Friday, May 16, 2008

Don’t Mind the Scales

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It just doesn’t make sense sometimes. I weight every day. Some days when I feel as though my weight has gone down, the scales betray me and show a static weight or a slight increase. Other days when I think that I’m up in weight, the scale shows I’ve lost a little. I try to blame it on the scales, but I believe that there is more to daily weight fluctuations than cheap, unreliable, undependable, slimy scales. Saying bad things to the scales doesn’t seem to faze them. Someone suggested that I not weigh every day. I can’t help it. Weighing myself has become a part of my morning ritual just as brushing my teeth. I’m obsessed. I weigh first thing in the morning because that is supposed to be your lowest weight of the day.

But why the fluctuations? Scientifically, as I’ve reported to you, if you burn more calories than you consume, you should lose weight. Then why do those pitiful, pathetic scales not reflect such? Water gain? Or am I just playing games with myself? There has to be a logical explanation. I want to be rewarded when I follow my diet and exercise program by reading a reduced weight. And, of course, I accept my punishment when I haven’t done as I should. These weight fluctuations just seem to be a problem. In the meantime, I will keep weighing and praying every day.

I am getting new scales, however!

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist's Response

I always advise against weighing daily. Sure, it will allow you to closely monitor your progress, but it can cause you to become discouraged.

If you do weigh yourself daily, you may see fluctuations because of differences in:

  • Daily food intake levels and patterns.
  • Daily physical activity patterns, including duration, frequency and intensity.
  • Amount of time during each weight assessment. For example, if you go to bed at 2 a.m. on Monday and 9 p.m. on Tuesday, but weigh yourself at the same time each morning, you are likely to see a fluctuation.

If you weigh yourself weekly, fluctuations could be due to changes in physical activity levels and patterns and food and fluid intake. Changes and inconsistencies in your personal, professional and social life may also be to blame. For example, if you are experiencing anxiety or stress at work, you may overeat as a way to cope. Hormonal change might also be to blame. Fluid retention during a woman’s menstrual cycle may cause the number on the scale to temporarily increase.

Bottom line: Instead of relying on the numbers, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I feel better about myself?
  • How do my clothes fit?
  • How has my health improved?

Denise Holston


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Exercise Need Not Stop with Pregnancy – Guest Blog

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In the past, women were advised by their physicians not to exercise during pregnancy because of potential risks. In 2002, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) published new recommendations and guidelines for exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Accordingly, all women should be encouraged to participate in aerobic and strength-conditioning exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy. It is currently recognized that habits adopted during pregnancy could affect a woman’s health for the rest of her life. Today, physicians recognize that pregnancy should not be a state of confinement, and with a few exceptions, pregnant women with uncomplicated pregnancies should be encouraged to continue their pre-pregnancy exercise routine. With that being said, pregnancy is not a time to attempt to greatly improve physical fitness.

The overall health, obstetric and medical risks should be reviewed before an exercise program is prescribed. In the absence of contraindications, pregnant women should be encouraged to follow the current American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association (ACSM/AHA) recommendations for physical activity to continue to derive the same associated health benefits during their pregnancies as they did before pregnancy. The current guidelines recommend that all individuals accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) five days per week, and muscle-strengthening activities are also encouraged with an emphasis on low weight and high repetitions.

There are numerous benefits to exercising during pregnancy, including improved posture and balance, relief from back pain and reduced fatigue. In general, participation in a wide range of recreational activities appears to be safe. Recommended activities include low-impact aerobics such as walking, swimming, kegels, pilates, yoga and cycling. Conversely, activities with a high risk of falling or for abdominal trauma should be avoided. Scuba diving, high altitude activities, ballistic movements and contact sports should also be avoided because of risk of maternal and fetal damage. In addition, pregnant women are discouraged from prolonged motionless standing, exercise in the supine position, and activities performed in hot, humid environments.

Warning signs to terminate exercise include:

  • Excessive fatigue or shortness of breath.
  • Chest pain or palpitations.
  • Dizziness or fainting.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Painful uterine contractions.
  • Reduced fetal movement.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Calf pain or swelling.

