Wednesday, December 31, 2008

5 Ways to Save on a Gym Membership

“One too many holiday cookies have you feeling as soft and squishy as Santa around the middle? Join the club. Thousands of remorseful holiday eaters think about joining a gym at the turn of the New Year, but only a fraction actually carry through. The excuses vary, but one that often pops up is the prohibitive cost of membership. The median annual cost for a new gym member is a whopping $775, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), a trade group for the health club industry. (This amount is based on a sample of IHRSA gyms.) Now armchair warriors have no excuse: Between now and the end of January, gyms will advertise all sorts of enticing deals, including zero initiation fees and low monthly dues. Before wholeheartedly giving in to such temptations, however, try to follow these five tips to make sure you're getting the best deal: 1) Negotiate, 2) Tap Into Employer and Insurer Discounts, 3) Make Sure the Gym Fits, 4) Track Down Affordable Alternatives, 5) Sign Up for a PassBook.”

Exercise Options Abound For Those With Disabilities, Chronic Illness

“Show up. That is Rule No. 1 on quadriplegic Rob Simon's list of ways to start an exercise program if you have a disability. ‘Then it is, give your best effort on that day,’ the 51-year-old Simon said. ‘I do the most and the best I can each day.’ The Boisean lost most of the use of his arms and legs when he broke his neck in a diving accident roughly 18 years ago at C.J. Strike Reservoir, south of Mountain Home. After months of hospitalization, physical therapists helped Simon start exercising. He is an unusual quadriplegic because he can walk a bit with forearm crutches, he said. ‘This was a gift, and I wanted to make good on it, Simon said of the movement in his legs.’ ‘I've been an athlete all my life, so in my case, it never was a stretch for me (to exercise), and it's totally necessary.’ Simon works out up to two hours each Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Saint Luke's Idaho Elks Rehabilitation Services in East Boise. He rides a stationery bicycle and uses an arm-powered bicycle to get a cardiovascular workout, and he does circuit weight training. Gordon says there are a broad range of disabilities that keep people from exercising, from arthritis to strokes, accidents and illnesses that attack people's nervous systems. The rehab services at the Elk's help 12,000 patients a year with a variety of therapies, including physical therapy, which can help people with disabilities achieve their full potential. It also offers classes for people with arthritis, one of the most common conditions that can cause people to skip exercise. Water workouts are good because they help people build strength, but ease the pressure on joints. Common barriers to exercise are fear of getting hurt or of looking out of place at gyms, Gordon said. But exercising has many concrete benefits, she said. For example, you may be able to get up in the bleachers during a Boise State University football game or do yard work again. Here are tips from Gordon for starting regular exercise […]”

Lifestyle Changes, Commitment Can Turn Fitness Resolutions Into Reality

“For many, making a resolution to improve diet, increase exercise and lose weight is as common as popping champagne corks at midnight of a new year. Unfortunately, these resolutions usually fizzle a short time later. It’s a trend Jim Gregoire, manager at Trapper Health Club and a professor of sports medicine and weight and personal training at Colorado Northwestern Community College, frequently has seen. ‘We’re already getting calls for weight loss,’ said Gregoire, of the 20-some calls the Health Club has received this month from nonmembers considering a membership. ‘The pre-resolution period has started.’ ‘Right now, this time of year, it’s all about looks.’ A question that many people new to clubs have is whether trainers such as Gregoire can ‘promise we can make them lose weight and look better,’ he said. ‘Of course, no trainer would make that promise,’ Gregoire said. ‘What I can tell them is if they are committed … there will be changes.’ Take Off Pounds Sensibly, or TOPS Club, is the nation’s oldest, nonprofit weight-loss education and support group. Just before New Year’s, TOPS released a tips sheet for people seeking to improve their health in 2009. The TOPS philosophy is basic. It combines healthy eating, regular exercise, wellness education and support from others. The TOPS list includes sensible tips such as setting a list of health goals, scheduling regular exercise and avoiding typical pitfalls such as procrastination. Without lifestyle changes, commitment and effort, Gregoire said many people’s good health intentions at the beginning of the year fade within a few months.”

Area Gyms Face Crunch

“Due to the souring economy, area health club owners anticipate a slight decrease in the number of new members who traditionally sign up after the holidays. But their lower expectations for the new year are in line with industry reports that say the growth in health club memberships across the country is showing the effects of the national recession. No local club reports shrinking membership rolls. But faced with fewer new members, gym owners are devising strategies to retain as many of the new faces as they can. ‘I think we are going to be OK,’ said Donna Bailey, co-owner of Diamond Gym in Horseheads. ‘We may not see as many new people signing up as we have in past years, but we'll see a lot of old faces renewing, and that's exciting.’ According to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association in Boston, total median revenue -- dues, fees, merchandise and other sources -- for the second quarter increased by a mere 1 percent, from $1.67 million to $1.69 million, from the same three-month period in 2007. Those are the latest figures available. When it comes to membership dues only, clubs reported total median revenue of $1.07 million, compared with $1.06 million in the second quarter of 2007. ‘The steady performance demonstrated by leading health clubs reflects the industry's potential to maintain growth during challenging economic times,’ Katie Rollauer, the association's senior research manager, said in a statement. The report also said that while membership revenue growth this year has been flat, compared with other quarters of double-digit increases, many clubs are offsetting the lack of growth by mining other non-membership revenue sources. Those can include nutritional services, personal training fees or specialized members' programs, such as the association's ‘I Lost It At The Club’ campaign, all of which are intended to increase clubs' retention rates. Health club owners agree they see a flood of new members during the first two months of each year, as people try to burn off the extra weight they've put on in November and December. Bailey says the average holiday bump at Diamond Gym, where the enrollment is about 1,200 members, is close to 20 percent. Jennifer Yartym, director of Healthworks Wellness and Fitness Club in Painted Post, reports a similar post-holiday membership increase. And so does Elmira Fitness Center's Marc Monichetti. ’Around the middle of January, when people have gotten over the holiday season they decide this is the year they get into shape,’ he said. ‘In most years, it's been up about 10 percent, but it has been as high as 15 percent.’ Yartym said Healthworks, which is owned by Guthrie Health Systems in Sayre, has about 2,000 members and the post-holiday increase of about 10 percent is about the same as its local competitors. But with an eye on the influx, Healthworks holds an open house in early January to market the center's services. New members get a free month and the club's initiation fee is waived. But getting new members in the door is only half the battle. The other half is ensuring the newbies become long-term members. It's typical, Monichetti says, for the new members to let their memberships lapse after they lose their new-found enthusiasm for working out. But putting a finger on the reason can be difficult. ‘It could be the effects of the recession, but there could be other reasons, like for us, stronger competition from downtown and another gym on the Southside,’ he said. One way around the loss of the new members is offering a better product, Monichetti said. Other gym owners agree, saying customer service can be an important factor in making the new members feel less intimidated. ‘A lot of facilities are turning into self-service operations,’ Bailey said. ‘So just being there for the members, that in itself will help the situation about retaining them.’”

Slim Gyms: Health Clubs Cut Fees For January Boost

“January is for fitness centers what December is for retailers: a bad month makes for a bad year. And with people spending less and less likely to overindulge this year, some in the fitness business are working harder to make sure they don't find themselves on the ropes. ‘We're all kind of holding our breath,’ says Ben Quist, co-owner of Form & Fitness in Grafton, Wisc. He said while his club hasn't seen a decline in memberships, he is a little nervous. A third of the club's annual revenue is from new memberships in January, he said. ‘You never take anything for granted,’ Quist said. ‘These next three months, I need to take in a handsome chunk of our revenue.’ Historically, January is the single biggest month for new membership enrollment at health clubs, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association. Many fitness centers introduce some of their best deals, hoping to entice new members and lock them into a year-long or even longer contract. The number of gym memberships dropped 3 percent to 41.5 million between 2006 and 2007, according to the association. At the same time, the number of fitness centers is increasing. There were 29,636 commercial fitness centers in 2007, up from 29,357 in 2006, according to the association. And in most big metropolitan markets, every commercial fitness facility has 10 to 25 competitive fitness operations within its prime target area, the association reports. Health club memberships tend to skew towards those earning $50,000 or more, who are not the hardest hit by the economy, according to David Lockwood, director of research at Mintel, a market research firm. But almost all consumers are cutting spending across the board, and for people with lower incomes, a gym is very likely a first cut, he said. ‘We have to assume that the 'New Years' Resolve people' who join clubs en masse in January and others who do so for winter months will be fewer in number this year because of the economy,’ Lockwood said in an e-mail. In part because of the economy, Curves International deepened its discount for new members, according to spokeswoman Kathy Carr. The original deal was 30 percent off and the first 30 days free. Now, members who sign up between Jan. 1 and March 6 get 50 percent off the initiation fee, in addition to the first 30 days for free, said Carr.”,0,4332284.story

Saratoga Business: New Owner Takes Over Athletic Club, Adds Crossfit To The Local Health Regimen

“Tailored for terrorist hunters or housewives, it's a fitness program for all needs. Called Crossfit in Los Gatos, it's a gym within a gym. Confused? Starting from the beginning: On Nov. 1, Joe Gigantino, an athlete who turned his natural, university scholarship-winning ability into a fitness profession, became the new owner of what has been known for over 28 years as Los Gatos Athletic Club at 285 E. Main St. It's now called Los Gatos Health and Fitness. Gigantino has "resurfaced" the 24,000-square-foot facility with new paint and carpets and purchased new machines, having donated the old ones to local schools. More importantly, Gigantino says he has regained more than 200 of the 350 members who left, unhappy with the lack of maintenance of the facility over the past two years. While a loyal membership used the club when it was under the management of longtime owners Ed and Shirley Burk, membership dropped significantly under the management in the past two years by a health clinic. Gigantino, a Fresno native, achieved an athletic scholarship to Fresno State University, where he graduated with a degree in business. He began his career in 1991 as a consultant to health clubs. Two years later, he bought his first health club business, parlaying that, he says, into four clubs, all of which he sold in 1997. Then he began buying health club property, his first in Milpitas, then Gilroy, then one in Arizona. The Los Gatos property and business is his most recent acquisition. Several years ago, Gigantino, 42, was named one of the ‘Top 40 Young Entrepreneurs Under 40’ by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ‘I'm an avid workout nut,’ he says. His workouts, which he does during any one of his daily visits to his three local gyms, have kept him fit enough to be a respected linebacker in a recent alumni football game. Gigantino's most recent innovation is the gym's affiliation with Crossfit. promoters say Crossfit is a unique style of whole body conditioning that pushes participants to extreme limits. In Los Gatos, the program is under the guidance of three special trainers who tailor the workout to the needs of clients from grandmas to mountain bike riders to skiers. ‘The gym is all about people,’ Gigantino says, and the program is tailored to their differences. Crossfit requires a separate membership. Specials are being offered now for early signups. A general gym membership costs $100 per month.”

