A Fitter U Q&A: April 2016

A Fitter U Q&A: April 2016

Joe Giandonato, MBA, MS, CSCS

Manager of Health Promotion

Drexel Recreation Center

Drexel University’s resident health and wellness expert, Joe Giandonato returns for another installment addressing fitness and health related questions posed by members of the Drexel community.

  1. “What are your thoughts on pre-workout caffeine supplementation?” – Chris J.

Caffeine is one of the world’s most widely consumed and extensively studied chemicals. It’s universal consumption is largely owed to its presence in a multitude of food stuffs and beverages. Most coffees and teas contain caffeine, whether naturally occurring or artificially infused. Soft drinks and select sport have also been found to include caffeine in their contents. Chocolates and to a lesser extent, medications also contain caffeine in trace amounts.

Let’s take a waltz down memory lane to chemistry class. For science nerds like me, my experience in college chem class was both nostalgic and somewhat enlightening, especially since my cash-strapped high school had what equated to a toolbox of broken Petri dishes and beakers and one rickety retail quality microscope. Left brained folk may not reminisce as fondly about chem class, unless of course it permitted the sleep derived developing brain intermittent bouts of much needed somnolence.

Whatever the case, let’s recognize that the crux of chemistry class was to make things happen by creating reactions with the overarching priority of not having HAZMAT crews dispatched.

Chemistry in a nutshell is reactions. Chem majors can thank me later for capturing the essence of chemistry so succinctly and poignantly and delivering to them what I’d ambitiously equate to an epiphany causing moment.

Caffeine evokes profound effects on multiple physiological systems within the body. Upon entering the body, it initially acts as a messenger of sorts as it inhibits a chemical known as phosphodiesterase that regulates the speed of muscle contraction and influences relaxation. Cyclic adenosine monophosphate, another chemical whose levels are directly associated with fatigue and tiredness are more readily broken down by consequence of the inhibition of phosphodiesterase thus optimizing a process known as signal transduction which entails the dispersement of hormones and triggering neurotransmitters throughout the cellular membrane.

Caffeine also prompts the secretion of two potent endocrine hormones: epinephrine (adrenaline) and nor-epinephrine (nor-adrenaline) thus triggering uptick in autonomic nervous system activity, respectively tapping into both branches: sympathetic and parasympathetic to concurrently elevate and regulate cardiac function to drive greater amounts of oxygenated blood through circulation.

The host of aforementioned reactions plausibly increase muscular strength, power, endurance, time to fatigue, aerobic capacity as libraries worth of literature point to.

Knowing that no consensus has been reached concerning its dosage, it would be prudent to summon of the help of one of our Proactive Health registered dietitians. The team, lead by Nyree Dardarian, Assistant Clinical Professor of Nutrition, collectively possesses countless years of experience in the realms of performance nutrition, disease prevention and management, and research.

Recently, Professor Dardarian was featured in a recent report chronicling caffeinated peanut butter. Best of both worlds, right? Well, not so fast.

“It’s a high fat, high calorie source of caffeine, so [those calories may not be necessary],” noted Dardarian.

The complete story can be found here:

http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2015/11/20/caffeinated-peanut-butter-hits-the-market/

  1. “What’s the big deal with the drug Maria Sharapova took?” – Elle H.

I guess you could say Sharapova’s discretionary “slip-up” benefitted from the fortune of being obscured by the perfect storm of a rampantly busy NFL offseason, the beginning of NCAA tournament play, and the ensuing GOP bloodbath.

But it appears as though Sharapova, one of the great talents in professional tennis, knowingly took the drug Mildronate (Meldonium) to reap its purported ergogenic benefits of augmenting aerobic capacity by way of hedging the carnitine metabolism since the drug is synthetic derivative of carnitine.

As explained by Gorges and colleagues (2015), “carnitine improves myocardial functioning through enhancement of fatty acid β-oxidation that supplies about 80% of myocardial ATP generation. However, under oxygen deficiency, cytotoxic intermediates can accumulate in the cell due to insufficient oxygen supply. A reduced intracellular concentration of free carnitine leads to suppression of fatty acid metabolism and therefore enhances glycolysis during ischemia, which has a cytoprotective effect and increases the effectiveness of ATP-generation, as carbohydrate oxidation requires less oxygen per ATP molecule than β-oxidation of free fatty acids. Moreover, glycolysis is stimulated directly via Mildronate by increasing the expression of hexokinase type 1, which catalyzes the formation of glucose-6-phosphate from glucose.”

Continued from Gorges and colleagues (2015):

“Under sport-physiological aspects, reports on positive effects on the physical working capacity of elite athletes were published and dosages of Mildronate (per os between 0.25 and 1.0 g twice a day over 2–3 weeks during the training period and 10–14 days before competition) were discussed. Further studies demonstrated an increase in endurance performance of athletes, improved rehabilitation after exercise, protection against stress, and enhanced activations of central nervous system (CNS) functions.”

Essentially ingestion of Mildronate (Meldonium) spares carnitine and cultivates a metabolic environment mirroring glycolysis without the formidable expense of converting glycogen to usable glucose. in these conditions, it would make sense that more ATP, the body’s energy currency, can be created in more bountiful amounts. And while the ceiling of physiological functional capacity is raised, so too is mental acuity as they allude to, and central nervous system functioning which assumedly and aptly begets hastened reaction time. In a sport where 100 mph serves are common place, sensory systems —  visual, vestibular, and somatosensory — must work in seamless concert with one another to produce desired responses. Basically, this drug seems capable of shifting the feedback loop from a local train route to an express one.

And since the drug was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Prohibited List in late 2014, it can be presumed that Sharapova and/or her team of “handlers” knowingly operated in violation of the acceptable customs and established bylaws.

Reference

Gorges, C., Guddat, S., Dib, J., Geyer, H., Schänzer, W., & Thevis, M. (2015). Mildronate (Meldonium) in professional sports – monitoring doping control urine samples using hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography – high resolution/high accuracy mass spectrometry. Drug Testing and Analysis, 7, 973-979.

  1. “What’s more important: weight training or cardio?” – Ryan T.

While the importance and applicability of each modality has been long debated, so too has their mutual exclusivity.

Each modality is capable of educing distinct corpuses of adaptations. Weight training, or more broadly termed strength training is capable of evoking improved muscular hypertrophy by way of enlarging contractile proteins and saturating the sarcoplasm with fluids and glycogen. Strength training also improves muscular fitness, including strength, endurance, flexibility, and musculotendinous stiffness — the latter permitting greater collective absorptive and redirecting capacities of muscles and fibers arranged in series of which they are composed. Improvement in biomotor skills are directly attributable to strength training. Strength training has been shown to enhance power, speed, and agility — a triumvirate of characteristics requisite to high performance. Cardio, or more properly termed as cardiovascular exercise, increases both mitochondrial and capillary density, increases the capacity of ATP production, and balances the seesaw that is the autonomic nervous system. Each modality substantively increases bone mineral density, however, strength training has shown greater increases and is more capable of improving bone mass of the torso and upper extremity.