Other considerations include:

  • Dehydration and hyperthermia: Avoid exercise in hot, humid environments; drink plenty of liquids – before, during, after – even if you aren’t thirsty; and avoid hot tubs and saunas.
  • Poor Balance: Center of gravity shifts as pregnancy progresses; exercise cautiously; and pay attention to changes in terrain.
  • Muscle cramps and soreness: Stretch muscles and warm-up before exercising, and wear supportive well cushioned shoes.
  • Stop if you feel pain.
  • Finish eating at least 1 to 1 ½ hours before working out.
  • Don't go on a calorie-restriction diet during pregnancy. Eat a nutritious, balanced diet.


  • Pregnancy is no longer thought of as a period of confinement, but rather as a normal physiological state in which exercise should be encouraged. Despite profound anatomical and physiological changes, there are few instances that should preclude otherwise healthy pregnant women from following the same recommendations for physical activity as recommended for the general public.
  • Recreational and competitive athletes with uncomplicated pregnancies can remain active during pregnancy and should modify their usual exercise routines as medically indicated. The information on strenuous exercise is scarce; however, women who engage in such activities require close medical supervision.
  • Previously inactive women and those with medical or obstetric complications should be evaluated before recommendations for physical activity during pregnancy are made. Exercise during pregnancy may provide additional health benefits to women with gestational diabetes.
  • A physically active woman with a history of or risk for preterm labor or fetal growth restriction should be advised to reduce her activity in the second and third trimesters.

Michael Zanovec


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Keep Cool for Summer Exercise

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It’s here. The daytime temperatures are above 80 degrees and will probably stay that way for the next several months. For those of you who wanted it to warm up, you got your wishes. For those of you dreading the hot weather, I’m sorry but you too have to deal with it. In South Louisiana it will be warm for a long time. For me I like it warm as opposed to cold. Sweat is better than shivering. But with hot-weather exercise, one needs to be careful. One thing you must do is drink plenty of liquids. My liquid of choice is water.

Water is good for several reasons:

  • It is cholesterol-free.
  • It is sugar-free.
  • It is salt-free.
  • You never have to worry about the freshness date on a bottle of water.

What more could you want in a liquid? Drink all you want. Drink early and drink often. You can even pour it over your head, on your feet and whatever. Water is the perfect hot-weather exercise beverage.

Hot-weather exercise, if done outdoors, also means you need to protect your skin. Use your sunscreen. I hate wiping that stuff on, but after seeing some sun spots appear, I’m a believer. I use a 50 which keeps me protected. I also wear my AgCenter cap – the yellow one and sometimes the white one. Cap selection for exercise is important. You can’t look dorky because you have chosen the wrong cap. It’s a male thing. I also have this thing for sunglasses. Your sunglasses have to be cool also. That too is a male thing.

Water, sun screen and proper clothing help make hot-weather exercising enjoyable. At least here we don’t have to worry about slipping on the ice and snow.

Bill Richardson


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Exercise Year-round, Not Just Bikini Season

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I saw a sign at a health club earlier this spring that has been put up again: Bikini Boot Camp. When I asked what that involved, it was described to me as an intense weekly workout designed to help individuals shed unwanted pounds and get in shape in a boot camp (but fun) environment. In fact, one of the instructors was a Marine just back from two tours of duty in Iraq. Do these boot camps work and what should you expect?

I come back to the beginning. Go see the doc before you start any exercise program. Ask if this particular event is for beginners. Many assume that you already have a level of fitness, and this is to push you quickly to a new level. You risk the potential of injury if you are not ready for the intensity. If you decide to enroll in a boot-camp workout – bikini or not – you might find it a nice change to the routine of your current workouts. Boredom is one of the things we fight as we do the same exercise routine day after day. I might even try a boot-camp workout myself, although I don’t have a desire to fit into a bikini.

Exercise is something that we should make a part of our routine year-around. Then these boot camps become tune-ups rather than major ordeals.

Get out and move around.

Bill Richardson

 Nutritionist's Response

As we get older – and particularly women – our risk for chronic diseases increases. For example, the No. 1 cause of death in postmenopausal women is cardiovascular disease. One way to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases is to exercise regularly. With the increased focus on fitness and health, people want to become more physically active, but many have no idea where to start and how much to exercise. Some may have seen examples of torn Achilles tendons or back pains because of an excessively aggressive pursuit of new exercise programs.

Regardless of what your fitness level is now, it is fairly easy to improve it. Many studies show that even small efforts bring big rewards. Research shows that just 71 minutes of exercise each week prevents loss of fitness. That is only about 10 minutes each day. Any exercise beyond that improves our health. Exercising more than 10 minutes a day leads to better fitness and stamina. According to research, women who biked or walked on treadmills for three hours per week (26 minutes each day) ended up about twice as fit as those who exercised for just 71 minutes a week.

