Wanted to let everyone know that I will be speaking at the 2010 CanFitPro conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In addition to giving lectures on a variety of professional topics, I will also be speaking at the consumer show on home workouts. The conference runs from August 11-15. Here is a link to the event:
A recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology (1) reported that those who sit for long periods of time each day (determined as greater than 6 hours a day) are at a significantly increased risk of mortality compared to those who don’t (determined as less than 3 hours a day). Not surprised? Understandable. After all, everyone knows that inactivity increases the risk of disease and death, right? Well, the interesting finding associated with this study was that sitting increased the risk of mortality even in those who exercise! Science Daily did a nice job summing up the findings of the study. You can read the article here: More Time Spent Sitting Linked to Higher Risk of Death
At this time, I have only been able to view the abstract of the study, and without reading the exact methodologies employed by the researchers it’s difficult for me to offer an informed opinion. However, based on available information, it would seem some caution needs to be observed before taking the study’s results at face value.
First, the study used a questionnaire format to assess exercise info. While this is a logical approach given the large sample size, it does raise questions as to the validity of the conclusions. People notoriously tend to overestimate their physical activity levels when filling out questionnaires (2). If true here, this could have skewed results with respect to the exercise group. At the very least, additional studies need to be conducted to confirm the findings.
Also, it is unclear whether the authors differentiated between training intensities, exercise volume, and/or exercise modalities of the subjects. If not, there would have been no distinction made between those whose primary form of exercise consisted of walking slowly versus those who intensely lifted weights or performed high-intensity interval training. Suffice to say, these factors could conceivably have a huge impact on morbidity and mortality.
I hope to be able to get my hands on the entire study soon and review the particulars of the research protocol. After doing so I will post a follow up with additional thoughts on the subject. In the meantime, it is certainly clear that it’s better to be active than to sit for extended time periods. It’s also clear that performing physical activity of any kind helps to decrease mortality risk, and a majority of studies show that this risk is further reduced with more vigorous exercise. Bottom line: Keeping active and sitting less is always a good strategy. More to come so stay tuned…
1) Patel, A.V., Bernstein, L., Deka, A., Feigelson, H.S., Campbell, P.T., Gapstur, S.M., Colditz, G.A., & Thun, M.J. (2010). Leisure Time Spent Sitting in Relation to Total Mortality in a Prospective Cohort of US Adults. American Journal of Epidemiology, DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwq155
2) Fogelholm M, Malmberg J, Suni J, Santtila M, Kyröläinen H, Mäntysaari M, Oja P. (2006). International Physical Activity Questionnaire: Validity against fitness. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 38(4):753-60.
It really is sad to see what female bodybuilding has become. Back in the 1980′s, when female bodybuilding first became a professional sport, the competitors looked nothing like the women portrayed in the video. They were toned and fit. They had physiques that other women aspired to. Their bodies appeared healthy and strong and feminine.
In case you find this hard to believe, check out the photo to the left of Rachel McLish. Rachel was the winner of the first-ever IFBB Ms. Olypmia bodybuilding contest. She epitomized the look that female bodybuilders tried to replicate. At the same time, she set a terrific example for women who simply wanted to improve their physiques, proving it was possible to develop muscle while still retaining femininity. It inspired a legion of women to get into the gym, to get into shape, to get healthier. This was the heyday of the sport. Unfortunately, it is a heyday that is long gone.
Somewhere along the way, the sport of female bodybuilding got lost. Somehow it devolved into a bizarro world of she-hulks whose gender often cannot be differentiated. The goal of today’s competitors is to maximize muscle mass without any concern for retaining even the slightest semblance of femininity. Alarmingly, this “bigger is better” mentality is pursued at virtually any cost. After viewing the video you’ll see what I mean.
It’s ironic that the competitors in the video are shown complaining about the lack of prize money. Really now, what do they expect? Professional female bodybuilding has been relegated to an ultra-fringe sport. Let’s face it, the vast majority of the population simply doesn’t want to see a stage full of massively muscled women with facial hair and cro-magnon features posing down against one another. Even the most prominent female bodybuilding competitions can’t attract sufficient interest from fans to offset promotional costs. This has forced promoters to attach female bodybuilding cards along with figure and fitness competitions in order to make the financials work. The money just isn’t there for the competitors. Sad but true.
