Jack LaLanne the "Father of Fitness"

On Sunday, the fitness community and world at large, mourned the loss of the "father of fitness", Jack LaLanne. 96 years young, Jack, succumbed to complications of pneumonia, leaving behind his legacy as the pioneer of what we know as fitness today. He was truly ahead of his time with his philosophies for moderate resistance training and no sugar dieting, practicing what he preached up to his final days. Jacks philosophy on moderate eating and activity are a true example of how a healthy living can keep one active and vibrant through the lifecycle.

According to a recent article in the New York Times - "Aging: Paying the Physical Price for Longer Life",  "a 20-year-old man today can expect to live about a year longer than a 20-year-old in 1998, but will spend 1.2 years more with a disease, and 2 more years unable to function normally." They analysized recent governement data, and found that life expextancy is going up, not because people are healthier, but because medicine is keeping people with chronic disease and disability, alive longer.  In another article in the New York Times - "Full-Service Gyms Feel a Bit Flabby", data shows only 15% of Americans belong to a gym. Despite knowing exercise has nothing but tremendous health benefits, Americans are still too sedentary. In fact 60% of us are overweight, and 40% of us are obese. I for one, plan to enjoy activity for many years to come. The year is young, make it a healthy one. Let us learn from Jacks legacy that an active lifestyle, will lead to a healthy and disease free one, for many decades to come.

The Best Exercise You Are Not Doing - Dead Lifting

The dead lift is THE most important lift in the gym in my opinion. Its a compound, multi-joint, multi-muscle movement, incorporating the largest muscles in your body: the hamstrings, glutes, core, traps, and shoulders. Because it involves so much muscle mass there is a tremendous caloric expenditure both during the exercise,and recovery, making it excellent for weight loss. Additionally, multi-muscle activation under heavy loads can elicit significant blood testosterone levels, again facilitating lean muscle development. The dead lift is an excellent functional movement, reinforcing proper technique for lifting heavy objects. Incorporate the dead lift into your routine if you want to maintain a health back, flat, strong core, and lean physique.

The Sitting Disease

Beware of your chair! I thought this photo was appropriate in light of todays topic and the release of iOS4.

Are you at risk to the degenerative ailments and chronic illnesses associated with prolonged daily sitting? The latest research says yes! Whether you are a regular exerciser or not, if you spend most of the day at a desk and seated in a chair you may be putting yourself at increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, a variety of cancers, and premature death. Those who sit regularly show statistically higher blood pressure, blood sugar profiles, and waist sizes. Many of us go from our beds, to the car, to the desk chair, to the couch, and back to bed.  A recent Australian study of adults showed an 18% increase for heart disease and 11% increase in mortality for each daily hour of television watching. Surprisingly, three hours or more of sitting, watching television has been shown to offset any amount of jogging or other exercise throughout the day. Those who watch three hours or more of TV tend to be fatter, whether they exercise or not. But why is the act of sitting so bad for your health? Its one of the most metabolically passive positions to be in and triggers a cascade of metabolic effects that have mal effects on energy usage. When you sit, large postural muscles of the back, legs and core are shut down which reduces fat-burning enzymes by 50%. Sitting also decreases the HDL:LDL cholesterol ratio, increases the risk of contracting diabetes by 7% for every 2 hours of sitting per day, increases the risk of heart disease, increases the incidents of depression, increases the risk of acquiring metabolic syndrome by 26% for every hour spent sitting irrespective of the quantity of moderate exercise performed (as shown by Australian researchers) and decreases lifespan (as shown by Canadian researchers involving a twelve-year, 17,000 person study as well as by Australian researchers involving a six-year, 8,800 person study). In addition, prolonged sitting increases incidences of discomfort (including back pain, muscle tenderness and aches, stiff necks, and numbness in the legs, chronic disorders, arthritis, inflamed tendons, chronic joint degeneration, impaired circulation, varicose veins, hypertension, obesity, cancer, high blood triglycerides, high blood sugar, osteoporosis, and herniated discs (Graf et al. 1993 and 1995, Grandjean 1987, Kelsey 1975). Lipoprotein lipase is an enzyme that aids in the metabolism of fat. Its produced in many cells in your body, most notably, your muscles. Low levels of lipoprotein lipase has been shown to increase your risk for many chronic obesity related diseases.  Studies with rats have shown a decrease in the production of this enzyme when inactive. Simply standing, stretching, or getting up and walking periodically throughout your workday can reengage these muscles, boost fat burning enzymes and decrease your risk for disease. When you stand the muscles in your legs and core fire to maintain posture and aid movement. Simply sitting 50% less per day can decrease the above risks. A trend in the workplace as this idea catches on are elevated desks for standing, and low speed treadmills. While you may not have access to these progessive workplace options, you can get up and out of your chair periodically throughout the day, you can walk and or take the stairs where available. Avoid the couch when you get home, get some work done in the yard or go for a walk with friends or family. Even retiring in  rocking chair for the evening news is metabolically more active than the couch. For some workplace stretching tips, refer to my demo page on dynamic stretching.

