Fitness Trackers and our Compliance Problem

     "Honey they shrunk the FitBit" writes Goeffrey Fowler in the Wall St Journal this week. Yep, that's right. The fitness tracking craze has moved to rings. A ring on your finger can track your heart-rate so that it knows when your heart-rate boosts enough to quality for exercise. 

    The wearable fitness device market has ballooned in the last few years. When inSHAPE was started in 1997, the big thing was the Polar Heart Monitor, which was a special wrist watch that required a person to wear a band around the chest that pressed against your skin to track your heart-rate. You don't even need to be old enough to remember having to stand up to change the channel on a television to see the remarkable speed of this changing market. 

     What are we doing with all of this data that we are collecting? Not all that much.

     Statistically speaking, American adults weigh more and medicate more than ever before, regardless of consumer spending trends. Most Americans generally know what to do. They know they need to get keep their butts out of the chair. They know that they need to get their heart rate up. They know that muscles and bones and other body parts atrophy, they decay, when they aren't in use.

     The compliance problem stinks, because the human brain has a brain of its own. The primitive parts of your head are having it out with the more advanced part of the brain all day long. Compliance with your fitness regimen, in the advanced part of your brain, battles the desire to save your energy, a primitive part of your brain.

     Everyday compliance, approached on a micro-scale, is a great way to start. And it doesn't require a FitBit, an iPhone, or one of the fancy $200 rings that Fowler wrote about this week. Five minutes first thing in the morning with jumping jacks, squat, push ups, hip lift, and a plank (one minute each) boosts your energy in the morning before you get dressed for the day. 

    Compliance turns into Routine, which develops into Lifestyle. 

The Rising Costs of Falling Down - Can You Protect Your Body?

     In 2000, the CDC estimated that the Medicaid costs associated with adult falls was $19 billion. By 2015, that number had ballooned to $32 billion. Nearly a million older adults are hospitalized each year due to injuries sustained from a fall, and the average cost for a hospital visit: $30,000. But these are hard medical costs. What about the other costs?

  • The price that a person pays to rehabilitate after an injury.
  • The cost to adjust one's home and schedule to accommodate for slower, more careful movement. 
  • The cost of lost income and productivity.
  • The price of not living the same kind of life. Of being fearful that another fall might occur.

Quality of Life
     This last one seems to hurt the most, because it's the paralyzing fear that alters the quality of life that older people live. Going out for a walk, meeting friends for dinner, traveling with family, and attending cultural events abruptly halt for many older people recently injured by falls, or close calls. But even getting around at home can change dramatically. Less gardening and yard work, less going up and coming down the stairs, some don't even want to get out of bed for a trip to the bathroom. 

Functional Survival
     Survival training is generally associated with boot camp workouts and other intensive movements. But Functional Survival is the how inSHAPE describes exercises that help prevent falls. This programming blends into other elements of our exercise regimens, but not just with our older clients (and we work with several in their 80's and one who is turning 90 this year). Younger adults need specific movements to prevent the degradation of body parts that stabilize the body. The Wall St. Journal reported earlier this year that people as young as 19 years old, show signs of structural aging due to sedentary life. Click here to download the article. Functional Survival is important for everyone.

     Functional Survival doesn't require a gym or any special equipment. The basis tenets are stability and strength of the head and neck, the flexibility of the trunk, the response of the hips and legs, and the practice of going down and getting up. 

  • Equilibrium and posture are important elements of strength and stability that decrease the chance of falls. Balance diminishes as people get older (or as the article implies, balance may be problematic for young people too), but simple exercises wake up the vestibular system and the small muscles that support the body.
  • Being able to turn the head and body are of utmost importance in the prevention of falls as well as from injury if a fall occurs. The flexibility of the neck, the middle back, and rotation at the waist are points of practice for this effort. Exercises that support these three areas boost your proprioception, or your knowledge of where your body is in relation to the ground. But also, if you fall, you want to do as much as you can to protect your body. Turning the body to minimize impact, so that you don't fall flat on your back or front, helps. 
  • Finally, you need to be able to get down onto the floor and get up. Even if you need help by way of a table, chair, or the wall. Your hips, legs, and butt were engineered to act as springs. Even rusty, these springs compress to squat down to the ground. The energy they store is released as you get back up, so interacting with gravity is a vital component of these programs no matter what your age.

Falls happen. No two falls are exactly alike, and since no two humans are alike, the fate of two unknowns leaves us with a sense of mystery. But you can do your part. Protect yourself. Take good care of yourself. And get in touch if you need some help. 

Ramadan Health and Fitness Tips

     inSHAPE was recently asked to consult with a Muslim organization on staying healthy through the holy month of Ramadan. This is a first for our company, which will turn TWENTY years old this autumn. Before I get to the suggestions that we have, I am compelled to express how honored we are to serve all New Yorkers and run our business in this amazing city. Living a long, healthy life requires exercise and some attention to proper eating, which means it matters not what race, age, or religion you are. We are so happy to offer these tips to our friends in the Muslim community.

     Ramadan is the ninth month in the lunar calendar of the Islamic faith and is celebrating through the practice of fasting from sunrise until sunset. Also observed is the practice of charitable work, positive thoughts, and spirituality. Consuming no food or water over the entire day is challenging in and of itself, but our team was contacted because many people end up gaining weight as a result of the month-long observance. How can weight gain be prevented?

