For many of us, being fit means maintaining a healthy weight with diet and exercise.
However, the “healthy weight = fit” idea omits and misrepresents several important components of what beingtrulyfitmeans. In biological terms, “being fit” means “being able to provide for one’s own life and wellbeing; the fittest are those who can do so the best.” Now that’s a little closer to what we should be working toward. Not just being fit to the point of sufficiency, but being the fittest.
So, the question is: What can you do to be the fittest you can be, or to obtain the best quality of life possible?
To answer that question, we’ll examine the five components of physical fitness. That’s right, there are five. Not just “fitting into my favorite jeans,” “being able to run a marathon,” or “bench pressing twice my body weight.” Our definitions are from the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Body Composition: This refers to the relative amount of muscle, fat, bone, and other vital parts of the body. Body composition can provide a better evaluation of overall health than weight or BMI alone, so it is important to maintain a level of body fat that is neither too low (below 3-5% for men and 8-12% for women), nor too high (above 20-25% for men and 29-35% for women).
A variety of body fat measurement tools exist including calipers and bio-electrical impedance devices, and although some are more accurate and expensive than others, all can help you monitor changes.
Tip: Have a body fat analysis performed to know your starting point, and begin implementing small, healthy diet and exercise changes to improve body composition.
Cardiorespiratory Endurance: Cardiorespiratory endurance is the ability of the body’s circulatory and respiratory systems to supply fuel during physical activity. This means being able to sustain an elevated heart rate. Activities like walking, swimming, and bicycling will all lead to improvement, and the good news is that the activity you choose does not necessarily have to be strenuous (at least initially).
Tip: choose an activity you enjoy and start slowly, increasing the intensity and duration over time.
Flexibility: Flexibility is the range of motion around a joint. Maintaining good flexibility helps protect the muscles and joints from injury in all kinds of activity. A basic stretching program, such as 10-15 minutes of light stretching for the upper body, lower body, and core after a workout, may be all you need to improve this oft-neglected fitness component. Yoga and Pilates classes can also add more structure to your flexibility program.
Tip: the key to improving flexibility is to make time for it! Add 10 minutes to the end of your workout to stretch or take 10-minute walking/stretching breaks at work.
Muscular Endurance: Muscular endurance is the ability of the muscle to continue to perform without fatigue. You can improve muscular endurance by doing sustained activities such as walking, swimming, or bicycling. When it comes to weight training, completing longer sets (12-25 repetitions) would be considered working in the endurance range.
Tip: look for opportunities to activate your muscles outside the club. For example, walk to the grocery store and flex those biceps by carrying groceries.
Muscular Strength: Muscular strength is the ability of the muscles to exert force during an activity. Sorry to those of you who want to stick to the treadmill, but this means using your muscles against resistance, whether that comes in the form of a dumbbell, resistance band, or your own body weight against gravity.
Tip: take the stairs instead of the elevator, or do some pushups during TV commercial breaks.
To be truly, “totally fit” we need to focus on all five components of physical fitness. Not only will we be healthier overall, but we will also enjoy the benefits of reduced risk of injury and disease prevention (osteoporosis, diabetes, etc.). The added bonus? Improving any single area of fitness will help the others improve as well.
So what are you waiting for?! What areas of physical fitness are you focusing on right now?
Why do we care about trends? Researchers study them, writers report them, teachers teach them, and tweeters tweet them. Although there are many advantages to being “in the know,” one of the most important reasons to pay attention to trends is that they can help us prepare for and adapt to changes ahead.
Over the past six years, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has identified trends in the fitness industry with their ”Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends” (you can view the full 2012 survey text here). Come January 1, some of the most popular resolutions will be health- and fitness-related, so let’s get a jump on meeting our goals by looking at what the 2012 fitness trends mean for us.
Educated, certified, and experienced fitness professionals are the core of a rapidly expanding industry. In spite of tough economic times, consumers still place a lot of value in getting and staying healthy. The fitness industry has responded to this need by employing qualified trainers and instructors.
What does that mean for you? You can breathe a little easier knowing that you can trust your fitness professionals to lead you in safe and effective workouts, helping you reach your goals faster and giving you more bang for your buck.
