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For August 24, 2019

  • Values of the VersaClimber vs. a Stair Machine
    Values of the VersaClimber vs. a Stair Machine

    How Does a VersaClimber Compare to a Stair Machine?

    (MSNBC Health, September 14 1999) � Both a VersaClimber and a stair machine provide an excellent cardiovascular workout and will tone muscles and increase endurance. However, the VersaClimber � a machine with two pedal platforms and two handgrips that coordinate as you step up and down, like climbing a ladder � works the upper body in addition to the legs. It also requires more strength and coordination because it uses the upper body and legs at the same time.

    The VersaClimber is a challenging machine to use, even for the very fit. By comparison, a stair climber has no arm attachments and is easier to use. It won�t tire you out as easily.

    If you have the coordination and strength, the VersaClimber could burn more calories for you in the same amount of time that you spend on a stair machine � but you�ll need to use either one consistently to reap the benefits.

  • Weight A Minute
    Weight A Minute

    By Serena Gordon
    HealthSCOUT Reporter January 18, 2000

    WESTPORT, Conn. (HealthScout)-Want to lose weight and keep it off? Forget the standard advice about doing it slowly, says a new study, and drop those pounds as quickly as you can for the longest-lasting results.

    After seven years, people who followed very low calorie diets (VLCD) of 500-800 calories a day kept off the pounds better than those on modest weight loss programs, say researchers at the University of Kentucky's Health Management Resources. They followed 112 dieters.

    "People were doing better than expected. They were keeping off significant amounts of weight," says Dr. James Anderson, professor of medicine and clinical nutrition at the university in Lexington. "People do better if they bite the bullet and lose significant amounts of weight at the first pass."

    Other experts disagree, saying such extreme diets heighten the risk of gallstones and do little to improve eating habits.

    The VLCD program was designed for people more than 40 pounds overweight and consisted of either five meal replacement shakes daily, or three shakes plus two 200-calorie entrees a day. After five months, the average weight loss was 65 pounds.

    Dieters quickly regained almost 75 percent of the weight they lost during the three years after the initial weight loss. But five years later, the dieters maintained an average of 23 percent of their weight loss, the study found. Someone who lost 65 pounds, for instance, and maintained a 23 percent loss still would be 15 pounds lighter.

    Obesity is a risk factor for heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Losing 5 percent to 10 percent of total body weight can significantly reduce your risk of developing these diseases. In this study, 40 percent of the dieters successfully maintained losses of more than 5 percent of their body weight. Seven years later, 25 percent had still kept off at least 10 percent of their initial body weight.

    Slim Fast is a commercial diet plan that calls for drinking a shake for breakfast, another for lunch and eating a "sensible" dinner. While the Slim Fast plan is not considered a VLCD, Dr. Harry Greene, medical director for the Slim Fast company, says, "I think this is great news for people with severe obesity. The real value is in showing that liquid meal replacements can and do work for many people."

    Maria Walls, a registered dietician and senior nutritionist with Weight Watchers International, disagrees with Anderson and Greene. "The deficits are too great [in VCLDs]. Eight-hundred calories a day is just not enough. It's not nutritionally adequate." She says such diets put people at a greater risk for gallstones and don't teach people how to change their eating habits. "Rapid weight loss doesn't allow for adaptation of good behaviors," says Walls.

    She cites Weight Watchers studies as proof that modest, slower weight loss can work. In a study of 1,002 subjects, says Walls, nearly 43 percent had maintained losses of at least 5 percent after five years. Almost 20 percent of the dieters in that study were within 5 pounds of their goal weight after five years.

  • Dan Wirth - Eating and Nutrition Tips
    Dan Wirth - Eating and Nutrition Tips

    Dan wrote this advice in response to a Fitrex member's question. It has been edited for use as an article.

    The longer I am in the fitness profession the more I see how important good nutrition is. Good nutrition will give you more energy, enhance recovery, reduce bodyfat, help to increase your muscle mass, prevent injuries, reduce lifestyle diseases such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems, and, well, you get the picture. Many people get frustrated about what is the best way to achieve a better eating plan. I understand! There is big money in the nutrition industry and so much advertising out there. They're all trying to tell you who has the best diet or what new supplement invention will make you the next Mr. or Ms. America.

    I will give you what I feel are 4 of the most important points to achieving better nutrition. They are simple to understand and easy to do.