Health Commish Brings "Fat Tax" Debate to YouTube

“If the reactions on YouTube are any indication, State Health Commissioner Richard Daines better not quit his day job. Daines played pitchman yesterday, posting a five-minute video on YouTube to make the case for Governor Paterson's controversial plan to impose an 18 percent tax on soda and other sugary drinks. Maybe even the great Ron Popeil would have a hard time selling a new tax to overtaxed New Yorkers, but the reviews for Daine's YouTube pitch were less than stellar. There was thin support for the so-called ‘fat tax’ among the 100-plus comments left in response. ‘Once again, NY, the land of liberals and taxing,’ wrote one such commenter, MajorLeeFubar0. ‘This is such a lie, do you really think they care if you are fat or fit? Of course not, it is just another way for them to tax people and spend our money.’ Like any good video pitchman, Daines employed props, using cans of sofa, glasses of milk and giant blob of fat to illustrate how soda packs on the pounds. ‘No one like to hear about new taxes,’ Daines said. ‘But some taxes can be good for you.’ Fat chance, said many commenters who noted the hypocrisy of touting milk over soda and taxing gym memberships while taxing soda in the name of health. ‘This is why everyone is fleeing NY. This self righteous turd just wants your money,’ noted BigPSRT8. ‘This is the same state that took soda money to offer exclusive vending machine sales in schools 2 years ago...What about OJ and full fat milk? Maybe Caroline Kennedy fix this, umm, you know, with umm, you know her smarts. Oh by the way, they are taxing health club memberships too. Bastards.’”

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Want To Keep Your New Year's Fitness Resolution? Join The (Health) Club

“New Year's resolution season is right around the corner, and it's time to find a gym. You won't be alone in that quest. January is a huge month for health clubs, with about a million people joining nationwide -- 50% more than during any other month of the year, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportclub Association. And it notes that nearly 14% of all Michigan residents are health club members. That membership boom means most clubs offer some of their best specials and promotions this time of year, so it's a great time to join. There are more clubs in Michigan than ever before; the association counted 950 last January, and the total had climbed by 25-30 clubs every year. But what should you look for? A small club catering just to men, just to women or just to people who want 20-minute workouts? A gigantic Lifetime or LA Fitness all-inclusive club? We asked fitness experts around the metro area to give their advice about what to look for when you're sizing up a club to join. Here's what they said: […]”

Goal for 2009: A Healthier and Wealthier New Year

“A year of the wimpy stock market is making many take their new year's resolutions to a whole new level. Some Dothan health club workers say they are seeing an increase in new members, looking to save money by relieving stress and cutting medical bills. ‘A lot of people these days take their health more seriously than before because they're saving money on their health care costs. Doctors have always recommended that people exercise and eat healthy. They're taking particular interest in doctor's advice now, in that they're watching their pennies even closer,’ says Jeff Hughey, Manager at Gold's Gym in Dothan. ‘I had some health problems, getting short of breath. I was basically just getting too fat,’ says Lee Lowlavar. Lee Lowlavar is new to Dothan’s Gold's Gym. Already, he says he's lost 12 pounds. ‘I'm enjoying what I got, but my goal is to loose 20 more pounds.’ But Lowlavar's not the only one looking to buff up in the new year. ‘It keeps me in shape, keeps me out of trouble’ says John Janssen, weight training. ‘Some people are interested in relieving stress... some people are interested in giving up smoking. Other people are interested, of course, in loosing weight and just feeling better,’ says Hughey. Trainers say they hope to not only cut into the nation's obesity rate in 2009, but also cut the amount of smokers and retain people on a better life plan. ‘Once people start exercising, from day one they feel better and they start loosing weight and relieving stress. They're hooked on it. They really love it,’ says Hughey. For people like Lee Lowlavar, many will really love getting into, perhaps, the best shape of their lives. Many gyms are also offering deep discounts, no contracts and free training to bring in new customers. Gold's Gym has plans starting under $15. Michelle's Gym is offering three months for less than $100.”

Recession Shouldn't Affect Gym Memberships, Managers Say

“It's New Year's Eve and the new outfit THAT seemed perfect to ring in 2009 a month ago is tight across the middle. After a handwringing self-examination in a full-length mirror, there is only one conclusion to be made: In 2009, losing weight will be a top priority. This is a scenario that drives gym memberships up nationwide in the months of January and February. Hattiesburg gyms have already been getting calls inquiring about membership packages and anticipate memberships will increase by a decent margin this year despite a national recession. This is a scenario that drives gym memberships up nationwide in the months of January and February. Hattiesburg gyms have already been getting calls inquiring about membership packages and anticipate memberships will increase by a decent margin this year despite a national recession. A new survey sponsored by Weight Watchers found that 45 percent of Americans say losing weight will be their New Year's resolution for 2009, but 97 percent of those resolved to do so will need assistance to keep that resolution. ‘You have to be committed to exercising at least three times a week,’ said Marcia Seal, who owns two Curves locations in Hattiesburg. ‘If you're not committed, then you aren't going to stick with a program. Accountability is a part of that, too.’ The increased traffic in local gyms as of Jan. 1 is not new. January typically marks the beginning of the busy season for gyms and health clubs nationally, said Patrick Irby, owner of Anatomies in Oak Grove. ‘In the fall months, it's easy to overeat, especially if you attend a lot of social functions that are catered,’ he said. ‘On average, people gain weight during the holidays and want to be more fit for the new year. A lot of factors play into that.’ Irby prefers to keep membership information private, he said, but membership and traffic at his gym remain steady. ‘It's hard to say how the economy will impact us because we've had constant traffic,’ he said. ‘Health clubs tend to do better in a recession than the average industry. Only time will tell.’ Approximately 41.5 million Americans are members of some type of health club or gym, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. In 2007, the health club industry raked in $18.5 billion in revenue. Seal said her two locations have about 200 members each. While the economy has impacted her memberships, she said, people will join a gym if they're committed to working out. ‘In hard economic times, people tend to let go of things they feel that they can do without,’ Seal said. ‘But the fact is the one thing people can do is to take care of themselves by exercising.’”

Fitness Firm Opening 2 More Clubs Despite Tough Times

“Opening a new business is always a gamble, even in the best of times. Star-Ledger file photoOutdoor pool at a Life Time Fitness facility. But imagine swinging your doors open to the public at the height of an economic recession. At a time when many construction projects are being torpedoed by what is being described as the worst financial storm in decades, Life Time Fitness is opening not one, but two, mammoth health and fitness clubs in North Jersey -- one in Florham Park, and another scheduled to open in late January in Berkeley Heights. These are not just ordinary health clubs, mind you. These are health clubs on steroids. The Florham Park facility is 110,000 square feet. By way of perspective, the average Home Depot store is about 130,000 square feet. Michael Robinson, chief financial officer at Life Time Fitness, said the company is prudently managing its growth in the near term to weather the financial storm but is confident about its prospects going forward. ‘Up until September, we were extremely successful in raising capital, but it has gotten tougher,’ Robinson said. ‘That is when we stepped back and said prudence calls for us to slow down and live within our means.’ Robinson said Life Time, which went public in 2004, planned to open 11 centers in both 2009 and 2010, but scaled that number down to six, for a total of 12 clubs in two years. The health club industry as a whole is suffering from the economic recession. U.S. consumer demand dropped last year, to 41.5 million members for 2007 from 42.7 million in 2006, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, as hard-pressed consumers cut club memberships and other discretionary spending. Earlier this month, Bally Total Fitness of Greater New York and its affiliates, including Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp., filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing the burden of its long-term debts and constrained credit markets for its downfall. But the health club industry said revenues continued to grow, to $18.5 billion from $17.6 billion, ‘which suggests that clubs are collecting more revenue per member than ever before,’ the group reported in June.”