Unless one aspires to compete at a very high level, a possible interference effect, will barely be noticeable. Things become trickier when high level athletes delve into different training methodologies which skew too far in either realm — strength training or cardiovascular exercise. Both are equally important, but it is worth noting that the selection, order,  and frequency of modalities and movements should be assembled with due diligence and consider the health needs, goals, and competitive, recreational, and occupational demands, if applicable, prior to designing a program. Feel free to reach out to our team if you need any help. If you are, or anyone else is, reading this who is an affiliate of Drexel, whether a staffer, student, alumnus, or member of the Rec Center, we will arrange for you to meet with one of my staff members to help provide you some direction.

Joe Giandonato can be reached directly at jag476@drexel.edu.

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A Fitter U Q&A: March 2016

A Fitter U Q&A: March 2016

Joe Giandonato, MBA, MS, CSCS

Manager of Health Promotion

Drexel Recreation Center

Drexel University’s resident health and wellness expert, Joe Giandonato is back again fielding questions from members of the Drexel community centered around fitness and health topics.

“Why does my nose run when I run in cold weather?” – Josh K.

Though we have been enjoying unseasonably warm weather lately, our noses continue to drip like leaky water spigots, especially when trekking on a run or bike ride. But this happens for good reason, nasal mucus production is increased to warm ambient air closer to body temperature when inhaled. The mucous membranes lining the nasal tract must sustain mucus production in cooler and arid conditions which ramps up during exercise to meet increased ventilation.

During exhalation, vapor accumulates in the nostrils, triggering an accretion of moisture in the nasal tract, which either enters the throat or is expelled through the nose. This condition, known as exercise-induced rhinorrhea, is more frequent among individuals who exercise outdoors. Though the condition can prove bothersome, especially for someone in the middle of a long run, it is harmless and typically does not adversely affect exercise performance.

Mucous membranes are also known to secrete greater amounts of mucus in the presence of pollution. A recently published report indicated that cigarette smoke was found to evoke significant increases in air particulate matter, or pollutants comprised of solid particles containing chemicals and acids, which can be visible to the naked eye.

The study revealed that cigarette smoke contained greater concentrations of particulate matter than heavy duty truck exhaust (De Marco et al, 2016). It’s also worth pointing out that air pollution is higher in urban areas, likely exacerbated by population density and attendant reliance on technology and transport cruxing on the consumption of fossil fuels.

References

De Marco, C., Ruprecht, A.A., Pozzi, P., Munarini, E., Ogliari, A.C., Mazza, R., & Boffi, R. (2016). Particulate matters from diesel heavy duty trucks exhaust versus cigarettes emissions: a new educational antismoking instrument. Multidisciplinary Respiratory Medicine. [Epub ahead of print: 22 January 2016]

Schwela, D. (2000). Air pollution and health in urban areas. Reviews on Environmental Health, 15, 13-42.

Silvers, W.S. & Poole, J.A. (2006). Exercise-induced rhinitis: a common disorder that adversely affects allergic and nonallergic athletes. Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, 96, 334-340.

“What’s better: free weights or machines? And, is there really that much of a difference between isolation and compound exercises?” – Geno D.

While these two debates have raged on for a seeming eternity, they were birthed at the dawn of the golden age of bodybuilding, when selectorized machines entered the fray.

As a strength and conditioning coach who has predominantly worked with athletes throughout my career, it would be considered blasphemy, even sacrilege, to suggest that machines provide value.

The strength and conditioning punditry, you know the ones who cling to a single ideology as a cure-all and achieve reverence for stumbling upon a dealership of genetic Ferraris in their career, are apt to disavow something as simple as machine training. NFL prospects and fleet footed 7-footers aside — populations who encompass the tremendous fortune of developing under any circumstance imaginable, including the orthodoxy of bench, squat, clean, and agility ladder programs, machines can educe considerable improvements such as strength, anaerobic capacity, and hypertrophy among regular folk.

They are ideal for novices, as well overweight and obese individuals, though the latter may require additional modifications. Individuals who are or were recently sedentary often lack the garden variety of fitness qualities and biomotor skills necessary to achieve muscular fitness through traditional free weight exercises.

Stabilization systems, which lay the foundation of movement such as governing joint and segmental positioning, aren’t fully developed — precisely why a person performing barbell squats and other compound exercises resembles an early 20th century building trembling during an earthquake. In order to elicit metabolic benefits off the bat, it would be sage to turn to machines, at least initially. They eliminate stability demands while enabling novices who lack relative strength, especially those who are overweight, get strong enough to perform bodyweight exercises and help them progress to traditional strength exercises, which require discernible strength to safely and properly execute.

While not ideal within the paradigm of functionality and carryover to sporting activities, machines are a viable tool to evoke metabolic stress, one of three pathways responsible for triggering muscular hypertrophy. The benefits of metabolic stress via resistance exercise are commonly overshadowed by the hallowed strength building benefits. But research has shown that either modality — free weights or machines — is robustly capable of improving insulin sensitivity, increasing glycogen storage, and modulate mitochondrial functioning. Recent literature identified the role of p53, one of the most widely studied proteins in cellular biology, in regulating substrate metabolism and mitochondrial biogenesis in skeletal muscle. Researchers postulated that p53 can be signaled during exercise, but did not elaborate on which resistance training modality was superior.

For individuals who are injured or have adaptive needs, there may be no better alternative than machines, especially if one or both limbs are not usable or present.

And though compound exercises, those involving multiple joints and crossing muscle groups, have demonstrated comparatively higher endogenous hormone production than their single joint counterparts, they aren’t necessarily appropriate for every situation. While its near impossible to “isolate a muscle” outside of a laboratory — I acknowledge this runs counter to what many gym bros have led you to believe — single joint exercises, even those performed via machines, are better in targeting smaller muscle groups.

For instance, those wanting to strengthen their lower trapezius muscle, a key player in shoulder function, could do so by “depressing” their shoulder blades during a squat, they would probably “feel it” more and activate it better by performing a prone trap raise in addition to or instead.

In summary, a variety of modalities should be embraced and applied as the situation dictates.

References

Bartlett, J.D., Close, G.L., Drust, B., & Morton, J.P. (2014). The emerging role of p53 in exercise metabolism. Sports Medicine, 44, 303-309.

Trevellin, E., Scorzeto, M., Olivieri, M., Granzotto, M., Valerio, A., Tedesco, L., Fabris, R., Serra, R., Quarta, M., Reggiani, C., Nisoli, E., & Vettor, R. (2014). Exercise training induces mitochondrial biogenesis and glucose uptake in subcutaneous adipose tissue through eNOS-dependent mechanisms. Diabetes, 63, 2800-2011.

“Just how accurate is wearable technology when it comes to tracking step counts?” – Brianna R.