     First, the pre-sunrise meal (suhur) should satisfy basic tenets of nutrition. Protein, fat, and carbohydrates should be in balance. Cooking methods that do not drain food of vitamins and minerals are a must! Fried foods, heavily salted foods, and concentrations of fat and processed carbohydrates all lead to dehydration of the body, which is a main health concern during this period of time.

     Construct meals around raw vegetation: fruits, roots, and shoots! These foods naturally hydrate the body and metabolize slowly. Add beans and/or seeds, whole grains, and vegetal fats for the morning meal. In the evening, the premise is the same, with perhaps smaller portions and more fluids. Flavor up these basic meals with a bouquet of spices, such as fresh turmeric, paprika, peppers, parsley, cloves, etc. 

     Low impact functional exercises, stretching, and deep breathing should still be included in your daily routine. High impact training, running, and other sports are really not recommended unless you have experience with extreme conditions and/or you plan to run at 4 am. However, your energy level and metabolism will slow during the fasting day, so employ a simple regimen of balance exercises, coupled with a focus on core work both in prone (planks) and on your back (hip bridge exercises) in order to maintain your fitness level and prevent unwanted fatigue.

     If you need to LEARN any of these exercises, please sign up for a free account at www.inmotionworkouts.com, where each routine is a concatenated stream of 60-section exercises, guided by my voice. And let me know if you need anything else. I can be reached at kim@inshapellc.com. Best wishes during Ramadan and beyond! 

 

Exercise Fights Stress

     2017 is shaping up to be a stressful year so far. With political unrest around the United States, stress trickles down into the workplace and at home, then settles inside the body. It seeps into the brain and makes it very challenging to stay on course, especially when it comes to frivolous activities like your workouts.

     Except that your body's health is NOT at all frivolous, and exercise is exactly what you need to ward off the effects of the heightened level of stress that you are no doubt experiencing right now.  Stress is a slow killer, but make no mistake about the affects of anxiety on your health. Stress curtails your body's ability to function optimally. And it does so automatically. Your body is hard wired to react physically to stress. Think caveman era stress, when your body needed to shift into high gear quickly due to a wild animal attack or dangerous weather conditions. 

     The heart pumps faster, blood pressure increases, and hormones are secreted automatically so that your muscles can react quickly. Nerve endings are on heightened alert. Your brain's natural rest cycle is disrupted so that you can stay alert despite the hour of the day. What is happening in the United States and around the world today doesn't seem like a wild animal chase, but the body's reaction is the same.

     Treating stress is something that we should all be taking seriously right now. Regardless of political or religious beliefs, your choice to ignore or treat this stress will make a difference during these tough times. Medications, food and alcohol have short term benefits; they mask stress they way that ibuprofen masks the pain of an injury. But they do not treat stress.

     Exercise is your only physical choice when it comes to winning the war on anxiety. Deep breathing, mindful meditation, and healthy social connections also combat stress in a real way, but exercising the body makes a huge difference. Exercise every single morning. Don't add to the stress by thinking that you need to go to the gym every day. You don't. You don't need shoes on your feet. You just need an extra 15 minutes, so roll out of bed and find a spot on your floor.

     Start with ten deep breathes so that you can stand up real straight and think about your body parts. Say good morning to your toes and feet, greet your legs and butt with a little squeeze, zip up your abs to wake up your trunk and vital organs, shake out your arms and roll your shoulders. Look up, look down, look to the right and look to the left. Then start moving.

     Move up and down with squats and/or lunges, and if your legs are strong enough, jump around a bit. Yoga moves like downward dog and upward dog stretch out the torso and the back of the legs. Plank works the abs. Hip bridge and crunch variations are all good. Whatever your moves, exercise stabilizes the processes going on inside of the body that you can't control. Exercise helps to bring you back from the brink of stress effects.

     High stress looks like it might be sticking around for a while, so start tomorrow and within thirty days, this fifteen minutes will be part of your daily ritual. With so much uncertainty, your body deserves the chance to rely on something. Let it be exercise. And if you ever find yourself chased by a wild animal, your body will be ready for that too.

Is the Running Fad Over?

     During a period of about 15 years, from the late nineties until 2013, the number of participants in road races increased by more than 300%. Over the last couple of years, these registration numbers have plateaued. For longer distance events, the numbers continue to increase; however, for shorter races, participation has actually declined. A reporter called inSHAPE this week to ask whether we thought that this information meant that the running fad might be over. 

     Quick answers:
     1. Was/is race running a fad: YES!
     2. Is it ending: HOPEFULLY!
     3. Why: FADS DON'T WORK!

       Fad diets and fad exercise come and go. Like Jane Fonda style aerobics, race running may have hit its mathematical peak but will never fade away. We don't want it to. Everyone should be running. Maybe not running marathons, maybe not running races at all. But running, the act of accelerated self-locomotion is critical to quality of life.

       Running, jogging, skipping, fast walking, sprinting, hiking, and strolling can all be practiced by people of all ages. Congenital and severe orthopedic conditions may limit your range, but forward movement leads to more movement and ultimately, to a higher quality of life. Running, however, demands an education in mechanics, and it requires practice, and patience. 

       Even if you are relatively fit, do a little homework and/or speak to a coach about running mechanics and other details before you begin to run regularly. Two-three weeks of prep work can help you launch into a new fitness regimen that you can truly do anywhere, at any age, without fancy equipment and an expensive gym membership. Get in touch with Coach Kim if you have any questions: kim@inshapellc.com. 

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