Friday, September 29, 2006

Watch Your Weight, Cut Your Cancer Risk

(CNN) -- The American Cancer Society said Thursday that keeping weight under
control is the most important thing you can do to prevent the disease.

In revised guidelines, the society put top priority on diet and fitness,
saying that eating a nutritious diet, staying active and limiting alcohol
are the top things American should do to fight cancer.

The guidelines are published Thursday in CA: A Cancer Journal for
Clinicians. (Watch how fitness can cut cancer risk -- 1:53 Video)

One-third of the more than 500,000 cancer deaths each year are attributable
to poor diet and no physical activity, the cancer society said. That's about
the same number of cancer cases caused by smoking.

Research has long shown that colon, rectal, stomach, breast , prostate and
pancreas cancers are related to diet. New studies indicate that for most
nonsmokers, weight control can cut other cancer risks.

"There is evidence that losing weight can reduce the risk for postmenopausal
breast cancer, and because of hormonal changes that occur with weight loss,
there's reason to believe it's beneficial for other cancers as well," said
Colleen Doyle, director of nutrition and physical activity at the American
Cancer Society and a co-author of the new guidelines.

The guidelines also say that the standard recommendation -- 30 minutes of
moderate exercise five days a week -- is still good, but it works better
with with more strenuous activities such as biking, running or power

Doyle said it's time people understand they have a say in the future of
their health. "Unfortunately, there's no guarantee. You can do all those
things and still get cancer. But the good news is that a lot of people think
they don't have any control over their risk of cancer and we're here to tell
people that absolutely you do have some control."

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Depression patients urged to exercise

The national depression initiative, beyondblue, says a new awareness campaign promoting the benefits of exercise could make a significant difference for the one-in-five Australians who suffer depression.

Beyondblue has joined forces with the Exercise Physiologists Association to help educate both GPs and depression sufferers about the effectiveness of using exercise to manage depression.

The Exercise Physiologists Association's New South Wales president, Chris Tzar, says exercise has been proven to be as effective in fighting depression as medication or psychotherapy.

"There are numerous studies that have shown those results," he said.

"They range from aerobic-based exercise like walking or jogging to strength training so what it presents is an alternative to medication if appropriate.

"Exercise can also address a range of other chronic conditions, not just depression."

Beyondblue's chief executive, Leonie Young, says while studies show these results, exercise has been largely neglected as a method to manage depression.

She says the joint association initiative will work to curb that trend.

"When people are visiting the GP and their identifying signs and symptoms of depression they will be able to be referred to an exercise physiologist," she said.

"As well as that though we're really keen to get the message out that depression and exercise are a good fit and keeping active can be a great way of helping manage depression and anxiety."

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Exercise curbs precancerous changes in the colon

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Regular, moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise can reduce cellular changes in the tissue lining the colon that can lead to the formation of colon polyps and colon cancer, a study suggests.

"This shows that you can see a biological effect at the tissue level of exercise," Dr. Anne McTiernan of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle told Reuters Health. "This supports the observational studies that people who exercise have a lower risk of colon cancer."

However, the effects of exercise were only seen among men in the current study. This may have been because women just didn't exercise as hard, McTiernan offers, or because their workouts reduced their levels of estrogen, which protects against colon cancer.

McTiernan and her team looked at the structure of colonic crypts, microscopic pits in the lining of the colon that help to absorb water and nutrients. People with colon cancer show increased cell growth within these crypts, she explained. Specifically, the area of rapid cell growth, or proliferation, extends higher from the bottom of the crypt in patients' tissue than in healthy individuals.

To investigate whether exercise might affect these structures, the researchers randomly assigned 202 healthy men and women aged 40 to 75 years to an exercise program with the goal of working out moderately to vigorously for one hour a day, six days a week, for a year, or a control group who did not exercise. All study participants had undergone a colonoscopy within three years before the study, and then had another colonoscopy after the study ended.

Men exercised for 370 minutes each week, on average, compared to 295 minutes for the women.

Men who exercised for 250 to 300 minutes each week had a 1.7 percent reduction in the extent of cellular proliferation within their colonic crypts, while the men who exercised more than 300 minutes weekly reduced it by 2.4 percent, the researchers found.

The men who exercised for less than 250 minutes a week showed a 0.3 percent increase in the height of cellular proliferation, while those who didn't exercise had no change.

Among men who increased their cardiovascular fitness by more than 5 percent, the reduction in colon crypt cell proliferation height was 2 percent, compared to 0.9 percent for those who exercised but showed lower gains in cardiovascular fitness.

