Will That Machine Help Me?
Home Gym Hints
Television ads, holiday gift giving, and the return of frigid temperatures brings out the “What cardio machine should I purchase for my home?” question. Is it the bike with an internet trainer, the fat blasting high intensity elliptical trainer, or the Euro designed Nordic ski machine? Many of these units sell for over $3000 and they wish to choose wisely. Most of the questioners have no experience with any of these gizmos. I have some pre-purchase questions they need to answer before buying that expensive cardio machine.
Can you currently walk for thirty minutes without stopping to rest?
If you answer no to that question, do not bother purchasing a treadmill, bike, or elliptical unit. Focus all of your efforts on developing the strength and skill necessary to walk for thirty minutes without resting. If pain is a limitation, get to the physical therapy clinic and resolve the problem. Walking is the essential neuromuscular activity that keeps a body healthy and out of the assisted living center. Leaning over on a treadmill, elliptical trainer, or recumbent bike is very likely to worsen those walking woes.
Do you have a prior history of consistent exercise?
Just owning a new high-tech training machine will not make you thinner or fitter. You must use the machine three or four days a week for the next year. Many people believe that locating the machine in the dwelling will jump-start the exercise habit. If you answer no to this question, I have concerns that you will not develop a relationship with your internet connected mechanical friend.
Is fat loss the primary reason you are purchasing the home exercise machine?
The fat loss the exercise motto everyone needs to learn is; “familiarity breeds failure”. The human body is a master at adapting to a physical stress and the forty-five minute spin class that burns 440 calories in February only consumes 180 calories in August. The sad truth is that the same amount of exercise time and effort produces a weaker fat loss response. The crucial components for fat loss are long duration meal preparation and high intensity portion awareness. After you get those under control, progress to activities that you find challenging (difficult, not good at, loath, hate) and change the training modality on a frequent basis. Using the same exercise device month after month will not produce optimal results.
Michael O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
Health and Ergonomic Assist Gift That Get Used
I have some fitness and health promoting ergonomic gift recommendations for the 2016 holiday season. I have used all of these products and have been happy with the results. Most can be purchased on line and this allows you to devote more time to a fitness program. In the tradition of all great holiday shoppers, I like to get one for me and another to give.
Giving a healthy holiday gift is easy at Fenton Fitness and Athletic Center. Our Christmas gift certificates can be used for any of the training programs at the club. Team training classes and personal training packages make great gifts. Numerous studies have shown that individuals who utilize professional guidance are more successful in reaching fitness goals. No one performs exercises correctly after only one training session. You need ongoing evaluation and progression on proper exercise performance. Older and physically limited individuals need the assistance of a trainer more than any other group. Our team of trainers and physical therapists can help everyone reach their fitness goals.
Jungle Gym XT Suspension Trainer
The creation of user-friendly suspension trainers set off a mini revolution in fitness. If you go into a fitness center and they do not have multiple suspension trainers readily available, you need to find a new gym. The Lifeline Jungle Gym XT is an elegantly simple and extremely versatile device that should be a part of every home gym. Suspension trainer exercises can be scaled to any level of fitness and are a valuable weapon in our fight against age, injury, and occupational stress. At $90.00, the Jungle Gym XT wins the price war and, in my experience, it has worked well in both commercial and clinical conditions.
Aerocart by Worx
Gardening and landscaping activities are responsible for many of the referrals to physical therapy. The afflicted gardener has tweaked a lower back or strained a knee after hoisting a heavy object or spending too much time slumped over the flowerbeds. A single ergonomic tool can help remedy both of those problems. The Aerocart from Worx is a gardener’s Swiss Army Knife. It functions as a lightweight wheelbarrow, handcart, rock lifter, snow plow, pull wagon, and gardening stool. The Aerocart costs $140 and you can get a snow plow- my favorite- and the wagon attachments for another $100. I have used this tool to push snow, haul firewood, rearrange rocks, and move soil. The fact that the bucket does not hold mega volume prevents a user from overloading his spine. This device will extend the gardening career of the avid weed puller on your Christmas list.
All Purpose Bands From Perform Better
One of the best strength training devices is a set of the All Purpose Bands. These bands are sturdy dipped latex products made by Lifeline. They have two handles on one end and a loop system that makes them easy to anchor in either a closed door or around a stable upright device. All Purpose Bands can be used in a home gym set up, but my suggestion is that you anchor a set in a door at work and fight off the debilitating stress of all day sitting with some daily rowing, hip hinging, and scapula retraction exercises. A set of All Purpose Bands costs $25.00, and as your strength improves, you can purchase the next level of resistance in the series (light—purple, pink, orange, yellow, blue, black—strong) from performbetter.com.