5 Components of Health Related Physical Fitness

Did you know there are 5 key components of health related physical fitness? Do you know what they are? How do you stack up within all 5? Many of us over develop one area, neglecting others. Here they are listed in order of my opinion of importance.

Body Composition - What percentage of fat mass is your body relative to your lean mass? Click on this link for a simple tool to gage how health your current body comp is. Human beings are fatter than ever before in the history of man. It is estimated that over 60% of Americans are overweight and or obese. Science has pinpointed a slew of chronic to lethal health problems associated with being overweight. Overweight being defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 24. Click here to get yours now. However, this does not take into consideration the density of lean mass. Many athletes and exercise enthusiasts may be deemed over weight according to their BMI. A better yardstick would be calculating your body composition. Click on this link to gage where you are at or seek out your local personal trainer to conduct a body fat analysis.

Muscular Strength - The ability to produce force. More importantly work = force x distance. If you cannot apply a given force, you may not even be able to move in extreme circumstances. In order to apply force and move, you need muscle mass. Your body develops that mass through resistance activities.  Very important concepts to grasp as you age, your muscle mass decreases, which may one day limit your ability to get out of a chair! And back to body composition, the more lean mass you have (muscle), the less fat mass you should have in theory. So why not kill two birds with one stone, but developing your strength and body composition at once with some resistance activities you enjoy.

Muscular Endurance - Your body's ability to apply force repeatedly for a prolonged amount of time. Forget about getting out of your chair, can you do that repeatedly throughout the day, climb a flight of stairs, or walk for an extended period of time? Muscular endurance is very important for activities you would like to do beyond brief bursts of energy. If you want to stay active, maintain your muscular endurance.

Cardiovascular Endurance - Your heart and lung's ability to delivery oxygen and nutrient rich blood to your working muscles for muscular strength and endurance (anaerobic (without oxygen) activity) and cardio (aerobic (with oxygen) activity). If the heart and lungs are working optimally, forget about everything above. But dont spend too much time doing cardio. The American Heart Association recommends 30 cumulative minutes or more per day of aerobic activity to sustain sufficient heart and lung capacities. 60 min or more per day to manage weight! That 60 min would be better spent with 3-4 days of resistance training to develop your lean mass, shed fat mass, and boost your resting metabolism with metabolically active muscle!

Flexibility - last but certainly not least, and arguably of greater hierarchy than my list here. Really, the ability to move at all. The elasticity of your soft tissue, ie, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. A tight muscle muscle is second only to a weak muscle. A tight muscle is unable to apply a force across its entire surface area, through a full range of motion(ROM). While there are perils to being hyper-flexible, on the scheme of things, most people never get close to that. Though your joints require some degree of stability, many of us have less than optimal ROM around these joints. More often than not chronic pain or injury can be relieved through regular flexibility and muscular development training.

So what areas have you been neglecting? Perhaps its time to back off on the cardio or strength training or give some of these other important aspects some work. Cross training is a great way to stimulate the body, allow it to recover, and avoid injury, Ideally, all 5 of these components should be apart of your regular fitness regimen.

Exercise: A Modern Panacea

A recent article in the New York Times states: “You Name It, and Exercise Helps It.” There is nothing that has a greater and immediate impact on one’s health than exercise. Frank Hu, an epidemiologist at the Harvard Medical School of Public Health said, “The single thing that comes close to a magic bullet, in terms of its strong and universal benefits, is exercise.” Exercise is proven to lower the risk of heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, congestive heart failure, obesity, depression, dementia, osteoporosis, gallstones, diverticulitis, falls, erectile dysfunction, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, arthritis, lower back pain, and over 12 different types of cancer to name a few. And if you already have one of these conditions, exercise can help you manage them and improve your quality of life. Regular, moderate bouts of exercise increase your body’s ability to prevent and manage chronic ailments. Aerobic exercise increases your heart and lung’s ability to pump and distribute nutrient and oxygen rich blood to the entire body. Which in turn can lower blood pressure, increase peripheral circulation for those suffering from cramping, improve glucose tolerance for those with or at risk of diabetes, decreases stiffness and deterioration of joints due to arthritis, it counters the loss of muscle mass and strength due to lack of oxygen in those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Those suffering from depression can experience a sense of accomplishment in learning a new task, which builds self esteem, social contact and exercise induced endorphins improve mood.

We could all benefit from less aches and pains, better sleep, improved well being, and enhanced quality of life. Whether or not you suffer or are at risk for serious disease, exercise is the cure for what ails you!