Feeling Flabby? Here Are Tips On Choosing A Gym

“Your sweater might feel a little tighter this winter than it did last year. December is a big month for people to come back to their gyms and reactivate memberships, said Ann Watson, director of St. John's Siegfried Health Club. You start putting on clothes you haven't worn in a year, and they're a little snugger. Plus, you're a year older, and your metabolism isn't revved up like it used to be. Then, there's all those cliched resolutions to lose weight in the new year. But if you're starting over with an exercise regime, how do you pick a gym? […]”

Baby Boomer Resolution - Get To The Gym

“Baby Boomers who want to take a more active role in their health are likely to consider joining a health club as part of their New Year's resolutions. We examined here recently the AARP survey that showed how Baby Boomers are trying to lessen the economic impact of their health by being more proactive about exercise. Better health equals less medical expense. There is a lot to consider when looking at a health club and the new year is typically when new members flock to clubs with the best of intentions. Here, gleaned from a variety of sources, are some questions to ask and things to consider: […]”

Resolve To Be A Healthier, Smarter, More Satisfied You -- On A Budget

“Most New Year's resolutions lose their fizz faster than a bottle of cheap champagne. That's because, experts say, people expect sudden transformation rather than gradual progress. They hope a single decisive action, like buying a treadmill, can help make them thin or happy. But it takes daily dedication to break a lifelong habit or create a new one. And in these uncertain economic times, people aren't necessarily looking to spend big bucks on a piece of exercise equipment or a long-term health club membership - yet. We've come up with a few ways to make steady strides toward your goals while keeping more of your cash. Or if you want to go the club route, we've got some tips for how you can get the most fitness bang for your buck. And it may turn out that our budget-minded approach will be more effective by helping you change for the long term, without counting on any magic bullet. […]”

Eating At Buffets Plus Not Exercising Equals Obesity In Rural America

“In small towns in the Midwestern United States, people who eat out often at buffets and cafeterias and who perceive their community to be unpleasant for physical activity are more likely to be obese. ‘It's not that people don't want to get physical activity or eat healthy foods, but we've made it difficult in many communities,’ says Ross Brownson, Ph.D., senior author of the study and a professor at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. ‘People in small towns spend a great deal of time in cars, and they also may not have easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables in their markets.’ The findings are published in the December issue of Preventive Medicine. ‘Although obesity rates are higher in rural areas, this is one of the first studies to look at food choices and exercise in this population,’ says Alicia Casey, first author of the paper and now a doctoral student in health communications at Penn State University. ‘Determining how much these factors increase the risk of obesity in rural areas can help us determine methods to help this group.’ Brownson points out that a lot of travel planning focuses on how to increase the numbers of automobiles on our roadways, not on how to make travel friendly by foot or bicycle. Possible interventions to enhance safety for people who want to walk or bicycle along rural roads include widening the shoulders, using signage to identify pedestrian and cycle areas and reducing speed limits. Options to increase availability and affordability of healthy foods could involve working with food outlet owners and changes in state or federal taxation and agricultural policies to reduce the relative price of healthy foods compared to unhealthy foods. Society, Brownson stresses, will be better off finding ways to prevent obesity instead of trying to treat the condition. ‘We need to take these issues into account when we're making transportation and city planning decisions,’ he says. ‘Everyone will benefit if we make the healthy choice the easy choice.’”

Health and Wellness in the Workplace Gets Social Networking Makeover

“A new and unique wellness organization,, is offering employers a simple way to increase employee productivity, employee retention, and employee loyalty through a no cost workplace wellness program called "The Gift of Wellness". Employers can secure a full membership for each employee which starts with a personal wellness profile in a social network style environment similar to FACEBOOK, and MySpace.”

Time for... "I Lost It at the Club"!

This year will be ACB's 2nd time running, "I Lost It at the Club". This year it will be exciting with 2 options - one with personal training and weekly weigh-ins included (like the "Biggest Loser" TV show) and one do it yourself option. The program will run for 7 weeks from Jan. 12th - Mar. 2nd. I'm sure participants who sign up with the training and weekly weigh-ins will have much more guidance and perhaps more success than those that go it on their own. After all, studies do show that having a trainer /coach makes for more measurable results and greater success! Myself and the rest of the trainers are excited to really get involved with participants and help them reach their weight loss goals. We are looking forward to being a great resource for training and nutrition tips as well as killer workouts! This program is open to club members and non-members and a great way to meet people and get support with your goals. We will have a weekly group sharing meeting in the evening and daily lunch time walks with a few exercises thrown in! It will be soooooo much better than last year! I look forward to changing people's lives! This program is nationwide and we undergo this weight loss challenge with many other high quality IHRSA clubs! IHRSA stands for ‘International Health and Racquet Sportsclub Association’. Here are some 'I Lost It at the Club!' 2008 Highlights: During the 4th annual 'I Lost It at the Club!' a total of 11,128 participants lost 36,564 pounds, one of which was Megan Nelson, a member at Universal Athletic Club in Lancaster, PA. ‘I joined…for the motivation,’ Nelson said. ‘The program worked for me because of the accountability, knowing that I would be weighing in once a week. I'm ready to lose another 20 lbs. and feel confident that I can. ‘I Lost It at the Club!’ really motivated me!’”

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Genesis Health Clubs Wants Salina Indoor Tennis Center, Fitness Facility

“Genesis Health Clubs of Wichita has purchased the former shopping plaza that in the past housed ALCO and Office Depot, at Ninth and Cloud streets, and plans to turn it into a health and fitness center and indoor tennis center. The fitness and tennis center will occupy about 60,000 square feet of the 95,000 square-foot shopping center. Current building tenants Big Lots and Harbor Freight will remain in their present locations, said Rodney Steven, president and owner of Genesis. Steven said he plans to add 25,000 square feet to the east and west sides of the main building to accommodate a five-court tennis facility and pro shop. The cost of the remodeling project is expected to exceed $7 million, and the new center is expected to employ about 40 people, Steven said. ‘You guys have a big tennis community in Salina,’ said Steven, 36, a former Division I collegiate tennis player at Southern Illinois University. ‘It's been that way since I was a kid. For years I've been looking at Salina, wanting to do a health club.’ Genesis, whose four Wichita locations make it that city's largest private health club, opened its fifth location in Hutchinson in October 2006. Its clubs include cardiovascular workout equipment, Pilates and yoga classes, locker rooms, smoothie bars, pro shops and a wide variety of classes free with Genesis membership. Other features planned for the Salina facility include three group fitness studios, two racquetball courts, plasma video monitors/DVD players on each cardio machine, stretching areas and a cycling studio. Observers will be able to watch action on the five tennis courts from a viewing room overlooking the tennis center. ‘People ask why do this in a down economy? I believe exercise is something we have to do,’ Steven said. ‘If our economy is going to thrive, a lot of it will be based on us being healthy. And I believe we have the miracle pill, which is exercise.’”

Study Shows Exercise Shields Against Osteoporosis

“Doing weight-bearing exercise during adolescence may help women maintain their bone strength in old age, a new study says. Published online Dec. 22 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the Japanese study drew its conclusions by looking at the teenage exercise habits of 46 postmenopausal women, now aged 52 or older. Those who had participated in low-impact, weight-bearing exercise, such as swimming, while younger had significantly greater bone mineral content in both the spine and the thigh bone. The other women in the study had either played more high-impact sports in their youth that involved running or jumping, such as volleyball or tennis, or no sports at all. Those in the weight-bearing group also had larger outer femoral bone area, which would help protect them more from fracture during pressure from movements, such as bending. As none of the women with the strongest bones were taking part in any weight-bearing exercise programs at the time of the bone density study, the Suzuka University of Medical Science authors suggest their exercising in their youth helped them more than 40 years later.”

Good Health Is A Snap At New Fitness Center

“Sherman Middle School teacher Jackie Scramlin of Holly knew she wanted to reclaim her health by getting more physically active and dropping a few pounds. That’s why she was one of the first people to join Snap Fitness in Holly, following its opening on Friday, Nov. 28. With state-of-the-art Matrix cardio equipment, strength training machines and free weights, Snap Fitness is a destination for people who appreciate quality equipment, a convenient location and no long-term contracts. ‘Snap Cinema’ adds media entertainment and fun to each workout. The 2,300-square-foot health club provides a friendly atmosphere, with no long lines or waiting for equipment use. Men’s and women’s changing rooms make the transition from workout — to work or home — easy and convenient. Johny Thomas and Yusef Thomas own snap Fitness in Holly. They are committed to customer-service excellence, focusing on the needs and goals of each of their members, calling them by name as they walk through the door.  One-on-one personal training is another important aspect of Snap Fitness. A free, personal training session is available with each new membership, providing a ‘road map of success’ with a custom-designed fitness routine. ‘We’re also waiving the new-member enrollment fee during the month of December,’ said Yusef Thomas.”

UK Society For Behavioral Medicine Annual Conference: University Of Exeter, Jan. 6-7, 2009

“Most people know that how we live our lives effects our health so what influences our decisions to adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle? Why do health professionals like doctors and counsellors do and say what they do? How can public policy, health services, schools and education, the workplace, the internet, and community in which we live be used to support healthier living? For instance, can exercise help with addiction? How can schools promote healthy living? What could we all do to live better and healthier in 2009? The start of a New Year gives many people an opportunity to change their lifestyle but will they stick with it? These questions, and many others, will be addressed in Exeter (UK) on Tuesday 6 and Wednesday 7 January at the UK Society for Behavioural Medicine annual conference. Hosted by the University of Exeter and Peninsula Medical School the two-day conference will bring together over 100 of the UK's leading experts on behavioural medicine. Featuring high profile work from the UK's National Prevention Research Initiative, the conference focuses on how our behaviour affects our health, and the processes by which those behaviours can be altered to improve our health and prevent illness. The conference is also about getting evidence into practice, to ensure that science ends up making a positive contribution to improving quality of life and health care for large numbers of people. Dr Colin Greaves of the Peninsula Medical School, a joint entity of the universities of Exeter and Plymouth, said: ‘Behavioural medicine is about tackling the root causes of some of the biggest health problems in our society - tackling the low-active lifestyles and weight problems which are causing huge increases in diabetes and heart disease; stopping smoking, excessive drinking and drug use, which cause problems in society as well as health problems. It is also about helping people to manage long-term illnesses once they occur - how can you help people to manage their depression or diabetes better for instance? The aim of behavioural medicine is to bring together theoretical insights from behavioural, social and population health scientists with real-world experience from doctors and nurses and patients and health services researchers. By putting all these experts together, we can start to generate real-world solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing the nation's health. At this conference we will be exploring the latest and most groundbreaking research to discover how we can support people of all ages to live and enjoy healthier lives. We are proud to be hosting this major conference in Exeter this year and look forward to welcoming over 100 guests to the city.’”

