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For May 24, 2018

  • Exercise As An Antidepressant
    Exercise As An Antidepressant

    Exercise is being touted as a viable component for treating depression, schizophrenia and alcohol addiction, according to a report published in the American Psychological Association.

    This is a review of studies going back to 1981, so it�s not new research. One thing that�s interesting is this review finds non-aerobic exercises such as weight lifting to be just as effective in treating psychological ailments as aerobics.

    The researchers say most regular exercises, including simply going for a 20-minute walk three times a week, is apparently more effective than placebo pills in reducing symptoms of anxiety in some patients.

    In my view, this study almost nailed it, but not quite. In my book, drawing on the best research, I contend exercise is a placebo. And while it makes you feel better, let�s not give it more curative power than it deserves.

    Just taking the time off to go exercise is something that can be psychologically good for you � because you�re taking a break from what�s bothering you.

    If you enjoy exercising, do it, and you�ll probably feel better. But this isn�t true if you hate it. The main point in my book, "Eat, Drink and Be Merry," is to embrace those activities that you have fun doing because, ultimately, they�ll be the most beneficial.

    Source: Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, June 1999.

  • Flu Fighters -- Stock Up On These Immunity-boosting Foods
    Flu Fighters -- Stock Up On These Immunity-boosting Foods


    The history of cold and flu containment reads like a catalog of neuroses, from the once-popular practice of avoiding cold weather (or at least wearing a hat) to our current compulsion to wash our hands and wipe our phones in avoidance of microbial mingling. Now the latest research tells us to eat functional foods to combat infection. At least this new trend requires somewhat less clinical behavior.

    The phrase "functional" is shorthand for the ancient belief that eating the right foods not only prevents illness � from cancer and hypertension to colds and flu � but may even help cure it. "Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food," said Hippocrates. Science is only now playing catch-up. Recently, a landmark study by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute suggested that food can be as effective as drugs by showing that a lowfat diet containing lots of fruits, vegetables and dairy products radically reduced blood pressure.

    "Nature constructed food to fight disease in a way that we can't replicate," says Joseph V. Formica, Ph.D., professor of microbiology at Virginia Commonwealth University's School of Medicine. Still, scientists can isolate the chemical makeup of fruits, vegetables, fish, grains and other foods that affect our cells � and our health. Stock up on the following so you don't have to hoard Kleenex.

    Flavonoids: These substances are a type of PHYTOCHEMICAL, natural compounds that protect plants against disease and have been found to prevent cancer and heart disease in humans. Recent lab tests here and in France have shown that flavonoids can actually stop viruses from reproducing. "Flavonoids seem to bind to the outside protective coat of viruses and then damage their DNA," explains Formica. Best sources: red wine and tea, as well as raw or cooked onions, kale, broccoli, tomatoes and citrus fruits.

    Protein: "Protein is especially important for powering the immune system," says Frances Tyus, R.D., a nutritional consultant at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Immune-system worker bees, like antibodies and T cells, are actually made of protein, and you need a constant supply for reinforcement. To make sure your body is well defended, especially when you're about to get sick, aim for 50 to 75 grams a day; that's about two servings of meat, poultry or fish, plus a serving of beans and two glasses of milk.

    Minerals: Your body can't do much with protein unless it has three minerals (magnesium, iron and zinc) and three B vitamins (B6, thiamine and riboflavin) to help transform it into muscle and other tissue. This seems like a lot to remember, but you can get most of these nutrients in one shot from sources like fish, lentils, whole grains, nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables.

    Vitamin A: Mucous membranes that line the eyes, nose, lungs and stomach are your immune system's first line of defense against invading cold and flu viruses. Vitamin A helps keep these membranes healthy. Although fatty foods like butter, milk and eggs are packed with the vitamin, many fruits and vegetables contain compounds that the body converts to vitamin A as it needs it. Go for orange, red and dark green hues like sweet potatoes, papaya, spinach, carrots, squash and cantaloupe.

    Vitamin C: This vitamin is needed to produce a healthy stock of infection-gobbling white blood cells. "It's easy to get the amount you need from food," says Tyus. In addition to drinking orange juice, eat raw tomatoes, kiwis, papaya, strawberries, spinach, sweet potatoes and red peppers.

    Not that you should stop washing your hands to kill microbes or brave the cold with a naked head. The first is still good science, and the second just makes sense.

    � Adapted from Women's Sports & Fitness, January/February 1999

  • Wonder Drug Reduces Body Fat and Increases Lean Muscle Mass?
    Wonder Drug Reduces Body Fat and Increases Lean Muscle Mass?

    (From "Ask Dr. Weil", August 1999) Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a fatty acid that's been receiving all sorts of attention lately due to claims of miraculous weight loss, increased muscle mass and protection against cancer and heart disease, as well as improved immune function in people who take it. I usually write off most of these supplement-of-the-month phenomena as just hype, but a review of the medical literature turned up some compelling, albeit limited, studies.

