Tag Archives: strength training

What’s trending in fitness?

There seems to always be something new in the fitness world. Whether it is a new piece of equipment in the gym, a new group exercise class, or a new way to perform traditional exercises, the fitness industry is constantly evolving. Some of these become popular enough that they are considered “trends,” attracting attention from fitness experts and exercise novices alike. Even if you aren’t a fitness enthusiast, you may be wearing one of these trends on your wrist.

Each year the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) surveys health and fitness professionals to identify exercise trends for the upcoming year. The report for 2017 was just published, so it is a good time to catch up on the leading fitness trends to look for in the upcoming year. Some of these are new, but many of the top trends are still popular from previous years. This is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.

fitness-tracker


No surprise, the biggest fitness trend for 2017 is wearable fitness technology. Even if you don’t exercise regularly, you may have a fitness tracker. From activity trackers like the Fitbit to heart rate monitors, the newest “wearables” are sophisticated tools for recording your steps per day, distance you run, and calories you burn. Some, like the new Apple Watch, have multiple functions while others, like GPS watches, provide specific information. Make sure to pick the device that meets your needs… and your budget, as they can get expensive!

Next on the list is body weight training. Popular for building strength and endurance with minimal equipment, body weight training goes far beyond the push-ups and pull-ups you may remember doing in PE class. This type of training can be done almost anywhere, which is good news for people who are on a budget or want to train at home.

Following that is high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which uses repeated cycles of short, maximal or near-maximal exercise alternated with short rest periods. These HIIT sessions last less than 30 minutes but lead to fitness improvements that exceed those of traditional longer-duration training. Beginning exercisers should note that HIIT training is intense, so starting slow is recommended.

Fourth on the list is educated and experienced fitness professionals. You should look for a facility that requires the staff to have fitness certifications that involve both education and experience. Finding a personal trainer or group exercise instructor who has experience working with people like you is important, so ask for recommendations and references to get the best match.

Strength training still ranks highly, at number five, and for good reason. In addition to building or toning muscles, strength training can make everyday activities easier, help maintain bone mass, and promote weight loss. Strength training is often incorporated into other types of exercise, so you don’t necessarily need to “pump iron” to build strength.

Rounding out the top ten are group training, Exercise is Medicine, yoga, personal training, and exercise for weight loss, all of which have been on the list for some time. While this list does not include every popular or “trendy” type of exercise, it does capture the components of most types of training. CrossFit, for example, is a combination of body weight, strength, and functional training involving high-intensity intervals in a group setting.

Whether you decide to follow a fitness trend or not, make sure you dedicate time every day to be active. Health and fitness will always be trendy!


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Turning back time with exercise

My Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week is about the benefits of exercise…again. This time I focus on how exercise can improve strength, endurance, and bone density that tend to decline with age. Best of all, the benefits can be realized at any age—it’s never too late to start!


The benefits of regular exercise for everyone from childhood through old age are well-known. Children who are physically active establish healthy habits and do better in school than their peers who are more sedentary. Young adults who exercise are more likely to be active as they age, reducing their risk of heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases.

Older adults can maintain their memory, cognitive function, and ability to complete everyday activities by improving their fitness. At all ages, physical activity helps people maintain a healthy body weight.

Ideally, people would be active throughout their entire lifespan. What is more common, though, is that activity in childhood and young adulthood is replaced by a lifestyle that becomes increasingly sedentary over time. This can lead to a pattern of weight gain and declining fitness.

For many people the consequences may not be immediate, so there is no clear sign that the lack of exercise is having negative effects. But make no mistake, the health effects of inactivity accumulate over time eventually leading to conditions like obesity, heart disease, and osteoporosis.

Aside from the risk of chronic disease, years of inactivity can result in poor strength, endurance, and flexibility. This can lead to increased risk of injury and difficulty completing work and leisure activities. This is particularly true in older adults who are more likely to experience falls, broken bones, and prolonged disability due to poor strength and balance.

It is well-known that strength and endurance decline with age. Fitness decreases about 10% per decade, so that a 70 year-old has lost about half of the exercise capacity they had at 20 years of age. It turns out that this decline in fitness is due more to decreasing activity, not age itself.

Resistance training can lead to improvements in strength at all ages, but the biggest gains occur in the elderly. Beyond the impact on activities of daily living—carrying bags of groceries, for example—strength training can improve bone density. This is of particular concern for women.

Bone density peaks about age 25, so women who exercise achieve greater bone density when they are young. This means they can lose more bone mass as they age before they experience problems. Middle-age and older women can also reduce age-related bone loss by participating in regular exercise. In fact, exercise is essential for the effective treatment for osteoporosis.

There is good news for those who haven’t been exercising. You probably know that people who exercise now are less likely to suffer poor health in the future, provided they stay active. But research also shows that people who are out of shape now but improve their fitness also experience a reduced risk of many common health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

It doesn’t matter when someone becomes active—the benefits can be realized at any age. In fact, one study showed that older men who begin a vigorous exercise program can improve their fitness to the level they were at 30 years ago. And these changes can occur in as little as six months.

The bottom line is that exercise can turn back time by reversing many effects of aging. Best of all, it is never too late to start. If you have fallen into a pattern of inactivity you can benefit from regular exercise no matter how old you are. So, what are you waiting for?

 

Santa’s fitness report, just in time for Christmas.

Right now Santa is making the final preparations for his big night, from checking his list of good boys and girls to packing the toys in the sleigh and giving the reindeer a pep talk. As we can only imagine, a trip around the world in one night is quite a physical feat, so, like an athlete preparing for the Olympics, Santa has certainly been training all year for this  event.

Of course, Santa keeps his training regimen a secret. In my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week I make an educated guess as what he does to prepare in the “offseason” and how this training helps him maintain good health despite his less-than-athletic physique. Santa’s training likely includes a combination of endurance, strength, and flexibility exercises.

Endurance training, probably a combination of both high-intensity interval training and long-duration, lower intensity training, leads to a high maximal aerobic capacity and fatigue resistanceProof for this is the fact that he flies away from each home with a hearty “ho, ho, ho.” If he were out of shape, he would be too short of breath to speak, much less give such a robust farewell!

Resistance training gives him the strength to repeatedly carry his heavy sack of gifts  up and down chimneys. In addition to traditional weight lifting, Santa probably also engages in plyometric training, which involves explosive movements that develop muscle power.

Stretching and exercises like yoga promote good flexibility so he can squeeze through narrow spaces and move quickly without pulling a muscle.

Santa certainly knows that proper training is only part of the answer, so he certainly focuses on sports nutrition, too. Many athletes use specialized sports drinks and foods that provide fluid, carbohydrates, and protein during long events. Santa relies on the cookies and milk you leave for him to provide the nutrients his muscles need to delay fatigue.

We can also learn an important health lesson from Santa. Even though he is overweight, through regular exercise, Santa has reduced his risk of health problems and maintained his fitness at a level that allows him to complete his necessary activities. Like Santa, all of us can benefit from being physically active, whether we are overweight or not.

Happy holidays!