December 29, 2013

Worst Health And Fitness Trends of 2013

These are some trends that I hope will disappear with the new year:

1. Intense Workouts:  High intensity interval training makes my best of list (see next post), but programs such as CrossFit, Insanity and other workout classes often sacrifice form for intensity.  Orthopedists and physical therapist may be happy with the extra clients, but programs that injure people are not my idea of a good fitness trend.

2. Hot classes: Yoga, Pilates, and barre classes have been turning up the heat.  You may feel as if you are getting a better workout, but higher temperatures do not mean you work harder or burn more calories.  You put yourself at risk for dehydration, and those with health issues can have more serious problems.

3. Flirty Girl Fitness: This is actually a decent workout, but the sexist name leaves me cold.  I hope this goes the way of Pole Dancing and Stiletto Workouts.

4. Vibration Machines: There is no documentation that these help you burn more fat, calories or boost your metabolism.

5. Going Gluten Free: Unless you have celiac disease or are gluten intolerant (just a small percentage of the population has these issues) there are no benefits to eliminating gluten. Gluten free foods are not necessarily healthy, they can have as much fat, salt and sugar as foods with gluten.

Next post; the best trends of 2013.

December 15, 2013

Nine Ways To Fight Holiday Weight Gain

It is a myth that most people gain 5 pounds or more over the holidays, but research has shown that those who are already overweight are more likely to put on the pounds.  These strategies can ensure that you are not among the gainers:
1. Create a plan for eating and exercise.   Plan exercise for the morning and you are more likely to succeed.   If you miss the gym, a 10 minute walk after a meal can get you away from the table and help you burn a few of those calories. 
2. Eat breakfast and do not skip meals.  You will be less likely to overeat.
3. Be aware and plan for your weaknesses.  For example if it is the cheese plate, make sure you are not starving when you arrive, stay at a distance or create a buffer zone to make it hard to reach.
4. Eat the healthiest food first.  A broth based (not cream) soup can help fill you up.
5. Plan non-food activities.  Instead of the cookie exchange, try an ornament exchange. Go caroling or play games instead of dessert.  Go for a group walk to check out the local decorations.
6. Bring your own healthy dish to a gathering.
7. Brush your teeth or pop a mint into your mouth as soon as you are no longer hungry. 
8. If you are cooking, prepare lighter versions of holiday favorites: Substitute reduced fat versions for dairy, use applesauce instead of oil in baking, add additional vegetables to casseroles, refrigerate the gravy to harden fat, and then skim the fat off.
9. Watch the liquid calories.  Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks can have hundreds of calories.   Eggnog is one of the worst offenders, juice and smoothies can pack on the pounds. Coffee drinks should be labeled dessert. Alcohol will also lower your resistance, making it easier to overeat.
Be realistic.  Do not expect to lose weight, but allow yourself to enjoy the holidays sensibly.

December 8, 2013

When NOT To Give The Gift Of Fitness

We have all heard the warnings about buying a pet as a holiday gift; they often end up unloved and neglected.  This year I am asking you to save a personal trainer from that fate and refrain from buying training sessions as a holiday gift. Every year I talk someone out of purchasing such a gift. It may seem like a great present, but if the giftee is not inspired to change, those sessions will go unused.  Even if your loved one says she wants to get into shape, or that he would love a personal trainer, there is a good chance he or she is only in the “contemplative” stage, and is not ready to change.  I have had many people purchase sessions for a loved one in the hopes of improving his or her health, and then had to give the money back when the loved one was reluctant to even meet with me.  Those of us who love to exercise often find it hard to understand those who do not. Buying sessions for someone who really does not want them (despite what is verbalized) will waste your money.
If you are sure your loved one wants a personal trainer I recommend logging on to and clicking on “find a trainer”.  This site checks education, certifications, experience and has client reviews. Purchase just one session, and arrange with the trainer to purchase a set amount after this session if your giftee really wants to continue.
Even better than trying to purchase health, how about gifting yourself?  Pledge to meet for a walk instead of lunch, commit to training for a 5K together, join a tennis clinic, or invite your friend to your gym or favorite class.  For a low cost motivator try a pedometer.  This inexpensive gadget can be clipped on, or worn as a bracelet.  It measures how many steps a day you take (10,000 is the current recommendation for health) and is a great feedback tool for how much (or how little) activity you are doing. 
Giving a gift of fitness is great, but choose wisely to rescue a trainer from feeling neglected, and to save yourself some money.

December 1, 2013

Let's All Go On Statins

The American Heart Association and The American College of Cardiology published new guidelines on the prevention of heart disease last month:  However, a great deal of controversy has arisen with the publication.  Many feel that the guidelines grossly overestimate the risk, and will lead to high percentage of healthy people being prescribed statins. 
My complaint with the guidelines is the lack of emphasis on diet and exercise. A healthy Mediterranean-style diet and an exercise program could be as effective as statins without the side effects (JAMA Internal Medicine, Oct. 28, 2013).  Statins lower LDL (the “bad cholesterol”), but they  have a long list of  side effects including muscle pain, memory loss, mental confusion, and type 2 diabetes.  Research has shown that doctors advised only 1of 3 overweight adults to exercise (and this is an increase from the previous 10 years!).  If a doctor writes a prescription for exercise the client is five times more likely to follow through.  So why are drugs the first line of treatment?
These new guidelines will certainly put many more people on drugs:  If a person appears to have even a moderate risk of a heart attack or stroke, he or she could be prescribed statins, regardless of LDL score or lifestyle.  Not to be too cynical, but the research on these guidelines was funded by drug companies.
I would never tell anyone to ignore the advice of his or her physician, but before you allow yourself to be put on drugs take a look at your lifestyle.  Smoking, a sedentary life, and a diet high in processed foods, sugar and trans fats will send your risk of heart disease to the top of the chart.  Walking just 10 minutes a day has been shown to have health benefits.  Before you expose yourself to the risk of drugs, give yourself a chance with the gift of fitness.