Varidesk Conversion Desk
Human physiology was designed to function under the physical demands of standing and walking. Much of the now rampant obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome can be linked to our species’ sudden fall into sustained sitting. The health statistics on the damaging effects of sustained sitting are distressing.
I can think of no better health-promoting gift for a loved one than a sit to stand conversion desk. The product I have the most experience with is the Varidesk. It comes pre-assembled and has functioned flawlessly. It allows the user to sit for some portion of the day and gradually transition to greater time in the standing position. The Varidesk comes in a variety of sizes / set ups and costs $375 to $550.
My First Stand Up from Jaswig
The New York Times recently reprinted an article by Jane Brody, “Posture Affects Standing, and Not Just the Physical Kind.” In the article, Ms. Brody talks about how poor posture creates problems across multiple areas of physical and mental well-being. The respiratory, digestive, emotional, and neurological systems are all impacted by postural restrictions. You are even more likely to be a victim of crime if you have a slumped over posture. So how do you develop better posture?
My suggestion is to start with early intervention in the form of a standing workstation. The Belgian company Jaswig, has produced a standing desk for children. As the child grows, this adjustable wood desk travels with him. In our physical therapy clinics, we are seeing younger people with head, neck, and upper back pain problems related to poor posture. Mobile phones, laptops, tablets, and all the other “devices” are being used at earlier ages leading to the postural breakdown that usually occurs in later years of life. The My First Stand Up workstation from Jaswig (cost $379) is the early intervention answer.
PowerBlock Adjustable Dumbbell Set
Dumbbell training is one of the most effective forms of exercise. The big limitation of dumbbell training is the cost of buying a series of varying dumbbell weights and the space required to store 10 – 15 sets. The PowerBlock company has solved this problem. A set of PowerBlocks occupies less than three square feet of your home and, depending on the size you purchase, replaces 10 – 25 pairs of traditional dumbbells. I have put some heavy use on a set of PowerBlocks that I purchased in 1992. They have functioned flawlessly and show minimal wear. A beginner set of PowerBlocks (5-40 pounds) costs from $300 – $330 and you can add expansion sets as you get stronger. My thirteen-year old self would have loved to get a set of PowerBlocks for Christmas.
Most people have busy lives and limited time to devote to fitness. They want to get stronger, improve mobility, and maintain some degree of conditioning with minimal time commitment. For those people, I have a suggestion: Buy a Hyper Vest Pro and get to work.
I have used the Hyper Vest Pro for many years and can vouch for its durability. The comfort and overall function of the Hyper Vest Pro is impressive. The side lacing system makes the fit superior to other weight vest products. The individual weights are small and spread evenly over the front and back of the vest. Ten pounds of small steel plates are standard with the Hyper Vest Pro. I have found fitness clients do well with vest loads between five and twelve pounds. At $160, the Hyper Vest Pro is more expensive than other products, but the first rate fit and comfort make it worth the money. It is a great holiday present for the fitness fanatic on your shopping list.
If you consistently exercise, one of the best things you can do to enhance recovery between sessions is perform foam rolling soft tissue work. Combining foam roll work with mobility drills is the secret fitness ingredient that makes chronically tight individuals more flexible. The older you are, the harder you work, and the more frequently you train, the more you will benefit from the foam roll. I like the roller made by Trigger-Point (tptherapy.com). They come as a short, 13 inch version for $40.00 or the longer, 26 inch roller for $65.00.
-Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS
Fitness Freedom For All
This election marathon drones on, and neither of our present candidates has expressed an interest in the health or fitness of the average American citizen. “Making Americans Strong Again” is the slogan of my candidacy and this is my platform. All of these programs would cut the costs of health care, battle the obesity epidemic, and more equitably share the fitness wealth.
Triple the tax on all tobacco products. Nicotine is the most addictive chemical on the planet and it produces a tremendous burden on the American health care system. Use the tobacco tax dollars and the health care savings achieved with a reduction in the number of addicts to pay for all aspects of my program. Currently 19% of the USA population admits to smoking and conservative estimates are that tobacco users add another 210 billion dollars a year to our health care costs.
Outlaw every aspect of tobacco advertising–no exceptions. Tobacco is a horror that should have been dealt with years ago. Spend some time with a patient afflicted with esophageal, tonsil, tongue, or oral cancer and you will understand.
PHYSICAL LITERACY PROGRAMS
I thank Dr. John Ratey the author of the 2008 book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain for the Brain Function Equation.
Consistent Exercise + Healthy Metabolism = Better Mental Function
More of the brain is devoted to movement than language. If we wish to fully develop our intellectual capacity, we need to work on maintaining optimal “physical literacy”. Dr. Ratey has documented how school programs use consistent exercise to produce better test scores in all academic subjects.