The most disturbing part of all this is that it has given some women the false impression that lifting intensely will somehow make them look like the current crop of female bodybuilders. Rest assured, hippos will fly before that happens. As depicted in the video, professional female bodybuilders take an abundance of performance enhancing substances to bulk up their physiques. And steroids are just the tip of the growth-promoting iceberg. IGF-1, HGH, thyroid hormone, insulin, clenbuterol…the list of substances these women use goes on and on. Take away the performance enhancers and their physiques would look radically different. In fact, without supplemental help, most women cannot even come close to achieving the muscularity displayed by Rachel McLish. In addition to an extreme training regimen, she had terrific genetics that allowed her to develop her award-winning shape. Only a fraction of the population will possess similar genetics–and if you’re one of the lucky ones, give a big thanks to mom and dad!
Bottom line: Don’t worry about bulking up like a female bodybuilder. It simply isn’t possible. Lifting weights will in no way detract from a woman’s femininity. On the contrary, it will help to enhance feminine curves and shape, reduce body fat, and ultimately produce a strong, fit-looking physique. Lift regularly and lift intensely. You’ll be extremely pleased with the results.
As mentioned in a previous post, I lectured this past weekend at the 2010 NSCA national conference held in Orlando, Florida. While there, I was fortunate to be able to attend several presentations from some of the leading experts in exercise and sports nutrition. Here is a brief rundown of some of the highlights:
Mike Waller and Tim Piper presented on “Teaching and Understanding the Snatch and Squatting Techniques.” They did a solid job covering proper form in performing these exercises. With respect to the snatch, they proposed various progressions for learning the exercise. These progressions involved breaking down the movement into components (i.e. overhead squat, pull from floor, high pull, etc), which ultimately leads to performing the movement as a whole. This is a popular technique in motor learning and works very well with complex moves such as the snatch. Overall a very informative session.
Dr. Jeff Stout presented on ” The Performance Enhancing Power of Milk.” This was an interesting lecture that made the point that milk is actually an excellent post-workout drink. Dr. Stout is one of the foremost researchers in nutrition, and he did a good job covering the science of the nutrients contained in milk and their benefits for those who exercise. An important point made was that the two fractions of protein contained in milk (whey and casein) have an additive effect with respect to increasing protein synthesis post-workout. It is often believed that whey is the superior protein to consume after a workout since it is “fast acting” and thus gets to the muscles more quickly. However, recent research indicates that a combination of whey and casein actually provides even greater benefits, as their actions are synergistic with respect to increasing protein synthetic rate.
Dr. Andy Fry presented on “Sports Nutrition Needs and Supplements for Overtraining and Recovery. Dr. Fry took a refreshingly scientific approach to the topic, and discussed the drawbacks when looking at studies on the topic. My favorite part of the lecture: the four things to consider when evaluating a research study. 1) Could results be taken another way? 2) What methodological flaws are evident? 3) How generalizable are the results? 4) How do these study results fit with what we already know? Bottom line: don’t just look at the results of a study and take them at face value; instead, look deeper into the specifics about how the study was conducted.
Dr. Morey Kolber presented on “Shoulder Disorders Attributed to Weight-Training: Preventative Implications.” This was an extremely well-researched presentation that looked at the incidence of shoulder injuries in those who lift weights regularly. One of the most salient points made was that a majority of lifters have excessive internal rotation, which places the rotator cuff under significance stress when lifting overhead (i.e. shoulder presses, etc). Dr. Kolber presented various strengthening exercises for the external rotators (i.e. infraspinatus and teres minor), as well as stretching exercises for the internal rotators to improve shoulder joint range of motion. Sound advice that should be embraced by those in the fitness field.
There were many other excellent speakers, but given that many of the sessions ran simultaneously as well as other time commitments that I had at the conference, I was unable to attend all the presentations that I would have liked. Next year’s conference will be at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas and promises to be another terrific event. Hope to see you there…
In today’s issue of the Huffington Post, designer and TV personality Courtney Cachet gave a nice endorsement to my book, Women’s Home Workout Bible in her article about home-based alternatives to getting fit and healthy. Yes, it really is possible to make yourself over at home! You can check out the article at the following link:
I just returned from speaking at the 2010 NSCA National Conference. It’s always an honor to speak at an NSCA event, and it’s particularly rewarding to present at the National Conference given the magnitude of the event.
