Thursday, June 24, 2010

healthy-er junk food

nanny state-ism is, like it or not. we share in each others' pain, illness, and wellness if not by intent at least by infrastructure. from private to public health insurance plans, the means of operational success comes from sharing the burden of illness with those who are healthy. in fact, we've seen much from the recent health care debates that demonstrate that the cost of any insurance plan is increased as healthier (read: younger) people opt out, leaving the more costly sicker people, or people at risk of becoming sicker (read: older) remain in the pool. hence, requiring everyone to pay into the pool, young and old, healthy and unhealthy, rich and poor (read: subsidized by government) is the only way to reduce premiums to all.

thus, the question at hand: does the state have the right or responsibility to watch how we eat?

well, since government has to approve food production methods and ingredients, one could argue that it already is watching over us. but it should not tell us what or how much to eat.

the other side suggests that, with small changes in oversight, substantially large changes in individual and public health can reap great benefits with minimal loss of either corporate profits or personal tastes. here's an article of a discussion in england, a real nanny state, that addresses such small changes in food production: less sodium, less or no trans fats:

whether or not you believe the state should be a nanny, there can be little argument for allowing the state to cooperate in the profiteering of corporate foods (what some might call, Food, Inc.) at the expense of both private and public health since we're all paying.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

exercise and the brain

much has been written and discussed and debated about the role of exercise, and fitness, in mental, and academic function. i recall when i was in grad school - late 1970s-mid 1980s - reading on the usefulness of cardio conditioning in treating depression and addiction. so, when i got an anonymous posting in regards to one of my posts suggesting i look at the work of john ratey re the value of exercise in regards to alzheimers, i did. obviously i did not research all his work nor even read all the articles about his work. what i saw, tho, was more corroboration of that which i've been reading about for over 30 yrs. at least, so far as education and mood states are concerned. when studies are done on those with deteriorative diseases such as alzheimers, and when they show correlations with exercise prior to or after those diseases, i can only bring up some methodological issues, the first of which is causation.

as great as western medicine is at finding the complex variables that relate to any one disease or even disorder (small diff but real), after 10 yrs of human genomic study, a recent health-related article (the Times? Health News?) headlined that so far no definitive singular genes have been identified to allow for any specific treatment of any one disease. makes sense to me: genes interface with environment to prosecute their potential. as such, fit, health, lean, well-nutriented people still get sick, diseased, and die...sometimes sooner than their polar opposite unfit, unhealthy, overweight, poorly nutriented comrades. could it be the environment in which they were raised from day one? or maybe that job they held in high school? we'll never quite know.

so, when a study shows that staying or even getting aerobically fit delays progression of an extant disease such as alzheimers, keep in mind that we have absolutely NO idea as to how fast or slow it would have progressed had the subjects not done any exercise at all. the data has to be accumulated over large numbers of patients over long periods of time factoring out for medications and other environmental effectors - such as type of care, socioeconomic and health care opportunities - yes, poor people won't have as good an outcome as rich people; unfair but that's how it is and scientists can't factor in too many variables all at once - and even then can only come up with correlations, not causations.

in conclusion, dr ratey's research on the value of fitness on brain function and health is sound when looking at non-diseased people. once we venture into the realm of brain diseased people, all we can offer are co-related suggestions. and exercise is and should always be related to favorable future outcomes if only for quality of life matters. so get your early-diagnosed alzheimer patient out and about, performing complex movements in the gym and especially outside the gym, playfully, enjoyably, and socially. it may not extend function or life but will provide a host of pleasurable moments and memories for those left behind.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

strength train yourself flexible

studies have been showing over the past decade or so that resistance training (RT) improves flexibility. furthermore, it reduces your risk of lengthening injuries - like a hamstring tear during running, or back strain from bending - by not only increasing the ability of the muscle to pull more load but also resisting a load that's pulling it. in other words, when a force is greater than the tension of the muscle, the joint will move as the muscle lengthens, rather than shortens. think of bending over to tie your shoes - your hamstrings, glutes, and low back muscles lengthen to allow gravity to lower your upper body down. when they contract to raise you back to vertical, they shorten.