The advent of nanotechnology has given rise to the ubiquity of smartphones equipped with sophisticated applications and able to support remote monitoring of movement. Though i some media reports have doubted their accuracy – it’s worth noting that these involved disparities in reported and actual energy expenditure. Contrarily, step counts tallied by smartphones have demonstrated almost perfect accuracy. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, revealed a marginal relative difference in mean step count of -0.3 to 1.0% among 552 step count observations. While not infallible, smartphone powered pedometers are quite accurate and are preferable to those found in variety and discount retailers for a few dollars or less.

Reference

Case, M.A., Burwick, H.A., Volpp, K.G., & Patel, M.S. (2015). Accuracy of smartphone application and wearable devices for tracking physical activity data. Journal of the American Medical Association, 313, 625-626.

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Women’s Fitness Workshop Recap

Women’s Fitness Workshop Recap

Yesterday, more than two dozen members of the Drexel community descended upon the Sky View Lounge in MacAlister Hall for a discussion on women’s fitness. The workshop, led by Melisa Gebizlioglu, MPH ’15, an ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist, covered a gamut of hot button topics ranging from the role of resistance training and differentiating between pain and discomfort.

melisaworkshopphoto

Gebizlioglu highlighted a litany of benefits related to the inclusion of regular exercise, including: reducing disease risk, improving mood, boosting energy, and positively and profoundly impacting quality of life.

Research has demonstrated that exercise is capable of suppressing breast, cervical, endometrial, and ovarian cancers.

“Melisa did a laudatory job tackling key misconceptions which plague our industry and serve to stifle the well-intentioned pursuits of current and aspirant physically active females.” remarked Joe Giandonato, Drexel’s Manager of Health Promotion.

Giandonato also fielded questions from attendees and implored anyone in need of clarity or assistance to reach out to his staff.

Next month, Nyree Dardarian, a registered dietician, assistant clinical professor and director for the Center for Nutrition and Performance, who possesses a board certification in sports dietetics and a certificate in adult weight management will lead a workshop dealing with nutrition, entitled 10 Simple Steps to Live the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Dardarian will lead attendees through the latest recommendations and explain the scientific evidence supporting them.

The workshop is scheduled for Wednesday, March 9th at noon, and again located in the Sky View Lounge of MacAlister Hall. Lunch will be provided. Interested
persons are advised to RSVP with Monica Fauble, Program Coordinator, University Wellness, at mef55@drexel.edu and specify any dietary restrictions.

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Setting Goals in 2016

We are a month into 2016 and many well intentioned gym goers abound with resolutions are beginning to waver.

Sure it is convenient to blame to the recent cold snap or mounting work and scholastic responsibilities for missed workouts, but the harsh reality is most people don’t set proper goals. Some set the bar too high only to end up discouraged, whereas others focus solely on outcomes instead of appreciating the process.

Research has shown that nearly 80% of those who embark on a fitness program at the beginning of the year end up quitting by February. Recognizing the harrowing trend of attrition and the needs to ease the minds and build the bodies of Drexel’s population, the Drexel Recreation Center and Proactive Health have teamed up to offer interactive instructional workshops which cover goal setting and exercise programming.

On Tuesday, January 26th, over 30 members of the Drexel community attended a workshop facilitated by Proactive Health personal trainers, Maty Brennan and Joe Giandonato.

“It’s imperative that we educate people on the importance of goal setting,” says Giandonato, who leads the personal training team and oversees fitness programs at the Drexel Recreation Center.

“This workshop was aimed at helping attendees identify needs so they are better able to understand their strengths and weaknesses, be they attributed to resources or surroundings.” added Giandonato.

“There are things which can potentially detract from your goals while others can be leveraged to help you succeed.” concluded Brennan, a Drexel alumnus and member of the 2013 men’s soccer CAA Championship team.

Getting Fit in 2016 - A Healthier U Fitness Workshop

Rec Center staffers will next tackle women’s fitness. On Wednesday, February 10th, Giandonato and Melisa Gebizlioglu, a certified exercise physiologist will debunk common myths held by women which pervade the fitness industry. The benefits of strength training and strategies to manage stress will be discussed. The event, which is open to the public, will be held at noon in McAlister Hall’s Sky View Lounge.

For more information on upcoming workshops or offerings at the Rec Center, please contact Joe Giandonato at jag476@drexel.edu.

 

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A Fitter U Q&A: February 2016

A Fitter U Q&A: February 2016

Joe Giandonato, MBA, MS, CSCS

Manager of Health Promotion

Drexel Recreation Center

Drexel University’s resident health and wellness expert, Joe Giandonato continues to field questions each month from employees, students, and community members which addressing topics related to achieving and sustaining healthier lifestyles.

  1. “What time of day is the best to work out for fat loss?” – Ari K.

Principally, weight loss is dependent on creating an energy deficit, which is achieved through a combination of diet and physical activity. Popularly advocated strategies which offer more “pipe dream” promise than they do empirical evidence — such as fasted exercise and identifying certain times of the day to optimize hormonal functioning — should be viewed as snake-oil solutions. I outlined the shortcomings of fasted exercise here and here, a strategy akin to applying super glue to a house on the brink of collapsing. While more fat is oxidized during fasted exercise, more fat is broken down than is capable of being used for fuel. Unused free fatty acids are only reabsorbed by adipose tissue, meaning that fasted exercise translates to an endeavor which is fruitless and futile. Fat loss is the result of a caloric deficit facilitated by sounder training strategies, including resistance training and aerobic exercise. The time of day a person works out doesn’t matter all that much from a fat loss standpoint. However, it’s probably prudent to establish a consistent schedule in which exercise is performed at the same time each day. Fitness pundits claim that beginning your day with exercise boosts cognitive function and those start the day off with some sweat enjoy better outcomes.

  1. “Is it true that lemon water helps with digestion?” – Gerald D.

While ascorbic acid (which is found in bountiful amounts in lemons) has been long speculated in streamlining mineral absorption, no literature supports the consumption of lemon water in improving digestion. This trend originated from a haphazardly hatched theory that lemons, which contain citric acid, would contribute to the breakdown of foodstuffs in the digestive tract. I’d suggest scheduling a nutritional consultation with one of our registered dieticians who are aptly equipped with the knowledge and experience to clear this up as well as many other pervading dietary myths out there.

  1. “What is your stance on using ‘altitude masks’?” – Mike V.

On the surface, the use of altitude masks appears plausible. The masks, which conceal the mouth and nasal passage, and bear an uncanny resemblance to the lower half of the helmets donned by Star Wars storm troopers, are employed by athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike to simulate the effects of a training at higher altitudes.

As altitude increases, the atmospheric pressure and amount of oxygen decrease. At sea level, atmospheric pressure and oxygen content are at their respective baselines (1013.25 millibars and 21%) collectively enabling optimal hemoglobin saturation and subsequently streamlining the delivery of oxygenated blood to working muscles.