In addition to speaking, I was able to attend numerous presentations by some of the most well-respected fitness professionals in the field. I will detail some of the more interesting presentations in an upcoming post. In the meantime, next years conference will be held at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas. I would highly recommend attending if you can fit it into your schedule.
Everyone knows that exercise helps to promote weight loss. Most people believe that this is because more calories are burned when you’re active as opposed to when you’re sitting around the house. While this is certainly true, it isn’t the whole story. Here are three additional ways that exercise fires up weight loss, helping to keep you lean over the long haul.
If you’ve been keeping up with my previous posts, you’re undoubtedly aware that exercises produces an “afterburn” where metabolism remains elevated for several hours once you finish training. Fat burning following exercise is due to a phenomenon called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) that requires energy to be expended in order to return your body to a stable state. Research has found that EPOC is intensity dependent–the harder you train, the more calories you burn following the workout. Thus, while an activity such as walking will have a minimal afterburn, performing high-intensity interval training can result in over 100 additional calories burned, over and above what you burn during the exercise session itself. Lifting weights can have an even greater effect on EPOC. If you keep rest intervals short and really push yourself on each set, EPOC can last for over 38 hours post-exercise! Pretty cool, huh?
Exercise also facilitates weight loss by increasing resting metabolism, turning your body into a fat-burning machine. One caveat: not all exercise will help in this regard. In fact, only strength training has a positive impact on resting metabolism. Here’s why. Strength training builds muscle. Muscle is the most metabolically active tissue in the body. Although it has been proposed that each pound of muscle burns in excess of 50 calories a day, this estimate now seems to be a bit inflated. Recent research suggests that the actual amount is probably in the range of 30 to 35 daily calories. That’s still not too bad. If accurate, adding a mere 5 pounds of muscle will allow you to burn an extra 150 calories each and every day. That means you’ll burn an additional pound of fat every three weeks or so…while you’re doing nothing more than lounging around the house!
Finally, exercise can have indirect effects on weight loss by suppressing hunger. Understand that weight management follows a general rule of thumb: calories in vs. calories out determines whether you gain, lose, or maintain your weight. This is consistent with Newton’s First Law of Thermodynamics: take in fewer calories than you expend and you’ll shed the poundage. The good news is that studies show exercise has a positive effect on levels of various hormones involved in promoting satiety. Strength training, in particular, has shown to induce a feeling of fullness by reducing levels of a hormone called ghrelin. Ghrelin has been dubbed the “hunger hormone” – as ghrelin levels rise, so does the urge to eat. A recent study found that ghrelin levels fell 13 to 21% after an intense strength training bout. Other satiety-related hormones also are favorably regulated by exercising, thereby helping to prevent the temptation to binge out.
I recently did an interview with NPR radio to talk about my new book, Women’s Home Workout Bible. The interview was conducted by WSIU Radio’s Jeff Williams and discusses the relevant aspects about setting up a home gym. You can listen to the interview at the following link:
Apparently this comes as a surprise to many of the show’s loyal viewers. If so, it shouldn’t. Reality check: shows like The Biggest Loser are nothing more than fitness theater. It’s not real life. Sure, contestants lose a ton of weight. They are placed in a controlled environment, follow what amounts to a starvation diet, and are subjected to hours upon hours of exercise. Based on Newton’s First Law of Thermodynamics, expending more calories than you take in will result in weight loss. Can’t argue with physics.
But this is neither a realistic way for the rest of the world to to pursue weight loss, nor is it a good strategy for lasting weight management. What’s particularly disturbing is the pressure to which contestants are subjected in order to lose more weight than the other competitors. As claimed in the video, the extreme dehydration techniques employed are dangerous to say the least. Moreover, the trainers on the show display a complete lack of understanding about exercise physiology, and often have contestants perform acts that utilize poor form and are highly risky for their current fitness level (apparently a number of contestants have been hospitalized).
The bottom line is that weight loss should be approached systematically. A realistic goal is to lose about 1-2 pounds per week. Over the course of six months, this can equate to 50 pounds of fat loss! Best of all, this can be accomplished with a sensible nutritional regimen and a properly structured exercise program performed 3-4 days a week; something everyone can follow. Before you know it, you’ll be sporting a terrific body while those TV contestants have all gained back their previous weight.