Health Tip: Exercising If You Have Rosacea

“Exercise is an important way to keep your mind and body healthy. But for people with rosacea -- a skin condition typically characterized by a redness of the cheeks, nose, chin or forehead -- exercise could cause the condition to flare. The National Rosacea Society offers these suggestions for the best ways to exercise while avoiding a flare-up:
Try low-intensity exercises that keep your body temperature lower and reduce the flush on your face.
Perform several shorter workouts during the day, instead of one long workout.
Take advantage of cooler times of day to exercise. Especially during the warm summer months, exercise early in the morning or in the evening, when it isn't so hot.
Exercise with a fan or air conditioning on, or the window open.
Exercise with a cold cloth or towel around your neck, spray your face with cool water, or suck on ice chips.”

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fitness Trends For 2009

“Many people start the New Year with the resolve to lose weight and get in shape. Yet, within a few weeks to months, the fitness enthusiasm wanes and many are back to their old, sedentary habits. Anne Wilkinson is a spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and a Certified Trainer with Temple University. She says sometimes the initial thrill or novelty of an exercise program wears off. Sometimes people miss a few sessions and then have a hard time getting back on track. The fitness industry responds to consumers’ need for new ideas or change by adapting programs and emphasizing the most popular routines. Wilkinson gives us an overview of some of the expected trends for 2009: Back to Basics. Many Americans have very busy schedules. While fitness buffs may go out of their way to make time for exercise, the average person is looking for a way to squeeze the time in. So expect to see more programs emphasizing basic fitness needs, like strength training, balance and flexibility exercises. Fusion classes. This is a great option for people with busy schedules or those who want some variety in a single session. Fusion classes combine two techniques or disciplines in a single class. Kettlebells. Kettlebells are cast iron weights that look like a cannonball with a handle. They range in size from four to over 100 pounds. When used during a standard exercise program, the bells provide a high impact workout in a short amount of time. Specialty facilities. According to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, 41.5 million Americans are members of some type of health club or gym. Most gyms have many different pieces of equipment and offer several kinds of classes. Group fitness classes will always be popular. They provide motivation and support for many people. However, the American Council on Exercise believes we will see an increase in the number of studios that offer one specific type of program, like all Yoga or Pilates. Circuit training. Circuit training uses a succession of short bursts of resistance exercise to work various muscle groups. It provides a person with a balanced, workout for different muscle groups in a short period of time. Mixing it up. Wilkinson says when people follow one particular routine, they are likely to get bored or reach a plateau. She expects more people to use different kinds of training throughout the week. “

Even a Little Overweight, Inactivity Hurts the Heart

“Even a few extra pounds and just a little inactivity increased the risk of heart failure in a major study of American doctors. ‘What this study shows is that even overweight men who are not obese have an increase in heart failure risk,’ said Dr. Satish Kenchaiah, lead author of a report on the finding in the Dec. 23 issue of Circulation. As for exercise, ‘even a little amount of physical activity appears to decrease the risk of heart failure,’ said Kenchaiah, who did the research as a epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and is now at the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The study has followed more than 21,000 doctors for two decades, measuring among other factors the influence of overweight and physical activity on development of heart failure, the progressive loss of ability to pump blood, which is often a prelude to major coronary events. Outright obesity, defined as a body-mass index of 30 or over, has long been known as a risk factor for heart failure. The new report concentrated on men who were borderline overweight, with a body-mass index of 25 to 29.9. About 5 percent of the doctors were obese, and 40 percent were overweight, when the study began. Adjusting for other risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, the study found a 49 percent increased incidence of heart failure in overweight men compared to those with a body-mass index of 25 or less. Incidence of heart failure was 180 percent for the obese men compared to the leaner ones. It was the same story for physical activity. ‘Men who engaged in physical activity anywhere from one to three times a month had an 18 percent reduction in heart failure risk,’ Kenchaiah said. ’For those who were active five to seven times a week, the reduction was 36 percent. The more you exercise, the more reduction you achieve.’ The association of even minimal physical activity with reduced risk could be explained as an indicator of good habits in general, he said. ‘It is possible that they have a healthier lifestyle in general,’ Kenchaiah said. The study found that doctors who rarely or never exercised were older, smoked cigarettes more often, and were more likely to have high blood pressure or diabetes. While Fletcher said he would have liked a more definitive indicator of physical activity -- the report described it as simply breaking a sweat -- he said the study showed again that ‘vigorous exercise makes the difference. The more you do, the better it is for you.’”

10 Steps To A Healthier Employee Population In 2009

“Strained economy? Tight budgets? Not sure if wellness can fit into your routine at work? Read on to find out how worksite wellness programs can save your company money and help you improve the health of your employees. Regardless of company size and budget, there are benefits to be had and a wide array of programs you can do to promote a healthier workforce in the New Year. Three of the major benefits of worksite wellness are: 1. Substantial cost savings. Worksite wellness can lead to a better bottom line. The return on investment has been well documented thru decades of research in this area and ranges from <1:1 to 1:6.5. From negotiating better insured premium rates to identifying cost avoidance by moderating your medical trend, companies can experience savings in a variety of ways. 2. Fewer missed work days. The seven most common chronic diseases—cancer, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, pulmonary conditions, and mental illness—are all caused or worsened by obesity and are costing employers $1.1 trillion in lost productivity. Most importantly, research shows that much of this cost can be avoided. 3. Happier employees. Happy and healthy employees feel better about work and are less likely to look for a job elsewhere. Having a worksite wellness program sends a strong signal to employees that the organization’s concerns extend beyond the financial bottom line. So, how can you get on the wellness trail in 2009? Try any of the following tips and ideas: 1. Ask employees what they want; 2. Find the resources within - Why reinvent the wheel and why spend more money than you need to? Contact the resources which are already available to you, such as your EAP, healthcare provider and cafeteria and ask them if they can provide any wellness activities or services for you. For another layer, requiring a bit more work, you can contact local businesses or professionals (yoga instructors, massage therapists, fitness centers, etc,) and national health organizations (American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association and the National Cancer Institute) for materials and possible on-site visits for a health fair or lecture. 3. Provide monthly newsletter or recipe; 4. Create a monthly theme; 5. Start a walking group; 6. Introduce a 12-week challenge; 7. Bring fitness to them - bring in a yoga instructor or personal trainer to teach a 4 week seminar on fitness where employees can actually practice the body weight exercises provided by the trainer. Look for a personal trainer with specific credentials from the NSCA (National Strength & Conditioning Association), ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) or NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine). For yoga instructors, look for someone who has a certification and a substantial amount of experience working with a population similar to your employees. 8. Be creative; 9. Help employees save money on fitness - contact your health care provider and local fitness centers to see if they are able to provide discounts or reimbursements for weight loss programs or fitness center memberships. 10. Don’t go it alone.”

Obese Siblings Of Diabetic Children At Risk

“Compared with other overweight children, overweight siblings of children with type 2 diabetes mellitus have a significantly higher prevalence of abnormal glucose tolerance, a risk factor for diabetes, according to researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. ‘These siblings,’ lead investigator Dr. Sheela N. Magge told Reuters Health, ‘have a unique combination of genetic and environmental risk factors. We found that the obese sibling group had four-times higher odds of having abnormal glucose tolerance -- pre-diabetes and diabetes -- compared to the control group.’ Magge and colleagues studied 62 obese children, aged 8 to 17 years, who had at least 1 sibling aged 12 years or older. Twenty children had a sibling with diabetes; 42 acted as controls, according to the study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics. The prevalence of abnormal glucose tolerance was 40 percent in the group with diabetic siblings and 14.3 percent in the controls. However, there were no differences in insulin resistance or in hemoglobin A1c between groups, two additional indications of diabetes or high risk. ‘These obese siblings represent a particularly high risk group to target for type 2 diabetes mellitus screening and prevention studies,’ Magge concluded.”

Obesity Raises Risk Of Cancer-Related Lymphedema

“Painful swelling of the arm or shoulder area following treatment for breast cancer -- a condition called lymphedema - is more common in women who are overweight or obese than in women of normal weight, researchers have found. Lymphedema is a common, chronic condition that often develops after breast surgery involving the removal or damage to the lymph nodes in the armpit. Radiation therapy, post-operative infection and age have also been implicated. The condition occurs when excess fluid accumulates, leading to swelling, rash, redness and blistering that causes tenderness, numbness, or aching in the arm, chest wall and breast. In their study of 193 breast cancer survivors, Dr. Jane M. Armer and colleagues at the University of Missouri-Columbia found that the risk of lymphedema was 40 to 60 percent higher in women who are overweight or obese compared to normal-weight women. The risk of lymphedema is especially high in overweight or obese women who have cancer treatment to the dominant side or experience post-operation swelling, the researchers report. Post-operative swelling significantly increased the risk of lymphedema regardless of a woman's body weight. Based on their analysis, roughly two thirds of breast cancer survivors are at risk of developing lymphedema within 30 months after surgery, Armer and colleagues report in the current issue of the Journal of Lymphoedema. ‘Diagnosing post-breast cancer lymphedema can be difficult,’ Armer noted. She recommends increased health education for both breast cancer survivors and health care providers. ‘Lymphedema has a profound impact on health and well-being, but often goes undiagnosed and untreated by physicians and patients,’ she said. In a previous study, Armer and colleagues found that many women who experience lymphedema after breast cancer treatment suffer in silence. Others don't follow the treatment advice of their doctor or use ‘alternative’ treatments, which they may not discuss with their doctors.”