The healthy metabolism portion of the above equation is driven by nutrition. Ask any coach who has worked on body composition goals with fitness clients and they will tell you that meal preparation is a lost art. Cooking classes, instruction on portion size, and how to use an appliance other than a microwave would go a long way to improve the average American’s health.
The government should support the participation of its citizens, young and old, in health promoting activities. The school systems are too stressed with the demands of teaching standardized math, science, and the latest version of history. Americans should be given a tax incentive or vouchers toward instructional classes and training programs that are supplied by private businesses. As physical literacy improves and the average citizen’s metabolism becomes healthier, perhaps we will become capable of picking better candidates.
America’s military readiness is impacted by the physical weakness of our citizens. It is estimated that only one in four Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 meet the requirements for service. The big barriers are obesity and fitness related health concerns such as hypertension and diabetes. The US Army and Navy scaled back the physical performance requirements and are still unable to find soldiers that can pass the new standards. As a nation, we need to address the profound loss of fitness in our youth.
FITNESS AND TAXES
Allow all Americans to fully deduct the cost of gym memberships for themselves and their families. Permit businesses to fully deduct the cost of memberships for their workers. We know citizens that exercise stay healthier, require less medical care, and place less fiscal stress on the American health care system. Gym attendance makes health care in America more “affordable” by keeping citizens fit. The government should reward the good behavior of the citizens attempting to take care of their health.
Our elected officials in Washington are provided with access to fitness facilities and trainers. Separate facilities for the House and Senate complete with pools, basketball courts, saunas, and steam rooms are provided for past and present politically elected officials. Our Senators and Representatives utilize state of the art fitness centers and their constituents (you and me) subsidize the payment for these facilities and services. Our political leaders value fitness and have deemed it a necessary occupational benefit. Let them help their fellow countrymen share in the benefits of fitness.
THE END OF DRIVING DEVICE DISTRACTION
The technology exists that will turn off a mobile phone if it is moving in a car. Please read the recent article in the New York Times* by Matt Richtel. As your new president, this app would be beamed into every automobile. The most dangerous thing an average American does in their day is climb into a car. Mobile phones have made automobile travel much more dangerous. For many people, the mobile phone is an impulsive addiction they are unable to control. We will never get compliance without blocking the device.
I know, I am a technophobe, social media hater, and an old geezer who is just now using e-mail. What I do hate is the driver who kills or injures a fellow American because they are distracted by the twitterverse. Blocking the mobile phone while traveling in a car may have the unintended consequence of restoring the lost art of conversation–you remember talking, don’t you? While cruising along on this brief bit of magic we call life, you do not want the final sound you hear to be the beep or ring from your cell phone.
There are many professions in which a person’s physical fitness is directly related to job performance. Fire fighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, and construction workers all have physically demanding jobs that require a higher level of strength and mobility. It seems logical that maintaining a strong, well functioning body would be an occupational expense not dissimilar to many of the other permissible tax deductions currently available to business. A yearly fitness voucher for these professionals would decrease the cost of worker’s compensation, improve job performance, and enhance productivity. These vouchers could be used to hire fitness professionals or pay for gym memberships and fitness programs.
FITNESS INFRASTRUCTURE CONSTRUCTION
A “shovel ready” project that requires little in the way of engineering and creates ongoing health benefit is bicycle path construction. A bicycle path keeps riders and runners a safe distance from cars and encourages a fitness activity that is also very “eco friendly”. Most European countries have invested heavily in this infrastructure, and the use of bicycles is far more prevalent in areas that have developed a bicycle path system. I propose a USA Pathway Project that would create jobs, make Americans healthier, improve bicycle rider /pedestrian safety, and reduce our carbon footprint.
Many Americans live in what I call “fitness deserts”. There is no safe place to walk, no park, no gym, and no recreational facilities. I was fortunate to grow up in a town that had a city run summer recreation program. We had access to basketball courts, tennis courts, and playgrounds with swings, monkey bars, and slides. Elect me your next president and construction would begin on day one.
If exercise could be packaged as a prescription pill, it would be the most widely utilized medication in the history of health care. Doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants counsel their patients that they need to exercise, but they are unable to provide the type of instruction and support the patient needs to be successful. Our health insurance companies face mandates for medical coverage of many diseases and illnesses that would be reduced or alleviated with consistent exercise. Insurance companies should have to pay for the medically prescribed exercise programs as part of our new “mandatory health care coverage”.
