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 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.

You Can't Out -train a Bad Diet

In a recent online discussion with some industry leaders, the topic of a fitness professionals role in dispensing nutritional recommendations came up. You can follow that discussion here, but I  wanted to expand it on a little. You cant out train your diet. Most of my general population clients have weight loss or body comp goals. While its easy to present the value of moving and feeling better, shifting the focus away from aesthetic goals, most clients are more vain than that. Another large client base are athletes with performance goals. You cant out perform a bad diet either. As a CSCS and nutrition minor, I feel confident and qualified to dispense general nutrition and supplement guidelines as stipulated by my governing certifications and degrees. However, clients need to recognize the qualifications of the fitness pro they are working with and take what they say with a grain of salt, or sans salt :). Ask about their credentials and know only a registered dietician should be giving specific caloric suggestions and food combinations. Adverse side effects from too much or too little of certain nutrients or calories can leave an unqualified professional liable. I often take for granted, how little people know about nutrition and how it plays a role with their goals. I find most often, the aspiring Manhattan chic predisposes clients to infrequent eating, followed by poor choice binging at restaurants that don t have their guests nutrition in mind. Combine these heavily salted, high fat, high calories meals with excessive alcohol consumption, and a sedentary lifestyle, and you have a recipe for a US obesity epidemic. Simple changes such as 4-6 small meals a day, lean proteins, healthy fats, high fiber carbs, and increased non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic fluids, can be life changing. Many clients fail to realize an alcoholic drink of any concoction, is going to exceed 100 calories, and a gram of alcohol is almost as calorically dense as a gram of fat. (7kcal/g vs 9) 2 drinks a day, over the course of the week, easily adds up to an additional 2000 calories. A pound of fat is 3500 calories. How long will it take you to gain another pound?? The average adult gains 2 pounds a year. Cutting your alcohol intake by 50% could dramatically drop your caloric intake. Eating more meals at home that out is an easy way to know what you are putting in your body. Restaurant foods are salted, sweetened and larded for pleasure, desensitizing our palettes to salt, fat and sugar. Even with healthy menu options its hard to turn down what we want in the moment versus our long term goals. Having said that, I do not believe there are "bad" foods, its the quantity of those bad or calorically dense foods. Learn portion control. A fist size of protein and high fiber carb is more than enough for most people. You do not have to clean your plate, save it for later. Skip the dessert and cut back on the alcohol. Little modifications over time can make all the difference over time. Be consistent with your diet and exercise. Make moderate eating and exercising a lifestyle. Consult a qualified fitness professional and nutritionist to help you get on the right track. Some mainstream applications I like for tracking calories and being more mindful of eating habits can be found at livestrong.com or loseit.com, both are conveniently available on blackberries and iPhones too.

For the fitness professional, remaining within ones professional scope of practice and referring out is important. But for many, simple lifestyle modifications can be more than an ounce of prevention, and fitness pros are the first in the line of defense for many diet related diseases and preventative care.

Are you Pouring on the Pounds?

Its easy to overlook the caloric impact of many of the drinks we consume. Sugary beverages are being blamed for the current childhood obesity epidemic and the country is considering a tax on all sugary drinks, specifically soda. The average soda contains 35 grams of sugar. Thats almost 10 tablespoons or 10 packets of sugar! A soda from time to time will not kill you, but for many Americans, its a staple in their diet. We cant just blame soda however, juice is no better. There are better ways to get vitamins and antioxidants than starting your day with a fruit flavored suspension of sugar. Many of the popular sports drinks are misguiding too. Unless you are exercising for over an hour, you do not need to be consuming extra sugar to get through your workout. Not to mention many of these beverages have substituted pure sugar for high fructose corn syrup. They are really sodas without the carbonation, disguised as a performance enhancing product. Start substituting water, tea, and low fat milk with these high sugar drinks and watch the pounds start dropping. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is doing something about it. With a "tell it like it is" add assault on sugary beverages, encouraging consumers to purchase drinks with less sugar.

Douglas Robb from Health Habits wrote about some alarming facts on sugar and insulin resistance. Check it out.