the Nazi's deep science division HYDRA and its villainous leader Johann Schmidt a.k.a. Red Skull (played by Hugo Weaving).

Project Rebirth transforms Steve Rogers into the muscle bound Captain America. (Courtesy of Paramount)

The Super-Soldier Serum helped Captain America achieve physical perfection, but his courage, belief in himself and "no quit" attitude added to his superior strength. These are traits that transcend beyond the mythical Marvel Universe and can be used by mere mortals to better themselves. If you want a taste of the physical superiority enjoyed by Captain America, then adopt a "can do" attitude and try incorporating into your day these exercises inspired by the First Avenger:

Super-Soldier Sit-Ups
Technique: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground and your arms extended behind your head while holding a barbell plate/weight (about 5 to 10 pounds). Next, bring the weight to your chest while you lift your torso. As you complete the sit-up, push the weight in front of you by extending your arms. Slowly return to the starting position. Perform 3 to 5 sets of 10 repetitions.

Wield the Shield Abs I
Technique: Sit with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground while holding a barbell plate/weight (about 5 to 10 pounds) above your knees. Next, contract your abdominal muscles while leaning your torso back and extending your arms. Twist to the right and hold for a count of two, then twist to the left and hold for a count of two to complete one repetition. Slowly return to the starting position. Perform 3 to 5 sets of 10 repetitions.

Wield the Shield Abs II
Technique: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground while holding a barbell plate/weight (about 5 to 10 pounds) with your arms slightly bent above your chest. As you lift your torso, twist to the right while pushing the weight to the right. Slowly return to start position. Repeat to the left. Perform 3 to 5 sets of 10 repetitions.

"Captain America: The First Avenger" opens in theaters July 22, 2011.

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.

Paramount Pictures: "Captain America: The First Avenger" Production Information

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Pink Is What Pink Does

Sweat it out and sweat it pink by joining the Sweat Pink movement for better health.

What traits come to mind when you think of the color pink? Certainly not strength, power, courage or confidence, right? Think again. There is a movement spreading across the nation that is boasting the power of pink to unite a community of conquerors who are inspired to seize control of their own health. It's called Sweat Pink and it was initiated by Jamie Walker and Alyse Mason Brill, co-founders of Fit Approach--a company that is a home base for those who are committed to a lifestyle that elicits better health and who want to connect with others who have the same mission.

Walker describes the Sweat Pink movement as an "initiative to get anyone and everyone to sport pink shoelaces and submit photos and videos of themselves doing any kind of physical activity wearing them whether gardening, walking, rock climbing, running, or just goofing around. The pink shoelaces represent the strength, confidence, and inner sense of well-being that come from living a healthy and fit lifestyle."

Why the color pink? "We want to encourage women that being tough is beautiful," explains Walker. "The two words should go hand in hand," she elaborates. The bottom line? Good health, whether you are talking about the physical, mental, emotional or spiritual aspects of it, is not gender specific--nor are the traits of courage, inner strength, confidence and ambition that help you to get there. 

It is true that it takes effort and sweat to be successful, but it doesn't have to be a chore. "It's more than a workout [optimal well-being], it's a lifestyle of choices made from day to day," states Walker, who leads boot camps to help individuals get fit. She notes that she loves to watch her clients progress from their first session. "It is such a gratifying feeling for people to see their body changing and ultimately experiencing a changed life [for the better]," Walker states.

This is what the Sweat Pink movement is all about -- taking pride in what you can accomplish and sharing that joy of change with a community who has become tied together by pink shoelaces.  I encourage you to Sweat Pink as you take a "Fit Approach" to life by donning a pair of pink shoelaces and committing to incorporating some form of physical activity into your day. I will be doing the same and will periodically post pictures of myself proudly sporting my pink laces as I am working up a pink sweat. Also, I will be hosting a Sweat Pink giveaway. Look for details in the upcoming weeks.

To learn more about how you can obtain pink shoelaces of your own and join the Sweat Pink movement (and earn a chance to win prizes by so doing) visit the Sweat Pink Landing Page.  To learn more about Fit Approach visit their website at You can also "like" them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ponder This

The number one reason given for not being able to exercise regularly is a lack of time; but, is this truly an accurate perception of reality? Consider this:

  • During the 5 minutes you sat while talking on the phone with a friend, you could have jogged a little over one-half mile with that friend to burn 66 extra calories.
  • During the 10 minutes you waited in your car for your child to be finished with swim lessons, you could have gotten out of your vehicle and walked around the perimeter of the pool to burn 60 extra calories.
  • During the 15 minutes you sat socializing and eating a donut on your coffee break, you could have performed calisthenics (e.g., push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, heel raises, etc.,) in your office/cubicle to burn 143 calories.
  • During the 30 minutes you sat on the couch watching television, you could have ridden your stationary bike while viewing that show to burn 251 extra calories.
The total for the day: Sixty minutes of physical activity resulting in a caloric expenditure of 520 calories.*

Tip: Swapping inactive downtime with active pursuits will help you to reach the recommended amount of physical activity needed to promote health (150 to 350 minutes of moderate- to vigoruos-intensity exercise per week).

*Values are calculated for a person weighing 150 pounds. The following assumptions about activity intensity level were assumed: jogging at a 9 min/mile pace; walking at 4.0 mph; calisthenics performed at a vigorous intensity; and, biking at 150 watts.

The Compendium of Physical Activities Tracking Guide; 2000

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Monday, July 4, 2011

Holiday Warrior Safety Tips

Neighborhood barbecues, family reunions and community festivals on the 4th of July offer good food, laughter and perhaps even an opportunity for a little bit of exercise. Practicing active traditions, such as playing in a family football game, are favorable to the more sedentary customs, but caution is warranted. This is particularly true if the only times you exercise are during celebrations in which you participate in a bit of friendly competition between family members. Here are a few tips to keep you safe and injury free while adding physical activity to your 4th of July celebration:

  • Proper shoes and attire: Wearing the appropriate shoes will prevent blisters, sprains and strains. Sandals and flip-flops are not the footwear of choice while playing games such as football, softball, volleyball, etc.,. Preferably, you should wear shoes that are designed for the sport you will be playing; however, if this is not possible, a well-fitted pair of lace up tennis shoes should suffice. Wear clothes that are loose-fitting and light weight. They should be made from breathable material that wicks moisture away from your body (polyester, mesh, etc.,).
  • Warm-up and cool-down: A warm-up prepares your body for more vigorous-intensity activity by gradually increasing blood flow to muscles and warming them. A cool-down helps to bring your heart rate and blood pressure slowly back down to normal to prevent an abnormal heart beat or a fainting episode that could happen when exercise is stopped abruptly. The warm-up and cool-down sessions should last about 5 to 10 minutes and include light intensity exercise, such as walking and calisthenics.
  • Listen to your body: Avoid getting caught up in the competition. Do not overdo it. If you feel fatigued then rest or decrease your intensity level. Trying to prove your youth is not worth risking tearing a ligament or a tendon. Stop exercise if you feel faint, dizzy, lightheaded, short of breath or are experiencing discomfort in your chest, neck, jaw, back or arms. Seek medical attention if you experience these symptoms and they do not subside.
  • Hydrate: Fluids, fluids, fluids. Take frequent water breaks throughout the activity, especially in warm environments, to prevent dehydration.

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