The findings support studies linking regular aerobic exercise to lower colon cancer risk, and suggest that exercise may cut this risk by reducing cell proliferation in the colon, the investigators conclude.

SOURCE: Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, September 2006.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Walking 'not enough to get fit'

Walking may not be enough on its own to produce significant health benefits, research suggests.

A team from Canada's University of Alberta compared a 10,000-step exercise programme with a more traditional fitness regime of moderate intensity.

Researchers found improvements in fitness levels were significantly higher in the second group.

They told an American College of Sports Medicine meeting that gentle exercise was not enough to get fit.

Lead researcher Dr Vicki Harber said: "Generally, low-intensity activity such as walking alone is not likely to give anybody marked health benefits compared to programmes that occasionally elevate the intensity."

Dr Harber and her colleagues were concerned there was too much focus on simply getting people to take exercise, rather than on its intensity.

They compared people on a 10,000-step exercise regime, which they completed at their own pace, with a group whose routine was tougher, but which left them enough breath to be able to speak one or two sentences with ease at the end.

Both routines, which lasted for six months, burned off the same amount of energy. In total 128 sedentary people took part in the project.

Fitness measures

The researchers assessed impact on fitness by measuring blood pressure, and peak oxygen uptake, a measure of lung capacity.

They found that the step programme increased peak oxygen uptake by an average of 4% over the six months - but the figure for the moderate intensity exercise group was 10%.

Other markers of overall health, such as fasting plasma glucose levels and blood fat levels were unaffected by either exercise programme.

Dr Harber said: "Our concern is that people might think what matters most is the total number of daily steps accumulated, and not pay much attention to the pace or effort invested in taking those steps."

She said the 10,000-step programme did help to get people motivated - and was an excellent way to start taking exercise.

"But to increase the effectiveness, one must add some intensity or "huff and puff" to their exercise.

"Across your day, while you are achieving those 10,000 steps, take 200 to 400 of them at a brisker pace.

'Educated guess'

"You've got to do more than light exercise and move towards the inclusion of regular moderate activity, and don't be shy to interject an occasional period of time at the vigorous level."

Professor Stuart Biddle, an expert in exercise science at the University of Loughborough, said it was possible that the current guidelines on how much exercise to take were set too low.

"They are based on a little bit of an educated guess," he said.

"However, you have got to strike a compromise between physiology and psychology. The harder you make it, the fewer people will actually do it.

"It may be that very small changes to the fitness of a large section of the population would have quite a big impact."

Professor Biddle said there was no doubt that vigorous exercise was the way to get fit, but volume rather than intensity might be more useful in tackling issues such as obesity.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Kimberly Garrison | Stop chewing the fat and start raising the bar

LAST WEEK'S column on body-fat analysis prompted yet more questions from readers (as well as two of my editors).

Basically, they all wanted to know why their body fat levels were so high - since they exercise regularly, aren't overweight and eat moderately well - and what they could do about it.

If you're concerned about your body-fat level, there's plenty you can do to reverse it. Here are some more facts about body fat and some strategies you can implement to achieve measurable goals

What do you mean, I'm over-fat?

As I've said before, the Body Mass Index (BMI) can fail to identify individuals - even those in the healthy category of 18.5 to 24.9 - who have elevated body fat-levels. If you rely totally on the BMI, you could be at increased risk for joint problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, cancer and more. This is especially true if you carry excess visceral fat (fat around your waist).

Maintaining a healthy body-fat percentage significantly lowers your health risks, though it doesn't guarantee you won't have problems, of course.

Unfortunately, for much too long, Americans have been duped by the diet industry. We're obsessed about body weight when body fat is a more accurate measurement of good health. Body-fat analysis should become the gold standard for evaluating health and disease risk factors.

Hey, I'm in reasonable shape, aren't I?

Research also indicates that about 90 percent of Americans exercise too little to achieve measurable, meaningful health and fitness benefits. Far too many of us are busy chewing the fat at the gym as opposed to burning it.

Do you simply show up and go through the motions? Exercising and exercising effectively are two different things.

Studies show that most Americans, about 80 percent, believe they need to exercise. But knowing and doing are, again, two different things. In fact, the average health-club member goes to the club only about 92 days a year, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sports Club Association.

Sadly, that means the 10 percent of people who attempt to adopt a permanent healthy lifestyle use the health club only about 25 percent of the time.

Clearly, it is time to raise the bar.

But I do exercise!