HEALTH CARE EQUALITY LEGISLATION
The elected representatives that have given us mandatory health insurance coverage should have to live with the same plans now available to the average American citizen. Let them enroll in the programs available in the states they represent. Let them pay yearly 15 – 25% increases in premiums. Let them carry a $4000 – $8000 deductible for each member of their family. Let the Congressman and Senators families wait for a pre- approval of diagnostic tests and specialists. Instead, they are provided with a lifetime of the finest medical coverage while the citizens they represent must figure out how to manage shrinking benefits and rising costs. This simple piece of legislation would greatly improve the level of attention given to the quality of health care coverage in this country
I have been sharing these ideas with politicians for years but have never gotten any response. They are probably very busy working out at the gym.
*The New York Times, “Phone Makers Could Cut Off Drivers. So Why Don’t They?” by Matt Richtel, September 24, 2016. View the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/25/technology/phone-makers-could-cut-off-drivers-so-why-dont-they.html?_r=0
-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS
When I am asked the, “What muscle does that exercise work?” question, my response is always the hippocampus. I am not joking. The big benefits of a consistent program of exercise are neural and hormonal. Muscle strength, flexibility, fat loss, and greater endurance are all good but the greatest impact on your health and quality of life is achieved by developing a finely tuned nervous system and a beneficial hormonal profile.
The big budget battle is on between our politicians in Washington, and as usual, nothing is getting done. I have some budgetary suggestions on how we can cut the costs of health care, battle the obesity epidemic, and more equitably share the fitness wealth.
Gym Membership Deductibility
Allow all Americans to fully deduct the cost of gym memberships for themselves and their families. Permit businesses to fully deduct the cost of memberships for their workers at off-site fitness facilities. We know that citizens who exercise stay healthier, require less medical care, and place less fiscal stress on the American health care system. Gym attendance makes health care in America more “affordable” by keeping citizens fit. The government should reward the good behavior of citizens willing to go to the gym and take care of their health.
Our elected officials in Washington are provided with access to fitness facilities and trainers. Separate facilities for the House and Senate complete with pools, basketball courts, sauna, and steam rooms are provided for past and present politically elected officials. Our Senators and Representatives utilize state of the art fitness centers and their constituents (you and me) subsidize the payment for these facilities and services. Our political leaders value fitness and have deemed it a necessary occupational benefit. Let them help their fellow countrymen share in the benefits of fitness by extending some of these same perks to their constituents.
There are many professions in which a person’s physical fitness is directly related to job performance. Fire fighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, and construction workers all have physically demanding jobs that require a higher level of strength and mobility. It seems logical that maintaining a strong, well-functioning body would be an occupational expense not dissimilar to many of the other permissible tax deductions currently available to business. A yearly fitness voucher for these professionals would decrease the cost of worker’s compensation, improve job performance, and lengthen careers. These vouchers could be used to hire fitness professionals or pay for gym memberships and fitness programs.
Bike / Running Path Construction
A “shovel ready” project that requires little in the way of advance engineering and creates ongoing health benefits is bicycle path construction. A bicycle path keeps riders and runners a safe distance from cars and encourages a fitness activity that is also very “eco-friendly.” Most European countries have invested heavily in this infrastructure, and the use of bicycles is far more prevalent in areas that have developed a bicycle path system. I propose a USA Pathway Project that would create jobs, make Americans healthier, improve bicycle rider /pedestrian safety, and reduce our carbon footprint.
If exercise was a prescription pill it would be the most widely utilized medication in the history of health care. Medical professionals counsel their patients that they need to exercise, but they are unable to provide the type of instruction and support the patient needs to be successful. Our health insurance companies face mandates for medical coverage of many diseases and illnesses that would be reduced or alleviated with consistent exercise. The cost of medically prescribed exercise programs should be an integral aspect of our new “mandatory coverage.”
Fitness Stimulus Revenues
Triple the tax on all tobacco products. Nicotine is the most addictive chemical on the planet and it produces one of the greatest burdens on the American health care system. Use the tobacco tax dollars–and hopefully the savings created with fewer tobacco addicts—to pay for all aspects of the fitness stimulus program. Currently smoking in this country is at 21% of the population and conservative estimates are that tobacco users add another 190 billion dollars a year to the cost of health care in the USA.
I have been sharing these ideas with politicians for years but have never gotten any response. They are probably very busy working out at the gym.
-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS
Improve horizontal pulling strength. Enhance stability in the shoulders.
Strengthen the Deltoids, Traps, Rhomboids, Teres, Minor, and Bicep muscles. Improve neurological control that stabilizes the shoulder joint.
Grab a pair of TRX handles. Firmly grip the handles and lean back. Keep a straight line from your ear, shoulder, hips, knee and ankle.
Pull your hands toward your ears/face. As you pull, turn your wrist so that you finish with the back of your knuckles to your ears. You should finish with your elbows high, squeezing your shoulders together at the top.
Taking too steep of an angle; not rotating the wrist; lacking control; allowing hips to drop.
-Jeff Tirrell, B.S., CSCS