The Keys To Financial Health

“Money worries are the most common cause of holiday stress, according to Mental Health America. This study showed that parents are more stressed than all other demographic groups by finances and females are more likely than men to feel stressed by finances. Money is not everyone's primary worry, but if it's yours, why not consider the following goals to improve your financial life? 8. Invest in yourself: If going back to college or taking specific coursework will help you advance in your career, plan to do it. If investing in a health club membership that actually makes sense for your health as well as your insurance costs, do it.”

Monday, December 22, 2008

Making Miracles Happen: Challenge Center Takes the “Dis” Out of Disabilities

‘When I first had my stroke, I couldn’t speak or move my right side. I couldn’t walk,’ recalled Austin Junkin, 80, of Lemon Grove. ‘Now I can do anything. I lift 100 pounds with ease,’ he said, demonstrating his physical prowess by hoisting weights above his head inside the Challenge Center at Sunset Park in La Mesa. Challenge Center isn’t any ordinary gym. The facility specializes in helping severely disabled patients, including those with spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries, attain dramatic improvements even after other physical therapy programs have failed. ‘We heal people,’ said Bill Bodry, who founded Challenge Center in 1987 after suffering a spinal chord injury from a botched surgical procedure and finding no adequate facility for rehabilitation. ‘We see the miracles of physical therapy. Our total focus is on the disabled. Others only see these patients for 30 or 60 days,’ he noted, adding that many patients can only get insurance to cover six to twelve weeks. Bodry has emerged as a passionate advocate for the disabled and the importance of physical activity. ‘Lack of physical activity is the tenth leading cause of death and disability in the U.S., and the National Institute of Health (NIH) has no department of physical activity’ said Bodry, who has testified at the NIH, piquing the interests of national leaders in healthcare. In May, he will team up with the Old Mission Rotary Club to host a fiesta aimed at raising funds to purchase all new equipment in the aging facility. ‘It will put us on the map,’ he predicted, adding that doctors and therapists would be more apt to refer patients to a facility with state-of-the-art gear. Bodry’s dream is to see the program he founded at the Challenge Center replicated across the country. ‘That is my goal,’ he revealed, then concluded, ‘With the new administration, I am hopeful.’

83-Year-Old Owner of Gym Works It Out

Royal Oak Proprietor Exercises, Profitably Runs No-Nonsense and No-Frills Fitness Unlimited Shop

“Esther Tocco has worked out all her life and for the past 15 fears the 83-year-old business owner has helped hundreds of others adopt a fitness regimen. And if someone thinks working out several days a week and putting in eight hours a day, five days a week running Fitness Unlimited is a heavy load for a grandmother, Tocco said people should talk to her 102-year-old sister who still bakes and lives out on a farm. ‘If you work out, you do stay healthy,’ she said. ‘I grew up out in the country and always knew what exercise was for: to keep you healthy.’ After owning her own beauty shop, Tocco took advantage of an opportunity to take over the fitness facility in 1993 and has been running it ever since. ‘The atmosphere is more personal than most mega-gyms,’ Tocco said. ‘We have no glitter, glitz. It's down to earth. Everyone who comes is in here to work out. They're not here to pick somebody up.’ Tocco hits the gym around 1 p.m. and can be found cleaning up, selling memberships or running the front desk until 9 p.m., when she heads home to take care of her pit bull. Fitness Unlimited caters to serious fitness buffs and is open to power lifters who sometimes wear out their welcome at other gyms with their grunts and chalk dust, Tocco said. The gym also features 100-pound weight plates and kettle bells, which resemble cannon balls with handles. About 41.5 million people are members of nearly 30,000 health clubs in America, says the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. The industry weighed in with $18.5 billion worth of revenue in 2007. Mark Ostrowski has worked out at Fitness Unlimited for eight to nine years. The St. Clair Shores resident has tried other facilities, but keeps coming back. ‘I've been to every gym around and no one here has an attitude,’ Ostrowski said. ‘Everybody comes in, does their thing and gets out. It's a nice environment.’ Tocco admits that when a new facility opens, some members may stray, drawn by fancier equipment or lower prices. ‘We may have lost a few of the school kids, but they have drifted back,’ she said. ‘Sooner or later, a lot of them come back.’ To keep her roster of 600 members and draw newcomers, Tocco said she works to keep prices low. For example, the center offers a three-month membership for $99 and also touts a $19.98 per month special for people who can work out between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. ‘We never stick you with a contract you can't get out of,’ she said. ‘If you move, we don't keep drawing it out of your bank account. We'll work with anybody that has a problem with their payments.’ Tocco would like to add another 100 members, but is thankful for her business. ‘We have a bunch of nice people and if you're nice, you have one, big, happy family,’ she said.”

Exercise Protects Black Women From Type 2 Diabetes

“Less TV and more exercise may help reduce incidence of type 2 diabetes, especially among black women, a new report shows. Researchers from Boston University's Slone Epidemiology Center made that conclusion based on a survey of black women, a high-risk group for the disease. The findings were published online in the American Journal of Epidemiology. The research linked vigorous activity with a reduced risk of diabetes. Those who walked briskly for at least five hours a week had less chance of developing diabetes than those who didn't walk. ‘Our results confirm that vigorous activity is protective against type 2 diabetes in African-American women,’ study author Julie Palmer, a professor of epidemiology at Boston University's School of Public Health and senior epidemiologist at the Slone Center, said in a university news release. ‘A key public health finding is that brisk walking reduced risk. That is important, because many women don't have the time or place to engage in 'vigorous' physical activity, but most women can find time to walk.’ Watching an appreciable amount of television, regardless of the women's level of physical activity, was linked to a greater risk of diabetes, the study found.”

Muscling Away Cancer

“People with more lean muscle mass may have an advantage when it comes to fighting cancer, new research suggests. The study, published in the medical journal Lancet Oncology, is the latest to suggest a patient’s body composition may play a role in cancer survival rates. Researchers from the University of Alberta used body scan imaging to study 250 obese cancer patients. The scans showed that 15 percent of the cancer patients had very low muscle mass relative to their weight. The obese patients with the lower levels of lean muscle mass lived an average of 10 months less than patients with more muscle mass, even after controlling for other variables like cancer stage and severity. Other studies have shown that people who exercise have lower rates of some types of cancer. Although the study suggests that higher levels of lean muscle mass help the body better cope with cancer, it’s not clear whether lifting weights prior to or after a diagnosis would improve a patient’s odds for surviving the disease. ‘That would be the next experiment,’ said Dr. Vickie Baracos, a professor of oncology and adjunct professor of human nutrition at the University of Alberta, and lead author on the study. ‘This intervention has not been tested.’ The data also raise questions about whether body composition should be considered as doctors make treatment decisions and assess a patient’s prognosis. A patient with very low lean body mass, for instance, may be given a more tailored dose of chemotherapy, Dr. Baracos said. Patients who have been treated for cancer should talk to their doctor before embarking on any exercise routine. For instance, patients who have undergone lymph node removal are at risk for a severe swelling disorder called lymphedema and may be advised against lifting weights.”

The No. 1 New Year’s Resolution – Lose Weight

Many Americans resort to the same New Year’s Resolution year after year, to lose weight. According to a new survey commissioned by Weight Watchers about half (45%) of Americans say losing weight will be their New Year's resolution again, for 2009. This year, Sport&Health Clubs, would like to make 2009 the year that makes the difference---- for ‘weight loss’ resolutions. Mitch Batkin, Sport&Health Clubs, Senior Vice President of Fitness, offers the following points that can make sticking to resolutions a breeze:
· Start today. With the right tools and a little discipline, it is possible to enjoy holiday foods and stay fit.
· Find support from a trainer or join a group exercise class. Your success rate increases dramatically with support from others instead of trying to do it alone.
· Enjoy a healthy snack before a big meal. A cup full of carrot sticks, an apple or a handful of pretzels can be just what you need to curb the appetite, leaving less room for high-fat foods.
· Eat freely in moderation. Sample the tempting foods on the table, but in small portions. Load up the rest of your plate with vegetables and fruits.
· Stay active. The Surgeon General’s advice: perform at least 30 minutes of moderate activity each day. Most fitness experts agree that accumulating about 3 hours of exercise each week, half of cardiovascular conditioning and half of resistance type exercise is best to make significant improvements in your health..
· Beware of liquid calories. With roughly half the calories of traditional eggnog, apple cider may be a healthier choice. Steer clear of large amounts of alcohol or soda, which will provide little more than empty calories.
· Drink lots of water. Not only is it important for helping you stay hydrated, it also helps you feel full. How much water should you drink? Many experts agree the right amount to consume is calculated by taking half your body weight in pounds and drinking that many ounces. So if you weigh 150 pounds, drink about 75 ounces or about 9 cups of water a day.
· Eat only when hungry. Many people eat just because food is in front of them. Pause for a moment before that second or third helping and consider whether you truly feel full.”

Obama Starts Morning With Gym Workout

“President-elect Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama, with iPod and headphones in hand and both wearing gym clothes, left their vacation rental home at Kailuana Place in Kailua at 7:15 today for a 45-minute workout at the Semper Fit Center on the Kaneohe Marine Corps Base Hawaii. The Marine base had little activity as the Obamas' motorcade headed to the gym. Obama's gray shirt was soaked with sweat when he emerged from the gym at about 8:10 a.m. He was followed by a couple Marines in civilian workout gear and lifted his right hand to give a quick salute to a couple uniformed Marines standing not far away.”

