Friday, July 27, 2007

British Open Poll Results

Well I don't know why, but an overwhelming majority of you were glad to see that Sergio didn't win either.

In case you missed it or would like to cast your own vote, the poll is here.

I really have nothing against him, nor do I dislike him. And when I've seen interviews of him, he comes across as a guy I'd probably like. Some people think he needs an attitude adjustment. He's too cocky or arrogant. And sometimes he comes across as a smartass - none of which bothers me one way or the other. Being somewhat of a smartass myself is why I think I would probably like him - note emphasis on somewhat.

But even with the outfits (which really mess up the HD experience) I simply don't think his play stands out all that much one way or the other. Good enough to be there but just not good enough to win it.

Oh well...on to the results.

There are 262 subscribers and 183 of you voted. That's nearly 70%. Not bad.

Yes (I'm glad Sergio didn't win!): 148 votes
No - I like his outfits, so I wish...: 35 votes

The yesses received 81% of the votes - an overwhelming victory.

So there you have it. Sorry about that Sergio.

Until next time, break a sweat each and every day.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Increasing Torso Flexibility for Golf

Here is the post I promised in the newsletter on increasing torso rotation.

In the article, I said the golf swing was complex and any program needed to take this into account. The stretches below do just that.

Each stretch should be performed in two different ways. The first is a more traditional method of stretching and will improve your static flexibility. The other will improve your dynamic flexibility.

For the more traditional method, perform each stretch for 3 sets of 15 seconds. That means to perform the stretch as stated in the text description and hold it for 15 seconds. Relax and then do it two more times.

For the dynamic method, move to the point of feeling the stretch as indicated in the text description and hold for only 2 seconds. Relax and perform again. Repeat this 9 more times for a total of 10 repetitions. Each time you perform the stretch, try to move a little farther. Do this for all of the stretches.

Perform the stretches daily. On one day, perform only the traditional stretches and on the next perform only the dynamic stretches. Go back and forth this way for an entire month and see what a difference this will make.

You'll see results!

Okay, we've got four stretches here. One each for the hamstrings, back of your hips, front of your hips and your torso.

Unfortunately, you're going to have to download the file.

I tried posting the pictures and text descriptions. I really did! I simply could not get them posted short of making a long list - it was too long.

So I created a pdf file that contains them all. Right-click and select save as to download this file.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Resistance training good for heart health?

From the American Heart Association...

"Research shows that when properly supervised and prescribed in the light of a patient's history and condition, whether they have cardiovascular disease or not, resistance training increases muscular strength, endurance, independence, and ability to perform a large range of activities. It reduces disability and enhances quality of life. Other benefits include increase in bone mineral density and lean body mass."

In their recently updated public statement (a full pdf version can be found here) on weight lifitng and heart disease, the AHA has recommended doctors encourage their patients to participate in strength training exercise.

Anyone in the fitness industry worth their credentials on the wall could have told you this years ago. I don't know how many older clients I've trained that walked at least twice as fast once their session was over compared to when it started - no comments about trying to get away from me as fast as possible either :-).

But it's good to know that an organization the size of the AHA is getting serious about weight training for heart health. As we age, health becomes our main concern. And rightfully so. If we can't live independently, the golden years are less enjoyable.

Resistance training increases our ability to live independently. We are stronger. Our joints are more mobile. And, importantly, our balance is better by default. So what other benefits could be more important? If you have some better (or if I've left something important out), please let me know.

If you're not lifting weights, start a program now. It's never too late. There are even fitness centers that cater to those 55 and older. Additionally, most clubs will offer a discount to senior citizens. If the one you're looking into doesn't, go somewhere else.

Until next time, lift weights today and break a sweat. It just might do you some good!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Why exercise is good!

Exercise is good. Inflammation in the body is bad! - it's significantly related to a whole host of cardiovascular diseases.

The most frequently measured biomarker of inflammation in the body is C-reactive protein (CRP). High levels of CRP indicate high levels of inflammation. Essential fatty acids (Omega 3's, for example) are known to reduce inflammation - so eat some fresh, Wild Salmon today :-). Other foods known to reduce inflammation are fresh fruits and vegetables, like berries, grapes, celery and avocadoes (there are more but that's a quick list). Green tea has some anti-inflammatory characteristics too.