why the science lesson? because, if you do RT through a large range of motion, muscle will get stronger even at the extremes of it's range. muscle gets stronger by three mechanisms: first, neurological; then collagen deposition which makes it tougher; finally, hypertrophy, or protein accretion. when you stretch, you get some of the first two but little of the third. when you do RT you get them all. therefore, when you stretch to tie your shoe, your muscles have learned to go through that range but have the collagenous strength to withstand the load at that angle, and the strength to pull you back up safely.

bottom line - strength train throughout a joint's range of motion.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

core training in the vertical world

this morning i got an email from a former colleague/trainer from belmont university's physical therapy department, emily. she finished her degree a year or more ago and is living in virginia i think. she wanted some info on core training for athletes - h.s. jocks - to whom she's giving a presentation.

now, this is how things work: you go to school, learn a lot, focus in one or two areas, go out and practice what you learn, focus in one or two areas....and next thing you know, you lost whatever it is you once knew. so, as a trainer she learned, from me and the relevant literature, what and how to train the core. as a therapist, she learned again some of the same but less expansive material since p.t. is treating unhealthy folks just enough to get them out of the clinic. what to do from there - distinguishes trainers from therapists. but my grips is for both.

in reviewing literature to send her, on line, i went to the NSCA's site and got one from stuart mcgill - a prominent researcher in the area of core function, and another from someone who though he was. i say this because mcgill emphasized the ludicrousness - if there is such a word- of the navel drawing in maneuver whereas the other guy made a special emphasis on doing so before doing any core work.

now i'm a fan of the navel drawing in maneuver - you know, pull the belly button into the floor. it was developed as a way to retrain the transverse abdominus - the innermost abdominal muscle that does not in any way move the torso but does stabilize it at its weakest level. i say this not to demean its value. but it really only does its job as a stabilizer when the spine/vertebrae themselves are out of alignment - when you have a spondylolisthesis, slippage of one vertebra over the one below it. but what stabilizes the spine when you have to move beyond static stability of the vertebrae? that is where trainers lose sight of the forest thru the trees.

without going too far and deep, let me share my thoughts on this. name 3 professions where you have to lie on your back and raise your upper torso toward the sky/ceiling?......time's up. how about: michaelangelo painting the sistene chapel; a coal miner; and a hooker - ok, she doesn't have to raise her upper body up but she has to do a pelvic tuck....several times a day. for the most part, we operate vertically. and generally in a rotational, not back and forth, manner. therefore, let's think about training the core both "in line" and in rotation. so, planks are starters - my bow to mcgill - but then progress to upright versions of a plank - hmmm? well, how about a tubing or cable chest press with two hands? you have to resist being bent into extension, just as a plank is resistance against the belly moving into the floor. and you're getting upper body work, too. and you're vertical, pushing as tho: pushing a carriage, shopping cart, defensive linemen, etc. likewise, a row of tubing or cable forces the lumbar extensors to stabilize against forward bending. then moving to one arm chest press and one arm row - now you have a rotational force to resist. change legs; different hip rotator actions at play now. then add rotation; then add lunge and rotate while pressing or rowing.

in other words, build on core control with core stability to core endurance to core strength to core power (adding speed). but do so in positions that matter...unless you intend to paint the next sistene chapel, that is.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

social media

there are many new ways to communicate and blogging and Facebook are two i've decided to venture into. based on the suggestions of a marketing study at Vanderbilt on behalf of STEPS, i thought, what the hell? so here it is.

it was also suggested i start twittering - a 140-character way of sharing quickie info. since i read a lot, this would be an easy way to share lots of snippets of quality facts. however, why should i recreate the wheel when a good friend and colleague, Guy Andrews, of Exercise ETC, is doing so. please sign onto his blog for up to date by the minute exercise and health news-bits:

i believe you will find his quick-twits easier to digest than my expositions, but don't stop reading here. the info i offer is able to fill in the meat of the studies others refer to in snippets.

like did you hear about.....