While exercising consistently is a good habit, you must realize that the body responds to progressive change. That means you must challenge yourself with a progressive routine if you want to see continuous progress - and especially if you want to lower your body fat.

If your goal is to reduce body fat and tone up, you will need to do some cardio, improve your diet and, yes, do some strength training, too.

A strategy for improvement

Try this technique: Gradually increase your exercise intensity by means of a double progressive training system.

For example, I worked toward 12 repetitions of bicep curls with 20-pound dumbbells. Once I achieved 12 repetitions, I increased the weight load by 5 percent (to 21 pounds). When I could perform 12 repetitions with this resistance, I increased the weight to 25 pounds.

Also, I want each repetition to count, so I concentrate on my form, performing each repetition in about six seconds (2 seconds for lifting, 4 seconds for lowering). That way, I reduce momentum so I can exercise the muscle effectively by placing the demand on the negative muscle contraction.

My goal is to make every rep count!

Lifetime maintenance plan

As far as exercise maintenance is concerned, I believe that whatever it took for you to get into shape is what is required to maintain your fitness and health.

However, most people reach their goals and slowly start slacking, doing less and less while taking their hard-earned results for granted.

This is a no-no - especially for women, who average about a 5-pound loss of muscle each decade until menopause, when it speeds up to a whopping 7 pounds of muscle loss per decade.

All that fat can really wreak havoc on your health and figure, even if you still wear the same size and weigh the same amount.

In other words, by her mid-40s, the typical woman who is at her "ideal" weight could have lost between 15 to 20 pounds of metabolically active muscle and replaced it with fat. To make matters worse, dieting without exercise can lead to 25 percent to 28 percent muscle loss, according to the International Journal of Obesity.

The best way to maintain fitness and muscle is to continuously raise the bar. Never give up - best your own efforts.

Who's healthier?

Between the guys and the gals below, who is healthiest based on the following information?

· John and Tom are both 6-foot-4. John weighs 200 pounds and has a body-fat level of 7 percent. Tom weighs 170 pounds, with 33 percent body fat.

· Tracy and Kelly are both 5-foot-3. Tracy weighs 140 pounds, with a body-fat level of 17 percent. Kelly weighs 110 pounds, with a 41 percent body-fat level.

The answer, of course, is the two people with the lowest body fat: John and Tracey.

And here's the answer to the problem in last week's column:

To lower her body fat level from 25 to 21, Keisha would need to lose 7 pounds.

Read more!

Friday, September 15, 2006


An independent survey has confirmed the power of group fitness to drive gym attendance among members - and provided further evidence of its capacity to increase club profitability.
The AC Nielsen survey of 1,000 participants in LES MILLS group fitness classes across the U.S.A. showed more than 90% visit their clubs at least twice a week specifically to take part in the classes and that nearly 40% visit at least four times a week to take part.

The average of at least 2.9 visits a week by Les Mills' participants compares with IHRSA estimates that club members go to their clubs on 91 days a year - or just 1.75 times a week on average.

Les Mills International founder Phillip Mills says the survey findings clearly demonstrate the potential of group fitness to impact health and fitness club profitability.

"Clubs benefit in several ways from more frequent attendance by members," he says.
"Members who come frequently to the gym are clearly more likely to be satisfied with their membership and less likely to quit - with obvious implications for all-important membership retention rates.

"Just as important are the implications for membership growth," says Mills.

"Members with a strong involvement with their clubs are far more likely to talk positively about it to their friends and colleagues outside, encouraging others to visit the gym and share their experiences.

"By driving new membership, these referrals also take pressure off the marketing budget."
Mills adds that higher membership retention and growth rates also increase the capacity for clubs to raise membership fees progressively over time.

Mills concludes that clubs need to manage their investment in group fitness to achieve the available benefits.

"Clubs need to be uncompromising in providing high quality programming, supported by rigorous instructor training and management."

AC Nielsen's on-line survey questioned the 1,000 respondents for an average of 16 minutes each on their awareness, behavior and attitude towards the Les Mills programs.

Consistent with being the most popular of the LES MILLS programs worldwide, the weight-based program BODYPUMP® was known to 99% of survey respondents.

A predominance (87%) of female participants was also consistent with Les Mills' experience in the 63 countries where the programs are offered. Male participation was highest for the indoor cycling program, RPM (17%) and the martial arts-based program, BODYCOMBAT® (15%).

The programs received a high level of recommendation among participants, with 92% saying they would definitely recommend them to their friends. Most (75%) said they would consider changing clubs if their club stopped running LES MILLS programs.

