Wrong Way? No, Just Different

13 03 2013

Not Always Wrong, Just Different

If you’ve had an experience where you thought you were doing something, like eating a certain food or dressing a certain way, but then saw people doing it another way and thought you were actually doing it wrong, don’t worry, you’re not alone. However, sometimes a different way might not be the wrong way, but exactly the former; just a different way. Who says that a turkey burger can’t be a breakfast item or that everyone should drive a BMW? Societal norms influence us to think that we all have the same needs. On the contrary, we all need to pay attention to our individual needs to maintain good health.

In 2007, Wesley Shultz et al conducted a field experiment testing whether normative messaging (telling people to practice a certain behavior based on what others are doing) would have mixed success rates in behavior change. They saw that when told to use more energy saving products because a specific number of others were doing it, the number of people converting to energy conservatives increased. Yes, energy conservation is ideal and we would all want to promote this type of habit, but the mere fact that it only took one little message stating that more people were practicing one certain behavior to have the minority feel like they were wrong and change their lifestyle is fascinating. A key point to this case is that in order to see a shift in the masses, the group must be  a minority, hence, the difficulty of getting our overweight country to get back down to a healthy weight (69.2% of adults in US overweight/obese). Yet again, why should we be like everyone else?

When dealing with exercise, we must look at performing a task with blinders on. Not one person is alike and thus not one specific regimen will work for everyone.  The National Academy of  Sports Medicine has a training model that is different than that of the American Council on Exercise. Is one of them wrong and the other right? Absolutely not, because both will reach the same result in the end, although both use different pathways. The same goes when I am asked which one is better for getting toned arms, free weights or machines? Both are two different modalities that lead to the right direction to get lean arms.

The right answer to improving your health is not to follow the yellow brick road that everyone else has followed, but to lay each stone in front of you and test the ground supporting it to determine if it will work for you. So the next time you’re scratching your head wondering if the person next to you is doing it right and you should follow suit, ask yourself if you are still improving your health with what you’re currently doing. If so, then embrace the difference and continue to tread through the unbeaten path to success.

References: 

American Council on Exercise: IFT Model
CDC Faststats: Overweight and obesity http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/overwt.htm
National Academy of Sports Medicine: OPT Model
Shultz, P. W. et al. The Constructive, Destructive, and Reconstructive Power of Social Norms. Psychological Science, 18(5) 429-434. 2007 





Think Healthy, Think Money

13 02 2013

We all want to be rich. Then there are some of us who would prefer to be wealthy. If you don’t know the difference, I suggest reading “The Millionaire Next Door” by Thomas Stanley and William Danko. But regardless if you want to be rich or wealthy, you must do one of two things; either learn how to earn it if you aren’t there, or learn how to keep it if you are there. Ask both sides and they will tell you that it’s difficult to uphold both ends of the statement if you are not willing to motivate yourself and work hard.

Even though it is hard to save money, many of us are so driven that we do everything we can to grow our bank accounts. We stop purchasing expensive products, we go to fewer movies, we find cheaper alternatives, and we slowly put money into our savings account until we are happy with how much we have in it. We don’t end up with $20,000 in a week, but over a period of time with little investments (depending on how much you invest into the account), we notice the large sum of money that has accumulated and we are thrilled with success.

I use this example because the same can be said with our health and the steps needed to accomplish our wellness goals. However, the majority of us don’t treat our bodies like a savings account. We expect our bodies to work miracles and in the end of the week have a body like the models and stars we see in magazines and in the media. Side note: Most actors and actresses will work with a trainer between three to six months, six to seven days a week, to get their bodies in the shape needed to perform their roles; not to mention hiring a personal chef, and dietitian. The way we stay or become healthy should follow the same plan as how we grow our bank accounts. Place importance on our wealth (health); find out ways to save our wealth (health); and slowly invest our money (time) to see our wealth (health) grow.

Wealth for HealthFollowing these simple steps will improve your overall health (and wealth) if you take the time to commit to it. Saving your health can be as easy as saving your money, but know that to do so, you must find the importance of why you’re doing it and become motivated in its returns to be successful.