Acute exposure to higher altitudes evokes a litany of compensatory responses within the body. Hypoxic environments trigger sympathetic nervous system activity which facilitates increases in heart rate and respiration to sustain oxygen delivery in light of reduced atmospheric pressure and oxygen content. It is worth noting that maximal oxygen consumption decreases 1% per every 100 meters beyond an elevation of 1500 m. And since atmospheric pressure and oxygen content taper off precipitously at higher altitudes, prompting a surge in endothelial activity and systemic inflammation. Athletes with sickle cell trait, a congenital malady characterized by an amino acid substitution of hemoglobin within red blood cells, are at a greater risk of rhabdomyolysis, necrosis, and microcirculatory distress, a triumvirate which nearly proved fatal for former NFL safety Ryan Clark in a 2007 game in Denver.

Fortunately, there are ways to prepare for higher altitudes and prevent illnesses stemming from acute exposure. These measures do not require the purchase and use of an expensive mask.

The masked man laboring through interval sprints on the treadmill next to you and athletes donning masks in frequently released hyper videos are merely performing exercise in futility.

Let me explain. Training masks are routinely employed for anaerobic capacity work, such as circuit and interval training. But one of the first topics an exercise physiology text covers is the dichotomy between anaerobic and aerobic exercise. Anaerobic metabolism hinges on the contribution of two energy systems — phosphagen and glycolysis — which do not require oxygen. Aerobic metabolism on the other hand relies on oxygen for energy production. So essentially masked gym goers and athletes scaring the beejesus out of those around them with what amounts to be a mere fashion statement, incapable of deriving any palpable benefits.

Furthermore, altitude masks fall far short of replicating higher altitudes. Masks don’t alter the atmosphere pressure and composition of oxygen, they merely restrict breathing, thus reducing exercise capacity and potentially setting the stage for aberrant breathing patterns. And the last thing any serious athlete wants to do before they saddle up for a set of heavy squats is adopt the respiratory profile of an 80 year old ex-smoker with emphysema.

If you’re really serious about getting fitter, ditch the mask and if you don’t have one yet, don’t even entertain the notion of adding one. Instead consider implementing the strategies outlined below which will not only boost performance but also lengthen Benjamin Franklin’s wallet tenure.

  1. If you’re relocating to a higher altitude temporarily or permanently, be sure to acclimatize.

Research has indicated that an acclimatization period of 3 to 5 days helps ward off unsavory responses to high altitudes. Recent works have also postulated that gradual or lengthened acclimatization periods can help normalize cardiac output. If you reside in an ecologically diverse region which features mountainous terrain and a valley which is near or at sea-level, you can employ the “live high, train low” approach advocated by Levine and Peterson (1997) whereby an individual takes residence at a higher elevation and prepares and subsequently competes at lower altitudes. Prolonged exposure to higher altitudes coupled with consistent exercise will increase erythropoiesis, thus boosting red blood cells and blood plasma, enhancing oxygen delivery to working muscles. Proliferation of mitochondrial and capillary structures is also noted, as is an increase of aerobic enzymes which collectively elevate aerobic metabolism during exercise. Which is probably whey the US Olympic Training Center is located in Colorado.

  1. Wear a mouth guard.

Wearing a mouth guard is critically important for those participating in contact or combat sports or those suffering from nighttime bruxism. But protecting your pearly whites isn’t the only reason why athletes should wear them. Mouth guards help reinforce proper breathing, potentially reduce respiratory alkalosis, and as reported by Garner, Dudgeon, and McDivitt (2011), suppress blood cortisol levels which hamper protein synthesis and subsequent recovery.

  1. Reconsider your carbohydrate intake.

It has been well established that carbohydrates are robustly capable of powering and prolonging intense physical activity. Carbohydrate consumption prior to exercise has been shown to improve exercise performance and exercise tolerance while diminishing fatigue and perceptions of effort (Efthimiou et al., 1992). Ample carbohydrate intake will keep muscle glycogen levels topped off thus facilitating consistent exercise frequency and performance.

References

Efthimiou, J., Mounsey, P.J., Benson, D.N., Madgwick, R., Coles, S.J., & Benson, M.K. (1992). Effect of carbohydrate rich versus fat rich loads on gas exchange and walking performance in patients with chronic obstructive lung disease. Thorax,  47, 451-456.

Garner, D.P., Dudgeon, W.D., & McDivitt, E.J. (2011). The effects of mouthpiece use on cortisol levels during an intense bout of resistance exercise. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25, 2866-2871.

Levine, B.D. & Stray-Gunderson, J. (1997). “Living high-training low”: effect of moderate-altitude acclimatization with low-altitude training on performance. Journal of Applied Physiology, 83, 102-112.

Joe will also field any questions related to programs and services at jag476@drexel.edu. You may also ask for him at the Member Services desk, which is located in the lobby of the Rec Center.

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A Fitter U Q&A: January 2016

Joe Giandonato, MBA, MS, CSCS

Manager of Health Promotion

Drexel University

Drexel University’s resident fitness expert, Joe Giandonato will be fielding questions each month from employees, students, and members and addressing topics related to strength training, weight loss, injury prevention, and health education.

  1. “Is it true that it’s good to have a cheat day at least once and week? And if so, can you eat whatever you want?” – Sadie K.

The timeless adage of “cheaters never prosper[ing]” does not necessarily apply to dieters and debatably to the New England Patriots, who allegedly won four Super Bowl titles beneath the guise of two notable scandals.

Although their alleged schemes may have deprived the Philadelphia Eagles a Super Bowl victory, cheating, won’t necessarily hamper the achievement of weight loss and body composition goals among well-intentioned dieters.

Cheating on a diet is actually capable of yielding a chockfull of benefits, which notably include: replenishing fuel substrates, namely muscle glycogen and giving you a respite from dietary rigidity which can potentially lend itself to burnout. Literature also suggests that cheating can stave off catabolism following prolonged energy restriction and intense exercise and actually promote anabolism or muscle repair and growth.

But in order to mitigate potential collateral costs of cheating and optimize its effectiveness, it is imperative that the dieter establish self-efficacy, or the sense of self and attendant know-how and confidence to willfully engage in a specific behavior. Self-efficacy has been established as a key determinant in adherence to exercise and nutrition programs and successful outcomes.

Let’s not magnify its importance. At the most, cheating should be viewed as a “just in case, break glass” strategy and used sparingly, provided that sound nutritional habits have been already cemented.

Haphazard cheating can evoke compensatory behavior. Kouchaki and colleagues (2014) observed that individuals with less dietary discretion were more likely to carry heavier backpacks than those who snacked light and healthy.

Carrot dangling via reward meals is not a wise approach for those who engage in healthy behaviors, including clean eating and exercise. While Williams (2014) noted rewarding with food can increase motivation it may potentially muddle energy balance (Wei et al, 2015). And since food intake is influenced by a litany of factors including hedonic, reward-related facets like palatability, motivation, learned associations and cues, and mediated by orexigenic hormones like ghrelin, has been to shown to drive the those factors, it’s probably in your best interests to consult one of our registered dieticians who can help you map out a comprehensive program, so cheat meals don’t evolve into full blown binge benders.

References

Kouchaki, M., Gino, F., & Jami, A. (2014). The burden of guilt: heavy backpacks, light snacks, and enhanced morality. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 143, 414-424.

van der Vinne, V., Akkerman, J., Lanting, G.D., Riede, S.J., & Hut, R.A. (2015). Food reward without a timing component does not alter the timing of activity under positive energy balance. Neuroscience, 304, 260-265.