Strength training is here to stay. Having been near the top of the trends list for several years, strength training is the first training “type” on the trends list, accompanied by personal, core, functional, and group training.
What does that mean for you? Since most of us sit at a desk all day, adding a little weight-bearing exercise such as resistance training can help improve our energy levels, mood, and overall functionality. Expect fitness centers to continue to update equipment and training options to facilitate strength-training programs that meet the needs of all types of exercisers – a stronger body is yours for the taking!
No one will be left behind. Training options are becoming more population-specific, with new programs being tailored to the aging Baby Boomer population and the fight against childhood obesity (just to name a few). Your fitness professionals are trained specifically to work with a variety of individuals from athletes to people fighting obesity or other diseases.
What does that mean for you? The fitness industry is actively trying to meet you where you are to help you get the most you can out of an exercise program, regardless of your goals or fitness level. In other words, you don’t have to start off looking like Jane Fonda to make exercise a part of your life.
It’s all about energy. Zumba, boot camp, and spinning are growing in popularity. These group classes are high-energy and fun, and put the emphasis on pushing your physical limits.
What does that mean for you?Releasing stress through dancing, high-intensity training, and cycling will leave you feeling strong, accomplished, and ready to tackle life’s challenges. You just have to be willing to give them a try. And although not “trending” anymore, Pilates fans shouldn’t be worried that their favorite class is going to disappear; only time will tell whether these new arrivals and old favorites will continue on as actual trends rather than fads.
The key this year is to work with Midtown to customize a fitness program that will leave you feeling refreshed, rejuventated, and (hopefully) like you had a darn good time.
Now that you know what’s to come in 2012, it’s time to use this information to start doing something that will work for you.
Your 2012 motto shouldn’t be “once I meet my goal, I’ll be happy.” Instead, how about you take a chance on what the industry is giving you and say “it’s time to give myself knowledge, revitalizing energy, and a sense of accomplishment, and add some more fun to my fitness routine.” Now that’s a reason to work out today.
What do you think of these trends? Have you already tried any of these fitness programs or plan to in 2012? What are you going to do differently in your workout routine this year?
A discussion on our Facebook page last week resulted in some interesting member feedback. I asked what kind of information you would like to see featured. Among other suggestions, many members mentioned healthy eating tips and recipes, staff profiles, and member success stories.
The club puts a high value on input from members, and as a result, you’ll soon see many of your suggestions included in our daily social media output.MORE
My younger sisters from my dad’s second marriage were heavily involved with dance as young children. As the proud big sister, I dutifully ended each recital.
The two-year-olds were consistently adorable. There was always one guaranteed on-stage tantrum. The costumes were cute (if a bit cotillion-esque). The music was standard kiddie-tune fare. The dance moves were simple and age-appropriate.MORE
This month’s “Ask the Trainer” post features Midtown personal trainer Dave Statt, whom I asked most of the questions I received from last month’s “Ask the Trainer” post.
Dave has been at Midtown for 19 years, and holds an M.S. in Exercise Physiology. He is a NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and an NASM Certified Personal Trainer. His recent personal accomplishments include competing in the Musselman Triathlon and being a two-time finisher of the Adirondack Canoe Classic (AKA “The 90-Miler”).
Kristi: Tell me about your background and how you became interested in personal training.
Dave: I began lifting weights at age 12, and haven’t stopped since! I began college with the goal of becoming a Physical Education teacher, but I soon realized I loved training and science, so I switched my major to Exercise Physiology. My job is very fun. I enjoy helping clients develop a passion for exercise and achieving fitness goals.
Reader Question: “I am training to run a half-marathon in September, but don’t want to give up my regular yoga practice. What is a good balance? I try to go to 3-5 yoga classes a week.”
Dave: 3-5 yoga classes per week is too much. I would do two per week, and then do two full-body stretch sessions, which may include static and dynamic stretches that are running-specific. In general, yoga is a workout so you have to take that into account with all of the running so you don’t over-train.
Reader Question: “There was a discussion on Facebook awhile back about the ideal number of days to work out per week. Some people said they worked out 4 days, some 5, some all 7. What’s the right answer, and is it possible to work out too much?”