    Specifically, a single small study in Norway showed that research subjects who took 3,000 mg of CLA daily experienced a 20 percent reduction in body fat and a five percent increase in lean muscle. Another study at Kent State University in Ohio found that taking 7,200 mg of CLA per day increased muscle mass by five percent among beginning body builders compared with only 0.5 percent among beginners who trained without CLA. CLA supposedly prevents fat from being deposited into cells by speeding fat metabolism, but no one knows if taking it long term would have any negative side effects. Also, there's no reason to suppose that you will lose weight with CLA if you don't also change your diet and exercise habits.

    I'm more skeptical of CLA's reputation for reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease. Supposedly CLA slows the abnormal rate of cell division that is characteristic of cancer, but I've seen no hard evidence that confirms this. Regarding heart disease, there's only one relevant study: Cholesterol levels and arterial fat deposits in rabbits dropped after they were given CLA for 12 weeks. The notion that CLA boosts immune function also comes from a single study showing that immune function improved among mice fed CLA for eight weeks.

    All this is very preliminary data so I wouldn't be too quick to leap on the CLA bandwagon. We do know that CLA is found in fatty meat and dairy products, and if you're avoiding high-fat foods and dairy as most nutritionists recommend, you can't get much through your diet. And if you opt for CLA supplements, be aware that those on the market, made from sunflower and safflower oils, are notorious for causing flatulence and gastrointestinal discomfort.

  • Dieticians look at health effects of coffee
    Dieticians look at health effects of coffee
    From Medical Correspondent Linda Ciampa

    (CNN) -- Millions of Americans jump start their day with a cup of coffee, but what are the health effects of this morning ritual? That is the question being discussed at this week's American Dietetic Association's (ADA) meeting in Atlanta.

    "The research shows us that moderation which is about three cups of coffee a day is fine. It does not cause disease," said ADA's Edith Howard Hogan.

    While it is unlikely that coffee will cause cancer, heart disease or osteoporosis, there are a few reasons some people should cut back on their intake.

    For instance, studies have shown drinking more than three cups of coffee a day may affect a woman's fertility and increase pregnant women's risk of early delivery. And while the evidence in humans is inconclusive, caffeine has been shown to cause birth defects in rats.

    Also to be considered is caffeine's impact on mood and sleep. Dr. John Hughes of the University of Vermont and others say the substance is addictive and for some people, as little as a cup of coffee a day is too much.

    "If you have anxiety or insomnia, it's very important to look at your caffeine intake and cut down on your caffeine and see if that makes it better, because this is an easy fix," said Hughes.

    But stopping cold turkey is not always easy, some people experience withdrawal symptoms including headaches and cramps.

    Experts say caffeine is something that should be given up slowly. The best way to quit is by reducing the number of cups of coffee you drink each day, or diluting the full strength coffee with a decaffeinated version. As you slowly reduce intake the caffeine craving with disappear.

  • Choosing The Best Fuel For Endurance
    Choosing The Best Fuel For Endurance


    Most endurance athletes choose to consume a low fat, high carbohydrate diet, and some practice a strict vegetarian lifestyle. From a health standpoint, such dietary practices will both reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diminish the number of deaths from chronic disease. From a sports perspective, this diet will optimize the storage of muscle and liver glycogen, which can be used as a source of energy during training. Recently, some individuals have advocated the use of dietary fat supplements, or "fat loading," to spare glycogen stores and improve performance. The reasoning behind this is that fat appears to be such a perfect energy molecule.

    When fat and carbohydrates are compared, fat has several characteristics that would make it a great energy molecule. First, there is more than twice as much energy stored in a gram of fat (9 kcal) as a gram of carbohydrate (4 kcal). Since glycogen is highly hydrated, an equal amount of energy stored as fat weighs only 6-8% of what an equivalent amount of glycogen would weigh. Fat can also be stored as tiny droplets in close proximity to the muscle mitochondria where it is easily accessible for oxidation into energy. This oxidized fat also provides 1.3 times more energy per carbon molecule. Finally, after 15-20 minutes of endurance training, hormonal stimulation causes the body to burn more fat as an energy source.

    In this case, it could be reasoned that if fat is such an efficient energy substrate, eating more fat might cause the body to burn fat and spare muscle glycogen, thus increasing endurance. Some studies in rats have even supported this theory. In a perfect world, this might be the case, however, don't start eating potato chips for breakfast just yet. Nearly all human studies have shown that high fat diets can actually reduce glycogen stores and decrease performance. In one case, individuals were fed a diet consisting of 76% fat for four days. When they were asked to run until exhaustion, those who fat loaded reached exhaustion 40% sooner than those who didn't.

    The reason for this is that the body can't oxidize fat as well as it can glycogen during intense exercise. During exercise, only about 30% of our energy is derived from fats. Also, the oxidation of fat may produce more energy, but it requires 75% more oxygen. This puts greater stress on the cardiorespiratory system.