Show Osteoporosis Who’s Stronger

26 04 2012

Weakening Your Bones
As we age, our muscles and bones begin to wear. Without consistent physical exercise and proper nutrition, the marrow in your bones begin to deteriorate and/or stop forming. This condition is called osteoporosis (meaning “porous bone”). It is a condition where the marrow in your bones become brittle, leaving larger spaces within the bone. Osteoporosis affects half the population of women in the world, while affecting only one in every four (1:4) men. The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) states that today in the US, ten million individuals are effected by the disease while another 34 million are estimated to have low bone density which increases their risk for osteoporosis and broken bones. The two sites that are most commonly identified as osteoporosis is the lumbar (lower) spine and femoral neck (hip). When these two sites become too brittle, the risk of fractures increase and life expectancy decreases. Another condition may occur in the spine due to osteoporosis. As the vertebral discs weakens, a forward curvature of the upper spine will occur known as the “dowager’s hump”. Someone with a dowager’s hump can have balance problems, which will increase the risk fractures from falling, while at the same time subjecting their internal organs to a lot of overbearing pressure.

RiskFactors
There are several risk factors that increases the chances for osteoporosis. These include:

  • Age – anyone can get osteoporosis but it is more common to see it in older adults
  • Gender – females are more susceptible than men
  • Family History – genetics play a role in the predisposition of osteoporosis
  • Menopause – Females going through or have gone through menopause have a higher risk
  • Low Body Weight or Small/Thin Framed – People with small bones increases their risk of osteoporosis
  • Poor Diet – lack of calcium and vitamin D slows down and can stop bone growth
  • Alcohol – consuming excessive amounts will reduce the formation of bone
  • Sedentary Lifestyle – inactivity can lead to lack of strength, poor balance, and reduced bone growth resulting in falls and fractures

Get Tested
The only way to diagnosis osteoporosis is to get a bone density test. Other methods like ultrasounds, blood tests, and normal x-rays are used as quick estimations, not accurate data and can cause a false sense of security in individuals who actually have osteoporosis. The most common bone density test or scanning method is a DEXA or DXA (Dual Energy X-Ray) scan. The two most common sites tested are the left hip (Femoral Neck) and the lower spine (lumbar spine). Other sites that can be used are the right hip, ankles,  and wrists if surgery or injury was prevalent in one of the other sites (e.g. hip replacement, spinal fusion). The results of a DEXA scan will show three possible outcomes: Normal (T score ≥ -1), Osteopenia (T score between -1 and -2.5), and Osteoporosis (T score ≤ -2.5). Your bone density scores are critical when talking with your physician about treatment plans.

Medications 
If you are diagnosed with either osteopenia or osteoporosis, your physician will probably discuss medication options with you to help treat your condition. There are a number of medications currently available for patients with osteoporosis and osteopenia. However, each medication may not be suitable for you, so you might not want to take what you’re next door neighbor is taking. Read up on the medications so that you are as informed as your doctor about the medication that you are prescribed. Sometimes, the physician is not as knowledgable about your treatments, so be a team and know your information. The NOF has a great listing of the current medications and information on each one (click here for medication listing).

Strengthen Your Bones
Another way to prevent fractures and reduce the risk of further deterioration of bone is to follow a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, and dairy rich in calcium and vitamin D. Adding a little bit of sun exposure (vitamin D) can help improve absorption of calcium. For those of you who are concerned about skin cancer, all you need is 15 minutes of sun exposure to absorb enough vitamin D to get health benefits. Note that applying sun block while outside will prevent you from getting the vitamin D that you need. While you’re outside, do some weight bearing exercise (e.g. walking, jogging, jumping) to strengthen your muscles and also increase the density of your hip. To build up the density in your spine, resistance training should be done. A creditable, certified personal trainer can help you identify the correct resistance training for you. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 3-5 days a week of moderate intensity weight bearing cardiovascular exercise for 30 minutes. Supplement that with 2-3 days a week of resistance training. Those with osteoporosis should also implement a daily balance and stretch program to prevent possible falls.

References:
American College of Sports Medicine, Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription , 8th ed.

National Osteoporosis Foundation http://www.nof.org

WebMD, Anatomy Guide: Curvature Disorders http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/healthtool-anatomy-guide-curvature-disorders





What Will Make Me Lose More Fat, Weight Training or Cardio?

