Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Next Harvard Stadium Stair Workout

Mark your calendar for Saturday June 22th at 8 AM for a great workout up the stairs at Harvard Stadium outside of good old Harvard Square, Cambridge. Are you up for it?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Using Technology to Track and Improve Fitness

At times we can feel overwhelmed with all the options that we have with different gadgets and technology that are aimed at trying help us improve our diet, exercise, sleep etc. Here is a sample of how using technology can in fact track not only your health and fitness levels but improve your health as well.

A typical day for me starts with monitoring my previous days workout before I even get out of bed. I do this by using a great product called Restwise. It measures my SpO2 (oxygen saturation level) and my resting heat rate. I enter this data into an app on my iPhone along with a few questions and it gives me a rating of how well I've recovered from the previous days workout. From this I know if I'm going to work hard or maybe back-off a bit because I still need more time to recover from my previous workout.

Next, I attach my Fitbit to track my daily steps (it can also look at how well I'm sleeping (I also have used the Sleep Cycle app). Yesterday for example, showed that I walked just under 10,000 steps or about 5 miles (which is my daily goal). It was cool to see that I took 6,000 steps and walked 3.05 miles while clearing snow from my driveway/patio/deck. This can be a great incentive to keep people moving more each day knowing that they need to check in or that "big brother" is watching.

The best use of all this technology, however, comes when I actually exercise. I head to the Koko FitClub for my workout where I typically perform an interval-based cardio session followed by a circuit-based strength session in 45 minutes. Before I start my session I step onto the Koko FitCheck to determine my lean muscle level and eBMI. This gets uploaded to mykokofitclub.com where I have data on everything I done for the last 8 years including Strength gain, Q-score, LML, eBMI and more. I also use Koko Fuel to help me with the nutritional side of things.

With my workout at Koko during the week and my activity on the weekends (this weekend I'm doing some snow-shoeing) - I typically use a Polar heart rate monitor to check my heart rate level.

The best thing about all this technology however is that it can keep you on track to exercise more consistently due to something called the Hawthorne effect. Read more about it here and here.

It's now time to get out and do some snow shoeing and track my progress!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Review of Barefoot Running

Here is a fantastic short video on barefoot running by Dr. Daniel E. Lieberman who is the Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA. Note the interesting comments on the various loads placed on the body with traditional heel strike running compared to a forefront landing. Here is a copy of Dr. Lieberman's often-read research paper published back in 2004 in Nature that I had previously read and thought you might find interesting as well.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Top 5 Health and Fitness Apps for 2012

There are literally hundreds of thousands of apps that have been built across all industries..."there's an app for that." I'm going to focus on health and fitness apps where some reports have suggested that there are currently more than 40,000 to choose from! It is now one of the fastest growing segments of the health/fitness industry.  This can be seen in the increase in sales which are up from 718 million in 2011 to 1.3 billion for 2012.  "The increase of revenues stems from downloads, in app-advertisements, mHealth services, direct transactions and sensor sales." 1

Throughout the year I have tried some pretty neat apps that you may want to take a look at. I have narrowed my list down to the top 5 for 2012.

1. Restwise - (free app/product cost $99) This is a great app that enables you to look at how well your body has recovered from the previous day of training.  "Using evidence-based research, rigorously-tested variable weightings and a proprietary algorithm, Restwise has defined a patent-pending solution to the question that plagues every athlete: "am I training too hard... or not hard enough?" The app offers a series of questions that enables you to input data such as HR, SPO2, B.W, Hrs Slept, plus a series of subjective questions that results in a recovery score for that day. For example, today my score was 90% and it stated "you are functioning in an almost fully-functioning state etc.  My daily scores are plotted on my customized graph that I'm able to email.  Visit here for some fantastic articles on training and recovery from the Restwise archives.