Fitness has been shown to be inversely related to CRP, the more fit you are the less CRP in your bloodstream. What hasn't been very well understood, however, is the mechanism that's in play. For example, if you are highly fit and have low CRP levels, is that because you are fit or are the habits of living your daily lifestyle (ie, diet full of fresh fruits, vegetables and healthy doses of essential fatty acids) causing your low levels of CRP.

This study attempted to answer that question.

What they found was that exercise was a significant contributor to low levels of CRP. They looked at sympathetic and parasympathetic tone. The former increases heart rate, respiration, substrate utilization, etc... when you start exercising, while the latter brings these values down, back to resting levels once you stop. Their main finding was a direct relationship between parasympathetic tone and CRP, which means the longer your body takes to get back to resting levels, the higher your levels of CRP. And, conversely, the quicker your body gets back to resting levels, the lower your levels of CRP.

So exercise is good for reducing inflammation in the body. Chalk up another one for the good guys.

Understand this, exercise is good but higher intensity exercise is even better. If you want to work on your body's ability to recover, than do some interval training or other form of high intensity training. It can be cardio, weights, agility drills, anything really, the higher the intensity, the harder your body has to work to recover. Over time, it will recover more quickly and decrease your overall level of inflammation.

So, really, go out and break a sweat today! here in Houston today, that won't be too hard :-)

Dr. Brian

PS. If you need some guidance on your exercise program, sign up for one of our FREE newsletters. If you are a golfer and want to knock 4-5 strokes off your game, get a copy of the Golf Fitness Boot Camp, you can even download it to your computer right now! It will improve your game and the inflammation in your body.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

What's the best way to lose weight?

So glad you asked!

There are many ways to effectively lose weight, some better than others. But for most of us, at least according to this study, your plan should have some accountability.

The study compared formal weight loss programs (diet and exercise only) to those that had a meeting/group component included, which they referred to as dietary counseling. Weekly meetings helped participants understand what their bodies were going through, how to deal with setbacks and learning to live a new lifestyle.

Those in the counseling group lost 10-15 pounds and kept it off for approximately 1 year, significantly greater weight loss and long-term success than diet and exercise alone. Now I know what you are thinking, only 10-15 pounds? I want/need to lose 25, 50 pounds or more. That's not the point. The point is they lost weight and kept it off for a year.

If you need to lose more and participate in a program that only helps you lose 15, is that failure? I think it's a darn good success story and gives you all the confidence you need to keep going.

Again, the main point is that they lost weight!

But why?

It's the social support aspect of the dietary counseling. When you have weekly meetings, you're more likely to stick with the program. Encouragement from others within the group builds confidence. These meetings also have someone participate that's "been there, done that." Their experience alone is invaluable. Finally, should you ever miss a meeting, someone will be there to ask you why. If your excuse is lame, the guilt alone can be enough to get you over a hurdle.

Back to the title of the post. Is this the best way to lose weight? On an individual basis, maybe - maybe not. For most people, weekly meetings (counseling, inspiration, motivation - however you want to label them) work extremely well for long-term success.

Remember, losing weight and then gaining it back is not the ultimate. Keeping it off is.

Have you been in a program like this? What are your thoughts? Have you tried, tried and tried to lose weight, only to have a little success and then fall back to the old habits?

We can help. First, sign up for our fitness center newsletter BSFC Monthly. It's absolutely free and comes with nice bonus gifts for signing up. Plus, each month it's loaded with all sorts of good information on fitness, diet, health and exercise.

If you live in Houston or pass through the SW part of town on a regular basis, our Fit Heart Membership is just the ticket for you. The benefits, amenities and services associated with this membership are absolutely second to none!

Until next time, break a sweat today and eat some fruits and vegetables!

Dr. Brian

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Confused yet?

One major problem in the fitness/health/wellness industry is the lack of a clear, concise message. For example, how much exercise do you need? How often should you exercise? What form of exercise is best?