Wei, X.J., Sun, B., Chen, K., Lv, B., Luo, X., Yan, J.Q. (2015). Ghrelin signaling in the ventral tegmental area mediates both reward-based feeding and fasting-induced hyperphagia on high-fat diet. Neuroscience, 300, 53-62.

Williams, D.L. (2014). Neural integration of satiation and food reward: role of GLP-1 and orexin pathways. Physiology and Behavior, 136, 194-199.

  1. “I hate cardio, but I feel like it’s the most effective way to lose weight/fat. Is there an alternative to cardio that will give you the same results in the same amount of time?” – Joel F.

What if I said that you could build a better body by devoting those efforts to another modality in far less time? You can, here’s how: adopt strength training.

Cyclical, steady state cardiovascular exercise is not indicated for everyone, especially those with certain musculoskeletal injuries. For example, a person wanting to shed 20-30 excess pounds with weaker ankles and/or knees should initially avoid logging hours on the treadmill as it will only exacerbate underlying muscular imbalances.

Strength training has been shown to evoke a more profound metabolic response than traditional steady state cardiovascular exercise. This response, or excess post exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), also known as the “afterburn effect” churns through your body’s energy in an attempt to restore it back to its pre-exercise state. Research shows that your body’s metabolism is heightened for 24-72 hours following strength training.

And strength training foments robust acute and long-term hormonal secretion and prompts bone growth, since bone, like muscle, is loaded during resistance training.

Strength training also elevates anaerobic threshold, which has been identified as an indicator of performance during endurance based pursuits, and improves neural efficiency of muscles begetting improved walking, running, and cycling economy.

I’m not advocating that you abandon cardio, instead, I’d rather you invest your time and efforts in strength training. I’d like to see you substitute two of the days you do cardio with strength training. Report back to me on how you feel and how your body looks in a couple of months. But before you get started, I’d highly suggest supplicating the assistance of one our fitness specialists to help you create an individualized program to suit your needs and aimed to achieve your goals.

  1. “How often should you change up your workout routine? Why?” – Janelle Y.

While no consensus exists germane to changing or modifying your program, it is essential that you build in progressive overload which accounts for increasing frequency and intensity, although not concurrently, and varying the time (duration) and type of exercise. Doing so will promote continued progress, help ward off overuse injuries and overtraining, and keep things fun and fresh. Need some ideas? Drop by our Member Services desk between 10:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday and between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. on Fridays and ask to speak to one of our fitness specialists.

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Holiday Survival Guide

Holiday Survival Guide

Joe Giandonato, MBA, MS, CSCS

Manager of Health Promotion

Drexel Recreation Center

The holidays are quickly descending upon us. Travel ramps up this time of the year as do indiscriminant retail transactions. Relatives enter the fray — in-laws who use this time to armchair quarterback your lives and the token strange distant relative (usually, an uncle or cousin who arrives to your house empty handed and empty stomached. And let’s not forget the pound packing dreadful junk food and alcohol binges many of us fall victim too thusly eroding our progress on our summer beach bodies while launching us into the stratosphere of cardiometabolic disease.

With 100 million Americans taking it to the road this Christmas, according to a recent AAA report, it is imperative that you:

Wear a seat belt!

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report revealed that 58% of traffic fatalities were of persons not wearing a seatbelt. The agency also reported that seat belts saved nearly 63,000 lives from 2008 to 2012.

Unrestrained drivers are often thrown around the vehicle and increase their likelihood of being ejected from the vehicle during a motor vehicle collision, ultimately resulting in significant or catastrophic injuries.

Plan ahead.

Fuel prices have been dropping precipitously serving as an ancillary impetus to increased travel. Congested roads necessitates more time being devoted to commuting. Commuters should plan ahead — researching trouble spots (construction, bottlenecks, convoluted asphalt spaghetti entanglements, et cetera) located within areas in which they are traveling. Doing so will contribute to eliminating the compulsory need to speed when time is scarce. Also, diligently plan your pit stops to stave off sudden impulses to shop, dine, or sightsee which can potentially throw a wrench in your travel plans and delay arrival to your destination. All stops should be accounted for in advance to ensure that your trip remains timely and safe.

Don’t drive distracted.

Save the texts for the inevitable awkward moments encountered at dinner time or when you aren’t participating in a gift exchange. Only make calls when absolutely necessary, such as spotting an impaired driver (more on that next) or a pack of stranded motorists. Activities which have almost nothing to do with operating a motor vehicle, such as texting, talking on the phone, and fidgeting with navigation, reduce attentional focus and impair reaction time. On the road, fractions of a second can mark the difference between life and death. If you are tech dependent, here are a few tips for safer commute:

– Enter coordinates on navigation devices BEFORE and not while driving.

– If applicable, enable Bluetooth functions (available in many late model cars) to handle phone calls, text messages, and music.

– Alternatively, designate someone (i.e. the unlucky hack sitting shotgun) as a navigator/secretary/dee jay.

Don’t drink and drive.

Yes, driving drunk kills people (over 10,000 in 2013), but driving while illegally under the influence can earn you an arrest record and delivering a “roundhouse right” to your wallet. As such, you’ll want to know the numbers before testing your limits. See below for tips:

– A blood alcohol content of 0.08 is the legal threshold in most states — the point at which cognitive functioning and reactivity are markedly affected

– A male weighing 200 lbs can exceed that limit with only (4) drinks — a drink can be classified as one of the following: 1.25 oz of 80 proof liquor, 12 oz of beer, or 5 oz of wine

– A female weighing 140 pounds can exceed that limit with only (2) drinks

Don’t drive tired or if possible, during inclement weather.

Driving tired or during bad weather heightens the risk of motor vehicle collisions. If you’re tired, try to take a brief nap, eat, or engage in light physical activity to wake up and if heavy fog rolls in or a sudden downpour of rain floods your windshield, wait it out.

Once travel strategies have been headed off. Slow down your spending as the holidays near. You’ll need to account for increased utility consumption and unexpected expenses such as HVAC and car issues which conveniently emerge at this time of year. If you’re hosting, you may need to cover significantly higher grocery bills and if you are traveling or taking extended vacation time, it will be helpful to have more disposable cash assets. And if you do end up engaging in some last minute shopping, make sure that you conceal your cargo from the preying eyes of thieves. Place gifts in generic bags and beneath blankets and piles of clothes, eliminating them from plain view.

If you are expecting undesirable relatives or if your 400 square foot efficiency cannot accommodate grandma, guide them to short term rentals offered through Airbnb and HotelTonight home sharing portals.

And if you’re trying to ward off weight gain during the holidays, consider the following two tips.

Pack snacks and plan meals.