Key findings

* The vast majority of respondents (91%) visit their gym at least twice a week to participate in a LES MILLS program;
* Over one third (39%) participate in a LES MILLS program four times a week or more;
* 99% were previously aware of BODYPUMP®;
* 75% agreed they might change clubs if their club stopped offering LES MILLS programs;
* 92% would "definitely" recommend LES MILLS programs to their friends;
* Respondents were predominantly female (87%) versus male (13%);
* Male participation was highest for the indoor cycling program, RPM (17%) and the martial arts-based program, BODYCOMBAT® (15%);
* Respondents were evenly spread across U.S. regions (North East 94; Mid Atlantic 162; South East 167; Mid West 229; South Central 219; Pacific & Mountain 129).

Read more!

Is 'Zennis' the New Mental Health Therapy?

Some Experts Say the Path to Well-Being Is Paved With Physical Activity

Sept. 1, 2006 - Looking for some peace of mind that goes beyond the therapist's couch?
The solution could be found in exercise.

Now, counselors are providing a new kind of mental health treatment that combines talk therapy with physical exercise that includes everything from walking and hiking to tennis and golf.

Clay Cockrell, a New York City licensed social worker, has taken his therapy off the couch and into the great outdoors.

"I meet you. We do our session. It's just much more convenient," Cockrell said.

Antidepressants are taking away business from talk therapy, according to some experts.
A recent study found that less than 15 percent of patients had the suggested amount of follow-up care after starting medication.

So therapists have to find new ways to keep people interested in talk therapy.

Cockrell thinks combining talk therapy with physical exercise might increase the number of people considering talk therapy.

"I think we're becoming a society looking for a quick fix. I go, I take my pill, and I'm better," he said. "It doesn't work that way."

Bonus Benefits

There's an added bonus in walk and talk therapy - the exercise.

Research has shown that even a light workout helps diminish bad moods and relieve pain.

"It's not for everyone, but for those that it works, it really, really works," Cockrell said.

For the clients of Los Angeles-based tennis pro Zach Kleiman, the new method seems to really work.

Although not licensed like Cockrell, Kleiman plays counselor on the court with his self-described practice of "zennis" - a combination of Zen thinking and tennis.

"Play as though you really don't know what's coming at you and you don't know what's going to be," Kleiman said to one client on the court.

"Almost every exercise is about getting the client to free themselves from their limitations, expectations, positive or negative," he said.

Kleiman tries to help his clients "find that ground where they can [be] freer and live happily."
A Good, New Approach - or Unprofessional?

Lauren Liebowitz sees Kleiman in conjunction with traditional talk therapy to deal with her mother's death, as well as issues of control.

"Well, OK, I'm confessing. I'm a control freak," Liebowitz said. "I can't help it."
Zennis has given her a new outlook, she said.

"For me, it's an out-of-body experience in a sense that I can step outside of myself and see myself participating and get a better understanding of how I behave," she said.

Kleiman said he received some referrals from licensed therapists whose clients - often couples - had come to him for a range of problems from eating disorders to marriage troubles.

Some critics, however, say the new type of therapy is unprofessional and doesn't protect clients' anonymity.

Cockrell, however, disagrees.

"I think that it's still a session. You're here for 50 minutes to an hour whether we're in an office or we're outside walking in the park," he said to "Good Morning America."

For the clients, exercise therapy seems to hit a lot of birds with one stone: fitness, healing, and a little fun.

For more information social worker Clay Cockrell, visit

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Survey: Top 10 Fitness Programs and Equipment

IDEA Health & Fitness Association, the leading membership organization of health and fitness professionals worldwide with more than 20,000 members in over 80 countries, reveals the exercise programs and fitness equipment that are expected to show the most growth potential over the next year. While some old favorites remain strong in the top 10 lists for both categories, new and highly innovative programs and equipment also are gaining traction.

These findings are part of IDEA's 11th annual IDEA Fitness Program & Equipment Survey, which collected data from IDEA business and program directors representing small and large health clubs, specialty studios, personal training facilities, colleges, corporate and hospital fitness centers as well as parks and recreation programs. "It's always enlightening to see which programs and types of equipment are identified by the fitness community as having the most growth potential," says Kathie Davis, co-founder and executive director of IDEA Health & Fitness Association. "IDEA's latest survey results predicts strong growth for up-and-comers such as kids' fitness, senior classes, Gyrotonic® exercise along with a rise in the use of Pilates, Gyrotonic and balance equipment."