    Exhaustion during exercise is directly linked to glycogen depletion. When the muscle shifts over to fat burning when glycogen levels are exhausted, the ability to maintain intensity drops off 65%. Therefore, the only recommended supplementation for endurance runners is carbohydrate loading to increase muscle glycogen stores. For athletes training at high intensity, about eight-ten grams of carbohydrate per kilogram body weight should be eaten daily. Most studies have shown that athletes fail to get this amount of carbohydrates in their daily meals. Therefore, athletes should make up the difference by using a carbohydrate supplement before, during and after training to load, sustain, and replenish glycogen stores, respectively.

    Fat may be a perfect energy molecule in theory, but in the real world of exercise it can't live up to its potential. Besides, eating a high fat diet would certainly be disastrous to both your health and physique.

    Nieman DC. Carbohydrates or fats: which is best for endurance exercise? Veg Nutr 1997; 1: 17-21.

    CARNITINE BOOSTS POWER Carnitine has an integral role in muscle metabolism. It is responsible for the transport of fatty acids for oxidation and energy production within the mitochondria of muscle cells. When muscles are used, this can result in a deficit of carnitine and limit the amount of energy produced. A study has shown that supplementation with L-carnitine can prevent this deficit.

    When seven long-distance runners were given two grams L- carnitine per day, they found that their peak running speed increased by 5.68%, their heart rate slowed, oxygen consumption decreased, respiratory exchange ratios were lower and blood carnitine levels increased. These findings show that supplementation with L-carnitine positively affects aerobic capacity.

    Swart I, Rossouw J, Loots J, et al. The effects of L-carnitine supplementation in plasma carnitine levels and various performance parameters of male marathon athletes. Nutr Rev 1997; 17: 405-414.

    ANTIOXIDANTS PROTECT ACTIVE MUSCLES Supplementation with antioxidants is associated with a reduction in the number of oxygen free radical damage. One good example is the vitamin E-induced reduction in the oxidation of LDL, which greatly reduces the risk of coronary artery disease.

    It has now been shown that supplementation with 294 mg vitamin C, 1,000 IU vitamin E and 60 mg ubiquinone can protect muscles against acute exercise-induced lipid damage. The antioxidant potential of eight endurance athletes was measured after a 31 km run both with and without antioxidant supplementation. The supplementation increased the athletes' antioxidant potential of LDL and serum, and reduced lipid oxidation.

    The generation of oxygen-free radicals is increased during long periods of intense exercise; and, if left unchecked, can damage the lipid portion of the muscle cell's membrane. The daily supplementation with a cocktail of antioxidants will not only reduce this exercise-induced damage, it will also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

    Vasankari T, Kujala U, Vasankari T, et al. Increased serum and low-density-lipoprotein antioxidant potential after antioxidant supplementation in endurance athletes. Am J Clin Nutri 1997; 65: 1052-1056.

  • Easy Rider: Pain-Free Bike Riding
    Easy Rider: Pain-Free Bike Riding

    (Prevention Magazine, 9 August 1999) Breezing around on a bike can make you feel like a kid again. But a stiff back or sore joints can snap you back to reality within minutes -- or really hammer you the next day. To keep bike riding pain-free, follow these tips to prevent...

    An achy back: Adjust the seat and handlebars so that your back's not too stretched out. Your elbows should be slightly bent and your back at no less than a 50-degree angle to the road. Another tip: Alternate rounding and arching your back every 10 to 15 minutes. Muscles fatigue quickly and become sore when they have to maintain the same position for a long time.

    Knee pain: A seat that's too high or too low can stress your knees. To get the right height, adjust the seat so that there is a slight bend at the knee even when your foot is at its lowest point. More tips: Stick to low gears so you spin easily instead of straining in a higher gear, and keep your knees pointing straight ahead as you pedal.

    A sore bottom: A large, cushy seat may not be the answer. Too-soft foam may allow you to sink into the hard frame. A seat that's too wide can cause your legs to rub, resulting in chafing. Try seats specially designed for women; they offer extra padding where you need it most. Or, try a gel seat cover. Another tip: Invest in a good pair of bike shorts. They come with a built-in cushion that pads and protects your bottom. There are also new baggy styles available, as well as underwear versions to wear with regular shorts. (These are all designed to replace regular underpants.)

    A stiff neck: When your upper body is too extended, it can cause neck strain. Unless you're a hard-core rider, you can try switching to handlebars that allow you to sit more upright, such as mountain-bike style or the old-fashioned, antler-shaped type. If you really want the aerodynamics of a road bike, make sure you move your neck around frequently, so it's not in one position for too long.

    Tingling hands: Gripping the handlebars too tightly for too long can lead to pain, numbness, or tingling. Change hand positions often, and keep your elbows unlocked.

    Quick Tip: If you're riding for several hours, the best way to avoid all-over aches and pains is to take frequent breaks. When you stop, walk around and do some stretches.


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