7 04 2012

The majority of fitness and health club members join for the purpose of losing weight. The previous statement is a fact and we all are aware of it. The truth we are still confused about is not whether to exercise but how to exercise. Many studies have been done in the last few years trying to determine whether cardiovascular exercise (running, biking, swimming, walking) will shed more pounds than resistance exercise (free weights, machines, body weight exercises). 
In a  latest study performed by Duke University Medical Center, 197 overweight individuals were placed on a cardio only program, resistance only program, or combination of the two. The results showed that those on the cardio only lost more weight and inches of body fat than the other two groups. Those who did the combined program lost about the same amount of weight as the cardio only group.  The resistance training group did lose weight however just not more than the cardio or combined group.
Therefore, the next time you’re in the club, don’t forget to hit up the cardio to shed some inches. However, to keep your body looking toned and lean, you still need to keep the resistance training. Resistance training will build lean muscle mass which will help expose your wash-board stomach and defined arms.





No Gym, No Problem

6 04 2012

Even though I work in a fitness facility, I’m still an advocate for thinking “outside the box” when it comes to workout spots. In this case, it’s more like thinking “outside the gym.” With winter long behind us, (for some of us, it never even happened) many people are able to get an early start on their beach bodies even before the flowers started blooming. Don’t be that guy and just catch a tan. The great outdoors can be our very own gym if you know where to look.

Building up a sweat inside a complex is great if you’re a boxer, MMA fighter, wrestler, racquetball player…you starting to catch my drift?  Unless you’re training towards some event that keeps you contained within four walls, break down those walls (even if it means using that dreaded sledge-hammer you’ve grown to hate) and get outside. Building muscle doesn’t need to be built only in the gym. Find a playground, beach, or even hike up a mountain to add some new elements to your workout and daily life. You body will be happy that you did, and so will the ladies who are watching.

Lose the shirt and follow this playground routine for a fat burning/muscle-building 2 in 1 supercharged workout that’s no child’s play.
Perform each exercise for 45 seconds, rest 30 seconds then move onto the next exercise. Complete the entire list then rest 2 minutes before doing a second set. 

1. Step Up with Hop
Find a bench and start with one foot on the bench and your other on the ground. Explode up with your foot on the bench and drive your other leg forward. Land back on the bench with your same foot and put the other foot back on the ground. Switch legs after 45 seconds.

2. One Legged Push Up on Bench
Place your feet on the bench and your hands on the ground. Lift one leg off the bench and hold it in that position. Lower your body till your elbows form a 90 degree angle and push yourself back up. Switch you leg on the second set.

3. Chin ups
Place your arms wider than shoulder width and grip the bar with an overhand grip. Pull your elbows down toward your side as you lift your body up toward the bar. Stop when your chin touches the bar and slowly lower yourself down. If you get tired, stop and rest, then continue till time expires.

4. Hanging Knee Lifts
Using an underhand grip, pull yourself up till your elbows are at 90 degrees. Lift your knees to your chest and lower them back down. If you can, keep your feet off the ground the entire time by bending your knees and crossing your feet. If you need to touch the ground between each repetition do so till you get strong enough to hold yourself up.

5. Squat Jumps onto Bench
Stand in front of the bench and place both feet shoulder width apart. Squat down and jump up onto the bench. Quickly step down and set yourself up for the next one.

6. Rollouts on Swing
Kneel in front of a swing and place your hands on the seat. Keep your body in a straight line and extend your arms out as you drop your body down towards the ground. Keep your arms straight as you roll out and pull your arms back to your side as you roll your body back in and to the upright position.

7. Hamstring Curls on Swing
Lie on your back with your legs on the swing seat. Place your arms by your side for balance and lift your hips up into the air. Pull your heels into your butt. Push your legs back out and keep your hips up for the next repetition.

8. Skaters
Start with your feet together. Hop out to one side while pumping your arms like you’re skating and place the trailing leg behind and crossed your body. Then push off with your front leg out to the side and hop to the other side with the trailing leg coming behind and across your body. Movement is like skating side to side.

9. Squat Thrusts
Starting in a standing position, squat down and place your hands on the ground. Kick your legs back into a push up position. Perform a push up and jump your legs up towards your chest and stand up again.

10. Triceps Press on Slide
Place your hands on the slide high enough that your entire forearms can be lowered to the surface. Keep your hands at the edge of the slide rail and your feet on the ground in a plank position. Lower your body down by dropping your elbows to the slide till they connect with the slide. Then push away from the slide with only your forearms while keeping your body in a straight line.