    First Point - Try to eat more foods that we all know are healthy. Things like fresh fruits and vegetables, low fat protein sources like chicken and fish, unprocessed grains like real oatmeal (not the brown sugar and cinnamon packets)! and whole wheat breads. Try to reduce your intake of foods that we all know are not so healthy. Things like candy, pop, Captain Crunch, Burger King, etc. By simply doing this you will put yourself in line to achieve those benefits I talked about earlier.

    Second Point - Try to eat at least 4 times per day. Don't skip breakfast and then load up in the evening when you're less active and more prone to storing those calories as fat. When I say eat 4 times a day, I don't mean 4 big sit-down meals -- eat less, but more frequently. This will help to keep your metabolism healthy which is very important as we get into our 30's. It will also give you a much more even energy level throughout the day and you won't feel so dead when you get home from work. Better energy means better production at your job, in your social life, with your training program, etc.

    Third Point - Drink tons of water! At least a gallon a day. We have all heard this but very few of us make it a point to actually do it. Get into the habit of carrying a water bottle with you to the gym or keep one on your desk at work. I have seen fantastic responses with our clients at Select Fitness and with the athletes at the University when they simply drink more water. Drinking water helps to flush your system of waste products brought on by stress, pollution, and yes, exercise. It can reduce the occurrence of headaches, increase physical performance levels, and reduce the effects of muscle soreness and injury. The next time you feel a little fatigued, try drinking a glass of ice cold water. I guarantee you that five minutes later you will feel better. The human body is mostly water and by not drinking enough it's like running your car with low oil levels all the time! Trust me on this one, it works!

    Fourth Point - Take a quality multivitamin\mineral supplement on a daily basis. This will help guard against any minor nutritional deficiencies that you may have if you don't eat perfect all the time. There have been numerous studies in the last 20 years that point to the advantages of getting the right amount of vitamins in your diet. Immune system function, and protection against cardiovascular disease are just two of the major benefits of optimal vitamin and mineral levels. I feel we have the best vitamin and mineral supplement on the market. The reason it's the best is because of the quality ingredients, clean manufacturing and low cost ($24.00 dollars per month). There are many good nutritional companies out there but many of them overcharge for their products. Check out the Foundation Pack in the Supplement Section of Fitrex.com.

    O.K., if you just try to do the above you will be better off than 90% of the general population! A little bit of thought process and organization is all it takes. If you want to get a little more advanced, read on:

    Fifth Point - Multiply your bodyweight in pounds by the number 13. This will give you a solid number of the amount of calories needed to function. If you want to lose or gain weight, increase or decrease this amount by 500 calories on a daily basis. The amount of calories one should eat is based on many things so you may have to adjust your intake levels slightly to dial in to what's best for you!

    • 50% of your calories should come from quality carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, whole grain products)
    • 25% of your calories should come from quality low fat protein sources (chicken, fish, egg whites, soy products)
    • 25% of your calories should come from quality fat sources (nuts, seeds, avocados, flax seed oil, olive oil)


    Calories: If you weigh 180 lb. you would need approximately 2400 calories a day. A little more if you are very active. 180 x 13 = 2,350 calories.

    Carbohydrates: 2,400 x .50 = 1,200 calories from carbohydrates or 300 grams of carbohydrates (carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram).

    Protein: 2,400 x .25 = 600 calories from protein or 150 grams of protein (protein has 4 calories per gram).

    Fat: 2,400 x .25 = 600 calories from fat or 66 grams of fat (fat has 9 calories per gram).

    Again, if you are very active, especially if you are doing more cardiovascular work you will need to increase your caloric intake primarily in the form of carbohydrates!

    This is a basic example that will start to get you on the right page when it comes to the amounts of foods you should be eating. These steps require a little more work but they can be valuable to know if you want to maximize your health. If you would like more information you should pick up a copy of "Nutrition Made Simple" by Robert Crayhon (published by M. Evans and Company). Robert is a certified nutritionist and owns two nutrition practices in New York. He has an easy-to-read writing style and sees the big picture when it comes to quality nutrition!

    Dan Wirth M.A., C.S.C.S.
    Fitness Director (Fitrex.com)
    Director of Strength and Conditioning
    The University of Arizona
  • Caffeine Comes Out Smelling Sweet
    Caffeine Comes Out Smelling Sweet

    From John Hopkins Health

    It's OK to wake up and drink the coffee.