Dave: Frequency of workouts depends on many factors. The more intense you train, the more days off you need. It is a difficult question to answer. You have to listen to your body and if you’re feeling worn down, then take a day off. It also depends on what you are doing. I recommend strength-training 3x per week and cardio 4x per week, but you can do those on the same days as well. I would not train 7 days per week. Always take a day off.
Reader Question: “Which cardio machine at the club is best for burning fat and losing weight?”
Dave: Any cardio machine that uses a lot of muscle groups is most effective at challenging the heart and metabolic system. Here are the cardio machines that are best in terms of calorie expenditure in order from most effective to least effective:
1) Running on treadmill
2) Step mill
4) Cybex Elliptical
6) Precor Elliptical with upper body
7) Precor Elliptical without upper body
Reader Question: “If you could design a nutrition plan for a 40-something male who wants to lose about 50 pounds, what would it include?”
Dave: That is a difficult question to answer on a blog. You may want to meet with a nutritionist or trainer that can assess your current status to provide you with a thorough program.
Reader Question: “I’ve been reading a lot about sports drinks lately. Some research says they’re good for refueling after exercise, while others say water is best. What do you think?”
Dave: The best time to refuel for enhanced recovery is within 30 minutes of completing an intense workout. The fuel should be a 4-to-1 ratio of carbs to protein. Some drinks meet those requirement (e.g. some new products made by Gatorade, Endurox, and even chocolate milk). Water is best for hydration, but not for refueling. They are different. Always rehydrate. Sports drinks are not bad, but some are full of sugar and unneeded calories.
Thank you, Dave!
If you emailed me a question and don’t see it answered here, it will appear in next month’s “Ask the Trainer” post.
As for the rest of you, don’t be shy! If you have a question you would like one of the gods or goddesses of the Fitness department to answer, you can post your question as a comment to this post, or email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you email the question, I will ask it anonymously on your behalf, and post the question and answer (but not your name) on the next “Ask the Trainer” post. You do not need to be a member to ask a question.
The American Psychological Association’s 2009 “Stress in America” survey, whose results were released last fall, revealed that sources of stress for kids were the desire to do well in school, worry over their parents’ financial concerns, pressure over extracurricular activities, and their relationships with their parents.
Kids with high levels of anxiety can have trouble sleeping, develop behavioral problems, and even suffer more frequent illnesses.
One way kids can reduce their stress is to practice yoga. Long respected as a means to help adults unite mind, body, and spirit as well as improve their posture, energy levels, physical and emotional well-being, and overall happiness, yoga is now seen as a means by which children can experience the same benefits.
Randi Lattimore, Midtown’s Mind/Body Director and a seasoned yoga instructor agrees. ”Kids yoga is a fun, creative approach to yoga that can be very helpful for children whose bodies are still developing,” says Randi. “The use of animated poses and basic stretching promote strength, flexibility, coordination, and body awareness, while breathing and visualization techniques teach kids how to focus, relax, and develop self-control.”
This summer, Midtown is once again running Yoga Camp for Kids, and at the helm is Jennifer Hess, a certified instructor of children’s yoga. She uses yoga-inspired games and interactions to inspire children to think positive thoughts, manage stress, and listen to (and nurture) their bodies and minds.
“I teach breathing exercises like “Bunny Breath” to demonstrate that different breathing can influence how you feel. In “Bunny Breath,” I pass around a flower, and the kids take three quick breaths through their noses. This type of breath is very energizing, and we discuss when taking a “Bunny Breath” would be beneficial during their day, for example, just before a test when anxiety levels are high.”
In addition to breathing exercises, kids in yoga camp also learn a variety of poses, such as “Volcano Jumps” and “Donkey Kicks,” which can release energy, and traditional warrior poses to find internal strength. Animal poses are combined with those kids can create using their imaginations, so each class lends itself to a unique adventure.
It’s only a matter of time before kids turn into the highly stressed adults many of us have become. Childhood, however, should be as stress-free as possible.
If you have children or work with children, how do you help them manage stress? Do your kids take yoga? What positive changes have you noticed in them?