Category Archives: Exercise

Preventing Childhood Obesity

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If you read The Onion, you know it has a disturbing tendency to report things as they really are, with a bite. It does not disappoint with “Preventing Childhood Obesity.” It lists a mix of the sad and absurd, all with underlying facts, including:

  • Avoid buying unhealthy foods, such as anything marketed to the American consumer.
  • Set a good example by choking down a salad in front of your kids.
  • Make healthy tweaks to favorite dishes, cutting back on the salt, fat, and sugars that are the sole basis of their appeal.
  • Obesity has a large genetic component, so make an effort to only pass the slimmest of your genes onto your children.
  • Limit your child to one food a day that contains the word “Cheez.”
  • Help your child develop good diet and exercise habits by raising them in a different country.

Raising them in a different country may not help. Although US children are particularly hemmed in by reduced recess and gym activities in schools, more screen time, and more indoor activity in general than in previous decades, European children also see a dropoff in activity. And in some countries, notably in the Middle East, where outdoor conditions are hostile, prosperity has walked hand in hand with a dramatic reduction in activity, change in eating habits, and spike in diabetes – stark even by US standards.

But other factors represent opportunities for action. Avoid bringing packaged and processed foods into the home, for example. Packaged, processed foods often have lower nutritional value than whole foods prepared at home. Where they are used, it’s best to save them for treats or other small roles in the overall food pattern. Basic cooking skills serve anyone well, and kids love to help, so take a look at this list of age-appropriate kitchen tasks and delegate.

How you eat and move is the single greatest factor in how your kids will, so don’t ask them to do what you say (but not what you do). Try to keep those messages as consistent as possible – and discover ways to make salads and other wholesome foods more enjoyable. Yes, that may mean using less fat, salt, and sugar in cooking, but it also means using more spices and a wider variety of foods. And discovering new favorites.

Previously:
Between work and the kids, when do I go to the gym?
September Is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month
How to Use Your Baby as Exercise Equipment
10 Ways to Raise Healthier Kids
Envy for Kids’ School Lunches
Halloween Party Foods
Have Some Fun with Your Food
Burger and Fries…?
A Better Replacement

Sun Care for Summer (and the Rest of the Year)

bad-hair-day

It’s getting hot in the Northern hemisphere, and some of the best exercise is outdoors, so why not test your sun-safety IQ?

The American Cancer Society offers regular updates about sun safety and tanning issues and sums up the basics in “Protect Your Skin From the Sun.”

Take good care of your skin — it’s what you keep your body in!

Image by Lim Heng Swee

The Cost of Getting Lean

See full size at the link below

Many people begin an exercise program excited to “look like their goal body” — often a celebrity or model. The fitness industry and mass media promote this kind of goal heavily, in the way they market imagery and make claims for the recommendations they give, but they often hand-wave the realities behind the photos. Even splashy articles describing how an actor got in shape for a superhero role are often fuzzy about the sheer number of hours in the gym, the personal-trainer assistance, and the food-preparation support the actor gets. Working out — along with rigid eating — is a full-time job for months to prepare for those roles.

This infographic from Precision Nutrition gives a great breakdown of the trade-offs of going leaner and leaner, as well as offering a handy cheat sheet for the kinds of lifestyle changes that support the different levels of leanness. (I don’t recommend pursuing that first “unhealthy” category, though! And in the second, ultra-lean “unhealthy” category, competitors and paid models achieve that level of leanness intermittently during the year, rather than maintaining it all the time.)

No. Don’t do this.

No. Don't Do This

Pain is a funny thing. It covers a vast range from dull ache to riotous crescendo, and can indicate a change from routine, actual damage, or many other things. Some of them are compatible with working out anyway, but you should never ignore pain. If something hurts, especially a sharp pain that limits your normal activities, or a pain that does not resolve with a few days of rest — or gets worse — find out what’s going on. Cleveland Clinic offers a list of “when to see a doctor” items as well as describing post-exercise benign soreness.

Prompt, wise response to pain or discomfort with exercise makes the difference between staying on track and being sidelined, maybe for months (or worse), with a serious injury.

Previously:
Jogging: Does It Keep You Healthy?
Is There a Wrong Way?
One of These Things Is Not Like the Others
Too Much, Too Soon

Photo by Sherilyn Lee

Which Step Have You Reached Today?

From Resistance to Success

Here is a nice illustration of the progression from resistance to success. Most of us are all over the map with these steps. For some things, we race all the way to the top every day. In other areas, it seems impossible just to face the stairs.

This image was used recently by Girls Gone Strong, a website devoted to strength and health information for women, in an article about one of the most intimidating aspects of fitness: designing your own exercise program. Even if you take instructions from a trainer, you are making some decisions about your needs and interests. Take a look at the article to learn about some of the factors that go into a good, balanced strength program. You may find yourself leaning toward “I want to try it”!