According to IDEA's 2006 Fitness Programs & Equipment Survey, the following programs were named as having the most growth potential over the next year:
1. Personal training and Pilates or yoga
2. Kids' fitness (classes or after-school camps)
3. Adult one-on-one personal training
4. Pilates and traditional strength training fusion
5. Gyrotonic or Gyrokinesis exercise
6. Pilates
7. Seniors' classes
8. Strength training (group, choreographed to music)
9. Indoor cycling-based classes
10. Yoga and traditional strength training fusion

In particular, fitness programs for participants under the age of 18 years old are expected to flourish. Whether they are scheduled classes or after-school camps, 65 percent of those surveyed said they were confident this category would experience an upswing in activity. "With childhood obesity at alarming levels, IDEA members have shown they are committed to battling this nationwide epidemic," Davis says. "The key to achieving its potential lies in making exercise fun, which is why we have seen such an increase in the number of urban-street and hip-hop classes over the past three years."

Fitness equipment also remains a key element in many exercise programs. According to the latest IDEA survey, while equipment for long-time favorite Pilates was named as a growth area by two-thirds of the respondents so was gear for the emerging Gyrotonic routines.

The 10 types of equipment expected to show the largest increase in usage over the next year include:
1. Pilates equipment
2. Gyrotonic equipment
3. Balance equipment (BOSU® Balance Trainers, disks, wobbly and balance boards)
4. Elliptical trainers
5. Foam rollers and small balls
6. Indoor cycles for classes
7. Interactive computer training games
8. Stability balls
9. Yoga mats and equipment
10. Computer-based workout tracking

Gyrotonic equipment promises the biggest leap in popularity, as only two percent of IDEA members surveyed said they currently use this kind of gear. In contrast, the predicted sharp rise in the usage of Pilates equipment comes while 37 percent of IDEA members surveyed already offer programs. According to Davis, much of the growth in many areas of equipment usage is due to professional trainers gaining knowledge of and confidence in the results they are achieving with their clients. "More trainers are seeing the advantages of what various pieces of equipment can do," she adds. "This familiarity helps them hone in on clients' particular fitness objectives and offer customized fitness regimes that keep their clients motivated to exercise."

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Health Experts: Obesity Pandemic Looms

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) - An obesity pandemic threatens to overwhelm health systems around the globe with illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, experts at an international conference warned Sunday.

This insidious, creeping pandemic of obesity is now engulfing the entire world," Paul Zimmet, chairman of the meeting of more than 2,500 experts and health officials, said in a speech opening the weeklong International Congress on Obesity. "It's as big a threat as global warming and bird flu."

The World Health Organization says more than 1 billion adults are overweight and 300 million of them are obese, putting them at much higher risk of diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure, stroke and some forms of cancer.

Zimmet, a diabetes expert at Australia's Monash University, said there are now more overweight people in the world than the undernourished, who number about 600 million.
People in wealthy countries lead in overeating and not doing enough physical activity, but those in the poorer nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America are quickly learning bad habits, experts said.

Thailand's Public Health Ministry, for instance, announced Sunday that nearly one in three Thais over age 35 is at risk of obesity-related diseases.

"We are not dealing with a scientific or medical problem. We're dealing with an enormous economic problem that, it is already accepted, is going to overwhelm every medical system in the world," said Dr. Philip James, the British chairman of the International Obesity Task Force.

The task force is a section of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, a professional organization of scientists and health workers in some 50 countries that deal with the issue.

James said the cost of treating obesity-related health problems was immeasurable on a global scale, but the group estimated it at billions of dollars a year in countries such as Australia, Britain and the United States.

Among the most worrying problems are skyrocketing rates of obesity among children, which make them much more prone to chronic diseases as they grow older and could shave years off their lives, experts said.

The children in this generation may be the first in history to die before their parents because of health problems related to weight, Kate Steinbeck, an expert in children's health at Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, said in a statement.

Experts at the conference said governments should impose bans on junk food advertising aimed directly at children, although they acknowledged such restrictions were unlikely to come about soon because the food industry would lobby hard against them.

"There is going to be a political bun fight over this for some time, but of course we shouldn't advertise junk food to children that makes them fat," said Dr. Boyd Swinburn, a member of the International Obesity Task Force.

Dr. Claude Bouchard, president of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, an umbrella group for medical organizations dealing with weight-related and children's health issues, said the group supported advertising bans as official policy.

But the policy position is unlikely to have any immediate effect on influencing governments to introduce such bans, said Bouchard, head of the Pennington Research Center at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge.

By Rohan Sullivan
Associated Press Writer

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