The best thing you can do is combine exercise with some small dietary changes. Incorporating more fruits and vegetables to each meal is the quickest way to improve your health from dietary perspective.

What types of exercises should you do? Walking is one of the best and easiest activities to begin. If you have not walked before, read this fact sheet. All you need to get started with walking is a good pair of walking shoes. Make sure you stretch before you begin to prevent any pulled muscles or tendons.

Other activities you can do if you have joint problems are swimming or bicycling. Once you get more fit, think about other activities such as classes in Pilates or yoga. You might also want to join a walking group or biking club. Being fit can bring big rewards. You will feel better, and you can do more. It is easier to handle stressful events, and you will sleep much better.

Heli Roy

Monday, May 12, 2008

Injury, Illness and Exercise – Guest Blog

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It's inevitable. If you exercise on a consistent basis, life will almost always interfere in one way or another. Often, the interference comes in the form of an injury or a sudden illness. It happens to the best of us and can be frustrating as we get further and further away from our good habits. We start to worry that we'll never get better, never get back to exercise. We worry that we'll gain weight and lose all the gains we've made. If you have the right attitude, you can face your injuries and illnesses without fear.

Dealing with injuries

There are any number of common injuries that happen to exercisers. Sometimes it's simply a strained muscle, something that will heal rather quickly. Other times it's more serious – a sprain, a broken bone or a torn ligament. Once you get your injury checked out by a doctor, you have to start the process of healing. Often, the hardest part of that process is allowing your body the time it needs to mend.

Don’t panic over your injuries. You will heal and you will get back to your workouts. These tips can help you through the tough parts:

  • Be patient. If you've pulled or strained something, your body needs time and energy to heal that injury.
  • Never work through the pain.
  • Follow your doctor's orders and ask him or her what exercises you CAN do. Get a referral to a physical therapist, if your doctor can't help you.
  • Find alternatives. If you've injured your lower body, stick with upper body exercises. If you workout at a gym, see if they have an upper body ergometer. Swim in the pool, if you have one available to keep up your endurance.
  • Change your focus. If you can't do your normal routine, now is a great time to try something you would usually avoid under normal circumstances.
  • Stay busy. If you can't do any activity at all, the last thing you want is time to sit around and be miserable. Think of your recovery time as a time to catch up on life – reading books, spending time with the family, etc.
  • Remind yourself that this is a temporary thing, a short blip in your life that will be over before you know it.
  • If you're worried about gaining weight, adjust your diet. If you're not getting as much activity as before, take some time to keep track of your calories and cut some wherever you can to minimize the damage. You might gain a few pounds but just remind yourself that, in the end, this forced rest is making you healthier in the long run.

Dealing with illnesses

Getting sick, like getting injured, can derail anyone's exercise program. It's often hard to know whether you should keep exercising when you're sick or if you're making things worse. The general rule of thumb when it comes to illnesses is: don't exercise if you have a fever, an upper respiratory illness or the flu. If you have a cold or other light illness, use these tips to decide whether to workout or not:

  • Follow your doctor's orders.
  • Listen to your body. If you have a cold, try a light workout. If you start to feel bad, that's a great time to stop and rest.
  • Try relaxing activities. If you're sick, the last thing you want is a vigorous workout. Now is a good time to soothe yourself with some stretching or yoga exercises.
  • Stay away from the gym if you're contagious. No one else wants what you have.
  • If you do workout, make sure you're hydrated. Avoid working out in extreme temperatures if you can so you don't get worse and FEEL worse.
  • Allow time for recovery. Sometimes cold symptoms can linger for a while, especially that nagging cough. Take it easy with the cardio workouts so you don't make it worse and give yourself time to get better.
  • Remind yourself that your body is fighting an illness. It needs all the energy it can muster for that, so don't take too much away just to get in a workout. In the long run, it's your health that's important...not missing a few workouts.

It isn't easy staying patient and optimistic when you're forced out of your routine through no fault of your own. Keep your spirits up! Find some support and be creative about finding ways to stay active. Most of all, put your health first. When you start to feel better, don't jump into your old routine – ease into things and let your body get used to exercise again. Trust your body to tell you what it needs, and you'll be back to your routine in no time.

Read more about exercise and illness.

Michael Zanovec

2/10/2009 1:16:32 AM
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