Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Fat but Fit?

There have been recent news accounts of people being overweight (read fat) but still being fit. By fit, let's assume it means the overweight subjects had healthy cardiovascular systems and adequate muscle -- in spite of their excess. And that they were no more likely to contract heart disease, diabetes, etc., than leaner people.

You have to wonder: Just how fat were the test subjects? And exactly how fit were they? Because at some point in being overweight, it is impossible to be what any reasonable person would define as fit or healthy.

The whole "Fat but Fit" concept sounds a little goofy to me. And it may be that researchers have already found signs of it being invalid. Check it out here.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Red Bull Express

While waiting in line at a store checkout a few days ago, I entertained myself by snooping at what the shoppers if front of me were buying. One young woman had five or six kinds of candy bars and several cans of Red Bull on the conveyor belt. I cringed at the thought of all that candy bar sugar but had no idea what was in Red Bull.

Then yesterday I read a report about Red Bull having something to do with someone's death. I got curious. What is in that stuff anyway? Here’s a description from one report: “It contains caffeine, vitamins, and sugar which, the company claims, kick-starts the body's metabolism and keeps people alert.” Well, who could object to being alert?

I also learned that many people mix Red Bull with alcohol. That RB and vodka is popular. Not sure how that combo works out on the alertness scale. It is also common, from what I read, for Red Bull drinkers to also drink lots of coffee along with it. That sounds like caffeine overkill, to say the least; still I have no idea whether Red Bull is actually responsible for anyone’s death. However, I thought back to the woman at the checkout with all her candy bars and Red Bull drinks. Imagine what that blast of sugar and caffeine must have done to her blood sugar and jangled nerves. She'd be alert alright!

France has banned Red Bull. And the European Commission (EC) challenged France's ban after manufacturers complained it was inhibiting imports. You can read about that here. I don't know enough about the ban to express an opinion. But personally, I wouldn't touch the stuff.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Smart Training for Seniors

I subscribe to several health, fitness, and bodybuilding newsletters and read as much as possible about trends in those fields. I sort through the information looking for things that might be applicable to senior fitness. Some of the material is useful but, generally speaking, much of it not suited for people over 50.

Why is that?

Generally, around age 50 (the year we all become eligible to join AARP, coincidentally), we should approach exercise and training differently than we might have 10 or 20 years earlier. Though proper training will keep us fit and strong for the years to come — at the same time our bodies will not tolerate some of the kinds of training that might have been beneficial during our 20s, 30s, or even into our 40s.

One example that comes to mind is beginning trainees who try to do too much too soon. While most resistance training exercises and cardiovascular activities may be fundamentally the same at almost any age, workout duration and intensity should be scaled back in accordance with age. I realize this probably seems almost too obvious to mention, but you might be surprised at how many beginners ignore or deny it.

And it is not only beginners who should recognize the age factor. Even many longtime trainees often continue such practices as regular all-out effort, maximum poundage, low-rep weight training. I wouldn’t suggest an exact age for modifying that sort of training. But there is no getting around the fact that 50-, 60- or 70-year old tendons and ligaments cannot handle the same stresses they could at 20 or 30. At some point, higher repetitions with more moderate weights are probably a better way to go, even for those who are in top shape and have been training for most of their adult lives.

Don’t equate this with babying yourself. Beginners should know that progressive resistance training concepts have remained the same since the time of Milo. You begin with manageable weight and repetitions and gradually add to them. Progressive cardiovascular exercise works in much the same way. A 20- or 30-year old beginner may start training and many times be at full speed and intensity in a very short period of time. At 50, or older, acceleration should be more gradual.

Overuse injuries are common and most are avoidable. Respecting your tendons and ligaments as you grow older is one way of staying out of trouble. Short warm ups before training are a small investment that pays big dividends. Replacing low-rep maximum effort movements with respectable but moderate poundage and somewhat higher repetitions means you’ll likely avoid overuse injuries and will remain fit and strong a heck of a lot longer.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Are the French Serious?

Gray Iron read this twice just to be certain it is real. The French parliament, it is reported, adopted a bill that would make it illegal for anyone to publicly incite extreme thinness. The bill soon goes to the senate. Overweight French people must be laughing.

Of course body weight extremes at either end of the scale are serious matters — but a government passing laws making it illegal to “incite" extreme thinness? Talk about Big Brother! Read the report and make comment if you wish.

Report: France may outlaw inciting thinness.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Battling Belly Fat

The evidence keeps piling up and growing stronger: Women who carry excess fat around their waists are at greater risk of dying early from cancer or heart disease than are women with smaller waistlines -- even if they are of normal weight. That's the conclusion of researchers from Harvard and the National Institutes of Health.

Previous studies have shown that the tendency to deposit fat around the waist increases the risk for health problems. The current study is to date the largest and most comprehensive of its kind and shows that accumulation of abdominal fat can increase the risk of death.

As Gray Iron Fitness readers know, the solution to excess body fat is sensible portion control eating -- not crash diets -- and regular, consistent exercise that includes both cardiovascular and resistance movement such as weight training.

Go here to read the full report from the National Institutes of Health.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Is Multi-Tasking a Good Thing?

A popular term of worship in recent years has been “multi-tasking.” It is worn by many as a badge of honor. But I believe that only jugglers are truly good at keeping several balls in the air at the same time. Most of us function more efficiently if we keep a shorter list, trying not to do too many things at once. Personal experience and observation have led me to think this way. I also believe a frenzied pace can be deadly, that constant underlying stress is a killer.

Those who doubt this argue that our minds and bodies evolved to handle stress without serious health consequences, that our cave dweller ancestors knew stress in spades. I agree that encountering a hungry saber-tooth tiger must have been enormously more stressful than you or me cramming too many appointments into a narrow time frame. The difference however with the tiger is that the immediate response to fight or run managed the cave dweller’s sudden jolt of action hormones. The adrenalin rush got used. Stress today is mostly of a different nature. It is a lower grade sort — but often unrelenting and without release. Though I’m sure we all prefer contemporary life to confronting saber-tooth tigers, the ongoing underlying tension and pressure of modern life can take its toll.

I am certainly not the first person to notice this. Surgeon Joseph McCaffrey, who has studied the affects of stress, says a lot of the stress today comes from juggling multiple tasks and trying to keep track of it all in our head. This, he says, also robs us of part of our brainpower that might otherwise be used to actually think, to create and problem solve.

He recommends writing down multiple tasks, keeping a list to be checked off as responsibilities are met. This simple act frees a part of our brain that was trying to keep track of everything in memory and can reduce stress by making the demands of modern life more manageable.

I say Amen to that. Along with regular exercise and periodic relaxation breaks, you not only improve your odds of living a happier, healthier life, in the long term you will probably accomplish more than the always busy, busy, busy multi-taskers.