Fitness--Part of your personal ecology

Getting people to exercise

My latest HND piece examines what it takes to get people to exercise. One sure way to NOT accomplish this is with education, along the lines of "If folks only knew the benefits, they would surely begin an exercise program."

As I note--

Human nature being what it is, we seldom do anything unpleasant unless we get paid for it, or the consequences of not doing it are even more unpleasant, if not immediately life-threatening.

Instead, we've got to make exercise enjoyable. Fun, even.

The article discusses group versus individual exercise, and has a few things to say about one of the most popular programs out there...Zumba®.

Read the complete article.

The glycemic index, and why you don't need to worry about it

The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels.

The GI has been promoted as a method to construct a healthy diet, and has been touted to diabetics as a way to control their blood glucose levels. The definite implication is that low GI equals healthy.

The only problem is that the concept is a grotesque oversimplification that has no applicability to the real world. My latest HND article discusses the GI and its limitations.

To calculate the GI, testing of an individual food item is performed on ten healthy subjects, who consume a measured amount of the food. Their blood glucose levels are monitored at frequent intervals over a two hour period. The data is then averaged and the GI for this food is established. However, GI data for a particular food can vary widely from lab to lab.

Those familiar with blood glucose levels will tell you that they can be affected by a host of things, including stress, and any inflammatory processes going on in the body. It is remarkable that even the most basic physiological controls are not done on the subjects, to eliminate confounding factors. Besides, foods, being biologic, are not identical from sample to sample.

The random errors alone could be substantial, and let's not even bother with the systematic errors inherent in the blood glucose measurement itself.

Moreover, even if consistent data on the pure food could be obtained, there are few real life instances whereby a single food item is actually consumed. White bread could have a particular GI, which would be drastically lowered if butter were applied. Depending on the vinegar content and amount of time it has been refrigerated, the GI for potato salad can be affected—and not by a small amount, either.

Finally, low GI does not equate with healthy. There are many decidedly unhealthy foods with a low GI.

It is appalling that so-called scientists are promoting this nonsense. It is long past time that someone exposed the GI for what it is: Just one more diet scam. Read the complete article.

How Nutritious And Natural Is Your Protein Bar?

This week's HND piece takes a brief look at protein bars. Although this class of products is widely touted as a "health food," some of the stuff in this category is probably less nutritious than the average candy bar.

You're advised to read the labels, but even then, it also pays to know a little about sugar alcohols. Yes, sugar alcohols. How's that for a nice purposely confusing term?

Check out the complete article.

Mike Mahler--Not your typical personal trainer

Mahler's passion for kettlebell training, hormone optimization, and living life aggressively—as he puts it—inspired my latest HND piece entitled "Health Fads, Hormones, and Balance."

If you've been around health care or exercise and fitness for any length of time, you have probably noticed that most of what goes on is a fad. Indeed, joining a health club as a New Year's resolution might be the biggest fad of them all. The joke is that most of the resolution crowd disappears by Groundhog Day, presumably going back into their respective holes.

Kettlebells are nothing new, of course, and are making somewhat of a comeback, although for various reasons that Mahler details are still not seen too much in health clubs. Mahler is a big proponent of hormone optimization—again not a new concept—but Mahler frowns on supplementation. Rather, he points out that the biggest factor in throwing off hormone levels is chronic stress.

Seems like we've talked about that in the past, right?

As to living life aggressively, let's just say he that he is no sentimentalist, and has little patience for memes like having a positive attitude.

Read the complete article.

Are fruits and vegetables protective against cancer?

We certainly hear a lot about this. The trouble is that what looked great in case-control studies seems to get disproved when the more comprehensive prospective studies are done. Or, maybe not.

My latest HND piece takes a critical look at a big study just published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Many are touting the results of this work, indicating that fruits and vegetables have little if any effect.