    Caffeine isn't as harmful as many people believe, according to experts at the American Dietetic Association's 82nd Annual Meeting and Exhibition in Atlanta. In fact, it's even OK for children to have caffeine.

    "If you enjoy caffeine-containing products in moderation, there isn't a need to discontinue them because of long-term health consequences," said Herbert Muncie, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Maryland. "There is no evidence that caffeine harms children or leads to hyperactivity."

    Researchers defined moderate caffeine intake as two or three cups of coffee a day or the equivalent of 300 milligrams of caffeine. A cup of brewed coffee has between 80 to 135 milligrams of caffeine while a 12-ounce can of soda has between 35 and 55 milligrams.

    The possible health effects of caffeine have been a hot topic of late, and one reason is coffee�s increasing popularity. In 1991, there were specialty coffee shops in 500 locations throughout the United States. By 1999, that number had skyrocketed to 7,000, according to the dietetic association.

    Johns Hopkins dietitian Cheryl Koch, M.S., R.D., C.N.S.D., who attended the Atlanta conference, said many people believe that the caffeine in coffee, tea and some sodas can be harmful to their health.

    Even some nutrition experts at the conference had the wrong ideas. Koch said Dr. Muncie asked the gathered dietitians four questions about caffeine, noting that other health care providers he had polled had gotten them wrong. Koch said she correctly answered three of the four, missing a question about the amount of caffeine in espresso. The other questions asked how much caffeine is in brewed coffee, whether caffeine contributes to heart disease and whether it contributes to some types of cancer.

    Here's what caffeine doesn't do, according to the experts who talked about the issue at the conference. There is no evidence that caffeine is linked to cancers of the stomach, liver, colon, breast, mouth, bladder or rectum. Studies show caffeine does not increase the risk of heart disease and has no effect on cardiac arrhythmias. Caffeine causes a very slight rise in blood pressure, but the effect appears to be insignificant and temporary.

    Caffeine doesn't cause fibrocystic breast disease, and reducing caffeine intake doesn't reduce the severity or frequency of symptoms in someone who already has the disease.

    Studies show caffeine doesn't cause peptic ulcers or contribute to inflammatory bowel disease. However, one of caffeine's negative effects is to increase the symptoms of gastric reflux in people who experience the problem. Koch said patients with reflux often mention that caffeine and spicy foods in particular cause them distress.

    Perhaps the most surprising information presented at the conference is that caffeine appears to have little effect on pregnancy. Studies found that drinking caffeine during pregnancy reduces a baby's birth weight by 3 to 6 grams. That amount was statistically significant, but researchers are still unsure whether caffeine has an adverse effect on the baby.

    Studies also showed that caffeine intake during pregnancy may slow a baby's growth after birth, but the connection is not yet clear.

    Koch said researchers at the conference concluded that moderate caffeine drinking during pregnancy may be OK. But Koch said the jury's still out on questions of caffeine drinking during pregnancy, and she still believes it's a good idea for pregnant women to limit caffeine intake.

    "It's not something I'm sure I'm going to tell people to go out and do, but it's interesting to know that there appears to be a limited effect," Koch said. Dietitians at the conference were surprised by the findings, she said, because they, too, believed caffeine could slow the fetus' growth and lead to other problems with the pregnancy. "We always tell pregnant women to avoid caffeine."

    As to whether caffeine is addictive, it depends on the definition of addiction. Quitting caffeine produces withdrawal symptoms, such as headache, lethargy and reduced concentration. But caffeine withdrawal doesn't have other effects that are commonly linked with drug addiction. For instance, it doesn't alter brain chemistry or lead to antisocial behavior.

  • The Supermeal
    The Supermeal

    Remember how Mom always used to warn you "Skip breakfast and you're asking for a tidal wave of neuropeptide Y two hours after lunch"? Okay, maybe she didn't put it so technically. But she undoubtedly said that breakfast is the most critical meal of the day.

    Nutrition researchers, of course, reached the same conclusion long ago. Skipping breakfast, they found, can slow your metabolic rate. In fact, studies from the Mayo Clinic show that breakfast eaters burn up to 150 more calories per day than do those people who don't eat breakfast. Also, "eating breakfast is a good way to short-circuit after-lunch cravings," says Dr. Wayne Callaway, a nutritionist at the Mayo Clinic. Researchers have found that when underfed lab rats are finally given a meal, levels of neuropeptide Y -- the neurotransmitter that triggers the snacking impulse -- skyrocket, causing the animals to binge even though they're full. And studies of schoolkids have shown that skipping breakfast can turn your thinking to mush. Breakfast truly is, as the Zulus call it, indlakusasa, or the "strength meal." Here are some simple ways to maximize its benefits.