2. Fooducate - (free app) This is a well-developed app that helps you on the nutritional side of things.  It enables you to scan the barcodes on food packages and rates them with a letter grade, it can also compare different foods and make suggestions if your looking to improve on that type of food you were eating. From this you can develop your own healthy shopping list.  This is a very educational app as well; you can learn a lot about the foods that you're currently eating (that you may have thought were healthy) and see if that particular food has too many trans fats, GMO's, HFCS etc.  There is also a free Fooducate Diabetes and Fooducate Plus ($3.99) app as well.

3. Shopwell (free app) - I like the simplicity of this nutritional app and I think it has the best available shopping list that enables you to modify depending on various health conditions that you may have (i.e diabetes or maybe your looking for gluten-free foods etc.).  Instead of giving foods letter grades, like Fooducate, foods are ranked by numerical grades.  For example, the Oatmeal that I ate this morning received a grade of 100 and I was told it was a strong match for what I was looking for nutritionally. It offers a nutritional food label and ingredients page as well.

4. Tabata (free app) - It seems everyone is jumping on the band wagon in regard to Tabata training and as a result there are more apps coming out. No need to pay for this type of app.  If your not familiar with Tabata training read this.  This is a clean, basic app that allows you to complete 8 bouts of 20-seconds of work followed by 10-seconds of active recovery that is performed for 4 minutes.  The idea is to warm-up for 5:00 on your own - use the app for 4:00 of challenging work - and then perform a self-imposed cool-down for 5:00 = a 14 minute workout.  There is also a Tabata Timer app that can be used as a training tool as well.

5. Sleep Cycle ($0.99) - This was one of the few apps that I actually paid for but really enjoyed.  This is an area where many people have no idea how well they are sleeping.  You may have the exercise and nutrition down pat but lacking in sleep can be detrimental to your health.  You place your Smartphone on the corner of your bed and it records the amount of time in bed, offers an idea of quality of sleep and even acts an alarm clock. My favorite thing about this is app is that it gives you a picture (graph) of how much time you spent awake, sleeping and in deep sleep and tracks that over time.  For more on the importance of sleep read The Promise of Sleep by William Dement MD.

Please let me know what some of your favorite apps were as well - Enjoy!

1. Research2guidance website

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Health & Fitness Books You Should Read

Over the past year I have read some excellent health/fitness books that you may want to check out. The first is a book by Dr. Robert McMurray who is a Professor at the University of North Carolina and is the Director of the Applied Physiology Lab. His book is Concepts in Fitness Programming (CRC Press, 1999) and would be ideal for the exercise science student, personal trainer or the typical exerciser looking for a better understanding of the principles of program design. The book is well written and offers 19 chapters that cover four sections: exercise physiology, fitness assessments and program design, medical and legal issues, and nutrition/weight control.

Another interesting book was written by Dan Buettner and is titled The Blue Zones (2nd Ed, National Geographic, 2012). It looks at what people are doing in different parts of the world to live longer. The Blue Zones refer to the healthiest corners of the globe. The premise of the book is simple - "If you can optimize your lifestyle, you may gain back an extra decade of good life you'd otherwise miss."

Before I worked at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University (1994-1999) there was a great book that was written by William Evans, PhD and Irv Rosenberg, MD who both worked there, called BIOMARKERS: The 10 Determinants of Aging You Can Control (Simon and Shuster, 1991). This is the book that led me to the field of exercise physiology. I have had the pleasure of meeting both of these inspiring researchers and actually worked with Bill Evans and Roger Fielding back in 1988.  I was invited to travel to Bryant College in R.I with them to assist with testing members of the Patriots football team who at the time practiced there - yes, that was pretty cool. Anyway, this is a book that everyone should read because it talks about some of the things we have control of that can change the way we age. I read it back when it first came out and picked it up again recently. It is a must have for everyones library.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Cultivating a Better Food System in 2013