It Hurts, But Is It Worth It?

“So-called sports massages have become a common facet of training for professional athletes of all kinds. And because of their increasing presence on spa menus (beside facial exfoliations, body wraps and hot stone treatments) and at health clubs (down the hall from Pilates, step aerobics and yoga classes), this sometimes painful procedure — which can cost $45 to $150 an hour — appears to be gaining in popularity among a growing segment of amateur athletes. ‘It hurts,’ said Tara McGinness Murdock, a runner in Lookout Mountain, Tenn., who recently used deep-tissue massage while training for a marathon.’“But, as crazy as this sounds, it’s a good hurt.’ But as more amateur athletes have chosen sports massages in an effort to improve performance and avoid injury, they have been confronted by an increasingly varied combination of massage styles under this heading. Asking about the predominant techniques used in the advertised sports massage can be enlightening, said Terri Schneider, an ultra-endurance athlete and coach. ‘If it’s all Swedish massage, then it will probably be less of the kind of deep-tissue work that’s beneficial for athletes while training,’ she said. But even exclusive use of the deep-tissue approach has limitations, as many massage therapists have numerous techniques at their disposal. Sports massage, Mr. Hassler explained, has become something of an umbrella term. Using a technique known as Augmented Soft Tissue Mobilization, for instance, Mr. Hassler’s goal is to facilitate muscle regeneration. ‘We are intentionally inflaming the tissue to kick-start the body’s own natural healing cycle,’ he said. He also uses active release, which breaks up fascial adhesions (connective tissue buildup created by exertion) to lengthen muscles and better prepare them for continued high intensity training. Despite the anecdotal evidence from athletes and massage therapists, hard data that soundly quantifies the extent of this phenomenon is hard to come by. In broad terms, however, according to the American Massage Therapy Association, about 20 to 22 percent of the United States population reported receiving some form of massage in the previous 12 months, compared with 8 percent in 1997.”

In Rural Communities, Group Treatment Works To Reduce Childhood Obesity

“A study published in the December issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine found that group-based treatments may be effective programs to combat childhood obesity in rural communities. The study, led by researchers at the University of Florida, compared weight loss programs and concluded that children in family-based or parent-only group programs were less overweight than children in a control group. ‘Given the scope and seriousness of obesity in America and the limited access to services for children in rural settings, there is a pressing need for programs that help rural families adopt healthy dietary habits and increase physical activity,’ said lead investigator David Janicke, Ph.D. (assistant professor, UF College of Public Health and Health Professions). About 14% of urban children are obese, and over 16% of children in rural area are obese. Rural areas tend to have higher poverty rates and poorer access to medical care, healthful foods, and physical activity facilities due to geographic barriers. This recent study is among the first that was designed to assess the effectiveness of a child weight-management program in a real-world, community-based setting for families in rural areas.”

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Health Club Giving Away Memberships

“Active Bodez fitness facility is getting in the holiday spirit by giving away memberships. Two grand prizes will be 3-month memberships with 2 hours of personal training each month ($435.00 value). In addition 8 one-month memberships with 2 hours of personal training ($145.00 value) will be awarded. For those who may be thinking about incorporating a more active lifestyle as part of their new year's resolution this opportunity comes at the perfect time of the year. According to a recent Associated Press report, stress from work and the poor economy are wrecking diet and exercise routines across the country. People who give up healthy habits say stress is the main reason. They may skip exercise or reach for sugar and ‘comfort’ foods. But experts say that sticking to healthy routines can make people feel more in control and exercise can help reduce stress. During this stressful economic time it is even more important to take care of your health and one way to do that is through physical activity. Scott Anspach, President of Active Bodez, said ‘This is a great opportunity for us to give back to the community during these difficult economic times and help people stick with or begin an exercise routine.’”

Fitness Impacts Diabetics More Than Fatness

“People with type 2 diabetes may be able to improve their health-related quality of life by getting fit, new research shows. Dr. Wendy L. Bennett, at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, and her colleagues investigated whether reduced fitness or increased fatness account for the decrease in health-related quality of life seen in type 2 diabetics. The researchers looked at people participating in two clinical trials of exercise for high blood pressure -- one included 119 people with type 2 diabetes and the other included 98 participants without type 2 diabetes. The diabetic study participants did indeed have a worse health-related quality of life than the individuals without diabetes. In particular, they were more likely to report limitations due to physical problems, low vitality, and poor general health, the researchers report in the online journal Health and Quality of Life Outcomes. Cardiovascular fitness was strongly associated with the risk of poor quality of life in diabetic patients. Fatness played less of a role, but it did still have an influence. However, the negative impact of type 2 diabetes on health-related quality of life could not be completely explained by diabetic individuals' greater fatness and worse fitness. Nonetheless, the investigators conclude, people with type 2 diabetes might be advised that ‘incorporating physical activity into their daily routine improves fitness, allows them to do more, feel better, as well as reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes-related complications.’”

Cardio Cinema Comes to Athletic Club

“A local health club is staying on the leading edge of national trends, recently remodeling a little-used room and a racquetball court into a Cardio Cinema. Heather Greathouse, office manager at Clarksville Athletic Club, says the Cardio Cinema came about from watching how the clubs' members used the fitness machines available to them. Clarksville Athletic Club has a multi-level cardio room, and most of the treadmills, exercise bikes and elliptical machines are equipped with their own televisions. Still, some members were gravitating toward an out-of-the-way, seldom-used room where old exercise equipment was stored, available for use by those who preferred features of the old machines. ‘It's kind of how this room got started, from our equipment graveyard,’ Greathouse says. ‘We noticed people were still using it even though we had nice new machines in the other room. We asked them why, and they were either new members or people who were shy and wanted to exercise where they wouldn't be seen.’ CAC administrators decided to give shy people — and the rest of its members — a major upgrade. They built a 2,000-square-foot tiered movie theater with an 18 1/2-foot screen. In it are 16 new treadmills, six new elliptical machines and two exercise bikes. Charles Moreland, CAC member for eight years, says he is delighted that his health club regularly puts money and time into renovations, but even he was impressed by the ambition of turning seldom-used spaces into a movie theater. ‘The cinema is the newest idea, a creative idea. There are only about five of them in the country,’ he says. ‘It's a terrific way for those of us who are so inclined to extend our workout periods.’”

Fitness Franchise With A Difference

“Catering for a demographic that didn't like gyms was the key to building a franchise empire in the highly competitive fitness industry. Executive Fitness Management health club managing director Matthew Lindblom has spent his entire career in health clubs and gyms. But his experience as a personal trainer made him realise many people did not feel comfortable in the gym. When he started part-time work at EFM Health Clubs in 1997, Mr Lindblom discovered there was another way to approach fitness. ‘Our clients are more interested in the health benefits than the exercise part, so we focus our culture around that,' he said. ‘There are no mirrors, you can wear whatever you're comfortable in and we limit the weights so the body-building types many people find intimidating don't use the facilities.' Mr Lindblom said this approach had attracted a different demographic to the business. ‘About 65 per cent of our clients are female and the average age is 45,' he said. ‘It's a bit of a change to what you'd find in ordinary gyms.' EFM Health Clubs also offer specialised programs outside the traditional gym locations. ‘We have a hospital program that is mostly for staff, like doctors and nurses, who might not have the time to go to a gym outside of work,' Mr Lindblom said. ‘We also have a school program that's aimed at the entire community - students, teachers, parents and people who live in the surrounding area.' Three years after starting work for the company, Mr Lindblom bought the business and the franchise has grown steadily since. It now has 55 health clubs across Australia, including 37 in South Australia.”,22606,24819317-37562,00.html

Study Finds Molecular Link Between Obesity, Hypertension

Signaling Through The Melanocortin-4 Receptor Controls Blood Pressure, Study Shows

“Most people know that obese individuals tend to have high blood pressure, but now British researchers have identified the molecular pathway that could explain that link. In findings published in the Dec. 17 online issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Sadaf Farooqi, of the University of Cambridge, and her colleagues demonstrated that signaling through the melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4R) helps to regulate blood pressure in humans. MC4R, Marks explained, is one of five melanocortin receptors in the brain; these proteins regulate skin coloration and stress, among other things. But MC4R regulates body weight, ‘and it does that by altering both appetite and energetics of your body -- your basal metabolic rate,’ at least partly via the sympathetic nervous system. MC4R deficiency is the most common genetic disorder causing obesity, Farooqi said; it accounts for 6 percent of individuals with early-onset obesity and 2.5 percent of obese adults.”

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

5 Reasons To Hit The Gym In December

"It's mid-December and the holiday season is in full swing. So, how is your exercise routine these days? A lot of people will say they don't have time for fitness right now, what with all the shopping, wrapping and party-planning. But it is possible to fit it into your day; you just have to make it a priority. People tend to expect this time of year to be busy, and because they expect it to be, it is. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's not too late to change those expectations and make time for exercise in your holiday schedule. Here are five reasons to hit the gym this month: 1. Burn calories. This one is obvious. The more you exercise, the more calories you'll have in the bank for any treats you might be coveting: cookies, latkes, candy canes, etc. 2. Clear your mind. The holidays can be stressful. Exercise will help you relax and also boost your mood by releasing endorphins, otherwise known as "’happy chemicals.’ 3. Beat the crowd. With many people on vacation or preoccupied with holiday tasks, gym attendance tends to go down this time of year. If you hate waiting for a machine or working out next to sweaty strangers, now is your chance to exercise in peace. Enjoy it while it lasts. January is peak season for most gyms. 4. Get your money's worth. If you purchased a gym membership back in January and have only used it a handful of times, you might be feeling like your money was wasted. Lessen the guilt by visiting the health club as much as possible before your membership runs out. 5. Claim your ‘me’ time. Feeling overwhelmed? Your gym time is for you and no one else. It's a chance to temporarily put aside all the chores, tasks and obligations of the season.”