If you’re looking to save calories (and money) while on the road or lodging, consider packing healthy snacks instead of putting yourself in the hunger fueled predicament of having to raid convenience store candy aisles and chip towers on impulse. Healthy snacks can include an assortment of fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, trail mix, sugar free candies and gum. You may also pack perishable items, including pre-cooked meals in coolers, which can be heated at rest stops or at hotels. Or if you enjoy dining out and have the extra money for it, do some research in advance on which restaurants serve healthy food along your commute or during your visit.

Incorporate some sort of physical activity each day.

While your daily workout program may be interrupted by ever changing surroundings and resources and muddled by logistics, it’s imperative that you engage in some form of physical activity each day. Most of the US has experienced a very mild winter. If it’s nice out, take a walk or join the kids and pets and play outside. And if you’re snowed in and coming down with a case of cabin fever, give these circuits a whirl. Alternatively, if there are gyms nearby, call them in advance and inform them that you will be in town for a few days. They may grant you complimentary access or sell you daily or weekly passes to accommodate you during your brief stay.

Doing something each day will reinforce healthy behavior and help you establish a semblance of regularity and consistency hitherto the new year and everything that is apt to accompany it (i.e. inclement weather, increasing work responsibilities, et cetera).

To a healthy and happy holiday and a wonderful and prosperous new year,

Joe

Brian Rugghia contributed to this report.

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A Fitter U Q&A: December 2015

A Fitter U Q&A: December 2015

Joe Giandonato, MBA, MS, CSCS

Manager of Health Promotion

Drexel Recreation Center

Drexel University’s resident health and wellness expert, Joe Giandonato continues to field questions each month from employees, students, and community members which addressing topics related to achieving and sustaining healthier lifestyles.

  1. Many of my colleagues are investing in standing desks. What are the benefits of standing desks and is it a worthy investment? – Anonymous

Research has demonstrated that standing desks encompass a litany of benefits, ranging from increasing productivity to suppressing healthcare costs. Numerous medical and public health authorities have articulated the deleterious implications of sedentarism in the work place. The term sedentarism originates from the Latin word “sedere” which literally means “to sit” and its action, or lack thereof has engulfed countless lives. Sedentary behavior which is classified as any waking activity equal to or less than 1.5 metabolic equivalents (METs) or resting metabolic rate and typified by a seated, slouched, or reclining position has been linked to musculoskeletal ailments, specifically lower back pain and neck pain. Further, recent reports which investigated occupational health established a distinct correlation between the duration spent sitting and mortality risk. For each hour spent sitting, all-cause mortality risk increases 2%, for those spending more than (7) hours per day, that number jumps an additional 5%.

While the emergence and ubiquity of technological advances have contributed to sedentary time, so do longer commute times via motor vehicle or public transit which adds even more sitting to workdays which are predominantly performed from a seated position. Reports have revealed that a typical office worker spends 1/3 to 3/4 of their workdays while sitting.

A recent study indicated that individuals who meet and/or exceed the weekly recommended minimum amount of physical activity can fall prey to the ails of being inactive throughout the balance of the week. Additionally, prolonged sitting has implicated in fomenting a host of conditions, including: hypercholesterolemia, metabolic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, and anxiety. Research has also suggested that individuals who spend more time sitting are more susceptible to develop cancer. Increased risk among women was reported at 37%, while an increase of 17% was noted among men. Inactive women are more susceptible to cancer as inactivity in conjunction with or without a balanced diet, elevate the development and enlargement of fat cells thus triggering greater estrogen production. Heightened estrogen production is linked to cervical, ovarian, and breast cancers.

Considering the aforementioned risks associated with sitting and the increased productivity which accompanies standing desk, I would deem the investment a worthy one.

However, I should preface that standing for long periods of time carries some downsides as well. The best posture is one that dynamic and ever-changing and the addition of a standing workstation will help facilitate and encourage movement throughout the workday.

  1. Although it might seem odd, I often suffer with stress and depression during the winter months. Is this a legitimate condition or a mere myth? – Mark B.

The shorter days, impending winter chills, and compounding occupational and familial obligations which cruelly converge at this time of the year are certainly capable of rendering a person “down in the dumps”, however, they could potentially be cloaking a serious form of depression — seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Seasonal affective disorder, a confluence of biological and psychological disturbances dovetailed with a change in season, particularly a remission of warmer weather, affects roughly 5% of the US population. Symptoms range from the relatively innocuous of feeling groggy and irritated to behaviors that could potentially serve as a gateway to metabolic disease, including intense food cravings to compensate for an actual or perceived energy deficit.

These symptoms are largely attributable to alterations in within the body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, which regulates energy. Reductions in light during the winter can cause serotonin levels to drop and disrupt the secretion of the body’s sleep hormone, melatonin. And since many with SAD overeat and are apt to avoid exercise, oxygen consumption is also lowered which may conserve energy and contribute to additional weight gain.

Fortunately, SAD is a highly treatable condition, demonstrating good outcomes when targeted with cognitive behavioral therapy, “light therapy”, and physical activity. While it is best to consult your physician if you suspect seasonal affective disorder, merely incorporating light exercise, if you aren’t already, or sitting at or near a window during the day at work or school may alleviate symptoms. It could also be of benefit to establish a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and rise at the same time each day irrespective of your daily schedule to help reset your body’s internal clock.

LINCOLN

(Pictured above). An ewok’s somnolence.

References

Kurlansik, S.L. & Ibay, A.D. (2012). Seasonal affective disorder. American Family Physician, 86, 1037-1041.

Nussbaumer, B., Kaminski-Hartenthaler, A., Forneris, C.A., Morgan, L.C., Sonis, J.H., Gaynes, B.N., Greenblatt, A., Wipplinger, J., Lux, L.J., Winkler, D., Van Noord, M.G., Hofmann, J., & Gartlehner, G. (2015). Light therapy for preventing seasonal affective disorder. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. [Epub ahead of print].

Pinchasov, B.B., Grischin, O.V., & Putilov, A.A. (2002). Rate of oxygen consumption in seasonal and non-seasonal depression. World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, 3, 101-104.

  1. I’ve never been a member of a gym, but this year I’ve finally decided to join one. What should I look for to be sure I make the right choice? – Anna F.

Your initiative and enthusiasm is laudatory, however, not finding a gym which is the right fit can pose a detriment to health and fitness goals. As such, I have listed a number of pertinent factors which can help you refine your search.

  1. Location

Location is key. Joining a gym that is too far from home or work complicates logistics only dampens the desire to workout. Fortunately, the Recreation Center is nestled within Drexel’s bustling University City campus, offering generous discounted rates on memberships and services for employees and nearby corporate partners.

  1. Hours

Whether you’re a lark, night owl, or weekend warrior, our hours of operation will suit your needs. Few facilities in the area are open until midnight and maintain longer hours on the weekends.

  1. Amenities

Comprehensive aquatics center? Check. Basketball courts. Check. Indoor track. Check. The latest and top of the line cardiovascular and strength training equipment. Again, check. Climbing wall…our offerings are seemingly endless in comparison to virtually every facility in the Philadelphia-area. And we offer best in class personal training, massage therapy, and nutrition counseling services through our Proactive Health Services division.