Pose these questions to 10 different trainers and you're likely to get 10 different answers.

And it's not just personal trainers. Different think tanks, non-profits and the like involved in the fitness, health and wellness industry have published their own recommendations. Some say accumulate 30 minutes per day, some say you should exercise for at least an hour each day and some recommend high intensity exercise. They are, quite literally, all over the place.

I could sit here and dissect each one, but that's not the point of this post, so I won't do that.

The point of this post is to shed light on how easily it can appear that an entire field of study has no clear, concise message.

Take for example these two headlines, which appeared back-to-back, no less under the heading of depression news in my daily medical research update.

  1. Small Increase In Birth Defects Found Among Infants Of Women Taking Antidepressants During Pregnancy, Studies Say
  2. SSRI Antidepressants Do Not Pose Major Birth Defect Risk

Although not identified in the title, the anti-depressants in question in the first study were SSRI's (like Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft). Yep, the same as those in the second study. So one says there is risk and the other says there is no risk.

Confused yet?

I haven't examined the studies in-depth to determine if differences in methodology might explain varying results, although if I had to guess, they probably will. But, again that's not my point.

My point is the message. It's eminently confusing and reeks of hidden agendas or a severe misunderstanding of the effects these drugs could potentially have - which is a whole separate issue, and quite disturbing when you really think about it.

It's one thing for the fitness/health/wellness industry to lack a consistent message when it comes to physical activity. Enough people need to simply get up and move that the inconsistency will do little harm, if any at all.

It's a completely different story when even medical researchers have a hard time agreeing on the potentially adverse effects a particular drug may have on an unborn child.

And that's why I'm confused.

Monday, July 02, 2007

We can do this for you...

A hard-copy workout program, with a daily schedule and other physical activity related material, including instructions, photos, motivational techniques and more has been found to be more effective at increasing and maintaining physical activity levels than phone-based methods.

The results of this study are encouraging on several fronts. First, proper instruction is vitally important. I think, at least intuitively, we all know that a large part of a personal trainer's job is instruction. When it's done properly, everyone wins.

When it includes the social/psychological issues associated with starting or maintaining a physical activity program, it's even more successful. For example, developing strategies to overcome barriers, finding social support, dealing with negative thoughts, etc... are important social and psychological issues that can sabotage the best laid plans.

That is the major reason (at least in my eyes) the study found significant differences in print materials versus the phone. When you get off the phone, without something in your hand, sitting on your desk or the counter at home, it's out of sight, out of mind.

The print materials are different. They are sitting there as a constant reminder of what you intend to do. Sort of like Stephen Covey taking on exercise - that plan is your "7 Habits!"

It's also why I think the internet is a valuable resource in your quest to get better. Wheter you want to lose weight, play better golf, improve your health or simply feel better, the internet can help you do this. There are a number of trainers that will train you over the internet and the beauty of it is that you can live anywhere and use a trainer from anywhere.

Don't like the trainers at your local box-store fitness center? No problem. Get on the internet and find someone you do like. Do your homework. Make sure what they offer is what you want.

One aspect of online training that you should address is interaction. There isn't anything quite like a face-to-face meeting between a trainer and a client. For the most part, this can be alleviated with excellent support materials and access to the trainer. That can come through email, individual phone consultations or seminars via the phone or internet.

Another aspect of this is the ability to deliver materials that help you along the way. For example, are there workbooks or handouts that can help you deal with any psychological and/or social issues you may run into?

When you have satisfactory answers to these questions, you will have found a good source for online training.

In conclusion, we are in the process of developing our online training program. It will come complete with all the support you need, in the form of the Achieve! manual, which is based on social cognitive theory and transtheoretical model. It's a step-by-step guide for getting and staying physically active. Additionally, you get workouts with photos, text descriptions, videos (coming soon), monthly teleseminars and more.

For more information, check out our current online offering, if you are already a member, check out the monthly improvement programs we have.

If you'd like to stay abreast of changes, offerings and the like, sign-up for one of our newsletters.