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

ACSM Annual meeting thoughts

last week i attended the ACSM annual meeting in beautiful baltimore. i kid you not; it is a beautiful convention center/inner harbor/down town area with good restaurants - my cousin took me to an afghani restaurant (owned, incidentally, by pres. karzai's brother) - and clubs and things to do and see (like the first george washington monument in the center of a square near the george peabody conservatory.) the convention, well organized and attended - i heard the biggest yet, with over 90 countries represented - had much to offer the geeks and practicing geeks, like me. i really enjoy hearing the researchers' research and others' opinions/suggestions that so make science a wonderfully energetic endeavor. whilst i would not consider myself one, the value is invaluable. i love taking the info, processing it into terms i can employ in my capacity as trainer and educator, and implementing it into programs for my clientele. much of what i learn is self-affirming but there's some that i learn in greater detail such that now i can understand what i've read elsewhere. for example...

obesity. we all learn and think that obesity increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and early mortality. and yes, the BMI data does show this. but that's like saying "all..... look alike": to the untrained eye, to the biased viewer, they really might...but really aren't. in other words, as steven blair (cooper center, dallas) and glenn gaesser noted in their symposium on the topic, the reality is that obese folks have as good a cardio risk profile as lean people...if the former are fit. thus, lean unfit people were worse off than obese fit people. furthermore, while reducing wt is good - we assume - one must ask at what expense? gaesser pointed out that chronic wt loss - cycling - actually increases your morbidity each time you regain the wt. and it's not just large amounts of flux that create this effect; it may be more related to how many times one has tried to lose it. cycling may actually BE the problem with the obese trying to lose wt, usually to no avail and often to negative effect. perhaps, and the evidence is clear and strong here, all we need to do is focus on helping the obese get fitter - not marathon fit, just fitter. and, for you trainers out there, resistance training is sufficiently effective even compared to aerobic conditioning. why? read on....

it is suggested that cycling causes loss of lean tissue - muscle. we've known that elderly folks have worse outcomes if they lose too much muscle mass. it makes sense then that losing wt, esp fast wt loss as most diets offer, also takes a toll on the lean tissue. hence, repetitive wt loss in the obese has been shown to increase risk of disease.

furthermore, studies have shown that short term fitness training - as short as 3 weeks - which is too short to have demonstrated substantial wt loss, has reduced blood pressure, blood lipid values, and get this - risk of type 2 diabetes. some folks have even been able to get off their metformin (a treatment drug for type 2).

oh, there's more, but my fingers are tired. ok, try this on: sretching - most studies show excessively long - over 2 mins - static stretching reduces power/strength. however, as i brought up in the q&a, most athletes don't stretch immediately prior to performing a power lift/bout. hence, no need to worry, but static stretching is also shown not to be effective in producing reduction of injury nor improvement of performance....except in events that need it, like dance, diving, etc. and even there, dynamic stretching may be better than static stretching at all levels. why stretch, then? if an injury or posture has the ability to alter your mechanics, stretch; if you had surgery or any injury that minimizes mobility, stretching is necessary to restore proper muscle balance and function, and static, early on, is safest. the other reason: it feels good, and relaxes you.

stop reading, go stretch, and feel good.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

disease prevention/management

fitness = wellness, or so it would seem. however, genetics, culture, and luck, can impact one's wellness, too. fortunately, tho, goals set a decade ago by a government health initiative, to get more people tested and treated for high blood pressure, is working:

obviously it would be better to prevent it than treat it, and that's the mission of those in the exercise world: to get more folks moving more. getting folks to take more STEPS - sorry about the plug but that's why i chose the name of my biz 20+ yrs ago - is worth it for those who do:

but why just talk about it? sitting at this computer, reading what i read, it strikes me ironic that my sit time affects my life more than my exercise time. one study, in MSSE, june 2010, notes in the conclusion, that women who lost wt during an 8-wk program did so by moving more than they had before the study began, and more than the designed exercise program implemented. those who did not lose wt, however, even with the 150-mins/wk program, did so by reducing the amount of movement they did almost as a compensation for the exercise they did. in other words, with no change in diet, some were "responders" = lost wt by continuing or adding movement; some were "non-responders" - gained wt by stopping extra movement in their lives.

so i'm going to get up and move around. why don't you?