  1. Atmosphere

Ambience and decor are capable of impacting your workout experience. Our 82,500 square foot facility is encased with floor to ceiling length glass panels which provide an arresting view of the Philadelphia skyline and the web of streets below which innervate it. And for eco-conscious people, like myself, its a bonus knowing that the Recreation Center was awarded a 3 Green Globes designation, meaning that it has demonstrated leadership in energy and environmental efficiency and is committed to continual improvement. In 2013, the building was recognized as the 11th most energy efficient facility in the nation by Club Industry Magazine. Further, our atmosphere is inundated with diversity — students, staff, faculty, community members, and individuals representing nearly every age group are working side by side as they conquer challenges and accomplish their health and fitness goals.

  1. Added Value

While $10 per month gym memberships seems enticing very rarely do they provide any discernible value. Before you clog your key chain with another barcode tag, consider what the gym offers and know that low cost does not equate to higher value.

Joe will also field any questions related to programs and services at jag476@drexel.edu. You may also ask for him at the Member Services desk, which is located in the lobby of the Rec Center.

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Thanksgiving Travel Tips

Thanksgiving Travel Tips

Joe Giandonato, MBA, MS, CSCS

Manager of Health Promotion

Drexel Recreation Center

The nation’s arterial system of roads, rails, and runways will soon be clogged with millions of Americans zig-zagging throughout the country to reunite with relatives over a festive Turkey meal. AAA estimates that 47 million Americans will be traveling at least 50 miles from home over the Thanksgiving holiday. The tips provided below will help you safely navigate to and from your destination.

  1. Save your life and wear a seat belt!

The days surrounding Thanksgiving comprise a significant proportion of traffic related fatalities. During the 2013 Thanksgiving holiday weekend (6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 27th to 5:59 a.m. on Monday, December 2nd, 301 people were killed in traffic accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 58% of those who perished were not wearing their seatbelts. The agency also reported that seat belts saved nearly 63,000 lives from 2008 to 2012.

Unrestrained drivers are often thrown around the vehicle and increase their likelihood of being ejected from the vehicle during a motor vehicle collision, ultimately resulting in significant or catastrophic injuries.

And while it’s highly unlikely that a seat belt will save you from a stratospheric free fall of tens of thousands of feet, they can certainly prevent the bumps and bruises caused by turbulence and taxiing on crowded runways.

  1. Plan ahead.

AAA has recently predicted that roadways will be traversed by the highest volume of traffic in a nearly a decade due to record low fuel prices. Congested roads necessitates more time being devoted to commuting. Commuters should plan ahead — researching trouble spots (construction, bottlenecks, convoluted asphalt spaghetti entanglements, et cetera) located within areas in which they are traveling. Doing so will contribute to eliminating the compulsory need to speed when time is scarce. Also, diligently plan your pit stops to stave off sudden impulses to shop, dine, or sightsee which can potentially throw a wrench in your travel plans and delay arrival to your destination. All stops should be accounted for in advance to ensure that your trip remains timely and safe.

  1. Don’t drive distracted.

Save the texts for the inevitable awkward moments encountered at family or neighborhood barbeques and only make calls when absolutely necessary, such as spotting a drunk driver (more on that next) or a pack of stranded motorists. Activities which have almost nothing to do with operating a motor vehicle, such as texting, talking on the phone, and fidgeting with navigation, reduce attentional focus and impair reaction time. On the road, fractions of a second can mark the difference between life and death. If you are tech dependent, here are a few tips for safer commute:

– Enter coordinates on navigation devices BEFORE and not while driving.

– If applicable, enable Bluetooth functions (available in many late model cars) to handle phone calls, text messages, and music.

– Alternatively, designate someone (i.e. the unlucky hack sitting shotgun) as a navigator/secretary/dee jay.

  1. Don’t drink and drive.

Yes, driving drunk kills people (over 10,000 in 2013), but driving while illegally under the influence can earn you an arrest record and delivering a “roundhouse right” to your wallet. As such, you’ll want to know the numbers before testing your limits. See below for tips:

– A blood alcohol content of 0.08 is the legal threshold in most states — the point at which cognitive functioning and reactivity are markedly affected

– A male weighing 200 lbs can exceed that limit with only (4) drinks — a drink can be classified as one of the following: 1.25 oz of 80 proof liquor, 12 oz of beer, or 5 oz of wine

– A female weighing 140 pounds can exceed that limit with only (2) drinks

  1. Don’t drive tired or if possible, during inclement weather.

Driving tired or during bad weather heightens the risk of motor vehicle collisions. If you’re tired, try to take a brief nap, eat, or engage in light physical activity to wake up and if heavy fog rolls in or a sudden downpour of rain floods your windshield, wait it out.

  1. Pack snacks and plan meals.

I’m in the business of wellness, therefore, it’s almost compulsory that I include a tip related healthy behaviors. If you’re looking to save calories (and money), consider packing healthy snacks instead of putting yourself in the hunger fueled predicament of having to raid a convenience store candy aisles and chip towers on impulse. Healthy snacks can include an assortment of fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, trail mix, sugar free candies and gum. You may also pack perishable items, including pre-cooked meals in coolers, which can be heated at rest stops. Or if you enjoy dining out and have the extra money for it, do some research in advance on which restaurants serve healthy food along your commute.

Travel safe!

Brian Rugghia contributed to this report.

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A Fitter U Q&A: November 2015

A Fitter U Q&A: November 2015

Joe Giandonato, MBA, MS, CSCS

Manager of Health Promotion

Drexel University

Drexel University’s resident fitness expert, Joe Giandonato continues to field questions each month from employees, students, and members and addressing topics related to strength training, weight loss, injury prevention, and health education.

 

  1. “I work in law enforcement and was wondering, could I benefit from exercise?” – Anonymous

Let me start off by expressing my gratitude for your service. It requires immense bravery to work in law enforcement, especially during these turbulent times. However, the possession of a continuum of fitness qualities coupled with sufficient movement capacity as well as biomotor skills and their immediate expression are pivotal to performance and in some scenarios, crucial to survival. Lesser fit law enforcement officers can be a greater liability on the job and a number of studies involving law enforcement officers have reported correlations between fitness levels and on the job performance (Beck et al, 2015), stress levels (Ramey, 2003), and absenteeism and healthcare costs (Steinhardt et al, 1991).

It should be noted that the nature of law enforcement jobs pose monumental logistical challenges as it pertains to incorporating exercise.

Many police officers work irregular shifts which is associated with increased body mass index and greater prevalence of obesity. Further, shift work disrupts circadian rhythms and is theorized to constrain metabolic functioning. Undulating work schedules inordinately impact the ability to regularly engage in activities of sport and recreation, leading to greater levels on inactivity among shift workers and predictably an energy imbalance which invites the onset of various, yet largely preventable conditions, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancers.

Also, the varied and unpredictable tasks associated with law enforcement jobs may prompt reluctance to engage in intense physical activity. Fatigue, whether immediate or residual, of central or peripheral origin, is capable of affecting the mechanical machinery of the neuromusculoskeletal system, ostensibly impacting the ability to display strength, speed, power, muscular endurance, and cardiorespiratory stamina.

