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Fat Chance!

Vibrating Belt PT Gym Blog

The more things change the more they stay the same. I recently watched a documentary about fitness made in 1960 (coincidently the year I was born, if I must confess).  I found particularly interesting the concern about high technology (remember this was 50 years ago) and the effect and problems it had on our lazy, non-exercising, over-eating society. Even though fads have come and gone, and our knowledge and advancement of exercise and definitely technology has increased by a hundred fold, we still seem to fall for the same old scams and myths.

As I’m watching this 1960 documentary on my laptop, I’m also watching a 2010 infomercial on my TV about some Ab Lounging, Rolling, Circling, Vibrating Gizmo, Gadget of the week. It reminds me of the story I read as a child “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” If you don’t know the story, ask someone else born in the 60s. Just as in 1960 there still exist literally thousands of scams, useless diets, supplement pills, potions, cellulite creams, colon cleansing, wallet shrinking products we spend multi billions of dollars on every year. But for now I will briefly describe a few of the common infomercial themes and weight loss, muscle toning, ab gadgets and why they just don’t work. Most of the people who impulsively buy into these products intuitively know they don’t make scientific sense. But the desire for a quick fix is too much to resist for many of us.

Why don’t the ab gadgets work. The answer is they are all based on the false assumption that you can spot reduce body fat. Our body will preferentially store fat more in areas where most of us have more fat cells. Typically, the abdominal area and also the hips and thigh areas for a lot of women. You need to work all those areas to build and maintain your healthy lean muscle, but only through caloric expenditure do you burn fat. Fifty crunches will burn something like 9 calories. There’s 3500 calories in a pound of fat. You do the math. By the way, if you could spot reduce would someone that chews gum all the time not have a skinny face? And since we get fat by consuming more calories than we expend, every obese person would also have a skinny face from all the chewing!

In the 1950’s, people thought that they could use a vibrating belt and rollers to lose fat. This doesn’t work, but some weight loss scams just won’t die. They are reborn in today’s version. From whole body vibration to individual vibrating gizmos, people are falling for hocus pocus fitness. In the early 8o’s toning tables were a big hit and why not. You simply lie down and have the machine move you. Not any better, are the electro-stimulus belts and sauna suits.

People want a quick fix, and that hasn’t changed in the last 50 years. The infomercials misguide the uninformed and fail to explain the laws of exercise physiology, thermodynamics and just plain old common sense.  We have six abdominal machines at PT Gym that cost between $1500-$5000 per machine. Not a one of them will spot reduce your waist line. Only a combination of whole body strength training, appropriate cardio/aerobic activity and most importantly proper nutrition will give you a flat stomach and if you’re so inclined, the ripped 6 pack abs of an infomercial star!

Fit at Fifty

Younger Next Year PT Gym Blog

The New Year always brings a fresh focus on life and allows us to start from a clean slate. Since my birthday is in January it is not only a new calendar year but also marks the beginning of another year of my journey through this life.  I turned 50 this year and gave pause to reflect on where I am in life, think of friends and loved ones that are no longer here, and reflect on what is really important. I hope that I am middle age, but we never know until the end, do we? If I die tomorrow, then middle age would have been 25.

My father died at the young age of 44. Technically that is a health risk factor for me, but I do take comfort in the fact that unlike him, I don’t smoke, don’t eat a lot of fried food and try to maintain a somewhat regular workout regimen. Now that I have reached this magical age, I am glad that fitness has been a part of my life since I was 14. I sometimes joke that I used to workout because I wanted to, but now I do it because I have to!

Relatively speaking, I think I’m in good shape. I don’t think I could be in the best shape of my life at this age since I trained fairly hard when I was in my 20’s and feel I was closer to my peak then. I can improve from where I am though and do intend to do that going forward. I think genetically we may be programmed to live a certain age, and we can improve or decrease our odds by our lifestyle choices and behaviors.

In my 20′s my focus was more on what I looked like whereas now it’s more related to health and wellness. If I were only concerned with keeping my body fat low I would eat Häagen-Dazs®, pizza, and cheese-burgers every day, because I know I can burn the calories if I am active enough. Doing so may even motivate me to workout harder in order to burn the excess calories. But I don’t eat like that often because I am concerned more now about what is happening inside my arteries, not just on looking good on the outside.

