Monday, April 23, 2012

"Food Deserts" have sprouted greens!

In today's New York Times Health section, the author quotes studies challenging the First Ladies' assertion of poor neighborhoods being 'food deserts', meaning that they are bereft of any produce and people have no options besides a big mac and fries.

From the article:
Dr. Sturm’s study, published in February in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, had a different design. With financing from the National Institutes of Health, he used data on the self-reported heights, weights, and diets of more than 13,000 California children and teenagers in the California Health Interview Survey. The survey included the students’ addresses and the addresses of their schools. He used a different data set to see what food outlets were nearby. Dr. Sturm found no relationship between what type of food students said they ate, what they weighed, and the type of food within a mile and a half of their homes.
He has also completed a national study of middle school students, with the same result — no consistent relationship between what the students ate and the type of food nearby. Living close to supermarkets or grocers did not make students thin and living close to fast food outlets did not make them fat.
In a study performed by Peter Twist and presented by Scott Avery at which I was present at the 2011 IDEA Conference on Personal Training, there was a correlation between the distances children walked to school (it has gotten shorter over the years and fewer kids are walking), their level of activity at school, and their after school activity. Kids either aren't getting enough activity, or they started with an intense program and later dropped it, or they don't eat right. Obesity is not the plight of the poor, but instead the scourge of every economic level. It's time to start encouraging more activity!

Here are some great suggestions for family and friends to engage in during their busy schedule during the week:

  1. Watch a movie or TV show while on the treadmill, elliptical, or bike. Try joining a gym so that you can have friends join you, and you aren't beholden to the weather
  2. Start a book club that meets while taking a walk around your neighborhood, instead sitting around and eating in someone's house. That could save you anywhere from 150-300 calories in snacking. If you use an e-reader, carry it with you while you walk because they are often back lit and can be referenced while you are all out.
  3. Call family and friends from a cell phone while walking (preferably going hands free with Bluetooth or some other option)
  4. Run shuttle runs across your backyard for 5:00 minutes (probably about 20 times back and forth)
  5. Plant a vegetable garden and pick your salad and dinner options out of your backyard
If we start taking responsibility for our choices instead of believing that society is conspiring to fatten us up, then we can take necessary steps towards making our own lives better.

Monday, April 2, 2012

How to ACTUALLY go from Couch to 5K in Three Months

Have you either tried, thought about trying, or read about these running protocols to get you running a mile or a five thousand meter (5K) race? If you are not familiar with these types of schedules, then follow this link to see a selection of programs that commonly are offered to get you running that first mile or 5K. You could follow those programs, but end up like this:
Just because you've decided to start running doesn't mean that your body is ready to run. Furthermore, even if your body can tolerate the running now, it doesn't mean that it's having a positive effect on you. Running is one of the best exercises for cardiovascular health, but like all powers, it must be used wisely.

To achieve your goal of successfully running, you need to understand oxygen deficit

As you work in an aerobic phase, your body is using oxygen to get rid of lactic acid that is building up and making you feel hot and sore. There is a certain pH in which your muscles are able to function. Pass that threshold, and you're toast until you recover. If your body can't bring in enough oxygen to generate more energy (ATP), then it grabs energy from anaerobic phases, which means you are going to run out of gas, fast. Reaching that point is called oxygen deficit.
Muscle tissue stores all of the ATP that you need quickly, but you need to have an efficient aerobic metabolic system to manage the changing levels of acidity produced by longer term running.

So what's my point? Build up muscle and run less.

These programs have you running 3-4 times per week. Maybe your body will be able to respond quickly to the sudden changes, but maybe it won't. It will depend on ones level of conditioning. A deconditioned person may not respond well to all of that walking and running required for these programs. Walking a long distance with either poor posture, incorrect mechanics of movement, or low lactic acid thresholds will be in for some uncomfortable results. Getting yourself in better physical shape by improving muscle tone and flexibility will give you better results in running with fewer injuries and less time spent running

What are the Fundamental Exercises for Getting in Shape to Run

Three major factors contribute to a successful run:
  1. Leg/core strength
  2. Oxygen uptake
  3. Flexibility
The best way to get results is by having an expert trainer who can design a strength program to improve your physical strength and stretch the right muscles to keep you mobile. A solid strength program will have it's collection of squats, lunges, push-ups, back exercises, rotational movements, hamstring conditioning, and ballistic plyometrics. Each person is different, so make sure your trainer has a background in working with lots of populations and understands the muscle functions involved with walking and running. I have taken three years of courses on the demands of running and walking from every age group, and I can tell you that there are multiple scenarios for all kinds of people. One thing is certain: anyone can attempt to run a 5K with a properly designed program.