As we start 2013, many people will be thinking about plans and promises to improve their diet and health. But we think a broader collection of farmers, policy-makers, and eaters need new, bigger resolutions for fixing the food system - real changes with long-term impacts in fields, boardrooms, and on plates all over the world. These are resolutions that the world can’t afford to break with nearly one billion still hungry and more than one billion suffering from the effects of being overweight and obese. We have the tools—let’s use them in 2013!
Growing in Cities:  Food production doesn’t only happen in fields or factories. Nearly one billion people worldwide produce food in cities. In Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, farmers are growing seeds of indigenous vegetables and selling them to rural farmers. At Bell Book & Candle restaurant in New York, customers are served rosemary, cherry tomatoes, romaine, and other produce grown from the restaurant’s aeroponic rooftop garden.

Creating Better Access:  People’s Grocery in Oakland and Fresh Moves in Chicago bring mobile grocery stores to food deserts giving low-income consumers opportunities to make healthy food choices. Instead of chips and soda, they provide customers with affordable organic produce, not typically available in their communities.

Eaters Demanding Healthier Food: Food writer Michael Pollan advises not to eat anything that your grandparents wouldn’t recognize. Try eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole foods without preservatives and other additives.

Cooking More: Home economics classes have declined in schools in the United Kingdom and the U.S. and young people lack basic cooking skills.  Top Chefs Jamie Oliver, Alice Waters, and Bill Telepan are working with schools to teach kids how to cook healthy, nutritious foods.

Creating Conviviality: According to the Hartman Group, nearly half of all adults in the U.S. eat meals alone. Sharing a meal with family and friends can foster community and conversation. Recent studies suggest that children who eat meals with their families are typically happier and more stable than those who do not.

Focus on Vegetables: Nearly two billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies worldwide, leading to poor development. The World Vegetable Center, however, is helping farmers grow high-value, nutrient rich vegetables in Africa and Asia, improving health and increasing incomes.

Preventing Waste:  Roughly one-third of all food is wasted—in fields, during transport, in storage, and in homes. But there are easy, inexpensive ways to prevent waste. Initiatives like Love Food, Hate Waste offer consumers tips about portion control and recipes for leftovers, while farmers in Bolivia are using solar-powered driers to preserve foods.

Engaging Youth: Making farming both intellectually and economically stimulating will help make the food system an attractive career option for youth. Across sub-Saharan Africa, cell phones and the internet are connecting farmers to information about weather and markets; in the U.S., Food Corps is teaching students how to grow and cook food, preparing them for a lifetime of healthy eating.

Protecting Workers: Farm and food workers across the world are fighting for better pay and working conditions. In Zimbabwe, the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ), protects laborers from abuse. In the U.S., the Coalition of Immokalee Workers successfully persuaded Trader Joe’s and Chipotle to pay the premium of a penny-per-pound to Florida tomato pickers.

Acknowledging the Importance of Farmers: Farmers aren’t just farmers, they’re business-women and men, stewards of the land, and educators, sharing knowledge in their communities. Slow Food International works with farmers all over the world, helping recognize their importance to preserve biodiversity and culture.

Recognizing the Role of Governments:  Nations must implement policies that give everyone access to safe, affordable, healthy food. In Ghana and Brazil, government action, including national school feeding programs and increased support for sustainable agricultural production, greatly reduced the number of hungry people.

Changing the Metrics: Governments, NGOs, and funders have focused on increasing production and improving yields, rather than improving nutrition and protecting the environment. Changing the metrics, and focusing more on quality, will improve public and environmental health, and livelihoods.

Fixing the Broken Food System: Agriculture can be the solution to some of the world’s most pressing challenges—including unemployment, obesity, and climate change. These innovations simply need more research, more investment, and ultimately more funding.

This blog post was written by: Danielle Nierenberg and Ellen Gustafson who are the co-founders of Food Tank: The Food Think Tank (www.FoodTank.org). Danielle is based in Chicago, IL and Ellen is based in San Diego, CA.