Getting Past Judgmental Motivationals

Do or Die

The fitness industry has heavily promoted some of the motivational messages that have accumulated in competitive sports settings over eons. It’s a funny kind of image management — even when the idea is supposedly to help support people new to exercise, the slogans recall an old-school coach who doesn’t seem to care whether his athletes get hurt, as long as they win. This can sound pretty creepy if your childhood memories of exercise involved dreading gym class.

The hard-core attitude can also be harmful. If you are a competitive athlete, you do make trade-offs to focus on your performance — it’s part of competition. But super aggro “Winning isn’t everything — it’s the only thing” messages handily submerge the reality of successful competitive athletes: heavy pushes are strategically placed within a program that provides enough nutrition, rest, and recovery to make sure the athlete’s speed and power are truly there when it counts.

Hall of Shame: Fitspo

Jessi Kneeland (and many others, notably The Great Fitness Experiment and Mama Lion Strong) have also discussed the similar way a special category of fitness messages — dubbed “fitspo” — is harmful, by explicitly holding up visual “goals” while masquerading as promoting health and fitness. It’s the worst of both words: unattainable model looks combined with unsustainable training attitudes. At least the old-school hardcore stuff is about actually being good at something!

So What? I’ll Never Compete

Scratching the surface of some of these insistently “beastly” claims can help us understand two things: the grains of truth within them, and how a good foundation is built. Building a good, strong foundation of fitness is important for everyone — especially if you never compete, because that foundation is where you get your health benefits.

Chet Morjaria explains “Why These 7 Do-Or-Die Motivational Memes Are Misleading You” (and proposes some alternatives, available as images at Strength Education’s Facebook page). These aren’t subtleties — they’re realities. Progress comes when we train wisely, attentive to technique and willing to scrap a bad session in order to come back stronger after some rest. The same mindset also helps prevent injury at every level of expertise or interest.

Image from Tumblr

The Sports Bra

Sports Bra

When I got my first sports bra, I had a few days where I just gave up and took a nap before I got the darn thing off. I even considered using an Ace bandage instead — and felt lucky I was small enough to get away with that. Happily times have changed immensely. If you take a smaller cup size, there are tons of good options in camisoles with shelf bras and other fairly light-construction garments. It’s just a question of taking some time to figure out which options feel best for your activities.

Today’s heavier sports bras feature more bra-like closures, including some that zip up the front. Shaped cups (“encapsulation”) are also available, and the fabrics have better wicking properties than the old-school cotton-spandex deals. Some even have adjustable straps and bands, and wide, comfortable straps show up regularly for larger cup sizes — a welcome change from having to live with a binding garment just to get some control. Modern sports bras may promise “no jiggling,” but I think we all realize that’s not very reasonable; still, they are offering better — more comfortable — options to minimize jerky movement and keep things down to a dull jostle.

REI offers this guide to choosing a bra for different activities and sizes, and Runner’s World got women together to give bras the classic test. As always, you have to try a lot of bras to find a comfortable one, but for something you’ll move and sweat in, it’s well worth the time.

Image by Vera Bee.

Walk Right for Your Blood Type

Walk right for your blood type

One of the odder diet claims out there is that there is an optimal way to eat depending on blood type. It makes no scientific sense, and there is no evidence to support it. It was bundled up with some claims about exercise, also with no support. There are a few ways to walk right, though. (No blood-type testing required!)

Wear comfortable shoes for walking. You may need more cushioning in the sole, or find a slightly raised heel (as in a traditional running shoe or hiking boot) more comfortable. Don’t overthink this, but pay attention to how your feet and lower legs feel — you may want to try something different when it’s time to replace your shoes.

Make sure you have plenty of room for your toes. Feet expand during the course of the day, especially if you’re putting miles on them. Cramped toes can hurt and even bruise under the toenail.

Be aware of your surroundings. Music or an audiobook make great company on a walk, but don’t let them distract you too much.

Keep some kind of track of your distance or time (or both). It’s fun to see progress, and nice to get a sense of how close you are (or how far over!) the recommendations for physical activity.

There’s no strict rule for what speed you walk, but you’ll generally get more health benefit at speeds over about 3 miles per hour. If that’s too fast, don’t worry. You will still benefit — and get better — with practice. The CDC suggests your usual exercise intensity be about “a 5 or 6 on a scale of 0 to 10.”

Look both ways before you cross a street! (Even on a one-way street — a car going in the wrong direction might present extra danger.)

Make it social! A great way to stay more active is make it part of socializing — explore a park with a friend, or have a walk after you meet for that coffee.

Here in the Northern hemisphere, spring has sprung. Get out there and have a nice walk or three!

Wait, What About the Belly Fat?

Walking can definitely help as part of a program to lose weight, but no exercise regimen can spot reduce fat or cause you to lose fat all by itself. For fat loss, be sure that you are eating a nutritious diet that gives you fewer calories than you burn during the day. Here are some suggestions for curbing overeating: “Just Eat Less” and “Are You Enjoying It?

Image: the cover of a magazine whose identity is being withheld to protect the misguided.