LifePlex Health Club Loads Of Fun For Kids

“Elise Israel's three children have enjoyed everything they've ever done at LifePlex Health Club. The Suffern resident's kids, ages 12-14, have tried tennis, swimming, fitness classes and wall climbing there. So when her oldest son had his Bar Mitzvah, the Israels held the party there. ‘It was such the only party of its kind,’ Israel said. ‘It's a fabulous resource in the middle of Rockland. The place is so kid-focused.’ While LifePlex has tennis courts, an indoor pool, indoor track, a Pilates studio, four aerobic studios and three fitness centers, its biggest attraction for kids is a 10,000-square-foot fitness and wellness center, which features rock climbing, a zip line, virtual-reality exercises, Dance Dance Revolution, a basketball/volleyball court and an interactive sports wall. ‘They are really centered on keeping kids fit, and rotating them through different things to make it fun, exciting and interesting,’ Israel said. ‘As a family in Rockland County, I feel so lucky to have it in our backyard.’ The kids' center is about 15 months old, and operating partner Steve Rauch said it fills a real need nowadays. ‘You can't just make your own playdate or run around the neighborhood. Everything's structured,’ Rauch said. ‘They don't come home from school, throw the bag on the counter, grab two Chips Ahoy and a glass of milk and then go out in the neighborhood and your mother has to come looking for you four hours later, like I grew up. Now everything's planned. These kids are used to being moved from here to there. When we designed, we left a lot of open space.’ Rauch also introduced some technology into the fitness room, but the main emphasis is still on old-fashioned activities such as climbing. ‘I understand there's an overlap, but technology should be technology and fitness should be fitness,’ Rauch said. ‘It's not the 1950s. But kids still like to run, grab, sweat, create themselves, make things, do things, use their own two hands.’ There is also a ball pit, climbing station and video-game bikes for children 6 and under. LifePlex, part of the Sport-O-Rama complex on College Road in Monsey, has always focused on youth fitness. They have tennis lessons for kids as young as 3, ‘Mommy and me’ swim lessons for kids as young as 6 months, and kids night out, which just celebrated its 11th anniversary and allows parents to drop their kids off for the night. The club is also unique in that it offers single-gender programs to service the area's large Orthodox Jewish population. There are fully equipped men- and women-only gyms, single-sex swim sessions and a large percentage of classes solely for women, including dance, gymnastics and martial arts on Sunday nights. ‘There is no other place in the health-club industry that demonstrates sensitivity to the cultural needs of this community,’ Rauch said. ‘It's social and fitness for the kids,’ Michie said. ‘It's nice that they offer so much in one place.’”

Physical Culture | Gear Test, Children's Exercise Products [Slideshow]

“As nationwide concern grows over childhood obesity and inactivity, fitness products masquerading as toys are being designed to slim and tone the younger segment of the population. In many cases, such items are shrunken, stickered and plastic-encased versions of more mainstream adult apparatus found at gyms or health clubs, such as stationary bikes, treadmills and elliptical trainers. But, as Trina Edwards, a youth fitness expert and registered nurse found, there are a few notable differences to these kid-appropriate, pulse-quickening contraptions — greater emphasis on safety being one of them. Ms. Edwards, who is the publisher of the online magazine Kids Sports & Fitness, recruited 15 children between the ages of 3 and 7 at the Commonwealth Elementary School in Sugar Land, Tex., to try four exercise products designed specifically for children. She examined workmanship, safety, fitness benefit, and the general level of excitement it generated in the group. Over all, she found that a child’s age dictated the success of one product over another and that, in at least one case, the allure of video wasn’t as enticing as she had expected.”

The Best Exercise Programs Benefit The Elderly

“Older adults who regularly take part in top-rated, low-cost physical activity programs offered by their local senior center or YMCA can see noticeable improvement in physical functioning and lower their risk of becoming disabled, research shows. ‘Older adults can benefit greatly from these programs,’ Susan L. Hughes told Reuters Health. Hughes, co-director at the Center for Research on Health and Aging, Institute for Health Research and Policy, Chicago, and colleagues studied the impact of participating in flexibility, aerobic and strength training exercise classes provided by community organizations that were designated "best-practice" providers in a national competition conducted by the Center for Healthy Aging of the National Council on Aging. ‘These sites were judged to be best practice because they had a long history of providing service to substantial numbers of participants, hired nationally Certified Exercise Instructors, provided ongoing training to them, and provided multiple component programs,’ Hughes noted. In a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, a total of 544 adults aged 50 years or older who were not currently engaged in a regular program of exercise were randomly assigned to participate in one of the programs (the ‘treatment’ group) or to a comparison "control" group that did not participate. At 5 and 10 months, treatment group participants showed significant improvements (vs controls) on several outcomes including confidence in their ability to continue to exercise over time and in the face of barriers, increased upper and lower extremity strength based on performance tests, and increased participation in total physical activity. ‘Increased lower extremity strength was a particularly important finding because lower extremity weakness is a risk factor for future disability and nursing home admission,’ Hughes noted. ‘Our findings indicate that the low-cost health promotion programs should be expanded with public funding from programs like the Administration on Aging, and that health promotion for older adults should be included in the national health care reform agenda that is now focusing on prevention,’ Hughes concluded.”

Brain Background To Body Mass - Brain Genes Associated With Increased Body Mass

“A genetic study of more than 90,000 people has identified six new genetic variants that are associated with increased Body Mass Index (BMI), the most commonly used measure of obesity. Five of the genes are known to be active in the brain, suggesting that many genetic variants implicated in obesity might affect behaviour, rather than the chemical processes of energy or fat metabolism. Obesity is an increasing problem that results in individual risk to health as well as increasing burdens on health care systems. By identifying genetic variants that affect obesity, researchers hope to understand better the mechanisms regulating energy balance, which will guide the development of new therapies and help to develop improved diagnosis. ‘It might seem remarkable that it is the brain that is most commonly influenced by genetic variation in obesity, rather than fat tissue or digestive processes,’ says Dr InĂªs Barroso, a senior author on the study, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. ‘Until 2007, no genetic associations had been found for 'common obesity', but today almost all those we have uncovered are likely to influence brain function.’ ‘It may seem surprising that we know so little about the biology of such an important medical and social issue,’ says Mark McCarthy, Robert Turner Professor of Diabetes at the University of Oxford, a senior author on the paper. ‘We can use genetics to open the door on some of the processes that contribute to individual differences in the predisposition to obesity. We are finding that common diseases have complex causes, and it is only by understanding the biology that we can start to make rational attempts to treat and prevent conditions such as this.’”

More Calories Burned At Rest By People With Sleep-Related Breathing Disorders

“As individuals with sleep-related breathing disorders develop more severe symptoms, they also appear to burn more calories when resting, according to an article released on December 15, 2008 in Archives of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. Snoring, and sleep apnea are both examples of sleep-related breathing disorders, in which the patient's airways are either partially or completely obstructed during sleep. There are several risk factors for these disorders, including obesity: ‘Obesity is a major risk factor for the development of sleep-disordered breathing, and changes in body weight are associated with changes in sleep-disordered breathing severity,’ write the authors. However, they also note that the causality of this relationship is not known: ‘It is unclear whether weight gain is simply a cause of sleep-disordered breathing or whether sleep-disordered breathing may be associated with alterations in energy metabolism that, in turn, lead to weight gain and complicate the treatment of these two disorders that often coexist.’ Notably, the resting energy expenditure, the portion of calories that are burned while one is resting, can affect the balance of energy intake and expenditure, perhaps influencing one's body weight. To investigate the resting energy expenditure in patients with sleep-related breathing disorders, Eric J. Kezirian, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues conducted examinations of 212 adults with signs or symptoms of sleep-related breathing disorders. A medical history was taken for each patient followed by a physical exam, a period of sleep monitoring using polysomnography, and the determination of resting energy expenditure using an indirect calorimeter. Of the total cohort, the average resting energy expenditure was 1,763 calories per day, and several effects related to sleep-disordered breathing were associated with increased expenditures, even after correcting for body mass index, which can also affect expenditure. Specifically, higher scores of apnea and hypopnea increased the expenditure.”

Higher Levels Of Obesity-Related Hormone Found In Patients With Psoriasis

“Patients with the skin disease psoriasis appear more likely to have higher levels of leptin (a hormone produced by fat cells that may contribute to obesity and other metabolic abnormalities) than persons without psoriasis, according to a report in the December issue of Archives of Dermatology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that results in a red, scaly rash. ‘Associations among psoriasis, obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome have been reported,’ the authors write as background information in the article. ‘Although the underlying mechanisms may be complex, the 'obesity of psoriasis' is thought to be a key link to cardiovascular diseases, including diabetes mellitus, stroke, heart disease, hypertension and myocardial infarction [heart attack].’ Yi-Ju Chen, M.D., of the Taichung Veterans General Hospital and National Chung Hsing University, Taiwan, and colleagues studied 77 patients with psoriasis and 81 individuals who were the same age and sex but did not have psoriasis. In 2006 and 2007, the researchers collected clinical characteristics of the participants, including age, sex, height, weight, any other diseases they had and the severity of their psoriasis. Blood samples were analyzed for levels of leptin, a hormone that helps control food intake, body weight and fat stores and also is related to immune and inflammatory processes. Individuals with psoriasis were more likely than controls to be obese and to have hypertension (high blood pressure) and elevated blood glucose levels or diabetes. High blood levels of leptin were found more often in females, the obese and those with high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome (a grouping of cardiovascular risk factors that includes hypertension and high cholesterol) or psoriasis.”

