Fitness Training Choices (cont.)

Member: Is there evidence that people who try to begin a fitness program at home with books and videos are likely to injure themselves?

Bryant: There is not any scientific study that I am aware of that has conclusively shown that.

Member: My library has a number of old workout videotapes. Are older popular fitness methods, things like Jazzercise or Jane Fonda tapes, etc., still considered safe and effective? Have any older fitness methods been "recalled" by the experts?

Bryant: Some of the older fitness methods have been called into question recently. And the reason being, is that many were developed under the notion or premise that more was better, and you had terms such as "go for the burn," "no pain, no gain," and unfortunately, such thinking can increase an individual's potential for sustaining an injury. Today, we think in terms of providing the minimum effective dose of exercise as opposed to more is better, going for the burn, etc.

You mentioned two examples, some of the Jane Fonda tapes and the Jazzercise. Some of Jane Fonda's earlier tapes would be examples of the go for the burn, or more is better mentality or approach, whereas Jazzercise, which still is in existence today, would be an example of what I would call a more moderate and reasonable approach to becoming physically active, and therefore can still considered to be an acceptable alternative for people today.

Member: My husband is interested in the BowFlex exercise machine. What is your opinion?

Bryant: The BowFlex is a home gym, strengthening device that allows the individual to perform a large number of exercises while requiring a limited amount of space. As home gym equipment goes, it is a fairly high quality piece. The exercise movements tend to be pretty biomechanically sound. The only caveat would be if the individual has a high strength capability the resistance load might not perfectly match their needs. But for the general individual who is average to slightly above average fitness level, it's a reasonable option for home strength training, because it does provide an adequate or acceptable training stimulus, and it does it in a space economical fashion.

The only other comment is that one shouldn't expect to necessarily experience the rapid results that are often marketed with the product.

Member: Is it true you should build strength (a weight program) before building endurance (a running program), so you're less likely to injure yourself?

Bryant: To a certain extent, that is true, that you would like to make sure that the integrity of your musculoskeletal system, that is the muscular and bones and connective tissues, are strong and able to withstand the stresses that can be applied to them during most aerobic or endurance activities. It's probably more of a concern for the more mature individual who is just beginning an exercise program.

Member: I am 51-year-old female. My weight and height are at appropriate levels. I do some exercise every day (treadmill) but I can't seem to get rid of a flabby belly. Should I just accept because of my age or is it possible to firm it up?

Bryant: It's great that you're exercising regularly on the treadmill. But it would also be very beneficial and worthwhile to supplement your treadmill workout with some strength training activities. The reason being is that as we age, we tend to lose muscle mass and, particularly important for women, bone mass. By engaging in an exercise program consisting of both aerobic activity and strength training, we're able to arrest greatly or slow the age-related decline in muscle mass and bone mass. The benefits are significant, in that by maintaining more muscle mass, we're able to maintain a higher resting metabolism as we age, which will ultimately help one to better control their weight. And by maintaining more bone mass, you're able to significantly lower your risk for developing osteoporosis.

Now with regard to if there are specific exercises that one can perform to shape and tone and firm the abdominal regions, there are no such magic exercises that will allow an individual to selectively trim or firm up a specific area. And that whole concept is referred to as spot reduction. What research shows is that you can perform very high amounts of, for example, abdominal exercises and have little or no consequence on flattening your abdominal region. The reason being is that the abdominal exercises strengthen the abdominal muscles, but have relatively no impact on the subcutaneous layer of fat that covers those muscles. So unless the individual is able to lose overall body weight and body fat to reduce those subcutaneous layers of fat, the abdominal muscles are always going to be incognito. Because the fact of the matter is that virtually everyone has a set of washboard abdominals. The problem for most of us is that they're hidden by a layer of subcutaneous fat. The best way to reduce that layer of subcutaneous fat is through regular exercise involving both aerobic activities and strength training, and combining that with a sensible eating plan.

Moderator: Dr. Bryant, we are almost out of time. Before we wrap up for today, do you have any final comments for us?

Bryant: As a nation, we are unfortunately becoming less active and as a consequence, paying an enormous price for that lack of activity, in that both children and adults are suffering from obesity, type 2 diabetes, and a variety of other conditions and ailments at alarming rates. The best thing that we can do is to get up out of our seats and move. If we can all find simple ways to move more, the benefits will be tremendous, both to us personally as individuals and to us economically as a nation. Again, it doesn't have to be very strenuous, nor does it have to be complicated; we just have to move.

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