    Follow the 25 percent rule. Breakfast should account for at least a quarter of your daily calories, says Callaway. Some men do better by dividing the day's allotment into thirds, while others prefer a breakfast-lunch-dinner ratio of 30-40-30. No matter which pattern works best for you, he says, if you can adhere to it for three weeks, your appetite will naturally "lock on" to the routine. How much food are we talking about? Consider this example: If a 30-year-old man weighs 160 pounds, stands 5 foot 10, and works out regularly, he'll burn about 2,640 calories a day. He could eat 2 pieces of whole-grain toast with a teaspoon of margarine and 2 tablespoons of honey (322 calories); 1 cup of Wheaties with a half-cup of skim milk (144 calories); 5 strips of bacon (163 calories); 1 banana (116 calories); 1 cup of coffee with whole milk (20 calories); and 4 ounces of orange juice (56 calories). The total: 821 calories, or 31 percent of his daily fuel requirement.

    Eat carbs first. When you sleep, your body is in a fasting state; to fuel metabolism and brain function, it uses carbohydrates stored as glycogen. So when you wake up, "your body still has plenty of fat to burn, but what you don't have is very many carbohydrates," explains James Hill, Ph.D., the associate director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado in Denver. Refuel with a breakfast that is high in carbohydrates -- whole-grain cereal and toast or a bagel, plus a piece of fruit. Choose whole grains. High-fiber, whole-grain carbohydrates contain more nutrients than refined, processed ones do, and they'll make you feel fuller for longer periods. Select whole-wheat toast, hot oatmeal, or a cold cereal, such as bran flakes or shredded wheat, with at least five grams of fiber per serving.

    Have some java. Caffeine increases the production of dopamine and norepinephrine, neurotransmitters involved in mental acuity, says Judith Wurtman, Ph.D., a cognitive-science researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Wurtman, the author of Managing Your Mind & Mood Through Food, calls caffeinated beverages "probably the most potent mind-alerting component of breakfast." Just a cup or two should do the trick.

    Catch a protein lift. Wurtman believes that a breakfast delivering at least an ounce of protein can enhance mental function by providing the brain with tyrosine, a chemical necessary for alertness. You can get that from one cup of yogurt or from a two-egg omelet.

    By: Jim Thornton

    Originally featured in Men's Journal

  • Tae-Bo Takes Off, But Is It For You?
    Tae-Bo Takes Off, But Is It For You?

    Some experts concerned about safety of kickboxing

    (MSNBC Health, 1999) � As fitness crazes go, Tae-Bo has hit the top of the charts. Americans are flocking to their gyms for this combination of Tae Kwon Do and boxing put to music � a kind of martial arts aerobics. Classes also go by such names as kickboxing and Tae boxing, and all promise a super-charged, 500- to 800-calorie per hour, fat-burning, punch and kick-filled workout. But is this latest fitness fad safe?

    TAE-BO was originated by Billy Blanks, a seven-time world karate champion, a star of martial arts films and physical trainer. In 1989, Blanks opened the World Training Center in Sherman Oaks, Calif., where he teaches Tae-Bo. Blanks� ubiquitous infomercials, as well as his Web site, are full of endorsements from celebrities and just plain folks, raving about their new-found strength, weight loss and fitness.

    �General Hospital� star Real Andrews is a Tae-Bo devotee and former nationally-ranked Canadian sprinter who announced in early May that he�ll be participating in next October�s Hawaii Ironman. He credits Blanks with giving him the strength and discipline to take on the challenge of the 2.4-mile swim/112-mile bike/26.2-mile running race. Responding to Blanks� success, other fitness clubs quickly jumped on the bandwagon with their own version of the exercise. And classes continue to be booked up nationwide.

    But the popularity of this latest fitness trend has caught the eye of a number of exercise science experts, who warn that while classes can offer a good, safe workout, there are a number of potential problems, including dangerously crowded conditions and little individual attention given to participants. It�s a recipe, these experts say, that can lead to injuries, especially for those who aren�t already fit.