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fitness Is Family Affair

“About a year ago, Marc and Tammie Smith came to a rather uncomfortable assessment: They were unhealthy. The Smiths decided to change that. The Stafford County family joined a gym and got their three girls, Chelsea, 10, Darby, 12, and London, 13, playing soccer. This month, they started their own ‘family fitness boot camp,’ challenging one another to try new activities at their gym. These activities have included a family cardio dance class, family cycling and Wallyball, a version of volleyball. ‘It's tiring, but a lot of fun,’ London said. ‘I'm not really thinking I'm exercising.’ The Smiths are not alone. Across the country, families are working out in unison to get healthy and spend time together. Since 1987, the number of children 6 to 17 who are members of health clubs has gone from 1.3 million to 3.9 million, according to a study by the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. Twenty-four percent of clubs now have children's exercise programs, according to the 2007 IHRSA survey. Family exercise programs are becoming more common, according to IHRSA spokeswoman Kara Thompson, but the association hasn't yet tracked the number of clubs adding them. In larger cities, some gyms are specializing only in family fitness. For instance, Volt Fitness in Hackensack, N.J., caters to families with kid-size fitness equipment and offers pay-per-session workouts for families, according to an Associated Press article. In Bethesda, Md., Funfit offers parent and toddler exercise classes and kid-safe circuit training equipment that parents can use too, said Celia Kibler, company president. The family fitness club opened 21 years ago and now offers classes across the metro Washington area, Kibler said, as well as Louisiana, Colorado and New York. ‘We think it is important for parents to exercise with their kids,’ Kibler said. ‘When parents do things with their children, it means so much more.’

Osteoporosis: Exercise Can Help Fight Silent Disease

“The World Health Organization didn't even recognize it as a disease until 1994, but now it's widely known that osteoporosis is a gradual and silent disease, perhaps the most frightening kind of health condition of all. It is defined as a systemic skeletal disease characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue. Those conditions make bones more fragile and sus­ceptible to fracture. These symptoms were once just seen of as part of the normal aging process. But osteoporosis is not a part of normal aging, said Lynne Ellen Kershaw of Core Vibes Studio in Mont­gomery (formerly Pilates Metro). One in two women versus one in four men age 50 and older have low bone density and are at risk for fracture, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Catching the disease in its earliest stages and taking preventive measures, espe­cially exercise, is crucial, writes physical therapist Sherri R. Betz in ‘Modifying Pilates for Clients with Oste­oporosis.’ Sallie Brock of Montgomery had never even heard of a bone mineral density test when her primary physician suggested she have one. ‘I was really surprised to find out I had osteoporosis,’ said Brock, who is in her 50s. ‘I thought you had to be 80 or 90 years old to have it.’ But as Brock and others suffering from osteoporosis and osteopenia are learning, ‘There are things that you can do.’ For Brock, it started with a small introductory exercise class geared especially toward the needs of people with the disease. ‘From that class, I learned so much about body carriage that I started in some group classes,’ Brock said. ‘But I really like this equipment. Lynne has special ways to have us do the class that works with us, and doesn't injure you.’ Kershaw has found that one key piece of that equipment that aids those with osteoporosis is the Pilates Re­former. The Reformer is just one of several fitness methods Kershaw employs to help people with osteoporosis keep fit and also strengthen their vulnerable bones. But she cautions that it's not safe just to take up any form of Pilates, cardio or other exercise programs when you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis or osteopenia. It's crucial to seek a program custom-planned to help those with bone problems. The piece of equipment at Core Vibes making the most waves in helping osteoporo­sis patients is the Power-Plate, a machine that uses multi directional vibration to provide ‘acceleration training.’ It works by creat­ing instability in the body. With each vibration, the body is forced to perform reflexive muscle actions, multiple times per second. For clients with osteopo­rosis, ‘Power-Plate is a safe way for them to increase their bone density, and it dramatically increases the circulation, which feeds the bone,’ Kershaw said. ‘The bones are constantly breaking down and rebuilding, and with increased circulation of the blood an nutrients of the body, and hor­mones, the bones are nourished and replenished quickly.’ That statement is backed up by science. A study pub­lished in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research concluded that Power Plate training leads to a significant (1.5 percent) increase in hip area bone density (as well as muscle strength and postural control) in post-me­nopausal women."

Health Care Service Corporation Finds Success With Innovative Program Targeting Obesity Epidemic

“As the debate begins to heat up about how best to improve the U.S. health care system over the next year, one of the nation's largest health insurers has an innovative program that can help its members today. Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC), which operates the Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, is completing its first full year with a weight management program that has proven successful in four key areas: decreasing in-patient hospital admissions, decreasing emergency room visits, reducing health care costs per member per month and increasing employee productivity. ‘Weight problems have caused major health concerns for Americans,’ said Paul Handel, M.D., HCSC's chief medical officer. ‘This Lifestyle Management Program serves as a model of what can be done to help solve what's become a national health care crisis. It has already helped hundreds of our members by working with them individually to improve their health and lower their health care costs. It can do the same for many, many more.’ The program is part of HCSC's Blue Care Connection, a collaborative care management system designed to encourage the pursuit of evidence-based prevention and intervention so members can improve their health and avoid unnecessary medical costs. The Lifestyle Management Program incorporates a multidisciplinary approach as well as health data tools to support participating members and their physicians. With these tools and unique approach, the program enables members to take responsibility for their health through weight management education and supportive intervention. Alicia Sills is an example of a member who found extraordinary success with HCSC's Lifestyle Management Program. The 26-year-old enrolled after being denied life insurance because of her weight. After six months on the program, she lost 70 pounds. ‘This program works better than any diet I've ever tried, and I've tried many,’ said Sills. ‘The personal attention, accountability and great ideas make all the difference in the world.’

Walking Away From Peripheral Artery Disease

“You probably know that poor diet and lack of exercise can lead to dangerous deposits of fatty plaques in arteries. But it is not just the heart that is affected - blood flow can be blocked to the legs too, leading to pain when walking, immobility and even in extreme cases, amputation. Approximately 20% of us will suffer from this peripheral artery disease (PAD) once we are 65 or over, and with risk factors including smoking, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure it is on the rise. Surgical intervention can sometimes help, but the prognosis is not good. Encouragingly, new research by Ronald Terjung et al1. published in The Journal of Physiology shows that regular, moderate exercise can go a long way to relieving the symptoms of PAD, and by some unexpected mechanisms. When a major artery in the leg becomes blocked, the body naturally seeks another route for the blood to pass through by expanding and multiplying the surrounding smaller blood vessels in the area, called collateral blood flow. The researchers studied rats with a blocked femoral artery and found that collateral blood flow was much more effective in restoring normal muscle function in rats that were put on regular exercise training. The authors predict that a suitable exercise programme would delay the onset of pain and increase mobility for people suffering with PAD. ‘Our findings raise the potential that new collateral vessels, that can develop in patients with PAD who are physically active, will function effectively to help minimize the consequences of the original vascular obstruction.’ commented Dr Terjung.”

Living Well: Warm Up To New Workout Ideas

"Sometimes you simply have to rethink a routine, and it's fair to say Tyler Oakley has a leg up on that. He is a personal trainer and owner of Seattle-based Flow Life Fitness. Oakley says his approach to stretching is that ‘flexibility is not necessarily a healthy characteristic.’ Instead, ‘what you are looking for is mobility. You want the muscle tissue to relax.’ In the September study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, exercise scientists at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas found typical stretches for the hamstrings (back of thigh) and quadriceps (front of the thigh) actually may reduce leg force during a workout that follows. The subjects in the study were college athletes. They were divided into three groups that performed static stretches, ballistic (bouncing) stretches or no stretches. Both stretching groups tested lower for overall leg strength. Other studies even show that workout power is diminished even in the opposite leg not being stretched. ‘Developing flexibility is important for reducing sports injury,’ said UNLV study co-author Bill Holcomb, who also directs the university's Sports Injury Research Center, ‘but the time to stretch is after, not before, performances.’ In fact, the researchers recommend that coaches skip pre-game and pre-practice stretches in favor of a ‘whole-body warm-up.’ Similarly, Oakley urges his clients to embrace his concept of ‘circular strength.’ ‘I want clients to work the whole body,’ said Oakley, who trains near the Space Needle. ‘Conventional fitness calls for isolation of muscle groups to work out (typically done with weight lifting and flexibility work). But that's a myth. You can't single out muscles. Circular strength is aimed at getting you into a flow, first with your skeletal structure and joints, then we move to the muscles.’ To this end, Oakley uses yoga and dance movements for what he calls ‘rewiring’ the skeletal structure, then typically employs kettleballs (medicine balls with handles) and pull-u bars to continue encouraging a flow format to the workout. Consensus is building: The best strategy before a workout is to heat the body with about five minutes of aerobic activity. Breaking a light sweat is a good indicator of a proper warm-up. If you prefer a quantitative perspective, you can do two to three minutes or running/walking at 40 percent capacity, then finish with two to three minutes of 60 percent capacity. Other studies show that warming up -- common sense dictates it -- too early before a game or practice won't help much and could even leave your lower back vulnerable. The best approach, gleaned from the latest research, is a minimum of five minutes warm-up and no more than 10 minutes. Then give your muscles three to five minutes to "recover" or, perhaps better expressed, recharge for the workout.”