One of the obvious problems with the study is that "cancer" is used as the endpoint, with no further breakdown as to the type of cancer. Inasmuch as lung cancer is a major form of cancer, and it is caused in 90 percent of cases by smoking, don't you think that this might skew the results a little bit?

What would the results have been if smokers who got lung cancer were left off the study? After all, no one is suggesting that eating fruits and vegetables will make up for the negative effects of smoking.

Moreover, it is well known that certain fruits and vegetables and protective against certain cancers. While it is easier to get data on "cancer" and "fruits and vegetables," my take is that such broad categories prove very little.

It's almost as if these sorts of studies, which inevitably show no (or very little) effect for healthier diets or supplementation, are purposely designed to come out this way. As it is, a bravura review article done by Christian Roberts and James Barnard (J Appl Physiol 98: 3-40, 2005) examined 424 references and found that there was a major effect of exercise and diet on chronic disease. Cancer is one of the conditions covered in that work.

This paper can be downloaded for free, by the way.

Barnard notes on his website that

I have been studying diet and exercise for over 40 years and am convinced that most of the health problems seen in the U.S. and other industrialized countries are the result of poor diet, a lack of regular exercise and exposure to hazardous chemicals.

I would quibble with him a bit on that "hazardous chemicals" item, since it has been over-hyped, but I would have to agree with the rest of his statement.

More Reasons Not To Get Fat

That's the title of my latest HND piece, and it covers recent findings suggesting that if you are overweight in mid-life, you will not age well. Of course, some of this is intuitively obvious as most people do not lose weight as they get older.

The study looked at women who were members of the famous Nurses' Health Study

A fairly shocking finding involves the Body Mass Index, or BMI. This parameter is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters. The NIH provides a convenient online calculator, that works in either conventional or metric units. With some limitations, BMI is a good indicator of total body fat.

The study showed that every one unit increase of BMI was associated with a 12% reduction of the odds of healthy survival—a term applied to members of the cohort who reached age 70 with few health issues.

Women who were overweight (BMI ≥25) at age 18 and gained more than 22 pounds between age 18 and 50, had the worst odds of healthy survival.

36-24-36 (91-61-91 cm)

Many people think that 36-24-36 is the perfect female figure. Evolutionary psychologists tend to look at the WHR (waist/hip ratio) and have found that most men prefer women with a ratio of 0.7.

Of course, many women do not achieve this ideal, and there are some--including anthropologist Elizabeth Cashdan--who argue that not having a perfect figure may have advantages for women in certain situations. Unfortunately, her reasoning is a bit strained.

Check out my HND piece In Search Of The Perfect Figure.

Racing sled dogs: Cardio fitness champs

Veterinarian and PhD physiologist Michael Davis—of Oklahoma State University's Center for Veterinary Health Sciences—has long been interested in how racing sled dogs can perform in such incredible fashion, especially during the grueling Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

He identifies a few factors...
  • Rapid adaptation to exercise and endurance
  • Enormous aerobic capacity--far better than any human athlete could ever achieve
  • Using a high-fat diet to fuel exercise

Check out my recent HND article on the subject.

Obesity, Diabesity, and Orthopedics

That's the title of my newest HND piece.  When I found out that hip and knee replacements were now being done on TEENAGERS, I had to say something!

Every extra pound you carry translates into seven more pounds of force on those joints.  Run the numbers on a person who might be more than 50 pounds overweight.

"Diabesity" is a trademarked word used to highlight the relationship between obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

Fortunately, the technology has improved greatly for knee and hip implants--but it is still better to prevent such degradation to your joints for as long as you can.

Stretching--The right way

Until I found Dr. Steven Stark's book, The Stark Reality of Stretching, I always wondered why those important lower body stretches I was doing seemed ineffective and even harmful.

Stark explains it all, and also shows why much of the conventional wisdom out there on stretching is just plain wrong.  And, he's not just whistling Dixie—the book is quite scientific, and is filled with scholarly references.

HIghly recommended by this aging athlete...