    The American Council on Exercise (ACE), which calls itself the nation�s �workout watchdog,� sets standards for fitness professionals and conducts research and testing on fitness products and trends. ACE is in the process of coming out with a �position stance� on what constitutes a safe martial arts aerobics class. �ACE is concerned about these martial arts aerobic classes,� says spokesman and chief exercise physiologist Richard Cotton. �For some people, the variety of movements are OK. For others, it�s not good. It takes a solid foundation of flexibility, strength and endurance to do the workout and keep it low risk.�

    What also bothers critics is that students at a wide variety of skill levels are often in the same classes, trying to perform the same demanding routine. Blanks offers beginner classes, as do some clubs. And Blanks urges people to always consult a physician prior to exercise. �Every person is different and Billy Blanks cautions students throughout the video and classes to be self-aware, to stop activity at the first sign of discomfort and pain, and walk in place,� his spokesperson says.


    Some martial arts experts say they are frustrated that the elaborate, complicated kicks and punches they spend months or years teaching their students are taught in minutes in some classes, often with little critiquing. Melanie Murphy has studied martial arts since 1975 and teaches self-defense at her school, Way of the Crane. She�s upset at the quick-fix mindset offered by martial arts aerobics classes.

    �It takes me a year to teach a roundhouse kick,� Murphy says. She sent several of her students to a nearby kickboxing aerobics class. They reported that the class was dangerously crowded, there were no instructions or directions given and they weren�t able to do the moves correctly at the speed the class was taught. �If you want to learn kickboxing, you need to go through weeks and weeks of learning,� says Marc Rabinoff, a professor of exercise science at Metropolitan State College in Denver. �It�s done deliberately, with supervision and small classes.�

    But �if you are in good shape, if you�ve done kickboxing and know aerobics, this could be a good alternative for you, if you have someone standing there letting you know you�re doing it right,� adds Rabinoff, a former college gymnast who sits on several national committees that set design standards for fitness equipment. ACE agrees. �The high intensity levels that make these classes difficult for novices is also what makes them an effective, rewarding exercise for the very fit,� the group�s Web site says.


    Tim Rochford is writing the ACE manual on kickboxing fitness. A fourth-degree blackbelt in karate and former amateur kickboxer, Rochford travels the country certifying instructors in his own martial arts workout (The Martial Fitness Workout) and is himself certified by ACE. He also says many martial arts aerobics classes ask people to go beyond their physical capabilities.

    �Height is the main thing. A lot of people don�t have the flexibility to throw high kicks and retain their balance,� says Rochford. �And when you lose balance, you are susceptible to injury � pulling your hamstring, falling, damaging joints. When students do side kicks that are too high, the upper body leans over too far and they lose balance. That can place a lot of stress on the knee joint or base leg.�

    Many of these injuries will show up over a period of time, says Rochford, and are caused by the stress of doing movements incorrectly and placing too much stress on joints that haven�t yet adapted. For students in aerobic kickboxing classes using punching bags with little or no instruction in how to properly punch, the trauma, says Rochford, could show up in the form of joint inflammation in the elbows, thumbs, wrists, fingers and shoulders.

    Rochford�s courses are aimed at a variety of skill levels, from beginners in 30-minute classes to advanced courses for very fit athletes that run over an hour. He urges health clubs to create six-week long orientation classes to teach form slowly and get students comfortable in the movement patterns. Then students can progress to a beginner-level class.


    Another concern that some experts have is a lack of certified instructors with a knowledge of biomechanics and exercise science. And with crowded classes, this becomes even more critical. �How can one instructor with no biomechanical knowledge correct mechanics on 30 to 40 people in a class that�s moving too fast?� asks Jeff Guerra, a physical therapist and strength and conditioning specialist at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine, where national, world and Olympic-class athletes training in Boulder go for injury rehabilitation.

    When choosing an instructor, experts advise observing a class and talking with others who have taken it. Does the instructor pay attention and offer suggestions/instruction to each participant? Is the instructor aware of the skill level of each participant in the class? Also, find out if the instructor is certified by ACE or another national certification organization, like the American College of Sports Medicine.

    Exercise experts also have expressed concerns over kickboxing-style workout tapes, again pointing to lack of professional supervision. �Mechanically they�re very difficult to learn in the length of time of the tape,� says Rabinoff. �And if you do them wrong, how would you know if you�re in your own bedroom?�

    On the other hand, Tae-Bo students like John Williams, 33, say they like to use the tapes to supplement classes. �I bought the videos because they allow me to do it at my own pace and learn the kicks. The class is at a much more advanced pace than the videos.�


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