Fortunately, substantial improvements in fitness qualities, movement capacity, and body composition can be yielded through regular participation in physical activity.

However, a few provisions should be ascribed to if sustained improvements are desired.

  1. Manage fatigue by adhering to the rules of progressive overload. The flawed mantra of “go hard or go home” championed by many disillusioned fitness pundits need not apply to creation and implementation of fitness programs for law enforcement officers. Instead, exercise should be “too easy” when initially embarking on a program. Intensity, volume, and frequency of exercise should be progressed gradually as to not incur debilitating fatigue. The type, or modality of exercise selected should hinge on a person’s current degree of movement and work capacity.

As it relates to the nitty gritty of performance training, know that fatigue is the enemy of motor learning. If you wish to improve your ability to move or perform a given exercise, such as an Olympic lift or agility exercise, which entails a litany of neurological pathways, it’d be prudent to insert that movement in the beginning of your workout. Also, know that exercises with an accentuated eccentric component (i.e. overcoming gravity just enough to overcome the downward descent of the object — whether it be a barbell, dumbbell, or your body — invokes greater peripheral fatigue through heightened mechanical tension (a stretched or contracted muscle under load) and the production of a torrent of fatigue inducing metabolites, which prominently includes lactate. Eccentric exercise is also known to perpetuate delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, which has the potential to interfere with subsequent workouts and moreover, hinder your ability to perform at your highest level on the job.

  1. Set priorities from the start. Immediately determine what physiological attributes are deficient and need improvement. For example, if you struggled to handcuff someone recently, you may be lacking strength. Devote your energy and focus to build it. Just as importantly, assess the trajectory of your long term health by identifying current health issues impacted by lifestyle and heredity. For instance, if an abundance of your kin suffers from cardiovascular disease, clean up your eating and populate your daily schedule with aerobic exercise.
  1. Think sustainability. Finding a consistent training partner may be difficult with rotating shifts and varying work assignments. Further, competitive sports, particularly contact and strength sports, may not be an option at this point in your life due to competing demands and the cumulative wear and tear on aging bodies. Arrive at a compromise and find something that is a blend of convenient, fun, and productive. It is imperative that physical activity, among a number of healthy behaviors be established, as the average post-retirement lifespan of a law enforcement officer is approximately five years (Bullock, 2007).

Now if you wish to eliminate the guesswork which accompanies exercise, our team of fitness specialists can address that by customizing a program to your specific needs and goals. We provide generous discounts to all public and emergency services personnel.

References

Atkinson, G., Fullick, S., Grindey, C., Maclaren, D., & Waterhouse, J. (2008). Exercise, energy balance and the shift worker. Sports Medicine, 38, 671-685.

Beck, A.Q., Clasey, J.L., Yates, J.W., Koebke, N.C., Palmer, T.G., & Abel, M.G. (2015). Relationship of physical fitness measures versus occupational physical ability in campus law enforcement officers. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 29, 2340-2350.

Bullock, T. (2007). Police officer injury study. VML Insurance Programs Law Enforcement Newsletter, 1(2).

Ramey, S.L. (2003). Cardiovascular disease risk factors and the perception of general health among male law enforcement officers: encouraging behavioral change. Journal of the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses, 51, 219-226.

Steinhardt, M., Greenhow, L., & Stewart, J. (1991). The relationship of physical activity and cardiovascular fitness to absenteeism and medical care claims among law enforcement officers. American Journal of Health Promotion, 5, 455-460.

  1. “I am an alumnus of Drexel University, class of 1988. I heard that Drexel’s gym is open to the public. What do you guys offer and how are you different from the rest of the gyms I have belonged to?” – Anonymous

Thank you for your question and readership. Not knowing what facilities you belonged to in the past, it would be hard to draw a comparison to our facility, which opened in 2010 and became available to the public in 2013. However, what separates our facility from your typical gym is our integration and leveraging of university resources, such as academic programs, multiple divisions and departments, and arguably our most valuable assets — the students and faculty — in the creation and implementation of programs and services.

Institutional support in combination with our growing membership base provides us the financial resources vital to offering best-in-class facilities, equipment, and services. And since we don’t solely rely on customer revenue as a majority of gyms are, you will never haggle with a fast talking salesperson, nor are you likely to experience substandard customer service — an aspect most for profit commercial clubs neglect as they chase sales.

Our facility boasts the latest strength training and cardiovascular exercise equipment, an indoor track which encircles a 13,000 square foot maplewood multipurpose court, an expansive aquatics facility, nearly 60 group exercise classes, personal training, massage, nutrition counseling, and onsite physical therapy. Not to mention, how many “gyms” feature a certified therapy dog?

To find out more about our vast array of offerings and amenities, check out this video headlined by Bryan Ford, Director of Recreation, a Drexel grad himself.

  1. “What are some benefits and dangers of creatine supplements?” – Sudheep K.

To date, no supplements have been more widely studied than creatine, a nitrogenous naturally occurring organic compound which is comprised of three amino acids — glycine, methionine, and arginine.

Creatine, which is found in animal products, is shuttled to muscle cells when consumed, where it is reported to increase phosphocreatine levels up to 20% (Hultman et al, 1996). It should be noted that brief, intense exercise such as bouts of resistance training lasting more than few seconds greatly deplete phosphocreatine levels equating to lessened anaerobic performance (i.e. lower power outputs, reductions in strength, slower sprinting performance).

Creatine supplementation has demonstrated improvements in muscular strength and anaerobic capacity as well as promoting lean body mass and helping to prevent injury.

Yes it’s effective, but it doesn’t need to be locked away in a shelf as the fear mongering media and legions of soccer moms would lead you to believe.

Kreider and colleagues (2003) revealed that long-term creatine usage (up to nearly two years) did not alter biochemical markers of health among athletes. No significant changes were noted in muscle and liver enzyme numbers, electrolyte levels, lipid profiles, and lymphocytic production.

While creatine doesn’t pose any obvious dangers, more is not necessarily better as it relates to dosing.

Daily doses may range from 10 to 20g per day and are suggested not to exceed 25g per day due to evidence of diminishing returns (Hultman et al, 1996).

If you have any concerns regarding creatine, consult your physician. Once given the green light, expect to reap the rewards of improved performance increased resistance to injury and heightened recoverability.

References

Hultman, E., Soderlund, K., Timmons, J.A., Cederblad, G., & Greenhaff, P.L. (1996). Muscle creatine loading in man. Journal of Applied Physiology, 81, 232-237.

Kreider, R.B., Melton, C., Rasmussen, C.J., Greenwood, M., Lancaster, S., Cantler, E.C., Milnor, P., & Almada, A.L. (2003). Long-term creatine supplementation does not significantly affect clinical markers of health in athletes. Mollecular and Cellular Biochemistry, 244, 95

Have a question for Joe? Contact him directly at jag476@drexel.edu. If your question is chosen, you’ll receive a $25 gift certificate for personal training services through Proactive Health.

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