A great book I would highly recommend to anyone is “Younger Next Year – A guide to Living Like 50 Until You’re 80 and Beyond” by Chris Crowley & Henry S. Lodge, M.D. (2004). I read it in my early 40’s and it has even more significance now. Written by a physician and his patient, the book is not a medical journal or exercise book per se, but paints a vivid picture of what happens when we neglect our bodies. It’s a fun read with much practical information. If you’re not already exercising, after reading the first chapter you will be motivated to start moving!

From the book, I have listed below “Harry’s Rules” that I have adopted now that I have reached that golden year.

  1. Exercise six days a week for the rest of your life.
  2. Do serious aerobic exercise four days a week for the rest of your life
  3. Do serious strength training, with weights, two days a week for the rest of your life.
  4. Spend less than you make.
  5. Quit eating crap.
  6. Care.
  7. Connect and commit.

12 Ways of Fitness

Resolutions PT Gym Blog

Research shows that individuals who follow most of these basic health practices will live more than 10 years longer, on average, than those who don’t. So for those who are contemplating what 2010 New Year resolutions to set, improving any of the following health indicators would be a good place to start. Staying with the theme of the season I present the 12 ways of fitness:

  1. Body Weight. Maintain a healthy, lean bodyweight. Ideal is a body mass index (BMI) of less than 25.
  2. Physical activity. Strive for 4-7 days per week of moderately vigorous exercise lasting 30+ minutes.
  3. Smoking status. Smoking kills over 400,000 people annually. Do not smoke.
  4. Consume less red meat and fried foods. Saturated fats are linked to coronary artery disease.
  5. Whole grains. Consume 3+ servings daily.
  6. Fruits and vegetables. Consume 5+ serings daily.
  7. Nuts and seeds. Consume 5+ servings weekly for a good source of healthy fat.
  8. Limit alcohol. Do not drink or at least drink in moderation.
  9. Sleep. Get adequate sleep, for most people that means 7 to 8 hours each night.
  10. Social support and a general state of happiness. People married or who have a significant other, make frequent contact with family/friends, and regularly participate in a faith group or a social club live longer.
  11. Blood pressure. Blood pressure should be less than 120/80.
  12. Blood cholesterol. Total cholesterol should be less than 200 and LDL  less than 130.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and Happy, Healthy New Year!

It’s The Other 364 Days

Thanksgiving has come and gone. I have a lot to be thankful for and was grateful to be able to spend time with family in North Carolina. Like most everyone else, as the New Year approaches I reflect on the past year and establish goals for the coming year.  As I enjoy the feast my Mom has prepared, I think about how we needlessly worry about sabotaging our fitness efforts with what we do during the holidays. I eat this way once, maybe twice a year, and I don’t intend to deny my gluttonous pleasure with unwarranted concerns.

Studies have shown that the weight we accumulate during the holiday period from Thanksgiving through Christmas accounts for a mere 1 to 2 pounds maximum. This can easily be dropped just by returning to our normal lifestyle and way of eating.  It’s the rest of the year we need to be concerned about. Just an extra 100 calories a day above our energy needs will equal an extra 10 pounds of  body fat a year. What we do on a day to day basis is what really matters. 

The Thanksgiving meal we have at Mom’s is not the problem, but those other Golden arches we frequent the other days of the year may be. Consider these world statistics from the World Health Organization and the McDonald’s Corporation:

  • 464,284,826 Obese Adults
  • 22,934,892 Obese Children
  • 197,609,354 Diabetes Cases
  • 31,000 McDonald’s®

By the time you read this blog, all of these numbers will have increased significantly.

Just the Facts!

Fat PT Gym Blog

The American College of Sports Medicine identifies a desirable weight loss program as one that meets the following criteria:

Provides intake not lower than 1200 kcal/day for normal adults and allows a proper distribution of foods to meet nutritional requirements.

Provides a negative caloric balance (not to exceed 500 to 1000 kcal/day) resulting in gradual weight loss.

Includes an exercise program that promotes a daily caloric expenditure of more than 300 kcal.

The National Weight Control Registry found that 80% of people who lost 30 or more pounds and kept it off for at least one year accomplished their goals through a combination of diet and exercise- only 10% succeeded using diet alone and only 1% using exercise alone. See our previous blog post  Successful Losers for more details on what actually works.